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Tennis Betting Strategy

Now that you know the ins and outs of tennis and what to avoid when betting, it’s time to put together a strategy that will help you be successful when betting on tennis.

One common theme that you’ll find here is research.

There is no substitute for knowledge when it comes to betting on tennis.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid betting on tennis if you’re not an expert, but it does mean that if you want to be successful in the long term you need to put in the hard yards.

Finding Value Bets

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when betting on tennis – or anything for that matter – is whether you are making a value bet. If you want long-term success, then it is essential that you are making value bets.

That may sound pretty obvious, but far too many punters don’t take the time to assess the value of their bets.

A popular manner of assessing the value of a bet involves calculating the probability of a result and then comparing your probability score to the odds on offer. Here are a few handy formulas to use to work out the probability of a result:

Value = (Decimal Odds * Your Assessed Probability) – 1

Value = ([1 ÷ Percentage of Your Assessed Probability] * 100)

Let’s run through a few examples to see each equation in action. Looking at the first equation, let’s assess the value of backing Roger Federer to win the 2017 US Open. Federer’s pre-tournament odds were 2.2 (+120).

In assessing the probability of Federer winning the event, there were a number of factors to consider:

  • Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka were out of the tournament with injury
  • Andy Murray was doubtful due to injury
  • Federer won both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017
  • Federer missed the tournament before the US Open due to a back injury that hampered him the previous week
  • Federer was drawn on the same side of the draw as Rafael Nadal and former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro

The first three points count in Federer’s favor as the field was weakened, but points four and five present warning signs. That Federer was struggling with a back injury was the biggest concern, especially for a player of his age. With that in mind, the probability of Federer winning would likely sit at around 40%.

Plugging those numbers into our formula, we get the following:

Value = (2.2 * 0.4) – 1

Value = -0.12

With this formula, we have a value bet any time the number is over 0. As we’ve ended up with a value at -0.12, this would not be considered a value bet, and it should be avoided.

In this example, that would have been a good decision, as Federer was knocked out by Del Potro in the quarter-finals after struggling with back stiffness throughout the tournament.

Looking at our second formula, let’s use the example of the 2017 Wimbledon women’s final between Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams. The odds for the final were incredibly tight, with little separating the two.

Muguruza was the slight favorite at 1.833 (-120). Doing our own analysis of the situation, these are some of the factors we would consider:

  • Muguruza was in poor form leading up to Wimbledon, but dropped just one set on her way to the final
  • Williams too dropped just one set en route to the final, but had an easier draw
  • The two players have similar styles, relying on power
  • Williams has five Wimbledon titles to her name
  • Williams had won three of their four previous meetings
  • Muguruza won the last time the two players met
  • Muguruza is an all or nothing player; when she’s on form, she’s unstoppable, and when she’s out of form, she’s dismal

This is a tough one, and the near 50/50 market is fairly accurate. However, in a situation like this, current form is perhaps the best predictor, and Muguruza was red-hot. As a result, we would stick her winning probability at 60%.

Using our formula, we get the following result:

Value = ([1 ÷ 60] * 100)

Value = 1.67

With this formula, we compare our decimal odds with those offered by the bookmakers. We predicted 1.67 to be the correct price while 1.833 was on offer from our favorite sportsbook.

As the bookmakers were offering a better price than what we believed the probability was, we would take this bet, and it would have paid off as the Spaniard claimed her first Wimbledon title.

Use Data to Your Advantage

There is a mass of tennis statistics available with broadcasters providing a host of in-play stats, and a number of websites providing just about any stat you could imagine. Using this information to your advantage is crucial to forming a good strategy.

Read up about how players perform on various surfaces, the strengths and weakness of their style of play, and their head-to-head records (more on those in a moment). This will help you gain an in-depth understanding of the markets that you’re betting on.

Knowledge is power when it comes to betting on tennis.

The multitude of stats can become a bit overwhelming, so here are a few key stats to take note of:

  • Second serve win percentage
  • Second serve return percentage

You might look at that list and wonder why winners or aces don’t feature, as those are guaranteed points. The reason for this is efficiency under pressure. Players who are able to get out of a tight spot on their own serve and apply pressure on their opponent’s serve are the ones who will have the greatest success.

A look at the end-of-year standings for 2017 provides a good example of this. The leaders in each of those categories were:

  • Second serve win percentage – 1. Rafael Nadal, 2. Roger Federer, 3. Leonardo Meyer
  • Second serve return percentage – 1. Diego Schwartzman, 2. Rafael Nadal, 3. Novak Djokovic

Other stats to have at the forefront of your mind are:

  • Break points converted
  • Break points saved
  • Unforced errors

Again, these are stats that show how a player responds in pressure situations.

Head-to-Head

Tennis has witnessed some great rivalries, but also some incredibly lopsided battles; for some players there is a certain opponent that appears to be an insurmountable object. The ‘rivalry’ between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is one such example.

At the end of the 2017 season, Sharapova had 36 WTA Tour titles and five grand slam crowns to her name. The former world number one has been one of the top players in women’s tennis for more than a decade and has a win ratio of more than 80%.

However, against Williams she has a dismal 2-19 record with Williams having won their last 18 encounters.

