How to Bet on Tennis

Tennis is one of a handful of sports that is played in every country around the world, and the top tennis players rise to become global stars. With an all-year-round schedule, an array of fascinating tournaments, including the prestigious Grand Slam events, and intensive multi-media coverage, the sports of tennis has also become one of the world’s most popular betting sports.

Tennis Betting Basics

There are many factors that help to make tennis an ideal betting medium. Although there is fierce competition in both the men’s and the women’s rankings, players usually have long careers and play regularly, which means there is plenty of opportunity to get to know their playing style, strengths and weaknesses. Being an individual sport, the relative merits of the two competitors are easier to weigh up than in a team sport with multiple participants.

The fact that there are only two outcomes to a tennis match is also another factor that sports bettors appreciate. It is harder for sportsbooks to getaway with excessive margins, and tennis Match Winner markets can be extremely competitive. On average, favourites win in this market around 70% of the time, though that figure is slightly higher for major events and slightly lower for lesser matches.

While betting on the Match Winner market is the most popular form of tennis betting, there is usually plenty of interest in the Tournament Winners markets, where careful consideration of the draw, combined with player knowledge, can sometimes unearth a good value bet.

Spreads and Handicaps

Given that the favourite wins around 70% of the time, tennis Match Winner betting often doesn’t yield attractive odds for those who prefer to take bigger prices. One alternative is to try betting in the spreads or handicap markets.

Both types of market operate on the same principle. The favourite of the two players is given a theoretical ‘handicap’ and you are invited to bet on them or against them. If this handicap is based on the money line in the Match Winner markets, it is usually called a spread. Sportsbooks will also sometimes offer an array of such markets, with different handicaps applied, in which case, they will usually be known as Handicap markets, though the betting principle remains the same.

In tennis, the handicap is usually quoted in terms of sets, and these are generally quoted in half-points to avoid a situation in which there is a ‘handicap tie’. Tennis matches are either played in a best of three or best of five set format, so the handicaps quoted will usually be 0.5, 1.5 or 2.5.

For example, you may see the following market offered for a best-of-five Grand Slam event:

  • Marin Cilic    +1.5    -110
  • Rafael Nadal     -0.5    -110

In this example, if you bet on Marin Cilic, your bet will be a winner if Cilic wins the game or if he loses to Nadal 3-2. This can be a useful way to profit from your tennis knowledge if you don’t want to bet on a player at short odds, and can add an extra dimension to your tennis betting.

Over/Under Tennis Betting

Another popular betting option in tennis is to look at the Over/Under markets. You will find Over/Under markets available in many sports. These typically give punters the binary choice of betting on whether the total number of points or goals scored in a match will be over or under a predetermined figure.

In the case of tennis, Over/Under betting is typically based around the number of sets that are played during a match or the number of games. In the case of a best-of-three match, the Over/Under figure will usually be 2.5 sets or 21.5 games. Again, the half-point ensures that every bet will be either a winner or a loser, since it is impossible for either player to win half a point or half a game.

For example, you may see the following odds offered for an Over/Under Games market:

  • Over 21.5    -110
  • Under 21.5    -110

When betting in these markets, particularly the Over/Under Games markets, it is important to remember that players may not bring the same level of intensity to every game. Their objective will be to win the match of course, but strategy, form and fitness may determine how they approach that aim, and the smart tennis bettor is always alert to these factors.

Rules of Tennis Betting

As with all sports, tennis betting markets have long and detailed terms and conditions attached, explaining what happens to your bet in the case of unusual events, and it is always important to read the specific rules that apply with the sportsbook you are using.

Tennis matches are sometimes interrupted by the weather, but in these cases, your bet will usually still be live and will stand until the match is eventually completed. The scenario is different in the case of one player retiring. Usually a sportsbook’s rules will state that if a player retires after a full set has been completed, all bets will stand, and that player will be deemed to have lost the game. If a player retires before a set has been completed, however, bets are usually voided and stakes returned.

The issue of player retirement is therefore relatively straightforward for Match Winners markets, but can be more complicated in the Handicap and Over/Under markets, and it is always a good idea to check out your sportsbook’s rules on these eventualities before you place your bet .

Mike Lovatt

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