“Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility”. These words, said by the great American player Billie-Jean King, perhaps best sum up the underlying competitiveness of the game of tennis, which is steeped in tradition and sportsmanship.

While this World Gambling List correspondent’s fascination with tennis starts and finishes with watching, admiring and punting on the sport, it is easy to imagine the little yellow ball being the sole focus of your intent, despite 20,000 people on tenterhooks, hanging on your every stroke, just waiting to explode into rapturous applause or groans as one of the on-court gladiators makes a mistake.

Four times a year the best players on the planet bludgeon it out at the Grand Slams, held in this order: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Brief history of tennis

It is said tennis originated in northern France in the 12th century, but it took a vastly different form to the game we know today. The players used their hands to strike the ball and it was hit against a wall.

“Real tennis” had many admirers through history with mentions in literature by King Henry VIII, Shakespeare and in many medieval scrolls and stories. It was and is still played in, basically, an enlarged squash court with a net in the centre, with players able to use the walls on either side and the back of the court to their advantage.

As early as the 15th century the term ”tennis” came into vogue, and racquets began to replace gloves, which had become commonplace to assist with striking the ball.

It was not until the mid 1800s it began to resemble today’s game, with the birth of lawn tennis.

Sometime after 1850, Englishman Major Harry Gem and his Spanish friend, Augurio Perera, by the sounds of it were hamming it up and combined the English game rackets and the Spanish ball game Pelota, playing it on a croquet green in Edgbaston. We can picture it now: the two gentlemen downing a few too many ales before stumbling out on to the green to sort out their issues with a hybrid version of their national sports.

Another important-sounding gent, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, then patented a game which was similar to what was eventually to become tennis. The most interesting part of Wingfield’s contribution was the terminology he used, which was adapted from the French game being played at the time.

The game simply became known as lawn tennis in later years, with Mary Ewing Outerbridge credited for bringing the game to the United States in 1874, after learning to play in Bermuda.

While most tennis tournaments are now played on clay and synthetic surfaces, arguably the most prestigious and famous tournament – Wimbledon – is played on grass at London’s All England Club. The World Gambling List promises to lead the riots if this tradition ever changes.

Grand Slam tennis tournaments

The big four are played in Australia, France, England and the United States every year. The grand slams attract the best players from all over the globe and the court surfaces and tournament subtleties mean there are different live winning chances at each event.

Australian Open: The first major of the year, played in January’s sweltering Melbourne conditions on a hardcourt. The centre court is named after Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, the only man to have won an Australian Open title in both the amateur era and the professional era. Roy Emerson (6) won the most opens in the amateur era, while current-day superstar Novak Djokovic has the best record in the modern era.

French Open: The only major played on clay, which traditionally suits baseliners and players who have grown up playing on the surface. Over two weeks in late May/June, it is held at Roland Garros in Paris, with Court Philippe Chatrier the main arena at the stunning tennis centre in France’s capital. The tournament is the jewel in the crown of the claycourt season.

Wimbledon: Played in June-July at the All England Tennis Club in the leafy London suburb of Wimbledon. Has made legends of many including Djokovic and his arch rival Roger Federer. Federer and Pete Sampras hold the record of seven Wimbledon titles each. Martina Navratilova is the undisputed Queen of Wimbledon with nine singles titles between 1978 and 1990.

US Open: Played in New York at Flushing Meadows and starting on the last Monday each August, the US Open is fought out on hardcourt and is the final grand slam of the year. The centre court, Arthur Ashe Stadium, is named after the three-time grand slam champion and first black player to represent the United States in the Davis Cup. Sampras, Federer and Jimmy Connors have five titles each in the professional era. Serena Williams and Chris Evert each have six women’s titles.

Other notable tennis tournaments

The Davis Cup: Every nation fights it out for one of the oldest and traditionally most prestigious men’s titles. The Davis Cup contributes zero rankings points to players, so these days it is an ongoing struggle to get the best players from each country playing. The United States has been the most successful nation in the tournament with 32 titles, followed by Australia on 28.

