A 55-45 Better Opponent

Hugh Thomson
Hugh Thomson
If you play an opponent (or doubles team) that is “just 55-45” better than you, how many matches will each of you win over time? According to former World #1, Australian Hugh Thomson, the better player will dominate and win 91% of the time!

Here’s The Logic

According to Hugh’s math, if you and a better opponent play 100 matches (with regular scoring, 12 point TB at 6 all), and he wins just 55% of the points, you might think he would win the series 55 matches to 45. But that’s not true.

Because you have to win TWO more points than him to win a game, TWO more games than him (or TWO more points than him to win the TB ) TWO more sets before he does … that 10% differential becomes increasingly difficult for you to overcome.

Instead of him winning 55 to 45, he actually wins 91% of the time.

To change the odds,

• If we shorten the series to ONE SET matches, regular scoring, 12 point TB at 6 all he would only win 82% of the time.
• A series of 12 point TB helps you even more as he now only wins 63% of the time.
• If you played one-point matches he would only win 55% of the time. Everything else being equal.

How does this affect how you play?

Hugh continues: “Take my game. I don’t hit a lot of winners, so I can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes otherwise I lose the 10% edge I need to win 9 out of 10 matches. If I know my opponent is 10% better than me at my game, I have to take more chances. Simple analysis.”

No Ad Scoring?

This is why going to no ad scoring to save time in matches only works if you play a match TB for the third set. The reason is by shortening the format, you increase your chances of winning a set and possibly upsetting the better player. Consequently playing 3 sets of no ad increases the number of 3 set matches that under regular scoring would have been won in 2 sets.

“When I was at Auburn, the SEC Indoors were always played at Georgia and Dan Magill loved sudden death. Every year we would finish the first 2 days play at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning. The coaches agreed to test my theory and voted to change the format to regular scoring, over Dan’s objections, and we were through before 9:00 pm every time.

“Instead of 3 sets being normal they became a rarity. Two sets under regular scoring are much quicker than 3 sets playing no ad. And that is because of the 55% rule.

“If you only have to win one more point than the better opponent to win a game, that is far easier than having to win 2 more to win that game, especially if he is just 10% better than I am. Add in only having to win 5 points to 4 in the TB and your odds of taking him to 3 sets have increased dramatically.”

Hugh Thomson

What questions does this raise for you?

Thanks to Hugh for this fascinating analysis … and good luck to him at this week’s CAT II tournament in St. Petersburg, Florida. To see how he and others are doing, just click HERE

Know someone who should read this? Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at George@seniortennisandfitness.com

My Book: and if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page.

6 thoughts on “A 55-45 Better Opponent

  1. Don’t forget USA vs Australia Davis Cup on TV:
    Thursday, March 3 7:00 PM-3:00 AM Davis Cup (M), Australia vs. United States Tennis Channel[Live]
    Friday, March 4 8:00 AM-7:00 PM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Live]
    Friday, March 4 8:00 PM-11:00 PM Davis Cup (M), Australia vs. United States Tennis Channel[Live]
    Friday, March 4 11:00 PM-3:00 AM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Repeat]
    Saturday, March 5 6:00 AM-6:00 PM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Live]
    Saturday, March 5 7:00 PM-3:00 AM Davis Cup (M), Australia vs. United States Tennis Channel[Live]
    Sunday, March 6 1:00 AM-3:00 AM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Repeat]
    Sunday, March 6 8:00 AM-4:00 PM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Live]
    Sunday, March 6 5:00 PM-3:00 AM Davis Cup (M), Various ties Tennis Channel[Repeat]

  2. Does Hugh have a degree in math??


    Kevin, sure sounds like it, doesnt it?! george

  3. I think Hugh is right. But what it also tells us is that the key to winning tough matches is that same old bugaboo called consistency that we have all strived for with varying levels of success since we first learned this game. If you are the weaker player, the way to win a match over a better player is not to keep trying to blast winners or just hope you get lucky for several points in a row game in and game out throughout a match. Just as a quarter will not keep coming up heads more than 50% of the time over the long haul, statistically speaking, if you are hitting shots that are not normally in your arsenal, you cannot go on regularly winning points using such shots throughout a match. Sooner or later, you will start missing and/or your opponent, being the better player, will figure out a way to neutralize your shots. Rather, you must focus on piecing together enough consecutive point wins to get you at least to ad or 40-30 (if not a larger game point gap in your lead @ 40-0 or 40-15) each and every game. Then, and most critically, you must be able to win that NEXT POINT at least two more games each set than your opponent. Unless you get amazingly lucky, that is not going to happen on a regular basis using shots that are not normally in your arsenal. The only way you can give yourself a chance to make it happen is to play the best shot that you can each opportunity that you have, provided also that you are always playing shots that you know you can pull off on a consistent basis — i.e., you have such shots in your personal arsenal.

    Marty, but if you read the end of what Hugh says, he feels you HAVE to go for your shots to beat the slightly better player. i agree, they have to be “in your personal arsenal” to begin with. thanks, george

  4. I am not saying not to go for high end shots, George. That goes without saying against a better player. All I am saying is the shots need to be within your personal arsenal to a degree that you can hit such shots with reliability. There is a very fine line between a difficult shot that you can hit, say, 70% of the time or more, and one that is slightly more difficult that you can only hit, say, 30% of the time or less. That is what I mean by consistency.

    Marty, I agree. George

  5. Please add me to your list. Had several comments at the Cat 2 about this article, so you have a good following

    Hugh, you are added to the list. Sorry to see you had an injury. george

  6. hugh is right on with this analysis. also, how many times
    when the better player wins the first set either 6-4 or 7-5 does
    the next set go 6-1? id like to see that figure.

    Joe – even in the pros! thanks, george

Comments are closed.