2013 Wimbledon championships: Advanced Baseline men's forecast

Thomas Starke

Federer's age and path to the final have most writing him off, but Advanced Baseline begs to differ. Tournament forecasts, draw analysis, and favorite bets in this year's Wimbledon preview. The women's forecast is here.

Grass court tournaments are scary to predict regardless of who's playing. They comprise just 3.6 percent of all matches played in a tennis calendar, so there's never enough data to make solid surface adjustments to players' rankings. The fast surface gives the underdogs a puncher's chance against the top seeds. And if the general conditions weren't enough, it just so happens that grass is the worst surface for the top two of the Big Four and the best surface for the other two. All of these fronts are combining for a perfect storm of sorts, where there is no dominant favorite.

The men's draw at Wimbledon is as far as you can get from the French Open just a month ago. There's no overwhelming favorite, surface specialists can't skew the bracket as much, and luck of the draw matters even more. This is where quality forecasting becomes a little more useful with questions like "How will Nadal's unbalanced No. 5 seed affect everyone's chances?" don't end in "It doesn't matter -- everyone knows who's going to win anyway." And while the odds still favor the Big Four versus the field, at least there's still some suspense as to which of the Big Four will win.

Year in Review: Tracking the Top Four

Below is a 52-week tracking graph of the grass-adjusted AB ranks of the Big Four from last year's Wimbledon until now. It's a quick way to see what's changed at the top of the ladder, and how it might cause things to be different this year.

Wimbledon_mens_medium

It's not unreasonable to wonder if Nadal should be a little higher on grass right after his French Open win. Yes, it's his worst surface, but is he really at the bottom end of the Big Four after adjusting for surfaces? Part of that comes from his second-round upset last year at Wimbledon, which is probably being weighted a little too heavy against him since he was playing on a bad knee. On the other hand, his base ranking did go down a little during the French Open from dropping sets to power hitters like Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan. It's a reminder that if Nadal can be beaten, it will most likely be by power hitters; and grass is where a power hitter will have the best chance.

Roger Federer and Andy Murray both won their grass tune-up tournaments two weeks ago against relatively similar competition, so why did Federer get a bigger boost? Because Federer had more impressive scoring margins in his victories, and there's evidence that scoring margin matters. That said, I'm worried that Federer's mini-surge is overshadowing his decline, and the relative lack of grass data gives too much weight to his recent performance. More on that later.

Forecast and Draw Analysis

Generated from simulating the tournament 100,000 before the tournament began, using win probabilities from AB ratings. Full explanation for calculating luck of the draw can be found here.

Forecast

I got a lot more worried that Federer's mini-surge was being overvalued when I saw the forecast numbers. He got the draw of death and still comes out as the favorite? Part of that is because he has the easiest path through the fourth round (getting an unlucky early draw hurts your forecast more than an unlucky late draw), but what's really boosting his chances is his grass adjustment. Consider this: In the last eight years, Federer has lost on grass to a player outside the top 20 exactly once. Murray's done it five times, Nadal four, and Novak Djokovic six. It might sound weird to downplay the grass expectations of two former Wimbledon champions (Nadal and Djokovic), but historically, neither has overachieved on grass nearly as much as Federer, and that should mean something.

Outside of the Big Four, the unseeded players most primed for a run include Radek Stepanek, Nicolas Mahut (no it won't happen again -- Isner would be in the semis), and Lleyton Hewitt, if he can pull off a first-round upset.

Draw Analysis

As hyped as Federer's draw of death is, the numbers say it more or less cancels out with an easy first four rounds, which no one is really mentioning. I know there's a tendency to automatically write the Big Four into the quarters of every major, but as Nadal will tell you, sometimes those upsets really do happen. David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro, and Kei Nishikori all got the biggest boost from the draw; that is somewhat ironic because they all drew each other and therefore faded Nadal. But their sections are also packed primarily with clay specialists. There's an over 80 percent chance that one of those three will be in the semifinals.

Stan Wawrinka got hurt the most by the draw, landing the ultimate grass grenade thrower in Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. Murray also drew a rare first round grass-specialist in Benjamin Becker (who got an astounding 67 percent of his draw-neutral expected points stripped away from drawing Murray in the first), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga probably got the worst second- and third-round matchups. (Poor Ernests Gulbis got an awful draw yet again. Maybe the U.S. Open will be nicer to him.)

