Angelique Kerber


990593-16126026-640-360Rafael Nadal (above) seeks his 9th Monte Carlo Masters 1000 shield 10 hours from now.

ATP MASTERS 1000 FINAL — Monte Carlo, Monaco (8 AM EST)

Rafael Nadal:  – 225

Novak Djokovic:  + 175

…………

Nadal leads the h2h 19-14, and has grabbed 13 of 14 on clay in the matchup, and the last 3, including the “hotly” contested 2012 final at Roland Garros at which Rafa cried and whined about having to play in a little rain (since he was getting pounded during that stretch).  We don’t see these odds as Vegas being that into Rafa here, despite the whole slow red clay story.  Nadal has won the previous matchup at the MC, back in 2009, going 3 sets.  Not sure if Nadal has ever lost at MC in fact, and not he shouldn’t be the bigger favorite here.

Djokovic is a wilting lily no more.  He and Azarenka both had the trait, and as they matured, they have both developed extreme toughness.  We’d like to commend him on that now, and Azarenka, we’ll save for later.  It is very hard for an athlete to change their personality, and in tennis, the turnaround is so stark, especially with Djokovic, that we would have to harken back to Andre Agassi, to think of a similar mentality change.  And Agassi won at RG late in the game, after his attitude adjustment.  We see Djokovic getting his RG trophy a lot earlier than Agassi did, and we were thinking this year.  So we were of course very disappointed to see Djokovic hurt his ankle so badly in DC versus Sam Querrey.  It may not seem to affect him, and he has won 6 straight matches since rolling the ankle, but he will need his wheels today.

Djokovic wants it badly, for sure, and usually, we’d take a flyer on him, even in this situation on clay versus Nadal.  There are probably those of the mind that if he is playing, then he’s fine.  And certainly, the ankle did not slow the main man down against Sam Querrey, breaking Querrey in his first game after the injury, and getting stronger as the match went on to boot, allowing Sam Q only 1 of the last 13 games.  But we think Djokovic should get himself absolutely perfect for RG, and we don’t see how war of attrition tennis versus Nadal 5 weeks before Paris helps him to do that, unless Djokovic is so there mentally that he has completely blocked the injury out of his mind, and is looking to make a statement here versus Nadal, who we don’t think has played that great here, playing very close matches with Grigor Dimitrov, who split 158 points with Nadal evenly, and with Tsonga, who usually has no traction at all against Rafa on clay (6-3, 7-6 is very close for Tsonga, LOL).

We’d like to see Djoker at his best on that first Sunday in June, but there have been whispers that he may lose his ranking during the clay season if he takes his foot off the gas.  We will trust the decision to the Djokovic camp, who has been making all the right moves since jettisoning Todd Moron, um, Martin, sorry.  One thing we can not stand though, is to see a hurt player making an extended go of it.  See Angelique Kerber’s brutal play these last few months.  Health comes from rest and treatment.  All that said, this will be compelling tennis for a variety of reasons.  Gun to our head though, we’d probably take Rafa, pained as we are to admit.

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

Men’s

Alexandr Dolgopolov

+15000

 

Andy Murray

+250

 

Bernard Tomic

+5000

 

David Ferrer

+2500

 

David Nalbandian

+25000

 

Fernando Verdasco

+20000

 

Gael Monfils

+15000

 

Gilles Simon

+25000

 

Janko Tipsarevic

+15000

 

Jerzy Janowicz

+6000

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

+3000

 

Juan Martin Del Potro

+1200

 

Kei Nishikori

+10000

 

Kevin Anderson

+50000

 

Lleyton Hewitt

+50000

 

Marcos Baghdatis

+10000

 

Marin Cilic

+15000

 

Milos Raonic

+5000

 

Nicolas Almagro

+25000

 

Novak Djokovic

-160

 

Richard Gasquet

+10000

 

Roger Federer

+400

 

Ryan Harrison

+25000

 

