Tennis Bets

Tennis BetsTennis is not a mere seasonal sport, further boosting its appeal as a betting proposition. Played on grass, clay or hard courts, the ATP and WTA campaigns span the entire year, with tournaments played all across the world. That means that for discerning punters there are constant opportunities to bet on an old and distinguished sport that continues to grow stronger with age.

The following are just a few of the most commonly offered betting markets that give customers the chance to make some money from everything ranging from outright tournament odds to niche in-play bets and specials.

Outright Betting

Outright betting needs very little explanation – in short, customers bet on the player they believe will win a given tournament. In recent years, the market has been dominated by Novak Djokovic, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray also major players over the past 15 years or so.

Such is Djokovic’s monopoly over the sport that it is incredibly rare for the Serb not to be the clear favourite for any tournament he happens to enter. However, certain players do have an edge when playing on their favourite surface or in their home country. Andy Murray is more than capable of challenging the Serb playing on grass in Britain, while Rafael Nadal in his pomp was invincible on clay, although at times he was almost as unbeatable regardless of the surface.

There are a number of important factors that should be considered when making outright bets. For one, the presence or absence of big name players can make the tournament much more open, with more players having the chance to make a splash.

Additionally, the tournament bracket, or draw, can have an impact. As each player’s path to the final can be traced, punters can see from the start whether their pick will face the very top seeds in the earlier stages, or if the likes of Djokovic could only lie in wait in the final. Tennis seedings ensure that, barring an upset, the top four seeds will meet in the two semi-finals. For all players avoiding dangerous opponents for as long as possible can dramatically alter their chances of success. The seedings do not always give an entirely accurate view of a player’s prospects, whilst beyond the seeds one player may offer much more of a challenge than another.

Outright odds are usually around the 3/1 mark for a big favourite, although the brilliance of players such as Djokovic and Serena has seen them priced at odds-on in the past! Realistic dark horses tend to be priced at around 16/1 to 33/1. That said, it is not uncommon for outsiders at 50/1 or more to win, although such upsets are far less likely in tennis as they are in golf, racing and some other sports.

Match Betting

Of course, there is also betting available on individual matches, rather than just tournaments. It is in the match betting market that backing the underdog pays off most often. While it is exceedingly uncommon for a player outside the world’s top 10 to even make the final of a Grand Slam tournament – Goran Ivanisevic winning Wimbledon as world number 125 in 2001 being a memorable exception to the rule – the underdog has much more of a chance in a one-off match. This is especially the case outside of a Grand Slam, where the men usually play best of three, not five, sets.

While the form book can go out of the window when betting on individual games, it is always worth seeing which players go into tournaments on a hot streak, or perhaps nursing an injury. While Djokovic losing to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2016 was a shock, the American’s strong pre-tournament form did indicate that an odds-busting result could happen. Match betting can be enhanced by an accumulator, in which the punter selects the winner of multiple games, multiplying the odds and therefore the potential winnings.

In a match between relatively well matched players you can expect to find odds of just under even money for both players. In contrast, a huge favourite may start as short as 1/200, with the outsider at correspondingly huge odds of 100/1 or more!

Game Handicap Betting

If betting on a clear favourite is too dull, Game Handicap betting spices things up somewhat. By giving a player a handicap, they must then win enough games to overcome the handicap. For example, if a player was given a -3.5 handicap, 3.5 games would be taken off their total and compared to their opponent’s tally.

If the player won the game 6-4 4-6 7-6 6-2, they would have won 23 games to their rival’s 18. Take off 3.5, and the score would be 19.5 games to 18, meaning the bet would win. This market is particularly good for making clear favourites’ odds more competitive, or by offering the reverse handicap and giving the player an advantage, it can give underdogs much more of a chance to be a ‘winner’ of sorts, even if they lose the match.

Set Betting

Set betting is another way to bet on an individual game and is a great way to get a bigger return than would be provided solely by the match odds. Rather than just pick the winner of the game, you also pick the score they will win by (in sets, not games).

