Fernando Gonzalez


At the biggest hardcourt stop yet of this sumer’s Olympus Series, on the way to the US Open, it’s good to see aggressive players, young and old, bringing some much needed flair to the men’s game as the tour returns to the right type of hardcourt: Decoturf.  In action today are five one-handers, with 3 on the courts as we speak.  American James Blake (above), who dropped off the face of the earth in the last year and a half, is enjoying a surprising renaissance at the moment, leading former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-2, 1-0 (a break to the good already in the 2nd) taking that first set in a little more than 30 minutes.  Blake’s free swinging style and hard bang ball crushing are a bad matchup for Nalbandian, who tries to dictate without gving up much ground on the baseline with his 2-handed backhand.  Blake is a difficult guy to do so against because he hits with too much pace for Nalbandian not to give up some feet on the baseline.  If Blake is on, it is impossible for a tight two hander to take the ball early against him.  Blake doesn’t give them enough time.  That’s why Blake has given Nadal so much difficulty over the years, especially before Blake’s demise.

Fortunately for Blake, Nalbandian has suffered an injury related demise as well and seems to be struggling to regain his form.  Blake’s demolition at the hands of the almost unbeatable Novak Djokovic in Miami looked like a fait accompli for the once 2nd most talented player in the game.  Blake, complaining about tendinitis in his knee, mused aloud about retirement, and getting smoked by the Djoker in that manner made us wonder if hadn’t already retired mentally.  But Blake has was worked hard with new coach Craig Boynton, who has done wonders with Giant John Isner, and that hard work seems to be paying off right now.  You will remember that Blake, loyal to a fault, refused to fire his previous and one and only coach, Brian Barker, even as the wheels were coming off of his career.  Sometimes you have to change to grow though.  We are glad to see Blake, who is one of the best athletes on the tour when healthy, holding his serve and concentrating again on big points.  We consider Blake a young thirty and feel he can recapture some of the magic his enormous potential and natural ability holds.  Blake is now serving, up 3-2 in the 2nd set.  Go James!

Thirty-one year old Tommy Haas has had a very hard road back from a hip that effectively ruined his last year and a half on tour.  Since returning in April, Haas has shown flashes of the wealth of talent he possesses, but had only won one match, which came at Newport in July against countryman Michael Berrer.  In his next match, Haas was forced to retire down 5-2 in the 1st set.  Today Haas took out former American collegiate star and solid doubles player, Amer Delic, 6-2, 6-3.  Haas’s high risk, high reward style, which has seen him rise as high as world #2, making 4 major semi-finals (3 down under, 1 at Wimbledon), has been sorely missed.  Remember that Haas was only 5 points from closing out Roger Federer in the round of 16 at Roland Garros in 09, the year that Federer won the crown, and that Federer also defeated Haas in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, on his way to his last Wimbledon crown.  That year, Haas defeated Marin Cilic 10-8 in the 5th on the lawns in one of the most entertaining matches in recent memory, and then blitzed Novak Djokovic, upsetting the Serb star in the quarter-final round.

The Blake match is now final, with the American winning 6-2, 6-4 in 1:12.  Blake struck 7 aces and was not broken in the lopsided contest.  He will face the winner of Isner-Kamke, which is just under way, in the 4th round.  Tommy Haas will face another very talented one hander on the comeback trail in the second round, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who upset Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. at Wimbledon (we called it!).

Up and coming one handed Bulgarian prodigy Grigor Dimitrov just came through a few minutes ago against putrid American Tim Smyczek in a 3rd set breaker.  Dimitrov is a kid we’ve had our eyes on for a long time because we see him as having the most potential of any young one hander in the game.  Dimitrov, who has patterned himself after Roger Federer and who was coached by Roger’s same developmental coach, Peter Lundgren, broke into the top 60 for the first time this summer, and has risen relatively quickly in the last year after a rough first year on tour.  Dimitrov has yet to do much on hardcourts, and if he wishes to here, he will have to go through another talented one hander, Frenchman Michael Llodra, in the 2nd round.

