Could you take a point off Serena? Average men: “Well some of us will”

This thing about some men believing they could take a point off Serena in a tennis match: why would taking a single point be so hard? They’re not claiming they’d take a game are they, or even a set? We are just talking about one point, right?

What are the odds on Serena winning an individual point against an average pleb? 99%? I mean it’s almost certain, but she still makes mistakes. She sometimes hits the ball long or wide or into the net, or serves a double fault. These things happen.

So she can never be 100% sure of winning any one point, but obviously the odds are heavily in her favour. Let’s say she does have a 99% chance. A tennis match over two sets has to contain at least 48 points – a minimum 12 games (6 in each set) and four points per game.

So Serena has to win 48 consecutive points to win the match 6-0, 6-0. If her chance of winning each point is 99%, then her chance of winning 48 points in a row is 99% x 99% repeated 48 times. And that equals 62.4%.

So she’s still likely to do it, but 37.6% of the time she won’t. Only 12% of men believed they’d take a point off her, but I think they were underselling themselves. At a 99% chance for Serena per point, over 1 in 3 men would take a point off her.

If her chance of winning any individual point was ‘only’ 98%, then the odds for men v Serena are pretty much reversed – she’d only win every point 37.9% of the time, and 62.1% of men would win a point.

Having said that, the original poll question was: “Do you think if you were playing your very best tennis, you could win a point off Serena Williams?” No mention of whether you get one chance or 1,000 chances. So who knows what the respondents thought they were answering.

Twitter: @P_h_i_1


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