John Isner


168245563One handed heir apparent, Grigor Dimitrov (above), about to cut a deadly slice from beyond the tram line on Tuesday.

In October of 2012, world #1 Novak Djokovic came upon talented upstart Grigor Dimitrov in an early round match at Shanghai, on a liberal hardcourt (where Djokovic is hands down the best in the business, despite losing the 2012 USO final to Andy Murray), and made short work of the lad, then ranked around 50-something in the world.  It went to the king, 6-2, 6-3, over the squire, but the kid played better than the score line indicated.  As you may know, we’ve had Dimitrov marked as prime stock since his junior days, and whenever we are asked who will carry the mantel as the next great one hander, we say Grigor Dimitrov.  Even at 18 and 19 years old, rarely has the kid stepped on the court and not flashed the brilliant potential we associate with him.  Dimitrov is in a class of comers, with Milos Raonic (who made for one half of an interesting if unsuccessful doubles pairing here with Dimitrov this week, coincidentally) who you know we love, and Jerzy Janowicz, who has an electric game and a fluid serve motion reminiscent of the king of swing himself, Pete Sampras.  We’ve taken to Raonic and Janowicz because they play the game on their toes, and their countenance is aggressive.  But with Dimitrov’s arrival, we find it not only refreshing but proper and rightful to see a one hander compete at the highest level in this era, and one who we think is destined to win majors.  If Janowicz and Raonic and their big time serves are the new kings of swing, then we’d like to anoint Dimitrov as the new king on the backhand wing.  His Tuesday tussle with Novak Djokovic would be an excellent barometer of the kid’s flat out superb skills on that wing, as Djokovic has the best backhand in the sport, but could not take Dimitrov in BH to BH rallies–  on clay–which is extremely notable, since the higher bounces favor 2-handers.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/skistar-mercedes-cup-semi-finals-odds-analysis/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/one-handers-figure-prominently-in-day-2-legg-mason-young-americans-looking-good/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/isner-nadal-odds-dimitrov-other-odds-on-americans-from-roland-garros-tuesday-vegas-odds/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/grigor-dimitrov-rises-in-the-mens-game/

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

We thought that Djokovic was far more impressive off the forehand side, and dictated play much better with the forehand, which has improved so much, along with his heart and grit, as he has ascended into the stratosphere with his game.  Good news for Dimitrov, especially since he does not have an imposing forehand.  That wing will need to improve dramatically in order for him to one day claim the top spot, which we think he is destined to do.  As for the grit and heart, he already has it.  Despite serious cramping, Dimitrov bucked up late in the 2nd set on Tuesday, and found his way to match point, though he had a 10 or so minute stretch during which he could barely move.  We must also note that Djokovic was more or less good to go, after 2 weeks of rest that followed his spanking of Rafael Nadal at the MMC, handing the Spaniard what was only his 3rd loss ever on French clay (counting MMC and Roland Garros).  We had our own questions about Djokovic’s ankle going into the MMC, but after his fine form and 2 weeks recovery, there are zero questions that still persist.  Now if Djokovic, the former king of quit, and by our count, the only top player to retire at 3 of the 4 majors, could learn to turn that weakness into a strength, then so too can Dimitrov with the forehand, which, after all, is a tennis shot.

Especially in the case of a Dimitrov, as we do not really usually assume improvement, and when we do, we don’t do it lightly.  We never assumed James Blake was going to have his big break through, and we even knew he’d still lose that match to Agassi in the QF’s at the USO in 2005 when he was up 2 sets and on fire.  Good thing we didn’t assume greatness for Blake, because if we had, we’d still be waiting. Dimitrov however is a rare breed.  This no Bernard Tomic.  This kid gets up to play matches, comes with a plan, and believes he can win.  Even if the plan seems rather lacking in sense, like going backhand to backhand with Djokovic on slow dirt.  Or believing he could play with Rafael Nadal, as an 18 yr old at AMRO in Rotterdam, and playing him closely in a  7-5, 3-6, 6-3 loss in which he was not afraid to go after Nadal’s (who was then #1) forehand, which most players are terrified to do.

