Betting on tennis matches requires you to consider much more variables compared to other sports.
First of all, it is an individual sport. The result of the match is entirely dependent on the two players competing against each other.
In team sports, like football or the NBA, if one of the players has personal issues or is out of form, he is easily replaceable with someone else. In tennis, however, a player can’t rely on a substitute.
Moreover, tennis is different than other individual sports. It is a deeply psychological sport. Every little thing that bothers a player can influence the result of the match. There are much more factors unique to tennis which players have to cope with and manage their performance to the best of their abilities.
This article lists all of these factors and examines the effect they have on your tennis bets. They are listed in no particular order precisely because their combined influence affects every player.
It is also strictly individual. Some players are deeply affected by one of these variables, whereas the same variable may not bother another player at all.
It is shrewd for you to consider these factors before placing your tennis bets. Let’s assess them one by one.
This article is long as it covers multiple key elements that can influence the outcome of a tennis match. If you would like to read about a specific factor, click one of the links below to jump straight at it.
- Rackets and Balls
- Court Speed
- Rain Delays
- Tournament Schedule
- Individual Tournament History
- Coaches and Training Habits
- Playing Against Left-Handers
- Family, Travelling and Personal Life
- Prize Money
- What is the Occasion?
- Defending Lots of Points
- Dealing with a Heart-Breaking Loss or an Unexpected Victory
- Media Pressure
- Keeping a Cool Head during the Match
- Handling The Crowd
- Fixed Matches
The playing surface is very important. It is no coincidence that 12 out of Nadal’s 18 Grand Slam titles are on the French Open. He’s the King of Clay.
Most players have a favorite surface. There are the so-called pure clay courters who have grown up playing entirely on clay and have difficulties adapting their game to grass or hard courts when they progress atop the ATP Rankings. This is highly valid for players from Spain and Latin America. If you take out Nadal due to the fact he is a legend of the sport, the only other exception who instantly comes to mind regarding this is Bautista Agut who prefers hard courts the most.
Likewise, players from the US and Canada are usually performing best on hard courts. It is simply due to the fact that the courts in the training academies across these countries, where the future stars of the sport are playing during their adolescence, are predominantly hard courts.
Then there are the ones who flourish at Wimbledon. An otherwise average player can suddenly turn into a giant slayer. Take for example Jiri Vesely from the Czech Republic. He’s generally nothing special, at the time of writing 140th in the world, but he loves to play on grass. He defeated the reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the first round in 2019, and also has victories over the likes of Fognini and Monfils at Wimbledon.
Players have preferred surfaces. This means they are much more likely to showcase their best game when they are playing on them.
In terms of betting, you will have opportunities to place a value bet when you recognize an overpriced player in a tennis match. They may be playing a generally superior player, but what if the match is being played on the underdog’s most preferred surface which simultaneously happens to be the favorite’s least preferred surface?
The H2H stats are important. In many cases a tennis player has severe difficulties with a rival who has an unsettling playing style.
Tennis is a game where the style of the two opponents matters a lot. Having the right weapons which enable you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses is a huge advantage.
There are cases where a very good player competes against someone considerably lower in the rankings and is deemed a betting odds favorite, however, the H2H shows a much different picture.
A good example is the match-up between Richard Gasquet and Kei Nishikori. The Japanese has almost always been ranked higher and thus, a betting favorite. Not surprising considering the historical achievements in terms of consistency between the two players.
However, Gasquet leads the H2H 8-3. This is indicative that there is something about Gasquet’s game which unsettles Nishikori and doesn’t allow him to showcase his best game.
The examples are numerous, another one from the recently trending players is Medvedev v Tsitsipas. You would expect a much even contest between these two exciting young competitors, however the Russian leads the H2H 4-0 at the time of writing. There must have been something about Medvedev’s game which prevents Tsitsipas to succeed against him. Or if it hasn’t, after 4 losses from 4 matches it is more likely that it will in the future. Which leads us to…
Tennis players are human beings. In an individual and highly psychological sport, the level of confidence each player has at the time of the match may turn out to be the deciding factor.