Sam Querrey

+25000

 

Stanislas Wawrinka

+25000

 

Tomas Berdych

+3000

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Ladies’

Agnieszka Radwanska

+1000

 

Ana Ivanovic

+6000

 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

+10000

 

Andrea Petkovic

+10000

 

Angelique Kerber

+2000

 

Caroline Wozniacki

+3000

 

Daniela Hantuchova

+20000

 

Francesca Schiavone

+25000

 

Jelena Jankovic

+12500

 

Julia Goerges

+15000

 

Kaia Kanepi

+10000

 

Laura Robson

+8000

 

Maria Kirilenko

+15000

 

Maria Sharapova

+700

 

Marion Bartoli

+6000

 

Mona Barthel

+10000

 

Na Li

+2000

 

Nadia Petrova

+15000

 

Petra Kvitova

+1000

 

Sabine Lisicki

+6000

 

Samantha Stosur

+2500

 

Sara Errani

+12500

 

Serena Williams

-120

 

Shuai Peng

+25000

 

Sloane Stephens

+15000

 

Svetlana Kuznetsova

+15000

 

Venus Williams

+5000

 

Victoria Azarenka

+300

 

Yanina Wickmayer

+50000

……….

On Saturday, Serena Williams (above) defeated Aggie Radwanska, in a waltz, needing only fifteen games.

Yesterday, if she was to defeat world #2 Maria Sharapova, who has not beaten Serena since 2004, then she would have won the 4 most recent most meaningful titles, counting Wimbledon, The Olympics, The US Open, and the championship contested here in Istanbul, in which the top 8 players in the world participated in a double elimination format prior to the semi-finals and finals.  Serena showed her dominance all week by beating Kerber, Azarenka, and Na, all in 2 straight sets in the RR and then dusted the world #4 from Poland in straights in the semis.  Sharapova was the latest victim, falling 6-4, 6-3 to the most dominant #3 of all time.  Sharapova pushed back and dug in to the best of her ability, in one service game that spanned more than 10 minutes during the first set, she held despite a torrent of winners from Williams, especially return winners.  But this match was not close.  Serena broke in Masha’s 2nd service game, and in her 3rd game, Sharapova  clawed for dear life to stay alive, as consecutive breaks there would have been committed to stone.  Serena also broke early in the 2nd set, so it’s not really like we were sitting there wondering who was going to win this match.  Sharapova’s best moments were purely survivalist, keeping things closer than they should have been, the way she could not at the Wimbledon Olympiad, where Serena handed her her ass in 55 minutes, 6-0, 6-1.

In fact, we felt the score line was not indicative of the facts.  Serena was imposing, completely controlling the baseline, and dictating a lot of points on Maria’s serve, both first and second.  And Serena out-winnered Sharapova 40-13.  To be frank, this one seemed like batting practice for Williams.  So this week’s work, 5 matches, 10 sets, straight money.  We’d like to hold up Serena as exhibit A in the lesson in the basic but all important and never read tennis bible.  Hold your serve.  Serena had 11 aces today, and 11 the other day, against Azarenka when the match was decided by only a few points.  We’ve said for months, too, that Azarenka is the best consistent point player in the game.  But she doesn’t have the serve.  In a match in which the points were 69-57, Serena hit 11 aces and 0 doubles.  Azarenka hit no aces and had 9 doubles.  Ladies and gentlemen, that was your match.  It’s not just that she has the big serve, but also the proficiency, the high percentages and mistake free, clean and fast business like service games that no other woman in the sport can put up.

