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Betting on tennis is one of the most important markets for bookmakers. With the season running from mid-January until deep into November and matches taking place almost daily during that period, it’s easy to understand why they invest so much time on their tennis betting markets.
The numbers simply boggle – many weeks will see the ATP Tour running two major events for the men, while the WTA will regularly offer concurrent women’s ranking events. On top of this, most weeks will provide a couple of ‘challenger’ tour events. We can often be looking at six tournaments a week, each typically comprising a draw of 32 players (hence 31 matches), so an average week could see as many as 186 matches taking place. And that means a lot of tennis betting opportunities!
While the bookmaker would certainly expect to come out ahead after such a large sample, the sheer volume of matches means that betting on tennis is certainly rich with opportunities for those with the discipline to bet only when the odds really are in their favour, and those for whom the temptation to bet too frequently can be resisted.
Every bookmaker worth his salt will offer a decent tennis betting service, so it always pays to compare the best odds before considering having a bet, while it’s also absolutely vital to do your homework about both a players’ form, and any recent injury news. The physical demands of the professional game these days means it’s almost certain that every player on tour will suffer some degree of injury during any given season, and knowing about these has a huge weighting on the odds. If you spot a player available at 7/4 who you thought should be favourite, there’s a fair chance that when you dig into it, you’ll discover he retired through injury recently, or has spoken to the media about a niggling doubt of some sort. Following players on twitter isn’t a bad idea if you are getting serious about betting on tennis.
It’s important to factor in motivation when considering any tennis bet. While players rarely go out trying to lose, a top player preparing for a major tournament the following Monday is unlikely to want to get stuck in a long three-set match in a minor competition, and can often lack the motivation to battle back against a lesser known player. Be especially careful of this ahead of the Grand Slam weeks. While some players will opt to take a rest week, others will head to the warm-up tournaments with the mentality of “just see how it goes” but with their eyes firmly focussed on the succeeding major.
The tournament hierarchy in tennis comprises the four Grand Slam tournaments at the top (Australian Open, French Open, US Open and Wimbledon), then Masters Series events, followed by regular ATP and WTA events, and finally the challenger tour events at the bottom. Expect nothing less than 100% effort in the Grand Slams, while at challenger level you are betting on weaker players whom the bookmakers may have limited knowledge. An edge can therefore sometimes be gained in such matches, although bookmakers’ maximum bet limits can be very low as a result.
The main market for betting on tennis is the match result. There’s nothing more to it than that, although with only two possible outcomes, the prices are rarely going to make you rich, so you are left with the option of stringing a few winners together as an accumulator to boost your returns, or heading to the other markets in search of a juicier price.
Set Betting is one obvious avenue, where you predict the exact set score. All ladies matches and most men’s matches will be best of three sets, so you can bet on any player to win 2-0 or 2-1, while men will play best of five sets in Grand Slam events, so the odds are even bigger with six possible outcomes in every match.
You can bet on other tennis markets such as 1st Set Winner, the match to have a tie-breaker (more likely when two giant servers play each other) and total sets.
Total Games is another market which bookmakers like to offer, and you should always consider the players who are meeting when betting on this market. Big servers in the men’s game tend to produce longer sets with fewer breaks of serve, and greater tendency for the match to include tie breaks. In the women’s game, breaks are more common, so a strong favourite in the ladies game is far more likely to win in a short number of games.
Around the biggest tournaments, bookmakers will offer a wider variety of bets on statistical based markets such as aces and double faults. They will usually have a good bank of stats in their databases, but you’ll often find that their lack of practice in pricing these markets on a weekly basis can leave them a little exposed, and it’s a battlefield worth visiting.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly of all, you should always consider the surface the match will be played on. The fastest surface of all is carpet, although there are relatively few matches played on such a surface. Other fast surfaces include Indoor Hard and Grass, where again a quick serve is a huge weapon. Outdoor Hard - on which most of the North American tournaments are played (including the US Open) are slightly slower again, while Clay is the slowest surface of all. The slower the surface, the higher the chance of breaks of serve.
Form on the surface in question is of absolutely paramount importance when placing any tennis bet, and we would urge you to make this your biggest factor when placing a bet. While in recent years Rafael Nadal has risen from being the king of clay, to being a dominant player on many other surfaces, it can often be a case than a successful clay player struggles to translate that form onto other surfaces throughout a career, while the reverse is true for players not brought up on the red stuff. Andy Murray and Tim Henman are good examples of players who never achieved significant successes on clay.