Betting Strategy: How to Beat the Sportsbooks when Betting Tennis

To bet tennis with a keen eye, it is critical to know and understand the surface. As you handicap matches, do not look at a player’s overall record, look at the record on the surface being utilized in that tournament. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam Tournament played on grass. contributor and handicapper of more than 25 years Robert Williams explains how to beat the books at Wimbledon.


Some players love the grass – usually big hitters and big servers. Some don’t care for it – usually grinders with lots of stamina and consistency, but few major weapons. 

Aside from several prep tournaments in early summer, few matches are played on natural grass. The transition isn’t easy for some players. Grass is the fastest of all the surfaces. The speed comes down to the physics of a bouncing ball as it skids across a surface. When a ball skids across a smooth surface, it stays lower and loses less velocity. 

Grass is the smoothest of all tennis surfaces used today and is therefore the fastest. Conversely, clay is the slowest of all surfaces because it is the roughest. Hard courts are in-between and vary based on the amount of abrasive content like sand mixed into the court material before it is poured. 

Grass plays differently from day to day as it retains and loses moisture and bare spots begin appearing near the heavily traveled middle portions of the court. Keep track of the way the surface is playing, much like you would when analyzing a track bias in horse racing. If you notice the surface is playing faster, then give an extra nod to the big hitters.

If it is playing relatively slowly, take a closer look at the grinders that day. You can get an idea of the speed of the surface by looking at statistics for aces and winners, and by listening to or watching players’ post-match interviews. 

Another advantage of grass is that it is ideal for players in the twilights of their careers. There are a lot of quick points on grass. Older players are less likely to face a five-hour, rally-filled marathon that we often see on the clay in France. Also, the grass can be easier on older joints than hard courts. 

That’s why an aging big hitter like Serena Williams is the fifth favorite at +1600 in the women’s singles futures market. Even at 40-years-old, Williams has the tools to survive on grass until at least the quarterfinals. 

But it is hard to imagine any of the ladies getting past Iga Swiatek. She has been a machine this year, winning 35 consecutive matches and six straight tournaments – including the French Open earlier this month. 

Should Swiatek falter, Beatriz Haddad Maia (+1600) has played well in recent months and shown a propensity for grass. 

Much like Williams, an aging Andy Murray is hoping to rediscover the hard-hitting magic that vaulted him to Wimbledon titles in 2013 and 2016. The 35-year-old, oft-injured Murray (+4000) seems fit and has been hitting well in the grass prep tournaments. He will be the sentimental choice of the English crowd although right now it is hard to predict anything but a Djokovic (-105) versus Nadal (+550) final. As far as up-and-comers, Matteo Berrettini (+500), Carlos Alcaraz (+1000) and Hubert Hurkacz (+1200) have been taking a significant amount of money.


Live Tennis Betting

Two statistics are critical – far more so than any other stat — when analyzing a tennis match. 

The first is second-serve win percentage. Players who win at least 50 percent of their second serves have a huge advantage. It means they are performing well once the ball is in play; they aren’t giving away cheap points in the form of double faults, and they can keep firing up big first serves with some degree of confidence in their second serve. 

It is very difficult for a player winning 30 percent or less of second serves to hold consistently. If you find a player performing significantly better in second-second percentage by the latter part of the first set, it is a good time to place an in-play wager.

The second, almost as important, statistic is break point win percentage. Look at a player’s performance on break points for and against. Any player who is winning second serves at a higher rate than their opponent and is winning at least 35 percent of break points is usually a rock-solid play. 

Rich Perloff, the affable commentator on TVG broadcasts, has a handicapping “toolbox” he utilizes to analyze upcoming races on the network. The theory is that history repeats itself in thoroughbred racing, so when he notices a profitable trend he stashes it away in his toolbox to bring out in similar scenarios. 

Tennis is like horse racing in that respect. 

Trends repeat themselves over the course of a career, a year, or even in a single match. One of the trends in my tennis handicapping toolbox is Failure to Break/Failure to Hold. It is remarkable how often players that squander multiple break-point opportunities in one return game get broken in their very next service game. And the more break points that are squandered, the higher the likelihood of a break in the ensuing game. 

For instance, if Player A goes 0-for-5 on break points and loses the fourth game of the match, Bet on Player B to win the fifth game. You will almost always get a great price. 

One of the toughest things for players to do is put missed opportunities out of their heads. This often results in a lack of focus in the next service game, which leads to an increased likelihood of a break. Keep an eye on this trend as you watch Wimbledon and the U.S. Open later this summer and you should find some great in-play opportunities with positive expectations.

Robert Williams has been a sportswriter and handicapper in New England and Las Vegas for 25 years. He has covered horse racing, football and baseball, but soccer became his first love after the 2002 World Cup. Tweet your comments, questions, best bets and sports betting anecdotes @vegasdimer.  
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