Women "choke" less than men in tennis, study suggests
A study undertaken by Israeli researchers has found that in professional tennis, female players are half as likely to succumb to competitive pressure compared to male players.
The researchers analysed thousands of matches from Grand Slam events, breaking down these matches into individual games and assessing the importance of each game for the odds of winning the match. Grand Slams, where the prize money is equal for men and women, were chosen so as to rule out differences in stakes as the reason for different responses to pressure.
For games where the unit of pressure increased by a standard deviation (such as at 5*-4), male players were 4.9% more likely to fail to hold serve. Female players are also affected by these high pressure situations but at a lower rate, being 2.8% more likely to fail to hold serve. An important note is that while male players typically hold serve more often than female players, this study shows that high pressure moments have a greater effect on men rather than women.
“Our robust evidence that women can respond better than men to competitive pressure is compelling,” the researchers said.
Even factoring out differences in ranking, fatigue levels during the match and the fact that women play best of 3, rather than best of 5, produced similar results.
An important limitation with this study is that professional singles tennis has the genders competing separately. Previous research has suggested that in mixed sex competition, women's performance suffers more greatly.