Jelena Jankovic


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

……….

613494-agnieszka-radwanskaWorld #4 Agniezska Radwanska (above), as she struggles to deal with oppressive conditions at The Apia in Sydney.

One of our ones to watch, the very talented and stylish young one hander Grigor Dimitrov, makes his 1st ever tour final over the weekend.  This week, he rolls out to Sydney where he gets bounced, 1 & 3, by Fognini, a vastly inferior player.  Maybe Dimitrov, still young, doesn’t yet have mastered the art of the quick turn around.  Not exactly likely since to break into the main draw bubble at lesser tournies like these, he’s had to go the hard scrabble qualifier route to make his bones, often playing 3 matches before his 1st round match.  This, after a prolific junior career in which he won both the Wimbledon and US Open junior titles.  Maybe though.  Also unlikely that Benoit Paire, after a strong week in India would fall so flat the next week, another 1st round  casualty, this time in Auckland.  Certainly couldn’t be the problem for John Isner, already lame this new year despite virtually no match play at all.  But only in Australia is freshness and injury such a concern, though the new year has yet to see it’s 10th day.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/tennis/american-john-isner-withdraws-from-australian-open-with-knee-injury/story-fnddkxkr-1226551036599

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/grigor-dimitrov-one-handed-tennis-prodigy-out-in-2nd-round-at-queens-club-see-dimitrov-clips/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/the-pervy-picture-show-svetoslava-simeonova-fabio-fogninis-girlfriend/

You must know we’re quite likely to chalk up assorted leg, back, shoulder and elbow injuries Down Under to surface issues most of the time.  I mean, is it not a little curious that Rafael Nadal, who is practicing full bore on red clay, we hear, in Barcelona, and is making bold, confident proclamations on Twitter that he is great to go, and in fact expects to have a banner 2013?  Just not in Australia, which, apparently healthy, he has decided to skip entirely. Nadal is always subject to injury from his horrible defensive style–running, endless points, infinite pounding–but there can be no denying that a 6 hour, 5 set Aussie final on Plexicushion left him staggered.  So staggered in fact that despite today claiming perfect health, he is nowhere to be found around Melbourne not 5 days before a major, the 2nd straight major he is about to miss, making for a 7th straight month without match play.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/australia-plexicushion-bad-for-tennis-the-state-of-one-handers-and-the-game/

Rather quizzical to us that Nadal would then go play singles and doubles at Indian Wells, also on Plexicushion, but you’ll never hear us accuse Nadal of being bright.  Perhaps never more obvious were the negative effects of Plexicushion than in the IW semis, where Federer smoked Nadal easily, despite the sizable advantage the torturously slow, high bouncing surfaces affords a pusher like Nadal, for whom the basic total of his strategy is praying for high bounces.

But supposedly the Plex is so great on the joints, right?  And of course, it absorbs the heat so well, so much better than the previous surface, Rebound Ace (ever hear those myths about Rebound Ace melting in the sun to the point where the courts and the players’ shoe bottoms become one?  LOL.  Propaganda, thy name is Tennis Australia).  There is such a hypocritical dichotomy with Tennis Australia which is both insulting and disgusting at once. Rebound Ace was so great when it was in, despite widespread dissatisfaction with that.  Plexicushion is so great now, despite widespread dissatisfaction with this.  We can not temper our disdain for Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia’s major domo and the AO’s Director, who is greedy, moronic and an unabashed liar all at once.  This week,  Tiley has instructed tournaments to soldier on in the face of unrelenting heat.  Inhumane conditions, to be perfectly honest.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/tennis/australian-open-director-craig-tiley-plays-down-injury-curse-at-melbourne-park/story-fnddjf3n-1226549183121

 Drysdale, Hewitt, Pat Cash, Peter McNamara, Liz Smylie and Jason Stoltenberg were among a host of tennis figures critical of Tiley and TA.  As TA’s director of player development, Tiley yesterday accused his detractors of peddling misinformation.  Drysdale, a former TA employee, was incensed.

