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Incentives to Quit in Men’s Professional Tennis: An Empirical Test of Tournament Theory

By Will Walker

This paper studies the influence of incentives on quitting behaviors in professional men’s tennis tournaments and offers broader implications to pay structures in the labor market. Precedent literature established that prize incentives and skill heterogeneity can impact player effort exertion. Prize incentives include prize money and indirect financial rewards (ranking points). Players may also exert less effort when there is a significant difference in skill between the match favorite and the match underdog. Results warrant three important conclusions. First, prize incentives (particularly prize money) do influence a player’s likelihood of quitting. Results on skill heterogeneity are less conclusive, though being the “match favorite” could reduce the odds of quitting. Finally, match underdogs and “unseeded” players may be especially susceptible to the influence of prize incentives when considering whether to quit.

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Advisors: Peter Arcidiacono and Grace Kim | JEL Codes: J41, J31, J32, J33, M12, M51, M52

Incentives in Professional Tennis: Tournament Theory and Intangible Factors

By Steven Seidel

This paper analyzes the incentives of professional tennis players in a tournament setting, as a proxy for workers in a firm. Previous studies have asserted that workers exert more effort when monetary incentives are increased, and that effort is maximized when marginal pay dispersion varies directly with position in the firm. We test these two tenets of tournament theory using a new data set, and also test whether other “intangible factors,” such as firm pride or loyalty, drive labor effort incentives. To do this, we analyze the factors that incentivize tennis players to exert maximal effort in two different settings, tournaments with monetary incentives (Grand Slams) and tournaments without monetary incentives (the Davis Cup), and compare the results. We find that effort exertion increases with greater monetary incentive, and that certain intangible factors can often have an effect on player incentives.

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Advisor: Curtis Taylor, Marjorie McElroy | JEL Codes: J31, J33, L38 | Tagged: Compensation, Sports, Tournament Theory


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