Azarenka is a very strong #1, certainly with no Serena in the picture, but as is, is really not that bad of a number one considering the Jankovics and Wozniackis.   She’s a major champion and clear cut 1B, worthy of her position.  Personally, we feel that she looked a bit tired this week, despite a command performance against Na Li in which she broke serve 5 times in a row.  We felt that just from a probability point of view that Azarenka would have had a decent chance in the finals, knowing how hard she would be to play and beat twice in a row in a few days time.  But Serena has the bigger game, which has carried her to grand success after a never before round 1 major loss, which she suffered at Roland Garros.  Some parallel might be seen between her hiring Patrick Mourataglou of the academy by that same name in Paris.  Mourataglou also coaches Grigor Dimitrov, and seems to have helped the young 1-hander to improve.  We’d also chalk some of Serena’s incredible run up to her getting onto faster courts.  Azarenka is great of combinations, the best there is, but needs the longer points that come more on clay and Plexicushion.  She will get her chances on those surfaces and will probably prove out.  But Serena owns the better surfaces, and deserves to be favored heading into all of the majors.

Now revel in these stats.  9 straight against Sharapova.  Also, Sharapova has not taken a set off Serena since 2008.  Ho hum.  12-0 in her last 12 versus the top 1 or 2 player.  An obscene unbeaten streak against the world #1 & #2 dating back to August of 2007.  Serena ends the year on a ridiculous 31-1 tear, taking her 3rd career WTA Championships, and becoming the oldest woman ever at 31 years of age to win the coveted year end title.

Serena finishes the year with a mark of 59-4 and 7 titles.  Her last loss was to Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati.  The last time she was pushed to 3 sets was by Azarenka in the US Open final.  Serena also did not drop a set at the Olympics, where she dropped only 14 games in 5 matches, crushing Azarenka in the semis 6-1, 6-2, and Sharapova in the gold medal match, 6-0, 6-1.

Serena ended the year with a staggering .937 winning percentage, having only lost to Wozniacki, Razzano, Makarova, and Kerber.  All is well in the women’s game, with Serena again ascending to dominant, with Sharapova winning a major this year and reclaiming a spot near the top, and with the rise of Azarenka, who we consider to be the best player in tennis, shot to shot.  And Radwanska is an adequate #4, someone not likely to beat the players ahead of her but not likely to lose to the ones below her.  The Radwanska style, in effect, a better Wozniacki, but one who will not rise higher because the girls ahead of her are just better players across the board, and there is no way to gimmick your way to victories over the Serenas, Azarenkas, and Sharapovas of the world.

We’d expect players like Stosur, Kvitova, and Na to also take their places ahead of Radwanska as well in the new year, should they play to their fullest potential.  For the first time since Serena’s unfortunate World Cup Soccer spectator accident in 2010 and subsequent health problems, the women’s game is all quality at the top, and the rankings are more or less reflective of the true state of the women’s game, devoid of pretenders and paper champions.

We were also very happy to see that Serena’s nemesis, obsessed racist foot fault Nazi, Eva Asderaki, was able to chair at an event without becoming the center of attention, for a change.  So all really is right in the women’s game (Though Lindsay Davenport can allocate the checks better when pre-grading the players for their matches on TTC.  We are often annoyed at how freely she’s been handing out checks, especially to bad volleyers.), heading toward Melbourne in 2013 where Azarenka will try to defend her crown, and where Serena will be looking for her 16th singles major.

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Last week in Toronto, Venus Williams put in her best week of singles work since before the Sjogren’s disease, falling to Li Na in the semis, the eventual champion.  Great to see Venus playing good tennis, with depth and precision off both wings, and her trademark cat like quickness moving inside the court.  Venus told a reconfigured ESPN panel of tennis announcers (about time they shook things up, but Jimmy Arias?  Really?) that she first started to feel like herself in London for the Olympics, even though she went out in the 2nd round of singles, in straight tie-break sets to the very hot (you have a dirty mind if you are not thinking tennis!) Angelique Kerber.  Venus told the panel that despite that loss, she felt like she had her groove back, and “thank God because it’s the Olympics and the Olympics are so so huge.”  And then, ho hum, another Olympic doubles gold for Venus and Serena, making for 3 Olympic golds, all totaled, now in her vast trophy case.