You would expect Tsitsipas to show up for his next match against Medvedev with lower confidence than usual, and vice versa, to a large extent due to the H2H stats.
Another example are the matches against the Big 3 (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic). The majority of the players on the ATP Tour have already lost the match in the dressing room, accepting the fact that their opponent is clearly superior. Thus, they lack maximum belief in their own qualities.
Then there are the others, like Kyrgios, who are only waiting for the special occasion to play against the Big 3. Kyrgios is otherwise bored when having to go through the daily grind of the ATP Tour and you can often see him lose a first round match against an uninspiring opponent. But when that match against a member of the Big 3 comes? Bring us some popcorn 🙂
Confidence of course plays a part in your tennis betting picks. Possessing knowledge about the confidence traits different players have in different situations is an advantage for you.
Form is crucial for sports athletes. An otherwise great players can suffer embarrassing losses when out of form, and players with mediocre historical results can produce a performance for the history books when they are in top form.
How long a level of form is maintained by a tennis player can greatly fluctuate. It could continue only for the duration of one tournament, or it could expand into a period of several weeks or months. When a player is in a bad form, which is undoubtedly related to a mixture of the other factors in this article, this can translate into a streak of 10 consecutive first round losses. This is a very usual occurrence.
Pay attention to the form of both players when you fancy a tennis bet. Have a look at their recent performances and notice trends. This will help you make better betting decisions.
Rackets and Balls
These two variables are among the pure technical factors that influence the result of a tennis match. After all, the game is played by hitting a ball with a racket. 🙂
Details about rackets and balls are not well-known to the general public, but they have a big influence towards the performance of players. It is irritating to have a losing bet and then read the post-match interviews where the player you’ve backed says that he’s been experimenting with a different racket in this match or that the specific balls used in the tournament have an unusually high or low bounce which has affected the player.
There will be occurrences though when you will stumble upon information that a player will try a different racket or will complain about the balls prior to their match, because they will have already trained at the tournament facilities. This is valuable and has an influence on your bets.
Usually clay courts are the slowest ones, outdoor hard courts are in the middle of the continuum, while grass and indoor hard courts tend to be the fastest ones.
Even when two different tournaments are played on the same surface, the court speed can differ, which will impact the players.
For example, Indian Wells and Miami are played on slower hard courts than Shanghai.
So despite consisting of two hard court tournaments, the Sunshine Double sees pure clay courters have better chance of winning than faster hard court tournaments like Shanghai. Whenever you have such knowledge, use it to boost your tennis betting profits.
This may appear strange to some of you, but altitude significantly affects the performance of certain players.
Take Victor Estrella Burgos from the Dominican Republic as an example. He has always had average results, but was able to win ATP Quito, when it was still a part of the tennis calendar, three years in a row.
The secret? Quito was the host city with the highest altitude, comfortably beating the other host cities by a country mile. Most of the consistently good players have struggled at this tournament because of that. And then there are others like Estrella Burgos who flourishes in such conditions. He’s grabbed his chance and has won three ATP titles as a result.
Another example is Nicolas Jarry from Chile, who said in an interview that he’s trained as a young player in very high altitude conditions in his native Chile. This, of course, is an advantage for him in tournaments that are played in the mountains. He reached the 2019 ATP Geneva final which was the first ATP final in his career. The altitude has been a primary factor for that.
This is the biggest irritator for fans. It’s never pleasant to have a tennis thriller suspended because of rain, albeit this sometimes adds to the drama as it gives breathing room to the player in a losing position to recuperate. That, in turn, has created some memorable twists and turns in the development of tennis matches.
On a similar note, it’s awful when players and everyone else involved in the tennis industry is prepared for the matches but a full day of the tournament action is washed out due to rain. But, that’s Mother Nature, so what can you do…
Some players are managing this variable much better than others. There are the ones who are very anxious to get out on the court and are very irritated when rain delays affect the rest of their daily plan, consisting of recovery, meals, training or just hanging around the host tournament city.
And then there are the ones with the Zen attitude who are not affected at all by rain delays and accept it as a factor they can’t control but only learn how to manage it in the best possible way.
