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In-Play and Pre-Match Tennis Betting

Tennis is the second most popular sport after football for in-play or live betting. It is also a sport played all over the world with relatively simple rules. There is a points system that takes away any ambiguity. A player either wins or loses a point and that is the basis of the scoring system. Scores are clearly displayed at venues or online and the player to serve next or who is serving is always known.

Although it is fundamentally the same sport there is a great deal of difference between men’s and women’s tennis. Breaks of serve are much more frequent in the women’s game and they are the main trigger for price fluctuations. In Grand Slams women play over three sets while men play over five. There are far more potential scenarios and much more scope for price swings in the male version. Men and women both play best of three sets in regular tournaments. Within a game or set momentum is more likely to change in the women’s game.  

However, matches over five sets tend to see the better player lose a set and recover. but that's not always the case. The shorter format is prone to matches going against form and it’s harder for the player superior ability to gain the ascendancy over two or three sets.

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As with most sports the most popular market involves the match winner. In tennis betting it is always a two-way as every match has a definite outcome. When a match is not completed due to injury one player progresses to the next round and is deemed the winner for betting purposes. The main markets revolve around tournaments and individual matches.

The following markets are the most popular for pre-match and in-running punters:

  • Match odds
  • Set betting
  • Total games
  • Set handicap
  • Game handicap
  • Number of sets
  • To win a set
  • Number of aces

All these markets are updated as the event progresses for tennis matches on the two main tours (ATP and WTA), Challenger Tours and for ITF tournaments.     

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Form Factors

In assessing the relative prospects for the players in a match when betting before play begins or in-play several key factors have to be considered. Tennis results do follow patterns but when there is an upset a valid reason can usually be found in retrospect. The trick is pinpointing potential matches going against form and a number of factors should be considered.


The better players focus on the majors and are not concerned about winning anything other than the four big ones and the Masters events. With lucrative sponsorship deals and prize money banked finances are not a factor. The players with a genuine chance of winning at Grand Slam level may not be fully motivated in some minor tournaments.

Most top players are vulnerable at smaller tournaments just before majors. Some players have emotional ties to venues and tournaments so are more motivated than when playing elsewhere. Geographical links can also play a part in making a player more motivated. Somebody competing near his birthplace will have plenty of local support and will be keener to deliver.

Tanking is un unpalatable truth but often the signs are there and its potential can be factored into betting decisions. A top ranked player may receive appearance money that is greater than the prize for winning a tournament. Losing early and easily or retiring are situations that could lead to suspicion of tanking but players will always wish to avoid that type of speculation. There have been cases of players who have been out injured, playing in tournaments just to get the money they receive for losing in their first match. 


Tennis is a physical game played on a variety of surfaces and in different parts of the world. The actual matches are just the tip of the iceberg and in terms of time compared to travelling and training are the smallest element of being a professional player. Moving from time zones is also strain so all in all injuries are inevitable.

The season starts in January and ends in November and there are tournaments in almost every week.  Niggling injuries can accumulate and players tend to commit to tournaments well in advance. A player might have travelled some distance for an event without full fitness. Without access to the locker room or good contacts following the tour punters will never have access to the whole story.

If a player reaches the final of a tournament he will play on a Sunday. He will get dispensation to start an event the following week so sooner than the Tuesday. Players might be under par who are on the face of it in good form as they have won several matches in the previous tournament. The affects of injuries are not quantifiable physically or mentally but bettors must strive to monitor fitness developments.


Professional tennis is played on a variety of surfaces which can be categorised as follows:

  • Outdoor hardcourts
  • Indoor hardcourts
  • Clay
  • Grass
  • Carpets

Very few players excel in the full range of conditions and even the best ones prefer certain surfaces. The best example is Rafael Nadal who is known as the king of clay. He has won the French Open on clay 12 times as of 2019 but then struggles on grass when he plays at Wimbledon. Roger Federer is arguably the best grass court player ever but may be challenged for that 'title' by five-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic. These players are the best of the generation and get by on other surfaces because they are basically wonderful tennis players.

The vast majority of players further down the rankings will produce better results on one surface than on another. Statistics are vital in analysing a player’s season and career results on each surface. Head to head records also show the results of previous meetings in total and by surface. Going a stage further it is possible to collate sets won by surface.  Even within a surface category there are trends. Some hardcourts are fast and some are slow but overall the surface is a hugely significant factor in form analysis.