The Fed Cup: Similar to the Davis Cup, but for the elite women’s players in the world.

ATP World Tour Finals: The season-ender for the men’s tour, played indoors, on hardcourt at London’s 02 Arena each November. It features a hefty prize pool and the world’s top eight-ranked singles players and doubles pairs.

WTA World Tour Championships: A similar scenario to the men’s season-ending event, though the tournament venue changes each year and only the top four doubles pairs compete.

How to bet on tennis?

It depends where you are as to how you can bet on tennis. For instance, readers in the USA have serious restrictions on sports betting and need to delve a little deeper to be able to wager on your favorite tennis players and tournaments.

This website strongly endorses punting online as the betting options are greater, it’s a more user-driven experience, the odds are usually more generous and the global reach of online betting sites cannot be matched.

You need to find a website suitable for your jurisdiction, that has no problem firstly accepting a player from your country of origin and, secondly, won’t give you any grief during the cash-out process after you have had a win. Finally, you need to do your homework when choosing a betting site, using sites such as this one, to find a bookmaker or sportsbook suitable for you.

Global bookie Bet365 accepts bettors from more than 200 countries and offers a huge selection of markets on tennis, especially around the times of the four majors.

The big British corporates all offer a similar product but have vastly different bonus schemes and rewards programs and varying reputations for accepting bigger bets.

Types of tennis bets

Betting on tennis can be as simple as picking who you think will win the match, or as complicated as how many games a player will win for a match.

You can multi or parlay up several picks, a difficult proposition but one that could reap handsome rewards. While not every bookie will offer all of these bet types you will find the variety increases when the grand slams and bigger tournaments are nearing, or are in progress.

Head to head or match betting: A straightforward bet. Means you are wagering on the outcome of the match.

Handicap or line betting: Hugely popular type of bet on tennis. It works like this: If, for example, you back Novak Djokovic to cover a -7 game line against Richard Gasquet you would need the result to go along these lines. Djokovic wins 6-2, 6-2 (6+6 = 12) – (2+2= 4) = 8. Meaning Djokovic has covered the –7 game line and your bet is a winner.

Over/Under: You will see this type of betting on many sports. In tennis it might be on the total games played by the players. For instance, in a three-set game with a hot favorite the bookies might set the over/under at 15½ games. So you can either back the game to run longer than 15½ games or have it shorter than the magic number. The bookies’ traders set the bar in the middle and price the over and under at the same amount.

Prop bets: Proposition bets are called novelty markets in some countries. These can be on anything from what color dress Serena Williams will wear in her second-round match to how many games Djokovic will drop for the entire tournament or how many aces a player will fire in a certain match. These are markets created by the bookies and often favor them heavily.

Best movies about tennis

The general consensus in the World Gambling List’s cocoon of all things sports is that you must REALLY like tennis if you can name a handful of quality tennis movies. In fact, we struggled to find any really good movies featuring it at all. At a pinch you could watch that flick from a few years back with Kirsten Dunst, but the reality is that tennis hardly lends itself to Hollywood films.

Wimbledon: Dunst plays a champion American tennis pro who falls for the main character, a struggling British player, who had just decided to chuck the game away. The tennis is awful, the storyline is dubious but we needed something to write about.

While Hollywood has struggled to make any quality tennis films, there have been several good tennis documentaries made.

The Journeymen: We read about and follow the lives of the best tennis players on the tour. But this doco shows just how tough tour life can be for the players making up the numbers. It follows American doubles players Mark Keil and Geoff Grant, who show with a touch of humor what it is like as struggling players.

Pete Sampras – Beyond the Glory: Some say he’s the best ever but he was not without criticism during his fabulous career. This doco gives insight into the man behind what could only be described as a machine of a tennis player.