Below are my notes for the first three days of Wimbledon, about half of you received the Monday email on Sunday afternoon, so I have no problems reproducing it here. Some of the notes still have value and are worthwhile reading.
MONDAY JUNE 20TH
I am leaving the Irish football alone today, but will definitely return to it at the end of this week with the next round of matches.
Only Wimbledon in this email, I am going to the Championships twice this week, got a "free" ticket for today and with the family on wednesday, so am hoping to get plenty of ideas to see us through the fortnight.
I am more interested in the Ladies Singles, so will get the Mens event out of the way first. It is very difficult to see beyond the big four and quotes of circa 3.25 for a repeat of all meeting in the semi-finals, like they did in Paris might seem skinny, but are perfectly valid, with very few real dangerous floaters in the draw, Tomas Berdych made the final last year and is the most likely to cause an upset, he is in the same quarter as Rafael Nadal and with Kohlschreiber, Del Potro and a couple of others potentially likely to do some damage, the French Open champion has definitely the worst of the draw. Having said that, Berdych is not in the same shape coming into this event. Jo Wilfred Tsonga is in Roger Federer's section, Soderling in with Djokovic and Roddick in the same quarter as Murray, but that is about it. No upsets here for me and at least three, quite possibly four of the big names making their predicted mark.
Rain forecast today, but centre court play will not be interupted and one match there, between Radek Stepanek and Fernando Verdasco is of interest. Stepanek leads the series 3-2 and won their only meeting on the surface here in 2006 in five close sets. The 32 year old Stepanek is in the twilight of a pretty solid career and in decent form, posting grass court wins over Tsonga and Ljubicic in recent weeks and taking a set off Rafa at Queens Club. Verdasco is gritty and has had a whole series of big serving battles with Ancic, Karlovic ( twice), Stepanek and Roddick on grass. Really hard to split these two, Stepanek looks a shade big at 2.50 but the spaniard is better on the surface than he is given credit for and beat Nalbandian and Mahut at Queens before losing to Roddick and the US player was not the same one who lost tamely to Murray in the final that day ! I like this to go to a minimum four sets and am strongly in the "over" camp, only Unibet have posted as I type, 1.87 "over" 39.5 games, which I am very keen on, if similar is available elsewhere that would have to be a double stake 2 unit selection. WON
Onto the Ladies, Venus and Serena Williams have won nine of the last eleven titles between them and at least one of them seems sure to put in a big run again, but they have played very little tennis ( almost none) in the last 12 months and it would be a sorry indictment of the women's game were either to win, but it could happen ! However, Serena is fast approaching 30 and Venus was 31 last Friday and this year, at least for the time being I have to look elsewhere.
Let's take a run through the quarters, starting from the top, world number one Caroline Wozniacki is not my favourite player as you might have guessed and I normally look to oppose her in the bigger events, against the better players. In her favour, she has won at Eastbourne in the past and did take a Girls Singles title at Wimbledon in 2006. Also there are no real dangers in her 16, so a chance to really play herself in, however, I do not think she is up to winning a grand slam at present and in the bottom half of her section are Sam Stosur, who was very disappointing at Roland Garros and Maria Sharapova who was not ! The Russian superstar, the biggest earner in woman's sport, changed coaches and racquets earlier this year and remodelled her service action, all changes have gone well and she was a shock winner in Rome without dropping a set and semi finalist at RG, for a player who turns about as fast as an oil tanker, they were fantastic performances and will have given her great confidence coming into an event which suits her game much better and which she has won previously.She withdrew from Birmingham, so no warm up event, but that might be just as well after the rigours of the clay court season, she starts against Ana Chakvetadze whom she leads 7-0 all in straight sets, so that should get her nicely primed, but at a top priced 2.375, it is hard to put her up as a selection to win the quarter, there is not much value in that skinny quote, but she would be my pick.
Quarter 2 has a whole host of dangerous players in it, Li Na , Serena, Ivanovic, Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and several others, it is a very tough section. Given her lack of tennis, Serena is a very short price to come out top and at circa 9.0 Bartoli, who loves the surface and added a grass court title at Eastbourne last week to her CV, which is even more impressive considering her big run in Paris, is a far more attractive quote and could give Williams big problems in the fourth round.
The third section is arguably the most interesting including the resurgent Jelena Dokic back inside the top 50 for the first time in years following a final appearance in Holland on grass last week meeting Francesca Schiavone, who is not comfortable on the surface in the opening round. Dokic was a semi finalist here as an 18 yo and the previous year,as a 17 yo qualifier beat world number one Martina Hingis 6-2 6-0 in what many consider the biggest tennis upset of all time. That is a long time ago of course, but she is still three year younger than the italian and clearly happier on grass. Schiavone admitted to being very flat and lacking in energy at Eastbourne and I think she will struggle to get her intensity back in the damp conditions in London at present.Dokic leads the h2h 3-0 including a win in Kuala Lumpur this year and at 2.25 + to beat the number six seed, is a very tempting bet and my second selection of the opening day. LOST in three close sets
Also in this group of 32 are Andrea Petkovic who is having a great year and whilst she has no real history here, she has gone deepish in the other three slams and could be dangerous, the lower half is packed full of potential, with last year's quarter finalist Kaia Kanepi who won seven matches in this tournament after coming through qualifying, the hugely gifted Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who is a certain future slam winner IMO, Daniela Hantuchova and another big talent in Victoria Azarenka. Pavlyuchenkova is a player I want to keep on my side, it is a shame we didn't see more of her at Eastbourne, she lost early to Jovanovski who was battle hardened after coming through qualification and the Russian was sluggish, but is "really looking forward to Wimbledon". This is a learning section, if pushed AP at cica 9.0 + would be my choice, we might never see quotes like that to win a section in a slam again after this year and at 50-1 she is a dark horse who could go well, but will be vunerable in the opening round or two.
