Thomaz Bellucci

One handed tennis prodigy Grigor Dimitrov (above), who is coached by Serena Williams new coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Fitting that with Roger Federer, King of Tennis, King of One Handers, back on his throne, and with the TTC replaying the match 400 times, that they’d get back to, well, not live, but new tennis with one handed prodigy Grigor Dimitrov.  Dimitrov came in this week ranked 69th and comes off an odd retirement at Wimbledon in the second round versus Marcos Baghdatis.  Dimitrov had fought his way up to a high of world #52 in November, as his points accrued through the hard court season.  That Dimitrov has slid back down doesn’t bother us that much.  We think it more a case of him developing than backsliding.  It also doesn’t bother us that he’s playing in Sweden at Skistar.  On clay.  Theoretically, we like to forget about clay during the summer.  The summer is when players need to get ready for the hard court season, but since most players see the early part of the American summer tour as a joke, a lot of Europeans who want to play and stay close to home play Stuttgart and Bastaad.  With players like Almagro, Ferrer, and Robredo there, it’s a viable event where a kid can get valuable match play, and maybe notch some W’s.

Skistar Swedish Open — Semi-finals

David Ferrer:  – 800

Grigor Dimitrov:  + 500

__ __ __ __

Jan Hajek:  + 260

Nicolas Almagro:  – 340


And so Dimitrov is into the semi-finals in the early SF versus David Ferrer.  The kid has looked good this week.  He’s a huge underdog and we do not expect him to win, but we’ll take a play on him at that number any day, especially since we root for the kid.  He went to the semis at a vastly diminished Queens last month, but that’s still on his resume.  He is playing solid tennis.  Ferrer on clay is a tough matchup for the kid, for sure.  Last year in Cincinnati they met, and Ferrer, on a very fast hard court that suited Dimitrov, edged the kid 7-5 in the 5th.  Dimitrov should have a little confidence coming in, and perhaps David Ferrer gets tired once in a while?  The man is non stop.  It will be interesting to see how Dimitrov’s backhand holds up against the Ferrer forehand.  At any rate, we like Dimitrov’s progress.  We expect him to finish up here and then get to LA for the Farmer’s Classic.  Dimitrov should move up a lot this summer, as he has a lot more winnable early round matches, and we’ve seen him hold his own against pretty good competition, so now it’s a matter of breaking through.

As for the 2nd matchup, we’ll tell you that Nicolas Almagro makes a living on clay.  We would be very surprised if Almagro and Ferrer aren’t duking this title out on Sunday.  Almagro is a very talented one hander with questionable heart.  The same might be said of Dimitrov.  These guys are very similar, in terms of possible career trajectory.  Hopefully, Dimitrov can do better than Almagro has in big matches, though he has specialized well enough on clay to make the top 10.  We also think Dimitrov’s game translates better to fast courts, and we will be eager to see it.

Mercedes Cup (Stuttgart) — Semi-finals

Janko Tipsarevic :  – 180

Thomaz Bellucci:  + 140

__ __ __ __

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez:  + 300

Juan Monaco: – 400


Let’s be serious.  Juan Monaco is a horrible favorite.  Lopez is a very talented player, and very good on clay.  This is a good opportunity to reclaim some rankings points.  Monaco leads the h2h 3-1, with Lopez’s win coming on clay.  We just kind of feel that in some of these early summer matchups, the fresher player may have a good chance.  So we will take a flyer on Lopez.

Tipsarevic-Bellucci is quite a matchup.  We like Bellucci.  That kid is a clay court specimen.  Bellucci plays a lot like Nadal, who Tipsarevic does not handle well.  Bellucci gets that lefty forehand spinning way out of the smaller man’s strike zone, and the key to the match will be how our favorite Techno tennis player handles that spin.  Bellucci took the only meeting in the series in 2009 at Indian Wells, which might play slower than Stuttgart.

