Played by millions of people across the globe, tennis is a sport many of us enjoy, particularly in the warmer months. As a sport to spectate, it is even bigger with the WTA estimating that they had 700 million viewers tune in to at least one of their events during 2019. With numbers like this, it should come as little surprise that tennis also stands up as a very significant betting sport.
The Tennis Betting Integrity Report published in 2018, prepared by H2 Gambling Capital, estimated the regulated gross gambling revenue (bookmaker profits from wagers) of tennis to be $1.8bn from $27bn in turnover (total bets placed). This accounted for about 4.5% of the entire turnover within the gambling industry. So, while not the top priority for bookmakers across the world, tennis does still represent a significant chunk of their earnings and it is a sport to which they do pay close attention.
Most Popular Tennis Bets
With so many people interested in betting on tennis, you will find that most bookmakers have responded well to the demand. You can see this in the number of different markets they offer for tennis matches, whether pre-match or in-play. Long gone are the days where you could only place a bet on a player to win or lose a game. Today’s bettor has so many more options at their disposal even in contests that lack any major names.
Although tennis betting today is very different to what it was even a decade ago, the most popular type of bet firmly remains to attempt to pick the winner of a particular match. Unlike in other sports, you do not have to worry about the possibility of a pesky draw either. That is just not something tennis can possibly agree with, there must be a winner even if it takes hours and hours to determine one. This is something John Isner and Nicolas Mahut found out the hard way during the 2010 edition of Wimbledon. The final set ended an incredible 70-68 making it easily the longest tennis match in history by both time and number of games.
It ought to be mentioned that Wimbledon has since changed the rules with any tied final sets now settled by a tie break if they reach 12-12. Before we disagree too much though, let us return to our original point that there are no draws in tennis so it’s simply a choice between player A or player B, or pair A or pair B if you are into a bit of doubles. There is, however, more than one way to bet on the winner. While you can opt, as many do, for your traditional match winner, you can also back players to win with a handicap or bet on the final match score (in sets). Let’s take a look at all these options now.
This is your no-nonsense, easy as you like, tennis bet. You simply need to pick the player that you think will win the game, and if they do the business you have yourself a winning bet. As you do not regularly get giant mismatches in tennis, you seldom see huge odds such as 66/1 or 100/1 like you might in some sports. You do, however, get to see some extremely short odds especially when it involves some of the bigger players. Rafael Nadal, for instance, was priced at odds of just 1/25 to beat Diego Schwartzman in a 2021 French Open quarter-finals. You also have the case where one unlucky punter lost $35k by backing Roger Federer, at odds of 1/50, to beat an unseeded John Millman in the 2018 US Open.
It is the respective abilities of the players involved that most influence the odds coming into any bout. Recent form can also have a significant influence though, as can the playing surface. Some players just perform much better, or much worse, on different surfaces. Nadal, for instance, is so incredibly formidable on clay that it takes something extraordinary to beat him on the crushed brick (as Novak Djokovic proved when he got the better of Nadal in the French Open semi final in 2021). It is for this reason that Nadal can be justifiably trading at 1/25 to beat a man ranked 10th in the world. Nick Kyrgios, on the other hand, really doesn’t get along with clay at all, so much so that he once so eloquently bemoaned, “Get rid of the clay, man. Who likes the clay, it is so bad.”
To discuss betting on a match winner with a set handicap, let us go back to our previous example of Rafa Nadal and his tiny 1/25 price to beat Diego Schwartzmann. In this case, you might be confident that Rafa will win this game easily, in which case you can increase your odds by backing him to win with a -1.5 set handicap. If you do this, the Spaniard would effectively start 1.5 sets down.
So, if the actual match ended up 3-2 in sets to our strong favourite, your bet would be a losing one because with the handicap he has actually lost the match 1.5-2. If in reality though the match ended 3 sets to 1, this would be a winning bet as following the handicap adjustment, Rafa is still ahead 2.5-2.
