990593-16126026-640-360Rafael Nadal (above) seeks his 9th Monte Carlo Masters 1000 shield 10 hours from now.

ATP MASTERS 1000 FINAL — Monte Carlo, Monaco (8 AM EST)

Rafael Nadal:  – 225

Novak Djokovic:  + 175

…………

Nadal leads the h2h 19-14, and has grabbed 13 of 14 on clay in the matchup, and the last 3, including the “hotly” contested 2012 final at Roland Garros at which Rafa cried and whined about having to play in a little rain (since he was getting pounded during that stretch).  We don’t see these odds as Vegas being that into Rafa here, despite the whole slow red clay story.  Nadal has won the previous matchup at the MC, back in 2009, going 3 sets.  Not sure if Nadal has ever lost at MC in fact, and not he shouldn’t be the bigger favorite here.

Djokovic is a wilting lily no more.  He and Azarenka both had the trait, and as they matured, they have both developed extreme toughness.  We’d like to commend him on that now, and Azarenka, we’ll save for later.  It is very hard for an athlete to change their personality, and in tennis, the turnaround is so stark, especially with Djokovic, that we would have to harken back to Andre Agassi, to think of a similar mentality change.  And Agassi won at RG late in the game, after his attitude adjustment.  We see Djokovic getting his RG trophy a lot earlier than Agassi did, and we were thinking this year.  So we were of course very disappointed to see Djokovic hurt his ankle so badly in DC versus Sam Querrey.  It may not seem to affect him, and he has won 6 straight matches since rolling the ankle, but he will need his wheels today.

Djokovic wants it badly, for sure, and usually, we’d take a flyer on him, even in this situation on clay versus Nadal.  There are probably those of the mind that if he is playing, then he’s fine.  And certainly, the ankle did not slow the main man down against Sam Querrey, breaking Querrey in his first game after the injury, and getting stronger as the match went on to boot, allowing Sam Q only 1 of the last 13 games.  But we think Djokovic should get himself absolutely perfect for RG, and we don’t see how war of attrition tennis versus Nadal 5 weeks before Paris helps him to do that, unless Djokovic is so there mentally that he has completely blocked the injury out of his mind, and is looking to make a statement here versus Nadal, who we don’t think has played that great here, playing very close matches with Grigor Dimitrov, who split 158 points with Nadal evenly, and with Tsonga, who usually has no traction at all against Rafa on clay (6-3, 7-6 is very close for Tsonga, LOL).

We’d like to see Djoker at his best on that first Sunday in June, but there have been whispers that he may lose his ranking during the clay season if he takes his foot off the gas.  We will trust the decision to the Djokovic camp, who has been making all the right moves since jettisoning Todd Moron, um, Martin, sorry.  One thing we can not stand though, is to see a hurt player making an extended go of it.  See Angelique Kerber’s brutal play these last few months.  Health comes from rest and treatment.  All that said, this will be compelling tennis for a variety of reasons.  Gun to our head though, we’d probably take Rafa, pained as we are to admit.

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imagesJohn Isner (above), being consoled by Jim Courier during a difficult Davis Cup tie with Serbia.

U.S. Men’s Clay Court Finals — Houston, Texas (3 PM EST)

Nicolas Almagro:  – 400

John Isner:  + 300

…………

h2h: Almagro, 2-0.  And Almagro is made to win shit tournaments on clay.  Still, Isner has nice odds.

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

SONY OPEN WOMEN’S FINAL — SATURDAY, MARCH 30TH, 2013 (12:15 PM EST)

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.

SONY OPEN MEN’S FINAL — SUNDAY, MARCH 31ST, 2013 (11:40 AM EST)

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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Maria+Sharapova+Caroline+Wozniacki+Open+Day+jdLd_Tp7M0Xl

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells, Ca — Womens Final (3 PM EST)

Caroline Wozniacki:  + 325

Maria Sharapova:  – 450

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells, Ca — Mens Final (Approx. 5 PM EST)

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 165

Rafael Nadal:  – 210

……..

In the h2h’s, Rafa leads DP 7-3 and Masha leads 4-2.