Full forecast and draw analysis points below:

Player 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round QF SF Finals Winner Expected Points Change in
Expected Points
from Draw
Roger Federer 98.9% 97.6% 95.0% 87.8% 66.7% 48.0% 35.6% 1087.4 -21.1
Novak Djokovic 92.8% 89.9% 87.1% 69.7% 56.0% 43.6% 20.7% 862.8 17.6
Andy Murray 94.5% 91.2% 85.5% 76.1% 60.8% 28.1% 18.3% 797.9 -59.0
David Ferrer 97.8% 90.2% 81.2% 63.9% 41.1% 16.6% 4.6% 537.1 104.2
Rafael Nadal 96.5% 94.6% 89.4% 73.7% 26.8% 14.7% 8.4% 533.5 -60.1
Juan Martin del Potro 88.3% 83.0% 70.6% 53.7% 31.9% 12.4% 3.2% 437.7 78.3
Tomas Berdych 92.2% 85.7% 70.4% 47.7% 17.0% 9.4% 2.5% 356.0 4.3
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 94.3% 78.3% 66.0% 49.5% 19.8% 5.3% 2.3% 341.3 -45.4
Tommy Haas 89.3% 83.5% 64.1% 21.7% 12.5% 6.9% 1.9% 268.8 -6.4
Richard Gasquet 84.0% 79.5% 62.7% 32.4% 9.5% 4.6% 1.0% 254.2 23.5
Kei Nishikori 85.6% 73.7% 50.0% 21.8% 8.7% 2.1% 0.3% 200.9 45.8
Marin Cilic 80.6% 71.9% 54.8% 25.3% 7.0% 1.1% 0.2% 197.8 2.9
Mikhail Youzhny 85.9% 77.8% 50.4% 10.6% 4.4% 0.6% 0.2% 160.3 21.3
Nicolas Almagro 93.8% 81.1% 54.8% 7.2% 1.8% 0.4% 0.1% 150.9 -15.3
Milos Raonic 75.2% 58.7% 34.3% 11.5% 4.5% 0.9% 0.1% 135.3 21.2
Philipp Kohlschreiber 62.8% 53.3% 32.9% 11.5% 4.3% 0.8% 0.1% 126.3 7.4
Stanislas Wawrinka 58.3% 50.2% 40.2% 12.3% 2.5% 0.8% 0.2% 125.8 -88.2
Janko Tipsarevic 79.5% 65.4% 35.7% 7.0% 2.8% 0.3% 0.0% 123.7 -11.0
Juan Monaco 83.7% 69.7% 29.2% 8.7% 1.3% 0.1% 0.0% 117.7 26.9
Radek Stepanek 95.2% 69.1% 32.0% 3.0% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 110.8 33.7
Grigor Dimitrov 79.6% 62.7% 18.6% 8.1% 2.3% 0.4% 0.0% 108.0 25.6
Kevin Anderson 69.9% 57.0% 18.2% 7.9% 1.2% 0.3% 0.0% 96.6 6.1
John Isner 75.7% 60.7% 21.0% 3.4% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 90.2 5.4
Nicolas Mahut 83.6% 62.1% 8.2% 3.7% 1.3% 0.1% 0.1% 86.6 17.2
Andreas Seppi 67.1% 37.9% 17.9% 6.0% 1.9% 0.3% 0.1% 86.2 -10.4
Lleyton Hewitt 41.8% 34.2% 26.2% 6.5% 1.0% 0.2% 0.1% 80.3 -27.2
Alexandr Dolgopolov 83.4% 51.3% 8.6% 3.3% 0.8% 0.1% 0.0% 79.1 18.4
Feliciano Lopez 54.9% 46.0% 17.1% 3.5% 1.3% 0.4% 0.1% 78.7 -19.4
Benoit Paire 80.7% 58.2% 6.5% 2.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 74.7 11.9
Michael Llodra 61.5% 33.3% 14.9% 4.5% 1.3% 0.3% 0.0% 73.8 11.9
Sam Querrey 52.4% 40.6% 14.1% 4.4% 0.5% 0.2% 0.0% 69.9 -21.9
Jerzy Janowicz 91.2% 29.7% 8.4% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 63.7 2.8
Ernests Gulbis 72.4% 17.3% 9.9% 4.6% 0.8% 0.1% 0.0% 63.5 -6.3
Bernard Tomic 47.6% 36.2% 12.6% 3.7% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 63.3 3.2
Gilles Simon 45.1% 36.6% 12.6% 2.2% 0.8% 0.3% 0.0% 62.0 -71.7
Ivan Dodig 37.2% 28.6% 14.6% 3.7% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 60.3 2.4
Xavier Malisse 52.4% 32.1% 8.3% 3.6% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 59.0 -4.7
Julien Benneteau 66.5% 30.0% 6.7% 2.6% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 58.8 -11.2
Igor Sijsling 73.9% 24.0% 8.3% 1.6% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 58.8 20.2
Jeremy Chardy 60.2% 45.2% 4.0% 0.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 57.3 -2.5
Santiago Giraldo 65.3% 32.1% 4.7% 1.7% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 55.6 16.8
Fabio Fognini 61.2% 38.4% 2.0% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 52.2 -9.3
Fernando Verdasco 47.6% 28.1% 6.5% 2.7% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 51.4 -7.5
Tommy Robredo 73.0% 26.3% 1.9% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 50.2 -5.5
G. Garcia-Lopez 75.0% 13.8% 6.9% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 50.0 9.9
Philipp Petzschner 71.4% 19.4% 2.8% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 47.6 15.4
Denis Kudla 70.0% 14.8% 4.2% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 46.8 16.0
Lukas Lacko 68.5% 17.6% 3.2% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 45.4 18.7
Grega Zemlja 62.8% 20.0% 2.8% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 45.0 12.8
Yen-Hsun Lu 83.7% 5.1% 2.0% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 44.8 4.6
