Post by Dave Hazelwoo » Sun, 27 Aug 2006 08:47:00

Betting Verdict

The tennis road show hits New York next week for the final Grand Slam
of 2006, the US Open. In following Paris and London, it is perhaps the
only city in the world with the ability to match them in terms of
character and vibrancy. The crowds play a huge part in proceedings,
especially in the night time stadium matches which create an
atmosphere unique to this tournament.

Andy Murray says that New York is his kind of city which,
considering he hails from the back water that is Dunblane in Scottish
Perthshire, is somewhat surprising. One thing that does certainly seem
to be true though is Murrays ability to play well on the hard courts
of North America at this time of year, and it is for this reason,
rather than his professed affinity for the city itself that many
people fancy his prospects.

The British number one old has been in terrific form of late, and has
a career high ranking matching his age of 19 to take into the
Championships. Seeded at 17, the draw has been relatively kind and
pits him against a qualifier in the first round, but expectations are
high these days, and most will be looking for him to be performing
deep into the second week.

In an age where often blind positivity is the order of the day in all
sports (how many times did England players say they were going to win
he football World Cup during June without any basis?) it is refreshing
to hear Murray speak. He is agonisingly realistic, and critics would
say lacking in ambition.

Even after beating Andy Roddick at Wimbledon he was talking of how he
wouldnt expect to beat Lleyton Hewitt if that match transpired. As it
was Morcos Baghdatis beat him before Hewitt had the chance to. And on
the eve of the US Open, he says his ambition is to match his seeding.
This would take him as far as the third round where 10th seed Fernando
Gonzalez should wait, all else being equal.

To go out here would be have to be a genuine disappointment though,
and it remains to be seen if Murray can make this realistic approach
to interviews work in his favour, or whether we will be left asking
if only he had been more positive.

The fact is that Murray plays his best tennis on this surface and does
seem to up his game when on that side of the Atlantic. He won the
junior US Open in 2004 and during this summer he has recorded some
fine results at Newport (semi final), Toronto (semi final), Washington
(final) and Cincinnati (quarter final) with Tim Henman being brushed
aside in both of the latter of these. There is no doubt at all who is
the top player from the British Isles right now, and it looks set to
remain that way for a long time.

The most remarkable result in this recent spate of good form came in
the form of a victory over Roger Federer in Cincinnati. This was the
first time that Fed had lost a game in America in 55 matches, and only
Rafael Nadal, the world number two had beaten him in 2006. A weakness
often referred to for Murray is a lack of fitness though, which seems
inexcusable for a 19 year old. He constantly refers to this being a
reason why a Grand Slam is too much to ask for at present and looks
exhausted at the end of every match, but he is also quick to tell us
of how he hopes to get stronger as the years go by.

Brad Gilbert seems to have galvanised his new charge, and given time,
perhaps Murray will be a genuine contender. For now though we cannot
see much point in backing him at the generally available 40/1,
although we shall be watching with interest.

As a side issue, perhaps more pertinently, there is also a BBC Sports
Personality of the Year award up for grabs, an award Greg Rusedski won
in 1997 courtesy of making the final at this event. 2006 has been
equally poor for British sportsmen and women and Murray is currently
the 5/2 favourite.

As for Rusedski, he is taking part in New York, but cannot be too
happy with the draw. First of all he faces his arch rival and more
often than not nemesis, Tim Henman. Five years ago this would have
been a mouth watering all British quarter or semi final at Wimbledon.
Today however, it is merely an eliminator before the winner gets the
privilege of entering the coliseum with the lion hat is world number
one and defending champion Roger Federer.

In losing to Murray, Federer missed out on equalling Ivan Lendls
record of 18 straight finals, and maybe some people will be throwing
some doubts over his form. The bookies are showing no sign of
generosity though, with a best price of 4/7 being offered for the 25
year old.

The defeat in Cincinnati was startling, but we would only expect the
Swiss ace to use this to his advantage, and perhaps use it as a wake
up call that he is not (quite) invincible. But the Grand Slams is
where Fed gets down to business and eight have gone his way in the
last three years. This includes the US Open for the last two and in 14
matches he has lost a total of just 5 sets in this period. This
*** is not quite what he enjoys at Wimbledon but still mightily
compelling. Never-the-less, this price is too short for us.

The other finalist last year was Andre Agassi, and the American legend
is retiring at the conclusion of this tournament. It will be the end
of an incredible career during which he has somehow remained
perpetually popular. The draw has been tough though with Marcos
Baghdatis likely opponent in round two, and Andy Roddick placed in his
16th of the draw. Only the sentimental amongst you would be lured in
by the 150/1 being touted.

After Agassi, perhaps Roddick is the biggest crowd pleaser at Flushing
Meadows. The 23 year old Personifies the All American Boy, and looks
as though he would be just as comfortable playing quarter back for the
Nebraska Huskers, as he is on the tennis court. 2006 has been his
worst campaign for several years though, and has slipped to number 10
in the world.

However, the 2003 winner of this event had a timely return to form
last week when winning the Cincinnati Masters, his first victory of
2006. After labouring in Round One, the subsequent five matches were
won in straight sets, with none of them requiring a tie-break.

The former world number one has a game that has been proven to prosper
on this surface and being placed in the bottom half of the draw is a
huge advantage as it means Federer cannot be met until the final. This
also means that 12/1 can be taken with a view to the odds being halved
should he lose in the final.

We do not see any outstanding candidate to emerge from the bottom half
of the draw, and would rank Roddicks chances as better than those of
Rafael Nadal, the number two seed. The Spaniard may have made the last
two Grand Slam finals, but one of these was on his cherished clay at
Roland Garros, and at Wimbledon we feel he was riding on the crest of
that wave.

Since SW19 his two ventures into competition have seen losses to Juan
Carlos Ferrero in the Quarter Final at Cincinnati and Thomas Berdych
one round earlier in Toronto, both on hard courts. We advise leaving
the 6/1 alone on a surface that remains uncomfortable for him.

Lleyton Hewitt is a man who deserves investigation, with a title here
in 2001 (when Pete Sampras was the runner up) and a record that has
see three other semi finals reached, as well as a quarter final. This
is an outstanding record, but there are some question marks over his
fitness. In Cincinnati a knee injury forced him to leave the court
against Thomas Johansson in the 3rd round, and reports are
inconclusive as to his competing.

Having won at Queens in July, and made two hard court finals in
America this season, the 80/1 on offer looked tempting, even with
injury doubts. However, this price is not each way and as such we are
going to leave it alone.

Also in the bottom half of the draw is Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot
has had an incredible season, making the final at the Australian Open,
and the semi final at Wimbledon. His gregarious nature is sure to go
down well with the New Yorkers, but recent form and a tough draw put
us off. Just two matches have been won since Wimbledon, and he is
likely to face Andre Agassi in the 3rd Round, with Roddick awaiting
the winner. He may have beaten Roddick in Melbourne in January, but
with local support we would definitely fancy a piece of revenge.

Having scoured the bottom half of the draw (Federer looks unbeatable
in the top half) we have become more convinced by the worth of
Roddick, and cannot find anyone to accompany him into the betting
verdict. The man is in form and has the game to go all the way to the
final on 10th September.



Post by drew » Mon, 28 Aug 2006 13:54:22


> Betting Verdict
> Having scoured the bottom half of the draw (Federer looks unbeatable
> in the top half) we have become more convinced by the worth of
> Roddick, and cannot find anyone to accompany him into the betting
> verdict. The man is in form and has the game to go all the way to the
> final on 10th September.

I agree with the writer.  I think Roddick is a good bet and I think
he'll win it this year.