For example the top players are often priced at very, very short odds to win a match, which may not appeal to many. However, by betting on them to win 3-0 you can increase that return significantly. Alternatively if you think they may lose concentration for a set somewhere along the way, a bet on 3-1 is likely to offer even greater odds.

Number of Sets in the Match

One of the simpler markets, and one with very few options, the customer is asked to guess how many sets will be played in a match. For regular Tour games, as well as women’s majors, the choice is between two and three sets. Men’s Grand Slam games could last three, four or five sets. This market is mostly guesswork, though if two players are well-matched or have a history of close encounters, it is advisable to bet on their game going the distance. Conversely, a game featuring a clear favourite against a rank outsider is likely to be over quickly.

Big Three/Four vs the Field

In recent years, the ‘Big Four’ in tennis has been Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray. More recently, with Nadal plagued by injury, it has become the ‘Big Three’. When all three (or perhaps four) are playing, bookmakers may offer customers the chance to bet that any of the group will win, or that a member of the field will pip the big names to the title. Betting on all of the favourites will not offer very good odds, but when the big names dominate, sometimes it pays off to bet on the field. Similar markets include “Winner without X”, where one player, a big favourite such as Serena or Djokovic, is excluded.

Set Correct Score

One way to make games more exciting is by making in-play bets which demand a certain scenario to trigger a payout. One such bet would be the correct set score market. All the punter needs to do is guess what the score will be in the set that is either about to begin or underway. As the score has to be exact, there can be no payout until the set is completed, which adds to the drama.

Other Tennis Bets

That concludes the list of the most common betting markets available for tennis. However, as such a well-established sport with so many spectators and bookmakers taking a keen interest, there are plenty more niche betting markets and specials. The four majors offer the most markets but some of the following are also available for tennis tournaments going on all through the season, not just at the Grand Slam events. Here are some further markets that could be explored.

Total Games Odd/Even

A bet based almost entirely on guesswork, the customer must wager on there being an even or an odd number of games played in a match. As it will always go down to the very last game, the bet is very much like picking red or black in roulette – not based on any skill, but certainly packed with suspense.

Score at 2/4/6 Games

Set betting extends beyond merely guessing the correct score – punters can bet on what the score will be after two, four or six games. At two games in there are only two options – 2-0 or 1-1 – meaning the odds are shorter, but after four games the score could be 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2, and after six games it could be 6-0, 5-1, 4-2 (all to either player) or 3-3. Unless betting on the score being level, it must be decided which player leads after the allotted number of games.

Game Betting

Even more specific than set betting, game betting asks customers to bet on which player will win the next game. The player serving will almost always be the favourite to win the game, and will hence be placed at shorter odds. This market is very useful for punters looking for a short-term fix, or those uninterested in following the entire match.

Set to Go to Tie Break

A tie break comes at the end of a set if the score is level at 6-6, with the exception of the final set. In this market customers bet on the possibility of the set ending in a tie break. Betting that a tie break will occur offers much longer odds than betting against it, as statistically tie breaks are not all that common.

To Win Set/Not Win Set

A good market if betting on a vastly outclassed underdog, punters can bet on a player winning a set during the match or not. Odds will not be offered on the likes of Djokovic or Murray winning a set, so this market exclusively focuses on underdogs that may or may not be beaten in straight sets.


There are a number of specials, which may only be offered by certain bookmakers and for particular tournaments. One such special involves betting on a player to lose the first set but win the match, something which does occur quite often in tennis but not often enough to be considered a regular bet. Bookmakers may also offer a “Race to (5, for instance) games” market, in which customers bet on the player they think will win five games first.

Only two, three, four or five games will be part of that market, as winning one game or winning six – and therefore the set – fall into the remit of other markets. Besides these specials, bookmakers will make available a whole range of very specific odds for major tournaments, which become available online or as part of a promotion.