This is what goes into my tennis capping.
Fri, May 20, 2022
Head to Head
Head to Head can be important for a couple reasons. If a player has won a few matches against the opponent, then they will enter the match with more confidence and play a little looser. It can also reveal that one player struggles specifically against that players style. One can be better than their opponent, but still lose because of this reason. Rafael Nadal losing both matches he played against Dustin Brown is an example of this. The talent levels aren't even close, but Brown successfully made drop shots, hit aggressive returns and big second serves, and played wonderful at the net. The way he varied his game, and played an attacking style of tennis took time away from Nadal and disrupted his rhythm.
However, I think Head to Head is one of the most overused tools with sports bettors. It can not be used blindly, there are many other factors that need to be considered when looking at Head to Head records. Some players could have been returning from injury when they met, and were nowhere near their best at the time of the match. Court surface also matters. Someone could be 3-0 vs the other, but if it was all on hard courts, it doesn't mean much when playing on clay courts, and that goes the other way around too. I will dive into that further when I talk about court advantages. Look at how long ago the match was and what age the players were at the time as well. It's normal for an 18/19 year old to be 0-2/0-3 vs an opponent, but dominate them a few years later when their talent develops. Whether it's court surface, recovering from a recent injury, weather conditions, or players age, Head to Head records have tons of external factors. When weighing a h2h record more heavily than current player skills/form, or without putting much consideration into the court settings, that's relying on a very tiny sample size over a very big one.
Always check the court surface before making a play, it is very important. Player skill levels will fluctuate wildly when on different surfaces. When looking at a surface like grass, the balls move quicker on the courts speeding up the pace of play. This is great for a player like Roger Federer who likes to close out points quickly. Players who like to serve and volley, like how Pete Sampras did on grass, will also excel on this surface. Clay courts have the slowest court speed. It results in longer rallies, and hinders big-hitters who rely on hitting quick winners past their opponent. On clay, balls bounce slower and higher, which favors strong baseline players who play with a lot of topspin. Hard courts are the most common, and are slightly slower than grass, but much faster than clay. Cushioned hard courts can have a medium to fast pace of play depending on how much sand is used in the acrylic coatings. That's a big reason to get to know the tournaments. Montreal, Cincinnati, Toronto, Shanghai for example are much faster than the hard courts at Indian Wells. Each surface suits different types of playing style differently.
Current fitness and form
Fitness levels play a huge role in tennis matches. Players who are recently coming off an injury can struggle for up to a couple of months until they get plenty of matches under their belt, and back into the swing of things. Too many tennis matches in a short period is a bad thing too. That's why knowing the schedule can be a huge plus. Tennis is eleven months out of the year and players routinely travel 8-plus hours between tournaments, with just 24 hours between matches. Many times a player coming off a tournament win is overvalued in the first match of the next tournament. Staying away from, and even fading at times, players coming off long weeks with travel can be profitable. Every player will go through struggles with their form at one time or another, whether it's due to fitness, confidence, or nagging injuries. There will be periods where players will be firing on all cylinders, and there will be times their game seems to have fallen off. The best way to see what fitness and form a player is in, is to watch the matches. I try to watch every match I bet on to get clues on fitness levels for the next match. Do not rely on the rankings of players over current form and fitness.
Know the weather and playing conditions
Weather can influence play in a number of ways that can hurt or help players depending on their play style. On hot days it increases the pressure inside the ball, making it bounce better and faster, helping attacking style players. The tension in the racquets also slightly increase. Matches played in the afternoon will usually result in faster courts compared to the later matches. Light drizzle makes the balls a little heavier, which will slow down play a little. The ball doesn't spin as well either making the rallies longer. Tennis will play through light drizzle on clay courts. Heat and humidity affects some players more than others. Daniil Medvedev comes to mind in his match in Tokyo. He was struggling with the suffocating heat and humidity so much that chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked Medvedev if he could continue playing. Medvedev replied “I can finish the match, but I can die. If I die, are you going to be responsible?” I've also seen Ons Jabeur struggle more than once, getting sick on the court and almost passing out. Knowing the playing conditions is a huge plus.
Home advantages, Court history, Experience, and Motivation
Some of the better players will not care as much, or put as much effort into smaller tournaments. To remain in the top 30, it is required to play at least two ATP 250 tournaments, or four ATP 500. I've seen numerous times the top ranked players will roll in game 1 of these smaller tournaments, then the second match they look like they just don't care and are only there to meet the requirement. Look at when the bigger ranking point/prize money tournaments are played if wanting to back some of the top ranked players, and know when to fade them on the smaller ones. An ATP 250 tournament like Cordoba pays about $47,000 to the winner and gets 250 points for rankings. Winning a big tournament like the upcoming French Open will pay $2.5 million and gift 1500 tournament points. It's easy to see how the top players are much more motivated for the bigger tournaments.
Review which tournament each player has played over the last few years, and how well they played. Some players excel in certain tournaments, and do poorly in others. Is there a tournament in their home country they play every year? If so, you will likely get their best effort, and the crowd will help lift them when they are getting tired or lacking confidence. Every bit of information about court history helps.
Watch some tape of players last matches, and put it all together
Being able to contextualize all of the information I mentioned above will make you a winner betting tennis. Now that you have all the information you need, watch some tapes of the players most recent matches to see if you can pick up on anything. If you know what you're looking for, you can find signs of fitness problems or small injuries that can really hurt their chance in the next round. Could even be something like you notice a player is struggling with the humidity or windy conditions. Look for any signs to give you an edge.
What makes tennis so interesting to wager on?
Tennis is 11 months a year, and at times 20+ hours a day with tournaments all over the world. There is always tennis; there will always be tennis. I also love the one-on-one aspect of the game. You don’t have to handicap an entire team, just two people at a time. Instead of getting just one championship game a year like other sports, tennis has four Grand-Slams. The French Open which I will be starting this weekend, Wimbledon is at the end of next month, US Open is at the end of August, and the Australian Open is the end of January. There is a good mix of skill, athleticism and strategy.