Dominka Cibulkova

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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Venus Williams (above) on Ashe Monday night.

Twenty-one time major champion Venus Williams withdrew from the 2011 US Open a little while ago, just prior to her 2nd round matchup with the 22nd seeded German, Sabine Lisicki, on Arthur Ashe.  Williams made a statement in which she cited that she has just been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome which causes joint pain and extreme fatigue, among other things.

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.

Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. Nine out of 10 patients are women.

What a shame for Venus, who looked to be in decent form Monday when she opened this year’s first US Open evening session with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Russian Vesna Dolonts in 78 minutes.  Though Venus is yet to speak directly to the media since her withdrawal, the speculation within the tennis community is that Williams will shut it down for the rest of the year.  We have seen a gutty Venus play through pain at majors many a time.  If she isn’t going to play at Flushing then we would agree with that speculation.  Venus has gutted out many an injury at the majors, even as recently as the 2011 Australian Open.  She had seemed upbeat about her chances here and reportedly had an excellent week of practice in Harlem in preparation for The Open.

Williams had a lot of pressure on her to defend her points from last year’s US Open, when she reached the semi-finals, giving eventual champion Kim Clijsters a good run.  By not defending those points, Venus will find herself outside the top 100 when the new rankings are published.  We would expect Williams to return to the game with a vengeance when she is able to, and we look forward to it.

For Lisicki, the walkover she received today was the first one in her career to come at a major.  To her credit, Lisicki was very disappointed by the walkover and she was sincerely concerned for Venus.  Lisicki looks like she will be facing Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd round, who is on her way to victory right now against young American Irina Falconi.

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We were very lucky to sit front row at the US Open yesterday for American hopeful Sloane Stephens (serving above) and Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary.  From everything we saw prior, Sloane Stephens looked to us to be if not the best, then the 2nd best American tennis prospect in the land, and her 6-2 lead after one set seemed to bear that out.  And then the middle set and a half came.  Though the 18 year old Stephens gutted out the victory by winning a break of serve while Jani was serving for the match, and although she trailed 3-2 in the deciding breaker and then reeled off the last 5 points, we’d rather be hard on her than easy.  Let’s be real.  Is Stephens to be lauded for beating a 5’4 girl 2 years older than her who also never won a match at a major (or even competed in one before yesterday) and who is ranked about 225th in the world?

Stephens looked great early on.  She was so quick around the court, stalking the baseline, and it seemed like Jani could not hit an out and out winner.  Stephens was getting to everything.  The first set came and went and Jani looked headed for home.  In the 2nd set, Stephens looked tight, went down a break, and got no traction whatsoever on Jani’s service games.  She lost the set 6-3, and frankly, she looked like she was a junior again.  A lot of credit goes to Jani for the turn around.  Stephens has a laser beam forehand, not a lot of spin, that she gets on top of and that’s clearly her kill shot.  Jani has tactics, and variety, and against a one dimensional player, it was almost enough.

On American hards, Stephens has no business losing to a player like this, despite her limitations, to this point.  Did irk us that she hit only 3 volleys and blew an easy overhead?  Totally.  And by the way, if you are reading the match stats that counted her as 11 for 20 on her approaches, a poor percentage indeed, you might want to take more seriously the percentage than the credited approaches because she was moored to the baseline and we have good reason to question that stat.  Stephens is uncomfortable anywhere inside the tennis court.  Jani’s best play all night was the drop shot, which was a horrible sitting duck most of the time, but since Stephens can only go side to side and hates taking her hand off the racquet, just about every dropper hit to her backhand worked out for Jani, even when the droppers made the service line.

It’s not like Jani is Roger Federer.  She employed a little topspin, a lot of short balls, some approaches and some slice.  Stephens bashed flat forehands and hit looping backhands.  We can’t recall her hitting one slice backhand or taking her hand off the racquet, even for a lunge, once.  And she did not go for any winners on the backhand side.  It’s no way to win a match and at about the 1:40 mark, it looked like it had lost her the match, down a break at 4-5 in the 3rd.  Stephens did have a pretty live first serve, and she is well conditioned, and when doubt crept in for Jani in that 10th game, Stephens picked it up.  She had to or she was going home.  And she had the crowd, though there was a small but hardened Hungarian contingent annoyingly yelling out calls and shushing the rest of us, who we were happy to see, get shushed in the end.

