Mikhail Youzhny


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)

Alexander Dolgopolov:  + 10000

Andy Murray:  + 600

Andy Roddick:  + 3000

David Ferrer:  = + 15000

David Nalbandian:  + 10000

Ernests Gulbis:  + 10000

Fernando Verdasco:  + 15000

Gael Monfils:  + 10000

Ivo Karlovic:  + 10000

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga:  + 3000

John Isner:  + 5000

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 2000

Jurgen Melzer:  + 15000

Lleyton Hewitt:  + 15000

Marcos Baghdatis:  + 15000

Mardy Fish:  + 8000

Marin Cilic:  + 8000

Michaael Llodra:  + 15000

Mikhail Youzhny:  + 15000

Milos Raonic:  + 4000

Nikolay Davydenko:  + 15000

Novak Djokovic:  + 275

Rafael Nadal:  + 200

Richard Gasquet:  + 6000

Robin Soderling:  + 3000

Roger Federer:  + 225

Sam Querrey:  + 12500

Stanislas Wawrinka:  + 12500

Tomas Berdych:  + 3000

Field (Any Other Player):  + 5000

The rising sun, Canadian phenom Milos Raonic (above).

Beating Michael Llodra at the Australian Open in 3 straight, tight sets does not necessarily make us stand up and take notice of a guy.  The Frenchman Llodra, a nice player with good hands and a nice one hand backhand, has squeezed a lot out of his slight frame, and probably had over-achieved to get his ranking up to the mid twenties, his seedline in Melbourne.  Beating Bjorn Phau in round one, in a match by the same score, also doesn’t wow us.  And then we laid our own eyes on the stunning talent that is Montenegran born Canadian Milos Raonic, who we will once again say, without hesitation, is the best player under 25 in all of North America.  Soon he will hold that title without the age qualifier, as Raonic out played the current “title holder”, Andy Roddick, a few weeks back in Memphis in the final of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championsips, and Roddick was lucky to get out alive.

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Back to Australia.  Devoted Nadal haters that we are, we were hoping to see flat ball wizard Mikhail Youzhny and tenacious Spaniard David Ferrer battle it out in the round of 16 for the right to play Nadal.  Both guys have given Nadal problems in majors on hardcourts, and Ferrer is still the only guy to beat Nadal at a major after dropping the first set.  Youzhny had to do his part first.  Raonic, Youzhny’s 3rd round opponent, did his part better.  The kid who had played only a handful of pro tournaments on the main tour, who had never played a major, smoked Youzhny in 4 sets behind the livest serve we’ve seen on a 20 year old since Pete Sampras, a solid forehand, a deadly 2-handed backhand which he takes early and wreaks havoc with, and a beautiful transition game and gifted hands at net.  By the way, the transition game, from baseline to net, by far the most neglected skill among the homogenized legions of boring baseline hackers that now define tennis, and which separates Raonic, among other things, has obviously gotten a big assist from Raonic’s coach, Spaniard Galo Blanco, who is also firmly on our radar.

Are we in love?  Well, you know our philosophical opposition to 2-handed backhands, but we’re willing to overlook it when we gaze upon this kid and the full glory of his talented game.  Ferrer, a gritty, all heart guy, ended Raonic’s Melbourne magic carpet ride in 4 sets in the round of 16.  But Raonic came through qualifiers down under, which meant he had to win 3 best of 5 set matches before the tournament began.  Ferrer was not his 4th opponent, he was his 7th, and still, it was a 4 set match that probably could have gone either way.  Translation: Ferrer, nor anyone else, is looking forward to their first, or next meeting with this young monster.

Not Roddick, who prounounced himself lucky after Memphis, and who showered praise upon his young opponent, admitting that Raonic had taken it to him.  Roddick was on the defensive all match, and literally pulled out passing shot after passing shot out of the clear blue sky to stave off Raonic.  Certainly not James Blake, who the kid destroyed, and who would say afterward of the kid, who hit 149 MPH on the gun, that he had played a lot in his time against Pete Sampras, Roddick, and once even had Sam Querrey jam 10 consecutive aces down his throat, still a record, and that Raonic serve popped like no other’s.

