Yesterday, Robin Haase lost a second-set tiebreak to Kenny De Schepper, a mere blip en route to a three-set victory and a place in the Casablanca quarterfinals. However, it was yet another set-ending failure for the Dutchman, who has now lost thirteen consecutive tour-level tiebreaks. And another reason to hate Casablanca.
Yes, thirteen. No other active player has a streak of more than seven, and no tour-level regular has lost more than his last six. In fact, Haase is now one lost tiebreak away from tying the all-time ATP record of 14, jointly held by Graham Stilwell and Colin Dibley, two players who accomplished their feats in the 1970s.
As I’ve shown before, tiebreak outcomes are rather random. Aside from a small minority of players with extensive tiebreak experience (such as Roger Federer, John Isner, and Andy Roddick), ATP pros tend to win about as many breakers as “expected.” The good players win more than average, the not-so-good players win fewer than average, but there are few players who seem to have some special tiebreak skill–or a notable lack thereof.
It would be premature, then, to read too much into Haase’s streak. After all, the last fifteen months haven’t been particularly bad for him in general. When he last won a tour-level tiebreak, in January of last year, he was ranked 62nd in the world. Now he is #53, and he will pick up another few spots next Monday. This despite winning only two of the matches in which he lost one of his consecutive tiebreaks.
If history is any guide, the Dutchman will probably turn things around. Dibley won six of the 10 breakers that followed his streak, and Stilwell won four. Nikolay Davydenko and Thomas Johansson, two otherwise excellent players who lost 13 tiebreaks in a row, each won 5 of their next 10. More remarkably, the already-missed Ivan Navarro followed a 10-tiebreak losing streak with a 8-2 record in his next 10.
In the ATP era, 43 players have suffered tiebreak losing streaks of 10 or more (full list after the jump). 32 of those have gone on to play at least 10 more. Naturally, every tiebreak that follows a losing streak is a win, or else it would be considered part of the streak. In the nine tiebreaks that follow the streak-breaking win, those 32 players won 134 of 288 tiebreaks, or 46.5%.
While the numbers don’t exactly presage Isnerian greatness for Haase, even a return to his pre-streak tiebreak winning percentage of 41% would be welcome. Fortunately, that’s much more likely than another 13 losses in a row.
Update: In the Barcelona first round, Haase tied the record, losing a third-set tiebreak to Pablo Carreno-Busta. On May 6, he lost a tiebreak in the second set of his Madrid first-round match against Alexander Dolgopolov to set a new all-time record of 15 straight lost tiebreaks.
Update 2: On 8 May, Haase lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6 7-6. (How else?) That’s 17 straight tour-level tiebreaks lost. The all-time tiebreak winning streak is 18, held by Andy Roddick.
Update 3: On 27 May, in the second set of his first round match at Roland Garros, Haase WON A TIEBREAK. The historical event came against Kenny de Schepper, the Frenchman who appears in the first line of this post.
These are all tour-level tiebreak losing streaks of 11 or greater in the ATP era, as of 2012/04/12:
PLAYER STREAK START Colin Dibley 14 1978 Graham Stilwell 14 1972 Robin Haase 13 2012 Nikolay Davydenko 13 2010 Thomas Johansson 13 1997 Dick Crealy 13 1978 John Marks 13 1977 Jean Philippe Fleurian 12 1994 Tom Gullikson 12 1981 Ion Tiriac 12 1974 PLAYER STREAK START Arnaud Clement 11 2010 Noam Okun 11 2006 Andreas Vinciguerra 11 2003 Michal Mertinak 11 2003 Fredrik Jonsson 11 1999 Daniel Nestor 11 1997 Filip Dewulf 11 1996 Ivan Lendl 11 1993 Amos Mansdorf 11 1987 Eddie Edwards 11 1984 Anand Amritraj 11 1979 Alvaro Betancur 11 1976 PLAYER STREAK START Tim Smyczek 10 2010 Ivan Navarro 10 2008 Stanislas Wawrinka 10 2006 Cyril Saulnier 10 2005 Julien Benneteau 10 2004 Rohan Bopanna 10 2003 Victor Hanescu 10 2003 Dick Norman 10 2003 Christophe Rochus 10 2003 Alex Calatrava 10 2001 Paradorn Srichaphan 10 2000 Magnus Gustafsson 10 1998 Gabriel Markus 10 1993 Christian Bergstrom 10 1992 Frederic Fontang 10 1992 Patrick Baur 10 1992 Zoltan Kuharszky 10 1982 Peter Fleming 10 1979 Hans Kary 10 1978 Mike Estep 10 1974 Robert Maud 10 1972