After two weeks of glorious, rain-free tennis action, Wimbledon fortnight is over and it was certainly one of the best in recent memory. Simona Halep won her second grand slam toppling the queen of SW19 Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic overcame the mighty Roger Federer in the longest men’s final in history to secure his fifth Wimbledon title. More importantly, how did my ‘set and forget’ tennis strategies perform over the course of the championships? Let’s find out.
This is a follow-up post to the original one that I posted on the first day of the Championships – you can revisit that here. In that post, I explained how I would be deploying some ‘set and forget-style strategies‘ for gaining exposure to certain matches during the tournament, especially in the early rounds where there are so many matches per day. These strategies were intended to mimic (as best as possible) some of the typical trades I would take when trading tennis matches in-play and allow me to bet on many more matches than I could physically trade at one time.
Over the past two weeks, I have maintained a live results page which has tracked my results for each day of the tournament broken out by the three strategies I have developed and which build from my earlier tennis modelling efforts. The frequency and combinations of these strategies varied each day, driven by the pre-match research that I carried out before the start of play every morning. Before I explain in a little more depth what these strategies were aiming to do, I’ll first summarise the results of the Wimbledon Project.
As the chart below shows, the Wimbledon Project was a successful one. All in all, a total of 132 bets were placed across the two week period, risking £1,392.54 in stakes for a total profit (net of all exchange commissions) of £387.50. That translates into a total ROI of 27.83%. The strike rate of winning bets was 62%. You can check out the full interactive chart here.
Stake sizes were kept reasonably low at £10 per bet initially, but I did start to increase the stake sizes in the later rounds of the tournament as the number of matches dropped significantly peaking at £20 per bet.
As you can see, the first few days were somewhat mixed with two consecutive losing days following a positive first day. These were still largely first round matches (of which there were many) and 2nd round matches.
Grand Slams have by far the largest field of players and these first few days saw upwards of 50 bets per day. Whether that had any bearing I’m not so sure, but there were certainly some matches where players looked unfit or were just going through the motions in order to get paid. Here there were some results that defied the odds and pre-match research by some margin but it can happen at large events like this.
Losing a 1st round match at Wimbledon returned something in the region of £47,000 which is a sizable payday for some of the lower ranked players on tour and we saw instances of players being fined some or all of their prize money for failing to put in a professional effort – such as notoriously controversial Bernard Tomic.
Once into round 2 and onwards the results were largely positive every day and the ‘portfolio approach’ of these three strategies helped to add some diversification in returns. This was intentional and I’m pleased to see that largely play out.
In terms of the strategies themselves, the following table breaks down the daily results. You can see that Strategy 1 contributed more than 50% (£200.28) of the overall profit despite a couple of losing days towards the end. In fact, this strategy was comfortably the most deployed of the three. Strategies 2 and 3 each played their part though, contributing around 22-26% of the total profit. I’ll now explain a little more what each strategy was and the type of trade they were targetting.
Strategy 1 was a method that sought to back moderate-to-strong pre-match favourites who I felt were very likely to win their matches based on my pre-match research of each player. Of course, these favourites were largely recognised as such by the bookies and on the exchanges and as such, offered very poor value at their starting prices which would typically be in the 1.10 to 1.45 range.
So rather than backing them pre-match at these low odds, I would determine their likely price in the event of having their service game broken or losing the first set and place orders in the market to back these players should these higher, more value prices get hit. When trading in-play, backing a favourite after losing the opening set is a common entry point for this reason. In either scenario the price of these favourites might jump anywhere from 30-70 ticks, offering a far more favourable price to back these favourites. How many time do you see a favourite have a slow start before recovering strongly? It happens all the time and this strategy is perfect for these occasions. I’d much rather get a price of 1.8 or evens on a top 10 player than backing him before the match at 1.2 or lower.
Even as a match stays very tight, as the sets progress you also get an element of time decay, which will elevate player prices higher than their starting prices, especially in late set 2 and onwards. So it was possible to back pre-match favourites well above evens in some cases or slightly under evens for heavy favourites.