On that note, we have a bone to pick with Milos Raonic, who repeatedly approached the Nadal backhand at the MMC and got burned, winning 3 of the 1st 4 games and then losing 11 of the last 12.  We aren’t gonna say Raonic’s development has stalled or taken a hit, as talent needs to develop and breathe and can not usually be measured strictly week to week.  That’s why we are measuring these 2 against top talent instead.  Raonic’s gameplan was flawed, and we felt, lazy.  A Spanish team (Raonic coach Galo Blanco who we usually have high praise for) should understand that tall players that go after Nadal’s forehand, in rallies or on the approach, are having success, since they deal well with the high strike zone and have the power to do something with his topspin, whereas giving Nadal a target on the backhand, which he can direct with the top hand, is really the only backhand he hits for winners–passing shots.  To that end, Raonic also quit on that match, and had we paid to see it, we’d have been very angry.  The listless play bordered on lack of sportsmanship.  By the way, Raonic was abysmal on 2nd serve that day, which we also could not understand so well, since Raonic gets so much action on his 2nd ball and since Nadal returns serve from so well beyond the BL.

By that measure, Dimitrov took Nadal to 3 sets at the MMC, was in every point, was unafraid, and had a real shot to win at 4 all in the 3rd.  Theoretically it is the Raonic type matchup that Nadal recoils from and the Federer type matchup he embraces.  But Dimitrov is a much better player than Raonic right now, despite Raonic’s ranking and wealth of weaponry.  That Raonic can’t get near executing an Isner type strategy against Nadal is perplexing.  That Dimitrov can execute the Federer type strategy against Rafa (which not even Roger can do) is enormously encouraging.  Dimitrov has a real it factor, and moments do not intimidate him, nor do shots or reputations.  Why does Dimitrov’s backhand hold up so well?  We see him as an extremely early ball striker, reminiscent of Blake in that regard, but far better at it on clay, probably closer to an early to mid prime Gustavo Kuerten, or as we ponder it, perhaps even Ivan Lendl, though Lendl was a forehand player.  Dimitrov also shows a lot of patience in backhand exchanges, and relishes them, unlike Federer, save for a few times in his career, like against Davydenko in Melbourne in 2010.  Dimitrov seems to have tremendous bite on his slice, which stayed out of Djokovic’s strike zone even on clay.  Anyone watching closely enough might have noticed that in Federer’s last two major victories over Djokovic, in 2011 at Roland Garros and last year at Wimbledon, that slice played a major factor.  As far as Dimitrov, he understands when to go to the safe, deep cross corner topspin backhand, coming way over top of the ball, and then, at 2-1 and 30 all in the 3rd on Tuesday, he zaps the backhand down the line after he had pinned Djokovic into the opposite corner.  Bravo.  And this is after GD nearly pulls out that tie-breaker while cramping, and loses it, which would have broken many a player, young, veteran, top ten, etc.  It was the best point we’ve seen all year.  Mark it down, and do not discount the pressure of the moment, as if he misses there, he is down a BP to the greatest returner in the game and his odds of winning reduce dramatically.  Because giving that break back right there after the game he put together to earn it in the first place gives Djokovic whatever he needs, as even at 2-2 that match is probably over.  Djokovic is just that good.  Check out the play of this kid, especially on the backhand side, in this clip below:

We totally agree with the call, “this is magnificent!”, which comes at 11:29 of the video when Dimitrov hits the particular down the line backhand that we already described above.

Now if you still are over there questioning Dimitrov’s ability to improve, just consider how strong his serve has become.  Djokovic, for our money, is by far the best returner in the game.  Dimitrov aced him 13 times on slow clay, and held his nerve on several critical 2nd balls placed deep in the box, a skill that Milos Raonic has lost track of.  Dimitrov won 63% of all his service points, 52% on 2nds, and saved 10/12 BP’s.  If his serve can get to that level on clay, then his forehand can go a lot farther, as top dogs like Djokovic’s and Azarenka’s has.  Elite class players are always developing their game (recall Federer adding the forehand dropper), and right now Dimitrov is pre-prime, though still poised to move from #28 into the top twenty with nice showings in the coming weeks, already up more than 20 spots now than where he was at the end of 2012.  Dimitrov should also expect his best results come the fast court legs of the tour on grass and American hards (as a junior, Dimitrov won Junior Wimbledon, the Junior USO, and the Orange Bowl).