The Olympics as huge is not always a concept we particularly embraced.  Like when Elena Dementieva tried to pass off her major-less career as something more because of gold in Beijing, saying that it made her a celebrity in Russia, and blah blah blah.  I mean, that still is not too impressive to us, as we don’t think too many players were all that upset to lose out on that gold.  But that was Beijing.  It is a shame about Dementieva, who anyone with any heart at all had to feel bad about by the end of the day, and her failed plight for a major.  She really was a very notable big time player, making many major semi-finals, losing the French Open final in 2004 and the US Open final that same year, and twice losing in the doubles final at The Open, to boot.  But how bad can you really feel for a player who can barely break 85 MPH on a first serve?

The Olympics at Wimbledon is another story entirely.  Especially, when played so close to um, Wimbledon at Wimbledon.  What we have seen in tennis this year was an incredible phenomenon with what was essentially an extended grass court season for the top players, who did not need to scurry back to clay or hardcourts in between SW-19 and SW-19.  A lot has been made about the cheesy purple cloak around the grounds of The All England Club, and we’d make the point that definitely, Wimbledon did more for the Olympics than the Olympics did for Wimbledon.

We’d also have to note that conditions are different at SW-19 a month after the major and that those conditions played a role at the Olympics.  Like slippage, for one, and brightness, for another.  We’ve never seen Wimbledon so bright and sunny.  Or so slippery.  We’d say that a guy like Tomas Berdych, a former finalist, going out early, constantly losing his footing, in that match with Steve Darcis, who we think had never beaten a top ten player before, was certainly affected very greatly by conditions.  As dozens are routinely at Roland Garros every year.  You have to deal with conditions.  Period.  Darcis was the more mobile player, he had his footing, and you could really see, in that match, that the ease of motion we associate with the one handed shot played heavily into Darcis’ favor.  Since the lawns were very chewed from the major and hadn’t had time to replenish naturally, the groundskeepers had to lay new sod down and that sod didn’t always hold best, especially on the outer courts.

When Serena laid waste to Maria Sharapova in the gold medal match, all the more impressive because Serena, between claiming her 5th Wimbledon crown and her 1st singles gold medal, went out to Stanford and grabbed another title at the Bank of the West, doing all that extra travel, and pulling the surface switch twice, from grass to hards back to grass.  Serena was rightly hailed for her double gold, and the American media, usually at odds with Lady S, came a crawling back to her camp.  Indeed, they had found amid their bias a minute’s break from bashing Serena as a poor sportswoman, except for her dancing that is, to make these arguments that she had never played better, was a woman among girls, and all the other nice stuff they only get around to saying when we are in heated competition for medals with the entire world.

The same standard by which the US media has feted Serena has been used to denigrate Andy Murray for his most impressive showing at the London games.  It’s simply not fair.  Murray is 0-4 in major finals and almost all are quick to point out that if he was going to beat Roger Federer in a Wimbledon final, then he picked the wrong one to do it in.  Nothing could be more obvious.  But to label him a modern day Nicolas Massu?

The Olympics are a huge accomplishment, especially at Wimbledon, and a tremendous feather in Murray’s cap.  For one, Murray proved he can beat Federer in a best of 5 set match.  Prior to the Olympic gold medal match, across three matches, Murray had managed to take just one set off Federer in best of 5 set play.  And two of those matches were blowouts.  Murray also proved that he could beat Federer on grass in best of 5 set play, joining a very select club.  A mature Federer has only lost to Nadal, Berdych, Tsonga, and now Murray in that type of setting.

Murray blew out Roger in the gold medal match, handing the great man his most lopsided straight 3 set loss since the Roland Garros final in 2008, when Nadal steamrolled Federer, with whom Mono still lingered.  We don’t know if Federer has ever been blown out like that on grass.  Murray deserves many kudos for this showing.  Federer had also announced his intention to compete in the London games, and obviously win the gold medal, during Wimbledon in 2007 and 2009.  We loved Federer coming in to the event, feeling that Federer is even more dangerous when he has the confidence to announce his intentions.  Especially when those intentions are stated so far in advance.  We’d also note that on the eve of Wimbledon this year, Federer considered himself the favorite, and then had his best semi-final and final showing at a major since his last win, which was Melbourne in 2010.