Crack (

In what must be a great blow to the great man’s confidence, Roger Federer will for the 2nd straight match, will play his match on Lenglen and not Chatrier.  Cliff D gave us the stat yesterday, on the horrible coverage of Roger’s match (we suggest mapping out court whatever and then tuning the mix channel to it and leaving it there, so you get less pretentious announcers and practically no commercial breaks), that Roger had not played a match on Lenglen since 2004.  Let alone 2.  And he’s got the nasty little Serb, and we mean that as a compliment, Janko Tipsarevic, a giant slayer at majors throughout the years, who nearly punched Roger’s ticket at Oz a few years back, and let me tell you, we were scared.  Tipsarevic played practically lights out for 3 sets, and he really didn’t show any signs of losing his fight until deep into the 5th set.  Roger could have easily lost.

Federer:  – 1500

Tipsarevic:  + 700

Fed’s got the edge on clay, but these 2 haven’t met on clay, and we’ve seen Tipsarevic bulldog a lot of people on clay.  He’s comfortable there.  Should only be about 63-64 degrees when they pair off tomorrow, and a little cloudy.  The slower court will not help Tipsarevic much, and meanwhile, have you seen those balls?!!  The ones that the prince, Novak Djokovic, Lord Conqueror, and the princess, Andy Murray, Lady Grace, have had the audacity to criticize the balls because these new Babolat balls being used this year at Roland Garros, are popping.  Making Roger and Djokovic’s opponent tomorrow, Juan Martin Del Potro, a ball crusher for the ages, look pretty good.

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 400

Novak Djokovic:  – 700

That line is huge.  Sure, Del Potro is not all the way back, but if Isner served consistent 140’s, then DP should have a good day on serve, making him just about the only guy to win free points off Djokovic all year.  And the kid does have to lose some time.  So yeah, I mean, we love the balls!  First the slow hards, then the slow clay that they even water every few minutes, and these things diminish the quality of the tennis.  Sunny skies and faster balls tips thbalance a bit for the shot makers and ball strikers, and they deserve to enjoy an innovation that doesn’t aid safe baselining for a change.

We like Zvonareva and Pavlyuchenkova tomorrow:

Vera Zvonareva:  – 650

Anastasia Rodionova:  + 375


Llagostera Vives:  + 325

Pavlyuchenkova:  – 550

We are pulling for the champ, Francesca Schiavone, in her matchup with annoying 2-hand on both sides, Shuai Peng:

Peng:  + 120

Schiavone:  – 160

Not a lot of respect for the champ, we’d have to say.  Speaking of annoying two-handers, ugly and annoying Marion Bartoli is going against the German force of late, Julia Goerges, who has an excellent first serve.  The 2nd ball is not as stirring.  We want Goerges, obviously, and think she might be the surprise pick this fortknight, but we also wouldn’t be shocked if Bartoli beat her.  And that really sums up our feelings on the women’s game.

Julia Goerges:  – 250

Marion Bartoli:  + 175

Kuznetsova, who has toned down and looks like a real threat here after all, is a big favorite over Rebecca Marino (-700/+400).  Somehow JW Tsonga is a favorite over the brilliant moving on clay, Stan Wawrinka (-105/-135).  We’ll take Stan, the fitter player, and good dirt baller.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands takes on Jankovic, who you know we just think plays such lazy, boring, and safe tennis.  A real contrast in styles, since Sands doesn’t have the pure strokes, but has all the guts, hands, and touch that Jankovic lacks.  It would be enormous for Sands to make the round of 16.

Jankovic:  – 450

Sands:  + 275

Ferrer/Stakhovsky…Ferrer a – 2000 favorite, and he should be a big favorite, but we have a soft spot for talented one hander, and we’d love to see him make the round of 16, playing the style he does.  A couple more interesting ones:

Wozniacki:  – 350

Hantuchova:  + 225 (see bikini shot above)


Gasquet:  – 180

Bellucci:  + 130

Good tennis tomorrow.  Even for clay.  Stick with the mix channels. 