 “His comments show a complete lack of respect for the culture of Australian tennis,” Drysdale said. (You can read the full article at the link below.)

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/lleyton-hewitts-manager-slams-craig-tiley/story-e6frf9if-1225836305014

Tiley is a guy who wants us to believe Plexicushion plays like grass, that it absorbs heat in superior fashion, and that it is not slower than Nadal between points.  Fooling the public is one thing.  Fooling the players is another, as we see from a variety of Aussie players above.  Yet Tiley seems to challenge every negative player reaction.  Let us ask who’d be in a position to know better the true tendencies of the court?  Tiley, who is obviously over invested, or Lleyton Hewitt, who every summer has the same exact grade of Plexicushion poured in his own backyard, to spec, as the ones freshly laid at Melbourne Park?

On Monday, Wimbledon runner up Aggie Radwanska, whose game is dependent on conditioning, calls for the tournament director to ask for a suspension in play, as the temperature on court hits 50 degrees Centigrade, or 122 degrees.  After the match, Radwanska describes the conditions as essentially barbaric for all involved, from players to spectators to concessioneers.  How does Tiley spin that, pardon pun?  Below is a Youtube link to Radwanska’s press conference yesterday, in which she said, among other things, that Sydney is less about tennis and more about pure survival:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/suvival-more-important-than-tennis-agnieszka-radwanska/story-e6frg7mf-1226549614639

Radwanska was not alone.  Jelena Jankovic, extremely dependent on slow courts, basically marveled at the awful conditions.  When Na Li, a major champion and very well respected player, 1st ever and only Chinese player to win a singles major, who also displayed tremendous courage and set an awesome precedent by defying the Chinese Tennis Federation’s bid to dictate the terms of her career and her purse (quite a coup by her to bring in Henin mastermind Carlos Rodriguez too, as she always seems to be making solid moves), speaks about poor conditions, she does so for the sport at large.  As does Roger Federer, on record already saying the courts are too slow, who is not playing Kooyong as we expected.  Federer, to conserve energy, is playing no matches this year on Australian Plexicushion outside of Melbourne Park, and knowing Roger, that is another tacit indictment of the conditions.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/uk-tennis-australia-warmups-idUKBRE90705120130108 (“Kuznetsova Overcomes Wozniacki in Sydney Heat”)

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/tennis/agnieszka-radwanska-downs-kimiko-date-krumm-no-worries-at-sydney-interantional/story-e6frfgao-1226549552738 (“Tennis Stars Make Heavy Weather of Searing Heat at Sydney International”)

It is obvious that the players are not enjoying the Australian experience–even native Australians–with the season coming right at the heart of the unbearable Australian summer.

So you ask perhaps why we harp on Australia’s lamentable geography?  For one, we don’t think it’s realistic that Australia keeps their status as a major tennis nation.  They do little to justify that status on the court, the travel to and from is murder, it is by no means an economic powerhouse as a nation, they have dulled and diluted theirs and the world’s talent pool by their choice of surface, and those aspects of their geography they can control, like picking a surface that mitigates the extreme heat, they have miserably failed at.  Why?  Because they lusted after deals with surface manufacturers and put the tennis second, which is an unconscionable sin in our eyes.

We apologize to the good fans of Australia, but as always, we provide our opinions in keeping with what we believe to be the truth.

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

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.

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

The Radwanska sisters (above), never to be confused with the Williams sisters or even the Bryan brothers.

We may have given the impression earlier that the field in Dubai was anything but stellar.  How could we not?  The style we favor, if you could even say that we favor that style, has no real entrant in the draw.  No Williams, no Kvitova, no Azarenka, and with what we’ve seen this week, any of them would be waltzing out of here with the big oil check.  It’s hack tennis at it’s worst, or it’s finest, take your pick, with roiling tussles such as Jankovich-Radwanska, 3 set barn burners.