The press has cited Federer’s fatigue going into the final because of the semi-final marathon with Del Potro, which went to 19-17 in the 3rd set.  It was a factor, for sure.  But this talk of Murray owing his gold to Delpo is just silly.  First off, Federer did not take care of business.  He threw in a nervous service game and got down love forty at 10-9 when trying to serve it out.  Does the final play out differently if Roger gets done with his work 17 games earlier than he did?  It’s a moot point because it is on Roger.  Murray saw fit to dispatch Djokovic quickly in that spot, and he was the fresher for it and it was well deserved.

We’d also like to point out that for some of the players, guys like Roger, Murray, Djokovic, and Del Potro, who stayed on grass the entire extended season, from mid June through the Olympics, we really got to see how it played out between the very best players on the very best of surfaces.  For that, we are so grateful for the London Olympics having the foresight to play tennis at The All England Club.  As we always tell you, the Wimbledon champion for that year is the champion of all tennis, today, tomorrow, and obviously, historically.  It is why they call Wimbledon “The Championships.”  Grass accentuates all that is truly great in the game: the graceful, the bold, the mighty, and the true talent, skill, and artistry that can only be mastered with hands and footwork, and not marathon grunt work.  Wimbledon, the opposite of Roland Garros, favors grace over grunt.

So many times over the course of the event we heard our man Justin Gimelstob exclaim that we were watching “the perfect execution of power tennis.”  Like with Tsonga-Raonic, Federer-Isner, and Federer-Delpo.  For Murray to play aggressively enough to win an event staged at Wimbledon, beating the guys who he did, means not only did he up his usually meek game considerably, but that also, he played perfect counter attack tennis on a very fast grass track.  Did anyone notice the forehand redirect he hit, in the 2nd set, business end, versus Djokovic, which was essentially a half volley he hit for a winner from the middle of the baseline?  And only dropping 7 games to Roger Federer?

Sorry, but that’s major.  So give the kid his due.

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2012 Wimbledon — Ladies Semifinals

Angelique Kerber:  – 140

Agniezska Radwanska:  + 120

__ __ __ __

Serena Williams:  – 180

Victoria Azarenka:  + 150

__ __ __ __

2012 Wimbledon — Gentlemen’s Semifinals

Novak Djokovic:  – 240

Roger Federer:  + 190

__ __ __ __

Andy Murray:  – 220

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:  + 180

……

Sensible lines, really.  We’d have to say that we like Kerber, Tsonga, and Serena.

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We predict Judy Murray (background) is going to see her son’s major winless streak extended this year at Roland Garros, next year at Roland Garros, and so on.

Odds to win French Open Title — Roland Garros 2012 (Sunday, June 10th 2012, 9 AM EST)

Alexandr Dolgopolov:  + 15000

Andy Murray:  + 3000

David Ferrer:  + 3500

Ernests Gulbis:  + 15000

Fernando Verdasco:  + 10000

Gael Monfils:  + 10000

Gilles Simon:  + 15000

Janko Tipsarevic:  + 15000

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:  + 10000

John Isner:  + 6500

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 2000

Jurgen Melzer:  + 15000

Marcos Baghdatis:  +15000

Marin Cilic:  + 15000

Mikhail Youzhny:  + 15000

Milos Raonic:  + 6500

Novak Djokovic:  + 200

Philipp Kohlschreiber:  + 15000

Rafael Nadal:  – 125

Richard Gasquet:  + 10000

Roger Federer:  + 800

Stanislas Wawrinka:  + 15000

Tomas Berdych:  + 3500

Viktor Troiki:  + 15000

Field (Any Other Player):  + 500

……….

