Tennis Handicap Betting Explained or a Point Spread

November 15, 2022

Explanation of Tennis Handicap Betting (or a Point Spread)

One of the most well-known and fascinating tennis betting markets is handicap betting. The section below explains what tennis handicapping means and how you can make money using this market.

To start this off, it makes sense to inform the reader that handicap betting in tennis is the same as spread betting. Spread betting is a terminology more favored in the USA, while handicap betting is a more European term.

There are more than a dozen tennis markets to bet on top-rated tennis betting markets but to make a profit, and there are a lot of risks to be taken. Take the example of betting, where you have to put a bet on the result of a match, for instance, between John Isner and Novak Djokovic.

Most people will favor Novak Djokovic, but the odds are only 1.05 (1/20) on Novak Djokovic, which has value for players to earn enough money, while betting on Isner is too risky. There is a solution to this problem, & you can still bet on your favorite player w/ reasonably good betting odds. We are talking about tennis handicap betting, where one does not bet on the outcome of a tennis match.

Tennis Handicap or Spread

In tennis handicap betting, one player gives a distinct advantage. In contrast, the opposing player gave a disadvantage or a handicap to balance their chances of winning in the betting process.

In a tennis match, one player is the favorite to win on most occasions. Handicap betting focuses more on the performance of these two players than the match’s final result.

Games Handicap Betting (or Spread Betting)

Tennis Betting Type

Take the example of both matches between Isner and Djokovic above. Most people would favor Djokovic, and rightly so.

In the handicap market, let’s assume that the bookmaker gives John Isner a handicap of +3.5 games. It means John Isner has a 3.5-game lead. At the end of the best of three sets, say the match results are 6-7, 6-5, 4-6 in Novak Djokovic’s favor, meaning he won 18 games to John Isner’s 16.

But when we count the most games won after putting the +3.5 handicap on Isner, the result in Isner’s favor is 16+3.5=19.5 compared to Djokovic’s 18 games. Although Novak Djokovic won the match, John Isner is the winner of your bet after using the handicap.

Handicap Betting Types

There are two types of handicap betting, positive and negative handicap.

With a positive handicap, the weaker player gives an advantage of several games or a positive handicap, e.g., +2.5, +3.5 games, and more.

When the result comes out, this positive handicap adds to the final score of the weaker player, and the outcome of the bet is according to the handicap score.

With a negative handicap, the stronger player gets a disadvantage in several games, for example, -2.5. This negative handicap deducts from the stronger player’s total winning games at the end of the match, & the result of the bet is according to this deduction.

The above example gives three possible handicap betting results according to the positive handicap.

Different Possible Outcomes for this Bet

There are different probabilities of the outcome of a handicap bet.

Below is an Example of a Match between Djokovic and Isner:

Bet: Isner +3.5 Games Result of the Match Result of the Bet
Scenario 1 Djokovic wins 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 Lost
Scenario 2 Djokovic wins 6-3, 2-6, 6-4  Won
Scenario 3 Isner wins 7-6, 0-6, 7-6 Lost
Scenario 4 Isner wins 7-6, 6-7 , 7-6 Won


Moving on from the example given above, Djokovic defeated Isner 6-3, 4-6, and 6-2. Djokovic won 16 games, while John Isner won 11 games.

When we apply a handicap to the match, the result is 16 v 14.5 games favor Djokovic. The first possible result, Djokovic won the competition and still won after applying the handicap.

The second result of the match was as follows, Djokovic won the game 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 against Isner. That means Djokovic won the competition and pocketed two sets and 14 games to Isner’s one-set and 13-game win. After applying the handicap, the score favored John Isner, 16.5 v 14 games.

A second possible handicap outcome is that John Isner loses the match but is declared the defeater/winner of the bet when the handicap is applied.

The third and next possible match result is John Isner winning the match 7-6, 0-6, 7-6, and 2-1 sets. When we compare the game results, John Isner won 14 games against 18 games. After applying the handicap, Novak Djokovic wins the bet with 18 games against 17.5. Handicap betting is not concerned with the match’s outcome. Instead, it focuses on the performance of the two opposing players.

Also, the fourth scenario presented above is self-explanatory.

Set Handicap Betting (or Spread Betting)

It’s not too different from a handicap betting game. Switch the set games, and the lower-ranked players give a positive handicap and the superior-ranked player a negative one to allow the players to get better odds instead of one-sided.

It works better during Grand Slams when men’s matches play in best-of-five sets. However, you can use tennis handicaps with best-of-three set matches, especially if you think the underdog can win a set but is unlikely to succeed.

If you place your money on Set Handicap on Isner +1.5, you will take your bet’s first price if Isner has won one or two sets in the match. Djokovic would have to win outright for you to lose your be. Suddenly, a very one-sided matchup in Djokovic’s favor allows bettors to have a chance to win at better odds.

Tennis In-Play Handicap Betting

What is interesting is that some bookies also offer tennis handicap bets. It goes by the name Current Set Handicap.

Tennis bettors can extend handicap matches to one game in a set, meaning they can bet on the game number won in the current set while using a handicap. In the Djokovic-Isner example above, let’s assume the second handicap set is for Djokovic to win w/ a -2.5 handicap. It indicates that if the Serb wins three or more games, the bettor wins the bet.

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