Daily Fantasy Tennis Strategy: DraftKings + FanDuel DFS Lineup Advice
This is a daily fantasy tennis strategy guide for how to select top plays, lineup advice, contest strategies, and more for tennis DFS on DraftKings and FanDuel. For further questions, please join our Discord channel.
This strategy guide is not intended to go in-depth on the intricacies of tennis, nor is it going to discuss detailed player news. Instead, it's meant to be a high-level road map for FanDuel and DraftKings daily fantasy tennis slates.
THE SCORING SYSTEM
DraftKings and FanDuel each offer a daily fantasy tennis product. The scoring systems are essentially identical: subtracting points for double faults, games lost, and sets lost, while adding points for aces, break points converted, winning games, sets, and the match itself. Both sites offer a bonus for winning matches in straight sets and winning a set six games to zero.
An overwhelming majority of fantasy points come from components of winning a match. If a player wins, they are very likely to score well. If they lose, they are very likely to score poorly. Similar to MMA DFS and LOL DFS, fantasy outcomes are usually binary in tennis DFS.
Aces and double faults are largely irrelevant for Tennis DFS, except in cases of the extreme positive for aces and the extreme negative for double faults.
Pinnacle Sportsbook is the best sportsbook to look at for tennis betting odds. There are a myriad of different ways to bet tennis, but for DFS purposes, the moneyline is far and away the most important.
In simple terms, the moneyline shows the chances a player wins their match outright.
Example: Roger Federer -150 / Rafael Nadal +130
In the above example, the bookmaker has Roger Federer as the favorite, denoted by the minus sign. They have Nadal as the underdog as denoted by the plus sign.
When dealing with moneyline odds, it is often helpful to convert them into percentages so that the brain can easily interpret how often each player is expected to win. By plugging the example into this no-vig odds calculator, we see that Federer has a 58% chance to win while Nadal has a 42% chance to win.
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Know Your Surfaces!
One aspect of daily fantasy tennis strategy that separates it from other sports is that the playing surface changes depending on the tournament. There are three playing surfaces currently in use on the main tours: clay courts, grass courts, and hard courts.
- CLAY COURTS are the slowest of the three surfaces and have the highest ball bounces. It favors players that move well, have high spin rates on their shots, and hit the ball accurately.
- GRASS COURTS are the fastest of the three surfaces with the lowest ball bounces. The court speed favors big servers and players with good net play.
- HARD COURTS play faster than clay courts but slower than grass courts. In a vacuum, hard courts favor players that can generate pace and hit through the court.
Note: Some tournaments play on “indoor hard courts” (as opposed to outdoor courts, of course). Indoor hard courts tend to play faster than outdoor hard courts because wind and sun glare are non-factors which allows players to play more aggressively.
Men vs Women - What are the Differences?
While Biology is a fun topic, that’s not what we’re here to discuss. Tennis DFS includes matches from both the ATP Tour (men) and WTA Tour (women). When the tours play simultaneously, they are often mixed on the same DFS slates. This is notable because the range of outcomes for both sexes can be quite different.
Women break each other’s serves with more regularity which means women’s matches have far more variance than men’s matches. It can lead to more lopsided score lines and more upsets. Additionally, women generally double fault at a much higher rate than men while also hitting far fewer aces.
The range of outcome discrepancy can be exacerbated at “Major” events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open) because women play “Best of Three Sets” matches while the men play “Best of Five Sets.” Best of Three is more conducive to upsets because of the smaller sample size of points being played.
Daily fantasy tennis is not a late swap game, so once lineups lock, there is nothing else that we can do to edit our lineups. If lucky, news can arrive before lock and we must react accordingly.
Depending on what round a player withdraws, a “lucky loser” (a player that lost in qualifying matches and did not make the main draw) can take their place and DFS scoring for the other player that did not withdraw will occur as normal.
In other scenarios, the player benefiting from the withdrawal can receive a “walkover” (a free pass into the next round) and will only receive a small bonus score in DFS. The withdrawing player in both scenarios will receive a fantasy point score of zero.
The best source of information regarding when players withdraw is found on Twitter. For the ATP, the best account to look at is @EntryLists. For the WTA, the best account to follow is @WTA_Insider.
Daily Fantasy Tennis Strategy: Lineups & Tips
Low-risk tennis DFS contest selection:
The best possible low-risk contests to play are H2Hs. Users that have access to the under $5 lobbies should use this to their advantage and avoid going heads-up against the sharper players at higher buy-in levels unless it is necessary.
The next best contests to enter are 50/50’s and double-ups. Look for contests with inexperienced users and overlay to increase ROI potential.