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BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells, Ca — Mens Semi-finals (1st Semi, 3 PM EST)

Tomas Berdych:  + 170

Rafael Nadal:  – 220

modelo_6More of Berdych’s beautiful girlfriend (above) here:

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/pervy-picture-show-ester-satorova-berdychs-new-gf/

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells, Ca — Mens Semi-finals (2nd Semi to follow)

Juan Martin Del Potro:  + 500

Novak Djokovic:  – 800

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells, Ca — Womens Final (Sunday, March 17th @ 3 PM EST)

Caroline Wozniacki:  + 350

Maria Sharapova:  – 500

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federer_nadal_indian_wells_sferturi_finalaThe 2 fair haired boys (above) are back at each other in Indian Wells.

BNP PARIBAS @ Indian Wells — Men’s Quarter-final (Approx. 10 PM EST)

Roger Federer:  – 140

Rafael Nadal:  + 110

…….
The h2h is still grizzly (Nadal, 18-10), which won’t be helped by Nadal’s precarious nature, because we don’t really see him making it too deep at the events where Federer can make headway in the h2h.  Just like when Roger was king, and he’d lose to Nadal at 2 Masters Finals and the RG Final every year–his reward for constantly going so deep–while Nadal hid from Roger at the events where Roger has a surface edge, like Cincinnati (where they’ve never met), the USO (where they’ve never met), and indoors (where they’ve only met 4 times and only at the YEC).

Tonight’s match, should Nadal keep his appointments, will be the 1st in the matchup since Key Biscayne in 2004 when the players have met before the semi-finals, and only the 2nd time ever.  Frankly, after watching Nadal handle Federer in Melbourne last year on Plexcushion (a 2nd terrible defeat against Nadal at Oz), we were shocked to see Federer have such an easy time with Nadal, when he beat Nadal 6-3, 6-4 here at Indian Wells.  Especially surprising also considering that in 2011 on a similar court with similar if not the same weather conditions–cool and windy–Nadal gave Federer what was probably the worst hard court loss he has ever suffered (6-3, 6-2 with a 62-39 edge on points).

But really, that was Rafa at his all time best, not too far removed from completing the career slam, and this is not.  Obviously Nadal is not himself, and any time when that’s the case, we’d favor Federer in the matchup.  Though Federer didn’t look all that hot himself in fending off Stan the Man last night.  Federer said that he and Nadal both “have issues” at the presser today.  Federer seems to have a lingering back issue that a lot of guys are speculating about.  We heard some good conjecture from we think Mark Knowles, who claimed that Roger is hampered, from what he can tell, on overheads and stretches.  But like the great Johnny Mac likes to say, the Fed back is an injury that hurts way more when he is losing.  We recall the whispers about Fed’s back within 48 hrs of the great man laying absolute waste to Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at Wimbledon, 2012.  Federer, a picture of health usually, has shown a tremendous ability to shake off back problems, which while they do nag, they have not proven degenerative.  And then you kind of say ‘well Roger doesn’t seem too bothered’ when he goes out and plays well, because unlike some, Roger has not spent his career whining about injuries.  Then Roger will lose to a Berdy or Soderling or Tsonga and suggest that he wouldn’t have lost if the back were not a factor.

For us, we see it as pride before the fall.  We don’t think Roger played hungry tennis against Soderling (RG, 2010) or Tsonga at SW-19 in 012, and against power players like that, the great man hasn’t looked good.  Sure, eventually a guy like Berdych is going to win a night match on Ashe and eventually Federer is going to lose one.  But the power is a problem, and seems to be Roger’s worst one, especially when really taking apart the recent losses and all the trouble he’s had with guys like Berdych and Del Potro, who serve big and who can control the baseline.  We don’t see it as as great a problem on quicker surfaces, then again, we didn’t think Dubai was that slow.  We didn’t think London was that slow at the YEC or any of the back end spots where DP got him at the end of 2012.

So we don’t actually see Nadal as the great threat to Federer he’s always been, and we won’t either, until or unless Nadal finds a way to make his legs his biggest weapon again.  Especially on a clay like surface as bad as this one.  Until that day, Federer has a more comfortable matchup here, back willing.

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