With Wimbledon just around the corner, it's the ideal time to discuss the ins and outs of tennis betting. The Aegon Championship held each year at Queen's Club in London traditionally acts as the warm-up event for a number of stars who go on to grace the lawns of SW19 just a couple of weeks later, so should illustrate one or two of the finer vagaries of tennis tournament betting.
Many of you will have seen the anticlimactic finish to Queen's; a disqualification in the final of a competition is hardly a desired result and somewhat cheapened Marin Cilic's win. However, it isn't the final we're interested in here. Men's tennis is dominated by a select group of players at the moment - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray - so let's take a look at how to back favourites at the start of a competition.
Before Queen's started, last year's winner Andy Murray was the outright favourite to emerge victorious after the week's play. Ladbrokes Sports, for example, had him at 7/4; even given the smallish size of the field, these are short odds and reflect the confidence the bookmakers had in the world number four to perform well.
Just behind him in the tennis betting stakes was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga was runner-up to Murray in 2011, so had the form and stats to prove that he was a possible contender for the title. He was valued at 3/1 by most bookmakers, which would have looked tempting pre-tournament given the Frenchman's predilection for grass and his ever-growing stature in the tennis world.
So, there were two tennis betting frontrunners pre-tournament; usually, you could rely on both of them to sail through the early rounds. Indeed, such were the shortness of their odds going into their opening games that it hardly seemed worth backing them. The potential returns were minimal and the risk-reward ratio became warped; while the risk of larger wagers gets bigger, the reward never truly justifies it.
This was proven perfectly by what happened. Murray, in his first game of the tournament, was given odds of 1/5 with most bookmakers to beat French opponent Nicholas Mahut. These are hardly tempting odds; in order to make a profit of any note, a sizeable bet will have had to have been made. Most gamblers wouldn't take this risk; although Murray seemed certain to win, when large wagers are forced to be involved, bets become unattractive.
Murray went on to lose the match by two sets to one, proving that it doesn't matter how short the odds, shocks will still happen. Tsonga was even shorter at 1/14 with Paddy Power Sports to overcome Ivan Dodig, representing even worse value so that if a surprise did happen the backer would be even worse off.
The lesson to be learned from this? Tennis tournament betting odds should be assessed carefully at the start of a competition. The favourites will typically be so short as a result of their perceived dominance that it is not worth backing them until the later rounds when they start to square off against each other. If a surprise occurs early, you can expect to be considerably out of pocket - the predicted profits just aren't worth it.
In the early rounds of Wimbledon, try and find a line in a match involving less fancied players who may be undervalued by the bookmakers. If you do fancy the short odds of an overwhelming favourite, be sure to take every variable into account on the day, just to make sure perceived dominance turns into actual profit.