Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Novak-Djokovic-Australian-Open-2012-ChampionNovak Djokovic (above), the prohibitive favorite to threepeat in Melbourne.


Alexandr Dolgopolov



Andy Murray



Bernard Tomic



David Ferrer



David Nalbandian



Fernando Verdasco



Gael Monfils



Gilles Simon



Janko Tipsarevic



Jerzy Janowicz



Jo-Wilfried Tsonga



Juan Martin Del Potro



Kei Nishikori



Kevin Anderson



Lleyton Hewitt



Marcos Baghdatis



Marin Cilic



Milos Raonic



Nicolas Almagro



Novak Djokovic



Richard Gasquet



Roger Federer



Ryan Harrison



Sam Querrey



Stanislas Wawrinka



Tomas Berdych


__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __


Agnieszka Radwanska



Ana Ivanovic



Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova



Andrea Petkovic



Angelique Kerber



Caroline Wozniacki



Daniela Hantuchova



Francesca Schiavone



Jelena Jankovic



Julia Goerges



Kaia Kanepi



Laura Robson



Maria Kirilenko



Maria Sharapova



Marion Bartoli



Mona Barthel



Na Li



Nadia Petrova



Petra Kvitova



Sabine Lisicki



Samantha Stosur



Sara Errani



Serena Williams



Shuai Peng



Sloane Stephens



Svetlana Kuznetsova



Venus Williams



Victoria Azarenka



Yanina Wickmayer



Australian Open Ladies Champion Odds — 2012

Radwanska:  + 2500

Ivanovic:  + 3000

Pavlyechenkova:  + 6000

Wozniacki:  + 1200

Cibulkova:  + 15000

Hantuchova:  + 8000

Pennetta:  + 8000

Schiavone:  + 8000

Gadjosova:  + 20000

Jankovic:  + 6000

Goerges:  + 8000

Kanepi:  + 1500

Clijsters:  + 700

Safarova:  + 2000

Sharapova:  + 2000

Bartoli:  + 4000

Li:  + 2000

Petrova:  + 15000

Kvitova:  + 250

Lisicki:  + 4000

Stosur:  + 1200

Serena:  + 350

Peng:  + 10000

Kuznetsova:  + 4000

Zvonareva:  + 3000

Azarenka:  + 700

Wickmayer:  + 15000

Field:  + 2000


No big surprises here.  Hot as fire Mona Barthel, who just won at Hobart and who had to come through the quallies there as well, we think should be included on this list, but it would be the height of unlikeliness to see her walk away with hardware.  Though we’ll be betting she makes a fair impression this week.  As for the rest of the field, well, Vegas might appear to be getting lazy, but we respect these odds.  Sharapova getting paid very little mind, Li, a very dangerous player and major champion who plays well on the Plexicushion, also is paid very little mind.  You know, if you are of a pre-tourny betting mind, we’d say Li Na makes a lot of sense on a flyer.  Schiavone, who is also a major champ, treated here like a nobody with the field being given four times better odds.  Ouch.

In short, Vegas only respects tried and true real deals.  Which Wozniacki is not.  Obviously.  Is this another indictment on Wozniacki’s most uninspired game?  Not yet it’s not.  But check back with us in about 10 days.  We mentioned earlier in the week that we watched her lose to Radwanska the other day.  No surprise there.  But it gave us a chance to really get reacquainted with her game.  She has two second serves.  No forehand whatsoever.  The winners she hits on the forehand are placement winners.  And they are few and far between.  At one point we counted about 25 real time minutes between forehand winners and when she broke the spell, it was because Radwanska had gone so deep behind the baseline that Wozniacki was able to hit an off speed forehand angled out wide.  Very shaky.  By no means a bread and butter shot.  Even on clay.  She’s definitely a backhand player, and since she can’t blow anyone out off that wing either, she really has to play shot after set up shot so close to the lines that mirror image players like Radwanska who can just play the ball back will always give her fits.  And that’s the whole tour.  That’s why a Christina McHale can and has beaten her.  Those players who retrieve everything, and then come up with a shot here or there, or who have a good feel for when to take a chance and come in know they will have their shot.