Michael Berrer, German one hander, defeated refreshing Italian serve and volleyer Paolo Lorenzi in straights earlier and will face our favorite techno ace, Serb Janko Tipsarevic in the next round, with an opportunity to meet the Llodra/Dimitrov winner in the round of 16.  Big Aussie redheaded one handed serve and volleyer Chris Guccione has just gone to a decisive 3rd set with giant South African Kevin Anderson, a teammate of Amer Delic’s at Illinois.  Notable Americans Donald Young and Ryan Harrison, who is having an excellent summer so far, won their first round encounters as well. 

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Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (above), who “upset”  15th seed Jelena Jankovic today, as we expected.

As you know, we were on Radek Stepanek today, and unfortunately for us, after taking the first 2 sets from Fernando Verdasco, whom we think is a quite poor big match player, the Spaniard got out of jail, winning 3 straight sets, and 9-7 in the extended fifth.  We aren’t about to apologize.  This is the kind of action we like, and we’d go the same way if there was a rematch of these 2 on grass tomorrow.  Some of other picks did a little better.  We think that Gonzo is officially back, after popping 25 aces and playing very clean tennis against Alexandr Dolgopolov, who got stung by an abysmal draw.  Gonzo hit 50 winners and had only 19 UFE in a very entertaining match in which Dolgopolov played pretty well, save for his weak second serve, now very exposed come fast court season.

We loved Ryan Harrison and along with Gonzalez and Martinez Sanchez, we were very happy with a nice trio of wins from those dogs.  Simply put, Dodig was not the same player he was last week against Harrison, who dominated every positive category except aces.  Harrison will play David Ferrer in round 2, and we’ll be liking him again in that matchup on Thursday.  Harrison is a very tough kid, for an American.  Very atypical of the sort of tennis brats our nation has been raising.  Speaking of brats, how about that Melanie Oudin, who caught a bagel and a breadstick from Ana Ivanovic, in the route of the day.  Oudin should give it up.  How sad was that performance, in which she won a mere 15 points out of 39 on serve, and a meager 8 points in the return game?

Frankly, we are absolutely sick of seeing her touted as a rising American.  She has gotten by too long on her opponents double faults.  If we trot her out for Fed Cup again, I’m gonna puke.

We thought Lleyton Hewitt would out-tough Kei Nishikori on the grass, and he did, for his 104th career win on grass.  We also thought talented 1-hander Sergiy Stakhovsky would roll British hack Daniel Cox, and he did.  We had Isner going through, if you recall, with few breaks of serve, and we loved Dimitrov, and fully expect him to come through when his match is resumed tomorrow.  The Bulgarian 1-hander who has been called by some a Federer clone wass up 7-5, 7-5, 3-3 when darkness fell.

On the women’s side, sure we went against Wozniacki, as we will in every round until she is eliminated.  We weren’t impressed with the short work she made of Parra Santonja, and have no respect for her game or rank.  As we expected, Irina Falconi, a terrible favorite, fell easily to Stephanie Dubois of Canada, 2 and 2.  Tamira Paszek came through againt Ayumi Morita in 3 sets, and will draw suprise winner from New Jersey, Christina McHale in the second round.

And before we get to the morning’s odds, we’d just like to mention that Serena had a very tough match and seemed, by her post match comments, just happy to be there and to have won a match.  We have seen her get hot many times, and many times, off of long layoffs, notably dusting Justine Henin, and silencing the “Serena is fat” bandwagon by winning at Melbourne while fat, but we just feel like this may be a bit too much for here here, despite a favorable draw.

Serena may bow out early.  And we might be betting against her.  As for tomorrow’s odds:

Nadal:  – 12000

Sweeting:  + 3000

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Fish:  – 400

Istomin:  + 250

__________________________

Hanescu:  + 700

Roddick:  – 1500

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Paszek:  – 175

McHale:  + 125

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Dulgheru:  + 250

Kuznetsova:  – 400

……..