With set handicapping, you are not only able to bet on a hypothetical handicap working against a player but for them too. Maybe you think Schwartzmann is actually going to give Rafa a really tough time at Roland Garros. Although you cannot bring yourself to back him outright, you cannot see him losing by more than a set. In such an event, a +1.5 set handicap bet would be a smart approach. Any Schwartzmann victory means you have a winning bet, as does a 2-3 set loss as the handicap would mean the Argentine wins 3.5-3.
This is pretty much the equivalent of football’s correct score market. With set betting, you will need to pick the number of sets both players, or pairs, will win. Obviously, for men’s singles, this can be a trickier task as there are more possibilities if they end up playing the best of five sets, rather than the best of three.
No matter if you opt for the ladies or the gents though, this market is still a great way of boosting your odds. Let us take another French Open match between strong favourite Alexander Zverev (1/10) and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (6/1):
|Davidovich Fokina 3-0||22/1|
|Davidovich Fokina 3-1||14/1|
|Davidovich Fokina 3-2||12/1|
As you can see, while Zverev might be trading at an extremely skinny price for a straight win, you can obtain much more attractive odds by betting on the exact score. Just be aware that rather than betting on, for example, a 3-0 Zverev win, you can sometimes get better value betting on the same bet under a different guise. Davidovich Fokina ‘to win a set’ – ‘no’ is effectively the same bet but you may get better odds for this. Keep reading on as we explore this in more detail below.
The two set-related markets discussed so far, set handicap and set betting, both relate to the winner of the game. It is however possible to place set wagers that are not linked to the final result, as we will now explore.
Fancy a certain player to make a strong start but unsure what might happen afterwards? Maybe you will be tempted by taking a punt on the ‘Set 1 result’. It is as simple as it sounds, for within this market you just need to choose the player, or pair, that will win the opening set. You will find that most bookmakers also allow you to bet on the set 2 result, even before a match has got underway. For future sets though you will need to wait until the game is in progress and heading towards the latter stages.
As well as selecting the winner of a particular set, some bookmakers are also happy to take bets on the exact score of a set (whether it be the first, second and so on). With there being seven different possibilities (6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6) for each of the players, so 14 in total, you will see some good prices within this market even in contests that look as though they could be very one-sided.
Player to Win a Set
There is nothing complicated about this betting option. For each player you will simply be presented with the question, will they win a set, yes or no? If you feel that they should at least manage one, then place your money on yes. If, on the other hand, you think they’ll be brushed aside in straight sets, then ‘no’ may be the way to go. Why no may be the way to go you ask? This is not our attempt at making your question your judgement, rather it is possible to place the ‘same’ wager but in a better way.
To illustrate what we mean, we selected an upcoming match between Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini. The much-favoured Serbia was trading at a 16/1 (with Bookie A) and 11/1 (with Bookie B) in the ‘not to win a set market’, an unlikely scenario indeed but tennis has seen stranger things. If Djokovic was not to win a set, this means Berrettini must win 3-0 in sets, there is no other possible option. The Italian cannot win 2-0 or 4-0 for instance in a best out of 5 contest. It is therefore interesting that if you instead headed to the set betting market, Bookie A only gave odds of 10/1 on a 3-0 win but Bookie B ended up upping their price to 14/1. So, this really goes to show it is worth checking both markets whenever you wish to bet on a player winning a contest in straight sets.
This is not a particularly varied market as there is only ever a choice of two or at most three options. With men’s singles you may have the choice of three, four or five sets but with everything else, it’s a toss-up between two or three sets. This is certainly not a market many people dip into but it can be worth considering on certain occasions.
You do have to be a little careful when writing about tennis because while in most other sports a game refers to a match, a game in tennis is also part of the scoring. It is something that in most cases, you need six, or sometimes seven of in order to win yourself a set. Although the sets themselves are ultimately the most important, it is still possible to place bets on games markets. The three most commonly available options are included below.
Given that set handicap bets are widely available, it should come as no great surprise that you can also have a flutter on games handicaps too. These work in much the say way in that you take the actual, real-life score and then add, or subtract, a certain handicap to that score to determine the winner.