The obvious comparisons, from hairstyle to sponsor to the one handed backhand is Roger Federer, and that they were both coached at the junior level by Peter Lundgren doesn’t diminish the comparisons, though Dimitrov seems to learn from all his coaches, which have also included Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou and current coach Michael Tillstrom.  We think the Federer comparison weak stylistically if not substantively.  Federer is a forehand player and Dimitrov is a backhand player.  Dimitrov does not manipulate backhands into inside out forehands.  He doesn’t have to.  But we think he will be able to in time.  When he does, look out.  This kid is marked for greatness the same way Roger was, which might be their greatest commonality.  That, and his ability to put points together, which might even be a stronger skill set than Roger’s, especially pre-prime, have us very high on one handed tennis again, which as any purist understands, is the most dynamic and talent affirming style there is, and which is noticeably absent from the game these days due to the game’s over-homogenization at the hands of safe baseliners, safe baseline coaching, clay, slow hardcourts, and thick grass.

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

If you’re wondering about Djokovic going out so early at a Masters Level tourny, recall that Querrey got him at the Paris Indoor, which there was no shame in, considering that Djokovic rebounded by claiming his 2nd career Year End Championship title.  The last time it happened at a Masters Level tourny on clay?  Date back to 2006 when Federer took out a very green Novak Djokovic at Monte Carlo.  Speaking of dating…

Unknown-1Yes, that is Dimitrov with “serious girlfriend” and career slam champion Maria Sharapova.

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

imagesJustin Gimelstob (above, r.), who went big time, with sickening Jay Leno.

We did not think Rafael Nadal played very well in his much ballyhooed return to the tour on South American clay, as we watched him labor to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-3 in a mid round match.  The score line may suggest relative ease, but that wasn’t the case.  The match took 1:31, a long time for a match to go in which you only drop 5 games, and Chardy had plenty of chances to make it even closer.  The rallies were long–too long for Nadal who is still out of shape–and Nadal drifted well beyond the baseline, practically playing many strokes with his back against the back wall.  And then there was the stalling.  Nadal was called, given warnings, for not serving within the allotted 25 seconds, which frankly, is always there when Nadal plays but seldom called.

A lot is being made over Nadal’s win in the final last weekend in Brazil over David Nalbandian, but one day before, Nadal was mere points away from being eliminated, down a set and fighting for his life in the second set breaker.  And that was against world # 91, poor man’s journeyman Martin Alund, who is now 27 and has zero titles in zero finals made.  We’d say that Nadal does not look good here in this return, and that had he returned for the Australian Open, he would have probably had a bad showing.

We were all over Justin Gimelstob that week on Twitter in the first week of Nadal’s return in Chile at Vina Del Mar, with good reason.  Gimelstob, a Nadal sycophant, seemed to have a list of Nadal talking points he wanted out there, which we have no doubt came from the star himself.  Like how Gimelstob urged that the chair use discretion when calling the time code, and how people were wrong to assume Nadal was stalling because of his knees when he routinely abuses the code as ritual, because Nadal likes to, as he explained, ‘really think through strategy between points.’

Really?  Because a guy that misses 7 plus months due to injury and who has chronic knee problems which have kept him out of 3 majors since 2009, would really raise the ire of an announcer when it is suggested that he stalls because the guy is lame?  By the way, we find Nadal’s one more ball back/heavy topspin forehand to backhand strategy completely simplistic and elemental, and the suggestion that Nadal is doing all of this thinking is insulting to us as real fans.  Especially when we feel that enforcing the time code is an important step that the chair has made collectively to improve the game.  Really, who in the game does not enforcing the code help other than Nadal?

