Tennis Betting

Tennis is one of the best sports for live betting because the scores change quickly, the game is broken down into points, games, and sets, and factors like momentum are much more significant in single-player sports than in team sports.


Quick scoring changes give online bookmakers a lot of opportunities to create live bets. In tennis, of course the score changes with every serve, every game, and every set.

You can also wager on other stats during a game, such as ace totals, exact game score, and exact set score.

From an entertainment perspective, even the most boring or lopsided matches can be a lot of fun. It’s not much fun to watch Novak Djokovic destroy some unknown, unranked player. However, when you put money on every serve or every game, there are a lot of reasons to get excited.

Most online bookmakers have minimum wager amounts of just £1 – £2 for live tennis betting. If you have £50 or £100 in your account and any idea of what you’re doing, your money can go a long ways. If you take it seriously and commit to the research, you can bet on this sport profitably.

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Types of Live Bets

Every online bookmaker offers their own set of in-play bets for tennis. In order to get the prices, you should register and compare odds at several of the best sites.

Match Winner

Wagering on match winners is the same as choosing a winner before the match begins, except the odds change as the match plays out. As one player pulls out a lead, of course their odds become shorter.

Personally, I like to live bet on match winners when I favor a player who is losing in the first set. For example, if the first set looks like a fluke and I expect my player to come back and win, I can usually get much better odds on him now.

I never recommend risking your money when a male player is down 2 sets in a best-of-five set match. Even if the player who is down is considered a much better player, it’s rare that they will come back from 2 sets down. The problem is that punters like the high odds they can get, hoping the better player can come back. While the odds are good, they usually don’t give us enough value to make that bet.

When wagering on a 2-0 set leader, odds are usually too low to find value as well – especially when the leader was the favoured player to begin with. 1.01 or 1.02 odds requires a ton of risk to win very little – not a good strategy.

Exact Game Score

Many online bookmakers offer betting on the exact score of every game in a match. To win these bets, punters need to choose the winner of the game, and the exact score. For consistent wins, punters should wait until late in the first set or early in the second set to start placing these bets. This gives us a chance to see who is holding serve more easily, and who is struggling. If one player is consistently giving up 2-3 points on serve, then bettors can select to win at 30 or deuce. If they’re easily holding serve, punters should bet on love or 15.

Next Game to Deuce

The ‘next game to deuce’ wager is a simple yes/no bet on the next game reaching deuce at any point. Obviously the best time to bet ‘yes’ is when the serving player is likely to struggle against the returning player. To make consistent profits with these bets, find matches that consist of one weak server, and a solid return opponent. However, you don’t want to bet on these when the return player is likely to break at love, 15, or 30, so make sure it’s a close serve/return matchup.

Race to 2, 3, 4 or 5 Games

These are wagers based on which player will be the first to reach 2, 3, 4, or 5 game wins during a set.

At sites where these bets are offered, they can be made for every set of a match. For this reason, it’s a good idea to watch the first set to see how it’s playing out. Then, start on the second set. This should go without saying, but if you’re new to the sport, be sure to keep track of the serving order. This is always important, but especially critical when you expect both players to hold serve throughout the set.

My favorite way to bet on races is when the underdog is serving first in a set, but I expect them to get broken at least once (and the favourite to hold serve). Since the favoured player is serving 2nd, he will often have greater odds than the underdog – which is the key to this bet. This is because the underdog only needs to hold serve to win the entire string of races. So, the idea is to pick a player who will break early (without being broken himself), then pull off a string of race wins.

When this opportunity comes up, bet on each race before the first game is over. If your chosen player breaks in the first game, his odds will become much shorter for each race. The idea is to lock in the better odds before this happens.

For example, if you’re player is second to serve in the set, and breaks his opponent on one of their first two serves (without being broken himself), your player would be either 2-0 or 2-1 in the race to 2. Then if your player can keep from being broken, he’ll win the race to 3, 4, and 5 as well. It can be a nice payday when this happens.

Exact Set Score

Another common live bet for tennis is selecting the exact score of a set. In these bets, punters need to pick the winner of the set, and the exact score they will win by. Some online bookmakers offer these bets through the first several games of a set, but others stop them before the set begins.

Odds for these bets can be very attractive, but punters need to think through the likely scores based on breaks and who is serving first. Bets can also be placed on sets going to a tiebreak, but of course these should only be bet on for very close matchups. Also, it’s more likely a set will go to a tiebreak when both players have big serves that are hard to break. The ideal time to bet on the tiebreak is when both players have big serves, and neither have great returns.

Point Betting

This is great for punters who like constant action. Although it can be easy to pick consistent winners (like putting your money on big servers when they serve), but the odds usually don’t provide enough value. The best time to bet on points is when you’ve collected stats on how a player serves on each side of the court, and find a significant advantage on one side. For example, if player X has a 62% win-rate on the deuce court, and 56% on the ad court, smart punters can do the math and potentially find value.

To calculate the value, take the players recent serve %, then adjust it based on the opponents recent return game. If the opponent has a better than average return, use a number lower than 62% to assume your server will have less success. If the opponent is a below average returner, use the 62% number without adding to it. This provides some cushion in case our players serve isn’t as effective as usual.

To calculate the value, multiply the serve percentage to the odds. To have enough value to make the bet we need to see a 1.00 or better. Here’s how to calculate the math:

1.55 odds x .62 = .961 (not showing value)
1.70 odds x .62 = 1.054 (value)

Game Betting

It’s just like points wagering, but once again it’s all about value. Of course we need to start by doing our stats research, then use those stats to come up with a realistic win percentage for each player. Then, do the math and see if either player is offering value or not. If you aren’t doing the math, you’re almost certain to lose in the long run.

