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Before you Bet on Tennis

Probability of Winning Game from a Given Position

Enter the probability of Player A winning a point
Player A
Player B
The table below shows the probability of Player A winning a game from each position
Player B Score
Player A
Score
0
15
30
40
A
0
74%
58%
37%
15%
-
15
84%
71%
52%
25%
-
30
93%
85%
69%
42%
-
40
98%
95%
88%
69%
42%
A
-
-
-
88%
-
1
1
1

If you are looking for tennis betting tips, then we suggest you first learn the fundamentals of betting on tennis with this tennis betting guide.We’ll explore the factors that affect tennis matches that are often unbeknownst to both fans and punters.

Singles Tennis outranks boxing and MMA to be the world’s most popular individual sport, in terms of both viewership and betting volume. It is a sport that professional punters will either focus solely on or avoid completely, as the nuanced dynamics of tennis are truly unlike any other sport

The public eye typically only takes notice of tennis during Grand Slams, but tennis is actually is one of the most frequently played professional sports in the world, covered by betting markets all over the world every day. With long matches, frequent round the world trips, different surfaces, and styles of play – there are many factors to consider before you bet on tennis.

Retirements

With tennis, ‘giving-up’ (usually an unforgivable act) is an unfortunate part of the game. Whilst some retirements are certainly due to serious injury, it is interesting to note that retirement rates are far higher in tournaments immediately before grand slams, suggesting that players may be making retirement decisions based on finances rather than health. As a punter, it is important to note that that individual bookmakers deal with retirements in different ways.

The three different conditions that bookmakers judge victory on are described in the table below:

ConditionBets on Retiring PlayerBets on Non-Retiring Player
Match Started
  • Loss of bet
  • Winning bet
Set 1 Complete
  • Refund of stake if during Set 1
  • Loss of bet if retirement is in Set 2 and beyond
  • Refund of stake if during Set 1
  • Winning bet if retirement is in Set 2 and beyond
Match Complete
  • Refund of stake
  • Refund of stake

Our tip

The best approach in this situation is to conduct some expected value analysis, and we’ve got you covered. If you stand to win more money from an opposition player retiring than you stand to lose from your player retiring (i.e. you are betting on an underdog), then you should bet with bookmakers offering “Match started” or “Set 1 complete” conditions. Vice versa, if you are betting on the favourite then you should bet with a bookmaker offering the “Match complete” condition.

Here’s an example of why you want retirement win payouts on underdogs:

Novak Djokovic
1.16 Win
Tomas Berdych
5.00 Win

We’ll assume a 50% chance of each player retiring, and that you place 1 unit on this head to head.

Scenario A: Bet $100 on Berdych

Bet AmountProfit if Berdych RetiresProfit if Djokovic RetiresExpected Profit Given a Retirement
$100-$100$40050% x (-$100) + 50% x ($400)
= $150

Scenario B: Bet $100 on Djokovic

Bet AmountProfit if Berdych RetiresProfit if Djokovic RetiresExpected Profit Given a Retirement
$100$16-$10050% x ($16) + 50% x (-$100)
= -$42

You can see that for the scenario where you bet on an underdog, it is beneficial to have retirements payout rather than be refunded. For there to be value in doing otherwise, there needs to be more than an 80% chance that Berdych retires instead of Djokovic. This is an assumption you can’t easily make, and if you have reason to believe it the bookmakers have probably already factored it into the price.

In summary for this example:

Betting on Berdych (Underdogs)

Bet with bookmakers offering either:

  • Match Started; or
  • Set 1 Complete conditions

Betting on Djokovic (Favourites)

Bet with bookmakers offering:

  • Match Complete conditions

Now that you know the optimal retirement conditions for your bets, here’s a table of popular bookmakers and their retirement rules. Check out our Bookmaker Reviews page if you want to learn more about these bookmakers, their features, and what bonus joining offers are available.

BookmakerConditionBet here on
LadbrokesSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
SportsbetSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
Pinnacle_LogoSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
UnibetSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
BookmakercomauSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
BetstarSet 1 CompleteUnderdogs
William HillMatch CompleteFavourites
MadbookieMatch CompleteFavourites
PalmerbetMatch CompleteFavourites
bet365Match CompleteFavourites
LuxbetMatch CompleteFavourites
CrownbetMatch CompleteFavourites

Motivation

The sheer number of tennis tournaments around the world means that the top players are able to pick and choose the events that they play in. Their choice will depend on exposure, ranking points, the location, and its suitability as a lead in for an upcoming grand slam.

