Tennis Betting 101

by Shane Rivers on February 19th 2015.

Betting on tennis provides a rare thrill for the spectator, as well as the opportunity to win a decent amount of money. Both the men’s and women’s events are filled with action, and the global appeal of the sport can’t be denied.

This article is intended to cover the basics of wagering on tennis, whether you’re a fan of the doubles scene or a devoted backer of Rafael Nadal. Even if you can’t tell the difference between a hardcourt and a clay court, the information provided below should give you the best chance of making a profit.

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Types of Tennis to Bet on

Before we dive into the types of wagers you can make, I think it would be helpful to look at the different tennis categories that your bookmaker might use. The examples below are taken from the Bovada website.

ATP Men’s Tennis – In most cases, this refers to the ATP World Tour, which is the top level of the sport for men. The ATP is short for the “Association of Tennis Professionals.”

ATP Challenge Tennis – Also known as the ATP Challenger Tour, this is the rung just below the ATP World Tour. By gaining enough points through winning matches, players on this level can eventually qualify for competition against the world’s best.

WTA Women’s Tennis – Also known as the “Women’s Tennis Association,” this organization represents the highest level of female tennis competition in the world.

ATP/WTA Doubles Tennis – Both the ATP and WTA feature doubles tennis, in which teams of two men or women compete against another team of the same gender. While mixed doubles are less common, the four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) all feature doubles matches with men and women on the court at the same time.

Betting Options for Tennis

Tennis wagers come in all shapes and sizes. While they may differ from one sportsbook to the next, the following are the ones you should expect to find most often:

Outright Winner – This common wager allows the bettor to predict which player is going to win a tournament. There’s also the “each way” option, which places two bets: one for the player to win the tournament, and another for the player to finish in the top 2.

These fall under the category of “futures,” as they give the bettor an opportunity to predict a future event. Most online bookmakers have ATP tournaments listed months (or even a year) before they actually occur.

Match Winner – With this type of wager, the bettor chooses the winner of an upcoming match. Before selecting such an option, always make sure to choose a bookmaker who uses the “bet void” rule. This means that if the match isn’t completed due to player injury or some other factor, the bettor gets their money back. Otherwise, you may end up losing cash on a contest that was never completed.

Game & Sets Handicaps – The bettor is provided with two players who are scheduled for an upcoming match, and they must choose the winner. A game or set handicap is also included, so a player can lose the overall match and still provide a payout.

An example of this would look like the following: Maria Sharapova -1 1/2 (-165). In this case, the point spread applies to sets. That means that Maria Sharapova will have 1.5 sets deducted from her total. If that’s still enough to give her the win, then the bettor collects money. The -165 means the bettor would need to wager $165 in order to win $100.

Betting on Set Winner – This option allows the bettor to predict the outcome of a specific set. Wagering on the winner of the first set is a common option, although this may vary.

Number of Games in Set – The bettor is given a list of options, and they attempt to choose the exact number of games that will be played during a single set.

Total Score – The bookmaker sets a number that represents the total sets to be played in a game. The bettor must then predict if the actual number will be higher or lower.

Prop Bets – Also known as “proposition bets,” these wagers provide interesting ways for bettors to risk their cash. One example would be predicting the number of Grand Slam wins that a specific player would pick up during the course of the season. Some prop bets can get downright bizarre, but they certainly keep thinks lively for the betting public.

In-Play Betting – While these wagers still revolve around a match or set winner, they have one major difference: betting takes place while the game is still in progress. This requires quick thinking on the part of the bettor, but the excitement level is beyond that of any other option.

Tips for Wagering on Tennis

There are lots of ways that you can improve your overall chances of winning a bet. None of these guarantee a profit, but they should transform you from a novice into an informed bettor. Before you lay money at an online sportsbook, keep the following in mind:

Record vs Opposition – When two players are set to collide, it’s a good idea to do some research and see how they’ve fared against each other in the past. The best strategy is to look for the results of recent matches , as there are lots of factors that can change as the tennis season wears on. If you find that a pro struggled against an opponent known for big serves or a strong volley, then it might also be worth your time to see if they also performed poorly against opposition with a similar skillset.

Injuries – Is the player in peak condition? Watch for competitors who are dealing with nagging injuries or have to turn around and play right after an especially grueling tournament.

Court Surface – Clay, grass, and hardcourt are the most common playing surfaces, but few tennis professionals are equally skilled on all of them. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

Left-Handed Players – If a player is taking on a southpaw, how have they performed against similar opposition in the past?

Weather – Wind and rain can play a significant factor in matches, and some players are more suited to deal with these adverse conditions.

Momentum – Is the player properly motivated or riding a hot streak? Or, is he showing up at a smaller tournament just to cash a big check?