We think Kuznetsova’s movement is suspect on grass, and we don’t like her as a big favorite here.  McHale has a fighter’s chance in what is basically a toss up.  We hate Roddick at minus 1500, and Nadal at minus 12000.  I mean, who really wants to lay 1500 units or 12000 units to win a 100.  I’ll take my chances with the dogs at those rates.  We also don’t like Mardy Fish much at (-400), and don’t think he’s much good in the big spot.  There are a lot of 1st round matches yet to come off, and we spoke about some of them yesterday.  We didn’t mention Kristina Barrois,  a one hander whom we have a soft spot for.  We are pulling for her, a slim favorite over Petra Cetkovska.  And Bethanie Mattek-Sands is (-600) against Misak Doi.  Wow.  Another sign of how bad the women’s game is.  Gun to our heads, we’d say Hanescu/Istomin would be our long shot parlay of the day.  Maybe throw in Ryan Sweeting if we are feeling really crazy.  A 5 unit 3 team parlay there would net 4340 units, if the stars aligned.

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Impressive young American Ryan Harrison, who once again bulled his way through qualifying, with Pistol Pete Sampras (above).

There are some very interesting matchups, as well as odds, for Day 2’s action at The Championships.  Take a look at the odds and our thoughts, below:

Ivan Dodig:  – 275

Ryan Harrison (USA):  + 185

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Alexander Dolgopolov:  – 400

Fernando Gonzalez:  + 250

________________________________

Grigor Dimitrov:  – 225

Cedrik-Marcel Stebe:  + 165

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Nicolas Almagro:  – 180

Jarkko Nieminen:  + 130

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John Isner:  – 250

Nicolas Mahut:  + 175

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Kei Nishikori:  – 110

Lleyton Hewitt:  – 130

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Bernard Tomic:  – 180

Nikolay Davydenko:  + 130

________________________________

Ernests Gulbis:  + 175

Dimitry Tursunov:  – 250

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Frank Dancevic:  – 500

Ricardo Mello:  + 300

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Andreas Seppi:  – 225

Albert Montanes:  + 165

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Wozniacki:  – 5000

Parra Santonja:  + 1500

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Medina Garrigues:  + 165

Goerges:  – 225

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Kerber:  – 200

Robson:  + 150

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Falconi:  – 175

Dubois:  + 125

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Jankovic:  – 300

Martinez-Sanchez:  + 200

………..

We didn’t know much about Ivan Dodig, to be honest, until we saw him play a few very sensible grass court matches last week.  Still, we see young Texan Ryan Harrison as a special player to be, and we like his recent work, most notably, a big win against a very hot Milos Raonic at Indian Wells.  We’d take Harrison, who is looking for his 1st win on European grass (he had a couple of wins in Rhode Island last July).  We like Gonzo as a big underdog.  Dolgopolov has underwhelmed on specialty surafaces, and though it’s hard to know how well Gonzo has healed from his knee problems, he is a big time player with an immnse serve and forhand when right.  you know we love our one hander Grigor Dimitrov, especially in this matchup with a relative unknown.  Dimitrov has progressed very well in the last year, and a win tomorrow would be a nice step for him.  Giant John and Mahut set to rumble again.  Mahut is a kid we just love because he has a great attitude, great hands, and plays the right way.  But we’ll take Isner.  Neither guy has much of a return game, which hurts Mahut more against the 6’9 ace machine.  Japan’s finest, Kei Nishikori, against former champ Lleyton Hewitt…hard to tell how right Hewitt is, but he’s a fighter.  Keep that in mind.  Welcome back to high level tennis for Dimitry Tursunov, who had 3 major ankle surgeries in the last 2 years.  Against Gulbis, we should see some giant groundstrokes, and not much holding back.  Would be a great win for either guy.  We have always loved 1-handed Canadian Frank Dancevic, a heavy favorite tomorrow.  Good luck to James Blake against Baggy…he’ll need it, and he desperately needs a win and some confidence. 

On the ladies side, we think Caesar’s is crazy to put such a ridiculous number on Caroline Wozniacki.  We’re taking APS and the plus 1500.  It girl, flavor of the month, talk of the villages, Julia Goerges, is such a slight favorite over AMG…can it be right?  Just another shining example of how weak the women’s game is.  We’d love to Laura Robson, the young Brit, come through.  American youngster Irina Falconi, who has perhaps played 1 or 2 good weeks of tennis is her young career, is favored tomorrow.  We’re skeptical.  We love Martinez Sanchez, probably the best lady Spaniard on grass, and think she will give Jankovic, whom we despise for her gutless, hack style, much trouble.  And though not listed above, we like Radek Stepanek a lot at (+ 150) for an upset special over Cahill’s special boy, Fernando Verdasco.