Crack (,

2009 French Open champion Roger Federer (above).

First, the odds for the men’s 2011 French Open champion:


Alexander Dolgopolov Jr. —  +15000 (wager 100 units to win 15000)

Andy Murray —  + 1500 (wager 100 units to win 1500)

Andy Roddick —  + 20000 (wager 100 units to win 20000)

David Ferrer —  + 2500

Ernests Gulbis —  + 15000

Fernando Gonzalez — + 15000

Gael Monfils — + 10000

Gilles Simon — + 15000

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga — + 15000

John Isner — + 20000

Juan Carlos Ferrero — + 15000

Juan Martin Del Potro — + 2500

Juan Monaco —  + 20000

Jurgen Melzer — + 10000

Marin Cilic — + 10000

Mikhail Youzhny — + 15000

Milos Raonic — + 15000

Nicolas Almagro — + 8000

Nikolay Davydenko — + 10000

Novak Djokovic — + 125

Rafael Nadal — – 125

Richard Gasquet — + 8000

Robin Soderling — + 3000

Roger Federer — + 1500

Stanislas Wawrinka — + 15000

Thomaz Bellucci — + 8000

Tomas Berdych — + 8000

Field (Any Other Player) — + 5000


These odds are rough.  Only Nadal and Djokovic have reasonable odds, and Nadal is the slight favorite right now.  Honestly, we expected to see Djokovic with a much larger number next to the plus, and we expected to see Federer and Soderling with much lower numbers next to the plus.  Caesar’s Palace is paying very little respect to the players listed, as well as the rest of the field. 

Federer is 1 year removed from holding the trophy.  This is a tournament where traditionally, hell breaks loose on high seeds, and we’d definitely take a flyer on Federer, Murray, or Soderling if asked to play an odds on dog.  Probably Del Potro too, though we can’t tell if he’s really ready for RG, and hasn’t gotten his seed up high enough yet to enjoy a nice draw (world # 27).  Del Potro fans shouldn’t worry though.  He’s played impressive tennis this year, has won a few tournaments, and has shown good mental toughness.  We like the way he spanked a good clay courter in Verdasco, 6-2, 6-2 in the Estoril final, and as far as we can count, he is one of the few guys to win a title on clay and hards this year.  But DP did not play Rome, was a walkover for Nadal in Madrid due to a thigh injury, and there is talk that he may not be ready to go Sunday. 

We’d like to see what Federer’s odds were in 2009 when no one saw the Nadal upset (Sunday Bloody Sunday) to Soderling coming.  We’ve said for a few weeks that Andy Murray would surprise on clay this year, and we think he looks pretty good.  He was only a few points from beating Nadal in Monte Carlo and Djokovic in Rome.

A few other notable items strike us.  Milos Raonic, who hasn’t done much on clay aside from one semi-final in Estoril (7-5 match record on clay), is being shown a modicum of respect by Caesar’s, no doubt due to his meteoric rise in the game (world # 28).  “America’s best”, Mardy Fish, not a typical clay courter, got no play in these odds.  Sam Querrey (world # 26) also got no play, and that the steadily dropping John Isner, who has won, we believe 1 match only at RG in his career, has the same odds as Andy Roddick, bodes poorly for them both.

There are only five major champions listed above (Roddick, Djokovic, Ferrero, Federer, Nadal).  Of those, only Federer, Nadal, and Ferrero have won RG.  Fernando Gonzalez, a few points from the final against Roger in 09, was listed, no doubt because of that showing and because he is one of the few men around who has beaten Nadal on clay.

There are many Frenchmen listed, and we’d have to say former semi-finalist Gael Monfils, despite commitment issues, does has the game to win here, and probably only here.  We thought Dolgopolov’s scrambling style would translate to clay, but so far it has not.  Ferrer, an excellent clay courter, has been given some respect despite beating Nadal only once on clay way back in 04.  But Ferrer has beaten Nadal at multiple majors, as has Andy Murray, and that’s not something that even Roger Federer can boast of.

We aren’t going to go crazy for Almagro, a fine clay courter, but one who matches up horribly with Nadal’s heavy spin.  When the “dream matchup” finally came off between them a few years back at RG, it was no contest.