Bigger guns with actual weapons can take her which goes without saying.  There are many of those in the draw, but let’s concentrate on the ones who Vegas deems as real threats to win.  First the Aussie, Stosur.  we’d have loved her, but she does come in playing pretty bad tennis.  There must be a ton of pressure on her to win for the home nation.  Otherwise, we can’t figure out the dip in her play.  She probably has the second or third biggest serve on the women’s side, has a sick forehand that she can get almost always because of how much she runs around the backhand, and her fitness is primo.  We can’t say we love Clijsters in this spot, but she does have the weapons and the resume, and is known for coming out of nowhere.  She can not be dismissed.

Azarenka is going to break through and she is going to do it soon.  But when she has to play a Kvitova or a Serena, she simply does not have the fire power in that spot.  Still, we could see her winning if the draw falls out.  Serena and Kvitova are clearly the cream of the crop.  And they are on the same side.  That’s most likely going to play out, and while Kvitova has the better odds now, we’ll eat our hat if Serena is not favored then.  Serena played tremendous tennis on similar courts all throughout Cali this summer when she went from world #180 to world number twenty-something in six weeks.  And Serena seems to come in looking well enough.  She got a couple of matches in at Sydney, took 4 sets and lost zero, and then bowed out.  We think she is a very good bargain in this spot at +350.

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Victorious Petra Kvitova (R.), who ended her year today with an active 20 match indoor win streak, and hottie Maria Kirilenko. 

On the back of the best player in the women’s game, the Czech Republic stands today as Federation Cup Champions.  In what is yet another coup for world # 2 Petra Kvitova, de facto # 1, Kvitova added the Fed Cup title to her resume that already boasted the 2011 Singles Wimbledon Championship, and the 2011 Year End WTA Tour Championship, which she won last week in Istanbul.  Kvitova, on a Russian indoor court in Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, whipped up on Maria Kirilenko in the first match of the tie, 6-2, 6-2 in straights, and then today gritted one out against Svetlana Kuznetsova in three tight sets, putting the Czech in position to claim their first title in Fed Cup since a Jana Novotna led 1988 squad which also prevailed against Russia. 

The Russians, who were aced out on their own soil, had won the Fed Cup Title four times since 2004, and evened the tie in the 4th rubber when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Lucie Safarova in straight sets, putting the Russian team in a great position to take a 5th team title in 8 years, if they could pull out a win in the doubles.  It was a tough weekend for Safarova, who managed to take no sets and only 11 games in two matches during the final tie.  Good news for her that she had Kvitova and the team of Pesche and Hradecka to pick her up.

Obviously no small task either to have to win the deciding rubber on the road, but Kveta Pesche, a doubles specialist and major champion (Wimbledon, 2011 with Katerina Srebotnik), teamed with Lucie Hradecka, with whom she has some chemistry and a little Fed Cup experience playing along side of, proved out against the ill suited Russian team of Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina, 6-4, 6-2.  With many rumors about the job security of Russia’s head tennis man, Shamil Tarpishchev, who was overseen and captained both Russian Davis and Fed Cup squads since the seventies, circulating, many have found time today to criticize the decision to pair Kirilenko and Vesnina, and for that matter, to question why Pavlyuchenkova was not in on the second singles rubber, and why Kirilenko was.

Anastasia Myskina, former one hit French Open wonder, was sitting with the Russian squad this weekend, and has been widely speculated as being in line to replace Tarpishchev with the Fed Cup team, when change comes.  It should also be noted that Vera Zvonareva was not available due to injury.  Still, how wonderful it was to see a major championship come down to doubles, and to see a heavy road dog and a different set of faces pevail after recent Russian and Italian dominance.

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Agnieszka Radwanska:  + 6000

Alisa Kleybanova:  + 12500

Ana Ivanovic:  + 5000

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova:  + 5000

Andrea Petkovic:  + 3000

Aravane Rezai:  + 15000

Caroline Wozniacki:  + 1000

Daniela Hantuchova:  + 2000

Flavia Pennetta:  + 15000

Francesca Schiavone:  + 6000

Jelena Jankovic:  + 3000

Julia Goerges:  + 4000

Kaia Kanepi:  + 10000

Maria Sharapova:  + 400

Marion Bartoli:  + 4000

Na Li:  + 700

Nadia Petrova:  + 12500

Petra Kvitova:  + 800

Sabine Lisicki:  + 4000

Sam Stosur:  + 2500

Serena:  + 350

Shahar Peer:  + 15000

Svetlana Kuznetsova:  + 4000

Tsvetana Pironkova:  + 10000

Venus:  + 1000

Vera Zvonareva:  + 1500

Victoria Azarenka:  + 1200

Yanina Wickmayer:  + 6000

Field (Any Other Player):  + 3000


Azarenka over Zvonareva?  Really?