Then you had Gimelstob state that Nadal is “one of the best doubles players in the game”, which, when considering the disservice that playing doubles at IW did to his career to follow, and how Gimelstob lauded Nadal for winning there, conveniently omitting the fact that Nadal has not even set foot on a hardcourt since, is questionable at best.  Nadal is a very talented doubles player, and we’ll not argue that.  But doubles has decimated Nadal, as has Plexicushion, and for everyone to pretend this is not the case for the sake of a constant Nadal love fest is disgraceful.  As is Nadal for missing a major in order to practice on clay instead, though if again, he is shaky on clay, it does not bode well for the rest of his game.  It’s nice that Nadal, at the age of 25, has finally figured out that Plexicushion is ruining him, but to say he’s needed a brick to fall on his head in order to realize as much would seem totally accurate.  It would also be nice if a high profile commentator like Gimelstob, who was himself an attacker, would acknowledge that Nadal’s constant grinding, inability to hit winners consistently, and necessity for long points has been essentially Nadal both living and dying by the same sword.  This is where we feel Gimelstob, who burst on the scene as a big time commentator due to his honesty and unabashed enthusiasm for the sport, has taken a back seat in recent months to announcers like legends John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Jim Courier, who we thought for a while he was set to surpass.  What Gimelstob should have said was that Nadal’s doubles prowess has come at the expense of his singles career, because his job is to do more than throw out hollow platitudes, by offering more substantial commentary to the hardcore fans who are watching match to match on The Tennis Channel.  Because what match in, match out fans of the game are really sitting there marveling at Nadal’s doubles ability in the wake of him missing the entire US Open, Indoor, and Australian seasons, when the guy has zero doubles majors to his credit?  What a John McEnroe does in providing meaningful commentary is to point out that Nadal’s excellent hands at net, which he seldom showcases in singles, could be a boost to his longevity and might serve to prevent him from breaking down so much if he could find a way to be more intrepid.

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But therein lies the rub with Gimelstob, who, we assume in his role as an official ATP guy, is looking to divorce himself from controversial, i.e. honest stances.  Guys like Nadal and Murray, who are talented net players, but who only approach net a handful of times per match have essentially rendered that skill moot by way of ignorance, and so wouldn’t it be more relevant for him to talk about why these guys would squander such ability due to under use?  Instead, we hear Gimelstob pushing Nadal’s agenda, which is to suggest the YEC be played on clay, rather than questioning Murray’s lack of initiative, we hear him talking all about Murray’s new apartment in London.

A guy like Boris Becker, who shoots straight as an arrow, has even been heard to criticize the great Roger Federer.  Martina Navratilova, as solid in the booth as they come, has panned players like Murray and Wozniacki, labeling their failures and the correlation to passive play as “the same old story.” She has labeled Nadal’s injury woes as “the same old story.”  These announcers have done something serious by denouncing the style of play, and in Nadal’s case, have connected the style of play with the physical toll, which Gimelstob disservices us by failing to admit exists.

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https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/as-1-wozniacki-is-done-see-camel-toe-shot/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/all-england-club-forced-to-seed-undeserving-wozniacki-first-upskirt-shot/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/unworthy-wozniacki-destroyed-roger-looking-smashing-at-roland-garros-see-vegas-odds/

Gimelstob doesn’t have the star power that they do, making honesty all the more precious a commodity for him, though he has definitely lost it along the way somewhere.  In fact, upon reflection, we’re happy that we were not subjected to this type of hack announcing from Gimelstob, who was noticeably absent from the AO ESPN mix channels coverage.

So Nadal plays perhaps his worst match on clay ever in that final and loses in a 3rd set breaker to Horacio Zeballos, then around world #73, and it is obvious to any true fan of the game that this is not the same indestructible clay court Nadal we have come to expect.  Gimelstob essentially tiptoed around the issue, another real disservice, we thought, to the tennis world.  As it would be to play the YEC indoors on clay, as indoor clay is the height of tacky, the most bush league a move there is, reserved for clay court specialist team tennis nations and the Porsche Cup at Stuttgart, which is a high quality surface in exactly zero arenas, and in most cases, is just clay heaped carelessly atop a hard wood, like the surface upon which John Isner, who we don’t see ever beating Roger Federer on an outdoor clay court, upset Roger Federer in Fribourg in February of 2012.  And frankly, we recall Federer’s back tightening up in that match, which we attributed to traction issues.

The next week, Nadal is set to play doubles with Nalbandian, and withdraws due to “knee overuse.”  The finals loss and the subsequent doubles withdrawal, coupled with the fact that playing doubles helped put Nadal in this predicament in the first place, was a huge tennis story, and we commend honest reporting like Matt Cronin’s, who was all over the withdrawal, calling it one of the strangest bits of phraseology he could ever remember regarding injury/non injury propaganda.  But then Nadal goes on to win Brazil despite the showing against Alund, which now seems a non a issue.

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Today the story broke on Twitter regarding Nadal skipping Indian Wells, which Nadal already refuted, since putting out a statement through his camp that he ‘intends to play.’  Nadal has not played on hardcourts since IW in 2012, and at this point in the season he is usually playing on hards, but obviously this year he has played exclusively on clay.  If he missed a major where he was a defending finalist, why would he risk playing at IW in the Masters Series, with relatively little at stake besides points?

