Worldwide, eleven months a year, professional tennis is going on somewhere. Though tennis isn’t a mainstream sport in the United States, the diverse betting options and near-perpetual schedule make tennis betting extremely popular.
With hundreds of players, matches every day, and tournaments every week, the number of tennis betting options can be a lot to process. So what are the key types of tennis bets? What are some essential tennis betting strategies to consider? This guide will cover the basics of tennis betting. Let’s dive in!
Basic Tennis Bet Types
The simplest and most popular method for betting on tennis is the moneyline. You simply wager on who you believe will win a match. You can also wager on the moneyline for the first set of a tennis match. As with any sport, the favorite is indicated with a minus (-) sign and pays out less than even money, and underdogs are indicated with a plus (+) sign and will pay out better than even money.
Game Or Set Spreads
Tennis spreads allow you to bet on the margin of victory in total games won by each player or by the number of sets won. Spread betting in tennis operates much the same as in other sports, allowing you to bet on an underdog you believe will outperform expectations but not necessarily win a match. Let’s consider an example.
Suppose you were to bet on Matteo Berrettini -3.5 games against Radu Albot in their matchup at the ATP Stuttgart tournament. Berrettini defeated Albot 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in three sets, winning five more games (16-11) than Albot. In that case, you would have won your bet. If Berrettini had won 6-4, 7-6, you would have lost the wager because he only won three more games (13-10) than Albot.
Now let’s consider the match in terms of a set spread. Berrettini’s set spread against Albot was -1.5 (-155), and Albot was +1.5 (+105). If you bet on Berrettini -1.5, you would have lost your bet because he only won by one set (2-1). If you bet on the underdog Albot at +1.5, you would have won your bet.
With a spread of -1.5 in a three-set match, you are betting that the favorite wins in straight sets (2-0). Betting on a specific match score in sets (2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1, 3-2) is called set betting, and you can bet on the exact match score in sets for either competitor.
An over/under bet in tennis is a wager on the total number of games or sets played in a match. If you believe a match will be more competitive than expected, you might bet the over on the total number of games. If you believe a match will be shorter and less competitive, you might bet the under on the total number of games.
For example, suppose the over/under for an ATP match is 21.5 games. If the match were to end 6-4, 6-4, then the total amount of games is 20, and the under would win. If the match ended 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, then the total amount of games is 25, and the over would win. With both game and set over/under’s, you are betting on how long you think the match will last.
Outright bets are placed on a player to win a tournament rather than the individual matches within that tournament. You can place an outright win bet before a tennis tournament starts or during the event, though the odds will reshuffle as the field narrows. Futures odds are available in the outright market for every player in the field at upcoming events.
For example, the betting favorite at Wimbledon is Novak Djokovic at -110 odds, followed by Carlos Alcarez Garcia at +450. The further down the board you go, the odds get longer, all the way down to Diego Schwartzman, who has the longest odds in the field at +30000.
Props & Live Betting
Tennis is one of the most popular live betting markets in the world. You can live bet who will win the match and also who will win the upcoming game. Odds can change after every point, so you have to be ready to pull the trigger fast. With all the potential swings and volatility, live betting on tennis is best reserved for the most experienced bettors.
Some books offer exotic tennis props, such as bets on the exact score or whether or not there will be a tiebreak. These are high-risk wagers that are typically only available at larger tournaments (and select sportsbooks). For new tennis bettors, we recommend sticking with moneylines, spreads, and over/unders until you’ve gained significant experience watching and betting on tennis and a good feel for many players and their play styles.
Professional tennis events are played on three surfaces (grass, clay, and hard courts), and results can vary drastically across surfaces. Every player’s strengths, weaknesses, and play style are conducive to more or less success on different surfaces, and even well-rounded players who perform well everywhere have surface preferences.
If you are new to watching and betting on tennis, understanding how the three surfaces differ and getting to know where a player is comfortable will give you a critical lens through which you watch the game and bet on matchups and tournaments. So let’s begin with an overview of each tennis surface before exploring different tennis betting strategies.