The ATP Tour (Mens)

For Men’s tennis the ranking points for a Grand Slam are worth double that of the next best tournament type (Masters 1000), not to mention the huge differences in prize money and media exposure. The top players generally also play on various ATP 500 or 250 Tours, which are again tiers below. Up and comers, or players outside the top 100-200 will generally focus on the Challenger series to accumulate ranking points.

Our tip

Understand the motivation levels behind certain tournaments, and also monitor their schedule if you’re looking at betting in the outright tournament winner markets.

For example, expect to see the top players put their main focus into winning Grand Slams and the Master series. To illustrate this point, since 2009 the “big four” of Federer, Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic have won 22/26 Grand Slams, and 61/68 Masters events. We are in an era of tennis where that feat is unlikely to be repeated, but the main point is that the top players absolutely dominate these tournaments.

Here’s a table which shows the main tournaments where we’ve looked over the retrospective results and found the rankings of the players that usually take home the trophy. This gives you an indication of the motivation levels, and you’ll find this useful when betting on either tournament outrights, or considering match by match betting.

Tournament TypeTypical Champion
Grand SlamTop 10 Players
ATP Masters 1000Top 10 Players
ATP 500Top 15 Players
ATP 250Top 25 Players
Challenger ToursAnyone's chance

Court Surfaces

Different players will have preferred surfaces based on their comfort, and style of play. Take Rafael “The King of Clay” Nadal for example, who has a staggering 363-34 (over 90%) career record on the surface. Obviously the bookmakers along with most people who’ve ever watched a decent amount of tennis know that Nadal will be much stronger at the French Open than Wimbledon. At Wimbledon, he has often found himself eliminated in an early round due to the lack of bounce he gets on the surface during the 1st/2nd round.

Our tip

Whilst bookmakers are acutely aware of major players’ surface specialisations, you may still be able to beat them by:

  • Delving deeper into players’ records, and head to head statistics relating to the surface in question- historical records of lesser known players are usually not taken into account by bookmakers or punters
  • Understanding that the perception of well-known players as surface specialists may not actually be supported by records, and that odds may have over adjusted to take the surface into account

Playing Styles

There are 4 main playing styles in tennis:

Serve and Volley

A somewhat dated style due to the modern day emphasis on athleticism and court coverage, serve and volley involves a prompt net approach after a strong first (or sometimes second) serve. Serve and volley players look to win points quickly with this style through unreturnable volleys early in the point, either directly after the serve or by following up on a strong groundstroke.

Pete Sampras and Pat Rafter were exponents of this style. Check out this Pete Sampras clinic against Andre Agassi to see this style in action.

Aggressive Baseliner

This style is a controlling, groundstroke based play where players look to hit winners, or force errors from the back court. They will win points through dictating play, whilst rarely coming to the net. Happy to accept the odd unforced error, Aggressive Baseliners aren’t afraid to take on a difficult shot, and will ruthlessly attack short balls. Forehand and backhand topspin drives are usually the most important tools in their arsenal.

Rafael Nadal is the most successful player who utilises this style, whereby he looks to win a rally by playing powerful strokes from the baseline.

Counter Puncher

This style is built around the fact that the majority of points in tennis are won or lost on mistakes. Counter Punchers will use their consistency and strong court coverage to try to keep the ball in play using defensive slices and safe cross court shots. Counter Punchers will still attack if they find the opportunity, but prefer to keep the point going whilst they wait for their more aggressive opponent to make an error.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are two players who make you work for every single point by chasing down balls that most players won’t return, and forcing you to push hard to win points, and often forcing errors.

All-Court

A ‘Jack of all trades’, All Court players can encompass a variety of styles, and will easily adapt their game depending on their opponent’s style, or court conditions. All Court players are amongst the most difficult to break down due to their versatility.

Roger Federer is proclaimed by many as the greatest player of all time, and you don’t get those types of compliments if you aren’t able to adapt over time. Federer has shown time and time again that despite unfavourable matchups against younger players the he has the ability to outsmart opponents by varying his style to come away with victories.

Here’s a chart of where the players we discussed fit in. It’s a good way to get your head around the importance of styles if you can watch these players in action head to head.

Tennis Betting Guide - Tennis Betting Tips - Betting On Tennis

Our tip

Here’s a table of the styles and how you might go picking a player to beat each style.

