A Sport&EU member, Katarina Pijetlovic, gave a talk on the topic ‘Curious case of draws at the ITF Grand Slam tournaments 2008-2011’ at the Play the Game conference held in Cologne on 3-6 October 2011. According to Pijetlovic, facts and statistics presented strongly indicate that draws might have been fixed at the very top of men’s tennis for the past four years. The presentation in Cologne and the information contained in this report are Katarina Pijetlovic’s and do not necesarily represent Sport&EU’s views.
For many years, the first two spots on the ATP rank list shifted between Roger Federer known as a hard and grass court specialist and Rafael Nadal known as clay court specialist. The two players held a virtual duopoly over men’s tennis, both are sponsored by NIKE and have a massive fan-base unmatched by any other player. In 2007 Novak Djokovic rose to No. 3 and a year later, in the end of 2008, Andy Murray rose to No. 4 to threaten the dominant duo.
General results of all the tournaments (standings at the end of the US Open 2011):
- Nadal-Murray: 13:4 (4 of these matches were played on clay – Nadal leads 4:0)
- Federer-Murray: 6:8 (the two never played on clay)
- Nadal-Djokovic: 16:14 (11 of these matches were played on clay – Nadal leads 9:2)
- Federer-Djokovic: 14:10 (4 of these matches were played on clay – Federer leads 3:1)
In 12 out of 12 Grand Slam tournaments played on hard and grass courts between 2008-2011, Federer and Djokovic were always drawn to the same half of the draw-sheet, while Nadal and Murray were drawn to the other half. In addition, in five of those 12 tournaments Murray was not among the first four seeded players, so his draw was conducted separately five times. Thus, the statistics are as follows: to get the same result 12 out of 12 times, probability is 1 in 4096. For the case of Murray’s separate draws which produced the same result 5 out of 5 times, it is 1 in 32. THEREFORE, THE PROBABILITY TO OBTAIN DRAW RESULTS AS OBTAINED AT THE 12 GRAND SLAM TOURNAMENTS IS 131072 TO 1 (4096 x 32 = 131072).
Combined with a study conducted by ESPN on the draws of unseeded players at US Open, which resulted in 1 in 250000 probability, it is ca. 32 BILLIONS TO 1. Media that has covered the Sport&EU member’s study thus far include Der Spiegel, Daily Mail, El Pais, Le Monde, and about hundred others. However, so far the organisers of the Grand Slams and the ITF are avoiding official response to the issue. Details of the study available here.
Katarina Pijetlovic is a regular Sport&EU member and can be contacted through this link.