Last Updated on January 30, 2021 by Sports Trading Life
If you are wondering what tennis trading is, how to do it and if you can make money from it then you are in the right place.
On this page you will find almost of all of the information a tennis trading beginner needs and by the time you are finished you will have a much better idea of how to trade tennis and whether it is something you might want to explore further in 2021 and beyond.
Even if you have dabbled with tennis trading a fair bit in the past there might still be something of value for you on this page, especially when we get to the strategies section!
By the way, this is a very detailed article so you might want to grab a hot drink (or a cold beer) before you start.
OK Let’s get into it…
[Feel free to use the table of contents to skip to exactly what you want]
What is Tennis Trading?
Tennis trading is the trading of bets on a tennis match. This is done by taking advantage of the odds movement that can occur with every single point in a tennis match once it begins.
In theory, you should be able to trade tennis on any betting exchange. However, currently only the Betfair exchange offers sufficient liquidity for trading the matches live.
The main principle behind tennis trading is that you are buying and then selling bets on a particular player. A tennis trader might BACK or LAY a bet with a view to doing the opposite later on in the event and profiting from the price difference.
Every point that is scored in a tennis match will move the market in one way or the other which makes it a sport that is very conducive for trading.
To simplify this for you…
A tennis trader might BACK Roger Federer when his price is 1.30.
If Roger Federer starts to win the match and gets ahead of his opponent then you would expect his price to shorten.
A tennis trader could then LAY Roger Federer when his price goes to 1.15 for a 15 tick profit.
This is a basic example I know, so lets look at some screenshots to help illustrate this further!
Above you can see we just backed Sugita with £100 @ 1.82.
Sugita managed to win the next game when his opponent is serving and this is deemed as being significant (more on that to come). So the price on Sugita drops from 1.82 into 1.36 as the markets feel he is now more likely to win the match.
As tennis traders we can now lay Sugita with £100 at 1.37 to create the above position.
We now have a free bet amount of £46 if Sugita goes on to win the match or as you can see in the cash out box, we could exit for a profit of £33 no matter what the final result.
What causes tennis odds to move?
The tennis markets are very fluid and, as mentioned above, every point in the match will cause them to move. The example above was a pretty big move because of a significant moment in the match but the markets will be moving in some way as every point is won or lost.
Above is a chart from a tennis match which highlights some of the price movement you can expect and is pretty typical of a regular tennis match on the exchanges. You can see that Maria Sharapova started this match priced around 1.20 but here price went as high as 2.90 in-play and bounced around in all sorts of different price ranges before she finally won.
So the markets were right in that she actually won (as you would expect her to being a 1.20 shot) but tennis traders could still find multiple opportunities to profit by OPPOSING her in-play if they wished.
That is right, tennis traders can make money opposing players that actually still WIN the match. And vice versa, a trader could back a player who goes on to lose and still profit.
Tennis traders don’t care much about the final result just the expected price movement during the match.
The main things that move the prices in the market are:
- Scoring a game point
- Winning a game
- Winning a set
With the biggest and most significant price moves happening when a player either creates or converts a break point opportunity.
If you are unsure what exactly a break point is then I will briefly explain it. (By the way, this article offers a brief run down of the main rules in tennis)
Any time a player is serving and they lose a game on their serve they are considered to have had their serve “broken”.
And any time a player is serving and the game score goes to 0-40, 15-40, 30-40 or 40-ADV to the returner then these are considered “BREAK POINT” opportunities since the returner just has to score the next point in order to break the serve of the server.
In tennis, if you are serving it is considered a big advantage and the player who is serving is expected to win what is called their “service game”.
In some men’s matches you might only see one or two breaks of serve per match.
And this is why it can be quite pivotal when a break point opportunity occurs and especially when it is converted. Similar to when a Goal is scored in football. The tennis markets will react in anticipation of that break of serve occurring.
Even if you have never watched a tennis match before in your life this is a pretty easy concept to grab once you watch the match live.
If you watch how the prices move in the markets at the same time you will get a pretty good grasp on how the markets move in tennis.