Certainly not Mardy Fish nor Fernando Verdasco wait in eager anticipation of their next tangle with the kid.  Raonic, stepping up to the plate in his first ever ATP final in San Jose against Verdasco, handled him in straight set tie-breakers.  Then, because of an asinine and archaic ATP rankings system, had the good fortune of facing Verdasco in the first round at Memphis a day and a half later.  Raonic, despite soaring up the rankings from world #209 in October, is now #37, but despite the meteoric rise, his ranking has not yet registered in terms of making the main draws at these events.  But the system that has seen Raonic either wildcard or qualify his way into all of these events where he is already the best power player, was a lot less kind to Verdasco, whom Raonic handled once again, this time allowing the Spaniard to have a set.

Mardy Fish?  He’s another top 15 guy who has now lost twice in a few weeks to Raonic.  The kid served Fish a loss in the semis at Memphis, paving the kid’s way to the finals, his second consecutive final, and the first man in eons to win his first ATP tour final and then to make another ATP final in consecutive weeks.  The first Canadian man to win an ATP singles title of any kind in more than 15 years.  The first Canadian man…stop.

If there’s a real deal type to come out of nowehre faster in this game, then I haven’t seen it since Boris Becker won Wimbledon as a 17 year old.  Last night, Fish, in heavy conditions, had been rolling on serve, taking some 89% of his first balls and cruising to easy holds, and the young tennis god was laboring, and had called the trainer to deal with his back/mid section.  After the timeout, Raonic dumped a few anxious forehands into the net to go down love-30.  They were less a product of his injury than the fact that the ball was moving so slow off Fish’s racquet on this horrible IW Plexipave Slow “hardcourt” that the fast reacting Raonic had too much time.  Not so for Mardy.

Without a really, really big television one couldn’t even really glimpse Mardy Fish while he returned Raonic’s serve, basically from the 2nd row, having conceded the entire court plus an extra 6-7 meters so that he could even lay a string on Raonic’s bombs.  It’s was a clinic for the kid–the injured kid–from there on out.  Raonic embarrassed Fish in 3 straight games to take the 1st set 7-5, and then made short shrift of Fish in the 2nd set, taking 9 of the last 13 games in total.  And Fish’s morale, to boot.  Fish, a guy who prides himself on getting to the net, could barely get near the baseline, and he put an abundance of balls into the bottom of the net and watched Raonic crack forehand and backhand winners at will, Federer like droppers that make you go “Ooooh!”, and of course, the almighty ace, which is the biggest staple of the kid’s game right now.

Tomorrow, barring Raonic being unable to walk, we’d look for him to carve up America’s best young almost 19 year old, Ryan Harrison, in what will be an ugly bloodbath for the American in all likelihood.  And then, in the round of 16, should Roger take care of business, is when we are sure to see the real fireworks.  Raonic, at 15-3 so far this season with 5 wins over top 15 players, versus Federer, who really has looked quite good this year, having a tournament victory in Doha, a major semi appearance, and just 2 losses on the resume, both to Novak Djokovic.

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A Chinese proverb states that it is far wiser to pay attention to the rising sun than the setting one, though we are not Roger fans of little faith.  Raonic does have a weakness in terms of the return game.  He has played an inordinate number of tie-breakers.  But if we’re crazy about Grigor Dimitrov at around world #75, and he does hit the beautiful one hander for us, then we have to be crazy about Raonic, who has powered through on slow clay like hardcourts during his meteoric rise to world #37.

Rising sun?  We’ll go with it, even if that seems a little quick to you from here.  But we can just imagine what he’s going to be like on real hardcourts (acrylic Decoturf and not this soft synthetic garbage) that actually play fast in the true tradition of the game, this summer in Cincinnati and New York.

Hell on earth.