On clay courts, the speed of the ball is much slower and the bounce is higher, making it easier to return shots and leading to longer points and rallies. Clay courts favor players with strong baseline return games who avoid errors and play good defense. Because points tend to be longer, players with stamina tend to excel.
Many big tournaments take place on clay in the spring, including the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Madrid Open, and the Italian Open, culminating with the only major on clay, the French Open. Rafael Nadal recently won his 14th French Open title. With a 112-3 record at the French Open and 62 career clay-court victories, he is the most dominant clay-court player of all time.
Nowadays, there are just a few grasscourt tournaments each year and the short summer grasscourt season culminates with Wimbledon. On grass courts, the ball bounces significantly lower and the variables in grass-court conditions lead to more unexpected bounces. You typically have shorter points and fewer long rallies, with more winners, more aces, and more points won by the server.
Grass courts reward an aggressive, attacking style and have historically favored players with powerful serves. Serve and volley players have excelled on grass, the most notable example being Pete Sampras. Roger Federer is the greatest modern grasscourt player, with eight Wimbledon titles and four more final appearances.
Hard-court events are played internationally throughout the tennis season, both indoors and outdoors. Hardcourt surfaces sit somewhere between the extremes of the two other surfaces, with much faster speeds than clay and much higher and more consistent bounces than grass. Well-rounded players generally perform well on hard courts. Two of the four majors, the US Open and the Australian Open, are played on hardcourts.
Tennis Betting Strategy
Make sure you research a player’s performances leading into a tournament. When considering tennis bets, you should target players who enter an event in good form or on a positive upward trajectory. Their performance recently (over the last 6-8 events) should weigh more heavily in your strategy than player rankings. In fact, tennis rankings can be deceiving because they reflect a player’s performance over the last year, not how they’ve performed recently.
Schedule, Travel, and Fatigue
The nonstop schedule and travel of the 11-month tennis season make fatigue levels and rest a critical factor to consider when betting on tennis. Professional tennis players routinely cross the globe, traveling six-plus hours between tournaments, with only 24-36 hours between matches.
Bettors have to factor in the human element of professional tennis. While recent performance is an important consideration, a player who just made a deep run to a tournament final could be out of gas the next week, especially after extended travel time. On the contrary, a player returning from a week or two of rest will have fresher legs. Look for opportunities to find value in players with a rest advantage over their opponent and be aware of potential fatigue when considering betting on players.
Be Aware (But Wary) Of Head-To-Head Records
Bettors should look at two opponents’ head-to-head records before betting on a match and larger sample sizes are better for drawing actionable conclusions from two opponents’ match history. Matchstat.com has a fantastic tool for researching the head-to-head record of two opponents. Make sure you look under the hood at the context of those previous head-to-head matchups because the topline numbers can be deceiving.
Pay attention to surface splits in a head-to-head matchup record. To illustrate why this is important, let’s examine Rafael Nadal’s matchup history against his two great modern rivals.
Rafael Nadal has a 24-16 record against Roger Federer. However, while Rafa is 14-2 against Federer on clay courts, Federer is 3-1 against Rafa on grass and 5-1 on indoor hard courts. Novak Djokovic has a 30-29 record against Nadal. However, Nadal has dominated the matchup on clay (20-8), while Djokovic has dominated on hard courts (20-7). When it comes to tennis betting, context matters.
Break Point Performance
The outcomes of tennis matches are decided by high-leverage points – in other words, the big moments. Break points are the biggest points in tennis because the server is expected to win their service games – to hold serve. Break Point Conversion and Save Percentage stats capture who performs best in these high leverage moments, and knowing who plays well under pressure is one way to find a betting edge.
The ATP’s stats leaderboard is highly useful for betting research. The leaderboards are sortable, allowing you to see how a player performs in each of those individual categories, how they perform on each surface, and against top players (as opposed to all players). They also add up four key “big-moments” stats: the percentage of break points converted and saved, the percentage of tie-breaks won, and deciding sets won to come up with a player’s Under Pressure Rating.