Secret Trader: The 7 Top Tips for Betting on Tennis

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11 min

With tennis tournaments taking place pretty much 11 months of the year, there’s almost always a bountiful supply of matches to bet on and trade pre-match and in-play. Betting markets are nearly always lively and liquid while some five-set marathons over three hours cause wild price fluctuations, which are ideal conditions for traders. Here, the Secret Trader, who couldn’t even put a figure on the number of tennis matches he’s watched over the years, imparts his tennis betting and trading wisdom.

1. Interpret Stats and Form Correctly

When choosing which player to back in a tennis match, form study is obviously important, but you need to decide how far back is relevant. A player may have gone five years without a good run in a certain tournament, but at what point in time does this become irrelevant? And if they have suffered a dip in form you should try to understand why. For instance, a player on a major slide who lost 6-0 6-1 in a previous match could be nursing an injury that isn’t public knowledge. But if a player lost to an opponent at 5-1 and it later transpired that he or she was suffering with an illness like a touch of flu, I would probably be comfortable betting that player next time out. The market hates players in bad form but there could be a legitimate reason for it, which means there’s sometimes good value to be had by backing an out-of-form player.

2. Don’t Overvalue Head-to-Heads

Head-to-head records are probably the hardest stats to interpret in tennis. Undoubtedly it’s worth something, but how much is very much up for discussion. However, head-to-heads are something that the market is dead keen on. You often find the situation where two players will have played the week before and the favourite was 1.4 on that occasion. He ended up losing 2-0 and the next week against the same opponent he’s suddenly now 1.7. So the latest result was worth something, but it was probably not worth that much. Instances like this aren’t uncommon in tennis.

3. Look to Capitalise on Pre-Match Drifters

Often players’ odds will drift significantly dead ball. It could be because there are fitness concerns or if they had a medical timeout in the previous round. Motivation is another factor. Many players have a stigma attached to them whereby they don’t really care in smaller tournaments. If your player doesn’t want to win then it’s a bit of a problem. Some players have openly admitted that they had a flight booked straight after the match and they were only there to see the city and have a few drinks.

4. Study Players’ Styles in Pressure Situations

When trading in-play it’s important to scrutinise how players respond in specific situations, because they will react differently when going behind or ahead. Certain players have excellent records with break points converted and break points saved – and vice versa. Indeed, the big moments for a player are breaking serve or after having been broken themselves, so that’ll produce the biggest price fluctuations. Therefore, being armed with a good knowledge of how players respond in various situations is very important for in-play trading.

Similarly, some players are quicker out the blocks than others and will have a better first-set record than their opponent, or perhaps the rest of their peers on the tour. A perfectly legitimate strategy is to back a player who wins a good chunk of first sets and then place a lay bet if he or she goes 1-0. Equally, there are plenty of bottlers who are terrible at closing out matches from winning positions. The likes of Thomaz Bellucci and Daniel Munoz de la Nava are very good at advancing near to the finishing line, but truly awful at closing out the match. On the other hand, a player like Kei Nishikori has a phenomenal deciding-set record.

Kei Nishikori is one of the best when it comes to deciding sets. He sits alongside names such Bjorn Borg and Novak Djokovic for his finishing skill

Kei Nishikori is one of the best when it comes to deciding sets. He sits alongside names such Bjorn Borg and Novak Djokovic for closing out matches.

5. Identify Value by Opposing Fan Favourites

Markets love certain players and hate others. The biggest example of this was after Roger Federer met Andy Murray in the 2015 Wimbledon semi-final. The Swiss was around 2.1 dead ball. However, I had an enormous bet on Murray and ended up getting it completely wrong as Federer blitzed the Scot 3-0. It happens sometimes. However, Federer was the same price in the final against Novak Djokovic because there was a wave of nostalgic money for him. A BBC poll found that 75% of viewers believed he would win. So I dusted myself off and heavily backed Djokovic because almost even money about the Serb in the final was ridiculous (he beat Federer in four sets). That sticks out in my mind as the most inaccurate tennis market there has ever been. It’s quite ironic that it was the Wimbledon final with the most liquid market of the entire year.

6. Go Against the Crowd

Momentum is the biggest factor driving price movements in running, yet there are moments when prices based on momentum are too big or short. Say you have a three-set match and player A has gone off at 1.7, won the first set and lost the second set, what price should he be to win the match? Obviously it’ll be bigger than 1.7, but should he be the dog because he lost the second set? Unless he is having medical timeouts, I would argue that he should certainly be favourite. So you can often find value on a player who has dropped the second set and who is now a much bigger price than he was dead ball.

Many people believe the women are much poorer leaders than men, which is probably true if you are just looking at service breaks because their serve isn’t as strong. So it’s a common theory among tennis bettors to lay the player leading in the third set. However, if you followed that strategy every match I don’t think you would necessarily end up in profit. The overwhelming, ‘muggish’ opinion is that you see more price fluctuations with women’s tennis, which might seem like the case but it’s not always the reality.

7. Don’t Get Left Behind

In tennis, value can exist for just a few seconds, which means fast TV pictures are absolutely essential for in-play trading. All bookmaker and exchange streams are some seconds behind live. Then comes Sky Sports and BT, while Eurosport is the slowest. Meanwhile, HD channels are slightly slower than non-HD channels. The fastest available pictures are from expensive paid for private services for live streams, which is what bookmakers use, though these are vastly expensive. While a fast stream is a must, it’s never going to beat the guy sat in row one ‘court siding’, which still exists, one hundred percent. You will notice that liquidity dries right up just as the player is about to serve because everybody cancels their bets out of fear of being scalped by court siders.