What Is the Sets Handicap

What is the sets handicap in tennis?

Key Points

– Sets handicap in tennis is similar to point spread betting in other sports.

– Smart tennis bettors can find great sets handicap bets on underdogs.

What Is the Sets Handicap in Tennis?

Tennis betting is unique and also one of the most interesting and popular betting markets around the world. When bettors see the term “sets handicap” in reference to tennis, it is similar to the point spread in other sports.

In betting NFL football for example, two teams are evened out using a handicap – the point spread. It’s the same in tennis. Two players, one with a distinct advantage over the other, are placed on a level playing field by the addition of a handicap. In this case, we are referring to the sets handicap. A game handicap is also available in tennis betting.

Just like the point spread in other sports, the sets handicap reveals a favorite and an underdog. That allows tennis bettors to find strong bets on underdogs in matches.

Sets Handicap Example

Remember, the underdog or more inferior player is given the positive handicap. The favorite is given the negative handicap. The sets handicap bet in tennis is best suited for Grand Slam events or other men’s events that play a best-of-five sets match. 

The bet is still available in three-set matches, and is a solid wager when you think the underdog has a really good chance of winning at least one set. Let’s say you have a match between Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked player in the world and John Isner, the top American in tennis. Isner is a highly regarded player, but has never been ranked higher than No. 8.

We’ll say that Isner is listed at +2.5. Isner, who has one of the most powerful serves in tennis, might be able to win a set or two. He isn’t likely to win the match, but he might cover the 1.5-set spread.

Let’s say you like Isner and bet on him +2.5. Essentially, all you need is for Isner to win one set. If Djokovic wins 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1; he wins the match, of course. What he doesn’t do is cover the 2.5-set spread. Djokovic won three sets to one. In order for Djokovic to cover, he must win the match in three straight sets – 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, for example.

The sets handicap leveled the playing field and made an otherwise one-sided match much more interesting. It also gives bettors a shot at a big win on an underdog.


Tennis Game Handicap

Just like the sets handicap, tennis bettors can wager on the game handicap. It’s the same concept, but the bet is scored on games won, not sets. The great thing about handicap betting in tennis is that it often doesn’t matter which player wins the match.

Bettors can win and profit off of tennis bets in which their player of choice doesn’t emerge victorious. Let’s use Djokovic and Isner once again. This time, Isner is going to lose again in a three-set match. However, bettors are going to back the American to cover the game handicap.

The game handicap in this case is Isner +3.5. The match plays out like this: Djokovic wins the first set 7-5, loses the second 3-6, and wins the third set 7-5. When you add up the number of games won by each player, you see that Djokovic won 17. Isner, on the other hand, won 16 games.

Isner covers the game handicap in this case. Djokovic must win by four or more games in order for him to cover. Again, this is a great way for tennis bettors to profit on an underdog.

Finding Tennis Odds

Bettors can find tennis odds at most sportsbooks, but often have the most luck going offshore. Offshore sportsbooks typically have a wider selection of bets, including sports like golf and tennis.

They also offer better odds on all sports since they don’t face as much regulation and taxation as U.S.-based sportsbooks do. 

Shop Tennis Lines

One of the easiest tennis betting strategies to follow is shopping for the best lines and odds on all bets. Whether it is on the sets spread or game spread, bettors can still go out and find the best available line.

In the examples above, a half-point in one direction or the other could make a huge difference in how one might bet. It can also make a big difference in a win or a loss. Bettors can go out and find better juice at certain sportsbooks. That can go a long way in padding a bankroll.