At first glance, betting on tennis can look a bit dull to the outsider, with the odds on ‘big’ players so short on nearly every match. Until they face each other, the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray are heavily odds-on to win almost every time they play. But there’s so much more to tennis betting than simply backing a top player to win; with intriguing set betting, handicaps and tournaments bets available.
Below I’ll run through the various considerations of betting on tennis, including the types of bet available, which tournaments run throughout the year, how to find good value and some tennis betting rules to consider.
Tennis – Live Betting vs Pre-Match
There are two ways to bet on tennis matches, pre-match or in-play (AKA ‘live betting’).
Pre-match odds don’t tend to fluctuate too much in the build-up to the match, while the opposite is true of in-play, where odds fluctuate wildly point-by-point – meaning a lot of value can be found when a player is struggling in a game or set.
Various markets are available pre-match, with the most popular being the overall winner of the match. Before the match, you’re also able to bet on sets (i.e. what will the end result be in terms of sets won, e.g. 2-1 Federer or 3-0 Djokovic), the total number of sets (particularly popular in five-set matches), the number of games won, or handicap betting based on the total number of games or sets won.
In live betting, as well as in the aforementioned markets, you’re also able to bet on the outcome of individual games and sets. So, if you think a player’s serve isn’t looking good – you may consider betting on the receiver to break serve.
Below is a full breakdown of tennis betting odds types for pre-match and in-play bets.
With match betting, you are simply betting on the outcome of the match, i.e. who will win. Betting on elite players is rarely of value in these instances as odds are so short – unless you fancy them to be beaten. When there’s a strong favourite for a match, you’ll be able to find better value looking at set betting, handicap betting or backing the favourite if their odds drift in-play.
Set betting is the equivalent to “correct score” betting in football, with you trying to predict the “final score” of the match, e.g. Federer to win 2-1 in sets, or Djokovic to win 3-0. As individual sets are harder to call, bigger odds can be found than simply betting on the winner of the match.
As an alternative to set betting, you can also bet on the total number of sets – regardless of who wins them. So, in most women’s or men’s non-elite tournaments, you’ll bet on whether there are two or three sets. However, at major men’s tennis tournaments, this can range from three to five sets. You don’t need to select the match winner when betting on the total number of sets.
With live betting, you’re able to bet on the outcome of games during play. Has a player been unlucky to go 0-40 down on his serve? You’ll be able to back them at a good price to pull it back and win the game. Odds change quickly when betting in-play on tennis though, so be sure to make your moves quickly.
Games Handicap Betting
Ahead of matches, you can also bet on who will win the most individual games and apply handicaps to these bets. These handicaps can range from +/- 1.5 games and run well into double figures. Fancy a one-sided match? Maybe this is the type of bet for you.
Betting on Tournament Winner
Tournament outrights are another popular market for tennis followers. Most bets placed tend to be on the big players in the Grand Slam events (Wimbledon, Australian Open, Roland Garros/French Open and US Open), but over 1,000 professional tennis tournaments take place every year – most of which can be bet on.
Plus, tennis runs pretty much all through the year – so you’ll be never short of action thanks to the intensive ATP, WTA and ITF calendars.
Below is a breakdown of all male and female professional tournaments that run throughout the year.
Men’s Professional Tennis
Professional men’s tennis is broken down into three tiers: the ATP Tour (the highest tier), the ATP Challenger Tour and the ITF Futures Tour.
If you’re not familiar with the governing bodies of tennis, the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) is the governing body of men’s professional tennis, while the ITF (International Tennis Federation), is tennis’ world governing body. The ATP is an independent organisation, but it is ultimately answerable to ITF – much alike the Premier League ultimately falls under FIFA’s jurisdiction.
Players on the ATP Tour are ranked based on points accumulated in tournaments over the previous twelve months. This is why, when a player sustains a serious injury, they drop out of the rankings and must work their way back up – although major players tend to get wildcard entries into the major tournaments if they’ve been out with injury.
There are 66 ATP Tour events over the course of the year. The ‘headliners’ of these are the Grand Slam tournaments: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open, which all of the top-ranked players generally take part in if they’re fit. The Grand Slam events earn players the most points towards the ATP World Rankings and also offer the biggest prize funds.
Below the Grand Slams are nine Masters Series 1000, which includes events such as the Miami Masters, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo Master and the Cincinnati Open. The top players tend to enter most of these events, but may skip some in order to be in peak condition for Majors.