We think Nadal is playing coy when he says he ‘intends to play.’  We think he said he intended to play Melbourne, and how’d that turn out?  It seems to us that Nadal is trying to pull it together to play the soft court season only, and that like last season, he will barely keep it together through Wimbledon.

What would Gimelstob think of that?  We think we know already,though we don’t expect him to tell the truth.  We think Gimelsob is, at this point, resigned to seeing Nadal on a limited basis, and that he feels a little Rafa is better than none, which is probably why he has been on the shill for a clay court YEC.  One thing you can’t fault Gimelstob for is wanting Nadal back at a high level, as it is good for the sport, which is why we are always outraged when players who can go skip majors, as we do not think that is good for the sport or show’s the proper respect to the majors that they deserve.  Instead of getting together with Nadal to disseminate propaganda, Gimelstob and Nadal should deliver the bad word about Plexicushion and other soft hards, which beat the hell out of the players worse than anything, while promoting bland, timid, reaction tennis and one dimensional defensive style tennis.  Since Roger Federer has already announced that he will skip Key Biscayne and it’s tacky, bland, frustrating Defense Pro soft hardcourt, which frankly, we feel plays worse than fucking Lenglen and Philippe Chatrier.

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

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/

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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)

Ms. Big Shot and The Master (above).

2012 US Open — Men’s Semi-finals

11:10 AM (CBS)

Tomas Berdych:  + 170

Andy Murray:  – 220

__ __ __ __

David Ferrer:  + 900

Novak Djokovic:  – 1500

__ __ __ __

2012 US Open — Ladies’ Final

7:10 PM (CBS)

Victoria Azarenka:  + 375

Serena Williams:  – 550

………..

All the matches on the slate are of course weather permitting, and right now, with steady rain in the city, it would appear that in the very least, that the start of play will need to be pushed back.  Not as far back perhaps if the USTA acceded to the very sensible suggestions this week, championed especially by Novak Djokovic, that the US Open should cover its courts during rain delays.  In fact, during an angry quarter-final day of waiting to get on, having spent some 10 hours in the players lounge, a frustrated Djokovic asked why no outdoor hardcourt event anywhere in America has the sense to cover courts during rain, saving what he said would be at least 30 minutes at every delay, as is done at Wimbledon.

Perhaps Master Djokovic has not considered the economic impact of allowing wet fans to find cover and comfort for as long as possible near uber expensive bars and concession stands.  We were at The Open during a long rain delay on day one, and we did not see the grounds crew particularly in any rush to get the courts dried once the rain had stopped.  By the way, he is Master Djokovic once again, especially on hardcourts, where he has now a 26 match win streak accumulated, and where, in our minds, he picks up his 2nd consecutive US Open title this weekend, and successfully defends his 2011 hard won crown.  And the win would cement The Djoker as the best player in tennis two years going, with 5 major titles, 8 semis, and 6 finals in the last 8 majors.

Djokovic often is drawn into matches by the pesky Ferrer, who notably beat Djokovic on a fast indoor surface at the YEC in 2011.  But aside from that, Djokovic has dominated this matchup on hards, and he comes in the fresher guy, having seen Ferrer pull out his QF versus Tipsarevic in a 5th set tie-breaker.  We like Djokovic to win fairly easily today.  It has seemed impossible to get a winner by him, and his defense to offense and transition game are both tops in the sport.  All the more impressive are his accomplishments at this Open when considered that he does not get many free points off his serve.  Djokovic is by far the best player in the world, shot to shot, and Ferrer can not dictate enough points and will not be able to take enough risks to keep him at bay.

In the first semi, we’d have to like Murray, despite his 2-4 lifetime mark with Berdy in the head to head.  Berdych had too much for Federer the other night.  It was an ominous development for Roger when Mardy Fish, forever a bastion of disappointment and weakness in our eyes, defaulted his round of 16 with Federer.  While Federer could overcome having a 4-5 day sabbatical in a fast court major during his mid to high prime (Haas, Wimbledon), he can not endure a disruption to his rhythm at this point in his career.  Are we blaming Fish for Fed’s loss?  No.  Federer got dictated to by Berdy’s huge forehand, and Federer always loses when he doesn’t dictate points.  But Federer uncharacteristically spraying forehands out by 25-40′?  Let’s face up to the fact that Federer came out flat and dull.