It is not quite as straightforward as set betting though as with sets, you know that whoever takes the most sets wins the game. It is perfectly possibly though, and not actually that uncommon, that a player can win a match despite claiming relatively few games. The 2019 Wimbledon men’s singles final is just one of many examples as a victorious Djokovic won 32 games compared to Federer’s 36: 7–6(7–5), 1–6, 7–6(7–4), 4–6, 13–12(7–3).
Another games market we tend to see on a regular basis is total games. With this, a bookmaker will usually specify a particular number of games, for example 34.5, and give you the choice of betting over or under this amount. Some bookies may offer a little more flexibility and give you a range of games totals on which to bet over or under, for example 33.5, 34.5 and 35.5. Typically, they will all revolve around what is roughly expected though so that decent odds (usually around evens or just short of even) are available for both outcomes.
Total Games Within a Set
Although less commonly available than the two above, search around and you will find places that let you bet on the number of games within a specific set. If betting before a match begins, then it will be the first set that the odds are available for. Usually the bet will again work on an over/under basis with punters able to choose if they think there will be more or less than a specified amount of games, for example 3.5.
Serving is such a pivotal part of tennis that it can regularly make the difference between winning or losing. Ivo Karlovic, with no disrespect intended, pretty much made his career on the back of his ridiculously powerful and bouncy serves.
His talent in this area allowed him to collect over $10m in prize money across his career and it is also possible to make money yourself by betting on serves. Just do not expect to pocket as much as the giant Croat!
In case you were unsure, an ace in tennis occurs when a player makes a legal serve and the receiver is unable to even touch the ball with their racquet, thus meaning the server scores the point. Though aces can occur on first or second serves, they happen on first serves far more regularly as players often serve slower on their second serve to minimise the risk of a double fault.
For betting on aces there are two main possibilities. One is that you can pick the player who you think will record the most aces in a match. Note that you will have the option to pick a tie if dipping into this market, not something you tend to see often with tennis betting. It can be quite an entertaining market as it gives you so many opportunities to let out a little cheer. Your other option is to pick over/under a stated number of aces. Sometimes this can even come with a handicap but your standard bet might be on Serena Williams, over/under 5.5 aces. Alternatively, you can bet on the total number of aces there will be in the whole match between players if you anticipate a serve-dominated affair.
This is exactly like with aces but only this time you are betting on the number of double faults as opposed to aces. A double fault is when a player fails to make a legal serve twice in succession, and hence the receiving player gains the point. You have access to the same betting options as listed directly above but only this time on the worst service outcome rather than the best.
Henrik Holm, the Swede who once reached 17 in the singles rankings, was always a safe bet to out double-fault his opponent. By the time he ended his career, he had a huge double fault percentage of 8.42% (more than double the standard rate).
Outright Tennis Betting
So far, our in-depth look into tennis betting has only focussed on individual matches but what about outright tournament markets? If the term ‘outright’ is a little unfamiliar to you, at least in this context, fear not as it simply involves betting on the (outright) winner of a competition. Any bookmaker worth their salt will provide outright odds for major women’s and men’s singles grand slam events and in most cases, you can access these months before the tournaments begin. If you decide to bet early, you may well enjoy larger odds compared to the start of the tournament but with the risk that they might not even take part, for instance is a player suffers an injury.
When trying to pick out the winner of the tournament, sometimes your only option will be to put a straight, single bet on them to go all the way. Some bookies may run special bets when the tournament commences like Player B to reach the semi-finals but as standard, it’s just a case of selecting the eventual champion.
In addition to this, at some sites it is possible to place what is known as an each way bet on these outright markets. Standard each way terms for tennis is ½ the standard odds and covers the first two places, that is, the players who make it to the final. How this works is that in practice you will place two separate bets. One bet will go on your selection to win the tournament, and the other will go on your selection to finish in the top two (make the final).
Say you picked Simona Halep to win Wimbledon at odds of 8/1 with a £2 each way bet (with a £4 total stake). If she went all the way, both your bets would win at she has both won, and finished in the top two. The win part of your bet would pay out at the normal price so £2 @ 8/1 and the top two finish would pay out at £2 @ 4/1 as you only get half-odds for this. So, in total, you would scoop yourself £24 profit (£16 and £8) plus your £4 back. If the Romanian were to finish runner-up though, the win half of your bet would lose but you still would pocket the money from the top two finish side of the bet (£8 profit plus £2 of your stake back).
