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When Tennis Bets Go Wrong… for Bookies

Betting is not like any other form of gambling. When all the games at the best online casino are 99% chance and maybe 1% skill or strategy, in betting, things are predictable. This predictable nature of sports allows bookmakers to set (more or less correct) odds for the outcome of matches.

In tennis, there’s always a favorite and an underdog – a good indicator of which player is which is the player’s global ATP or WTA rank. When you have Novak Djokovic (ATP #5) and Grigor Dimitrov (ATP #28) on the same court, you tend to expect the former to be the winner. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it. But these predictions can go wrong because of a variety of factors both for those placing the best, and those paying out the wins. Because bookmakers do get things wrong sometimes, resulting in some of the most surprising amounts paid out as wins.

Denis Istomin

Another wildcard entry to a major tournament to perform surprisingly well was Denis Istomin, an Uzbek professional tennis player with a career-high of #33. In 2017, ranked #127 at the time, he earned a wildcard to the Australian Open and ended up facing tennis legend Novak Djokovic – then #2 – in the second round. The odds of him winning were 30 to 1.

Against these odds, not only did he defeat Nole, but he also plowed through Pablo Carreño Busta in the third round, being stopped by Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth.

Steve Darcis

Finally, let us mention another player who made history as an underdog in a match, certainly upsetting countless bettors – and most of the bookies as well: Belgian player Steve Darcis.

Darcis was facing legendary player Rafael Nadal in the first round of the 2013 Wimbledon tournament. Everyone expected Nadal to go through him like through butter, considering the 130-place difference between the rankings of the two. But Darcis defied the odds, becoming the first player in history to defeat Nadal in the first round of a major tournament. And the lowest-ranking player to do so, as well. All this with odds of 45 to 1 posted by the bookies.

Goran Ivanisevic

Bookmakers offer truly big payouts for bets on players who are considered to have little to no chance of winning a tournament. This was the case with Goran Ivanisevic, with a long history of Wimbledon losses behind him.

Ivanisevic entered the 2001 Wimbledon tournament as a wildcard, after losing in four previous editions. His career high was #2 – but when entering the tournament, he was 125th in the ATP rankings. As such, he had all the markings of an underdog, with bookies posting odds of 150 to 1 for him to win the tournament.

But his performance at Wimbledon was one for the history books. Not only did he go on to win the tournament – the only wildcard to do so in the history of the tournament – but he also did so with the highest ace count in the tournament’s history at the time (206).

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.