Of course, there were many matches where the favourites cruised to an easy win and never looked troubled and so in these cases, my orders were simply not triggered so no harm was done. Equally, there are always upsets in the early rounds, and indeed a few heavy favourites suffered losses and that led to some of those trades losing.
For more reading on how you can identify (ahead of time) the likely prices of a player winning the first set, and how these can inform a low-risk entry point when trading in-play, you can check out an earlier post I wrote on the subject here.
Moving onto Strategy 2 and the aim here was to focus on the underdogs rather than the favourites. Whereas in strategy 1 I was seeking to back obvious favourites at better odds in play, strategy 2 was reserved for those matches where I felt the underdog was mispriced by the market and had the potential to cause the favourite some difficulty.
Importantly, I am not determining that they can ultimately win the match (albeit its possible), rather that they have the potential to run the favourite closer (and thereby create a swing in odds) than the pre-match odds might have suggested. All I needed here was a small price swing at some point during the match to engineer a profitable outcome.
So the approach was to identify these mispriced underdogs and back them at their good value starting prices and then place orders in the market to lay those same players once their prices had halved in value. This would occur if indeed they did manage to take a lead, break the favourites serve; win the first set etc.
The lay bet would then be double the stake of the back bet, which if triggered, would leave an equal profit on either player. So, should the favourite get back into the game or the underdog goes on to win, I’d profit by the same amount. The only losses occurred when that lay side of the bet was not triggered – i.e. they underdog never really threatened the favourite and the odds just drifted higher from where I initially backed them from the start.
So, while used less than Strategy 1, Strategy 2 worked quite well for those slight mismatches that you see all the time in tennis, such as when a higher ranked player who hates the grass faces a lower ranked grass court specialist etc.
Finally, there was Strategy 3. This one was quite similar in many ways to Strategy 2 in that it sought to side with underdogs that I felt stood a better chance than their odds suggested – again based on my match specific research. While Strategy 2 aimed to secure a profit on both players if and when the underdog got their noses in front, Strategy 3 was reserved for the very best underdog picks – those that stood the best chance of winning and causing an upset.
Here, having identified the matches where I felt this to be the case, I would lay the favourite at their starting price and place an order in the market to back the favourite once their price had doubled in value (i.e. once they start to get behind in a match) for half the original stake. This essentially removed all the liability on the favourite and left all the profit potential on the underdog. If triggered, it was essentially a risk-free bet on the underdog. If the favourite went on to win it was a scratch trade and if the underdog won, I’d double my stake.
As with Strategy 2, this also worked well on those occasions where underdogs stood out as having a fighters chance of causing an upset. As you’d expect, there were many trades that were triggered but where the favourite got back into the match and won, resulting in scratch trades, but occasionally if worked out well and was a nice diversifier to Strategies 1 and 2.
So there we have it – a successful Wimbledon Project using pre-determined orders in the market to mimic (as best as possible) some of the most profitable in-play trading strategies in a set & forget style.
Obviously, two weeks and just a hundred or so bets is a small sample size to truly judge this on, but I’m pleased that it is possible to bet in this style and in a way that gets around having to watch and trade matches in play, which can be time-consuming and where you can only realistically trade 1-2 matches at a time. I’d say these passive strategies are still sub-optimal versus trading in-play but they are a pretty good substitute.
I’m always testing new ideas with tennis trading and I think these three certainly pass the test and will remain active in my betting arsenal for the foreseeable future.
I hope you enjoyed following along with my results and that you enjoyed Wimbledon in general. The grass season is short and Wimbledon pretty much spells the end of grass court tournaments for the season. Soon the tour moves onto the hard courts of North America ahead of the U.S. Open – the final slam of the season. The second half of the year has historically been very lucrative for tennis betting/trading and I’m looking forward to continuing to push things forward in this area.
If you have any questions or are interested in knowing more let me know in the comments below. I’m starting to think about a dedicated site for tennis trading with courses to teach these and other strategies.
Until the next time!