How to Bet on Tennis

2020 Tennis Betting Guide

Although sportsbooks see relatively few tennis bets compared to basketball betting or football betting, that doesn’t mean legal online sportsbooks ignore the game. On the contrary, there are many great opportunities to bet on tennis online throughout the year.

Because there are tournaments almost any time of the year, and so many different ways to bet on the game, tennis betting is becoming much more popular. Like with any other sport, understanding how sportsbooks structure their tennis odds is important.

Most of the best promotions each year focus on the sport’s Grand Slam events. You can also bet on futures, however. Perhaps the most popular type of tennis betting is live betting. That kind of micro betting presents great opportunities for bettors and for sportsbooks.

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The basics of tennis betting at TN sportsbooks

Most tennis bets are set up as moneyline bets. The majority of wagers on tennis are also what are called outright bets. With these bets, you’re wagering on one player to beat another in a match outright.

There are a few exceptions and variations to those norms, however. The different types of tennis bets available are:

  • Handicap
  • Game spread
  • Set spread
  • Over/under

Understanding each bet type’s unique frameworks is crucial to winning those bets. Once you have that knowledge you should be ready to bet with confidence.

How handicap bets work in tennis

A handicap bet is set as a market in which one player in the game starts out with a significant advantage. You’re not actually betting on which player wins the match in this instance but rather how a player will perform.

Sportsbooks use these markets when one player is heavily favored over the other. It’s a way of leveling the playing field for betting. A hypothetical example is below.

MatchHandicapMoneyline
Serena Wiliams-5 (-102)-926
My 87-year-old grandmother+5 (-110)+717

Note how heavily favored Williams is in the moneyline and how setting the handicap evens those odds. Figuring out your path to winning your bet is simple subtraction.

Since Williams is the favorite, her handicap is negative. That means you would need to subtract that number, in this case, five, from the total number of games she actually wins during the match. For the underdogs, you add the handicap number to their games won.

Let’s further pretend Williams wins this match 6:2, 6:2. That would be 12 games for her and four for my 87-year-old grandmother.

If you bet on Williams, you would win as 12-5=7, which is still more than four. A bet on my grandmother would lose, however, as 12 is more than nine.

What also makes these markets unique is many sportsbooks will allow you to choose the handicap on a player in a match. On most apps or sites, there’s a dropdown menu with several options.

Decreasing the handicap will shorten your odds while increasing the handicap will likewise increase the line. It’s all about how well you think each player will fare.

Game spread bets on tennis

These types of bets are similar to handicap bets in tennis. Once again, you’re betting on a player to do at least as well or better than the oddsmakers expect.

The main difference between game spread bets and handicap bets is with game spread bets, the wagers are decided by the players’ actual games won in the match. There’s no adding or subtracting a handicap.

As long as the player you choose wins the match by more games than the oddsmakers’ spread, your bet wins. Here’s an example:

MatchHandicapMoneyline
Mitchell Krueger+3.5 (-110)+230
Steve Johnson-3.5 (-122)-330

After the players complete the match, you add up all the number of games each player won. Let’s pretend Johnson won this match 6:4, 5:7, 6:3.

In that case, Johnson won 17 games and Krueger won 14. The difference between those totals is what decides the market.

A bet on Johnson would have lost, as he failed to cover the 3.5-game spread. On the other hand, a bet on Krueger would win.

Set spread betting in tennis

This is one of the simplest and most unique types of wagering for tennis. You are betting on how many sets a player will win. Most matches are best of three sets, so there are only four options. Another example is below.

Mitchell Krueger 2-0+500Steve Johnson 2-0-115
Mitchell Krueger 2-1+500Steve Johnson 2-1+280

In our example, one of these outcomes will happen. You simply have to choose the one you think is most likely and put your money down.

Over/under betting in tennis

If you don’t feel confident about picking a winner in a given match, then choosing an over-under market may be for you. You’re betting on how many games the two players will need to decide their match.

Continuing our example, suppose a TN sportsbook puts an over/under on the Johnson v. Krueger match at 22.5. If you bet the over and the match goes at least 23 games, you win.

These are all different ways to bet on the outcomes of matches between two players. Tennis betting is perhaps better known for an entirely different category, however.

Live betting tennis at TN online sportsbooks

One of the best things about tennis is that there is constant action on the court. As compared to a baseball or football game, the ball is almost always in play.

That also means tremendous opportunities for in-game or live betting. Instead of wagering upon who will win a match, you’re betting on events within the matches.

The pace on these markets can be fast, however. The lines can change after every point within a game so it’s crucial to keep an eye on the match and the odds.

Tennessee sportsbooks have live bets on which player will win the next game or even the next point. There are a couple of exceptions based on the regulations in Tennessee though. There will be no live betting on any collegiate tennis events, as the state explicitly does not allow that.

Like with live betting in any other sport, the key to doing this successfully for tennis is timing. If you take the odds too early, you may miss out on a better line later. On the other hand, if you wait too long, you might miss out on the best action.

