Tennis has long been one of the world’s most popular sports with the best male and female players attracting superstar status. The likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal are household names across the globe.
It has also become one of the best sports to bet on for a number of reasons. The main one is that compared to football betting, tennis betting has relatively few variables as – in singles anyway - it comprises one player facing off against another.
Another is the availability of data which, if you are prepared to do a bit of hunting and number-crunching. Plus there are tournaments taking place every week for 11 months of the year.
Throw in a plethora of pre-match and in-play betting markets and it’s no wonder tennis betting online has become so popular among bettors.
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Tennis has four Grand Slam tournaments which represent the pinnacle of the sport, much like golf and its four majors. The first is the Australian Open in January with the French Open – also known as Roland Garros - starting in late May, Wimbledon at the end of June, and finally the US Open in late August.
Having been played on grass in the distant past, the US Open and the Australian Open switched to hard courts in 1978 and 1988 respectively (the US Open was actually played on clay from 1975 to 1977). Wimbledon is the only major to stick to grass while the French has always been contested on clay.
The reason this is important is because the surface, and its speed in particular, is the biggest variable a bettor must take into account when it comes to tennis betting. This is a huge factor when it comes to traders compiling tennis betting odds.
Traditionally, grass was the fastest surface with its low, skiddy bounce making it easier to hit winners and unreturnable serves. Clay would be the slowest with the high bounce making it easier to get the ball back with hard courts generally somewhere in between.
But in recent years, those differences have become far less pronounced. At the turn of the century, Wimbledon’s grass seed make-up was altered and this, combined with larger, less pressurized balls made it play much more like a hard court. Those alterations were designed to give baseliners more of a chance against the dominant serve-and-volley players like Pete Sampras who won seven times in eight years.
The Australian Open’s Plexicushion is classified by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on its five-point pace scale (slow through to fast) as ‘medium’ although there is evidence to suggest it has played quicker than Wimbledon in recent years. The US Open’s Pro Deco Turf is described as ‘medium-fast’ but the courts were somewhat slower in 2018.
As a result, the same players are usually involved at the business end in Slams, particularly in the men’s game. King of Clay Nadal, for so long dominant at Roland Garros, was able to complete a career Grand Slam in 2010. Currently, he and Novak Djokovic rule the men's game on all surfaces. Men's Grand Slam main draw matches are the best of five sets whereas the rest of the men's ATP World Tour is best of three.
The women’s game is far more open with the outstanding player of the last 20 years, Serena Williams, failing to win a Slam since taking a break to give birth soon after her 2017 Australian Open triumph. The next seven Slams all went to different players making it four different major champions in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1938.
Outside of the majors, sanctioned by the ITF, the men's ATP World Tour and women's WTA Tour take over. The top tournament for the men is the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals held in London's O2 Arena in mid-November. Similarly, the WTA Finals take place at the end of October with 2019 seeing it staged for the first time at its new home of Shenzhen, China.
Below the season finales, there are nine Masters 1000 events for the men while the women have nine top-tier events broken down into four Premier Mandatory and five Premier 5 tournaments. These tournaments offer lucrative prize money and ranking points with the majority taking place on hard courts (six for the men, seven for the women) and the remainder on clay.
Hard courts do vary markedly in speed. Indian Wells, which hosts both the men and the women, has a Court Pace Index (CPI) solidly in the slow range (but not as slow as the three Masters clay venues). Meanwhile, Shanghai (ATP Masters only) is in the medium-fast bracket.
While that statistic does not take into account atmospheric conditions which can also affect ball speed, they do show the differences that can occur. Some experts would regard statistics concerning service holds and aces as stronger markers than the CPI. Players with big serves and those who go for their shots are less likely to see the ball come back on quicker surfaces so that information can be used to the bettor’s advantage. Likewise, more defensive players will be favored by a slower court which result in increased rally length and, with it, the chances of their opponent making an error.
On the ATP World Tour, the most important tournaments after the Masters 1000s are 13 ATP 500 series events (the category is equal to the number of ranking points for the winner) which will still attract many of the big names. Then comes the 39 ATP 250 tournaments and several more ATP Challenger and ITF events across the globe.
On the WTA Tour, Premier Mandatory tournaments are worth 1000 ranking points to the winner with Premier 5 event victors collecting 900 points. Then there are 12 Premier tournaments (470 ranking points to the winner) and 32 WTA International events where the winner collects 280 ranking points. After that come ITF tournaments of varying quality and depth.
Court speed, as mentioned, is key to working out which players to back and which ones to oppose. But the surface itself can be a good guide. For instance, Stan Wawrinka has won the US Open, the Australian and the French, but the Swiss has never made it past the quarter-finals a Wimbledon. When it comes to Wimbledon betting, it is well worth seeing which players usually struggle on the grass of SW19.
While hard courts are the most common throughout the year, French Open betting is largely dictated by which players have shown form on clay. Angelique Kerber has won the Australian Open Open, the US Open and Wimbledon, but never reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
World rankings can be a good guide to players' relative abilities, but they can miss players on a rapid upward trajectory and ones on the decline. Recent form is important, but make sure you take into account which surface that form has been achieved on.
Injuries are also something to take into consideration. Tennis traders are usually pretty hot when it comes to players' fitness so if you see a bigger price than you would expect, it's worth checking if the player is either just coming back from injury or even competing with an injury.
Men's Grand Slam matches are over five sets which makes shocks less likely given that there is more time for a 'superior' player to assert their authority. It also increases the emphasis on stamina, something which can definitely come into play in the latter stages of a tournament. If Player X has come through all of his matches without dropping a set while Player Y has been taken to five sets all tournament, Player X will be the fresher of the two.
In tennis betting there are obvious pre-match markets like winner, set betting and handicap betting (where the underdog gets a headstart) for both sets and games. Betting on the number of total games (over/under) is also popular.
You can also bet on individual sets, including set scores which can be profitable in potentially one-sided women's matches (betting on 6-0 and/or 6-1 scorelines). Betting on the likelihood of a tiebreak in men's matches, where serve is far more dominant, can also be a winning strategy. There is more than one way to do this – betting on the eventuality of a tiebreak, or backing both players to win the set 7-6. With the latter, you can adjust stakes based on the odds and who you think is more likely to take it.
But the advent of tennis betting online has opened up whole new avenues for bettors. Tennis is the perfect sport for in-play betting with extensive live coverage of matches on bookmakers sites. Most markets turn in-play at the start of the match, so you can see how the action is playing out before deciding to place a bet.
At the start of tournaments, particularly Grand Slams, favored players will be priced up prohibitively so a parlay comprising at least five big names might prove tempting.
Then, of course, there are tournament bets with the 128-player Slams offering potentially big returns. One popular set of markets is for a player to win their quarter, meaning you get paid out if your selection reaches the semi-finals. Once the draw has been made, usually three days before the main draw begins, firms will start to put out their quarter betting odds.
You can also bet each-way on a tournament winner which comprises half the stake on your player to win the event, and half on your player to reach the final. In the early stages of a tournament, the each-way part is half the odds of the win odds which could make for decent value. There is also the option to bet on a player to reach the final, or even to name both finalists.
Tennis offers a wide range of markets giving bettors ample opportunity to see returns on their wagers. And tennis betting online is a great option for both newcomers and experienced gamblers alike. To try it out for yourself, head over to the top NJ sports betting sites and top Pennsylvania sportsbooks today!
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