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Simple math explains why women seem less consistent than men in tennis

There's a long-held belief that women tennis pros are naturally far less consistent than their male counterparts. And some evidence does seem to support this: There are more upsets in women's Grand Slams and high-ranking women are less likely to win their matches, RAND Corporation statistician Stephanie Kovalchik recently found.

Traditionally, this evidence leads to pretty sexist rationalizations, as Pacific Standard points out by highlighting an Economist article that suggested women's bodies and drama with coaches might be to blame. But there's a ridiculously simple, purely mathematical reason that largely accounts for the discrepancy between men's and women's tennis performances, Kovalchik said Sunday at the Joint Statistical Meetings conference.

In major tournaments, men's matches are best-of-five sets, while women play best-of-three. The more sets played, the more time a dominant player has to appear, well, dominant. Once Kovalchik adjusted for this in her calculations, she concluded the gender gap in consistency would be much smaller if matches were the same length.

Looks like it would behoove men to pick up a calculator before claiming their gender is athletically superior.