One aspect to consider when looking at head-to-head records is the performance of players when they first made their breakthrough. Novak Djokovic leads Rafael Nadal 26-24 in head-to-head encounters, but after their first 20 matches, Nadal held a massive 14-6 advantage.

This is because when Djokovic arrived on the scene, Nadal was already established and playing some of his best tennis.

The Surface

By now you know that tennis is played on three different surfaces – hard court, clay, and grass – and it’s important to be familiar with the characteristics of each surface and how this affects different players.

Tennis IconGrass Courts

Grass courts provide the fastest surface, with the ball speeding off the slippery surface. That speed is not accompanied by bounce though, with the comparatively soft nature of the surface resulting in a lower bounce.

As a result, it’s big servers that thrive on grass, with the serve-and-volley tactic having long been a successful strategy on grass.

The legendary Pete Sampras provides a great example of why it’s important to know where a player thrives; the American won 14 grand slams in his glittering career, seven of which were won at Wimbledon, but he never made past the semi-finals on the clay courts of Roland Garros.

Tennis IconHard Courts

Hard courts, which are made of concrete or asphalt, are the second fastest courts and offer a higher and more predictable bounce than grass courts. As a result, the big servers who thrive on grass also tend to do well on hard courts (Sampras won two Australian Open titles and five US Open crowns), but they’re not alone, with players who like to control the game from the baseline also favored.

As this is something of a middle of the road surface, you don’t find many players who are really poor on hard courts, even if it isn’t their preference.

Swedish ace Bjorn Borg is one of the few players to have come up short on hard courts; between 1974 and 1981, Bjorg won the French Open six times and Wimbledon on five occasions, but he never won the US Open, and only tried his hand at the Australian Open once.

Tennis IconClay Courts

Clay courts are the slowest surface that tennis is played on. Clay slows down the speed of the ball and decreases the rate at which it skids off the surface while also providing more bounce than grass or hard courts.

The speed – or lack thereof – of the surface makes life difficult for players who rely primarily on the pace of their serves, as their opponents have more time to return the ball. Using Sampras as our example once more, the American had an 84 percent win ratio across all the grand slams, but only a 64 percent win ratio at the French Open.

Instead, it is baseline players like Rafael Nadal who make merry on clay. The slow speed of the court and extra bounce allows Nadal to slide along the baseline and chase down balls that he wouldn’t reach on a faster court; its defense that can be the best form of offence on clay.

Style of Play

In a similar way to how players perform better on different surfaces, they will also perform better against certain types of players. Both of these points are important when considering how a player might perform in any given match.

As we mentioned in the previous section, the court surface can have a big affect on how a player performs on that surface. We see a similar result when a player comes up against an opponent who nullifies their main weapon.

Good examples of this involve players who rely on a big serve and come up short against good returners.

The 2017 US Open men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson illustrates this well.

Anderson was a surprise participant in the final, and his success at Flushing Meadows was built on a big serve. In his semi-final victory over Pablo Carreno Busta, Anderson smashed 22 aces, won 83 percent of points on his first serve, 66 percent of points on his second serve, and faced just four break points.

For some extra context, Carreno Busta ranked as the ninth best returner on tour at the end of 2017, so he’s no mug when it comes to facing a big serve!

However, up against Nadal, who is undoubtedly one of the best returners in the game, Anderson could only manage 10 aces; he won 10 percent fewer points on his first serve, a massive 30 percent fewer on his second serve, and he faced more than double the number of break points.

Nadal easily won, not just because he’s a better all-round player than Anderson, but because Anderson’s style did not suit an opponent like Nadal who was able to overcome the South African’s biggest weapon.

Important to Note:
Particularly if you’re betting on markets that involve sets, that some players are quick out of the blocks, while others come to the fore as a match progresses.

For example, Juan Martin Del Potro wins 93 percent of the time he takes the first set, so he’s as close to a banker as you’ll get if he starts well. However, he wins just 32 percent of the time if he loses the first set.

Injuries and Form

It goes without saying that injuries can drastically impact how likely a player is to win a match, and luckily most injury information is quite easy to come by. Be wary when odds suddenly turn strongly against a player, as this can often mean that the bookmakers have inside information about a possible injury.

Look out for how an injury can affect a player even if they’re said to have recovered, as niggles can linger, and full fitness can take time to return to.

Andy Murray is usually a strong performer in the deciding set of matches with a 148-66 career record.

However, he was not 100 percent fit throughout the 2017 season, and this was clearly evident in his inability to strongly finish long matches, winning just 28 percent of deciding sets in 2017.

Fatigue can also play a role, particularly in tournaments that are played in extreme heat such as the Australian Open. If a player progresses after a five-set match in searing heat, it’s likely that the dehydration and fatigue suffered as a result will be felt in their next match.

There are a number of reasons why a player might lose form, and injury, fatigue, off-court distractions, or a general state of decline are all possible reasons why a player’s form may dip.

Researching match-ups before you bet on them will help you understand if a bad result was simply a one-off or if there is more to the story that could hurt their chances going forward.

Stick to What You Know

There is nothing wrong with only betting on a specific tennis market. Many punters will bet on only one of men’s or women’s tennis because they want to be experts in one field rather than spread themselves too thin.

Others prefer to bet on second-tier events, because they feel that too much is known about top-level tennis and this hurts winning margins.

Whatever your reason, sticking to one area can prove to be a very successful strategy for betting on tennis.