Mary Carillo

Serena-Williams-Maria-SharapovaSerena Williams (R.) with her much lesser rival, Maria Sharapova.


Maria Sharapova:  + 215

Serena Williams:  – 290

Note: these odds have shifted exactly half a dollar (or fifty units on a 100 unit play) since last night, when Serena was – 340.  Sharapova opened at +240, so obviously, the late money has been on Sharapova, which has corrupted this line.  Las Vegas must be thrilled with this development, as Sharapova has virtually no chance to defeat Serena, based on recent history, and yet, the wagering on Sharapova has stimulated a movement in her direction.

Anything can happen, of course, but if you are placing your money on Maria Sharapova today, you best have some inside information.  In looking at the h2h, Serena leads 13-2 and has not lost to Masha since 2004.  Almost a clean decade.  Sharapova has not taken so much as a set in 5 years (Charleston, 2008).  We think Serena is an enormous bargain here at -290, -320, -340, etc.  Serena is fit, and she is a far superior player who takes Sharapova’s time away.  Watching Serena dominate Radwanska the other night, who played Serena very well at Wimbledon, and barely allow her to get a game does not bode well for the Russian, since in a similar circumstance to Radwanska, at the London games, Sharapova was bagel bread sticked.

This is probably going to be ugly.  Serena is looking for 6th title here, while Sharapova is 0-5 in finals played at Cramden, Stadium Court.


David Ferrer:  + 240

Andy Murray:  – 320


Murray is a great player, obviously, and the surface suits him, as does the locale.  But enough about Murray and South Beach and that “great love affair.”  The h2h is 6-5 in favor of Murray, and Ferrer has taken 2 of the last 3, and the last matchup on hards, in 2011.  Murray will probably win, but not a lot separates these 2.  And Ferrer is an absolute pit bull, and will be really gunning for Murray in this spot.  This line is out of whack.  We’d take Ferrer at these prices.

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Why does NBC feel the need to make a mess of their major tennis coverage every year?  Novak Djokovic is live right now in a nice matchup with Marcos Baghdatis, and as we write, Robin Soderling is down a set and a break to young aussie Bernard Tomic (above).  Good tennis really.  If you can get it.  Which, if you are in America, you probably can’t.  The Mix Channels, which offer coverage on several courts, are blacked out when in NBC’s realm, which applies to Saturdays and Sundays during the French Open and Wimbledon.  We were happily watching Roger Federer have his way with old nemesis David Nalbandian…until NBC knocked out the feed.  So we switched over to NBC at noon and?  Some fucking cartoon was on, is on.

What the fuck is going on?  Far be it from us to criticize the mighty NBC, which is about to cut to pre-canned, taped mish mosh Wimbledon coverage in a few minutes, and who probably will show a taped, clipped Sharapova or Federer match while there is live tennis going on.  This is what we don’t get.  In 2009, while Robin Soderling was historically upsetting Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, we had to hear the news from an impish Justin Gimelstob, who blurted out, ‘Nadal is about to lose, though I probably shouldn’t say so’ on TTC supplemental coverage because NBC had denied us the live feed.

Major tennis coverage should be better on the weekends, not worse.  CBS picks up the US Open at 11 AM on Saturdays and goes on indefinitely.  NBC?  They’ll give you the men’s and women’s finals live, and that’s it.  Maybe part of one semi-final, leaving us to watch the other on The Tennis Channel on tape at 11 PM, some 12-14 hours later.  So NBC has the 1-5 PM time slot blocked for live tennis coverage.  Okay, and thankfully, they are joining Djokovic/Baghdatis live right now, but all of us who are privileged to have the mixed package are now forced to watch whatever half assed tennis coverage NBC subjects us to.

BTW, Djokovic took the first set 6-4 and is downa break, 2-1 in the 2nd.  And we are by no means faulting the announcing team of Ted Robinson, John McEnroe, and Mary Carillo.  It’s tops.  But 6 live feeds with limited commercial breaks, and the ability to watch Soderling/Tomic right now would be better.  FYI, Soderling trails 6-1, 6-4, 3-3 at the moment.  A Soderling upset could theoretically make life a lot easier in Roger’s quarter.

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The Isner/Mahut handshake from Perth, Australia last night at the prestigious Hopman Cup (above).

With 6 sessions currently played at one of our absolute favorite non majors–in fact, it’s not even a tournament but technically an exhibition–the United States has acquitted itself quite admirably in its one session so far, taking both its male and female cotests, as well as the mixed doubles, behind the main event rematch from Wimbledon, #19 John Isner versus throwback serve and volley player Nicolas Mahut.  Isner once again came out on top, though this time he needed less than 2 hours, to take Mahut 6-3, 7-6 (5), using the blueprint for victory left by the gods, an unbreakabe serve and pass or be passed tennis.