Having prior knowledge of such occurrences presents nice live betting opportunities, when you know one of the players is more likely to get nervous when the game is restarted (example – players leading the score against a member of the Big 3 prior to the suspension of play).
Rain delays also often cause situations where a player has to play two matches in one day. On top of being very challenging for the player in question, it can severely damage the whole tournament schedule. For instance, it is disappointing to see a tournament final in which one of the participants has played their semifinal in the morning due to rain on the previous day, whereas their opponent is fully rested.
Again, as every other variable described in this article, the extent to which each individual tennis player will be affected by this is different. You should aim to notice patterns that will help you make better tennis betting decisions.
We just touched upon this one when discussing the rain delays. Fluctuations and inequalities in tournament scheduling can drive players nuts.
When it’s not due to rain it is often worse. Tournament organizers usually publish the order of play for the subsequent day of action in the evenings.
At the start of the tournament, scheduling which is perceived by a player to be unfair can severely affect their performance. Benoit Paire complained heavily on Twitter that after reaching the Pune quarter-finals on a Friday and having to travel 30 hours to Auckland for next week’s tournament, in the meantime having to cope with 8 hours of jet lag, he was scheduled to play on Monday.
He subsequently fell asleep…
…and went on to lose the match against Cameron Norrie with a score of 6:3 6:2 😀
As the tournament progresses, perceived scheduling inequalities continue to affect the players. A classic example is one player having to play in the evening of the current day and the afternoon of the following day, whereas another one playing in the morning of the current day and the evening of the subsequent day, obtaining rest advantage.
This is a part of the sport. Use this information shrewdly for your value bets.
Individual Tournament History
Players have favorite tournaments. They perform better on them as opposed to their annual average.
Likewise, there are tournaments which players hate and always lose there in the first round. This may be due to a combination of factors – the surface, time of the year, weather, and so on, and so forth.
Looking at this at a higher level, most of the players also have their favorite part of the year. Some flourish at the start of the season when they are fresh after having two months off competitive action. Others are exhausted from the pre-season physical conditioning training and struggle during the initial months of the season, but subsequently catch up and perform better than their competitors in the middle of the season. And there is the third group of guys and gals who are at their best towards the final stages of the year.
Pay attention to this crucial aspect when you’re placing your bets.
This is a very serious and deflating aspect of any athlete’s career. Injuries that simply take tennis players time to heal without subsequent long-term effects are fine.
However, there are bad injuries which not only take a very long time to recover from, but they also make an impact on the playing style of the tennis player for the remainder of his/her career.
Del Potro and Murray are the perfect examples. You would struggle to count properly how many significant injuries Delpo has already had and you have to appreciate the mental toughness this guy possesses in order not to have retired from the game already. Clearly a constant top 5 player in the past decade if he wasn’t injured that much.
Instead, chronic problems with his wrists forced him to adapt and change his playing style so that he puts less pressure on them. He managed to do it and return to the top 5 in the rankings, only to continue suffering shocking injuries like a broken kneecap (twice) and other knee and hamstring problems.
And what can be said about Andy Murray? An all-time great with 3 Grand Slams and 14 Masters titles. Obliterating the tour in 2016 and becoming the world number 1 has come at a significant cost. He’s had an awful hip injury which has prevented him not only playing tennis, but having difficulties in basic everyday stuff like putting his shoes and socks on. He seriously contemplated retiring in 2019, but the love for the sport turned out to be stronger and he is fighting to come back after having a surgery.
Again, he has to change the style of play that brought him so much success in the past, which is very hard for an accomplished player.
Every time a tennis player is going through a chronic injury or recovering from major surgeries and changing their playing style, you have to consider that before placing your bets.
Coaches and Training Habits
It is so important for tennis players to nail the right coach for themselves. There are examples of players with otherwise ordinary results whose performance skyrocketed after a coaching change.
Similarly, players in the midst of having issues with their coach often find themselves losing matches they are not supposed to lose. The coach is the person they spend the majority of their professional time with, and any positive or negative signs you are able to extract from their current relationship is an invaluable information for better tennis bets.
Training habits, including diet, also play a huge part in tennis players’ careers. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, only those who are willing to stay in perfect physical shape are able to succeed.