You know we love Gasquet, but not in this spot.  Check back with us at Wimbledon.  And we’ve liked Thomaz Bellucci on clay for a few seasons now, and see him as being a handful for anyone.  We’re sure that the top guys will be looking closely at their draw sheets for his name tomorrow night.

In the big picture, we are adopting our “anyone but Rafa” approach to rooting philosophy.  This is a crucial major for Rafa in his pursuit of Roger, because if things are different at Roland Garros, then we don’t see Rafa getting too many more than the 9 majors he already has.  Betting is a different story.  Pre-tournament?  Let us say again how we think Roger, Murray, and the Big Swede are excellent bets.  And as a very long shot, we’ll take Wawrinka.  He’s a gritty clay courter, and very comfortable on the surface.

Crack (,

2011’s only undefeated tennis player, Australian Open Champ Novak Djokovic.

A few words placed well.  Roger Federer was plus 450 on the money line this morning, with Rafa coming off at – 700.  Never have we seen a line like that.  We didn’t touch it, but as always, we liked Federer, and we didn’t think he played that badly.  It was a very good 1st semi-final, and Roger verified some things for us.  He can still mount a charge, even on clay, and we think he looks good going into Rome and Roland Garros.  And had he got in a few more first serves in the second and third set, he definitely could’ve beaten Nadal.  You’d never hear differently from us anyway.  The real story here is that Novak Djokovic extended his undefeated streak in 2011 to 31 matches with a tough win over Brazilian clay court specialist Thomaz Belluci, who, upon watching him this afternoon, we thought, wouldn’t it be neat if he ends up in Nadal’s draw at RG?

Bellucci had everything but the staying power.  And now Novak Djokovic has some pretty big milestones in his sights.  For one, the world is yet to see Djokovic take out Rafa on clay.  Will the time come tomorrow, or maybe in a few weeks in an RG final?  Wouldn’t that delight?  Well, the odds makers don’t seem to like his chances.  In the Mutua Madrilena Masters 1000 final tomorrow,  here are the current odds:

Nadal:  – 300 (wager 300 to win 100 plus initial wager)

Djokovic:  + 220 (wager 100 to win 220 plus initial wager)

We don’t think too many people are expecting Djokovic to best John McEnroe’s record out of the box in 1984 of 42-0.  That would likely mean that Djokovic wins tomorrow and wins RG, and wins Rome of course, too.  But if Djokovic can get that first win against Nadal tomorrow on clay, then he likely moves into 2nd place on the all time best start list, because he’d be 32-0 and could then tie Bjorn Borg’s 33-0 start, in we believe 1975, by winning his first match in Rome.  Either way, we have high hopes for the Serb.  We think the odds are good that if Djokovic and Nadal have to square off 2 or 3 times here in the coming weeks on clay, including at Roland Garros, unless of course Roger decides to intervene, that they will wage a war of attrition on themselves that can’t be bad for Federer this summer at real majors, and which could lead to an upset of Nadal at RG.

Last year, Nadal did not drop a set on the dirt.  Already this year, he’s dropped two.  Andy Murray had a downright regal hour and a half against him in Monte Carlo, and Roger held his own today.  If Djokovic’s hold/return numbers stand up in the dirt the way they do on soft hardcourts (he wins something like 90% of his service games and 42% of his return games), and Nadal labors a bit (he looks a little weary running down those droppers), as he did not last year, then we certainly shall see.  Starting tomorrow.  Here’s to a classic clay court match.

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 (


Will the last remaining American male, Robby Ginepri (above), be waiving goodbye to Paris tommorow?

Court Philippe Chatrier


Robby Ginepri vs. (3) Novak Djokovic

This is a tough ask for Ginepri, on top of the tough ask he improbably pulled off on Saturday, topping former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in 5 sets.  Ginepri’s fitness after a 5 set match is not a question.  This one should come down to a big talent mismatch, as the others in this head to head have.  The Djoker is 4-0 lifetime, and has yet to lose a set to Ginepri, ever.  He even handed Ginepri the most lopsided loss in his career at Roland Garros way back in 2005, 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 in just 1 hour and 18 minutes.  This match is Djokovic’s to lose, but it’s hard to pencil in the Serb because of his poor conditioning and always say quit attitude.