As far as Fish goes, who else is defaulting in the sweet 16 of the US Open?  Fish destroyed Monday’s schedule at The Open by defaulting that match, and we feel the default played some role in Federer’s outcome.  Fish is now obviously out of Davis Cup for next week, which is a good thing for the US probably because frankly, we feel both Querrey and Isner are bigger threats on clay, and less likely to implode, quit, or fade away than Fish.  So much was made of Fish’s new coach, the whole Mark Knowles dynamic, and really, that dynamic for us is just this: Knowles coddles Fish because Fish is just the sort of milquetoast in need of a super soft touch, showing over the years some of the least resolve we’ve seen on any pro, including Gael Monfils, and perhaps only excepting a Bernard Tomic for his nearly criminally poor effort here versus Roddick.

We don’t care how well Fish can hit a golf ball or a baseball.  We are sick of hearing it.  Tennis players play TENNIS.  Skipping the Olympics because you have bad memories from blowing a gold medal when up 2 sets to one on Nicolas Massu?  Even James Blake could potentially offer Fish some tips on grit and on the magnitude of showing up to and at majors and events of Olympic proportion.  Disgraceful.

Then on to the female Djokovic, our lady Azarenka.  On the women’s side, her shot to shot tennis is by far the best in the game.  She painted lines yesterday, used her feet, and out-willed Maria Sharapova, as we expected but no small feat on a surface where Sharapova won her a US Open by flat over powering another much much better player in Justine Henin (2006) once upon a time.  The Open is one of the few places where Sharapova can overpower Azarenka, but since Azarenka’s defense and D to O and transition games are so flawless, and her conditioning as well, she takes her rightful place in the final tonight.  Where she will probably fall to Serena’s power game, a bitter irony.

Serena at -550 is eerily similar to Serena’s line last year against Stosur, but Serena was just back from injury last year, and so Stosur pulled the unlikely upset.  Azarenka is a phenomenal player who is extremely mentally tough now, obliterating the knock on her psyche that persisted until she put Kim Clijsters out of her misery down under and went on to destroy Masha at Melbourne in taking the crown.  But the last time Azarenka played Serena, and most of those times in fact, it has been all Serena.  There will come a day when Serena hands the mantel over to Vica, but we doubt it’s today.  Still, Azarenka is a worthy champ who has had an incredible tournament.  Hitting a drop shot at 5 all in the tie-breaker versus Stosur to set up match point?  Brilliant and gutsy, and the perfect call, since Stosur had practically sequestered herself 5′ back of the doubles alley in the ad court, where she sets up camp to avoid hitting that ragged, weak 2-handed backhand of her’s.

We’d be least surprised to see an upset in the Murray match, though we think Murray’s defensive ability will negate Berdych’s power.  The Murrays, Djokers, and Nadals of the world do not have as much trouble with power and big serving as Roger does, who is almost certain to lose now when overpowered, as he has been at majors in the last few years by Berdych (twice), Tsonga, and Soderling.  While power often wins out on a fast hard, Murray obviously countered power very effectively in the Raonic and Cilic matches.

And Murray-Djokovic would be an excellent end to The Open for the men, as Azarenka-Serena will no doubt be for the women, provided that Azarenka can get her hooks into a couple of points here and there, and get to a neutral position somehow after receiving the huge Williams first serve.  Just a quick mention of USOPEN.org radio and how fantastic their coverage has been once again here, as it also was in Melbourne and at RG.  And we especially like Matt Cronin on that coverage, who provided us more new information about Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in one set than we have gotten all week from ESPN.  Cronin’s account of the icy Sharapova-Azarenka was especially candid, humorous, and compelling.  It’s not too late to get two decent days out of that app, so download away.

Enjoy the tennis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sloane Stephens (above), popping a serve off against Mathilda Johansson on Friday in an easy breezy victory.

While we understood Serena as the prohibitive pre-tournament favorite, we have said many times that clay is a different animal that always treats her differently.  We said that her M.O. at RG was that something always seems to go wrong.  Were we surprised at the loss to Razzano?  Absolutely.  Were we on it?  No.  Betting against Serena is a bad business, as we’ve said, and only further reinforced by her destruction of Azarenka in Madrid, and that little gambit we took with Vica.