Jesse Levine 76.0% 7.8% 2.5% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 43.7 14.0
Aljaz Bedene 63.3% 13.9% 4.1% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 43.5 10.6
Julian Reister 57.0% 25.7% 1.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 43.0 5.6
R. Bautista-Agut 64.7% 7.0% 3.4% 1.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 41.7 4.2
James Blake 59.8% 15.6% 2.8% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 41.3 9.9
Alejandro Falla 55.6% 20.5% 1.3% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.4 11.1
Jarkko Nieminen 38.5% 15.9% 5.9% 1.7% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 40.3 -4.5
Albert Montanes 56.8% 14.0% 3.6% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.1 7.4
Ryan Harrison 39.8% 26.6% 1.7% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 38.1 3.2
Marinko Matosevic 57.5% 10.5% 3.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 38.0 5.3
Jan-Lennard Struff 55.6% 16.9% 0.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.8 12.4
Pablo Andujar 54.3% 15.1% 1.8% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.5 11.3
Daniel Brands 61.2% 6.9% 2.4% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.4 5.0
Lukasz Kubot 71.4% 2.6% 0.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.3 10.9
Marc Gicquel 59.5% 9.2% 1.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 36.9 11.5
Sergiy Stakhovsky 69.2% 1.6% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 35.7 7.1
Steve Johnson 60.1% 3.2% 1.6% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 34.8 -2.0
Paolo Lorenzi 52.6% 8.0% 2.3% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 34.7 6.6
Olivier Rochus 30.1% 19.6% 3.8% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 34.7 -5.9
Paul-Henri Mathieu 52.0% 8.9% 1.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.7 1.6
Denis Istomin 32.9% 13.0% 4.2% 0.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 33.4 -7.4
Jurgen Melzer 38.8% 19.1% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.4 -1.7
Lukas Rosol 43.0% 16.8% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.1 1.1
Kenny de Schepper 47.4% 7.1% 2.5% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.7 5.5
Stephane Robert 44.4% 13.8% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.6 7.0
Adrian Mannarino 45.7% 11.2% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.3 8.1
Richard Berankis 48.0% 8.6% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 31.9 1.1
Wayne Odesnik 51.9% 5.0% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 31.3 3.6
Blaz Kavcic 44.4% 11.3% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 31.1 8.2
Andrey Kuznetsov 43.2% 8.9% 2.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 31.0 2.9
Go Soeda 51.7% 4.4% 0.8% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 30.9 8.9
Marcos Baghdatis 19.4% 13.0% 6.3% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 30.8 -11.9
Carlos Berlocq 24.9% 13.5% 4.4% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 30.3 -6.8
A. Haider-Maurer 48.3% 4.0% 0.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.5 8.2
Jimmy Wang 48.1% 4.3% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.4 2.6
Horacio Zeballos 34.8% 12.3% 1.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.3 1.8
Guillaume Rufin 42.6% 6.4% 1.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.1 1.6
Thiemo de Bakker 40.3% 7.6% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 28.6 2.5
Tobias Kamke 33.5% 9.8% 1.4% 0.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 28.4 -6.3
Marcel Granollers 16.0% 12.1% 5.1% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 28.1 -13.2
Michael Russell 37.2% 8.1% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.4 3.1
Evgeny Donskoy 24.3% 13.1% 2.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.7 -2.1
Vasek Pospisil 40.5% 4.2% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.7 6.0
Leonardo Mayer 36.7% 5.5% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.6 1.7
Viktor Troicki 20.5% 11.8% 3.4% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.2 -8.1
D. Gimeno-Traver 38.8% 3.1% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.9 0.5