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

Court Philippe Chatrier

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(17) Francesca Schiavone vs. (3) Caroline Wozniacki

Even matchup or mismatch?  One may tend to favor Wozniacki, the young gun from Denmark, who is only 19 and has already appeared in a major final (USO 09).  But on closer inspection, the 30 year old Italian, Schiavone, a clay court natural, who has now made the quarter-finals in every major but the Australian (4th round, ’06, ’10), but who has never won a quarter-final match at a major, could be poised for the breakthrough.  Schiavone won their only meeting which was in 2008, 7-6 (3), 6-2.  That could be wishful thinking, if not Machiavellian on our part, as we are partial to the Italian, but would hate for her victory to better set up Jelena Jankovic for an easy romp to the final.  Wozniacki will be the much tougher matchup for Jankovic, who gets Yaroslava Shvedova on Wednesday.  Perhaps it will be Wozniacki’s tournament to break through.  Her steady game is tailor made for this surface, and her young legs should be a big aid to her in these late rounds.

Gun to my head: Wozniacki wins.

(1) Roger Federer vs. (5) Robin Soderling

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In a rematch of last year’s final, is this another ho hum match for Roger or is it an uh-oh match?  Federer is 12-0 in the head to head versus Soderling, and he personally ended Soderling’s chances at 3 majors in 2009.  But Soderling is very capable of winning.  Everyone should recall that he had never beaten Nadal before either, and then went out and spanked him last year on this very court.  Soderling is a very scary player, with huge weapons off the serve, backhand and forehand.  This guy completely hammers the ball.  Also, he’s very mature, and unlikely to be rattled by Federer in this spot.  But the last time I looked, Roger was still the man.  I could see Roger getting off to a fast start before Soderling knows what hit him, and then the Swede settling down and making a dog fight out of it.  Or maybe, Federer keeps his pedal to the metal, smelling that 24th consecutive major semi-final.  Based on the last round and how they played, I feel better picking Federer than I did.  He’s fresh, and he’s shown offhis enormous talent at every turn, not dropping a set.  I think Roger doesn’t necessarily need to get off well to win, but Soderling does.  The first set is going to be huge for the Swede, either away.  But Federer handles bangers well.  He’s something like 35-2 lifetime against Soderling, Gonzalez, and Blake–3 guys who hit the shit out of the ball, but who don’t necessarily have a B gameplan.

Gun to my head: oh Roger, my Roger.

Court Suzanne Lenglen

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(5) Elena Dementieva vs. (19) Nadia Petrova

All russian matchup.  And the Russians go particularly hard against one another.  These 2 have been playing each other since 1997, and the series is tied at 7-7, but Elena D. has taken the last 4 matches.  One of those matches, petrova retired down 3-4 in the 1st, and the other 3 have been close 3 setters.  I feel that Petrova has to be ecstatic after upsetting Venus, and that she may have a little air of satisfaction, whereas Dementieva, who spanked Scheepers, a qualifier, has her eyes on the big prize.

Gun to my head: Dementieva wins.

(15) Tomas Berdych vs. (11) Mikhail Youzhny

Youzhny comes in rested, having only played the one set versus Tsongaa in the last round, who retired.  We weren’t surprised.  Berdych whipped up on Andy Murray.  Can’t say either result surprised us.  Youzhny leads the head to head, 6-4.  They have each a win against the other on clay.  At their last meeting in Japan in October, Youzhny won 6-2, 7-6 (6).  Their matchup prior to that was in 09 at Munich on clay which Berdych won.  I’m partial to Youzhny.  I like one handers better, and you have to like the more athletic guy on clay–generally.  Berdych disproved that rule in beating Murray, but Murray is a bit of an akward clay courter.  Youzhny loves Paris, and will be right at home in this spot.

Gun to my head: Youzhny wins.

So I picked all favorites.  I wouldn’t be that shocked if 3 of the 4 went the other way, with the exception of Dementieva, who I really can’t see losing tomorrow.  But I think we see a very high level of tennis tomorrow and close matches.

Enjoy your tennis (even though it’s clay),

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