Tennis Betting In-Play
Although some tennis games can continue for hours, it is generally speaking a good sport when it comes to in-play betting. In part, this is because live streams are widely available at betting websites across a range of matches. Head to the in-play section of any major bookmaker and you will nearly always find some live tennis to tune into. This can be particularly crucial for the more serious bettors among you as having a live stream can provide you with some valuable insight that you would not obtain from just looking at stats or some basic text commentary. For the less serious, it provides an easy way for you to access some high-profile tennis battles. You don’t even need to place a bet to tune in!
Betting on tennis live is even easier now too thanks to the rise in betting apps, many of which support live streaming. Due to this, you are just a few taps away from watching a live tennis match, no matter where in the world it is taking place. From the very first serve until the decisive match point, you can tip your toe into the action and see if there are any markets worth your attention.
As far as live markets go, they tend to include many of the ones we have spoken about already in this guide but will naturally update slightly as the match progresses. This means that you should be able to bet on the outcome of set three once set two has been decided. There are a couple of differences though. With in-play betting, you will see the addition of extremely short-term bets, ones that do not tend to be available pre-event. For this we mean things like the player to win the next point, or to win the current game. By having these bets that will be settled in a few seconds or minutes, it gives punters a shot at trying to turn a quick profit. There is also the danger it could go the other way, of course, and losses can accumulate quickly if you are not careful.
Multiple Bets & Accumulators
We have discussed at length the type of betting markets available to punters keen to try their luck on tennis. In all cases though, other than a brief mention of each way bets for outright tournament bets, they have all referred to single bets. But what about if you want to bet on multiple different matches as part of the same, single bet?
This is something people may choose to do, especially when they wish to back several favourites. By combining multiple selections into one bet, you can end up with a much larger potential payout, even if each individual event is quite likely to happen. To see how this might work, take a look at the table below.
|Selection||Bet Type||Stake||Odds of selection||Potential Returns|
|Osaka to beat Kvitova||Single||£5||4/9||£7.22|
|Federer to beat Zverev||Single||£5||4/7||£7.85|
|Djokovic to beat Nadal||Single||£5||8/11||£8.63|
|Williams to beat Mertens||Single||£5||13/20||£8.25|
|Osaka to beat Kvitova AND Federer to beat Zverev||Double||£5||1.26/1||£11.34|
|Osaka to beat Kvitova AND Federer to beat Zverev AND Djokovic to beat Nadal||Treble||£5||2.92/1||£19.60|
|Osaka to beat Kvitova AND Federer to beat Zverev AND Djokovic to beat Nadal AND Williams to beat Mertens||Four-fold (accumulator)||£5||5.46/1||£32.34|
Even though we have picked out the favourite in every instance, with multiple bets you can unlock some very decent odds. By combining just four reasonably strong favourites was able to give us odds of 5.46/1. Obviously, the more selections you pick the more likely one is to slip up and let you down but picking three, four or even five, you could decide it offers a nice compromise between risk and reward.
Depending on the bookmaker you use, some will simply call any bet with four or more selections an accumulator or acca. Others will stick with calling them a four-fold, five-fold, and so on. Regardless of the name, the thing that stays true with an accumulator bet is that all selections must win otherwise your bet is a losing one.
Betting on Live Tennis
If you’re at the arena watching a game of tennis live and are wondering if you’re able to place a bet live from your phone or take advantage of courtsiding, we’ve got your questions answered.
Can You Bet Online Inside a Tennis Arena/Stadium?
Whether you have tickets to a grand slam final or the early rounds of a more minor tournament, you are perfectly entitled to place bets via your smartphone. Being allowed to do so, and being able to do so, can be two different things, however. At smaller events, where you are sitting or standing among a crowd of a few hundred, you should have few issues whatsoever. Try quickly placing some bets inside a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, however, and you may not find it so easy.