The Williams sisters confer during a practice session on the grass at Eastbourne (above).

Earlier today, defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, in her first action in more than 11 months, came from a set down to defeat Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours and 4 minutes, in the first round of the AEGON Championships in Eastbourne, in East Sussex, UK.  On points, the match could barely have been closer, with Serena finishing with only 1 more point than Pironkova (80-79).  But Williams served bigger and better, finishing with 7 aces, two coming during a pivotal game at the business end of the 2nd set when Williams was down love thirty.

Serena follows her sister Venus into the 2nd around, who played her first match since being forced to retire in the 2nd round the Australian Open–the 1st and only time she has ever retired in a major.  For Venus, the opponent was the same–German Andrea Petkovic, who has benefited from the paucity of talent in the wake of the injuries to the Williams sisters and all of the other displaced talent in the women’s game.  Venus took the match, also in close fashion, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.  Venus will face Ana Ivanovic in the 2nd round, whom she is 6-1 against lifetime, and 2-0 against on grass.  Ivanovic has only managed to take 3 sets of Williams in 7 matches, and she may never get a better opportunity to beat her then right now, before the grass court queen has regained her footing.  Ivanovic is coming off a semi-final showing in Birmingham, where she lost to Hantuchova.  The match marked the former French champ’s 1st semi-final of the year.

Venus’s half of the draw does look promising beyond Ivanovic as well.  She has a winning, lopsided record against most all, including a 10-0 record against Hantuchova, an 8-0 record against Schiavone, and a 5-1 record versus Radwanska.  The defending champ, Ekatarina Makarova is also in Venus’s half, as well as Kvitova and Li.  Surprisingly,Venus has yet to beat either.

As for Serena’s return rematch luck, she gets #1 seed Vera Zvonareva in the 2nd round, in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon singles final.  The winner has a good likelihood of facing Pavlyuchenkova or Stosur in the quarters, and Azarenka or Bartoli in the semis.

The sisters are not entered in the doubles competition here at Eastbourne.  We’d take that as somewhat of a sign that they will only play singles next week at SW-19.  Neither sister has ever won here at Eastbourne, as usually, they don’t play much between Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  No American has won here since Chanda Rubin successfully defended her title in 2003, scoring back to back titles, 1st versus Myskina and then versus Conchita Martinez.

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Ladies Champion Francesca Schiavone (above).

It was a very good day for ex-champions who pulled through the quarters on both the men and women’s side, if in rather different fashion.  Francesca Schiavone, the fifth seed and defending champion, and the only significant one handed player in the women’s game, looked dead to rights in a quarter-final round match that featured a younger and possibly fresher, 14th seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Fresher yes, but fitter?  No way.  Schiavone began her spirited comeback after losing 10 of 11 games, and being only few points from elimination.  She got her errors down while taaking huge rips on a lot of balls, being the aggressor, and getting to net.  Pavlyuchenkova played it safer, and her timidity about approaching the net and her weaker serve, became huge factors once Schiavone shook off the cobwebs, about 50 minutes in.

Schiavone went for her first serves, made 16 of 24 points at net, and ripped ill passing shots when the opportunity allowed.  Sure, we have pointed out that when it’s a full slate on the women’s side, Schiavone probably wouldn’t measure up, citing her 0-8 mark against Venus Williams.  But for the women she is playing here, she has this amazing “defend the crown” posture, and it would be hard to say that she has not been the women’s best player on clay for 2 years running, and both Venus and Serena played last year, as well as Henin, please recall.  Speaking of Henin, she, and Nadal, both carried this invincible nature at Roland Garros, and we don’t want to jinx it, but it appears that Schiavone is exhibiting that nature. 

