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Betting 101: What it means to bet the spread
While determining which player will win a match outright is important, that's not the only way to earn money when betting on tennis.
Published Feb 08, 2023
Betting on tennis isn’t always as straightforward as picking the winner. You can approach each match a few different ways, one being the spread.
The game spread refers to how many games the oddsmakers think the favorite will beat the underdog by. For example, in a meeting between world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and world No. 20 Karolina Pliskova, you might see the Polish star is favored to win by 4.5 games.
Using that 4.5-game example, Swiatek would need to win at least five more games than Pliskova for her bettors to cash in. That means that a 6-4, 6-4 win wouldn’t be good enough for those backing Swiatek, as that’s only a four-game difference. However, a 6-3, 6-4 win would do the trick. Swiatek could even lose a set and cover, if one of those sets is somewhat lopsided. That might look something like a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory.
When betting the game spread, it’s important to know exactly how long your match is going to be. It’s a lot more difficult to cover a small spread in a best-of-three match, so you want to be very confident that the favorite can separate themselves quickly or the underdog has what it takes to hang around. Over the course of a best-of-five match, you tend to see less wackiness. That means that the right player will have a better shot at covering the spread, whether it’s the favorite or the underdog.
A set spread isn’t all that different, but it’s a little easier to grasp. If you take a player +1.5 sets in a best-of-three match, all your player needs to do is win one set. Vice versa, backing somebody at -1.5 sets would mean that they need to win in straight sets. And if it’s a best-of-five match, a -1.5 bet would mean that your player can only afford to lose one set. Or you could go for a 2.5-set spread and that would mean you’re backing a player to win three sets and not drop one.
Some sportsbooks will make set spreads even easier for bettors by simply offering things like “Player X To Win A Set.” If you continue to tune into our betting coverage, you’ll learn that these are some of our favorite bets. That’s because it can be a little intimidating to back an underdog to win a match outright. However, it still gives you the opportunity to go with your gut and put a little timber behind a player you believe in.