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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

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