At one end of the scale you’ve got examples such as Roger Federer, who continues to win the biggest titles at the age of 38. You can bet that a large part of that is due to his top conditioning and the smart way in which he manages his body.
At the other end of the scale are players such as Jack Sock, a former Top 10 player who subsequently plummeted to 200ish in the rankings. Most fans who have watched his matches over the past year and a half claim that he is obviously out of shape. Other players who have openly talked about their lack of seriousness towards their training regime and diet at some point in their careers include Nick Kyrgios and Jaume Munar.
And sometimes, one change in the diet can completely transform a career. Ask Novak Djokovic, who started a gluten-free diet in 2010 and since then, has achieved remarkable results.
Playing Against Left-Handers
Competing against a left-hander has its specifics. If you are a right-hander and are playing another right-hander, a cross-court rally will see either forehand-only or backhand-only shots.
This changes when a leftie is at the other side of the net. A cross-court shot with your forehand would see him return the ball with his backhand, and vice versa. This creates a specific dynamic in the rallies which players need to get used to.
When you see the stats of most players, they are not affected by playing a left-hander. However, there are exceptions, such as Pablo Carreno Busta, who is 61-33 against left-handers. Clearly, he feels comfortable in those matches. Such statistics comes in handily when you are betting on tennis.
Family, Travelling and Personal Life
Needless to say, tennis players are normal human beings like the rest of us. They have families. However, tennis is described by the players as a very lonely sport.
Just think about it for a minute. These people are spending every week at a different place most of the time during the year. One week they are in Australia to compete in the first Grand Slam of the year. The week after that they travel to Europe to participate in few indoor hard court tournaments, changing seasons in the meantime. After those are done, they could take some part in the South American Golden Swing, and finally end the first part of the season in the US for the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.
This may be OK to an extent until the player is 21-25 years old, but afterwards it becomes tricky. Being on a schedule like this makes it almost impossible to build a family (getting married, having kids etc) without severe problems purely from a logistical point of view. Players who have a serious relationship need to tackle this issue. It just creates family problems and you can bet that if a player’s wife/girlfriend is not very happy and doesn’t support him, this would undoubtedly translate into poorer performances on the tennis court.
The problems, though, are not only from a logistical perspective. There is a big psychological element, especially for the players on the Challenger and ITF tours. These guys are not earning that much money to cover their expenses related to travelling, hotels, and racket strings.
Ask a Challenger/ITF player how he or she feels after several consecutive first round losses, each in a different country than the previous one, having to perform in front of 5-10 spectators maximum during the weekdays. There are periods when these players are experiencing anxiety disorder symptoms, getting depressed and so on.
Living day-by-day, not knowing how many matches you are going to play in a given week, booking flights and hotels ad-hoc and paying higher prices because of that. Not to mention the constant flights and jet lag they have to overcome in order to perform adequately on the court the next morning.
Tennis is probably the most psychological sport. Most of the time, these guys need to cope with the situation entirely on their own. They are not even allowed to chat with their coaches during the matches. In the Challenger tour, the majority of the players can’t even afford to hire coaches. They sit on the chair during game breaks, in front of empty stadium seats (if there are any seats at all), with sounds from ambulances, or nearby construction work, bothering them.
If you don’t believe this, just watch several Challenger matches 🙂 They are streamed free of charge on the ATP tour website.
The point of all of this discussion is for you to understand that all of the above is intrinsically connected with the performances on the tennis court. A disadvantage for tennis bettors is that most of the stuff outlined here is rarely made public. It’s all in the individual mind of every player. And this, to an extent, is normal. They wouldn’t want to publically express all their feelings and what they are going through.
The body language of a player during a match can tell you whether there is something bothering him/her. Unfortunately, before you are able to witness that body language and assess it, you may have already placed your online tennis bets. That is why sometimes a shrewd thing to do is to skip betting during the first round of a tournament and just watch the matches, assessing how players behave, their level of play, and so on. This may hint you how they feel and whether there is potential for them to go deep into the tournament.
Of course, at other times the first round of a tournament presents great betting opportunities. It’s all down to judgement and weighing all the factors based on the information you have at your disposal.
