It’s thought that gentlemanly wagers have been placed on the outcome of tennis matches since the 1800s, but it’s only since 1960 – when the first high street betting shops opened their doors in the UK – that tennis betting really began to grow.
That pretty much coincided with the advent of the sport’s Open Era in 1968, a time in which the popularity of tennis exploded, and that perfect storm created a multi-million pound mini industry.
Once upon a time, tennis pros were actually allowed to bet on games – not those they were playing in, of course, but other matches on their respective tours. And there’s the famous tale of when a number of players took Ladbrokes to the cleaners in tennis betting’s infancy back in 1975.
Today, seven-figure sums are wagered every day on tennis via the bookmakers and betting exchanges, and with odds offered for the Grand Slams, ATP and WTA Tours and even the minor tours, it’s no wonder that tennis is one of the most bet-upon sports on the planet.
How to Bet On Tennis
There are dozens of different ways you can bet on tennis, and the good news is that – unlike some other sports – you don’t have to worry about the possibility of the draw scuppering your bets.
You can bet on tennis odds pre-game, or if you are watching along on TV or via a stream – many betting sites/apps offer tennis live streaming these days – you can wager in-play too. This is a great tactic if it looks as if one player is struggling with injury, or perhaps they are having a tough time holding their serve.
The first thing you will need to bet on tennis is a live, funded bookmaker account. These are easy enough to sign up for – a quick registration form, requesting some personal information (don’t worry, this is kept perfectly safe), is all that is required.
You can then make a deposit using your credit card (for non-UK punters only), debit card, PayPal, Skrill or many other payment methods, and once your deposit has been confirmed you will be free to bet on the latest tennis odds.
At this point, head to the tennis section of your betting site/app. You will no doubt see stacks of different games scheduled, both later and happening right now, and you can explore the odds to find what you consider to be the best value options.
You can place a single tennis bet or an accumulator, which multiplies two or more selections together to create an enhanced payout. However, be warned, for an ‘acca’ to win you will need every single one of your picks to win in order for your bet to be successful (unless your bookmaker offers a promotion such as ‘acca insurance, which we’ll cover in more detail later).
As for being successful in your tennis betting endeavours, you will need to know your stuff, do plenty of research and enjoy a little luck in order to place winning bets, but the emphasis should be on fun anyway.
To increase your chances, be sure to research each player’s current form, their fondness for the surface in question (hard court, clay, grass etc), and their head-to-head record against that particular opponent. For other bet types, such as the number of aces to be served, you can look specifically at serve/return stats in a bid to maximise your profit potential.
Tennis Bet Types
Thanks to the instantaneous nature of betting apps, you can have a flutter on pretty much anything that happens out on the tennis court.
You can bet on who will win the match, the next set or even the next point once the action is underway, with stacks of different options available.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular tennis bet types offered:
Quite simply, who do you think will win the match? It doesn’t matter how many sets/games are played, with the match odds you are just looking to back the winner of the contest.
Most bookmakers offer both set and game handicap betting markets.
These place a hypothetical plus or minus against a player’s score. So, if you backed Novak Djokovic with a set handicap of -1, he would need to win by two clear sets for your wager to land. If he won by one set or lost the game, he would not satisfy the -1 taken from his score.
Set handicaps are more commonly used when betting on best-of-five set matches at the Grand Slam events, while game handicaps can be used in any form of tennis match. An example of a game handicap would be Djokovic -4.5 – if the final score was 6-3 6-2 in the Serb’s favour, he would have won by five clear games… satisfying the -4.5 requirement.
To back an underdog, you might bet on them with a + handicap. This gives you a chance to land a winning bet even if they go on to lose the match.
Total Sets/Correct Score
Although two separate tennis betting markets, total sets and correct score can be considered on a similar footing.
In a best-of-three sets game, there are only two possible scorelines: 2-0 and 2-1. You can bet on a specific correct score, or hedge your bets somewhat by taking the over or under total sets line offered by the bookmakers.
If you think a match will finish 2-1 to a specific player, take the correct score odds. If you think there will be three sets but aren’t sure which player will win, take the Over 2.5 Sets line.
The same logic applies for best-of-five set matches as well.
You can also bet on the correct score for individual sets.
As with total sets, the bookies also offer odds on how many games will be played within the match.
This is also an over/under line, and so your job is to predict whether a player will win easily in straight sets (by backing the ‘unders’ odds) or if you think it could be a dogfight that goes deep into the last set (in which case, you’d back the ‘overs’).
You can bet specifically on what will happen in an individual set.
Normally associated with the first set (pre-match, at least), you can wager on who you think will win the first set, what the score will be and also tackle the total games odds for that particular set.
Total Aces/Double Faults
As time has passed, more and more of the elements that unfold in a tennis match have been translated into betting odds.
So now you can bet on how many aces will be served in a match (tip: look out for the big booming servers on the faster surfaces like grass), or even how many double faults (a useful betting market when the players are low on confidence, or where there’s a strong wind) will be served.
All of the above betting markets apply once the action is underway, with a wide range of in-play odds available.
You can bet on who will win the next game or even the next point, whether there will be a break of serve and what the next game score will be. There’s literally hundreds of options when it comes to in-play tennis betting.