Nice parlay opportunities tomorrow with the dogs.  If you want to get crazy, go Parra Santonja, Harrison, Martinez-Sanchez, Verdasco, and Gonzo.  A 5 unit wager on that combo would pay out 5,985 units should the stars align.  And please remember that we like certain bets, but don’t necessarily believe they will come in.  That’s why it’s gambling, kids.  May as well try to win big if you are going to play.

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Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic (above).

When play commences on the lawns next week, tennis fans will be treated to some very good matchups.  With the Wimbledon draws announced today, we figured we’d let you know what to look out for in the first couple of rounds.  Ladies first:

 

Ladies Singles–1st Round

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(15) Jelena Jankovic vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez

Akgul Amanmuradova vs. (23) Venus Williams

Alison Riske (USA) vs. (2) Vera Zvonareva

(6) Francesca Schiavone vs. Jelena Dokic

Christina McHale (USA) vs. Ekaterina Makarova

(18) Ana Ivanovic vs. Melanie Oudin (USA)

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) vs. Eleni Danilidou

Aravane Rezai vs. Serena Williams

Laura Robson vs. Angelique Kerber

(5) Maria Sharapova vs. Anna Chakvetadze

 

Mens Singles 1st Round

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Ryan Sweeting (USA) vs. Pablo Andujar

Fabio Fognini vs. Milos Raonic

Donald Young (USA) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr. (USA)

Radek Stepanek vs. Fernando Verdasco

Tobias Kamke vs. Blaz Kavcic

Sergiy Stakhovsky vs. Daniel Cox (GBR)

Ivan Ljubicic vs. Marin Cilic

Ivo Karlovic vs. Janko Tipsarevic

Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. vs. Fernando Gonzalez

John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut

David Nalbandian vs. Julian Reister

Robin Soderling vs. Philipp Petzschner

Kei Nishikori vs. Lleyton Hewitt

Marcos Baghdatis vs. James Blake

…..

The women’s draw features Mary Joe Fernandez’s rag tag crew of hack Fed Cuppers, in Oudin, McHale, and Vandeweghe.  Oudin should get dusted by Ivanovic, who, should she lose, should probably hang it up already.  Coco’s got a glimmer of hope against Danilidou.  McHale should get shredded by Makarova.  FYI, Vania King, who has played well, is in the main draw, as is Alison Riske, who has a very tall order in Vera Z.  Who knows?  Grass is Riske’s best surface, and maybe the Pensylvania product gets lucky.  Zvonareva looked dead during her QF at Eastbourne versus Stosur, after winning 8 of the first 12 games and virtually having the match in the bag.  Zvonareva has played a lot of tennis this year.  Could that bode well for the American who should be installed on our FC squad, especially considering America’s woeful state of affairs and relegation from the World Group?  Journeywoman American by way of Russia Varvara Lepchenko did upset 18th seed Flavia Pennetta at Roland Garros, so we’ll give her a bit of a chance here against 19th seed, Yanina Wickmayer.  Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, one of the few women with the stones to consistently attack, has a great shot to upset Jelena Jankovic.  The Spaniard is 2-1 lifetime versus the gutless, annoying Serb.  Also, it would be nice to see young Brit Laura Robson win her first round match with Kerber.  Kerber will be favored.

