Understanding How Match-Up Can Affect Your Tennis Picks

João Mourato

Monday, December 7, 2015 6:52 PM GMT

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 6:52 PM GMT

Each player is unique and that increases the importance of match-up analysis on tennis match. On this article we’ll focus on this crucial factor that might improve your tennis picks.

One of the most fascinating things about tennis is the uniqueness of each player. Even if there are two players with similar game style and strategies, there are always unique features that separate them. Due to this fact, it's necessary to go beyond statistical basis when analyzing a tennis match.

On this article we’ll explore another fundamental factor for a thorough tennis match analysis: Match-Up.


As we already mentioned in our Stats article, is crucial to know in detail each player, his strengths and also his weaknesses. Once you have that knowledge, it’s easier to analyze the match-up to help you find value betting odds to your betting picks.

Before going into detail, is important to understand what match-up means. The simplest way to describe it, it's the way player’s game style adjust to each other. By understanding each player game style,it is easier to predict not only the outcome of the match, but also which shots and strategy will each player use, in order to overcome his opponent. It's also important to mention that match-up does not refer only to technical and tactical issues, but it's also to the mental part.


Players are usually classified in different categories, according to their game style. The four most common categories used are:

Big Servers – these kind of players serve regularly above 124 mph (200 km), are extremely tall and average more than 1.00 ace per service game (while ATP average was 0.49 in 2015). Some years ago, all big servers looked to rush into the net after a strong serve, but currently they also like to stay on baseline.

Consistent Counter Punchers – it’s very tough to overplay this players, they are outstanding competitors with great defensive skills and baseline movement. They adjust easily to all surfaces and can also like to hit the ball very early, in order to take some time from their opponents.

Aggressive Baseliners – these players can generate tremendous power with their groundstrokes. They are usually quite decent at the net and after a big shot, they don’t hesitate to move towards the net to close the point.

All Round – this category describes players who can do everything on court and are extremely versatile. These players like to mix things with terrific groundstrokes, solid baseline game, slices and also have great skills around the net.


Tennis players have evolved in recent years and it's extremely hard to classify them in one category. They are much more complete, stronger physically and able to do everything on court. Nowadays, the majority tries to build the points from the baseline, with tremendous consistency and movement. But of course, there are still some players with specific game styles that diverge from majority, and that’s one of the reasons why it's so important to known each player in detail.

On these article we’ll focus our attention on some classic match-ups:


Left-Handed vs One-Handed Backhand
This is one of the most fascinating match-ups on tennis, taken to extreme by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The number of one-handed backhand players has decreased over the years and currently on top 20, only 25% have one-handed backhand.

With one-handed backhand it's possible to produce some outstanding shots, but this shot is far from reliable, requires more time to prepare and it's also necessary to have a very strong shoulder and arm.

Left-handed players will explore their opponent’s backhand, with the cross court forehand. When the left-handed player is able to generate more spin, the task is even harder for the one-handed backhand player.

As we mentioned, Nadal and Federer are a great example of this match-up, with Rafael’s heavy forehand creating innumerous problems to Federer over the years.


Big Server vs Great Returner
This is also a very interesting match-up, where each player will use his biggest weapon at the same time. As we already mentioned, big severs are tall players and because of that, their baseline movement is not the best. As we also referred, these players to stay more on baseline and we also can rate them as aggressive baseliners with powerful groundstrokes.

Some good examples of big servers who try to overplay their opponents with powerful shots are: John Isner, Milos Raonic and Kevin Anderson.

On the other hand, there are players whose main quality is the return. They fit the consistent counter puncher category, trying to get the ball very early and return with extreme depth.

Nowadays, the top players have tremendous returning skills with David Ferrer leading the 2015 ranking on 1st serve return points won, with 34%. Other great returners on tour, besides the top guys, are Gilles Simon or David Goffin

It’s quite difficult for big servers to face the best returners in the game, they need to maintain a high level of first serve during the match. Isner, Raonic and Anderson are all quite decent baseline players, but these great counter punchers return with extreme depth, not giving the time they need to prepare their groundstrokes.

When a big server and a great returner meet, it's always important to have in consideration the variables that affect the game speed - court surfaces and weather conditions – and also some recent stats (mainly the big server first serve %).


Never forget that tennis players are humans and for that reason it's necessary to analyze them beyond the numbers. Match-Up prediction is the most sensitive analysis on tennis, reviewing some of their previous meetings is always a positive thing to do, but also be aware of their recent performances.

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