Rafa’s no surprise.  Djokovic seems about right.  The rest of the odds take some um, odd turns.  Federer all of a sudden, the champ 3 years prior, now has odds worse than the field.  Alright.  In our books that makes Roger a good bet, but that’s just us.  He’s only been to the final 6 out of the last 7 years, but apparently Caesar’s Palace has detected some obvious decline to the great man that we have not.

Andy Murray with better odds than David Ferrer?  That’s an obvious error.  They are both in the same quarter, which would make for a quite nice QF which Ferrer would win.  Murray’s never gotten one on Ferrer on clay, has never won a tournament on clay for that matter, and has had an awful year on clay to Ferrer’s very solid year, once again.  Ferrer is a guy who we could see making a wager on at that line.

Ferrer is going to be a very solid pick for at least the semi-finals, though he may have to go through Giant John Isner to get there.  Ferrer plays the big man very well, but Isner has become America’s best by far on the dirt over the last few years, and we see him as dangerous in this spot.  In fact, he may pose the greatest matchup problem for Rafa, who could not have been that thrilled to see Ferrer and Isner in his half, and Milos Raonic in his quarter.

As a betting man, we are baffled that Raonic and Isner are given such little weight above.  The French has not been won by a dark horse since Gaston Gaudio in that “thrilling” extended 5 setter versus Coria in 2005.  Isner and Raonic have been giving people fits, especially with their second serves, which are darting up off the court, out of even very long players’ strike zones.  Isner nearly pulled off the Rafa upset last year, and is the only guy to take him to 5 sets here.  We think, at +6500, they are both excellent guys to take flyers on.

As an aside, we think Aussie Bernard Tomic is one interesting guy left unlined, and that Marcos Baghdatis got one undeservingly.

So we are a bit late with this, with the tournament beginning already and Monfils already pulling out (clowns do as they do), with Roddick already out (only Roddick can lose to a Mahut, an S & V guy on clay, but we expected him to lose what with him not showing up at all for the entire clay season), and with American Irina Falconi, who liked today, pulling the upset this morning.  She has the eye of the tiger.

We’d have let you know in time to wager, but we fell out extremely early, and when we woke up, the play was off the board.  Below is some of the odds for the ladies (right):

We won’t say much, and we don’t need to.  Serena at 5-2…ho hum.  The Queen is back (and 17-0 on clay this year).  She seems motivated and focused as well.  At +800, we love our lefty, Kvitova as well, and wouldn’t sneeze at VA at +400.  We’d perhaps take a long shot gamble on rising German Mona Barthel, and view Kerber and Bartoli as dangerous.

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Kvitova and Azarenka shake hands at Wimbledon (above).

Petra Kvitova, who we felt was the best woman in the world by far going into 2012, ran her indoor unbeaten streak to 27 yesterday.  Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon and Fed Cup champion, as well as the YEC champ for 2011, defeated Angelique Kerber in a tight but quick two sets.  That’s how the girl plays it.  Fast and aggressive.  We must say again how much we like her style, leading with a big lefty serve and big big forehand and backhand wings.  Too big for Kerber, who plays big herself, and who has climbed steadily in the rankings as one of the hottest players on tour in the last 12 months.

Kerber is excellent at holding serve, a lost art in the women’s game.  This week she took out Caroline Wozniacki in straights, her second victory over the Dutch Miss in straights in essentially 5 days, after also meeting at E-Bok in Copenhagen last weekend.  While Wozniacki will continue in the wrong direction, we think Kvitova is ready to present herself to Victoria Azarenka for the slugfest that should have gone down in the final at Melbourne.  Kvitova had a very uneven Australian and American soft hardcourt season, losing unexpectedly to Maria Sharapova in the semis Down Under.  Tomorrow, Kvitova has a chance to strike back at Maria Sharapova, who frankly used all of her 9 lives today in battling back to win from match point down against former French champ Sam Stosur.  Here are the odds for tomorrow’s semifinals:

