Lilyana T. Mladenova, Department of Sport Management and Media, and Darius J. Conger, Department of Economics, presented a paper entitled “Incentives and Productivity in ATP Tournament Settings” at the 87th Annual Conference of the Western Economics Association International in San Francisco, CA on July 3rd.
Mladenova and Conger examined the top twenty ATP (men) ranked players entering hard court tournaments during the 2011 tournament season. They were particularly interested in assessing participants’ responses not only to the prize incentives from winning but also to propitious and adverse outcomes—aces and double faults for example--during matches. After adjusting for differences in player ability, physical characteristics, previous meeting records and tournament round, Mladenova and Conger found that participants consistently raised their effort levels as prize monies increased throughout the tournament brackets. But surprisingly, in a game which participants admit that psychology is an important element of winning, contestants responded poorly to adverse outcomes during sets and matches, but their effort levels were buoyed by positive match occurrences. This was especially the case in penultimate sets, where match winners were decided in the next set. Interestingly the impacts of both positive and negative psychological circumstances increased as competitor effort increased, suggesting that match outcomes between relatively equally talented contestants depend critically on avoiding adverse circumstances throughout the match.