Men's Top Pressure Performances in February

With the close of the second month of the 2019 season, we look back at the biggest pressure performances of the men’s tour. Reilley Opelka takes top honours for having faced the most service pressure in a match in February, racking up 15.5 break point equivalents (BPEs) against John Isner in New York. Opelka also saved the most of the BPEs faces winning a whopping 92% of high-pressure service points.

A few weeks ago, I introduced ‘break point equivalents’ (BPEs) as a stat for service pressure. BPEs consider the pressure on every point faced, where each point’ pressure is how much, in probability terms, the outcome of that point could swing the match against the server. To put the BPE in break point like terms, I sum up the biggest pressure scores and divide by the average point pressure.

Let’s have a look at the February leaders on total match BPE. The chart below highlights the top 10 winners of matches who faced the most service pressure. Perhaps to no one’s surprise the freakish match that was the New York semifinal between Opelka and Isner takes the top spot. That match went to a deciding tiebreak in every set and, although big man Opelka only faced 2 break points, those tiebreak sets drove his BPEs to 15.5. Opelka was also the overall best in converting under pressure, winning an incredible 14.2 BPEs of 15.5. No other player in the top 5 of pressure faced came close to that level. It might not have been the most exciting tennis but an impressive pressure performance nonetheless.

A less expected top pressure match was Radu Albot’s final performance at Delray Beach. In his 3-set win over Daniel Evans, Albot faced 9 break points but a total of 14.9 BPEs. The actual break points didn’t do the pressure Albot experienced justice because it doesn’t account for the 16-point tiebreak in the final set of the match or that every one of his service games in the final set went to 30:30. Albot saved 10.7 BPEs overall in the match, a strong coda to his title run.

The third spot on this pressure ranking goes to Diego Schwartzman on his way to the finals in Buenos Aires. The semifinal match against Dominic Thiem saw Schwartzman confront 14.8 BPEs of pressure on serve, the kind of pressure Schwarztman has probably had to get use to during his career. Like the other matches in the top 3, Schwarztman went to a final set tiebreak, having lost and regained a 1 break lead along the way in the final set. Schwarztman struggled the most in saving the BPEs faced compared to Albot and Opelka, but given that he was up against Thiem on clay, it is perhaps the most impressive of the three.

Other standout performances making the top 10 include Nick Kyrgios recent victory over Rafael Nadal in Acapulco. Kyrgios faced 12.5 BPEs and lost a lot of Nadal’s respect along the way.

From an event point-of-view, it is interesting to see Rio de Janeiro take 3 of the spots in the top 10. Pressure isn’t equal to interest, but it does tell us that Rio delivered some of the most competitive matches of the month.

Player Opponent Tournament BPEs Faced BPEs Saved Percent
1 Opelka R. Isner J. New York 15.5 14.2 91.5
2 Albot R. Evans D. Delray Beach 14.9 10.7 72.1
3 Schwartzman D. Thiem D. Buenos Aires 14.8 10.1 68.4
4 Ćorić B. Veselý J. Dubai 13.8 10 72.5
5 Carballés Baena R. Jarry N. Rio de Janeiro 12.5 5.9 47.4
6 Kyrgios N. Nadal R. Acapulco 12.5 10.1 81.4
7 Munar J. Norrie C. Rio de Janeiro 11.5 7.8 68
8 Bedene A. Dellien H. Rio de Janeiro 11.5 7.3 64.1
9 Berdych T. Ivashka I. Dubai 10.8 9.2 85.6
10 Schnur B. Johnson S. New York 10.4 7.7 74.5
Stephanie Kovalchik avatar
About Stephanie Kovalchik
Blog Founder, Senior Data Scientist at the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia, and researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
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