8 months ago - 7 minute read

Secret Trader: Profiting from tennis betting

One of the best aspects of tennis is that there are so many events and matches to sink your teeth into for betting and trading purposes. For the first round of a Grand Slam there are 128 men’s and women’s matches, while the next round is whittled down to 64 matches, then 32, and so on.

Oddsmakers have it so tough because they have to price every single match, and because there are so many participants to track, it makes it very difficult to possess detailed knowledge of any one player or be an expert in every area.

However, if you can specialise by focusing on just a handful of players – or just men or women – then you can often find instances where a particular player is underrated or overrated. Or you could try to pinpoint specific angles that have not been taken into account by the markets.

The impact the weather has on proceedings is an example of a variable that could provide a profitable edge. When it is extremely hot does this scenario favour the underdog more than if the match was played in cooler conditions?

Looking for these extreme examples and possible trends increase the likelihood that the market will trip up and you can cash in with that little-known nugget of historical data.

Win Ugly

It can also pay to steer clear of the top seeds and high-profile matches in Grand Slams, and instead concentrate on finding edges and value in the less glamorous matches on the outer courts.

Again, the market could have easily made a rick when assessing the chances of a lowly ranked, obscure player on court 19 in the first round of Wimbledon. So it’s about identifying the most inefficient markets rather than the efficient ones where every variable has been factored into the odds for both players.

Roger Federer has an amazing strike rate at Wimbledon but the value is more likely to be found in a more minor matchup at a Grand Slam event.

I’d say that if you have been profitable in other sports, then try to transfer your successful angles to tennis because there are massive parallels in all sports.

For example, if closely studying shots on target in football has helped you gain an edge with your betting on that sport then try to find the equivalent in tennis. So if a certain player is serving 20% above his average first-serve percentage, look to see if he is winning matches when he is in that kind of form.

Data Mining

With tennis events taking place almost every week, you’ll have access to a large sample size in order to analyse whether a strategy is working. This is unlike snooker or darts where you have to wait longer for a meaningful sample of results to materialise.

The mountain of historical data at the fingertips of bettors means that the markets are usually very sharp, which is why tennis usually attracts massive liquidity, particularly for the Grand Slams. Tennis is a sport that lends itself very well to stats, so it’s all too easy to find yourself swamped with information.

This is why it is important to sift through what is relevant and what probably should be disregarded.

For instance, you may decide that head-to-head records have no bearing statistically speaking because you haven’t managed to accumulate a large enough sample size to demonstrate their impact. Or if a new stat comes out for tennis, this could be your angle because it’s a new niche that other people haven’t got the time or inclination to focus on.

Above all, though, it’s probably best to start by analysing a few variables rather than every single bit of data and try to price events from there.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have a remarkably even Head to Head record but other matchups can be far more lobsided.

Points Mean Prizes

One key reason tennis is so popular with traders is that the sport has a binomial distribution of points, games, and sets. A player can either win a point or lose a point; it’s not time-based like football where the winner is determined after 90 minutes. This makes tennis easier from a modelling perspective and trying to predict the outcome of matches.

However, this doesn’t mean the pre-match markets tend to be static and dull dead ball. In fact, in the build-up to matches, there can be some pretty huge price movements, especially in the last half hour. And often it is for no apparent reason such as an injury update – it could just be because the bigger players in the market have slapped their money down.

Canny traders can profit from studying how certain players’ odds move the dead ball and then look to capitalise on this information when they play next.

Tennis is renowned for its volatility. And when a match starts it can be incredibly swingy because of the binomial distribution of points. So a player can break his opponent’s serve and win a couple of games on the bounce, changing the odds massively. But we’ll leave the ins and outs of in-play trading for a future article.

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