Hopefully someone took our underdog philosophy and made some bank on Razzano.  Still, not an easy bit of business, down a set and 5-1 in the breaker before the tide turned.  How often does Serena choke one away?  Or lose R1 at a major?  Until Tuesday, the answers to both were never.  But then again, neither the partisan French crowd–in truth a pit of vipers–nor Chair Eva Asderaki, with whom Lady S has past history, were going to do her any favors.  On Asderaki: 1) That’s a tough over-rule.  I don’t like to criticize calls, as it’s bad form, and at RG, the Chairs do player a larger role than elsewhere because the stupid clay leaves stupid marks…and yet, there is simply no line call conflicts on any other surface and at the other majors, where they have gone to modern technology.  John McEnroe has said often enough that he feels he would have been far more successful with the current Hawkeye system because he expended so much energy fighting officials and that had such a negative impact on his game.  Anyone who remembers John John understands the point all too well.  Are the French cheap, stupid, or just stubborn?

Ding ding ding.  Anyway on to 2) Point penalties for “hinderance” on player audibles are never called, yet has now been called by 1 Chair in 2 different majors against Serena in the last calendar year.  Does Asderaki make that call against Azarenka and Sharapova, the tour’s loudest players?  No.  But then again, they haven’t called Asderaki a “hater” and a “terrible person.”  But then again, again, Asderaki’s 1st hinderance call in the US OPEN FINAL against Stosur was not prompted by unfortunate remarks.

The Chair has played way too big of a role in Serena’s most recent USO & RG losses.  The same Chair.  While we may stop short of calling Asderaki a racist on this page, we would have to agree with Serena’s assessment.  Also, we aren’t one of those types who scoffs at the notion of racism in tennis.  We also feel that Asderaki is obviously prejudiced against Serena, if not actually prejudice (although…)  In a virtually even match on points (Razzano won on total points by 5, 117-112), those 3 points essentially gifted to Razzano would have swung the total in favor of Serena by one.  Three points is practically a game, or half a breaker.  Frankly, the Chair should not play a determining role in ANY match, EVER.  If the Chair’s fairness is questioned, then it ruins the integrity of the game.

On to little Lauren Davis, who announced herself this week with a huge victory over very impressive German Mona Barthel.  We thought Barthel was set to turn heads here.  But Davis, on a foreign surface, abused Barthel.  Despite her loss to the American bulldog, Christina McHale in the next round, we are very pleased with her results, obviously coming into RG prepared for both the surface and the stage.  If Barthel hasn’t yet registered as a name, it’s only because ascent has been so meteoric.  That is a tremendous win.  Perhaps MJF is doing a better job with our young ones than we usually credit her for, having been awarded the Fed Cup post out of what we feel is blatant cronyism.  As for McHale, she may not be ready to take out Li Na, but we watched it closely, and also listened to RadioRG tell it in stretches.  We all thought that McHale scared Li very much with that strong, clean first set, and you can really see McHale winning a match like that next time around.  McHale seems to get as much torque on her forehand as any woman we’ve seen this week.  In short, Joy-zee was in da house.

John Isner, 2 years after setting the major match length record at SW-19 after his 70-68 5th set win over Mahut, now has the French Open record, this time losing to Paul Henri Matthieu 18-16 in the 5th.  This match has us considering if John McEnroe isn’t right about something else as well.  We were inclined to disagree with Johnny Mac, who has pushed for deciding 5th set breakers at all the majors.  We had felt that the extended 5th set format at the AO, RG, SW-19, and DC has a certain mystique and that the players who take part in those matches enhance the history of the game and their own names by playing in these most memorable matches.

But the epic Isner-Mahut affair did effectively scuttle the rest of both players’ 2010 seasons.  Mac talked about how the players have discussed job actions in order to pursue better prize money for lesser players and better protections.  He’s correct that the 5th set breaker would protect players health and ultimately their careers.  And the very personable Dimitry Tursunov underscored the travails of the lesser player in a phenomenal interview he gave to Matt Cronin and Matt Brown of RadioRG.  Tursunov discussed his gig as a pro tennis blogger and how fickle fans always threaten to unfollow him, and more serious stuff, like how expensive the tour is for lesser players like him, who God forbid, want to travel with a coach, a physio and even a girlfriend.  Tursunov candidly explained that in a city like Paris he can barely afford to do anything.  We loved Tursunov in this spot.  While Justin Gimelstob (who hit with Brian Baker prior to Baker’s win over Xavier Malisse and gave great insight as to the Baker story, an American who played in the RG Junior Final in 2003 and was injured the next year and then spent almost 8 years off the tour) is obviously our favorite TTC personality by a mile, we are considering throwing our support behind Tursunov as well, who would be a fine score for TTC.