What is Ante Post Tennis Betting?
Of course, you may not want to bet on each match and instead focus on the tournament winner market.
All bookmakers offer outright markets for the Grand Slam events and the ATP and WTA tours, while some even have prices available for ITF, Challenger and other lower-tier action.
Betting on who you think will win a tennis tournament can be broken down into two broad categories. If you bet on the day the event begins, or even during it, then you will use the traditional tournament winner outright market.
But if you choose to wager more than 24 hours ahead of the event getting started, then you will be placing an ante post bet – and there’s some rules you need to know in this scenario.
If the player you pick withdraws from the tournament without hitting a ball, you are not always going to get your money back – these are the rules of ante post betting, unfortunately. Each bookmaker has a different approach to non-runners though, so it’s worth combing through their terms and conditions if this is something that concerns you.
There are advantages to betting on tennis tournaments in this ante post fashion. You will typically get better odds for one thing. Imagine that Djokovic hits a rough patch of form six months away from Wimbledon – his outright price will lengthen accordingly, and yet you may have an opportunity to place a value bet, knowing that he is likely to recapture his form ahead of the grass court season.
Tennis Betting Rules
Seasoned tennis fans will know that not all matches reach their natural conclusion with a winner and a runner-up.
Generally speaking, one of two things will happen. If your bet has already been played out at the time of the retirement/DQ, it will be settled as a winner or loser accordingly.
For example, you may have bet on Player A to win the first set. Even if they or Player B retires or is disqualified in the second set, then all bets placed on the outcome of the first set stand.
It’s a bit more complicated when your bet still has time to run at the time of the match ending, i.e. if you have wagered on Player A to beat Player B. Usually, all bets are void in the case of a retirement/disqualification – whether it happens in the first game of the first set or a tie break in the third. As such, your stake will be returned.
Depending on how your pick is faring at the time, a voided bet may feel harsh or wonderful, but it’s the only fair way that the bookies can settle up in such cases.
The Best Tennis Betting Features
It would be fair to say that there’s a certain ‘uniformity’ amongst bookmakers these days, with few striving to do anything different from the norm in their tennis betting offering.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but there are still some key features that we implore all punters to take advantage of when it comes to their tennis betting.
Some are rudimentary and often taken for granted, but others will add genuine value to your tennis betting experience.
Promotions & Offers
Each bookmaker offers promotions and bonuses to their customers, and some go as far as to create tennis-specific promos for you to explore.
Two of the most common options apply to accumulator betting. Acca insurance will ensure you get a refund if one leg of your multiple bet loses. This is usually a rebate made up of free bet(s), and typically refers to bets with three or more selections at a specific minimum odds (1/2 is often the go-to).
Acca bonuses, meanwhile, will pay you a percentage extra on top of your winnings if your acca lands. This generally increases in size the more legs you add to your coupon, although of course that also increases your risk of not being successful – every extra leg lessens your probability of winning.
Some bookies offer rebates on net losses across your weekly tennis wagers, while ‘free bet clubs’ will see you trouser a stash of free bets if you bet a certain amount in the previous week.
You may even find bookies that settle bets as winners when a player retires – if it’s your pick’s opponent, that is, and while not a promotion as such always cherish those firms that offer daily odds boosts and enhanced prices on the latest tennis action.
Many bookmakers will enhance the prices of some tennis markets every day, and you’d be surprised how often these can deliver good betting value.
Whether it’s single bets, multiples or even Bet Builders, it’s well worth having a peruse of the options prior to placing your bets – you may be able to get better odds for your intended selections simply by shopping around.
Sometimes, you can’t place certain bets because they fall foul of the rule of related contingencies – where one of your picks has a direct relationship to another, and therefore normal odds can’t be offered.
But the bookies have begun to work around this by offering Bet Builder tools, which let you combine picks that would otherwise be related contingencies.
For example, you can combine a multiple-leg coupon that includes match/set winner, total aces, total games, correct score, breaks of serve, total tie-breaks and many other options from a single match.
These Bet Builder tools offer you a chance to enhance your value in matches where you are confident you know what will transpire and in what fashion – so seek out a bookmaker that has a Bet Builder offering specific to tennis if this appeals to you.
When you head to a bookmaker’s live channel and click on a tennis match, they all offer live stats to some extent.
But these can just be the rudimentary facts, whereas sharp punters are instead searching for insight that they can use in their bets.
Data relating to each player’s serve can prove particularly useful, whether it’s first/second serve percentage, total aces and double faults, break points conceded/saved and even win percentages per point.
If you intend to bet on tennis matches in-running, having access to an instant data feed that is updated after every single point is a must.
Did you know that many bookmakers offer live tennis streaming?
This covers all levels of tennis, from Grand Slam events down to the ITF and Challenger tours, allowing you to bet on what you see – always the best way of going about your betting.
And, if nothing else, streaming the latest action will help to pass the time if you are waiting at the bus stop or in the dentist’s waiting room.
Typically, you will need either a funded account, or to have placed a bet in the preceding 24 hours, to enjoy access to the live streams, but they are essentially free to watch.