Tennis betting is very popular throughout the world and is gaining momentum in the United States. It is the longest season of all sports starting in January and ending in late November with the Tour Championship. Every week there is at least one tournament on the men’s and women’s tour with a large selection of matches to bet.
Tennis is primarily a money line sport similar to baseball or hockey, although the prices reach ridiculous extremes as in the beginning of tournaments there can be a very wide difference in talent between the opponents. In addition to wagering on the money line, tennis can also be bet against the game spread, set spread, and Over/Under.
It is important to note that most tournaments for the men are best of 3 sets. In the 4 majors of the year however it is best of 5 sets. For the women it is always best of 3 sets. For purposes of understanding the line let’s look at two lines that are typical of a tennis match:
Sony Open in Miami (Best of 3 format)
Gulbis +110 Games + 1.5 -110 Over 23 -110
Raonic -120 Games -1.5 -110 Under 23-110
Australian Open (Best of 5 format)
Young +1700 Games +10 -110 Over 31 -110
Nadal -2800 Games -10 -110 Under 31 -110
In our first example we have two top 10 players playing on a hard court in the US. Both possess great serves and are up and coming players on tour. It’s very close to a toss up but the odds maker has deemed Milos Raonic a slight favortie. If you were to wager on him you would need to wager $120 to win $100. If you liked Ernests Gulbis however and thought he would prevail you could wager $100 and win $110 plus your original stake. The second example is shown to demonstrate the wide difference in talent and more importantly prices. Donald Young who is average at best by tour standards is playing Nadal who many consider to be one of, if not the greatest player of all time. To win money on Nadal you would need to wager $2800 to win $100. Quite a hefty sum. If for some reason you thought Nadal might slip up or perhaps is nursing and injury and might not compete well, you could take a flyer on Donald Young. A $100 wager on Donald Young would earn you $1700 if he were to win.
Again, using our second example you might think to yourself that you like Nadal to win but don’t want to wager $2800 to win only $100 (who could blame you?). A popular betting option is the game spread. Here the bookmakers have deemed that Nadal is favored by 10 games. At the end of the match simply add up all the games won by Young and compare them to all the games won by Nadal. You can wager on Nadal to win by more than 11 games or Young to keep within 9 games. If Nadal wins by exactly 10 games all game spread bets are a push and refunded.
If the final score were to look like this:
Nadal wins 6-1,6-1,6-4 (Nadal 18, Young 6) Nadal -10 games is a winner
Nadal wins 6-3,7-6,6-3 (Nadal 18, Young 12) Young +10 games is a winner
Finally, similar to all the other major sports you can wager on the total amount of games played in the match. In our first example the bookmaker set the line at 23. Simply add up all the games in the match to determine the final number. You can wager over or under the bookmakers number.
***IMPORTANT NOTE*** Every book has slightly different rules for how they grade a tennis match. Tennis players sometimes withdraw mid-match due to injury or fatigue. Some sports books grade a match as official once the first serve is played. Others wait for one set to be complete, and others insist the whole match must be played. Check the rules of your sports book before wagering.