This is important, of course, and I am not going to dwell too much on it. There’s one key aspect that needs mentioning, though.
In some tournaments, players participate with the clear (albeit not so ethical) intention to lose their first round match. They get their first round involvement prize money and focus on next week’s tournament which they deem as more important from a strategic perspective.
This practise is most frequently used at ATP 250 tournaments. In order to boost ticket sales, tournament organizers are paying performance fees to the top players in an effort to lure them to participate in the tournament. Then they promote the event with posters of these top players.
Unfortunately, some of the players appear just to take the money. They play way below their usual level and lose the first-round match. The sad part here for fans is that often they buy tickets for the semi-finals and the final, which are being played during the weekend, to see a specific player, assuming he/she will go on to reach these final tournament stages. As a result, they are left disappointed.
All of this, of course, is not official and the tennis organizers will deny it, but tennis fans know it’s happening and are witnessing it almost every week. It’s called tanking.
Most of the time it’s impossible to know in advance which tournament will a player tank on purpose. That’s because of the psychological element described in the previous section of this article. Nevertheless, there are players that have a reputation to succumb to such practices more often than usual. A name that jumps to my mind right away is Fabio Fognini. You would struggle to count the number of times he’s lost his first match at an ATP 250 event as the top seed.
What is the Occasion?
It matters very much whether we’re talking about a Grand Slam, a Masters 1000, a regular ATP 250 tournament or a Challenger event.
There are some Challenger warriors who for some reason can’t win an ATP main draw match even if their life would depend on it. There are the ones who perform exceptionally well in ATP 250 tournaments and win many titles at that tier, but are rubbish in Masters and Grand Slams. And then there are the players who love performing on the big stage, and will obtain half of their total ranking points from Grand Slams and Masters appearances.
The stats and trends here matter. Before placing a tennis bet, research how the players in question usually perform in tournaments of the same magnitude.
Defending Lots of Points
This factor mainly concerns players who are not among the very best in the sport. Unlike being consistent over the entire season, the majority of their points are from two or three big runs or titles. This means that when the same tournament comes around next year, they will be at a pressure to defend their big points haul or otherwise see themselves plummet in the rankings.
Some players let this pressure get to them, they get knocked out in the first round and experience a rapid rankings decline. Others, however, show balls of steel and repeat their performance. Examples include Victor Estrella Burgos who we talked about earlier in this article – winning three straight ATP 250 Quito titles to keep himself inside the Top 100, and Nicoloz Basilashvili – surprisingly defending his ATP 500 Hamburg title in 2019. All of his three career titles are at that ATP 500 level.
Historical data like this comes in very handily when a match you’re about to bet on has similar implications for one of the players.
Dealing with a Heart-Breaking Loss or an Unexpected Victory
Both of these occasions have the potential to define the next several months of a tennis player’s performance. Losing a tight final for the chance of claiming your first title may depress some players who afterwards experience a huge drop in their performances, sometimes losing several consecutive first-round matches.
Likewise, an unexpected win may cause the same outcome, as counter-intuitive as it may sound. If a young player gets a win against someone from the Big 3, the media instantly creates the storyline and puts pressure on him to perform in future tournaments as well. Some players are unable to cope with the increased expectations, and the big win they’ve achieved is the only one of such magnitude they are left with.
It will be very intriguing to see how Cori Gauff’s career will develop after her achievement at Wimbledon 2019 and the media madness that accompanied it.
This plays a big part for the players who can’t handle it well. Take for example Donald Young, a top junior performer. He was hyped so much to be the next big thing not only for the US tennis, but as a whole.
Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t handle that pressure and never achieved anything notable in his career. He’s hovering around 100th-300th in the rankings over the past years, although he’s previously had a few stints in the Top 60. Currently though, he’s a walking bye.
Same goes for players who have actually managed to win big titles. Grigor Dimitrov in 2017 and Alexander Zverev in 2018 were unexpected ATP Finals champions. As a result, there was a common opinion for both of them that they should be counted from now on as players with constant presence in the Top 5. Dimitrov buckled under pressure, and in combination with his first major injury in his career, finds himself outside of the Top 50 at the time of writing.
