Serena Williams playing on a clay court

It’s 11am here in Central Europe and day 3 of this year’s Tennis French Open (also called Roland Garros) is literally starting now.
My tennis live betting strategy is ready to go live as well.

Roland Garros 2019 - Day 3 live scores

From this screenshot, taken at 11:13am, we can already notice a few things: in tennis, you can bet on men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Also, the scores that you see represent more or less a third of the matches that are in play at the moment, and considering that a match could last 1 to 3 hours and that they will play till 8pm, we can safely state that tennis is a busy sport!

Before we deep dive into the cool stuff, here is a short index for this article, in case you want to jump straight to a specific section.

The Betting Action

In about 20 years of tennis betting or so, I still haven’t met someone that knows everything (betting-wise) about tennis! Even if I bet on tennis daily, I surely don’t know everything myself as well, and here is why.
Tennis is a massive sport in terms of players, tournaments, rules and side aspects involved.
Here is a quick count. Right now the ATP ranks about 700 players (https://www.atptour.com/en/rankings/singles) and the WTA rankings go all the way down to player number 850 in the world (https://www.wtatennis.com/rankings#singles-tab). In addition to this, you must consider around 65 ATP tournaments plus 65 WTA tournaments. All of them have specifics related to surface, balls, indoor/outdoor conditions and more.. And in addition to this, you have women’s doubles and men’s doubles, which are not as busy, but still full of action.
And it’s not over, you then have lower “leagues”: Challengers, ITF tournaments, and internationals…

Did you get lost?
Me too. Long story short is that if someone says I do follow tennis it’s pretty much like saying: “I follow all the basketball leagues of the world” or something similar. IMPOSSIBLE!

You have to pick your niche

I’m not even sure niche is the right word as it will still be a lot of stuff, but you get the point: specialize in 1/2 areas.
For instance, I follow ATP and WTA main level tournaments and that’s pretty much it. It is still about 120 tournaments per year from January to December.
This means that I do bet on tennis events that do not belong to this category when I have good information or fresh news, but 99% of my bets are on ATP or WTA main tournaments.

Prematch versus Live Betting

As usual in sports betting, we can split the general tennis betting activity into two main areas: pre-match and live-betting.
They both require a deep knowledge of the game, but I have to admit that, when it comes to pre-match tennis betting, you really must know what to expect from the game. You must know how good of a server a player is and how good his serve-returning game is. You must know how solid and strong each player’s baseline strokes are (forehand and backhand). And, you must know which game plan the two players have in mind (in a singles match).

This is way too much to know if your are not a professional bettor, way too much! It actually took me 10 years of watching (and betting) on tennis, plus another 10 working as a trader for a couple of well known bookmakers to know all that I know now, which is still far from knowing it all.
And by the way, if you are interested in tennis betting, have a look at the dedicated tennis section of our website BetzCenter.com. On the website I’m collaborating with a bunch of tennis experts, trying to share our tennis knowledge to provide beginner tennis punters with all the betting information they need for betting on tennis.

Live betting

On the other side, we find live betting on tennis. And while I’m not saying that you don’t have to know the game to bet live on tennis games, I can disclose that it involves less tennis-related knowledge and more understanding of an evolving situation.
Let’s see how!

Tennis Live Betting

Out of all the skills that a professional bettor needs, there is one that is particularly important when it comes to live betting on tennis.

Cold blood

Before I even start talking about a tennis live betting strategy, its approaches, rules and dynamics, there is one thing that you must know, and this does not apply to tennis only, but to all sports: you have to be cold blooded, or at least the least emotionally involved possible.

The reason behind this is simple: you will experience a lot of difficulties match after match and all sorts of things (both good and bad) will happen, no matter how good of a bettor you are.
These, and especially the bad things, should not affect you and your betting style, approach and strategy.

And believe me, it is much more difficult than it sounds!