Tennis Odds Price Movement Explained
The tennis markets have evolved to become very efficient and predictable with the price movements being dependent on the starting price of the players.
I made a video showing you how you can accurately predict the way the prices will move when a break point opportunity occurs. This is crucial for any new tennis trader as you can plan your trades in advance and you will have a good idea of what to risk in the markets in order to achieve your desired result.
And if you enjoyed the video then be sure to download this free cheat sheet that you can use whilst you are trading your first few tennis matches. After a while you won’t even need it!
Tennis Trading Liquidity and Profitability Potential
You might be thinking that this sounds good on paper but is there really significant money in the tennis markets?
Well you will be surprised!
Before I began to trade tennis myself I doubted that it would really be that popular a sport for people to bet on, let alone trade on. I never even looked at the tennis section on Betfair for several years as it simply wasn’t on my radar.
However, when I eventually checked out the markets myself I was amazed to see HUGE sums being traded and there seemed to be more money traded on tennis than on football.
The huge liquidity and space to scale has led to several tennis trading syndicates being set up to profit from these markets. In the 2014 book, Game Set Cash it was documented by the author that these syndicates were making “millions” from their tennis trading.
Above is the chart from the Wimbledon final in 2013 when Andy Murray won his first ever Wimbledon title. You can see that particular match had over 42 Million GBP traded on it.
The interesting thing about the liquidity in tennis markets is that it appears to be slowly growing year upon year and since 2018 I have observed that even ITF tennis matches have tradeable liquidity in their markets. Previously, the only matches you could realistically trade would have been WTA or ATP tour matches.
The above screenshot was taken from a first round Challenger match in 2019. You can see that 111k GBP was matched on this one which is a decent amount and this is only the first round of this tournament. The bigger money usually arrives towards the business end of a tournament.
How To Trade Tennis
So now you know the basics and you can see the opportunity that is present, let’s take a look at how you would go about trading an average tennis match.
In-play Tennis Trading
The most popular form of tennis trading is undoubtedly trading tennis in-play. On average you will find about 90% of the money enters the market once the event begins with the minority of the money being traded pre-match.
The main market where the trading takes place is in the “Match Odds” market. This is a simple 2 way market where traders are backing players to win or laying players to lose.
If you watch the Match Odds market when a match is in-play you will see the prices are moving and adjusting to every point. Every point scored (or conceded) will affect that players chance of actually winning the match and the markets will adjust prices accordingly.
An interesting rule to be aware of when trading tennis is that if the match is abandoned during the first set then all trades and bets are made void. But if a match is abandoned after the first set is completed then all trades and bets will stand. Keep in mind this is the rule on Betfair and you should always double check the rules of actual exchange you are using.
Pre-Match Tennis Trading
Trading tennis pre-match is something more advanced traders tend to explore. There is still movement on the tennis markets pre-match but, compared to the in-play movement, it is pretty minimal.
Factors that move the pre-match tennis markets include suspected injuries, inside knowledge and sharp punters placing big bets that move the markets.
Tennis Futures Trading
There are longer term markets to trade within tennis and these are usually the tournament winners markets.
The tournament winners markets for the Grand Slam events are usually the markets with the most liquidity and are also the most long term markets in tennis. With most Grand Slam markets opening up a full year before the event begins in some cases.
The tournament winners market for smaller tournaments usually open the week before the event and rarely attract liquidity that make it worth trading.
Below you can see some examples of the tournament winners market for the Australian Open event which is a Grand Slam event.
These screenshots were taken at the Quarter final stage of the tournament and you can see that the men’s tournament has had over 1.1 million GBP matched whilst the women’s tournament has had significantly less in 383k GBP matched.
If you are interested in trading these markets then something to consider is that these markets remain live when the matches are in-play and there can be opportunities to exploit when significant players are involved in matches and fall behind.
As you can see above the price on Serena Williams has steamed in as the tournament has progressed and she has got closer to winning it.
She started out priced around 6.2 and has moved into 2.60.