Zverev, similarly, has had extremely mediocre results ever since that ATP Finals title. The first 8 months of 2019 have been forgettable for him, and the jury is still out on whether he will eventually become a mainstay in the Top 10.
Keeping a Cool Head during the Match
In some respect, the outcome of a tennis match is dependent on the big points. Performing during the key points is really a game changer.
It’s one thing to make a double fault when you are up 40-0, and an entirely different animal when you do it facing a break point.
Same goes when a player has the opportunity to break their opponent. The best players manage to stay focussed in the crucial moments when a tennis match is won or lost.
It’s probably the biggest reason why Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will be remembered as the most successful players in the history of the sport. Being able to execute your best in the key moments of the match has enabled them to be so great. They recognize this and have surely put in a tremendous effort preparing for those key moments. They are not letting anything to bother them in the big points. It’s just them, their opponent, and the technical aspects of the game. They don’t allow outside emotions to get the better of them.
On the contrary, there are players who can’t control themselves. Their high emotional vulnerability prevails and costs them matches, titles, ranking points, and money (usually a combination of all these 🙂 ).
Such players are afraid of success and crack under pressure. Maybe a young up-and-comer is on the verge of getting a Top 10 win. Or a Challenger veteran is on the verge of progressing deep into an ATP tournament with much higher prize money, which would vindicate all the sacrifices they’ve made in their career to reach that point. And some of them fail to finish the job. It’s unfortunate when you see such scenes but it is humans’ nature. We are emotional creatures. Those that allow the emotions to dictate their performance on the court usually fail to achieve their goals.
Do your research – there are many tennis players who fall under that category. Use the information afterwards both in your pre-match or in-play tennis bets.
Handling The Crowd
Tennis is usually regarded as an exquisite sport. Unless it’s the Davis Cup (oh how we are going to miss the classic format of this competition), spectators are expected to remain silent during rallies and in-between first and second serves. In Challengers, as was mentioned previously, sometimes there aren’t any spectators at all.
Not quite the same when a member of the Big 3 is playing or when there is a home crowd favorite in the match. Players who are used to calm matches in terms of crowd find it very difficult to adapt in such circumstances. They are used to the crowd being neutral but suddenly it’s ferociously chanting their opponent’s name halfway through the game, during the breaks, basically for the duration of the whole match. And this influences some players to buckle under pressure.
They just can’t handle the crowd. We’ve seen players storm off the court after a loss, feeling disgusted by the crowd (not that the people in the crowd care of course 🙂 ).
This factor needs to be taken into consideration before betting on a tennis match. Is the player that’s about to face a home favorite or a Big 3 member known for having a heart of steel, or is he/she expected to be highly influenced from the crowd?
Unfortunately, the presence of online betting has corrupted the lower levels of tennis. Players performing on the ITF or Challenger level for the majority of their career are having immense difficulties making ends meet. Cases have been widely reported when a player agrees to fix their match in return of cash.
From one point of view, this of course is highly unethical because it ruins the integrity of the sport. Online sports betting is great but it should exist only as an additional means through which all of us could enjoy sports (and make money of course). It must not influence the outcome of a sports event.
From another point of view, you could see the situation from the players’ perspective and understand the reasoning behind their thinking. Cases have been reported where the amount of money offered to a player to lose a match exceeds the amount of money they would have earned from the prize fund had they won the whole tournament.
Players who have been found guilty of such breaches have been heavily suspended. Despite that, you can rest assured that there are still a lot of players from the lower levels of tennis who continue to do that. If you bet on a match you have no idea is fixed in advance, you may lose your stake in an ugly fashion.
Make Shrewd Tennis Bets
This article is probably much longer than most of you would like to read, but it is such for a good reason. It has outlined all variables that are specific to tennis and that have very high influence on the outcome of a tennis match.
Bookmakers usually try to consider all of these factors when they set the odds for a match but they won’t get them right every time and there will always be opportunities for value bets.
Every player on the tour is affected by at least one of these factors, most of the time by a specific combination of them. Do your homework before placing tennis bets. This will increase your chances of winning good money.