The good news

The good news about live betting on tennis, according to my experience, is that you don’t need to consider all of the elements that we have mentioned so far in this article. Only a few aspects really make a difference when betting live.

How will a player wake up on that particular match day. Is the player sick? Is the player not willing to fight strong enough? Is one of the players clearly more in form than the other? And so on…
If we are betting live, all of these questions already have an answer!
You are watching (or just following) the game as it happens, so you have a lot of valuable information in front of your eyes. You know who is playing well, you know who is playing below their level, and you can also see how the playing conditions (surface, weather, player form) are affecting the match.

In particular, there are 2 or 3 things that I normally evaluate for my tennis live betting strategy.

A Simple yet Powerful Tennis Live Betting Strategy

My years working as a trader for an international bookmaker have thought me this: a favorite that starts the game slowly, go down in scores and then bounces back and wins the match, normally means troubles for the bookmaker. No matter how good the trader dealing with the match is, the bookmaker is going to lose money on the moneyline (match winner) market.

As simple as it might sound, this is true.
And it does not only apply to tennis but to many other sports too. It is a general rule for live sports betting on the moneyline.

Tennis is a unique sport

This is amplified in tennis. The main reason for this is that tennis is not a time-based sport, but it is a sport that is based on points. No matter how long the match might be. No matter how big the underdog’s advantage might be. They always have to score a certain amount of points to close the game out.

You might then argue: so, what about baseball and volleyball?
You are right, those work pretty much in the same way. But in tennis you are alone (let’s forget about doubles). And you are alone all the time!
Mind, mental strength, attitude. It does not matter how you call it, but this is by far the number one factor in tennis (at top level), and especially in women’s tennis, where this tennis live betting strategy finds its best application.

Tennis is also unique because a few points can drastically change the moneyline odds for each player to win. A break is when the serving player loses the game, meaning that the player who is returning won it. And a break is what changes the odds the most.
Normality is that the player holds the serve and wins that game, while the opposite (a break of serve) has a big impact on the match and affects moneyline the most.

We can surely take advantage of this. Let’s see how with a couple of examples taken from my personal betting activity.

Petra Kvitova versus Veronica Cepede Royg

French Open 2018, first round. Petra Kvitova is a huge favorite priced at 1.10 (-1000) against Cepede Royg, an almost unkown player.
I think that Kvitova will win the match, but there is no point in placing a bet at this price right? So, I just pass and follow the live action.
Kvitova, a very talented player but with lots of ups and downs, starts the match slowly. Cepede Royg is able to take advantage of this and secures the first set 6-3.

As soon as Kvitova lost the first set I placed a good sized bet on Kvitova to win the match. Odds have now risen to almost 2.00 as Kvitova is playing poorly and it seems that Cepede Royg has a real chance to win it all.
But… Not really.
With odds at around 1.75, Cepede Royg is now the favorite, and the implied probability is just above 57%. And if we consider the closing odds, before the start of the match? Cepede Royg was priced at 8.33: around 12% probability.
As a tennis bettor who knows the game of tennis a little bit, I know that a set does not mean much. And for sure, a set lead does not justify the difference in the moneyline odds.
I am willing to take Kvitova every single time here!

Kvitova versus Cepede Royg live betting odds screenshot from Betfair

The explanation

This is a screenshot taken from the bookmaker that I usually use for tennis live betting, if you ask me it is by far the best. It is technically not a bookmaker, but an exchange: a website where you can trade your bets like you would trade stocks on the stock market. Knowing how Betfair Exchange works is behind the scope of this article, but I just wanted to mention it so that you do not get overwhelmed by the information on the screenshot.


I just wanted to show that in this case a nice bet on Kvitova (around 1,000£) actually involved only a few minutes of “risk”. Basically the first 3 games of the second set as after that Kvitova’s odds drastically dropped following a quick turn of events in the game
One side note on this bet: after easily winning the second set, Kvitova had a nice lead in the third as well. I decided to cover up my bet a little bit, backing Cepede Royg at very high odds just for safety. And this is why in the screenshot you see a potential profit of 200£ with a win by Cepede Royg (which did not happen).

