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How to Bet on Tennis

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Tennis used to be an incredibly popular sport in the United States because Americans were always among the best in the world. On the men’s side just in the past 40 years or so there were legends such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. At one point, Sampras held the all-time mark with 14 Grand Slam titles and spent six consecutive years at the pinnacle of world tennis as the No. 1 player.

On the women’s side, there were the likes of Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, and Serena and Venus Williams to name just a few. Serena may go down as the greatest female not just tennis player but overall athlete in American history.

However, tennis is more of a niche sport now for older rich white people. The American men haven’t been a force on the national scene since really the end of Sampras’ career and briefly with Andy Roddick. He was the last U.S. man to win a Grand Slam and that was the 2003 U.S. Open. It was his first and only Grand Slam title so Roddick can’t be considered an all-timer.

The men’s side for years has been ruled by the Big 3 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and still largely is. That’s a Swiss, Spaniard and Serb. So one can see why tennis’ popularity in the USA has waned outside of Serena Williams. 

From a betting perspective, tennis is huge in Europe but really doesn’t make much of a splash in the States. The only tournaments that register overall are the four Grand Slams: Australian Open (hardcourt) in the winter, French Open (clay) in the spring, Wimbledon (grass) in the summer and U.S. Open (hardcourt) in the fall – and the U.S. Open is overshadowed by the start of the college football and NFL seasons. 

But the great thing about learning to bet on tennis that there are so many matches going on all over the world, both from the ATP Tour (men), WTA Tour (women) and lower tours like the Challenger or ITF. Just about 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there’s probably a tennis match somewhere that bettors can wager on. 

Here are some basics for how to bet on tennis.

Tennis Picks

Moneyline

Because tennis is an individual sport – OK, there is doubles too but the point stands – there is no “point spread” to even the playing field if a player ranked No. 1 in the world was facing an opponent ranked No. 111. Thus, the most basic way of betting on tennis match is the moneyline. This is simply who wins the match regardless of how many sets it takes.

Four our example, we will use Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in a match. Certainly, bettors should do their homework on the history between Djokovic and Federer. If one player has a much better head-to-head record, that’s going to affect the moneyline price. So will current form, health and the surface the match is played on. Federer, for example, favors the speed of the grass. Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, is the greatest clay-court player in history.

Here’s what a betting menu on Djokovic vs. Federer might look like:

Novak Djokovic    -285

Roger Federer     +220

This means it would take a +285 bet on Djokovic to win to return $100 while a $100 bet on Federer would bring back +220. 

Game spread

This is the tennis version of a point spread, but instead it is total games won in a match. Nearly all men’s matches are best-of-5 with the winner being the first one to six games. If it’s tied 6-6, then there’s a tiebreaker where the winner is the first one to seven points or leading by two points after getting to seven. 

The player whose turn it was to serve in the set serves the first point of the tiebreak. Their opponent serves the next two points and after that the serve rotates after every two further points. Serving is very important in tennis because the player on serve usually wins. 

A tiebreak is played in all sets except the last one (the third set in women's tennis and the fifth set in the men's game). In the last set, players continue until one secures a two-game lead.

To make things a bit easier, let’s assume that Djokovic and Federer are playing a best-of-3 sets match. A game spread might look like this:

Novak Djokovic -3.5 (-110)

Roger Federer +3.5 (-120)

If Djokovic were to win 6-3, 6-4, he would win on this games prop because he won 12 total games to Federer’s seven. But if the final score was 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in favor of Djokovic, then Federer would win because he had a game handicap of 3.5 and won 13 games to Djokovic’s 15. 

The bigger a favorite a player is on the moneyline, the more games he will be favored by.

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Over/under total games

While football has popular wagers on total points scored, this is simply a bet on total games played in any match and it doesn’t matter who wins. An over/under total games number using the best-of-3 formula might look like:

Novak Djokovic  Ov 22.5 (-120)

Roger Federer    Un 22.5 (-110)

Over 22.5 games is a very slight favorite. If Djokovic were to win 6-3, 6-4, then the under 22.5 games is the winner. If the final score was 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in favor of Djokovic, the over is an easy winner. 

Props

Once the basics of tennis betting are learned, there many props available. A popular one is a first set moneyline and games spread. For example:

Novak Djokovic -200

Roger Federer   +185

Djokovic -1.5 (-130)

Federer  +1.5 (-105)

This is the first set only. If it goes to a tiebreaker, Federer is guaranteed to win the games spread prop because the score will end 7-6. Betting on the exact first set correct score is another option. Alternate total games, and total games won over/under for each player are also available on every match.

Exact match result betting also is intriguing with each potential result given a moneyline price. For example:

2-0 Djokovic -105

2-1 Djokovic +265

2-0 Federer  +475

2-1 Federer  +550

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