So I’m watching that match and I’m saying ‘now which player is going to do enough to lose this match?’, as that is the pertinent question when 2 masters of the pop gun pusher realm such as these strut out to center court to let their errors do the talking.  And weren’t we so gratified when Radwanska, our favored hack, prevailed over Jankovic, our least favored hack.  In answering myself the question, more questions came to be posed.  Like, which player will convert more overheads to forehands or backhands?  Which will throw in more double faults?  Which will convert more volleys into topspin groundstrokes?  Which will assault the net with half hearted volleys?

Well, we firmly believed that Jankovic would do enough to lose the match and Radwanska wouldn’t, picturing Jankovic, the worst female volleyer on the planet, in all sorts of hijinx.  And then, after the obligatory first set in the grand coward’s tet a tet went to Jankovic, there she was, moving backward on the court, actually approaching and coming in and then receding toward the baseline to lose the point.  Bravo!!  For that requires so much inanity that it must be commended.  Jankovic, the hack of all hacks, made twice as many errors, and Radwanska, who we knew we could count on for at least a bit of instinct and fundamentals, came through, seeing the obvious opportunity that is Jelena Jankovic and capitalizing on it.

Bravo to that, as well.  And as we try to decipher today’s final between Radwanska and Goerges, we are forced to consider our other least favored hack, and how these hacks have fared with Julia Goerges, who, technically, has the kind of game that we can root for in a girl who plays tennis.  A girl with weapons.  An electric forehand, and an at times, very decent first serve game.  In highly technical theory.  In strict actuality, Goerges can not get her act together worse than Wozniacki, who she has ironically beaten three times in a row.  For whatever reason, Goerges does enough to win against Wozniacki who does enough to lose, and yet when Goerges plays Radwanska and Jankovic, two similarly ugly grunts, she can barely get a game.  We think the reason is that Goerges is a terrible head case, and that Jankovic and Wozniacki, two family coached players, do not have the sound fundamental base in their tennis game to take advantage of simple things, like overheads, but that Radwanska does, and so Goerges’ many doubles and bad errors mean a very pricey luxury auto and a fat check are in Radwanska’s immediate future.

In Melbourne, Radwanska pasted Goerges, 6-1, 6-1.  Since Radwanska needs a player like Goerges, or pretty much, all players, to lose the match because she can’t win it on her own, and won in that fashion suggests that Goerges lost that match really well.  As much as I’d like to think Goerges is gonna seize an opportunity here tomorrow, I don’t think it.  I’ll be rooting for her, but with no theoretical units on the line, because we just do not have faith in Goerges at all, in this kind of match on a tacky faux clay hard court, the same as where she lost really well to Radwanska last month.  She’s not a good bet, but that said:

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Ladies Final

_____________________________________

Goerges:  + 220

Radwanska:  – 300

……….

We like Goerges.  Theoretically.  As a player, not as a winner tomorrow.  And we like Radwanska.  She’s kinda like a Polish Wozniacki to us.  Theoretically.  As a player, who we know will not seize the moment in a big match against a decent player no matter what the result of the first set is, and as an actual winner tomorrow.

It really is stellar tennis though, this Dubai quagmire, in its own way.  And we’ll be watching this morning utterly fascinated.  Until we have to turn it off.

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

Near has been, Caroline Wozniacki (above).

When the latest WTA rankings became public today, we found ourselves scanning the page a little bit, for it isn’t every week that the previous week’s #1 drops all the way down to four in one week’s time.  Then again, Wozniacki isn’t like most other #1’s.  Like the kind who earn their way there by scoring both major and minor tournament victories, and not just via the latter.  We all knew that things were going to be different for the Dutch miss when she woke up this morning than it had been in quite a while, and frankly, Azarenka, Kvitova, and Sharapova, the new top three, have earned their new spots by playing great tennis and by also dominating Wozniacki.  So finally, the rankings system is working again in the women’s game.  As the great John McEnroe explains in his book, You Cannot Be Serious, that when a player falls from #1, each slipped notch represents a great divide, and that #1 is say, so much better than #2, and #2 is so much better than #3 and on down.  Now you might be thinking, not so, when applied to the current men’s game, and not even so when looking at the top two women’s spots, even this week.  For there is obviously, at least based on Melbourne, not a great deal separating #1 and #2 and #1 and #4, having watched Djokovic-Murray and then Djokovic-Nadal.