I was preparing some comments to heckle Stephens with, or rather, constructive criticism, to nail her with if she lost.  I was gonna yell, “No variety Stephens!”  That would have been putting it kindly.  She’s only 18 and she has time to get comfortable with her secondary shots and develop more tennis sense and work on her backhand.  But still, I was not that impressed.

We’ve been away.  Now we’re back.  Odds for today’s tennis out at Flushing:

12:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Juan Martin Del Potro:  – 10000

Filippo Volandri:  + 2500


Rui Machado:  + 600

Robin Haase:  – 1200


Denis Istomin:  – 175

Ryan Sweeting:  + 125


Shuai Peng:  – 400

Tsvetana Pironkova:  + 250

__ __ __

1:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Alex Bogomolov:  – 1200

Steve Johnson:  + 600


Somdev Devvarman:  + 2500

Andy Murray:  – 10000


Marion Bartoli:  – 225

Christina McHale:  + 165

__ __ __

2:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Ricardo Mello:  + 1000

Gilles Simon:  – 2500

__ __ __

2:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Robby Ginepri:  – 180

Joao Souza:  + 130


Nadia Petrova:  – 300

Polona Hercog:  + 200


Coco Vandeweghe:  + 700

Sam Stosur:  – 1500

__ __ __

3:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Dominika Cibulkova:  – 400

Irina Falconi:  + 250


Venus Williams:  + 110

Sabine Lisicki:  – 150

__ __ __

4:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Jack Sock:  + 185

Marc Gicquel:  – 275


Yanina Wickmayer:  – 375

Alla Kudryatseva:  + 235

__ __ __

4:30 PM EST

__ __ __

Angelique Kerber:  + 550

Agnieszka Radwanska:  – 1000


Flavia Pennetta:  – 400

Romina Oprandi:  + 250

__ __ __

5:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Marcos Baghdatis:  + 200

John Isner:  – 300

__ __ __

7:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Andy Roddick:  – 1500

Michael Russell:  + 700

__ __ __

9:00 PM EST

__ __ __

Anastasiya Yakimova:  + 1200

Maria Sharapova:  – 3000


A couple of things to mention here.  How often does Venus get a plus next to her name?  Nightmare matchup for Lisicki.  We’d like to see ugly 2-handers, Peng and Bartoli, out of here.  Especially Bartoli, facing young Jersey girl Christina McHale.  Angelique Kerber defeated our little darling, Lauren Davis.  We could see her being a nice bet against Radwanska who seems to be an awfully big favorite.  Who’s betting 1000 to win 100 on a Radwanska girl?  We’d like to think Coco and Jack have a shot today.  Especially Sock, against the very ancient Gicquel.  We are liking Hercoq against the burly Petrova, especially after she steamrolled Mattek-Sands, 1 and 3.  We like Falconi over Cibulkova, thinking she’s played well and that it’s a great matchup for her.

Romina Oprandi in action after predictably taking out Oudin (does she have to get bageled in every loss?).  Isner-Baghdatis might be the best match of the day.  We like Steve Johnson, USC’s NCAA champ, against Bogomolov, who we have never seen as – 1200 against anyone, and maybe never even seen as a favorite. 

Big day for USA potentially.  And Madison Keys could have gotten us off very well by finishing off Lucie Safarova.  Not to be, once again showing it takes more than defense to win at this level.

