How to Bet on Tennis
Learn how to analyse tennis matches and other valuable tips, to be able to spot subtleties and develop a viable tennis betting strategy
Tennis is the second most popular sport bet on by UK punters and is followed by millions each year. The sport is reasonably predictable compared to other sports, although it delivers upsets on a regular basis. Consequently, there are two main types of tennis punters: those who focus on sure winners, and those who look for the long odds.
Then, there are in-play betting tennis punters and the traders – that buy and sell odds on the betting exchange. But you have to do your homework regardless of the approach you fancy. So, we’re going to walk you through the tennis betting strategy essentials from start to finish.
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How to Analyse Tennis Matches
The number of nuances and variables in tennis make it one of the most complex sports, so you must have a keen eye for detail to prosper. Successful punters can continuously improve their betting model while applying good old-fashioned discipline. Thus, combining your knowledge with the essential data and weighing them correctly every time is the key to success.
Here a few suggestions on what to check before betting on tennis matches:
Previous year tournament rankings – You’re certainly heard of the ATP & WTA Rankings, even if you’re not a big tennis fan. Well, the points awarded to players after each tournament last for a year, or more precisely until the end of next year’s competition. So, this is the reason why most players tend to perform very well in some tennis tournaments and repeatedly fail in others.
Of course, players are always looking to protect their position, but sometimes they can have different objectives for the current year. There are two other situation you have to be aware of: the first would be when a player has already lost points this year (could be due to injury or just poor form), failing to defend his titles or to achieve the same classifications as a year ago and therefore is going to be focusing on different tournaments for the rest of the season.
The other scenario you should spot regards the revelation players that suddenly start outdoing themselves, bolstering through the rankings and claiming unexpected titles. If you can spot their potential and form early, you should be able to make it count by backing them to win tournaments and then cashing out before they are facing a tough opponent.
Head-to-head meetings – Never take matchups at face value. A tennis player might have lost 5 matches against this opponent, yet still, he might be the true favourite of their next confrontation. The key here is to check out the surface they faced each other on previously and compare their current form (things change from one year to another, not to mention meetings that took place more than two years ago).
Also, check the players' age at the time of matchup. It’s important not to get carried away: some punters give too much weight to the head-to-head record.
Court surface – Different players, will be better suited to certain conditions. Tennis is played on clay, grass and hard court, with the latter taking place indoors or outdoors. The top players have usually achieved success in various conditions, but this is not a general rule.
Because a good serve can be extremely difficult hard to return on Grass Courts, the number of breaks is usually low, so it’s never a good idea to bet against the best servers, e.g. Ivo Karlovic, John Isner, Milos Raonic etc. Defensive players tend to struggle on grass when facing attacking players. Because physical strength is such a significant advantage, matches played on grass are usually shorter than those played on other surfaces.
Strong serves and strokes represent a great weapon on Hard Courts as well, but the downside is that this surface takes its toll on the player’s level of fitness, thus being more favourable for athletes with higher stamina.
Clay Courts slow down the speed of the ball, making powerful serves and strokes less effective, which makes it more suitable for defensive players. The players’ general fitness level and accumulated level of fatigue are two crucial factors on clay, as there are many points played, rallies are long, and breaks are more frequent.
Playing style – Tennis players have diverse skill sets, so the better you know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they perform against different types of opponents, the better you can estimate probabilities and spot value. Another important aspect is to know their personality, to be able to anticipate the way they will play and react when they are facing different situations.
Some players have a gift to annihilate their opponent’s serve, while others are finding it hard to play against left-handed players. Also, you have to identify the level of aggression in regards to the style of play, as that will help you decide on correct score and handicap bets. There are numerous scenarios out there, and if you’re able to discover them, your estimated probabilities will be more accurate.
Stats – Checking the stats will help you understand, to some extent, if a specific player is a good matchup against a given opponent or not. Professional tennis punter Jack Houghton told Betfair that a player’s second-serve points won percentage, and a player’s second-serve return-points won percentage are the stats that have the most significant influence on whether a tennis player will win a match or not. Fortunately, both metrics are shown on the ATP and WTA websites.
According to Houghton, these figures can be used to identify when highly-seeded players might be vulnerable. Look at those two critical stats in the early rounds of the major competitions to see how well the heavy favourites performed. Even if the top-flight player has won comfortably, if those stats aren't great, he might be prone to poor performance when facing a more skilful opponent.
Fatigue – Tennis is one of the most exhausting sports. You are on your own, there's no substitute for you as in team sports, and if you are a top player, you might not have many free days during a year. Most of the times you have to play day in, day out, as a tennis player. Stress can take the best out of you, and many factors will contribute to that.
In many cases, tennis over under predictions depend mostly on player fatigue. Those who have no clear indication of the fitness level of the two opponents are betting blindly. Also, think about the fact that ladies are frequently confronted with the extra issue – menopause – that can alter their chances of succeeding.