You can even take this tactic further as you don’t have to wait for a full set to be played. Let’s see the next example.

Krystina Pliskova versus Serena Williams

I bet you know who Serena Williams is! But have you ever heard of Kristyna Pliskova (not Karolina Pliskova, but her weaker sister)?
If your answer is yes, you are probably passionate about tennis; if your answer is no, that is normal. The only thing that you have to know to understand this live tennis bet is the starting situation.

Pliskova vs Williams match analysis screenshot from BetzCenter.com

This is a screenshot of the French Open 2018 match between Kristyna Pliskova and Serena Williams taken from betzcenter.com (follow the link to check the complete match analysis). You can see that Serena Williams, surprise, surprise, started the match as a favorite. A slight favorite.
You can also see that one of our tennis experts predicted Serena Williams to win with a pretty high confidence and that the match result followed expectations.

Pliskova started the match better than Williams and was leading by a break in the first set. It seemed like the right time to place our live betting on Serena Williams to win the match in the end.

Pliskova versus Williams live betting odds screenshot from Betfair

So, Williams started the match priced at 1.483 on Pinnacle. She goes down by a break and she is losing the first set. That is the right moment to place a first bet on Williams, whose odds have increased to around 3.
Serena Williams, who as we know is a much better player than Pliskova, bounces back and wins the first set and the second. Williams wins the match. And we cash in the sweet profit.

A quick side note regarding the strategy

As live betting in general, and in particular on tennis, is very hectic, I like to pick games that can be good for this strategy before the first game of the day starts. For example, let’s say that the first tennis match starts at around 11am (Central European time). At 10am or so I make sure I have noted down the matches that could fall into this strategy. I try to see if any of the favorites of the day might struggle early in the game.
Talking about being cold-blooded and its importance in the live betting strategy. This definitely helps me not getting too involved in matches that I should stay away from.

Why is this tennis live betting strategy good?

I think that there are a few reasons why this strategy matches well with tennis.

  • Tennis is hectic, the result has various quick turns throughout the match. There are lots of opportunities to place bets at good odds.
  • Bookmakers power is limited here. Bookmakers will always have a margin on us, but… In this particular case they have to put out juicy odds that we can take advantage of.
  • A tennis match is always pretty balanced and always requires the leading player to make the final effort to close the match out. No matter how big the lead might seem. Check this article out!
  • Tennis betting limits, on main events, are high. They might be lower when odds are released. But when a match is live you should encounter no limit-related stake issues.
  • As we saw, there is a big number of matches every day and throughout the season. This gives us the chance to be selective (or even very selective). We can afford to only pick the matches that we like. We can only bet on the favorites that we really think will come back after a slow start. There is no need to place a lot of bets every week.

The Right Bookmakers

Obviously, this betting strategy finds good application on bookmakers that are strong at offering live betting. Pretty much all of them nowadays. But… Ideally you should use it on a betting exchange. Limits are high, pace is fast, placing a bet is extremely quick and not subject to odds and market suspensions.
If you ask me Betfair Exchange is by far the best in this category.
Pinnacle, even if not the best for live betting, is still a good option as odds on this website are always juicy!

The Down Sides

As all good things, even this tennis live betting strategy has its down sides. And, I wanted to wrap up and conclude listing them so that you can avoid mistakes, or at least some.

  • It is time consuming! Unless you hire someone or build a bot that does the job for you, you will have to follow the tennis season regularly and daily to be able to place the bet at the right time.
  • Live betting can easily become overwhelming and cost you your whole bankroll. Be careful and start with small stakes!
  • Bad beats and bad things will happen. Some player might even retire during the match, rain could interrupt the game and mix things up, and so on.. Your strategy and bankroll management should not be affected by this.
  • You need to know the form of the players. You need to know that a specific favorite is not losing because he/she is out of shape.