Not to run on about the men, but we do feel it’s high time that Ryan Sweeting, with his ranking up to 66th, notch his first ever match win on grass.  We’re very interested to see our boy, young beast Milos Raonic on the grass.  The possibility of a 3rd round match between Raonic and Nadal would make for appointment television.  As would a possible Del Potro/Nadal round of 16 affair.  Nice to see DP in the top 25 again (24).  Tommy Haas looks for his first win of the year, and we welcome him back, as well as David Nalbandian, who won 2 rounds at Halle.  We also welcome back Chilean ball crusher Fernando Gonzalez who might be a big problem for Dolgopolov, who seems to adjust poorly to specialty surfaces.  We love Stepanek, a nice net player, as an upset special in round 1.  We’d love to see James Blake do something in the spot versus Baghdatis, but Blake is even more disappointing than usual at Wimbledon.  Things look good for former boys champ Donald Young, in a very winnable 1st round match versus another American Alex Bogolomov.  We always love watching talented 1-hander Segiy Stakhovsky, who gets diminutive British hack Daniel Cox in round 1.  We hope Soderling has a good run here but it wouldn’t shock us if Philipp Petzschner, a very good grass courter and last year’s doubles champ gave him a good go.  Our favorite techno tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic has his hands full with ace machine Ivo Karlovic.  We might put a few dinari on Dr. Ivo.  It would be a good time for Marin Cilic to wake up, though we don’t have much confidence in that.

And in maybe the most celebrated first round rematch ever, we look for Giant John Isner, whose ranking has fell to near 50, to get back on track and take care for Mahut before it gets to 70-68 in the 5th.  Isner has weathered the clay season, and can not be faulted for taking Nadal to 5 hard sets at Roland Garros in round 1.  We look for him to have a great summer starting here, and carrying over to the American summer hardcourt season.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/giant-john-isner-wins-longest-match-in-tennis-history-in-1st-round-wimbledon/

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https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/marathon-record-man-isner-falls-easily-in-2nd-round-wimbledon/

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2009 French Open champion Roger Federer (above).

First, the odds for the men’s 2011 French Open champion:

Odds                                    

Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. —  +15000 (wager 100 units to win 15000)

Andy Murray —  + 1500 (wager 100 units to win 1500)

Andy Roddick —  + 20000 (wager 100 units to win 20000)

David Ferrer —  + 2500

Ernests Gulbis —  + 15000

Fernando Gonzalez — + 15000

Gael Monfils — + 10000

Gilles Simon — + 15000

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga — + 15000

John Isner — + 20000

Juan Carlos Ferrero — + 15000

Juan Martin Del Potro — + 2500

Juan Monaco —  + 20000

Jurgen Melzer — + 10000

Marin Cilic — + 10000

Mikhail Youzhny — + 15000

Milos Raonic — + 15000

Nicolas Almagro — + 8000

Nikolay Davydenko — + 10000

Novak Djokovic — + 125

Rafael Nadal — – 125

Richard Gasquet — + 8000

Robin Soderling — + 3000

Roger Federer — + 1500

Stanislas Wawrinka — + 15000

Thomaz Bellucci — + 8000

Tomas Berdych — + 8000

Field (Any Other Player) — + 5000

Comments:

These odds are rough.  Only Nadal and Djokovic have reasonable odds, and Nadal is the slight favorite right now.  Honestly, we expected to see Djokovic with a much larger number next to the plus, and we expected to see Federer and Soderling with much lower numbers next to the plus.  Caesar’s Palace is paying very little respect to the players listed, as well as the rest of the field. 

Federer is 1 year removed from holding the trophy.  This is a tournament where traditionally, hell breaks loose on high seeds, and we’d definitely take a flyer on Federer, Murray, or Soderling if asked to play an odds on dog.  Probably Del Potro too, though we can’t tell if he’s really ready for RG, and hasn’t gotten his seed up high enough yet to enjoy a nice draw (world # 27).  Del Potro fans shouldn’t worry though.  He’s played impressive tennis this year, has won a few tournaments, and has shown good mental toughness.  We like the way he spanked a good clay courter in Verdasco, 6-2, 6-2 in the Estoril final, and as far as we can count, he is one of the few guys to win a title on clay and hards this year.  But DP did not play Rome, was a walkover for Nadal in Madrid due to a thigh injury, and there is talk that he may not be ready to go Sunday. 

We’d like to see what Federer’s odds were in 2009 when no one saw the Nadal upset (Sunday Bloody Sunday) to Soderling coming.  We’ve said for a few weeks that Andy Murray would surprise on clay this year, and we think he looks pretty good.  He was only a few points from beating Nadal in Monte Carlo and Djokovic in Rome.

