Tennis Trading Strategies: Trading Wimbledon

The height of the British summer means the height of the tennis season, at least from the UK public’s perspective Of course, this means it’s Wimbledon!

It’s the time of year that everybody, loves to talk about tennis markets and we love to trade sports markets when everybody is talking about them. It means opinions and liquidity reach a high point. When that happens you will almost certainly find trading opportunities. Unlike horse racing markets, most traded volume in Tennis is in-play betting, there is little before the off. But there are some curious factors that drive volume in some years.

If you look at betting exchanges, specifically in this case the Betfair betting exchange, Betfair tennis markets more or less swap with football in terms of liquidity when we don’t have a major football tournament on. The data seems to show that when there isn’t a football match on, not only is there less football trading, there is more activity in the Tennis betting market. Whether Betfair trading shifts to Tennis directly from football or not, is a very open question. But the data seems to show those characteristics.

Of course, this is focused around the Grand Slams like Wimbledon. If you are seasoned at Betfair tennis trading, you will know there are plenty of the standard tour events around to trade, but they are less affected by casual punters and don’t receive as much focus from traditional bookmakers. So the Grand Slams, especially with the longer matches, tend to require slightly different Betfair trading strategies than other tour events.

But lets talk about Wimbledon a bit more specifically and how sports trading at Wimbledon can be a little different from other tournaments.

Serving at Wimbledon

The characteristic of the grass surface for tennis is that the ball has a very low bounce and has a very fast speed, which makes the service very dominant. When you get good servers like John Isner they tend to dominate the game with their serve.

Isner and Mahut

If you look back a few years ago we had a classic game at Wimbledon that ended on 138 games in the final set between Isner and Mahut that was dominated by serve, they kept winning one service game after another and they just couldn’t be broken. Typically, that’s the characteristic that you tend to get at Wimbledon. It’s very hard to break service at Wimbledon, simply because of:

  • The speed of serve
  • How important the serve is
  • How dominant it is within that entire game

So to give you a clue, if you can win on serve 60% of the time then you’ll win a game about 80% of the time.

On a clay court, you may find that your odds of winning a point is 55% of the time in the women’s game, which would only lead you to win the overall game 60% of the time. But if we go to Wimbledon and you’re able to win a point on serve 70% of the time it gives you a near 90% chance of actually going on to win the entire game. The serve is very dominant and if you can get those first serves in with a decent amount of speed you stand a really good chance of winning the game.

So, as you can now tell, the main characteristic at Wimbledon is the service. It’s very easy to win a service game very hard to break serve and therefore when a serve is broken the price movement you see in the market is absolutely huge.

What is the chance of winning a service point & game

True to form, I went off and researched it and looked at the chance of winning a point on serve. So what we’re talking about here is when a player throws up the ball and smashes the ball over the net. What is the chance of a player winning a point on serve? So I looked at the male averages on the grass and it’s 65.3% of serves actually go on to create a point, on average. So, of course, some will be above that some will be below. For female players, the stat is 58%. If you look at clay that’s 60% for men and 53% for women but the benefit of that is, if you get that first serve in or you’re able to get a decent serve in, you’ve got a much higher chance of winning and that’s the dominant characteristic at Wimbledon. Now there’s a difference between male and female players but it’s still the same you get a big hitting women player and that will significantly influence the outcome of the event. You should also look at the taller players as well, if you look at some of the players that have a very long reach they can get the ball down over the net just that little bit faster which will become much more dominant.

So if we take that 65% chance of getting that first serve in and going on to win a point then you can actually translate that into the chance of a break possibly occurring. If a player is serving and wins a point on serve 65% of the time, that actually translates to about an 83.5% chance of going on to win the game.

The interesting thing about that, is it will take at least four games on serve before the chance of them getting broken is about equal to the chance of them winning the game – so you can see that’s very late in the set, and of course very late in the set, if a break occurs that will significantly alter the outcome of the set.

An ACE is worth more than a point

The chance of an ace at Wimbledon is very high because of the dominance of the serve, but the interesting thing when I looked at the stats, was that an ace is actually worth more than one point. What tends to happen when a player serves an ace, is they tend to be a little bit more bullish on their next serve and that very often leads to two easy points, once a player has served an ace which is a really odd statistic, but completely it’s completely true.

Profiting before a game is won

The interesting thing about looking at a tournament like Wimbledon is actually you are on the side of a server being able to win their particular game and the chance of a break is actually significant when it occurs, but it’s less likely to occur. The interesting thing about the individual situation within a game is that when a player is one or two points down on serve, that move can be quite significant, much more significant than you’ve seen in some of the other tennis tournaments.

So, if you’ve taken a position on a player to be able to get a break of serve and they actually go a point or two up it very often makes sense during a tournament like Wimbledon to trade out of that particular point and not wait until the end of the game. So whenever you’re looking for a break of serve in tennis, the way to do it is you need to take your position at a point in the market when the odds are very low and there’s less chance of downside within the market. Then what you’re saying is, I think there’s going to be a break in the next four, five or six games.

At Wimbledon, you need to be looking at a minimum of four games for that break to occur because that’s about the rate at which it begins to even out. Then you need to lay at this particular point. You are looking for a break of serve to occur (and hopefully it does) and then you can trade out for a profit. However, if you get to the point that you’ve predefined within that particular trade and the break doesn’t occur when you’re going to have to trade out for a loss.

If you want to figure out where those key points are, all you need to do is start up Tennis Trader. Click on the Tennis ball icon when you are looking at a match to bring up this incredibly useful too. You will then have all of the stats that are going to occur within the match, you can look at them by game, by set or you can even put your own custom score on there so you pitch your position into a favourable point in the market.

How service changes over a game

One of the unusual things I found when I was researching Wimbledon, was there was something really odd coming back at me repeatedly and that was when a player was 40-love up on serve they tended to really go for that serve. BUT when they were 40-love down, or it looked like they were about to be broken, they actually slowed down their serve.

Now of course, at that point you’ve got nothing to lose so you may as well serve at full speed but what I actually discovered was the players served at their weakest when they were love-40 down, which doesn’t make any sense. It must be a long term psychological issue. Obviously, they want to get the ball in but the problem is if you serve slower, then you’ve got more chance of losing that point, so it’s a curious bit of psychology.

The interesting thing about that particular statistic that players tend to serve it slower when they’re under pressure is that you see it across the entire game. If they are a point down, they tend to serve slower than if they’re a point up and if they’re two points down that’s much slower than if they’re a point down and if they’re three points down it’s even slower.

So, when a player has served a couple of good shots they’re likely to serve even harder on that third one but as their confidence drips away, they tend to slow their serve down, which gives their opponent the ability to attack. Knowing this should allow you to anticipate a better entry or exit point on your trade.

Wimbledon trading summary

Wimbledon is a really interesting tournament to trade, it doesn’t trade like any of the others. Breaks of serve tend to occur less frequently but when they do occur they will be significant. The serve is incredibly dominant, that’s a key characteristic of the game. I actually think that it detracts a bit from the tennis because when you see players playing on clay like at The Australian Open, that can be quite entertaining, whereas at Wimbledon it can just be a case of two guys slogging it out repeatedly.

Top trading tip for Wimbledon

When you are looking to trade tennis at Wimbledon, remember all these tennis trading strategies but most of all, look for that break a serve, understand that it’s going to be really significant at Wimbledon but also understand that it’s a bit harder to find than at other tournaments.

General view of the grounds of The Championships Wimbledon 2013 with Centre Court The Championships Wimbledon 2013 The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club Wimbledon Day 2 Tuesday 25/06/2013 Credit: Matthias Hangst / AELTC

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