An example of the most profitable bets is when a favorite in a match is down in a game. Sportsbooks may lengthen the odds of her/him coming back to claim the game at that point.

Tennis futures and the Grand Slam

Futures bets are exactly what they look like. You’re betting now on events which take place far into the future, sometimes even months away.

While sportsbooks may take action on futures bets like which players win the most money in a year’s time or win awards, some of the most popular futures bets as far as tennis goes revolve around the sport’s Grand Slam events.

Those often come in the form of moneyline wagers on a certain player to win a certain Grand Slam. For example, Simona Halep was at one point the favorite to win the Women’s French Open at +600 on FanDuel.

A lot of bettors enjoy the creativity that oddsmakers display at times. There is a fun way to take advantage of markets that are off the beaten path.

Prop bets on tennis

Prop bets for tennis are only limited by to what extent sportsbooks are willing to incur risk. Tennessee sportsbooks have particular rules in place that impact prop bets. There are no bets on anything that is determined in advance and can be found out by inside information. Additionally, there are no prop bets on officiating.

Most importantly, betting on events in Tennessee requires the use of official league data, which may impact what kinds of prop bets are available.

A lot of prop bets on tennis also qualify as live bets because they’re based on events that take place within a match. Here’s a real example:

To Win 1st Set   
Irinia Camelia-Begu-116Lesia Tsurenko-116

In this bet, you simply pick the winner of the first set. Nothing else matters. There are more expansive markets, which ask you to not only pick the winner of the first set but what the score will be as well, that have better odds than this particular example.

Other examples of prop bets include whether there will be an ace during a particular set, how many times a certain player will hold serve and the score of a specific game.

Sportsbooks will be most active in these markets around the sport’s biggest events of the year. Those are the best times to check out prop bets.

Grand Slams in 2021 for both men and women

The following are the Grand Slam events expected this year, in chronological order.

Australian Open

  • Venue: Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia
  • Surface: Hard court (GreenSet)
  • 2020 singles champions: Novak Djokovic (men’s), Sofia Kenin (women’s)
  • 16 men, 12 women in the main singles draws

The only Grand Slam to play out on its original schedule in 2020, running as planned in late January/early February. Djokovic defended his 2019 title while Kenin. a former tennis prodigy, earned her first Grand Slam title.

French Open

  • Venue: Stade Roland Garros in Paris
  • Surface: Clay
  • 2020 singles champions: Rafael Nadal (men’s), Iga Swiatek (women’s)

Back to its usual time slot in May for 2021, the 2020 French Open was postponed to the fall over COVID-19 concerns. It was the first year in which the venue featured a retractable roof.

The official prize pool for winning each singles tournament was a 10-15% increase on the 2019 purses. That took it up to $2.7 million.

Wimbledon

  • Venue: The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England
  • Surface: Grass
  • 2019 singles champions: Novak Djokovic (men’s) and Simona Halep (women’s)
  • Seeds: 16 players in both main singles draws

On April 1, Wimbledon announced the cancellation of its 2020 championships due to Covid-19. All expectations are for it to return to its usual spot in June for 2021, though.

This is the only Grand Slam still played on grass and the longest-running event on the ATP Tour. The club has a strict all-white dress code for players and it’s a tradition for spectators to consume strawberries and cream.

Djokovic has won this event in four of the past six years and is the odds-on favorite again this year. The current favorite on the women’s side, Serena Williams, last won this event in 2016 but has seven Wimbledon titles in her career.

Because Brexit resulted in the devaluation of the British Pound, the prize money for this event has taken a hit in value. It’s still not shabby, however, as the estimated value is $2.91 million for singles champions.

US Open

  • Venue: USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City
  • Surface: Hardcourt
  • 2020 singles champions: Dominic Thiem (men’s) and Naomi Osaka (women’s)
  • Seeds: 16 players in both main singles draws

The US Open is not only unique because of its hardcourt surface but because it still employs a standard seven-point tiebreaker for every set of singles matches. Other Grand Slams have introduced variations on that over time.

This is the most lucrative event of the year, with a total prize pool over $53 million. In 2020 the US Open was played in early September, only slightly later than originally scheduled.

What are the ATP and WTA tours and why does it matter?

The top level of professional tennis is segregated by gender. The International Tennis Federation governs men’s tennis while the Women’s Tennis Association, well, it’s in the name.

The men’s structure is called the ATP Tour although the ITF is the governing body. Grand Slam events for both men and women run concurrently on the calendar but other events can vary greatly throughout the year.

Sportsbooks will post lines on tournaments from both tours with great parity. Whether a book creates a market for action on an event has more to do with the name recognition of the players than gender.

Although the number of markets may be smaller for these events when compared to grand slams, there should still be several outrights, prop and spread bets for these tournaments.

Is there a significant difference in betting on men’s vs. women’s tennis?

Tennis bets work exactly the same regardless of the gender of the participants in a market. The oddsmakers seem to be looking to make money on both tours.