Another rung down is the ATP 500 Series (which includes the Dubai Championships, Queen’s Club and the China Open). 13 ATP 500 Series events take place throughout the year, with each tournament typically boasting two or three of the world’s top 10 players – meaning these players tend to at least feature in the semi-finals of these events.
With 39 events per year, the ATP 250 Series is the lowest level of the ATP tour. It’s rare to find more than one or two of the world’s top players at each event, meaning this is where the elite players win most of their tournaments as they tend to dominate opponents.
The season then ends with the ATP World Tour Finals in November, which sees the world’s top singles and doubles players go head-to-head in London.
ATP Challenger Tour
Players ranked outside the world’s top-80 primarily make up the ATP Challenger Tour, although a few familiar names can sometimes be found on the Tour – usually after dropping down the rankings due to fitness or form – with the likes of Andre Agassi, Marcos Baghdatis and former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, all taking part in Challenger events in the past decade.
Around 156 challenger events take place each year – which is significantly more than the ATP Tour.
ITF Futures Tour
The lowest level of men’s professional tennis actually has the most events, with the ITF Futures Tour boasting over 600 men’s tournaments each year – taking place across 77 countries. With so many tournaments taking place, you can be assured that there is always a tennis match to bet on at this level of the game.
Women’s Professional Tennis
With about half the number of professional players compared to the men’s game, women’s professional tennis has two tours: the WTA Tour and the ITF Futures Tour.
Similarly to men’s tennis, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) is the governing body for the professional game, and comes under the rule of the ITF.
The top-level of women’s professional tennis is structured a little differently to men’s tennis, although they take part in the same four Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open), as well as the WTA Tour Championships in the London to end the season.
Below the Grand Slam events are Premier Tournaments (four Premier Mandatory events, Premier Five and 12 Premier events), 32 International tournaments and eight WTA 125k Series events. This tends to total 73 events, which is a few more than the men’s ATP Tour.
ITF Futures Tour
There is no female equivalent of the ATP Challenger Tour, so below the WTA Tour is the ITF Futures Tour. In 2017, this consisted of 351 tournaments, ranging from purses of $15,000 up to $100,000 for each event.
So, now you’ve got a background in the professional men’s and women’s game… what types of tournament bets can you place on tennis?
Betting on Tournament Winner
The majority of tennis bets placed are on the outcome of tournaments, and the most common of these is backing the winner of a given tournament (e.g. Andy Murray to win Wimbledon). Grand Slam events tend to offer the best odds for tournament betting due to a higher calibre of player and competition, whereas smaller events are often dominated by a clearly superior player.
To Reach a Certain Round Bets
Maybe you don’t fancy a player to win, but instead reach a certain stage of a tournament, such as a quarter or semi-final. These are particularly interesting bets for up and coming players, or players who may have a favourable draw path.
To Not Lose a Set Bets
Another popular bet for major tournaments is betting on strong favourites not to drop a set for the entire tournament. When a player is the form of their life, this can be an intriguing proposition and big odds can be found.
Special Tennis Bets
Anything can happen in tennis – especially at Wimbledon. Want odds on Cliff Richard to sing at Centre Court? You can get them. From celebrity appearances, to weather forecasts, roof closures and winner’s tears, all sorts of weird and wonderful bets are available on the Grand Slam events.
Tennis Betting Rules
It’s also worth being aware of some betting rules quite specific to tennis before diving in too.
What happens if a tennis player is withdrawn or disqualified?
With regards to match betting, if a player is withdrawn or disqualified after the first set has been completed – the opposition player will automatically be awarded the victory. However, if the first set hasn’t been completed, then all match bets are typically voided – meaning your stake will be returned to your account.
Does my bet stand if player withdraws from a tennis tournament?
If a player pulls out of a tournament before they have started a match – any tournament bets on them will be voided. But if they pull out or are disqualified at any point after this, your bet will stand.
What happens to my bet if a tennis match isn’t finished?
If you have placed a correct set bet, or bet on games, if a match is ended prior to its natural conclusion (e.g. due to player withdrawal or conclusion), all bets are normally voided.
Are bets affected if tennis matches are delayed?
Typically, if tennis matches are delayed due to adverse weather conditions, all bets stand until the match recommences.
Tennis Betting Summary
So, there we have it: a full breakdown of the essential of tennis odds and betting. It’s not just about betting on the favourites at big tournaments – there are many ways to have a little wager on one of the world’s most unique sports and test out your luck. Good luck!