Trading The Tennis – ATP Challenger Tour

What angles/strategies can you use when trading Challenger Tour matches

Latest posts by Tennis Purist (see all)

There are three ‘Tiers’ of tournament on the men’s professional tennis roster:

Tier 1: ATP World Tour (250, 500, 1000 and Grand Slam Events) – Ranking points for winners of theses tournaments range from 250-2000

Tier 2: Challenger Tour – Ranking points for winners of these tournaments range from 80-125

Tier 3: ITF Circuit (also known as The Futures) – Ranking points for winners of these tournaments range from 18-35

What is the ATP Challenger Tour?

The ATP Challenger Tour is a series of over 100 ‘Tier 2’ tennis tournaments, designed to give lower ranked players the opportunity to earn sufficient ranking points in order to become eligible for main draw or qualifying draw entry to ‘Tier 1’ ATP World Tour tournaments. 
Players whom regularly play in the Challenger events can usually be categorised as either; young players progressing from the Tier 3 ITF Circuit, lower ranked players (usually outside world’s top 50) who fail to qualify for ATP World Tour events or players who are returning from lengthy injuries/bans/retirement u-turns.

What are the fundamental differentials between ATP World Tour level players and Challenger Tour level players?

Given that most players playing in the ATP World Tour events are inside the world’s top 50, naturally their sustained skill (and winning) level is greater than those playing on the Challenger Tour. What’s interesting though is specifically why? Below I’ve broken this down into two main categories:

1.) Physical Attributes It is not unusual to see players at Challenger Tour level struggling physically during matches, especially during deep tournament runs. I’ve noticed two common trends as far as this is concerned; some players suffer from severe ‘peaks and troughs’, one minute they appear physically fine and then a few games later they’re look like they are ‘running on empty’, this cycle can occur on a number of occasions during a single match. Other players will consistently struggle in matches that last far longer than average, for example a three set match that has lasted over three hours. Quite often these types of players will have a medical time out(s) in the final set due to ‘injury’, these physical ailments can in some cases be put down to a lack of disciplined off-court stamina and strength training. At ATP World Tour level it’s a different story though, these higher ranked players appear to take physical training more seriously, they will usually be fitter, leaner, stronger and more agile. World Tour players can often afford to employ specific physical trainers and physios to give them that ‘edge’ during longer matches and tournament runs, a luxury that those playing on the Challenger Tour may not have available to them, at least early on in their career.

2.) Mental Attributes In my opinion, the biggest difference between players competing on the Challenger circuit and those competing on the World Tour is mental fragility and temperamentAt Challenger Tour level players also appear less capable of ‘shrugging off’ disappointment, for example, losing a game they should have won or a set that they led in, and these can often detrimentally effect them for the rest of the match. Another common occurrence at Challenger level is ‘tanking’, which for those who don’t know, basically means deliberately not trying. This is particularly common in deciding sets where a player falls two breaks of serve behind. These mental fragilities are far less common at Wold Tour level, where players (especially those ranked in the world’s top 10) demonstrate a far greater level of determination and desire to overturn losing positions.

How can this information benefit us as traders?

As tennis traders the one thing we love to see in matches are swings in momentum (when a player who’s losing starts winning or a player who’s winning starts losing) , if you are proficient enough to spot when these are likely to occur and time your entry and exit points correctly, they can be incredibly lucrative. Using the above three points as credence, there will be matches in which one, or sometimes multiple swings in momentum will occur due to these inconsistencies. These will often occur in the first set and/or very early on in the second set, whilst both players still have at least some desire to win the match, and before any mental fragility sets in.

There are also specific players who are more prone to frequent momentum swings in their matches than others. As you watch more Challenger Tour tennis, you will quickly establish who these players are, and in what scenarios these momentum swings typically occur. These can then be leveraged to make profit time and time again.

So what angles/strategies can i use when trading Challenger Tour matches specifically?

None of these trading ‘angles/strategies’ are complex or unknown to regular traders of tennis, I have just found them to be even more profitable in (certain) matches on the Challenger Tour.

I have only included potential entry points below, exit points will always be down to personal preference.

  1. Laying the player who is a break up in set one
  2. Laying the player who is two breaks up in set one
  3. Lay the player serving to win set one, assuming they are a max of two games ahead
  4. Lay the player serving to win set two, assuming they are a max of two games ahead and that they lost the first set
  5. Lay the player serving if they are behind 0-30 (half stake) and then again if the score goes to 0-40 (other half of stake)

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the specific differences between players playing at Challenger Tour level and those playing at World Tour Level, and most importantly how we can use these to profit.

Good luck and Happy Trading!

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