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Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open. (Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire)

How to bet on tennis

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams have long dominated in tennis and helped increase its popularity. Now with the emergence of sports betting, tennis has found a whole new audience engaged in the excitement of the sport.

The four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open — draw the largest viewership and most betting handle, but there are plenty of other chances to bet on tennis. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA) organize a variety of men's and women's singles and doubles tournaments throughout the year, which gives you an opportunity to become familiar with the game.

If you're just getting started with betting on tennis, below is a guide to wagering on the moneyline, set or game spread, Over/Under, and futures.

What are the odds?

The odds set by a sportsbook indicate how likely a particular result will occur in a tournament or match. For example, if you want to bet on Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam of the season, you could find the odds for each player to win the tournament listed on the odds board.

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2020 Wimbledon odds

What does the + and - mean?

The minus sign: The minus sign is associated with the favorite. The larger the number next to the minus sign, the more likely the favorite is to win.

The plus sign: The larger the number next to the plus sign, the less likely a player is to win. Betting a heavy underdog can result in a larger payout but also comes with greater risk.

What is the moneyline?

Pick which player you think will win a match.

How much will you win based on the odds?

The number next to the plus or minus sign designates how much money you would win based on a $100 bet.

Betting the favorite: Let's say two-time defending Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic is a -210 favorite to beat tennis legend Rafael Nadal, a +160 underdog, in the title match of Wimbledon. 

The number next to the minus sign designates how much money you need to risk in order to win $100. If you believe Djokovic, the -210 favorite, will win outright, you must bet $210 in order to earn $100. You would then net $310 in return.

Betting the underdog: The number next to the plus sign designates how much money you would win if you bet $100. Based on a wager of $100, if Nadal, the +160 underdog, defeats Djokovic outright, you will earn an extra $160, which would net you $260 in return.

Note: You do not have to wager $100. You are free to go well below or above that number. The odds board simply uses the figure of 100 as a basis to communicate the odds.

How to bet the spread

It can be difficult to find value when betting the moneyline, especially when a player like Djokovic is a heavy favorite against a low seed. Spread betting is a way to level the playing field and can offer excellent value.

There’s more than one way to bet the spread in a tennis match.

Game spread

Let’s say Simona Halep earned a No. 2 seed in a tournament and was a -1000 favorite to win in the quarterfinal against a low seed. There wouldn’t be much point in betting the moneyline on Halep if you believe she will win.

However, let’s say the game spread is set at 3.5 games. Halep must win four or more games than her opponent in the match to cover the spread. For instance, if Halep advanced to the semifinal with a score of 6-2, 6-2, she would have covered because she won 12 games compared to her opponent's four.

Set spread

Rather than bet on the number of games, you can also bet on how many sets a player will win.

In a best-of-three match, oddsmakers would offer a set line of 1.5. The favorite (-1.5 sets) would need to win by two sets and, therefore, must win in straight sets in a best-of-three match to cover.

Let's say Halep is favored to beat Serena Williams in a match and does so by a score of 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Though Halep won the match, she only beat Williams by one set, so Williams would have covered the +1.5 set line.

In a best-of-five match, you may see a set line of 1.5 or 2.5. If Djokovic is favored to win by 2.5 sets, he would need to win straight sets (6-4, 6-0, 6-2, for example) in a best-of-five match to cover. If he was only favored at -1.5 sets, he could lose one set and still cover (7-5, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, for example) in a best-of-five match.

Betting the Over/Under

In tennis, you can wager on the total number of games or sets in a match.

Total games

In a best-of-three match, the over/under might be set at 22.5 games. In order to win your bet, you need the match to last at least 23 games. For example, in the final of the 2019 Cincinnati Masters, Daniil Medvedev ousted David Goffin 7-6, 6-4. That match lasted exactly 23 games (7+6+6+4 = 23) and hit Over 22.5 games. 

In the quarterfinal of the Cincinnati Masters, Medvedev beat Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-3. That score would have hit Under 22.5 games (6+2+6-3 = 17). 

Total sets

You can also bet the over/under on total number of sets in a match. If the over/under is set at 2.5 for a best-of-three match, you would bet the Over if you think the match will go the full distance and the Under if you believe a player will win in straight sets.

Futures and prop betting

With futures betting, you can simply bet on the player you think will win a tournament. On the men's side of tennis, the Big Three (Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer) have held a steady command of the four tennis Grand Slams over the past decade. Since 2017, no one outside of those three has earned a Grand Slam title, but plenty of players have come close to ending their reign.

On the women's side, the competition is much more open, and choosing the correct winner can be far more difficult, but also lucrative.

Another type of wager you can make is a prop bet—short for proposition bet—in which you determine whether a specific event will occur within a match or tournament.

For example, you can wager on whether a tiebreak will occur in a match, the total number of aces, or the exact score of a match.

Prop odds are typically longer since it's more difficult to predict these exact outcomes.