After an easy R1, Isner spoke with Bill Macatee of TTC, and discussed how he really likes playing on the clay, because of the time it affords him and because the ball bounces up high, right into his strike zone.  We weren’t paying close enough attention, and missed on another upset.  Paul Henri Matthieu is perhaps the flattest hitting Frenchman there is, and goes very flat on both sides.  Even flatter, we feel, than Gilles Simon.  Isner got a bad matchup in that regard, and is not as good when he has to get down low to play balls.  But the central issue with Isner remains his inability to generate opportunities in the return game.  We talked a lot about how Kevin Anderson was such a bad matchup for him back in Delray, because Anderson holds serve easily.  How many times have we seen Isner play these matches where he can’t muster a break?  We know that Jim Courier has been coordinating his efforts with guys like Isner and Harrison, and their coaches.  Isner’s coach, Craig Boynton, has done a great job getting this giant to play defense as he does, but the laterals are always going to be the question with a guy this big.  And now, in 3 recent majors (2012 AO, 2012 FO, 2010 SW-19), he has had to go to an extended fifth set, and all 3 times he faced unimpressive servers (Nalbandian, Mahut, Matthieu), or relatively unimpressive servers.

Isner has heart and smarts and weapons, but he has to do better in spots like these.  Matthieu in the 2nd round, on a collision course with Andy Murray, weak on clay in the quarters, then possibly Nadal, who he pushed to a 5th set here last year, Nadal’s only 5th set ever at RG.  That’s a bitter defeat.  But Wimbledon should also offer a wealth of opportunities for a guy who serves out of a tree top.

Then there’s Sloane Stephens.  Wow.  This is why we have been begging for her inclusion on the Fed Cup team.  She’s our best bet.  She’s not tiny like McHale, but she can defend like McHale, and her weapons are real.  Frankly, she has dominated this week, blowing out BMS and Johansson, and also straight setting Makarova, who was a big favorite.  We are going with her tomorrow against another SS, Sam Stosur.  We’ve gotten hot, pegging Varvara Lepchenko for good things throughout the week so far (another American), and today we had Granollers, Kanepi, and Rus.

Tomorrow it’s Sloane at +475.  As we see it, Stephens has the pace to target Stosur’s backhand and actually get the ball there.  If Stosur is allowed to run around every forehand, she wins.  She probably does enough to win here tomorrow, but she has been very wonky since winning the Open, and Sloane has the power and speed to show her up a little.  We do not see this line as being a realistic indicator of the scoreline.  We do not see the rock solid Stosur we saw two years ago here.

We’ll be happy to watch it all play out, provided NBC and ESPN and TTC can get the coverage straight, and we don’t have to watch a Spanish feed of the match off the internet (as we did today for Raonic-Monaco).  And hopefully Asderaki is chairing on another court, or better yet, no court at all.

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

 

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

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

Alexandr Dolgopolov:  + 15000

Andy Murray:  + 3000

David Ferrer:  + 3500

Ernests Gulbis:  + 15000

Fernando Verdasco:  + 10000

Gael Monfils:  + 10000

Gilles Simon:  + 15000

Janko Tipsarevic:  + 15000

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:  + 10000

John Isner:  + 6500

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 2000

Jurgen Melzer:  + 15000

Marcos Baghdatis:  +15000

Marin Cilic:  + 15000

Mikhail Youzhny:  + 15000

Milos Raonic:  + 6500

Novak Djokovic:  + 200

Philipp Kohlschreiber:  + 15000

Rafael Nadal:  – 125

Richard Gasquet:  + 10000

Roger Federer:  + 800

Stanislas Wawrinka:  + 15000

Tomas Berdych:  + 3500

Viktor Troiki:  + 15000

Field (Any Other Player):  + 500

……….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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