Ivan Dodig


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A couple of years back during the US Open, Roger Federer, sitting for a panel interview, on one of those nights where the tennis ended way too early, found himself basically in the midst of an “Ask Roger” sort of segment, as ESPN prayed for time.  One of the questions that came was who he liked to watch play.  I guess Roger wasn’t in the mood to compliment any of his fellow men, which reminded me once of an interview I saw where Notrious B.I.G. was asked which rappers he listened to.  “Slow Jams” was all he’d say.  Roger had said that he liked watching Svetlana Kuznetsova play tennis.  The panel was somewhat surprised.  When they pushed him for more, the great man said, “she knows when to hit her shots and hits the right shots at the right time.”  Later on in that event, Federer’s comments were repeated to Kuznetsova.  The lady was in shock.  Not a mild shock either.

Earlier, while the AFC Championship was played (so sorry New England!), and as the Rangers were getting killed, we were spying tennis scores, and saw that Wozniacki and the Federer favorite, Kuznetsova, were going to a deciding third set.  Obviously Wozniacki has a conditioning advantage over Kuznetsova, who has never been mistaken for a hard body, and the slow Plexicushion also favors Wozniacki a bit, even if it is a bit more quick this year because in deference to copious player complaints, Laver Arena was not repaved, and as you may or may not know, the older a court, the faster it plays.  Why is that, you ask?  Because as a surface loses its jump, the ball bounces lower, and low bouncing balls skid nicely through the court.  Doug Adler, perhaps our most favorite announcer, at least this fortknight anyway, since we keep missing Justin Gimelstob, talked very candidly of the court on Saturday night during Gasquet-Dodig, of how the outer courts were not repaved or else, were not repaved with any grit in the top layer, which also reduces the friction on the ball, causing it to move quicker.  And Adler also said that in some places, they have still not been able to get up the old Rebound Ace, and that those spots are essentially more dead, causing for quicker points.  Leave it to Tennis Australia to better the game via its own inefficiencies for irony.

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Sam Querrey had said earlier in the week that these courts this year were the fastest hard courts he’d played on in “a long time.”  Federer had said that in his estimation, the courts are playing at least 10% faster.  We’d have to say we’ve noticed.  Many big servers and hard hitters have been able to out muscle their opposition, namely Maria Sharapova, never confused for a finesse player, and as Adler said, where and when have we seen Serena hit her top serve bracket (129-131 MPH) with such regularity.  Now we’d be rooting against Wozniacki no matter what, but considering all there was to consider, we wish we’d have bet Kuznetsova, who we were certain was going to come out on top in that 3rd set on Laver.  Unfortunately for us, we missed the post time to wager.  And also unfortunate was that the 3rd set went 75 minutes, and the coverage went from the very dignified team of Bill Macatee and Martina Navratilova to the ESPN team of Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert, as at 9 PM EST, TTC loses their right to cover matches, and at that time, the deuce gains theirs.

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At a few minutes to 9, on a brilliant play by Kuznetsova, who does know when to hit what shots when, she pulled Wozniacki way out wide, forced a hand off of her racquet, and came forward to knock off an easy forehand volley.  Perfect tennis.  At that stage, the match was about 90 minutes long, and the graphic flashed that Wozniacki had only 4 winners on the forehand side.  Navratilova, who also respects Kuznetsova a great deal, and not so much Wozniacki, called the Dutch Miss’s situation “the same old story”.  How right she is.  Wozniacki, like ESPN2 on a US Open short night, just prays for time.  Kuznetsova closed that game out on the next point, seeing that the Dutch Miss was a good 2 meters beyond the baseline, by drop shotting, forcing Wozniacki to scramble forward, and then coming up with the easy pass.  These type of plays make up the play book against Wozniacki, who hates coming in, and who hates taking her hand of the racquet on the backhand side.  Navratilova has some very interesting perspective on Kuzentsova’s game, a pleasure to hear her share really.  As Martina tells it, when Kuznetsova was very little, her parents, at some event where Martina was, asked the star if she could take a look at the young girl, and tell them what she thought of her game.  Martina liked her so much, that they would play doubles together when SK was a young teen.