The spike at the end of the chart was probably caused by her falling behind during a match and so there was a chance to back her as high as 7 in this situation.
Alternative Tennis Trading Markets
Whilst most of the action happens on the Match Odds market, there are other markets regularly open on the Betfair exchange that can be traded.
This is usually the next most liquid market in tennis trading and is where you would predict the final score of the match. I.E Rafael Nadal to win by 3 sets to 0.
This covers who will win that particular set. This is usually Set 1 – Winner or Set 2 – Winner. This can be a good market to trade but liquidity is an issue. You are only likely to find sufficient liquidity in this market at grand slam tournaments and that liquidity only usually arrives once the match goes in-play.
Both the above screenshots were taken pre-match so you would expect liquidity to pick up once the match actually begins.
But below you can see the comparison to the amount of money matched pre-match in the Match Odds market of the same encounter.
Over £389k worth!
But you can also see why these alternative markets can be appealing for tennis traders. Rafael Nadal is priced at 1.06 in this encounter and so his price is quite low if you wish to back him.
But in the other markets you could back him at higher prices to win the set (1.18) or to win the match 3-0 (1.53).
However, as touched upon the liquidity in these markets is not so conducive to trading for those who use bigger stakes (4 or 5 figures+).
Low Risk Tennis Trading Strategies
So now you have a good idea of how tennis trading works and how the markets behave but you are probably wondering what the common strategies are for this sport.
Trading the break point
The most common approach to trading tennis would be to simply spot whichever player is performing better and then backing that player in the market in anticipation that their odds will go lower if/when they score a break point.
For example, If Roger Federer was playing Rafael Nadal and the tennis trader felt that Federer was playing better and likely to score the first/next break point.
They would back Federer at odds of 1.70 and if he were to score the break point they could then lay Federer at odds of 1.35 and profit from the price difference. Here you can see a demonstration of a strategy that trades in this exact way.
The Back The Server Strategy
A common approach to trading tennis is to back the server at the start of their service game and then lay them if/when they win that service game.
The server is always most likely to win their service game and the price on that server will always move in their favour if they win the service game.
So this approach can bring you lots of frequent wins but you have to keep in mind that the markets will move hugely against you if that server starts to lose their service game.
In my view if you want to use this approach you have to have a good read for the game and to only back really strong servers.
You can watch some live demonstrations of this strategy in the video below.
The Lay The Server Strategy
Probably the most common approach to trading tennis that experienced traders use is to lay the server.
As mentioned, the server is expected to win their service game but if you can spot situations when the server might concede a break point opportunity then a tennis trader can profit from a substantial price swing in the markets.
To do well with this method, you will need patience and a good eye for match reading.
In the below video I demonstrate how to approach laying the server in tennis trading.
Laying the first set winner In Tennis
Laying the winner of the first set is a common tennis trading entry point into the market and there are many different strategy approaches that take advantage of this.
There are 2 main ways to play this strategy.
Laying the underdog if they win the first set
This is the approach most tennis traders will take. The idea being that sometimes strong favourites take time to warm up and can lose the first set but bounce back stronger in the second set and go on to win.
Also, many underdogs don’t always have the stamina to see it through to the end and so laying the underdog if they win the first set can be a profitable tennis trading entry point.
Normally if the underdog wins the first set their price can be 50% or more lower than the starting price which is what many traders feel creates a great opportunity.
The usual approach for this strategy would be to lay the underdog after they win the first set but to cash out for a profit if/when the favourite scores a break point. Usually, this is enough for the price on the underdog to rise much higher and a profit can be secured.
The benefit of this approach being that you do not actually need the favourite to win the second set to profit.
Laying the favourite if they win the first set
This can be a very low risk and high reward approach if you have identified a favourite who is not performing as well as they should do. If they win the first set then the favourite will be priced much lower than their starting price and these prices can be as low as sub 1.10 in some cases. These leaves very little downside but lots of upside to this approach.