Isner, on the strength of 2 first set breaks, cruised to a an easy lead by the scoreboard, but the high pressure game of Mahut saw Isner earn those breaks on the strength of the shot he is least comfortable hitting–the backhand pass.  Mahut, who gets every drop of talent out of his lanky frame, and seems to always play well on grass where there is still so much value placed on net play because you don’t always get the waist high bounce to crank a perfect groundstroke. He stuck to the strategy on the forgiving Plexicushion surface, engineered by the California company who also builds the faster Decoturf for the US Open, which is rated somewhere between the US Open and Wimbledon in terms of speed, and will give topspin a fairly high bounce like on clay, but sees slice remain very low, while allowing big servers to bang lightning quick flat serves (see Isner’s  upset demolition of Monfils at the Australian).  Mahut served big in the 2nd set, was not broken, and got in behind literally everything he could, causing the match to come down to a few shots here and there in the 2nd set tie-breaker.  Not a few points.  A few shots.

Once again, we are so so impressed with the Hopman Cup, to its traditional but unorthodox in the modern sense inclusion of the sport of mixed doubles, to the very interesting players selected every year, and the unique team/nation aspect that is really only seen in Davis and Fed Cup, as well as the Olympics, which does a horrible job promoting tennis, if you ask us.  Hopman Cup–an homage to legendary Australian coach and Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman (who also moved to New York and had a legendary roster of pupils including John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Patrick McEnroe, and Peter Fleming)–is the only event where we get a glimpse at mixed doubles, and better even than the majors because the mixed is featured and the championship often comes down to mixed doubles.

This year, the Cup features an American team of Isner and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (a replacement for Hopman Cup ace Serena Williams), and BMS did her part in the singles and with Isner.  BMS handled French 17 year old Kristina Mladenovich, clearly a big time talent who was another superb selection for the French Hopman squad.  Mladenovich, a banger with huge groundstrokes, is someone we’ve been interested to see as the top female junior player in the world who won the Girls Singles Title at Roland Garros in 2010.  The Ladies French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone, also is competing at Hopman Cup for Italy, and scored a win in singles over intriguing British teen Laura Robson and mixed with Potito Starace, as Italy handed a defeat in session 3 to Great Britain, which probably seemed unlikely on paper because the Brits boast wolrd #4 Andy Murray.

Back to Bethanie, who took 1 hour and 56 minutes to take out Mladenovic, and dropped the 1st set before taking the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.  BMS clearly needed a minute to figure out the 17 year old ball striker, but used a mix of variety, varied pace, net play, and 2 hand backhands which she took so early and flawlessy redirected the pace already there to show Mladenovic that she is in the big leagues this week.  In a loaded section, the Americans already have a 3-0 win over France, with a matchup tomorrow night against Italy looming, and another with Britain still to come.  As for the other section, it is also stocked with prime time talent and the kind of players you’d pay to see.  The Belgian team features the beautiful game of former Australian and US Open champ Justine Henin (the 2nd impressive 1 handed female on display here), who who was a finalist early in her comeback at Melbourne last year, and who is a 4 time French champ, along with lefty youngster Ruben Bemelmans, another guy we have wanted to see but would not have save for this event.  The Australians feature two-time major champ and former #1 Lleyton Hewitt, and the Serbians, already up 2 sessions, feature former Australian Champ Novak Djokovic, and former French champ Ana Ivanovic, finally returning to top form after a real struggle in 2010.

As far as Isner goes, we’d have to disagree with John McEnroe, who came out in favor of a 5th set tie-breaker at Wimbledon, after Mahut/Inser because he says such a match destroyed both players’ chances and would debilitate the rest of their seasons.  It may be so, but that’s the game, and two players who aren’t going to win the tournament or any players for that matter, are not bigger than the tournament, and an aspect of it which so greatly lends to the event’s old world mystique.  And since Isner was in the finals in Atlanta a few weeks later, and has remained in the top 20 despite the draining but historic ad wildly entertaining Wimbledon match, we’d venture to say the match has done nothing but help both players.

Hopman Cup from Perth has always retained that old world feel, even on perhaps the most beautiful, modern, and technically sound courts anywhere, even if they are not the fastest (our preference).  We’ll be watching intently all week as The Tennis Channel brings us the action live, and we’ll be reveling in every second, as the commentary of the great Fred Stolle brings us back to our childhood.  Even if we do have to look at the wrinkled up, ancient face of Lucy Hopman from time to time.

In other tennis news, Nadal and Federer won easily today in Doha, and Robin Soderling took out impressive American teen Ryan Harrison in straights in Brisbane 6-2, 6-4.

