How to Bet on Tennis, Part 1: Tournaments Basics & World Rankings

Betting on tennis, similarly to other sports betting, requires basic knowledge of the sport. Before placing a bet, we must know how events are organized during the tennis season, and we need to be familiar with the different types of tournaments as well as a number of factors that may influence our decision.

Below, we present you with a short overview of the world of tennis and tennis betting. This summary is aimed at beginners who are only just becoming acquainted with the sport, but advanced sports bettors can also find interesting information that will help them expand their knowledge and place more successful bets.

Tennis betting can be done all year round: almost every day there is a tennis tournament being organized somewhere around the world. However, the prestige of these tournaments varies greatly. Tennis tournaments differ mainly in two ways — the prize money they offer and the world ranking points that can be won at the tournament. So, let’s take look at both men’s and women’s tennis tournaments.

Men’s Tournaments

Grand Slams

In a season there are four Grand Slam tournaments, and every player that is in the top 30 of the 2015 year-end rankings has to take part in all four. These are the most prestigious tournaments, and they also offer the most ranking points.

  • The US Open is organized every year in New York, and it is played on a hard court. In 2015, its prize money purse was $42,253,000.
  • The French Open became popular under the name Roland Garros. It is organized in Paris on a clay court. In 2016, its total prize money was €32,017,500.
  • Wimbledon is organized in London on a grass court. It is one of the few tournaments to take place on a grass surface, but among them it is the biggest and the most prestigious one. Its total prize money in 2016 was £28,100,000.
  • The Australian Open is organized in Melbourne on a hard court. In 2016, its total prize money was AUD $44,000,000.

ATP World Tour Finals

This is the season-ending tournament, and only the first eight players in the ATP world rankings can participate. In 2016, the tournament will be organized on an indoor hard court in London with a total prize money of $7,000,000. An interesting fact is that unlike other tournaments, the ATP World Tour Finals is not a straightforward knock-out tournament. The players are divided into two groups of four, and the best two players of each group progress to the semi-finals.

ATP World Tour Masters 1000

In the 2016 season, nine tournaments will be held, in which all players in the top 30 of the 2015 year-end rankings have to participate: Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris. These are all prestigious tournaments, and after the Grand Slam, the most ranking points can be earned here. The total prize money of each tournament is between $4,000,000 and $8,000,000.

ATP World Tour 500 Series

In 2016, thirteen tournaments will be held in this series. According to the rules, all players in the top 30 of the 2015 year-end rankings have to participate in at least four of these tournaments during the season. The players can decide in which of the championships to take part. The total prize money of each is around $2,000,000.

ATP World Tour 250 Series

There are many events in this tour during the season. Players are not obliged to participate. The professionals can decide whether they would benefit from playing in one or more of these tournaments, but usually even the best players take part in these events.

Challenger Tour

The international tournaments in this series are organized by the ATP and offer less prize money, usually between $25,000 and $150,000. Because of the smaller prizes and the fewer opportunities to win ranking points, the players taking part are usually ranked between 100 and 500 on the world rankings.

Future Tour

This tournament series is organized by the ITF, and the events usually offer a total prize money between $10,000 and $15,000. These tournaments present a great opportunity for ambitious players who have not yet won any ATP ranking points.

Davis Cup

In this international team event, every player represents their own country. Despite the fact that no ATP ranking points are automatically awarded, all the best players take part in the tournament, with no exception. One of the reasons behind this is the prestige of representing one’s country. However, according to the current ranking system, the results players achieve at this tournament can also be included in their best six results from other tournaments as well (for more information on the ranking system, see below). Every Davis Cup consists of five matches (also known as “rubbers”): four singles and a doubles match. The first two matches are played by the singles players (those holding the first place in their team play against each other, and the same goes for those holding the second place), then the doubles match is played. Finally, the last two singles matches (“rubbers”) are played, in which case players of each team holding the first place play against an opponent holding the second place.

Women’s Tournaments

Grand Slams

These tournaments are organized at the same time and place as the men’s Grand Slams: the Australian Open, the US Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon. These are the most prestigious women’s tournaments.

WTA Tour Championships (WTA Finals)

This is a season-ending tournament which is the next most prestigious women’s championship after the Grand Slam tournaments. In 2016, it will be held in Singapore.

WTA Elite Trophy

this tournament has been organized in Zhuhai, China since 2015, taking the place of the WTA Tournament of Champions, with the participation of 12 individual players and 6 pairs. In 2015, the total prize money was $2,150,000.

WTA Premier Tournaments

There are 21 events in total, which are divided into three groups:

  • Premier Mandatory: There are four events in a season, which take place in Beijing, Indian Wells, Madrid, and Miami. The total prize money for each is around $6,000,000.
  • Premier Five: as the name suggests, there are five tournaments in this series, each with a prize money of $2,500,000, and which take place in Cincinnati, Doha, Montréal, Rome, and Wuhan.
  • Premier: in 2016, twelve tournaments will be held, each with a prize money of up to $1,000,000.

