About    Archive    Contact

AO 2017 Most Unpredictable?

When defending champion Novak Djokovic went out in the second round to qualifier Denis Istomin, we all had to be thinking that it was the most surprising match result we were likely to see at the 2017 Australian Open. Then Day 7 happened.

With the exits of the top seeds on the men’s and women’s draws in a single day, thanks to the phenomenal play of Mischa Zverev and Coco Vandeweghe, many of us are now wondering if the 2017 Australian Open is the most random in history?

One way that we can assess the unpredictability of how this Major has progressed so far is to look at how seeds have fared this year compared to other Grand Slams in the past.

Below is a year by year breakdown of the percentage of quarterfinalists that included the top 8 seeds. Because the Australian Open was not played at Melbourne Park until 1988, we will look from that year forward. A higher percentage of top 8 seeds means that the draw went as expected (supposing the seedings get it right). We can see that, compared to the 1990s, all of the slams have generally gotten more predictable over time with Wimbledon being the most random overall.

Both of these patterns can be explained by the advantage of serve, which can depend on pace of surface and style of play.

In the past decade, the percentage of top 8 seeds appearing in the quarterfinals has been between 75 and 100%. The one exception being the 2008 Wimbledon Championships when only 50% of top 8 men reached the quarterfinals.

The 2017 Australian Open is on track to be even more random than the 2008 Wimbledon Championships. With half of the quarterfinalists determined, is already guaranteed that there will be 1 top 8 in the next round (Stan Wawrinka #4). The most the second half of the draw could add to that number is 3. So at best, the quarterfinal could see 50% of the quarterfinal with the top 8 seeds, putting the event at the same percentage as 2008 Wimbledon. At worst, it could be just 12.5%, if all of the top men’s seeds lose their matches today.

While we will have to wait to see if the men’s draw will be a historically random one. We can already that the women draw has set an unpredictable record.

The predictability of the women’s quarterfinals at slams has actually been more consistent than the men’s since the early 1990s. The most recent event with a high amount of randomness was the 2009 US Open, when only 50% of the top 8 seeds were in the quarters.

With only 1 top 8 seed through to the quarters (Garbine Muguruza #7) and only 1 left (Serena Williams #2) on the bottom half, even under the best conditions we can expect at most to see 2 of 8 (25%) of the top women in the quarterfinals.

We will have to wait to see how Day 8 pans out to know exactly how strange 2017 has begun but it already has been a remarkable event.

If you liked this story, share it with your followers or follow this site @StatsOnTheT on Twitter.