First Set Betting – Tennis Betting Strategy

A look at shortening a match with First Set focus

Best Strategies for Betting

A tennis betting strategy of shortening the match to just the first set is a way that you can trim your betting time on a match. For our example we are looking at an actual match from August 25th, 2018 between Timea Bacsinszky v Aleksandra Krunic on the WTA Tour.

This match offered up some good odds for us to look at for our tennis strategy and we spotted an opportunity to straight up cut out some risk on the match.

The outright odds at be365 for the match were Bacsinszky 8/11 and Aleksandra Krunic 11/10. So there was a clear favourite in the match and we would have fully supported Baschinsky to win.

But then upon looking at the Set 1 Winner market at the same bookmaker, we found the exact same 8/11 odds on Bacsinszky to win that opening set.

So what does that mean? You get the same value odds basically for having Bacsinszky win one set as opposed to two. So if you look at it that way, the efforts that she would need to put in to win your bet for you would be a lot less than if you were waiting for her to win the match outright.

That’s definitely an improvement in less risk on the bettors end in that regard.

At the end of the day though, that first set is still a 50/50 shot, just as the outcome of the match in so much as Bacsinszky would either win or lose. But for a solid favourite in a match, it represents a lot of value when you stack it up against the original price of her winning the match outright.


So what if Baczinsky had lost that opening set? Well, that could actually create a nice opportunity to respond with. If she had lost that opening set then her odds in the in-play winner market would have drifted for the favourite. So in backing her to come good in the match after dropping the first set, backing her through live in-play betting at that point would have crated the opportunity to compensate for some losses on the original bet.

We never recommend chasing losses, so this is something that would need to be balanced with your bankroll before placing your original bet. The other approach would be to lay Timea Bacsinszky before the start of the match and then get that straight single wager down on her to win the opening set. If she lost the opening set then her potential chances of winning the match outright naturally decrease substantially and if that was to happen then you would be covered by the lay.

First Set Focus

There are two schools of thought about First Set betting in tennis. The first is that it is an advantage for a player to be serving first in the set because it is always better to be playing from a position of being ahead rather than consistently playing catch up.

The counter argument is a simple one, in that it is better to receive first in the opening set because while players are warming up into the match, there is a greater likelihood that service games are not going to be quite as sharp.

So you can break this down a bit into smaller bite-size chunks by looking at first game winner odds. If this is the favorite in the match who is up to serve first then there is a pretty decent chance that they are going to get that first game on the board.

That immediately does put pressure on the service game of the underdog. So that’s a solid scenario to look for and to focus on for your first set betting live in-play.

What the Stats Say

We looked at some stats and there is roughly an 87% probability that the player serving in the opening game of an ATP match will win that game. Over on the WTA, you are looking around a 74% probability. So the stats clearly indicate that the first server in the match is likely to bank an opening game win and that should be a strong platform from which to push forward.

But what about that opening set win? On both the ATP and the WTA it is around a 55% probability that the player serving first in the opening set of a match is going to go on and win that set. That is a higher probability than what the numbers tell us about the chance of the first server in a set winning any other respective set in the match.

For example, there is around a 43% probability of the first server in the third set of a men’s match-winning that set. So that is why it is worth focusing on the First Set Winner more than any of the others.


The first set betting option as a tennis strategy does have very good appeal. It is one of those situations where small bets can return a positive, cumulative return. We fully, as with most tennis betting strategies, recommend sticking with live in-play betting for tennis. That is because it can be quite a volatile market.

For example, there are a lot of compression points, or pressure points if you like in matches where prices will fluctuate greatly. Such as in a player facing a breakpoint on their service games. There are great opportunities available in tennis betting through a good live in-play betting portal.