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And then we switched off the tennis to catch Bernard Pollard rock Stevan Ridley’s world and sink the hopes of Patriot nation, and when we came back to the tennis, TTC was done, and we had to deal with PMac and Evert, who spoke not a word of Kuznetsova, practically, while they gushed for Wozniacki, predictably, who they kept calling “gutsy” and “a fighter.”  And, who is a loser.  At one point, we nearly had to throw up, when on an important second serve which Kuznetsova needed, she went to an 82 MPH kicker, got it out wide, and when the next ball came back mid court, Kuznetsova jacked an opposite corner forehand, and then approached, and hit a very nice half volley forehand winner, Evert exclaimed, “Kuznetsova took a chance right there.”  Um yeah.  It does often work for players with talent, Chris.  We long for the days when Evert was out of vogue, shuttered up in Florida with The Shark.

The match came down to that very atittude in essence.  Kuznetsova made 23 of 25 net points, while Wozniacki made 8 of 19, and “Koozie”, as Martina affectionately refers to her, hit 52 winners to the Dutch Miss’s 21, and Wozniacki has now stretched her run of futility all the further, despite being a terrific fighter, but as we know in tennis, it’s tough to fight with pop guns.

Set your Tivo for tonight at 3 AM EST to see some real attack tennis, when Raonic gets his latest crack at Roger, who he has yet to beat in 3 tries, but the matches have been really close.  Each of the 3 Fed wins were best of threes in which Federer has narrowly won in 3, and they have already played 4 tie breakers.  We see it as being a very tight match for both guys, though Federer is moving like early prime Federer right now, and frankly never ceases to amaze.  Too bad we have to ride out the rest of this tournament without the great announcers on the mix channels, as ESPN moves into exclusive coverage this week.  Hopefully they won’t show a poor women’s match during Federer-Raonic like they did with Fed-Davydenko, especially compelling because of the stunning turn around in their last meeting in Melbourne, when Fed took a bathroom break and then won 14 game straight.  And, hopefully they will not show a loop of Raonic-Federer after the match ends, instead of live tennis, like an advantage set between Monfils and Simon.

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WTA Championships — Final (Istanbul, Turkey)

Serena Williams:  – 400

Maria Sharapova:  + 300

…………..

ATP Swiss Indoor — Final (Basel, Switzerland)

Roger Federer:  – 360

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 280

………….

ATP Valencia Pen — Final (Valencia, Spain)

David Ferrer:  – 300

Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. :  + 220

………..

Serena dominates Sharapova, and has looked amazing this week.  Sharapova upset Azarenka yesterday, which is going to be her finest moment in Istanbul.  Serena on a fast indoor court is a nightmare for Masha, who will not withstand Serena’s power, in our mind.  We are very comfortable going with Serena here, despite the big money line.

Roger, we think, looks to make it a 7th in his home town.  We like the new track they laid down in Basel, witch, people should know, is the place where Albert Hoffman invented LSD.  Kudos to Albert and Basel for that.  As for tomorrow, we feel it’s been a sluggish week for Roger, and we’ve seen him lose the Basel final before (Djokovic, 2009).  Del Potro sure does give Roger a lot of problems.  We would not have a problem going with the dog here, as not often will JMDP be such a big dog, and he certainly has a very good chance against anyone on earth, and probably plays the big 3 better than anyone including Andy Murray.  But we are obviously pulling for Roger, who should have a very good chance to excel down the stretch this year with very favorable conditions staring at him here, in Paris, and in London for the YEC.

In Valencia, we feel it is so rare that David Ferrer loses to a lesser ranked player, but can’t see laying 3 to win 1 on Ferrer, who really has to work so hard indoors.  This is one of those times where you ask, might a David Ferrer be fatigued, because he grinds so much and it’s so late in the year.  And this week alone, he’s played a lot of tennis.  Quite a match he survived today versus Dodig.  But Dolgopolov is really a mirror image player, a poor man’s Ferrer.  We expect Ferrer and so we won’t touch it.  We’d also say that Ferrer deserves a nice indoor title on his home soil as a deserving reward for playing hard for so long.

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After a full year of complete domination on the men’s side in which reigning king Novak Djokovic passed out more bagels than any player in recent memory, his quest to end the year with the modern best all time record was dealt a fatal blow this morning in Basel. After a dominant 1st set over rising Japanese pro Kei Nishikori (above, bottom), Djokovic began to look tired. He dropped a 2nd set breaker 7-4 that had been level at 4 and then seemed physically spent in the third, when he gave away all 3 of his service games and was unable to earn any opportunities on Nishikori’s serve. Really Djokovic, who returned flawlessly in the first set, did little in the return game at all after the first set, managing just 1 break on only 3 opportunities. A far cry from The US Open final when he broke Nadal at will. The win is by far the biggest yet in the career of Nishikori, his first ever win versus a number one, and becomes the 1st Japanese man to defeat a world number one. Nishikori is also the first man to dole out a bagel to Djokovic in a season in which he has served up 13 bagels to others, 4 alone on the way to his 1st US Open title.