Bobby Reynolds 39.9% 1.6% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.3 -3.2
Teimuraz Gabashvili 35.3% 2.3% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 24.3 -2.1
Rajeev Ram 31.6% 4.4% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.3 4.7
A. Ramos-Vinolas 11.8% 8.2% 3.5% 1.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 23.3 -17.1
Simone Bolelli 20.4% 9.3% 1.2% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 22.9 -4.8
Alex Jr. Bogomolov 27.0% 5.7% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 22.4 -2.3
James Duckworth 30.0% 3.3% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 22.3 1.8
E. Roger-Vasselin 27.6% 3.0% 0.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 22.2 -14.2
Michal Przysiezny 28.6% 4.0% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 22.2 1.8
Alex Kuznetsov 26.1% 3.8% 0.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.9 -0.4
Florian Mayer 7.2% 5.3% 3.9% 1.0% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 21.5 -38.4
Robin Haase 14.1% 8.7% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.2 -8.7
R. Dutra da Silva 30.8% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.0 1.2
Bastian Knittel 16.3% 8.3% 1.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.8 -3.3
Adrian Ungur 19.3% 7.5% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.5 -1.2
Matthew Ebden 14.4% 6.9% 1.8% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.4 -10.1
Igor Andreev 28.6% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.4 2.5
Dustin Brown 25.0% 1.8% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.1 -2.1
Dmitry Tursunov 10.7% 7.2% 2.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 19.3 -22.2
Guido Pella 24.0% 1.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 19.0 1.5
Jan Hajek 16.4% 6.0% 0.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 18.8 -6.9
Gastao Elias 16.6% 4.4% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 18.0 -1.6
Benjamin Becker 5.5% 3.5% 1.7% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 16.6 -34.6
Martin Klizan 7.8% 4.2% 1.4% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 16.4 -15.4
James Ward 16.3% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.8 -2.1
Kyle Edmund 8.8% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.4 -1.0
Steve Darcis 3.5% 2.2% 0.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.4 -17.0
Jurgen Zopp 6.2% 2.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.3 -6.9
David Goffin 5.7% 1.4% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.2 -14.9
Matt Reid 4.8% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 12.0 -3.6
Martin Alund 2.2% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 11.1 -6.9
Victor Hanescu 1.1% 0.6% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.9 -16.6

Favorite Bets

First-round matchups:

Blaz Kavcic (+175) over Jan-Lennard Struff
Andreas Haider-Maurer (+180) over Go Soeda
Philipp Petzschner (+155) over Michal Przysiezny
Alejandro Falla (+140) over Stephane Robert
Janko Tipsarevic (-220) over Viktor Troicki

Futures:

Roger Federer (7-1) to win outright
Juan Martin del Potro (40-1) to win outright
David Ferrer (66-1) to win outright

Final Thoughts

All I could think of while looking through the forecast is "I wish I had more data."

I probably think Djokovic is better on grass than Advanced Baseline says he is, but it's impossible to know for sure when he hasn't played a grass tune-up tournament since 2010. Is Federer's grass edge over the field as real as the forecast says it is, or do we simply have more conclusive information about him than anyone else? This is a downside of sticking to strictly empirical conclusions when a little bit of speculation might help.

On the other hand, speculation is also the place where bad clichés and unfounded narratives are born, and their track record of improving prediction isn't all that great. There's a happy middle to be found between the two, but until then, AB's strictly empirical view still sees Federer as the best grass player in the world and a mild favorite to win Wimbledon yet again.

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