Tune in to TTC tonight.

Crack (,

Serena clutching her singles championship trophy on Rod Laver (above).

Unfortunately for the tennis world and for American tennis, Serena Williams, still not properly healed from a foot injury suffered at a World Cup viewing party in which Serena stepped on broken glass from a coffee table, has pulled out of the prestigious Hopman Cup exhibition in Perth, scheduled for the 1st week of the New Year.

Serena, a two-time Hopman Cup champ, was scheduled to partner with John Isner.  The Hopman cup is the only tournament aside from the majors that features mixed doubles.  Serena, now out since Wimbledon, fears missing her second major due to the very unfortunate injury she suffered while watching soccer of all things.

No replacement has yet to be named for Serena, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Isner ends up playing with another Georgia product, Melanie Oudin, who played the Hopman Cup last year. 

the Hopman Cup gets its name from legendary Aussie coach Harry Hopman who coached the Australian Davis Cup team at the height of its prominence during the Rosewald, Emmerson, and Laver years.  Hopman then moved to Long Island, NY and was instrumental in the development of John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Patrick McEnroe, and Peter Fleming.

Crack (,


Sam Querrey painted lines all day, as he aggressively attacked Andy Murray into submission.

Samurai Sam Querrey, on his Southern California home turf, successfully defended today as Farmers Classic champion, with an exciting victory over wild card entrant and top seed, world # 4, Andy Murray, on the campus of UCLA.  Querrey defeated Murray today for the first time in 5 tries, with his most recent loss coming in straight sets on the lawns at Wimbledon last month.  For Querrey, it was also the first time he took a set off Murray in the American’s career.

Querrey, America’s most successful male player this year to date, won his fourth tournament of the year and his 6th career title, and denied Murray his first title of the year in the process.  Murray, who is now 0-2 in finals this year (Farmers Classic, Australian Open), plays his best tennis on hardcourts but is always succeptible to the power game on fast hardcourts, which prevail at UCLA.

Querrey gutted out today’s win on the strength of big serves and huge forehands, and had a chance to make shorter work of Murray, as he found himself out to an early break lead in the first set.  Murray took the break back, and another, and found himself up a set.  But Querrey was not broken again in the match, taking Murray to a 2nd set tie break where he blitzed the hope of Britain.  To Pam Shriver’s credit, she called the result of the tie break, and her commentary has seemed to be very insightful, to the point where I may put her in the category of top tennis announcers with John McEnroe, Ted Robinson, Patrick McEnroe, Chris Fowler, and Mary Carillo, who I have not really loved of late but usually do.  Querrey then collected an early break in the third set, for a 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory in 2 hours and 23 minutes.

To his credit Murray, in the words of Cliff Drysdale, “looked like a jackrabbit out there” and truly wanted this final, but big Sam Q kept on coming, despite Murray’s phenomenal defense.  Though Murray got a lot of balls back, in trademark fashion, Querrey dictated the match with his huge game.  Here on American hards, that now play the fastest of any surface, including grass, in my humble opinion, Querrey was able to finish off way more points and Murray, the “jackrabbit”, was not able to run them down for passing shots the way he did so many times in their Wimbledon quarter-final.  And far too many times did Murray have a short ball or off pace ball to work with, and did little with them.  He was hitting drop shots like he was on clay, but drop shots on this type of court turn into waist high forehands for Querrey.  It used to be a good play to try and draw Querrey in with a drop shot because he was uncomfortable at net–a few years ago.  Querrey has played a lot of doubles with John Isner of late, and his coordination is better developed.  Now, drawing in a guy who is 6’6 and can jump a little is a dumb tactic, unless Querrey is far back of the court, which is not usually where he is.  Still not the best volleyer, Querrey is extremely tough to pass.

As for Murray, this isn’t some case of Murray being more comfortable on grass, as is some people’s notion, that because he’s British and Wimbledon is in Britain, that he must be great on grass.  As a member of Britain’s Davis Cup team, he gets to play more matches and gets more practice time around SW-19 than just about anyone, but he definitely disappointed in semi-finals the past two years against Roddick and Nadal.  He is best on hards, which he has played on for his entire life.  Like so many foreign tennis kids, and domestic, for that matter, Murray moved to Florida as a youth to pursue his career.  When he was a little older, he began to split his training between Florida and Spain.  Speaking of Murray on clay, though he has spent a lot of time training in Spain on red clay, he isn’t the best mover on clay.  Surprising, considering his movement is his only real weapon, having an otherwise popgun game.  I’d also think that a guy like that could conquer such an inadequacy, the way that guys like Agassi and Courier did. 