Bravo.  She won in 3 sets, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 in 2 hours and 44 minutes.   Then there’s the other champ, Roger Federer, who got on top of Gael Monfils and stayed there, which was really a must considering Monfils staying power.  Federer in straights, making it 5 straight in which he has not dropped a set at Roland Garros.  We’re extremely happy with him.  This is the finest form he’s displayed since the fall, and usually when he wins majors, he’s playing like this.  We’re sure that he’d be very confident going into a semi-final matchup with Novak Djokovic, who has all the pressure, after Djokovic has had maybe 2 days too many days off.  Federer and Djokovic, in our eyes, are very even on clay, though Djokovic did get their last matchup on clay, which was Rome 2009, the year that Federer won the French Open title.

A lot is going to come down to Federer’s serve, obviously.  But we’d think he would be really motivated to face a guy who has knocked him out of 2 straight majors in this spot.  Is it just us, or does Roger look really good on the clay?  The man has played only 8 break points on his own serve in the entire tournament.  We can’t wait until they put the line up on that.  Federer could be a very interesting bargain come Friday.

As for tomorrow’s lines:

Nadal:  – 320

Soderling:  + 240

Rarely do you see Nadal so narrowly favored on clay.  Wouldn’t be surprised if this line moved a lot toward Soderling before match time.  First of all, there’s personal animus between the two.  Soderling thinks that Nadal shows people up, and is ingracious in defeat, always talking about injuries and whatnot.  This is a very dicey matchup for Nadal.  Does Soderling seem the fresher player?  Because he certainly is cracking shots left and right.  Soderling is controlling every rally off the ground in his matches.  He’s probably the one guy, with Del Potro being the other when healthy, who can outslug Nadal on clay.  Soderling is a natural clay courter.  If this is the same Nadal that played Isner last week, Soderling is in very good shape.

Andy Murray:  – 800

Juan Ignacio Chela:  + 500

Can we say enough about our boy Andy Murray, LOL?  He served with the bigger Troicki, came forward, and gutted out a four hour match over two days on the “bum” ankle.  That said, Murray is playing a very hot guy who also serves big, and he does seem like a good bargain on the money line.  But there’s something about Andy Murray these days, and we’re expecting to see him break through very soon.  A possible Murray/Nadal or Murray/Soderling semi would make Friday one of the best tennis days of the year, even if on clay. 

We would not be surprised if he won this tournament.


Sharapova:  – 240

Petkovic:  + 180

Sharapova is playing great and it really wouldn’t make sense not to predict her and feel comfortable with the fact that under normal conditions she’s gonna destroy Petkovic, but keep in mind this is clay, and Petkovic is the better, more comfortable clay courter.  But we think Sharapova is gonna be hitting through like a bulldozer, on her way to a possible matchup wth Azarenka.  Who, by the way, is a very modest favorite over Na Li, with all the hype surrounding her game, which does combine the necessary power and movement to win majors.

Na Li:  + 210

Victoria Azarenka:  – 280

Frankly, we don’t like the bet because Azarenka is very unproven in this spot, but in our minds, she seizes the moment, as the younger, bigger, more powerful player, and that she is too much for Li.  And frankly, whomever it is, we will be pulling for, as we have no interest in seeing Maria Sharapova get a career slam.  No offense to her camp, but we are Venus fans, and we wouldn’t want a lot of stupid people thinking that winning one of each slam was better than winning 20 something between singles and doubles.

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The Isles collectively winced today, when their great hope, Andy Murray (above), rolled his right ankle in his 3rd round matchup at Roland Garros versus German Michael Berrer.  Murray, with a seemingly plum draw into the semis where he’d possibly meet the anointed, Novak Djokovic, played very well after the injury, though gingerly.  Does a bad ankle necessarily spell doom for Murray?  We’ll say that physically at least, Murray is a lot tougher than he looks.  There isn’t anyone alive right now who’d want to face Djokovic at less than full speed, but Murray did not play compromised tennis today.  As he said to the press, he’s never had much problem with his right ankle before, but he’d wear a brace and go out and hit tennis balls tomorrow, in preparation for tricky Victor Troicki on Monday.

He also said he might not be able to go on, but you shouldn’t worry about that.  Murray likes drama.  We remember back to 2007 when Murray had a bad wrist injury.  He suffered it in Hamburg, right before the French Open, and then struggled to get back on track for the US Open.  He won his match back at the Rogers Cup against Robby Ginepri, then got dusted by Fabio Fognini, 6-2, 6-2.  He was then on to Cincinnati where Marcos Baghdatis gave the lame Murray one of the worst beatings in his life, 6-1, 6-2.