A few other notable items strike us.  Milos Raonic, who hasn’t done much on clay aside from one semi-final in Estoril (7-5 match record on clay), is being shown a modicum of respect by Caesar’s, no doubt due to his meteoric rise in the game (world # 28).  “America’s best”, Mardy Fish, not a typical clay courter, got no play in these odds.  Sam Querrey (world # 26) also got no play, and that the steadily dropping John Isner, who has won, we believe 1 match only at RG in his career, has the same odds as Andy Roddick, bodes poorly for them both.

There are only five major champions listed above (Roddick, Djokovic, Ferrero, Federer, Nadal).  Of those, only Federer, Nadal, and Ferrero have won RG.  Fernando Gonzalez, a few points from the final against Roger in 09, was listed, no doubt because of that showing and because he is one of the few men around who has beaten Nadal on clay.

There are many Frenchmen listed, and we’d have to say former semi-finalist Gael Monfils, despite commitment issues, does has the game to win here, and probably only here.  We thought Dolgopolov’s scrambling style would translate to clay, but so far it has not.  Ferrer, an excellent clay courter, has been given some respect despite beating Nadal only once on clay way back in 04.  But Ferrer has beaten Nadal at multiple majors, as has Andy Murray, and that’s not something that even Roger Federer can boast of.

We aren’t going to go crazy for Almagro, a fine clay courter, but one who matches up horribly with Nadal’s heavy spin.  When the “dream matchup” finally came off between them a few years back at RG, it was no contest.

You know we love Gasquet, but not in this spot.  Check back with us at Wimbledon.  And we’ve liked Thomaz Bellucci on clay for a few seasons now, and see him as being a handful for anyone.  We’re sure that the top guys will be looking closely at their draw sheets for his name tomorrow night.

In the big picture, we are adopting our “anyone but Rafa” approach to rooting philosophy.  This is a crucial major for Rafa in his pursuit of Roger, because if things are different at Roland Garros, then we don’t see Rafa getting too many more than the 9 majors he already has.  Betting is a different story.  Pre-tournament?  Let us say again how we think Roger, Murray, and the Big Swede are excellent bets.  And as a very long shot, we’ll take Wawrinka.  He’s a gritty clay courter, and very comfortable on the surface.

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If you’ve noticed that Rafael Nadal has simply breezed through 4 rounds in Melbourne, that he’s yet to be given a true test, and that he’s only been on the court about 7 hours total so far, then you might not think David Ferrer, the 7 seed, has much chance tomorrow morning.  Well, we’re with you, and so is Las Vegas.  Here are the odds on the match:

Rafael Nadal: – 1000 (bet 1000 units to win 100 plus initial wager)

David Ferrer: + 600 (bet 100 units to win 600 plus initial wager)

Now if we are fishing for positives as to why Ferrer does have a shot, keep these facts in mind: Ferrer is 3-2 against Nadal on hardcourts in his career.  Ferrer is the only man to defeat Nadal at a major when losing the first set.  Ferrer is one of only 5 men on the tour to defeat Nadal on clay (the other 4 are Soderling, Federer, Andreev, and Gonzo).  Ferrer and Nadal are both Spaniards and have the nationalistic rivalry going.  Ferrer is also undefeated so far in 2011.

As for the early men’s match, Murray vs. Dolgopolov Jr., the 2 men have never faced off.  Dolgopolov Jr. comes in off stunning 5 set upsets of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling.  The odds for that match are the same as above, with Murray going off at – 1000.

A Murray-Nadal semi would be a rematch of last year, which went easily to Murray.  Like last year, the outcome of that match will likely decide the tournament, as Nadal would be favored over Federer/Djokovic winner, while Murray would likely beat Djokovic.  Murray is 0-2 vs. Federer in major finals, and has yet to take a set off of Roger in a big spot.

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Roger Federer’s beautiful one hand backhand (above).

“You don’t have that room for movement with the 2-hander that you do with the one hand.”–Martina Navratilova

–Crack

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