Indoor tennis is played at a different pace to outdoors. The surfaces are defined as hard but speeds vary. Collateral form from outdoor matches on courts described as hard is not totally transferable to a match played indoors. Artificial lighting creates a different atmosphere to natural light and even eye to hand coordination may change. Playing conditions must be factored into pre-match and live decisions when betting on tennis.   


Obviously the weather is not a factor in indoor events but certainly in the open air it can be significant. Wind is the main weather feature that affects play. The ball toss before serving has to consistent and accurate. Wind can play havoc with this element of the game and some players are more suited to the consequences. Having the temperament and belief to play a natural game is another facet of the weather.  

Players with a high ball toss are going to be more disadvantaged than players who barely throw it up at all. Wind can emerge during a match so being able to adjust and adapt to the weather is also important. If it’s windy the court boundaries become smaller as players play a more compact game. Some players relish indoor tournaments as they don’t have to consider wind and it will always be still.

In-Play Betting

The vast majority of tennis bets are placed once a match has begun. Only football generates more bets in the live environment. Tennis lends itself to live betting due to the number of betting opportunities that are repeated many times during a match.

Why is in-play tennis trading so popular?

The advantages of trading on tennis are as follows:

  • Full coverage on Betfair and sportsbooks
  • Many matches live on TV or live streames
  • Constant price fluctuations
  • Point by point betting 
  • Livescore keeps scores up to date
  • Plenty of tennis related news to consider
  • Rapid turnover of bets
  • Suited to cash out facility
  • Betting tools available

Bookmakers now live stream numerous tennis match from the major and minor tours. Live scoring and real time statistics enhance the tennis service. The official tour sites offer a full live scoring facility with a great deal of relevant analysis.


There are a number of triggers that can be useful in identifying in-play betting opportunities. It can be worth the investment in time to become aware of how players react when faced by break points when serving and have break points in their favour when receiving. Extensive stats are available for all players, for example knowing statistically how a server reacts to being 15-40 down. A strong serve could eliminate that disadvantage but that is less likely for a player who does not have a big serve.

Women’s tennis is better suited to swings and less clears trends. However, there are many players who lose their composure when serving to win a set. Most WTA matches have significant swings and both players trade at short prices. Another possibly little known fact is that players can be coached on court during matches in all WTA events except the four majors. Lengthy timeouts for coaching, comfort breaks and injuries also play a part in creating a player’s in-play profile.

It takes great strength of mind and character to come back from 0-40. Tennis is a sport made up of compartments that contribute to the whole. Momentum is important but just because a player has won the first three points of a game does not make it certain he will win the fourth. 

Betting Tools

There are products on the market that sit on top of Betfair and allow for more efficient trading. These products have to be authorised in order to interact with exchange markets. Betting tools can be purchased on a daily basis or for a full calendar year and some offer a lifetime subscription. One of the best tennis trading tools is highlighted below.

Tennis Trader within Bet Angel

There are several tools on the market designed to automate as much as possible betting live on tennis matches. A tool for in-play tennis betting that projects the odds in certain markets based on the rage of potential scenarios is Tennis Trader from Bet Angel. Tools like this can forecast where the odds are going an allow customers to bet accordingly.

Tennis Trader is free with BetAngel. It makes betting on tennis easier and more likely to be profitable. Clicking on the tennis icon displays the tennis interface. Setting up a Match You can set up a tennis match by specifying one of the following options:

  • 3 set match (final set tie-break)
  • 3 set-match (no final set tie-break)
  • 5 set match (final set tie-break)
  • 5 set match (no final set tie-break)

Entering the current score

It is possible to automatically feed the correct score from Betfair to the tool. Once the match has started and a direct link is not possible the score must be entered manually. Before a game starts the score must be set to nil. Scores can be updated manually or picked up from Betfair.

Predictor Scenarios

Tennis Trader predicts the expected match odds for each player if they: Win the next point Win the next two points Win the current game Win the current set Users can set their own scenarios and then see what affect certain events would have on the projected odds.

Game and Set Matrix

The game and set matrix presents a visual display of how the match may progress and the likely odds at all possible stages of the game.

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