The whispers on Murray are that he is lazy.  I’ve heard many rumors that Murray is a video game addict, and that it cuts down on his practice time, and may have cost him his relationship with girlfriend Kim Sears.

Sears (above).

I heard that Murray’s coach, Myles Maclagan, and Murray were at odds over how much time he devoted to Playstation.  Murray fired Maclagan earlier this week, citing Maclagan’s differences with Murray’s part time coach, former Spanish player, and a pretty good one, Alex Corretja.  But Murray, who hired Maclagan because he wanted a yes man, did not like when Maclagan tried to have a more active voice in regard to Murray’s training.  After Murray lost to Roddick at Wimbledon last year, Murray blamed Maclagan in the press conference afterward for not having scouted Roddick well.  That’s a ridiculous assertion, considering the 2 Andies have played 9 times, with Murray holding a 6-3 edge in the h2h.

Then Maclagan took issue with Murray’s training regimen when Murray famously took his act to South Beach to train for the hardcourt season last summer, boasting that he was acclimating himself to playing in conditions far more gruelling than Flushing.  Murray supposedly played tennis and ran 5 miles a day on the beach, but still managed to devote 7-8 hours to video games a day.

Since Murray already has the “finesse” coach, in Corretja, his next hire needs to be a guy who will beef up his serve, if possible, and get him into more of an aggressive mode.  His mentality is too passive, and that’s why he is always going to have a hard time on the prevailing surface of the tour with hot players whoo have big games–like Querrey.  Roddick’s coach, Larry Stefanki, who refused to coach Murray before he hired Maclagan because Murray did not call him personally, but rather had a lackey do it, said last year after Roddick’s defeat of Murray at Wimbledon that Murray will never realize his potential until he takes a more aggressive countenace.

And that’s not drop shotting Sam Querrey on hardcourts.  As for Sam, the world # 20 should move up in tomorrow’s new rankings.  An impressive week, winning 3 straight matches after losing the first set to keep his crown.  And mention should be made of Sam’s coach, David Nainken, who in addition to seeing Querrey into the top 20, has also coached and continues to coach Mardy Fish on to impressive accomplishments.

–Crack (

World # 1, 2nd seed, and 2008 Wimbledon Champion Rafael Nadal survived another tough 5 setter, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down in successive rounds, to beat talented German Philipp Petzschner, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in 3 hours and 45 minutes earlier on Centre Court.  Nadal faced a much taller order than it seemed in the first set, when the Spaniard was able to control play with his heavy forehand, earning a break of serve in the first game of the match and then holding for a 6-4 lead after one set.

Some 2 hours and 45 minutes later, Nadal had still not mustered another break against the very impressive German, who John McEnroe said, has a “totally perfect service motion.”  Petzschner only saw 1 break opportunity on Nadal’s serve, and took advantage with quick hands at the net, knocking off a forehand volley to level the match at a set a piece.  In the third set, Petzschner’s tactics really seemed to be bothering Nadal, who was also limited by physical problems.  Petzschner (below), uniquely employing both a one handed slice backhand and an abbreviated motion one hander, along with a 2 handed backhand, either sliced back Nadal’s topspin or blocked it back by taking the ball early, using Nadal’s pace, which gave Nadal enormous problems.

Petzschner’s perfect service motion produced 25 aces and many clutch serves in the first three sets, as even though he got down a mini break in the third set tie breaker, he was still able to serve out the set.  Nadal seemed bothered by his left elbow, which was one of the reasons he had trainers out to Centre Court in the third set.  Later, Nadal received a massage to his right knee area, a chronic trouble spot for the grinder due to his style of play.  Nadal was also unnerved when he received a warning for receiving coaching, which Mary Carillo called “about time.”

The 26 year old Petzschner, largely a doubles specialist until last year, played a phenomenal three sets against Nadal, and had his opportunities to eliminate the Spaniard–the 2nd straight match in which Nadal looked imminently beatable.  Petzschner, the world # 44, came in to the year around 80, and has caught our eye with his impressive variety and touch, which he had on display today, as well as his guts–the German approached the net 71 times in the match, served and volleyed frequently, and had to make several difficult half volleys.  In fact, Petzschner seemed to have a great gameplan in place against Nadal, one that Roger Federer should have taken copious notes on.

Nadal, who said after the match that his injuries have resulted from playing so many matches in the last few months, said his knee was “not so bad.”  He will face Frenchman Paul Henri Matthieu in the round of 16, who we can’t recall ever giving Rafa much trouble.

But Nadal could face a troublesome quarter-final matchup should favorites win out.  Robin Soderling, who beat Thomaz Bellucci in straights today, could face Nadal in the quarter-finals.

–Crack (