StyleHow They're Beaten
Serve and Volley• When players are strong returners of serve and able to keep them pinned on the baseline.
Aggressive Baseliner• When players are able to hit deep shots near the baseline to cramp them for space.
• When players are able to vary their strokes including spin, bounce, which disrupts the rhythm in hitting winners.
Counter Puncher• When players are able to come to the net to finish points off quickly, or don’t make too many unforced errors but still can force strong winners
All-Court• When a specialist player can force them to play in their preferred style and the all-court player is unable to unlock any weaknesses
If you’re looking at matchups, try to pick a player who can match up favourably to a certain style, and remember to take the surface into account.

Likelihood of Winning a Game from a Given Position

One of the highest volume live tennis markets are for individual game winners. These markets are highly volatile, and swing dramatically based not just on the conclusion of a point, but also during a rally and after a first serve fault. This naturally reflects the underlying probability changing, but odds are known to both over or under adjust.

We’ve done the math, and come up with the conditional probability of a player winning a game, depending on the current score. Whilst the model assumes that each point is independent, and that there is a constant probability of each player winning a point (which in practice wouldn’t be true), it does give us an unbiased indicator as to what fair odds look like.

Sometimes the implied probability may surprise you, and if the actual odds offered by a bookmaker significantly differ, it may represent value for you as a punter– two things that in practice that are rarely true. However the model does give us great insights when applied in the long run, and gives the opportunity to vary probabilities as you see fit on a game by game basis (you’ll definitely need to have two different probabilities based on whether the player is serving or not).

60% Point Win Rate

The below calculation is done with a 60% chance of Player A winning a given point. As a result, the chances of Player A initially winning the game is 83%, and even at 0-30, they’re still rated at 48%.

Probability of Player A winning the game at each possible score based on a 60% point win rate.
Probability of Player A winning the game at each possible score based on a 60% point win rate.

50% Point win Rate

Look at the below with player A being a 50% chance of winning a point and how drastically different some of the scenarios are.

Probability of Player A winning the game at each possible score based on a 55% point win rate.
Probability of Player A winning the game at each possible score based on a 50% point win rate.

Our tip

Use this tennis probability calculator as a basis, as well as our bet qualifier which can help you determine whether there is value in making the bet. You’ll need to keep a keen eye on the markets, whilst also making an assessment of the probability to input into the conditional probability table.
It is always good practice to bet for value, so let’s look at a sample scenario:

    • Player A has won 73% of points on serve in the match, and we are in the 2nd Set
    • Player A is trailing 15-40, and paying $2.95 to win the game due to other punters jumping on board player B to win the game.
    • Using a conservative estimate of 70% chance to win any given point on serve, we know that from the conditional calculator they have around a 41% chance of winning the game from this position
    • Based on our bet qualifier the odds of $2.95 give an implied probability of 34%
    • Given that we believe there is a 41% chance that they will win the game, there is value betting on Player A to win the game.
    • In the long run, we expect to win 41% of these bets and lose 59%. Theoretically, if you make the bet 100 times with $10 units, you’ll expect to profit: 41 x $10 x $1.95 + 59 x -$10 = $799.5 – $590 = $209.5

But don’t the bookmakers know this?

It is likely that they are using a similar model, as well as other inputs to set initial odds – however remember that markets are dictated by where the money is flowing, and considering that the time in between points in tennis is minimal, these can be very erratic based on who is betting. In the above scenario, this market is created by punters betting on Player B to win the game, moving the prices so that using this model betting on Player A is optimal. If you would like to know more about how punters betting on an outcome can create opportunities to bet, check out our article on How bookmakers always make money (and why it shouldn’t affect you).

Momentum

Tennis is as much a physical battle as a mental one. When a player can’t handle the occasion, or self-doubt begins to creep in, it will usually lead to them playing worse through unforced errors, or by playing overly tentative. On the contrary, when a player is confident and in the zone mentally, they’ll have more faith in their shots, and be able to confidently hit winners and force their way back into rallys.

Our tip

Work out if a player is losing a mental battle. It doesn’t take much for some players to lose their cool and play completely erratically.

Take this Carlos Berlocq classic where he smashes the racket after conceding the second point of the match! He did manage to win the match, but only after losing the first set 6-2. No doubt there may have been a few momentum shifts to look out for during this game.

Here are some key factors to look for in-game to try to predict a meltdown:

  • Double faults during crucial points
  • Arguments with coaches/excessive dialogue
  • Arguments with umpires
  • Forfeiting multiple break points (e.g. up 40-0 off serve and then losing the game)

Do you have any that we’ve missed? Comment them below or shoot us a tweet @betucate.

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2 comments

  1. Comprehensive guide- I love it

  2. Really informative guide – will recommend it to our members

    Tennis Tips UK Team

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