How to Bet on Tennis
Tennis is a relatively new area for betting especially when it comes to in-play betting. The first tennis live bet did not take place until 2003 but since then there has been massive growth in in-play turnover for the sport.
Tennis is another sport that receives extensive live television coverage and this is a key factor in the increase in interest. Sky Sports, BT Sport and Eurosport have live coverage virtually every week form the start of the schedules in January to the Tour finals in November.
The two main professional tennis tours are the WTA and ATP tours, for women and men respectively. There are also minor feeder tours for both genders and players qualify for the main tours from results in the lesser tournaments.
Tennis is now an eleven month sport and it is only in December when no tournaments take place. It is played professionally on different surfaces, classed as hard courts, clay, carpet and grass. During the winter months tennis is played indoors.
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The men’s and women’s schedules consist of the four majors, Masters events and regular tournaments, carrying different levels of prize money and ranking points. For each sex there is a ranking list which records each player’s accumulation of ranking points. The four Grand Slams carry most points and the minor 32 player field events award least.
The Grand Slams
There are four Grand Slam tournaments in the men’s and women’s game. Male and female Grand Slam tournaments take place at the same time at the same venue. The Grand Slam is achieved by wining each major in the same year but a career Grand Slam is also an outstanding achievement. The men’s majors are played over five sets and the women play just best of three.
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. It is played in Melbourne outdoors on hard courts. The tournament is characterised by extreme heat so fitness is a major factor. Players spend December at training camps in order to be at peak fitness for the Australian Open.
The French Open is the second Grand Slam event of the year and is played in Paris over the last week in May and first week in June. The tournament is played on clay and is the culmination of the European clay court season that covers the spring and early summer. Rallies are traditionally long due to the slow nature of the surface.
Wimbledon is the most prestigious and traditional tournament of the year. It is played in south west London over the last week in June and first week in July. There is a brief grass court season during which players must adapt quickly from the different demands of clay court tennis. Grass is a fast surface and rallies are generally short.
The US Open is the fourth and final major of the season. It is played in New York at the end of August. The event is played outdoors on hard courts and is the final event of the North American hard court season. Important matches are played at night under floodlights and the atmosphere is the most raucous of the four majors.
The Davis Cup is a men’s team competition played on a knockout basis. Nations are divided into the World Group and various other regional groups. 2019 saw a new format introduced with teams who had qualified playing a week-long tournament to determine the winners.
Most Popular Markets
Tennis match betting has just two options and the wager involves betting on a player to win a match. Exchange betting now provides the option to lay a player, in effect accepting a bet from a peer who wants to back a player to win.
Within a match it is also possible to bet on who will win the first set or the number of sets in a match. Other popular match bets include betting on the total number of games or handicap betting when there is a clear favourite.
Bookmakers offer odds on the winner of tournaments and these are updated at the end of play each evening. There are also ante post markets for the Grand Slams and Davis Cup. It is also possible to bet on who will head the rankings at the end of the season
Best Tennis Betting Markets
There are a wide variety of markets to bet on with regards the sport of tennis. Some of these markets offer decent value, especially those with only two options. However, others are less appealing in terms of profit margins and the different factors that can influence the outcome.
Favourites have a very good record in tennis tournaments in general and Grand Slam tournaments in particular. In the men’s game Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have established themselves as 'the big three' and injury permitting, will be the shortest priced players.
In the women’s game, the tournaments are generally a lot more open with no dominant force and there are often surprise winners such as Sofia Kenin and Bianca Andreescu.
Match odds are generally set with a theoretical profit margin of about 5% which is the lowest for any form of tennis betting. A player either wins or loses and current form and world ranking is often a good indicator of how the match will develop. This type of bet is susceptible to injury withdrawals and there are some minor differences in how bookmakers settle bets when a player is unable to complete a match.
The favourite to win a match will also be a favourite to win the first set. Without analysing detailed figures it appears that the first set winner will win more than two thirds of matches. Favourites have a good record in this market. The price for any player to win the first set will be slightly higher than his or her match odds.
To Break Serve
More than 80% of games in tennis are won by the server. This figure varies for the four surfaces on which professional tennis is played. Grass produces the fewest breaks while clay lends itself more to the non-serving player winning a game. To break serve is always the outsider in this market and backing the server at any time would accrue a small profit.
Worst Tennis Betting Markets
Higher profit margins are applied to the less punter-friendly markets. However, these markets have some appeal as the odds are higher than the prices for a player to win a match.
It is possible to bet on the total number of games in a match. This is a two way whereby a bettor can bet on more or less than a quoted number. The number is quoted as a half number, such as over/under 18.5 games, to avoid a tie and returned stakes. The number of sets in a match is key to determining the total number of games.
In order to attract two way business when their is a strong favourite bookmakers compile prices with one player given a head start. A handicap is basically a games’ deduction for the favourite. This means if a player receives five and a half games and loses 6-4 6-4 they are settled as winners in the handicap market.
Race to 10 Points
This is an in-running bet and involves betting on which player will be the first to win 10 points. The player that serves first will be the favourite as they are more than likely to win the first game and establish a lead. There are similar markets for a player to reach 20 or even 30 points.
Game Correct Score
This market involves predicting the score of a game. This can be anything from server to win to love to outsider to win from deuce. This is such a tricky element to call. A player may win the first three points of a game and his game drops a level. The opponent becomes more determined and takes a point before the sever reasserts to win the game deciding point. Predicting how points will be shared in a game is difficult and bookmakers like to lay these bets.
The two main factors in setting match prices are current form and surface form. There are now many websites that analyse how a player has performed in recent weeks and the proportion of rankings points won on each surface.
Head-to-head results are also taken into account when assessing the relative chances of each player winning a match. A higher ranked player may have a poor historical record against his opponent and would be made the outsider despite proving himself to be a better player in recent matches.
Momentum is a key element in determining which player wins a match or tournament. It can be obvious to see when the momentum switches in a match or a player is in form and performing confidently. Momentum is an unquantifiable element of tennis but odds compilers cannot ignore it when setting their prices.
In-Play Tennis Betting
After every point in-play markets are updated. In the past this was done manually but now complex relationships are set up so the markets react in a predefined way as the result of who wins a point. The most significant event in a tennis match is a break of serve. Most sets are decided in favour of a player who makes the only break. A match favourite can become an underdog on the loss of a service game. Related odds also change after a break of serve.
The odds in tennis matches fluctuate after the completion of every point. Very few tennis matches develop without both players at some stage being the favourite. In fact each player can go from being the favourite to the outsider on numerous occasions during a closely fought match. This give rise to trading opportunities as it is possible to back both players at odds that guarantee a profit regardless of the result of the match.
Statistics are now available for every aspect of the game. First serve percentage is highly significant as this has a close bearing on how many points a player will win. Most points in tennis are won by the server when the first serve is successful. There is a direct relationship between the number of serves played into the court at the first attempt and the number of points won.
Serve and volley is a significant tactic in tennis. Some players avoid this approach as they have no confidence in their ability to back up their serve with a point winning volley. Grass in particular lends itself to approaching the net. Players who excel in this area have a comparative advantage on this surface.
Players are more likely to break serve if they are good returners. The purpose of this stroke is to get the ball in play to start a rally and take the initiative in the context of the point. The server is looking to produce an ace and win the point without getting into an exchange of shots.
Statistics for these key skills are also available by surface and this is important information in trying to win on tennis. It is highly relevant that a player has better returning statistics on one surface than another. Comparative numbers can also be used profitably in assessing the relative strengths of each player when a match is being played on a particular surface.