Games in Current Set

These are bets where the bookmaker sets a number of total games to be played in a set, and the punters job is to select the over or under on that number. Most sites offer these in a variety of game totals, with differing odds.

Here’s an example:

Total games can be tricky because they can convince a punter that they can find a lock. To play these correctly, remember that a bet is never a lock, and always calculate value.

Games in Match

As the title reads, these are live bets on the total number of games that will be played during a match. These can be good bets when a punter has done their research. Most bookmakers offer these as a standard over/under bet, where the vig is a reasonable 10%.

Over/Under on Aces

Some bookmakers also offer over/under (total) wagers on aces per set, or per match. Punters select the player they want to bet on, then decide if the number predicted by the book is too high or too low. If you think they’re predicting a number that is too low, you’d select the over. If you think the predicted number is too high, you’d select the under. Most sites offer these bets with a 10% vig, making them fair value for in-play wagering.

At sites who offer totals on aces per set, it’s a good idea to just watch the first set and look to bet on following sets only. Keep in mind that players with higher levels of fitness are more likely to keep their ace totals higher late in a match, while those with lower fitness levels tend to drop-off. Also, always check ace and return stats for each player before placing money on ace totals.

Also keep in mind the overall competitiveness of a match. If you wager on a best-of-five set match between two highly competitive players, the match is more likely to go four or five sets, providing a larger ace total than a match dominated in three sets.

Tips & Advice

AdviceA lot of casual punters consistently lose at live betting because they fail to put in the work. There are some very simple ways to research tennis, and the stats will often surprise you. For casual punters looking to have some fun, live wagering is a great way to accomplish that.

However, if you’re looking to win over the long term, read through our tips below:

Research the Stats

Player rankings don’t tell us all of the information we need. A #18 ranking doesn’t tell us how well a guy serves. Likewise, a #68 ranking doesn’t tell us how well a guy returns. Let’s create a scenario:

Player A is 31 years old, formerly ranked as high as #5 in the world, currently ranked #18, and had shoulder surgery on his serving arm 4 months ago. His shoulder is healed, but he’s lost 10 mph off of his first serve, and his 1st serve percentage is down 8% from last year. The time off from his surgery has also slowed him down, evident in that his points won on return of serve is down 6% from last year.

His opponent, player B is 20 years old, currently ranked #68, finished last year ranked out of the top 200, and on his way up. His return of serve win percentage is 5% higher than his opponent, and his first serve percentage is 2% higher. Do the rankings alone tell us any of this backstory? Of course they don’t, so we need to look at player bio’s and their latest stats to find where the value is.

In a situation like the one above, this could be a great opportunity for a punter to bet on player B, surely the dog because of his rankings.

Look for good matchups by comparing the stats of each player, and historical match records. It’s not uncommon to the see an underdog with a winning record against the higher ranked opponent. Fortunately for us, lower ranked opponents tend to have greater odds.

Watch the Match on TV

If you’re an avid tennis fan, you know how important momentum can be in a match. If you aren’t watching the match, only the live scores can be used to detect momentum – which doesn’t tell us the whole story of what’s happening. At the very least, watch the live streaming information the bookmaker provides. Most online bookmakers now offer detailed information as the match plays out, and we can gain information from that as well.

Don’t Chase Your Losses

Money LossMany casual punters think they can use a skewed version of the Martingale system for winning. The reason they think this way is because they’re often right. If you start with four or five losing bets of £2 each, recovering your losses with a £5 wager on 2.00 odds is pretty common. However, this way of thinking can also lead you to being broke.

The problem is, you only need to have one bad string of bets to ruin your bankroll. When a tennis player is having a dominating season and an equally dominating match (like Djokovic in 2011), it’s difficult to imagine him losing his serve against a no-name player.

But, to bet on him to win his next service game could cost you 1.08 or worse. Risking £25 to win £2 is risky, often resulting in a cat being kicked across the room. You started with £100 in your account, and find yourself down to £92. Does it sound smart to wager the remaining £92 to win £7.36? In the heat of the moment, it might. However, after you’ve lost your bankroll and step back for a couple of hours, you’ll be thinking “why in the world did I do that?”

To keep yourself from chasing your losses, instead of increasing your bet on the next wager, take a step back and ask yourself this question: “Do I understand what is happening in this match?”

If the match is going differently than you expected, and you can’t make sense of what’s going on – stop. If you feel confident in the direction a match is taking, and capable of making smart adjustments, then keep your wagers small while adjusting your strategy.

Use Twitter & Social Media

A lot of tennis players use Twitter or Facebook to keep in touch with their fans. Many of them will give us information that we cannot otherwise find – information that can be useful. For example, players will often tweet something like: “Good practice today. Massage & good dinner tonight, excited to play tomorrow.”

Roger Federer has even posted some of his workouts on Twitter:

Most players won’t tweet about an injury or feeling sick, because it’s not information they want their opponent to know. However, when they say they’re feeling good, they usually are.

This can be especially useful information when a player is coming off of an injury or frustrating, recent defeat. In tennis, players are constantly battling injuries or mental setbacks. If you’re researching a match and thinking “well, it depends on how player X is feeling”, then this kind of information can be very helpful.

Mobile Devices

Live and mobile go hand-in-hand, and some online bookmakers have made huge strides in their mobile software. Bet365 and Paddy Power are two of those sites. They now offer lightweight, smooth running mobile software that works perfectly with the most common smartphones. The most popular devices for mobile are iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows based phones.

Every online bookmaker realizes that mobile is no longer the future of sports gambling – it’s happening now. When the in-play feature is added to it, people can bet on anything they want, no matter where they are. So, as the largest area of growth in coming years, punters can expect more and more bookmakers to offer mobile wagering options. For now, check out Bet365 and PaddyPower – they’re clearly two of the best.

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