Federer’s statistical weakness – Simpson’s Paradox

Federer doesn’t come out too badly in most statistical analyses, but it turns out he’s awful in “Simpson’s Paradox” matches. These are games where the winner actually accumulates fewer points overall than the loser, which happens in nearly five percent of men’s matches. And in this type of match, some players have an excellent record (Nadal wins 70% of them), while Federer is terrible – just 14%.

In the Metro article there’s some interesting speculation as to why that might be, and some cool infographics. There’s also the original article by Ryan Roderberg.


Roger Federer is statistically rubbish at tennis – because he tries too hard
17 Jan 2014

The reasons for Federer’s record are two-fold, according to Dr Rodenberg. On one hand, he fights to win every point. The other factor is his opponent, who typically adopts a high-risk strategy in an attempt to beat Federer, often dropping a few cheap points along the way if needs be. If that gamble pays off, Federer will end up winning more points, but not the match.

‘There is a possibility that other players, especially during his heyday from 2003 to 2007, just knew that he was so good that if they were just to play their normal tennis game, they would lose,’ said Dr Rodenberg.

‘So they adopted a high-risk, high-reward strategy. So they might be more aggressive on their serves, they might go for broke on returns or if they get down in certain games, they might say, “Okay, I need a rest now to get ready for the next game”, and take a few games off. Federer would still be winning more than half the points, but they would be winning the key games.’

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