Low-risk lineup construction:
The number one goal of low-risk lineups is to maximize the win probability of the entire lineup. In short, comparing Vegas odds to player salary. The players that have the best chances to win compared to their DFS salaries should be in strong consideration for low-risk lineups. Similar to MMA DFS, we're looking for any players who are "mispriced" compared to their moneylines.
Aces, double faults, the margin of victory, and projected ownership generally do not matter. The one caveat is when two players project about the same to win, but one player has a top 90th percentile ace rate and the other is below the 50th percentile. In this case, the floor of the player with a significantly better ace rate is much higher, so giving them extra consideration is OK.
The “construction” or “look” of a low-risk lineup changes slate to slate. Sometimes, a low-risk lineup will include six small-to-moderate favorites. Other times, it may have two underdogs, two monster favorites, and two small-to-moderate favorites. Sometimes, it is viable to punt with the lowest-priced player and play five moderate-to-big favorites. It is entirely slate-dependent.
High-risk contest selection:
Unlike some other niche DFS sports, tennis offers a vibrant satellite lobby. Additionally, for those living in the western hemisphere, lineup lock often comes in the middle of the night when the tour plays in Europe/Asia/Australia. This leads to fewer people hunting for overlay which night owls can use to their advantage.
The most plentiful high-risk contest offerings are the single-entry GPP and three-max GPP with buy-ins available at all bankroll levels. Other good contests to look for are leagues, smaller GPPs, and triple-ups.
For a more in-depth discussion on contest selection for both low-risk and high-risk contests, consult the Ultimate Guide.
High-risk lineup construction:
The first thing to note is that positive correlation does not exist in tennis DFS. “Stacking” is not a term that exists in this game. Players competing against each other are highly negatively correlated, so do not play two players from the same match under any circumstance (the same approach taken in MMA DFS and LOL DFS).
One of the most important aspects of high-risk tennis DFS play is picking players with the potential for a high margin of victory (in terms of games won minus games lost). There is a massive difference in fantasy points between winning a set 6-4 with one break of serve and winning a set 6-1 with multiple breaks of serve. Being able to win sets by margin is a quick way to shoot up the leaderboard.
The best way to gauge ownership is by looking at moneyline odds compared to fantasy salary. Players that rate out as good values based on this comparison are more likely to be highly owned.
A second factor that significantly contributes to ownership are players that can generate massive amounts of aces. The tennis DFS community loves rostering these players, even as sizable underdogs. As a double whammy, these high ace rate players are often from the United States and Canada which can introduce familiarity bias as the tennis DFS community is concentrated in these countries.
That last point transitions nicely into the final note on ownership — name brand athletes (a.k.a. the well-known superstars) almost always come in higher owned than similarly priced no-names in the same salary range. This point is especially true for Major events when more recreational users enter the tennis DFS lobbies.
Because of how correlated fantasy salaries are to the moneyline odds, it is generally inadvisable to leave oodles of salary on the table. On healthy slate sizes (16 matches or more), not maxing out the salary cap (or coming close to doing so) is not a wise strategy.
The exception to this rule is when the slate size condenses significantly to 10 or fewer matches. In this case, securing a unique lineup is paramount, and leaving salary on the table is one avenue to get there.
These are the basic daily fantasy tennis lineup strategies -- adhere to these and you'll be ahead of the field.
Looking for Tennis Stats?
The most comprehensive site for both men and women's tennis stats is tennisabstract.com. Aces, double faults, and plenty more can be found there.
Where to Sweat Daily Fantasy Tennis
Although not required without the need to monitor lineups for late swap, sweating tennis DFS can be incredibly intense as every point matters to the success of a player.
The best place to watch tennis on TV is the “Tennis Channel.” They have exclusive rights to nearly every single non-Major tournament across the world. For a large majority of the season, the Tennis Channel (and their subscription service, Tennis Channel Plus) is where viewers can watch the premier matches of the day. Tennis Channel and TC+ also have exclusive rights to the French Open.
For the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open, ESPN has the TV rights in the United States, and ESPN+ subscribers can get access to all match courts to pick and choose what they want to watch.
To monitor matches on a point-by-point basis and see final scores, the best app/website to bookmark is FlashScore.com. They provide lightning-fast point-by-point updates and tons of relevant match stats that can be filtered by set. FlashScore also lets users select “favorite” matches/players which can keep all of the matches a user wants to follow in one easy-to-access tab.
Of course, you can and should sweat (and tilt!) live tennis matches with other Occupy Fantasy members in our Discord.
This daily fantasy tennis strategy guide was produced by Ross Shinberg, a multi-time qualifier for DraftKings' King of the Baseline tennis final. You can follow Ross on Twitter at @RossShinberg.