The loss today makes Djokovic 64-3. With the Paris Indoors and YEC the only events remaining, making for a maximum of 11 matches, it has now become impossible for Djokovic to top John McEnroe’s 81-3 1984 season, though some would probably argue that of the 2 all time great years, Djokovic had the better one.

We couldn’t be more impressed with Djokovic this season but we can’t go that far. People should recall that John McEnroe also played a great deal of doubles that year and along with Peter Fleming, made up the best doubles team in the men’s game. McEnroe also played considerably more best of 5 set tennis, and did the done thing by top players at the time by not travelling to Australia for the AO.

One should note Roger Federer’s magical 81-4 season in which he lost his last match, the YEC final vs. David Nalbandian after leading 2 sets to love when he suffered a calf injury, enabling Nalbandian to come back and win in what would be the biggest tournament victory in the Argentine’s career. Like Djokovic this year, Federer’s had won 3 majors in 2005 and would have topped McEnroe’s 1984 winning percentage without the loss to Nalbandian in the final match of the season.

Djokovic has obviously proved as the year’s best fast courter, taking home the prize at both Wimbledon and Flushing. We do feel Basel is playing much faster than those majors and that guys had success hitting hard to Djokovic on the backhand side, where he didn’t have the time to double grip and whip guys and made far more errors than normal off the double wing. Nishikori, having a solid indoor season seemed much more at ease today with the speed of the court.
We wonder if the Basel organizers have been listening to Roger Federer’s complaints about the lack of true fast courts these days, even indoors. Federer made such comments frequently and went out of his way to praise the courts at the Paris Indoors last year after beating Djokovic for his 4th Basel title on a seemingly very slow, tacky red indoor surface which has since been changed to the blue, faster track.

Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka in straights earlier to reach his 6th straight final in his home tournament.
Federer will play Nishikori tomorrow as he looks for his second title on the year and 5th at the Basel Indoor.
We’d also like to mention how good it is to see Sam Querrey on the court again. Samurai Sam is recovered from wrist surgery and should be moving up from world # 116 after making the QF round in Valencia. Querrey also won his qualifying round match today in Paris.

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Rafael Nadal (above) after stunning 3 set upset, suffered at the hands of Croat comer Ivan Dodig.  For Nadal, who was outplayed, it was the first time losing in the 2nd round of a Masters 1000 level event since 2008 (Rome, Juan Carlos Ferrero), and the first time doing so on North American soil since 2007 (Cincinnati, Juan Monaco).

Rogers Cup — Mens Masters 1000 Series (Montreal)

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12:00 PM

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Tomas Berdych:  – 275

Ivo Karlovich:  + 185

1:00 PM

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Stanislas Wawrinka:  – 200

Kevin Anderson:  + 150

2:00 PM

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Novak Djokovic:  – 900

Marin Cilic:  + 500

4:00 PM

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Janko Tipsarevic:  – 180

Ivan Dodig:  + 130

5:00 PM

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Mardy Fish:  – 175

Ernests Gulbis:  + 125

5:30 PM

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Victor Troicki:  + 110

Gael Monfils:  – 150

7:30 PM

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Roger Federer:  – 275

JW Tsonga:  + 185

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Richard Gasquet:  – 200

Nicolas Almagro:  + 150

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Rogers Cup — Women (Toronto)

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1:00 PM

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Andrea Petkovic:  + 150

Petra Kvitova:  – 200

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2:00 PM

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Roberta Vinci:  + 200

Ana Ivanovic:  – 300

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MJ Martinez Sanchez:  + 250

Victoria Azarenka:  – 400

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3:30 PM

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Maria Sharapova:  – 600

Galina Voskoboeva:  + 400

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Vera Zvonareva:  – 150

Agnieszka Radwanska:  + 110

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7:00 PM

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Serena Williams:  – 1200

Jie Zheng:  + 600

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Francesca Schiavone:  – 185

Lucie Safarova:  + 135

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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

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Hanescu:  + 700

Roddick:  – 1500

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Paszek:  – 175

McHale:  + 125

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Dulgheru:  + 250

Kuznetsova:  – 400

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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

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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

______________________________

Kei Nishikori:  – 110

Lleyton Hewitt:  – 130

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Bernard Tomic:  – 180

Nikolay Davydenko:  + 130

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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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