But these men are different.  We haven’t had an unworthy men’s #1, a non major champion #1 man in ages.  And for our money, Kvitova is the real #1 on the women’s side, and she has the edge over Azarenka, whether she has the ranking or not.  As for Wozniacki, there is no question that she has been undeserving (and under serving), or that she was worthy of this startling demotion.  As a #1, she made zero major finals last year, and lost a staggering 17 times, for a 63-17 record.  Clear cut compiling, by virtue of amount played, ala Jelena Jankovic, the other most blatantly undeserving (and under serving) #1 in recent memory.  Wozniacki lost once every four and a half matches, which wouldn’t even see her reach the semis, on average, at masters level events.  And what about who she lost to?

We haven’t racked the annals of the record book yet, but we’ll ask when a world #1 of any sort lost two matches in one year to players ranked 70th or lower?  Last year, Wozniacki lost to Sofia Arvidsson (#73) and Christina McHale (#76), and only the latter has been on an upward trajectory.  Too many losses, too poor a quality of loss, and very bad losses at majors, such as to Hantuchova (#29) in the round of 32 in Paris and to Cibulkova (#24) in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, after winning the first set 6-1.  Since almost all American tennis coverage comes filtered through ESPN, heavily invested in promoting athletic personalities for reasons such as promotion, like all the players they put in their Sportscenter commercials, a group to which Wozniacki belongs, it isn’t surprising that lead female voice, Mary Joe Fernandez, was pubbing for Wozniacki hard all of last year, constantly on the stump about how well the rankings system works, and how deserving Wozniacki was.  MJF has to be so careful though, what with all her and ESPN’s conflicts of interests and all.  So when she says things like ‘winning at Indian Wells is just like winning a major’…um…take that with an ocean of salt.

While we do stand by our title, and feel Wozniacki, like Jankovic, is for all intents and purposes done at the top, she is far from done as in cooked.  Yet.  The first thing that Wozniacki needs to do, like so many in her position or a similar one, is ditch dad.  In Jankovic’s case it was mom.  Wozniacki has her ex-soccer star father coaching her, and as you can see, nowhere in that byline is the word “tennis.”

Plenty of girls have success as slap hitting pushers.  Just look at Kim Clijsters.  But Clijsters comes up with shots when pushed while Wozniacki comes up with…losses.  She needs a drastic remodel on the forehand side, and she needs to find a way to hang on to her serve in pressure situations against mediocre and top talent.  That’s a big job and it will start in practice.  As we suggested for Jankovic, we suggest for Wozniacki.  She must cut weeks from her playing schedule and add weeks to her practice schedule.  We don’t think the homely Jankovic was in demand as a model, so it wasn’t like she needed to worry about that, but Wozniacki does.  But Wozniacki is no Kournikova.  She is not so hot that people will want to take her picture when the tennis part is done.

What she does have in common with Jankovic is plain old greed.  When Wozniacki should be practicing or resting, she is playing.  When she needs to be practicing for Wimbledon, where she sucks, she is playing indoors, clearly picking up the paycheck.  When she needs to be resting the week before the US Open, she is playing New Haven, the only top player in the world who doesn’t skip it.  When she should be preparing for red clay, she is playing on green clay, which does not make you in any way appreciably better on red clay.  For the paycheck.

So Wozniacki must also exercise some common sense as well.  We understand the demands of sponsors and all this other nonsense, but those demands will lessen quickly if she is out of the top twenty next year, which can also happen.  Not that we care to see her improve.  Just being honest.  And while we’re at the honesty thing, we feel no real imperative to suggest a coach, as we might do for a player we like.  You know we were thrilled to see today’s huge, if not stunning reversal in rankings.  This kid does not play the right way.  Kudos WTA.

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

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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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

___________________________

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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