The main idea behind the strategy is that you would want the underdog to score the first break point in the second set in order to get into a profitable position. With such little risk in the market, many tennis traders might hold on for the underdog to win a “surprise” second set in order to get a more rewarding return on investment.
How To Get The Edge In Tennis Trading
The fastest way to gain an edge and profit from tennis trading is to develop a good understanding of the tennis markets and to constantly improve your match reading skills. This can be from watching the match live and getting a good feel for how a player is performing and will perform as the match develops.
By understanding the markets you will soon be able to identify natural resistance points in the market which can offer a good value entry point depending on the current match situation. The better you can identify players who are performing better (or worse) than the market is expecting the more chance you have of getting in at a good value entry point.
With tennis trading, the key is to identify moments when the markets have it wrong and anticipate the market “correction” that will inevitably happen.
For example, if a favourite is priced at 1.25 by the market but the underdog is clearly performing better. Since the underdog is performing better you would expect them to get close to a break point opportunity and so the price on the favourite will rise in anticipation of that.
Depending on the time of the match the price could rise up to around 1.50 or more depending on if the underdog converts a break point. If they do convert a break point the price on the favourite could double or triple. Best to refer to the odds predictor cheat sheet (download at the bottom of the page) for a better idea about the exact expected movement.
There was a time when trading tennis was as simple as being “first to the market” by having the fastest pictures or being live at the event and then backing a player as soon as they scored a point and then trading out. This was how “courtsiding” developed (more on that in a moment) and in the early days of tennis trading (pre-2010) there was lots of easy money to be made this way.
However, in recent years the edge that comes from “speed” has apparently eroded with more traders getting involved live at the event or via the fastest pictures which has led to even those live at the event having to use match reading in order to profit.
This was documented at the end of the “Game, Set, Cash” book. I have also spoken with people who have tried to trade a tennis match live at the event and they noted the market was moving “before” a point was even scored on some occasions.
Courtsiding In Tennis Trading
Tennis Trading is quite well known for the practice of what is called “courtsiding”.
This is those who go to the actual court to trade based on what is happening right in front of them. The main advantage being that they can be first to the market and ahead of those trading via live TV pictures which are usually several seconds behind the real life action.
Courtsiding was the nickname that many gave this approach in the early days but it has grown so much it now has it’s own Wikipedia page albeit offering scant details.
If you are thinking about trying courtsiding yourself at a tennis match the usual advice is simply not to bother these days.
Courtsiding is BIG business and those who practice in it have invested vast sums of money into the technology that helps them to profit.
And as mentioned above, many courtsiders now have to use match-reading skills in order to find an edge.
Then when you consider the fact that NO tennis tournaments actually allow courtsiding to happen then you begin to realise you are up against joining in the fun.
There have been many high profile instances of traders being arrested after being ejected from events when caught courtsiding . Although previously this was not actually illegal it is thought the tennis authorities are trying to use whatever loopholes they can to ensure courtsiders can actually be prosecuted in future.
Tennis Trading for a living
So you might be wondering if it were possible to trade tennis for a living or for a second income.
The answer is that it is definitely possible and there are plenty already doing it.
As mentioned, there are syndicates already trading tennis making 7 figure sums per year and those who trade for them at the live events are also technically trading tennis for a living.
And there are many who trade from home just using live pictures and statistics to find opportunities.
With the huge liquidity in the market that means there is a big possibility that you can scale once you get profitable and so a 6 or 7 figure income is possible from this sport alone.
Another big plus about trading tennis is the fact that the tennis season is active for 11 months of the year and only really has downtime in December. So there are chances to trade on tennis for the majority of the year which is why it can be quite suitable for those who wish to do this full time.
There are tennis matches happening through the world and in many different time zones which is also a good thing as it means there isn’t a lack of action to trade or a particular need to stay up late (or get up early) in order to trade. That being said, there is likely to be at least one month out of the year where the tennis in your particular time zone makes it tricky to trade. For example, in January the Australian Open often has it’s main bulk of matches happening during the night time in the UK when most Brits are asleep.