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Last night during Erakovic/Cibulkova on TTC, Lindsay Davenport, excited about the main event to come on ESPN between Serena Williams (victorious above) and Sharapova, talked it up a little bit over some video of Sharapova ferociously shadow hitting backhand after forehand in rapid fire succession.  Davenport explained that Serena had already been put through some rigorous steps by her people to prep for the match, and now Sharapova was doing the same thing.  When the coverage began on ESPN, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Brad Gilbert echoed the same sentiment.  They said that both players were treating the match more like a “Grand Slam final”, that they uncharacteristically spent an inordinate amount of time in what they called hard warmups compared to their normal routines, and that the atmosphere out at Stanford was completely electric.

Then the match started.  So much for the questions about Serena and where she was in her comeback.  So much for any hype surrounding the match.  So much for Sharapova who had seemed to reclaim her form of old.  Because Serena stormed out of the gate, winning a stunning first 5 games on Sharapova’s serve, and locking up the first set in what seemed like 5 minutes, en route to a 6-1, 6-3 easy breezy victory over the world #5, that might have been even more lopsided than the score line.

Serving to the world #169 (we know that’s outrageous and obviously on the mend), Sharapova’s achiles heel once again became apparent.  Against Hantuchova Thursday, Sharapova threw in 11 double faults, and added another 7 last night.  In a completely embarrassing display, Sharapova won only 12 points on her 1st serve in the entire match.  And what had become a rivalry several years ago when an unexpected blonde 17 year old dusted Serena in the Wimbledon final, is now decidedly far from it. 

Serena is now 7-2 lifetime versus Sharapova and has not lost in the series in almost 7 years.  The ticky tack blue Plexicushion surface which both players have won majors on, played like lightning.  Even on a coolish night.  Finally.  Serena, looking for her 1st final since last year’s Wimbledon, will take on Sabine Lisicki under similar conditions tonight.

Here are the odds for today’s matches:

Serena:  – 320

Lisicki:  + 240


Cibulkova:  + 140

Bartoli:  – 180


Fish:  – 600

Harrison:  + 400


Bogomolov:  + 170

Gulbis:  – 220


From what we saw last night, we love Serena and Gulbis today.

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In impressive fashion, American by way of Fort Lauderdale, 18 year old Sloane Stephens (above), world #138, won her 3rd consecutive match in the qualification round at Roland Garros, defeating Anastasia Pivovarova, world #95, who probably should have gotten right in to the main draw, 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes.  It’s a tough break for Pivovarova, the 20 year old Russian who was seeded first in the qualification section.  But out on court 14 earlier, she did not play the better tennis in big moments, and was continually thwarted by Stephens, who is an excellent mover on the dirt, and who is probably America’s most notable female prospect at the moment.

Pivovarova, at almost 6′, struggled to win points on serve all day, only managing to win 33 of 62 points on serve, despite getting 82% of her first serves in play.  Qualifying action today boded poorly for big servers amid the cold weather, a clear indication that the clay of Roland Garros is playing very slowly.  Stephens earned 8 break points and won four of them, a day after spanking American Julia Cohen, 6-0, 6-3 in 73 minutes.

On Wednesday, Stephens opened the quallies with a straight set win over Severine Beltrame, formerly Bremond, who is one of only 3 women on tour right now we can think of who play with one hand (the others being Francesca Schiavone and Kristina Barrois).  Stephens, who we recently lobbied for to make our piss poor Fed Cup squad, did not drop a set on her way to a winnable 1st round matchup with Elena Baltacha.

She also won a recent challenger on red clay (early May) and is most definitely playing the best tennis of her young career.  We are gratified.  And we like her draw.  Despite the presence of Cibulkova, Na Li, Dulgheru, and Kvitova in her quarter, we could see Stephens staying close with most of those women, in what is a very weak draw.  If Stephens can avoid Na Li, or get enough of her heavy groundstrokes back, a trip to the round of 16 could be in the cards for the bright young American.

American Jamie Hampton fell to Canadian Alexandra Wozniak, failing to qualify.  She and Stephens were the only Americans left vying for positions in the main draw today.  Young Brit Heather Watson got past Swiss vet Stefanie Voegele in straights.  Watson, a former US Open junior champion who trains in Florida, has now made the main draw of her second career major (Wimbledon, 2010). 