At large venues, the sheer number of mobile phones in close proximity can have a noticeable and significant impact on the available internet speed. It is a problem that is gradually fading away though as more and more venues are establishing their own public Wi-Fi. Even so, we would normally recommend placing your bets outside the arena first, so that when inside you can simply enjoy watching the action.
Is Courtsiding Possible at Tennis?
Although courtsiding is a practice that can be used across a wide range of sports, as you might have guessed, it is from tennis where the term gets its name. The basic premise of courtsiding is that you place bets on live action just before the bookies have chance to update their odds, or close the market. This is possible because although the bookies get their information very quickly, there is nevertheless always a slight delay. So, if you are able to place a bet quickly enough, you can beat the bookies to the punch and use information they do not yet have against them.
For courtsiding to work, you have to be physically at a match and have a quick internet connection. Attempting to courtside while watching games on TV is never possible because the delay in you receiving the picture is far too great. Not only does it simply take time for the picture to travel across the earth to your screen but the broadcaster may have an additional delay in case they make a major error/something unacceptable appears.
If you are watching a game in the flesh though, then the possibility of courtsiding arises (in theory, anyway). Generally, it is something that occurs more at events that are smaller in stature. In such cases, information is likely to end up with the bookies slower compared to major events, giving you a larger window in which to exploit the delay. At this point you are no doubt thinking to yourself, is doing this actually legal? After all, you are either betting on dead certs or accessing much better odds than ought to be available.
Is Courtsiding Legal?
Although extremely frowned up (especially by the bookies who never like to lose!), courtsiding is not technically illegal in most countries. It can be a bit of a grey area but ultimately people caught courtsiding are not charged with a criminal offence. There have been numerous instances however of people being kicked out of a court/arena though. In this sense, courtsiding is somewhat akin to counting cards at a casino.
It’s not something a venue likes and if they spot you doing it, they will definitely kick you out and probably ban you too. The other thing is that a bookmaker will quickly stop accepting bets from you if it is obvious you are courtsiding. In their pages and pages of terms and conditions most will feature a line something like “where we have grounds to believe that a bet is placed after the outcome of an event is known, we have the right to void the bet.” So, while you may be able to win a few quid through courtsiding, your chances of being able to take any meaningful amounts away from the bookies are actually rather slim.
Bookmaker Margins with Tennis
As many bets involving tennis only have two outcomes, it is very easy to work out the bookmaker margin with these bets. This margin is effectively what ensures bookmakers secure a profit in the long run. In the grand scheme of things, their margins are not that big on tennis bets (and across other popular sports) for two reasons. One is the sheer size of their operations. When dealing with lots of bets, a small margin quickly adds up. The other reason is that if a bookie becomes too greedy and starts taking big margins (by offering poor odds) people would soon flock to their competitors in search of more lucrative returns.
For tennis betting, the match result market tends to feature the lowest margins, or in the customer’s case, the best value for money. In a fairly standard, real-life example between two evenly matches players you might find that Player A is available at odds of 1/1 (50% implied probability) and Player B might be trading at 4/5 (55.56% implied probability). In this example, the bookie’s margin is 5.56% as this is the amount above the 100% implied probability.
As you dip into other, less popular markets, you may find the bookmakers build in slightly bigger margins. The above example provided was a real one obtained from a popular bookmaker, a match involving Barbora Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. In another market, they were offering odds of 4/6 on over 20.5 games and 11/10 on under 20.5 games. Here the bookmaker margin increased to 7.61%.
The quality of the players involved or the quality of the tournament often makes a difference concerning the margins too. If we take a French Open semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic, they were trading at odds of 2/5 and 2/1 respectively meaning there is a 4.76% margin. However, pick a Nottingham Challenger game involving world number 228 Marius Copil (2/1) and world number 100, Kevin Anderson (7/20) the margin jumps up to 7.41%.
If you are someone that shops around for odds then it does not matter too much what the margins are because you are always getting the best price available. If you are loyal to one brand though, it is something worth looking at if you bet on tennis regularly as these margins can make a significant difference to your balance in the long run.