And I also helped Peter Scott with the publishing of a PDF based tennis trading course “Dynamic Tennis Trading” after previously meeting him via social media. In this article he details a tennis trade he did which gives you an idea of his style.
Tennis Trading Problems and Criticisms
One problem I have constantly encountered with tennis trading is the staggered scheduling of the matches with matches very rarely starting at the time they are advertised. This can often simply be to the previous match on the same court taking longer than expected but sometimes it can just be poor time keeping on behalf of the tournament organisers.
I have experienced occasions where I have sat to trade a particular match and the start time keeps getting put back 15 minutes for no apparent reason. When planning a trading session this can be frustrating.
Similar to the above is the concept of rain delays when trading tennis. Thankfully, this is something that should be less frequent in the future with more tournament stadiums getting roof technology.
However, sometimes matches can be unexpectedly interrupted by rain and the play may not resume for hours or even till the next day.
This can be quite frustrating for tennis traders who might have a strong position open but would then have to consider risking leaving it open or closing their strong position.
To counteract this it is often suggested to check the weather for the day at the particular tennis event you are trading. If rain looks likely you could literally take a rain check on that particular tournament ?
In theory, tennis is quite an easy sport to corrupt since you might only need to influence one player to throw a match in order to make a profit. There have been numerous reports of matches being fixed in tennis in January 2019.
It is important to keep in mind that the majority of corrupt or fixed matches will usually be in the lower levels of the sport and the higher the rankings of the players the more likely you are to be trading a fair match.
And also, when a match has been corrupted this will often be reflected in the price movement in the markets. If you are an experienced tennis trader you will quickly be able to identify when something does not seem right.
So while corruption can be an issue and, in theory, could happen at any level it is easy to avoid by sticking to trading tournaments in the WTA and the ATP.
How To Learn Tennis Trading
The first step to learning tennis trading is to actually load up the tennis markets on Betfair and watch the live match alongside the market movements to understand it.
Try one of the simple strategies as mentioned above with small stakes and do not forget to use my price prediction cheat sheet to work out the expected price moves.
Experience is huge in tennis trading and it will take a bit of time to adjust to but many are often surprised at how much they enjoy trading this sport even those with no interest in tennis beforehand.
I was one of many who had never even watched a tennis match in my life but absolutely love trading it now. I often find that those who come from a football trading background find it quite a refreshing sport to trade.
There is lots you can learn for free just by following videos online and practicing yourself but if you want a more structured approach then there are several paid courses available online.
Ultimate Tennis Trading Video Course
In 2019, I launched my own video course teaching beginners how to trade tennis on Betfair and sharing everything I learned on my own journey to tennis trading profitability and from all the professionals who mentored me along the way.
The main aim of the Ultimate Tennis Trading course is to take someone who might not have even traded (or watched) tennis before and transform them to the point where they are picking out their own trading opportunities like a professional and they have the knowledge to trade a tennis match from start to finish.
UTT is streamed via HD video and I only open access to the public to this course just twice per year.
So if you are interested in learning more about it and taking your tennis trading to the next level then check this page for more information.
In my view tennis trading is one of the best sports to trade on the exchanges. The constant price movement means there is never a lack of good opportunities in even some of the most obscure matches.
The fact that liquidity in the tennis market is actually growing year upon year is also a good sign and bodes well for the future of tennis trading overall.
Even if the sport of tennis is something you feel doesn’t interest you I feel it is worth giving it a go from a trading perspective. I had never even watched a tennis match before I encountered it on Betfair but soon I fell in love with trading it and I actually enjoy the sport as a whole now.
In fact I enjoyed it so much I even went to the US Open in New York City (paid for with my winnings) a few years back and didn’t trade anything. I just sat back and enjoyed the fun and you might too. 😉
NOTE: Thanks for reading and this page is going to be constantly updated as things within tennis trading grow and grow. I want this page to be the number one resource for those who are beginners to tennis trading and so if you have any comments or suggestions please leave them below!
And don’t forget to grab this below cheat sheet, vital if you are to understand these markets!
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