As for the men, how weak is the fact that they only played best of 3 set tennis?  Is this a major or not?  Veteran 1-hander Steve Darcis qualified in straights over top seeded American Alex Bogomolov.  Also unfortunate for the Americans, Ryan Harrison fell today in straight sets. 

Talented Canadian Frank Dancevic made the main draw with a straight set win over Victor Crivoi.  We can’t see him doing much here, but stay tuned for the lad on grass.  Lukasz Kobot, Leonardo Mayer, Alejandro Falla, and Bjorn Phau all qualified today.  And French fans will be happy that countrymen David Guez, Eric Prodon, and Stephane Robert all made it through.

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Jarmila Groth in civilian clothes (above).

World #42 and up and coming Australian female Jarmila Groth served notice of her serious game to the world once again, with an impressive straight set victory over country-woman and world #6, Saamantha Stosur.  Groth served big in defeating Stosur, the 2010 French Open finalist, 6-2, 6-4 with relative ease. The Brisbane International, which features both a mens and female field, was the site of one of the 23 year old from Melbourne, Groth’s, most impressive victories to date.  The tennis world and Australian tennis has certainly taken notice.  The win sets up a 4th round encounter with Andrea Petkovic who opened the tournament with an easy win over Australian Jelena Dokic, 6-0, 6-1.

For Groth, the tournament seems imminently winnable at this point, with a weak field including Marion Bartoli, Pavlyuchenkova, Safarova, and Cibulkova remaining–all players that we think Groth can hang with.

The mens side seems a bit tougher, with Baghdatis, Soderling, Istomin, South African giant Kevin Anderson, and Andy Roddick still floating around.  Roddick kicked off the new year with an easy 6-4, 6-2 win over Ukranian Alexander Dolgopolov, and claims he is at his “healthiest in months.”  Roddick looks to repeat as champion in Brisbane after a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7) win over Radek Stepanek in last year’s final.

Roddick would seem at this point to be on a collision course with #1 seed Robin Soderling.

In Doha, world #1 Rafael Nadal began the year in impressive fashion with a 6-3, 6-0 victory oover Karol Beck, a player who we feel has done his best to mime Nadal’s whip topspin forehand.  Today, Nadal is locked in more of a death struggle.  At the moment, Nadal has just been bageled by Luckas Lacko, after winning the tight first set in a tie breaker.  7-6 (3), 0-6 at the moment as the 3rd set is about to begin.  With Nadal already lamenting his lack of rest this offseason, we are wondering if he is starting the year fresh–something he obviously needed to do.

Federer kicked off the year with a tight win over 21 year old Dutchman Thomas Schoorel 7-6, 6-3, and made another highlight reel tweener shot in the match, which was frankly too close for comfort.  Federer said that his unfamiliarity with the young Dutchman worked against him.  See the latest Federer tweener at the link below:

Today, Federer defeated friend and countryman Marco Chudinelli in a tight 2 setter.  BTW, Nadal has steadied himself, and is now up an early break in the 3rd set versus Luckas Lacko.  Nadal leads the 3rd set 3-0, 40-40 as we write.

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Federer: -400 (wager 400 units to win 100 units, plus initial wager)

Soderling: +300 (wager 100 units to win 300 units, plus initial wager) 


Federer: -450

Soderling: +325

The above trend indicates that Vegas was taking more wagers than they wanted to at Federer -400, so they shifted the odds further away from Federer in the hopes of generating some wagering on Soderling.  It seems like smart money is on Roger, especially at -400 on the money line.  Also, the fact that the winds are whipping over on Ashe would seem to benefit Roger’s game over Soderling’s.  The wind is reeking havoc on the servers in the women’s match right now.

Federer-Soderling will air when top seeded female Caroline Wozniacki and Dominika Cibulkova conclude.  Wozniacki leads 6-1, 3-4 at present.  Federer-Soderling will be called by John and Patrick McEnroe.


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