That means to be a successful bettor, you need to know your stuff. The most prominent difference could be in perception of the market on the sportsbooks’ side.

Sportsbooks have limited resources like any other business. Because of that, they devote more resources to setting markets for men’s sports because they think the demand for that action is more plentiful.

That signals an opportunity for the smart bettor. If you devote more energy and time to researching the WTA Tour, you may come into those events with an edge over the sportsbook.

The one thing that most bettors would say tennis lacks is a team element. Actually, tennis has a couple of events for that.

Davis and Fed Cup betting at US sportsbooks

The 2020 Davis Cup is ongoing right now, the first of two international tournaments this year. The events to qualify for the main group will take place over the next eight months, with a final of 18 teams running from Nov. 18 to 24.

It’s essentially the “World Cup of Tennis” on the men’s side. The women’s side also has a similar event, known as the Fed Cup.

Sportsbooks treat this event very similarly to how they create markets for the World Cup competition. There are odds on individual matches between players on teams and as the field gets narrowed, the action will increase in terms of volume of markets available.

While these tournaments happen every year, the pinnacle of international tennis only happens once every four years.

Olympic tennis betting at US sportsbooks

The 2021 Summer Olympics in Japan will feature both doubles and singles tennis competitions. US sportsbooks should carry lines on matches, prop bets, and futures on which countries will take home bronze, gold and silver medals.

The ATP and WTA tours typically have scheduled breaks for the Olympics in their calendars. That doesn’t mean the best talent in the world will be competing in the Olympics, however.

Some athletes may pass on representing their countries in the Olympics to use that scheduled break to rest. For them, the chance to enter their next ATP or WTA events fully refreshed is more valuable.

What is invaluable for tennis bettors is knowledge. That goes beyond who has the edge in a particular match or being able to find the best odds.

Common house rules on tennis at Tennessee sportsbooks

As previously mentioned, there are few state laws and regulations governing tennis betting explicitly. Because of that, sportsbooks are largely left to make up their own rules.

It’s important to know these before placing a bet. An example of this includes what a sportsbook does when a player retires from a match in progress.

Most sportsbooks will credit the other player with a win unless the retirement occurs in the first set. Usually, in that instance, the sportsbook will cancel the bets and return your wagers.

When a match is suspended, the normal rule of thumb is sportsbooks will hold onto your wager for 48 hours. At that point, if the match hasn’t been decided, the sportsbook will cancel your bets and return your wagers.

For the most part, the sportsbooks will go by the official information as certified by the ATP and WTA tours when there are disputes on a set number or when a match is completed. They do reserve the right to cancel your bets and return your wagers at any time.

Because disputes with legal sportsbooks in the US are very rare, customer satisfaction mostly relies on whether you understand the game. Like with any other sport when it comes to betting, the more knowledge you have, the more likely you are to win your bets.

Frequently asked questions about tennis betting

How do I find the best tennis betting lines?

As your mother told you, you better shop around. With an unlimited number of regulated, licensed online sportsbooks allowed to operate in Tennessee, there are plenty of actions to choose from. With only online betting options, all it takes is a little browsing on your phone to compare lines.

Because of how easily accessible most online sportsbooks are, it’s easy to compare lines at different brands to find the best deal. If you know what players you want to bet on before you start looking, that makes it even easier.

Is it better to bet on points, sets, or games in tennis?

That depends on your definition of “better.” If you’re looking for the quickest settlement of your bet, then betting on points is the best option here.

If you want to give yourself the most room for error, however, it’s best to bet on games. Your player of choice may struggle at certain points during the game but as long as he/she ultimately prevails, that’s all that matters.

Betting on games may be the best choice if you want to maximize your enjoyment as you watch the event play out. The lines on these wagers can move quickly and that provides a thrill.

How do different surfaces affect tennis betting?

Different players have greater levels of success on different surfaces. Knowing how the player you are considering fares on the surface her/his next event features is crucial.

For example, Nadal has beaten Roger Federer in 13 of 15 matches the two have played on clay. Federer has defeated Nadal in 14 of 24 matches on grass and hardcourt, however.

Different players have greater levels of success on different surfaces. Knowing how the player you are considering fares on the surface her/his next event features is crucial.

For example, Nadal has beaten Roger Federer in 13 of 15 matches the two have played on clay. Federer has defeated Nadal in 14 of 24 matches on grass and hardcourt, however.

Matches are usually the best of three sets, although some events are best-of-five. To win a set, a player has to be the first to win six games and that by at least two games.

Games are won by the first player to win five points. Just like in winning a set, the margin of victory has to be at least two points.

Where can I find free tennis bets?

Most TN sportsbooks offer registration bonuses for new customers. You can use those to place bets on tennis for free.

For returning customers, there are a lot of promotions that can be used in the same way. Common types of these are deposit credits and guarantees against lost wagers.

The key here is shopping around to find the best deals. When sportsbooks compete, the bettors win.