(1) Serena vs. (18) Shahar Peer


Serena should win fairly handily, though Peer’s playing great tennis.  This is a very interesting matchup, especially on Peer’s end.  I hear that in Israel everything stops when she plays, like in Japan, when Ichiro has an at bat, and there are televisions on showing her playing literally everywhere.  That’s enormous pressure.  Serena seems to be in top condition, though she did have a mental lapse for an entire set in round 3 versus Pavlyuchenkova.  Serena seems to want this title though, even if she has to go through Henin and Jankovic before even playing the final.  A victory in this major would give her 2 legs of the slam, with the hardest one for her already under her belt.  Serena is playing for history.  I hate to jinx it, but history might be in trouble.

(24) Thomaz Bellucci vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

One previous encounter, which Nadal won in straights, but Bellucci took a set to a tie-breaker, and kept Rafa on court for almost 3 hours.  Bellucci has had a checkered clay court season, and though he is 22-12 on the year, he hasn’t reallly put much of a win streak together, hasn’t won a tournament, and hasn’t beaten anyone of note.  And David Ferrer completely smoked him a couple of weeks ago, a bad sign for the Brazilian in a matchup against Nadal.  For Nadal, it will be 3 best of 5 set matches in four days, and cumulative toll has always brought his level down some, with his creaky knees.  It would be nice if Bellucci took a set from Nadal, who is yet to lose one at Roland Garros this year.  And in a perfect world, Bellucci would take 3.

(4) Jelena Jankovic vs. (23) Daniela Hantuchova

Jaja versus Dani Hani…what can we say?  Hantuchova is usually loathe to win a big match, and the surface suits Jankovic to a tee, she of the Gael Monfils school of hard court sliding.  I wish I felt DH had a shot, and I know she will get opportunities because of Jankovic’s horrendous serve, but Hantuchova doesn’t seem mentally tough enough to pull it off. 

Court Suzanne Lenglen


(22) Jurgen Melzer vs. Teimuraz Gabashvili

I saw both of these players up close and personal at the US Open in 2008.  Melzer, I thought was overmatched, but scratched out an incredible 5 set win versus Feliciano Lopez.  Gabashvili was also overmatched, and played steady, but lost to Stanislas Wawrinka (by the way, we sat next to Stan’s wife–much fitter than Mirka if you were wondering).  Gabashvili has sort of caught lightning in a bottle here, while Melzer, has steadily improved to the point where he is taking out very legitimate clay courters (David Ferrer).  Melzer has arrived.  I like him tomorrow, big.  It is very unlikely that Gabashvili will have another incredible day on his serve, which carried him against Roddick.

(22) Henin vs. (7) Stosur


Not so fast, Henin bandwagon.  Stosur is going to come to play.  You wouldn’t think Paris was best suited for an Aussie, but Sam is best here on the red clay.  Henin has played well overall, but people aren’t quivering in fear like they once were.  And Henin had a tough weekend courtesy of Maria Sharapova.  I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that the classy Australian can take the Belgian waffle.

(7) Fernando Verdasco vs. (19) Nicolas Almagro


Let’s hope Verdasco wins.  It would set up a very interesting quarter-final between him and Nadal, who he is very tired of losing to.

Jarmila Groth (Aus) vs. Yaroslava Shvedova (Kaz)


Watch this match between unheard ofs, in which one will become a major quarter-finalist become the match of the day.  I wish I could tell you something about these two, but I can’t muster much.  Shvedova has a higher profile than Groth, ranked # 36 in he world.  But Groth has 2 things going for her.  She beat Shvedova at Wimbledon in 2008 in what has been their only match to date.  And Groth is hotter.

Groth (above).

All in all, I thought the Sunday RO16 matchups were way more interesting and competitive than tomorrow’s will be, but at least we don’t have to watch NBC edit our sport tomorrow.

–Crack (