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Research: Women Are Better Under Pressure Than Men

In analyzing more than 8,200 games from Grand Slam tennis matches, Alex Krumer of the University of St. Gallen and his colleagues found that the male players' performance showed a larger drop in high-stakes games (relative to low-stakes games) than the female players' performance did.

Their conclusion: Women respond better than men to competitive pressure. Dr. Krumer, defend your research.

Krumer: We looked at the performance of servers—who normally have an advantage—in every first set played at the 2010 French, U.S., and Australian Opens and at Wimbledon, and we found that the men's performance deteriorated more than the women's when the game was at a critical juncture. For example, in sets that went to 4–4, the number of men's serves that were broken rose more than seven percentage points after the players had reached the tie.

Among women, we saw barely any difference between pre- and post-tie performance. And even when female athletes' play did deteriorate as pressure increased, the drop in performance was about 50% less, on average, than that of their male counterparts.

So my coauthors—Danny Cohen-Zada and Mosi Rosenboim from Ben-Gurion University and Offer Moshe Shapir from NYU Shanghai—and I feel we can confidently say that in the world of elite tennis, women are better under pressure than men are. They choke less. .

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