A guy like Nadal, let’s face it, they may talk about what a lion he is and all that, but he wouldn’t even try to play in Murray’s position with the wrist.  As it was, it seemed like ESPN wanted to give Nadal an on the spot ESPY for not retiring against David Ferrer down under, as he did the year before when facing Murray in the semis.  So that summer of 2007, Murray makes his way to Flushing and he won easy in round 1, and then truly gutted out a win over Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1 in the 5th.  You could see it on his face right there.  He was done.  But he came out the next round, against H.T. Lee, and I remember it well as a spectator, because it was a unique moment.  Before the warmup, he and Lee exchanged words, and Muurray told Lee that his wrist was shot and that he was very limited, but that he was going to try to gut it out.  Then he goes down 2 sets, and I’m thinking, “throw in the towel, kid.”  Instead, he takes the next set, before Lee finally beat him in 4.

You all know I don’t like Andy Murray.  No secrets there.  Like and dislike is really all relative though to what is best for the continuation of risk and reward tennis, shot making, variety, and sheer brilliance with racquet and not the feet, on the court.  Andy Murray is good for the game right now.  He has a chance to beat Djokovic, and to win a major, which we all know is historic.  I mean, a Brit hasn’t won any type of clay court tournament since the 70’s.  It’s a shame that Murray caught this break, but we think that Murray is here to play, no matter what.  We also think he’s got the clay court thing figured out better than he ever has in the past. 

A turned ankle is not the worst thing ever.  John McEnroe talked about playing with one, and he used to actually move forward into the court, and he still thought Murray was in good shape, and that it could even prompt him to do what he must to win, addressing the age old knock on Murray, which is to be more aggressive.  Kobe Bryant routinely plays on full blown sprained ankles.  When he injured his ankle badly recently in the playoffs, and was asked if he would still play, he commented that playing hurt was “basically old hat” for him.

So we aren’t going to shed any tears for the UK just yet.  As for the odds for tomorrow, not a lot of respect being shown to past champs on the women’s side:

Hantuchova:  Even

Kuznetsova:  – 130


Jankovic:  – 145

Schiavone:  + 115

We’d be the first to tell you if we thought Kuznetsova was grossly out of shape, as she appeared at Indian Wells.  She’s actually in fine form.  We like that matchup for her, and think she is in the mix for the title.  Sure, we were trashing her as recently as 2 weeks ago, but apparently, she went to Spain and got into great shape, for her, and found her clay court game.  She did look a little tired in the 2nd set of her 3rd round match, but she’s had 2 days to rest.  We’ll take her.  And we love betting against Jankovic, and rooting against her, as her awful mechanics and fundamentals are very bad for the game and for brilliant tennis.  Don’t you hate that accent too?  So annoying.  We’re hoping that Schiavone, the little one hander that could, defends her title ably tomorrow.

Bartoli:  – 190

Dulko:  + 150


Zvonareva:  – 220

Pavlyuchenkova:  + 170


We love Zvonareva in general, and hate Bartoli, in general, but who knows how these matches will go?  If we had to speculate, we’d say Vera and Dulko, who can hopefully retain the magic for one more match.

As for the men, there are some huge favorites:

Federer:  – 1100

Wawrinka:  + 650


Djokovic:  – 2000

Gasquet:  + 1000


Ferrer:  – 400

Monfils:  + 300


Fabio Fognini:  + 160

Albert Montanes:  – 200

Federer and Djokovic are heavies for a reason, but who wants to lay out a thousand or a couple thousand to get back a hundred?  Roger did put on a clinic against Stan in Melbourne, and has appeared in fine form, but is Federer now the kind of guy who can come out flat in a major against a guy he should beat, like he did against Falla at Wimbledon?  We think he’s better here in this spot with Annacone.  But keep in mind, Stan’s only win versus Roger came on clay, that it’s a repeat of last year’s round of 16, and that Stan is coming off a tough 5 setter.

At these rates, we love Monfils as well.  And we’ll take the one hander, Montanes, over Fognini, who is just happy to have made the round of 16, in all likelihood.  Though we like Gasquet’s game, would we dare go against the mighty Djokovic?  Probably not, but keep in mind he is playing a match on a third consecutive day, and a win would give him one more than McEnroe’s perfect 42-0 start to 1984.

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