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Betting on tennis for the last decade, particularly on the men’s side, has been somewhat of a double-edged sword. The “Big Three” of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have dominated the sport and won 18 of the last 21 majors. On one hand, the predictability of the sport should lead to profitable betting. On the other hand, the moneylines on their matches are usually very steep, requiring very large bets to make any serious money.
While the women’s side has been much more open, Serena Williams has had her share of dominance. During one stretch from the end of 2014 to the beginning of 2015 she won the calendar Grand Slam, holding all four major titles at once.
All of these scenarios beg the question, is there any money to be made betting tennis? The short answer is, yes. However, as long as the aforementioned players continue to dominate the sport it may take a little creativity to do so.
In this article we provide five of the best tips and strategies to use to start your tennis betting season off on the right foot.
It goes without saying that one should look at two opponents’ head-to-head record before placing a bet on their match. With tools like MatchStat, it is easy to generate a search of prior matches between any two players.
Like anything else, the bigger the sample size of matches between players, the more likely it will be to predict what will happen. However, keep in mind that oddsmakers have access to all of this same data. Bettors are more likely to gain an advantage on oddsmakers betting on lesser-known players, or matches where the opponents have not met each other much in the past. It would take much knowledge of the players to handicap such a bet, but avid tennis watchers are likely to put in the appropriate time.
Pay Attention to Surfaces
It is no secret to the common tennis fan that Rafael Nadal dominates on clay. 12 of Nadal’s 19 major titles have come on clay at the French Open. Thus, while Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have often entered the French Open ranked #1 in the world, Nadal has often been the overwhelming favorite in the tournament.
While Nadal’s prowess on clay is one of the more widely known traits, other players’ games on a much lesser-known scale are more suitable to certain surfaces. Big servers tend to prefer playing on hard court as the fast surface makes their dominant serve that much harder to return. Those who use the serve-and-volley benefit more from grass as the surface tends to produce shorter points.
When analyzing head-to-head trends between opponents, pay special attention to the surfaces they play on. If two opponents have met ten times but all of the previous matches have been played on hard court or grass, that data will not do much good in predicting who will win on clay.
Recent Form Matters
It is understandable that significantly more money is bet on tennis majors than smaller circuit tournaments. However, those that do research into players’ performances leading up to majors will have a distinct advantage.
In tennis, one of the most important factors for a player’s chances to win is what form they are in. Perhaps a certain player skipped a lot of smaller tournaments to be fresh for the upcoming major. This brings up the inevitable “rest vs. rust” argument that is discussed in many team sports. Some older players may benefit from the rest while others do not play as well when they have not been tested recently.
Along with a player’s recent form, does that player have any recent injuries they are battling? Have they not advanced as far as they would have liked in recent tournaments, and thus their confidence may be shaken? All of these things are important to note before making a wager.
Find Props for Better Payouts
In the intro to this article, we posed the hypothetical question if any money can be made on tennis betting. Players like Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal often have moneylines of -5000 or greater in early rounds of tournaments. There are not going to be many bettors willing to shell out that kind of money for small returns.
However, there is still an opportunity for decent payouts when these players compete. Instead of moneylines, take a look at various prop bets that tennis matches offer. It may be a foregone conclusion that Federer will win his first-round match, but will he win in straight sets? Can a weaker opponent salvage a set or possibly push the favored player to five sets?
Set betting is just one example of how to turn a lopsided match into one that can return decent payouts. In addition to set betting, one can wager on 50/50 propositions like the number of games played or game spreads.
Take a Look at Futures
Another way to earn a nice payout through tennis betting is to bet on futures. Futures bets are more commonly offered in major tournaments. However, everything from who will win the tournament to who will win their quarter are offered.
Novak Djokovic was considered a clear frontrunner to win this year’s Australian Open before it started. However, you may be surprised to realize he had futures odds of +120 to win the title. Djokovic lost just one set leading up to the final before defeating Thiem in five. While the final may have given Djokovic backers some worry, he certainly was not tested in the six matches prior. Thus, one could argue that getting Djokovic at plus odds for a tournament like that was a steal.
On the women’s side, the odds have been much more generous of late. Although Serena Williams has dominated the sport over her career, she has won just one of the last 13 majors. Thus, there has been plenty of value to be had by picking the women’s champion in recent majors. If you do the proper research, you could be in for a nice payday in the next major.