The Wimbledon Championships are two of the biggest events in sports wagering.
Bettors collectively fire thousands upon thousands of wagers over a two-week stretch on men’s and women’s tennis futures, matches and in-play wagering. The in-play boom has exploded across America ever since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
“Eighty-five percent of our tennis handle is in-play wagering,” PointsBet trading director Jay Croucher told NESN. “There has been a major shift to in-play markets over the last 12 months. Bettors love to wager on things like next point and next game winner. We actually write more handle on tennis than we do on hockey.”
Leading up to day one of Wimbledon, bettors line up to fire bets on which players will win their respective brackets. Novak Djokovic (-130) is the prohibitive men’s favorite thanks to recent form along with the absence of Rafael Nadal in this year’s field. A -130 betting favorite implies around a 56 percent chance of probability.
So oddsmakers are telling you it’s more likely that Djokovic wins than gets eliminated.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Croucher said. “The only real precedents are Nadal (-120) at this year’s French Open and Djokovic (-140) at last year’s U.S. Open. It’s very rare that someone in this short in a major.”
Djokovic was plus-money to win his sixth Wimbledon crown before Nadal’s withdrawal, which caused a domino rally in the men’s future book. That plus on The Joker transformed into a minus pretty quickly.
“When Nadal (+600) withdrew as the second favorite, the allocation of the book got distributed to other players,” Croucher explained. “Djokovic was the major beneficiary because he went from +150 to -130. We saw some good action on Stefanos Tsitsipas from +750 to +600. He’s the real big up-and-comer. And we also shortened guys like Daniil Medvedev (+700) and Matteo Berrettini (+1200).
“But people are still backing Djokovic,” Croucher reported. “Bettors are happy to support him because of how good he looked at the French and how wide-open this tournament is for him. Djokovic has easily been the most popular bet on the men’s side.”
All that support for Djokovic reminds me of the way bettors used to wager on Tiger Woods when he was the most dominant athlete in the universe. Bookmakers used to open Woods at 2 or 3-to-1 to win a golf major and would still write insane handle on him even at those odds.
“In Tiger’s absolute prime, he was very close to even money in some majors,” Croucher recalled. “That’s absurd. A golf favorite in today’s era goes off at around 10-to-1. Tiger was in his own stratosphere.”
On the women’s side, six-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams (+600) is now the betting favorite, although that wasn’t always the case. Serena was on the three-line behind Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka when PointsBet opened the future betting.
“Osaka was +700 and the second favorite behind Barty when we opened up” Croucher said. “When Osaka withdrew, we had Barty (+600) and Serena (+650) one and two. Then we took some money on Serena and flipped her to the favorite. But there are 11 players with odds at 30-to-1 or shorter compared to only six the men’s side. There’s more parity in the women’s tournament.”
Parity or not, Williams’ name still moves the meter when it comes to the big events.
“She’s the biggest name in the women’s game,” Croucher declared. “It’s like the tax you pay on Brooks Koepka to win a golf major. People just flock to the name. So they see Serena around +600 and it’s an automatic bet. She’s been our most heavily-bet player on the women’s side by a considerable margin.”