WTA International Tournaments

In 2016, 33 events will be organized, each with a total prize money of $225,000.

WTA 125K Series

These events are organized by the WTA and are often called WTA Challenger series. This way, it is easy to see their significance in comparison to the ATP Challenger series. Each tournament has a total prize money of $125,000.

ITF Women’s Circuit

These tournaments are organized by the International Tennis Federation, and players taking part in these events are usually young professionals who need to earn sufficient points in order to be able to qualify for the WTA tournaments.

Fed Cup

This is the women’s international team competition, or the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup. Similarly to the Davis Cup, all the best players take part in the event.

Calculation of Points and World Rankings

Men’s world rankings are called ATP Rankings for short, and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) is responsible for organizing the tournaments and determining the ranking method for the current season. The corresponding organization for women’s rankings is the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association).

ATP Ranking System

Both the men’s and women’s tennis associations update the world rankings weekly. The ranking system in tennis is somewhat special. In a tournament, a player may not only win points, but also lose points.

According to the ATP ranking system in 2015, the top 30 players in the 2016 year-end ranking receive world ranking points from the four Grand Slams, the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, the season-ending tournament (Barclays ATP World Tour Finals), as well as their 6 best results from other tournaments (ATP World Tour 500, ATP World Tour 250, ATP Challenger Tour, Future tournaments, and the Davis Cup).

The results achieved in the previous year have to be defended. This means that if a player reaches the semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament and receives 360 points, at the same tournament the following year, he has to retain that position or perform better. Тhe total number of points given for reaching the finals is 600. If in the following year the player reaches the finals, he will receive an additional 240 points, or the difference between his results at the two tournaments. Similarly, if in the second tournament, the player only reaches the quarter-finals, he will lose 180 points, and if he reaches the semi-finals again, his points will remain the same.

For the sake of clarity, in the table below we can see the points players receive in different tournaments depending on their standings:

W F SF QF R16 R32 R64 R128 Q
Grand Slams 2000 1200 720 360 180 90 45 10 25
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals 1500* 500** 400*** 200****
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 1000 600 360 180 90 45 10(25) -10 (1)25
ATP 500 500 300 180 90 45 -20 (2)20
ATP 250 250 150 90 45 20 -5 (3)12
Challenger 125,000 +H 125 75 45 25 10 5
Challenger 125,000 110 65 40 20 9 5
Challenger 100,000 100 60 35 18 8 5
Challenger 75,000 90 55 33 17 8 5
Challenger 50,000 80 48 29 15 7 3
Challenger 40,000 +H 80 48 29 15 6 3
Futures***** 15,000 +H 35 20 10 4 1
Futures***** 15,000 27 15 8 3 1
Futures***** 10,000 18 10 6 2 1
*Barclays ATP World Tour finals 1500 for undefeated Champion (200 for each round robin match win, plus 400 for a semi-final win, plus 500 for the final win).
** Final win
*** Semi final win
**** Round.robin match win
***** ATP Doubles Rankings points will be awarded in Futures tournaments beginning with the semi-final round.
(1) 12 points only if the main draw is larger than 56
(2) 10 points only if the main draw is larger than 32
(3) 5 points only if the main draw is larger than 32

WTA Ranking System

According to the WTA ranking system of 2016, the ranking points are calculated on the basis of the player’s best 16 tournament results in the past 52 weeks. It is obligatory to include the points won at the Grand Slams, the WTA Premier Mandatory, and the WTA Tour Championships. In the case of the top 20 players, the best two results from the WTA Premier Five tournaments are also included.

Besides the WTA rankings, there will be one more women’s ranking this year: the ‘WTA Road to Singapore’. According to its ranking system, the points players achieved during the previous year do not have to be defended, and only the points won in the 12 months starting from the beginning of the 2014 season count. A similar men’s ranking system by the name of the ATP Race was in effect until 2009, but it was then discarded.

The distribution of points in the tournaments differs from the above ATP ranking system:

W F SF QF R16 R32 R64 R128 QLFR
Grand Slams 2000 1300 780 430 240 130 70 10 40
WTA Championships 1500* 1050* 690* plus70/Round Robin Match, +160/RRW
Tournament of champions 375* 255* 18* plus25/RRM, +35/RRW
Premier Mandatory 1000 650 390 215 120 65 35 10 30
Premier Five 900 585 350 190 105 60 1 30
Premier 470 305 185 100 55 30 1 25
International events 280 180 110 60 30 1 18
WTA 125K Series 160 95 57 29 15 1 6