Tennis is one of the most popular sports for bettors around the world because of how regularly games are played; while its season is in full flow, there are matches virtually every day.
This provides people with ample opportunity to wager on tennis. Plus, the sport is one of the most progressive when it comes to making player statistics and trends publicly available, meaning those who want to back their bets up with research have plenty of data to sift through.
The most popular type of bet online is to pick an outright winner at a sportsbook, either for a game or for an entire tournament. When betting on a single match, bettors have the choice of placing money on one player or the other to win the contest outright. There will be a favorite and an underdog, with the latter netting more winnings than the former.
For example, Rafael Nadal is a -5000 favorite in a match with Alexei Popyrin, who is a +1600 underdog. This means that a $500 bet on Nadal to win the match would win a profit of $10, while a $10 stake on Popyrin would return a $160 profit.
Betting on the outright tournament winner
Alternatively, there is the option to bet on the outright winner of a tournament. Here, each player involved in the competition will have odds available, which correspond to the likelihood of them winning that particular tournament.
These odds are typically more generous than those offered for a single match, as any only player will need to win numerous matches in order for the bet to be successful. Sticking with the example of Nadal, he is the -118 favorite to win the ATP Madrid 2021 tournament, with Stefanos Tsitsipas the second favorite with odds of +280.
Outright betting can sometimes be tough in tennis as highlighted in the examples above, some players can often be heavy favorites to win matches or even tournaments, providing little opportunity for value.
One way to boost potential winnings is to place an accumulator as one plucky punter did back in 2018, which requires picking the results of numerous matches. For the bet to win, all of the results you picked need to happen.
There are other forms of betting on tennis that also offer better odds, such as handicap betting. Sometimes referred to as a game spread or set spread, this involves one player being given a positive handicap and the other a negative one.
A game spread refers to the total amount of games won by a player in the match. For a match against Alex De Minaur, Austria’s Dominic Thiem is offered at odds of -113 with a -4.5 game handicap. This means that, in order for this bet to come in, Thiem needs to have won at least 5 games more than De Minaur. If, for example, he won 6-3, 6-3 in straight sets, the bet was won because Thiem won by 6 games, but if he won 6-4, 6-4 then the bet did not come in, as he only won by 4 games.
Conversely, De Minaur’s odds of +260 are related to a +4.5 game handicap. This means, for the bet to win, Alex needs to have won 4.5 games (or less) fewer than Thiem, or indeed win more games total. So, in the examples above, a 6-3, 6-3 win for Thiem would result in a losing handicap bet on De Minaur, as he lost by six games, however a 6-4, 6-4 win by Thiem would create a winning bet, as the underdog lost by four games. With handicap betting, the result of the match doesn’t necessarily matter.
The same principle applies for a set spread. With the exception of men’s matches at grand slams, tennis matches are played in a best-of-three sets format, which means that handicap betting is generally set at +1.5 and -1.5.
Similar to handicap betting, there are also over/under odds, which focus on the number of games or sets that will be played in a certain match, regardless of who the winner is. For a typical best-of-three sets match, the lines offered will be Over 2.5 sets or Under 2.5 sets. For example, Tsitsipas’ match with Casper Ruud has +180 odds for Over 2.5 sets and -235 for Under 2.5 sets, meaning it’s more likely the match will be one within 2 sets.
This same structure can be applied to the total number of games that will be played in a match. For this same contest, there are odds of -375 for Over 18.5 games and +270 for Under 18.5 games. A bet on the latter would need the game to be won in 18 games or less to win.
Like many sports, tennis also offers in-play odds, which allow bettors to place bets on a match that is currently being played. Depending on how the match is going, the odds on offer will fluctuate.
Tennis offers numerous options for bettors to place money on matches and tournaments. If the odds for outright winners aren’t appealing enough, alternatives like handicap and over/under bets can be a great way of finding value.