If you meticulously follow a few players, you’ll soon know how to tell when they’re about to give up on a tournament or when they shouldn’t be capable of going on for much longer. Even though fatigue is vital, there’s no easy way to track that unless you watch tennis matches.
Tennis Betting Tips & Tricks
Knowing who or what to bet on is only part of the tennis betting success equation. So, we’ve extracted a few secrets of the trade from experienced tennis tipsters to help you become a master of tennis betting:
Become an expert – There are hundreds of matches played in the ATP and WTA tours each week, so there’s no way you can monitor all the athletes. So, your best option to analyse tennis matches adequately is to specialise on one area, e.g. Challenger Tour, or just on a few players, i.e. closely monitor 10-20 players, following them on social media, etc.
Focus on a limited amount of betting options – ideally the markets you’re most comfortable with – without neglecting occasional value betting opportunities that arise in other types of tennis bets.
Bet where the value is – Finding value means discovering odds that are higher than what the actual probabilities imply. And the most proficient way to use your value spotting ability is to place single bets. This means getting rid of the habit of placing mug bets.
But how do you find value? The best way to start is to create a betting model and get used to price up the tennis markets before looking at the odds offered by the bookmakers. Another thoughtful approach is to search value bets the day before the matches take place – in most cases, the odds should be higher than the day after.
Have a viable staking plan – If you’re wagering on singles, there is no doubt you came across long losing streaks. That’s not bad luck, it’s volatility, which is linked to the average odds of your sports bets. The higher the risk, the longer you can expect those bad runs to last.
Unfortunately, there’s no escape so, you have to get prepared to be able to stay afloat when the next one hits. The way to do that is to use a simple money management routine called flat staking. If you’re a veteran, then you could also give Fractional Kelly a shot – although it is a lot riskier.
Register with multiple bookies – Placing your bets with a single bookmaker translates to limiting yourself to a narrower range of odds, which is detrimental to your betting performance. Pro punters know that you can’t end up profitable in the long run unless you've registered with a few top UK bookies.
Odds shopping is the way to go. You have to grab the best tennis betting odds every time you wager. That means having multiple betting accounts funded. Although it might sound like it's a walk in the park, things get more complicated when you're successful, because some sports betting sites will limit or ban you.
Follow knowledgeable tipsters – Most tipsters on the internet are not profitable. It doesn’t matter if they claim to be successful or if they work for ESPN, BBC and the likes. Nevertheless, following popular tennis betting tips and predictions can be a great way of collecting additional data for your research.
It is essential to investigate any tipster before biasing your pre-match analysis on their thoughts. You should be fine as long as you aren't blindly copying other people's picks. Just remember this: The more experience you get, the less you should rely on other people’s knowledge.
Focus on identifying false favourites – Bookies don’t set odds to reflect the estimated probabilities of each outcome. They’re looking to create a win-win scenario, encouraging bets on every option available in every betting market. Traders know that the largest part of their users will customarily back the favourite, so, generally speaking, you should have more chances of finding value backing the underdog.
In tennis, bookies tend to overestimate tournament seeding favourites. But as the rankings are based on a player’s achievements over the previous year, many value betting opportunities arise. Seeking favourites who are likely to underperform is an excellent starting point. Don’t be afraid to back high tennis odds.
Important Tennis Betting Sites Rules
All bets are void when a tennis match is cancelled, meaning that your singles will be refunded, while your tennis acca selection will be given odds of 1.00.
However, bookmakers have different rules in regard to how bets are settled in the event of an injury to one player. Some bookies would void match winner bets when a player retires, while others will settle bets if the first set was completed. Walkover results are rarely honoured for betting purposes.
Here are the most common tennis betting site rules for abandoned matches:
Scenario #1: Bets are valid if one set is completed – Betfred, 888sport, Grosvenor, LeoVegas, Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Unibet are some of the well-known bookmakers that go by this rule. All betting exchanges fall under this category as well.
Scenario #2: Bets are only valid if the match finished – William Hill, BoyleSports, Novibet, Sportsbetio, TonyBet, Bet-at-home and Virgin Bet will void match winner bets unless the full match is completed. So, don’t use betting exchanges to place the opposite bets when you are trading or trying to perform a manual cash-out.
Scenario #3: Bets are only valid if the match finished, however, fixtures do not need to be completed if a player is disqualified – Bet365, Betway, BetVictor and PokerStars work almost like the ones from the last category, with the exception being that disqualified bets will be settled on the player who is deemed the winner. As disqualification is incredibly rare, with only 9 players having been disqualified during the past 30 years, it is generally okay to dutch bets using bookies from the 2nd and 3rd categories.
The rules listed above refer to Moneyline bets. When it comes to other tennis markets – live betting included – things differ from one betting site to another. Some bookies will pay out settled markets even when the match is abandoned, but because there are various possibilities, it is best to check with each and every bookmaker to know for sure.
Please be aware that these tennis betting rules can change at any time, so do your checks before placing any bets.