Porsche Open @ Stuttgart, Germany — Semifinal

Petra Kvitova:  – 160

Maria Sharapova:  – 120

__ __ __ __

Victoria Azarenka:  – 260

Agniezska Radwanska:  + 200

……

Kvitova, who defeated Azarenka on red clay last year to take the title in Madrid, has won 4 straight in the head to head, and holds a convincing 4-2 lead all time.  She has not lost to Vica since 2008.  All throughout Azarenka’s magical run, she has not had to face Kvitova, who along with Serena Williams represent the only matchup problems for her on the tour.  Kvitova is also a tremendous specialty surface player.  She has mastered indoor clay and hardcourts, has won on grass, and has always been the better clay courter.

Azarenka would seem to move a little better than Kvitova, but remember that Kvitova is dictating, giving her more opportunities to relax.  The extra power she garners, we think, will go further for her this clay court season than Azarenka with her slight edge in movement.  Kvitova is a perfect fit on clay as she moves naturally in the dirt, which is a huge edge (ask Sharapova).  It’s also a nice advantage to be able to hit through the court and move up gracefully for short balls.

Sharapova once claimed she was like a “cow on ice” at Roland Garros.  She’s a worker, and even after the shoulder surgery has made the semis at Roland Garros.  But you know how we feel about Sharapova not thinking the game and being so fundamentally unsound.  It’s not gonna fly here.  We also like that Kvitova had a relatively easy match today compared to Maria.

While Stuttgart is red clay, the indoor setting provides no wind at all, meaning the ball has less resistance through the court.  Serves and serve tosses are also unaffected, which obviously helps big servers.  Kvitova is made for this arena, and should carry the success here through the rest of the season and into the grass season.  We expect she will.  She is our favorite at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which is saying a lot, considering how well Azarenka has done.  But we always felt that Azarenka’s star was further in the offing, and that Kvitova’s was already here.  Then it left.  Now she’ll get it back.

Azarenka struggled today with Mona Barthel, Germany’s latest breakout player.  Barthel got off strong in 2012 taking the title in Hobart with ease, then qualifying for the Australian and winning two rounds before falling to Azarenka.  She has now lost to Azarenka 3 times this year, and until yesterday hadn’t managed a competitive set.  Barthel is improving quickly though, and the tight match today is no knock on Azarenka.  In fact, we have to hand it to her for fighting off Barthel, who at one point had saved 12 of 16 break points this morning.  We would not be surprised if Radwanska upset Azarenka tomorrow, though we aren’t in love with her in this spot.  And we really hope to see Kvitova-Azarenka for the first time in 2012, as it is the matchup most anticipated by keen watchers.

As for the men:

Open Sabadell ATP 500 @ Madrid, Spain — Semifinals

Rafael Nadal:  – 2500

Fernando Verdasco:  + 1200

__ __ __ __

David Ferrer:  – 250

Milos Raonic:  + 190

……

We’d be tempted to pick against Nadal at those prices, except we hate Verdasco, who is 0-12 lifetime in the matchup.  He hasn’t even really gotten too close.  In one of the most similar settings to this one we could recall, the final in 2010 at Monte Carlo, Nadal rolled, 6-0, 6-1.  And it was more lopsided than that.  If Verdasco and his team, led by Darren Cahill, were going to put a winning gameplan together for Rafa, it would have happened already.  And then there was Tipsarevic who said after today’s 6-2, 6-2 loss to Nadal that the Spaniard has never looked better on clay.

Let Nadal win all the 500’s he can and we won’t care.  The real test will be at RG.  We’ll be betting Djokovic, especially if Nadal exhausts himself by going greedy, which he usually does on the dirt.  The other semi has us all done up.  We’re hoping that Raonic can get it done.  Nadal-Raonic/Kvitova-Azarenka would be a dream Sunday indeed.  If we can’t have both we’d settle for one.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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