Talking of dark horses, I might have found one in Vitalia Diatchenko who meets Hantuchova today and is available at 7.50 + to win the match. The 20 yo Russian has come through qualification without losing a set so will be at home on grass and has recently moved to Ireland for training, so will be used to the rain and signed two sponsorship deals, which is good news for a player no one has heard of. You know that I like Hantuchova and she has both won and lost when we wanted her to recently, which is great, but consistency is not her strong point and she might not be 100% fit today, she had to withdraw last week with an abdomen injury and said this ...."It happened at 3-0 in the first set. I was running for a wide backhand and felt a sharp pain, and it was just getting worse and worse from then. I'll hope for some magic and get as much treatment as I can. I'm seeing the doctor now and as soon as I go to Wimbledon I'll work with the physios. I'll try to do something to be able to be ready for Monday.
Such massive odds are surely worth a try under the circumstances. Diatchenko took the first set and lost the second in a tie break
Last up is the fourth quarter, which has Venus , Jelena Jankovic and Mad Vera in the bottom half and apart from Svetlana Kuznetsova, who disappointed big time at Roland Garros, only last year's semi finalist Petra Kvitova in the top section. Kvitova did us a good favour last week and is more and more at home on grass, she has a lot of ranking points to defend, so will be desperate to go deep again and looks a better player this time round. I would only be concerened if she had to play a Venus Williams who had dispelled all fitness doubts and the american has a lot of tough hurdles to overcome before the quarters and I feel that at circa 3.50 Kvitova can repeat and make the last four once again.
Finally, Pinnacle Sports have a big looking 2.18 for Sharapova to go further than Serena Williams, I much prefer the section the Russian player is in and would make her odds on to win this bet, despite being Serena's biggest fan.
TUESDAY JUNE 21ST
No highlighted selection for me today, but I do have two matches to discuss, where I feel both outsiders are a little big.
Angelique Kerber - Laura Robson
Two left handed players is going to make for a very interesting match up. I am at Wimbledon today and just saw Robson and was shocked, she has sprouted up and must be six foot, maybe a little taller. One journalist told me that this growth spurt, as much as some early season injury problems was why her career had stalled. Robson won Junior Wimbledon in 2008 when she was the youngest girl in the tournament, a tremendous achievement, she also played two Australian Open finals as a Junior, but probably turned pro too soon and her ATP career has yet to take off. However, she is still only 17 years old and has time on her side, last week she sacked her french coach after serving 13 double faults in a defeat in Holland, which must have been a fun conversation !
Robson has a big serve, which is a dangerous weapon here if she can keep the df's at bay and an all round game perfect for modern day grass court play, the two met in a challenger on an indoor hardcourt when Robson was just 14 and the German won a really close three set battle, this is a match, a fit, confident Robson would win with a degree of comfort IMO on this surface, but she is far from that. However, the crowd will be behind her and if she can come close to the level which almost saw her eliminate Jelena Jankovic here last year, she can go close and at circa 2.625 she is certainly the only one I could bet in this match, but she does have problems. ROBSON WON
Sanja Mirza - Virginie Razzano
Mirza has a few grass court wins under her belt, but despite being a huge star in India, is pretty much a journeywoman player, who tends to beat whom she should beat and loses when she meets a higher ranked player, she is also becoming more and more a doubles specialist. She has played a lot of clay court tennis recently ( by her normal standards) and has complained about coming to terms with grass for such a short season under the circumstances, she lost twice to Tamira Paszek on grass in teh last fortnight and she is no force on the surface and Razzano would win this IMO if her head was in the right place. However, her fiancee died recently from a brain tumour and despite continuing to play, it is hard to know how long it will take her to get over such a traumatic experience. In 2009 the frenchwoman made the final in Eastbourne and the 4th round here, beating Bartoli , Dementieva and the older Radwanska sister in the process, an impressive bunch of scalps on any surface, but especially grass. She got her ranking as low as 16 after that, which shows her potential and at 2.50 +.. 2.625 in a place she looks big, but who knows what her mental state will be. RAZZANO WON
Robson and Razzano probably need to stay in touch with their opponent early, if they do, a return to the scene of her biggest triumph and a chance to lose herself for a couple of hours respectively, might bring out the best in them.
Wednesday looks a much better betting day.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 22ND
Wimbledon tennis has been pretty good so far, Jelena Dokic was well on top for most of her game against Francesca Sciavone and I would be keen to bet her again today, if they were to replay that match this afternoon. Diatchenko, who was a massive 8.0 + took the first set and only lost the second in a very close tie break, the Russian youngster had a huge 19 break points in that match and I would not rush to back Daniela Hantuchova until she has 100% proved her well being. Virginie Razzano won and the Stepanek-Verdasco match up went "over" with ease, so we have been pretty much spot on across the board so far, with not too much luck. The Laura Robson match has been held over until today.
Not much to take my fancy on the Ladies today, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won her first round match but it was a bit laboured, she faces a tough second round match with Nadia Petrova today, if Nastia had one more match on the surface under her belt I would be very tempted to take the -3 games with Pinnacle Sport for her to cover the handicap at circa 2.0, but as I explained in my pre tournament notes, she will be vunerable through the opening round or two, after which I expect her to be strong. Having said that, Petrova at 29 yo is not getting any better and lost to a clearly out of sorts Samantha Stosur in straight sets at Eastbourne in the first round. I would not put any of you off taking a little on this handicap bet, but I will take a watching brief, we will know a lot more about Nastia on grass after today, but whatever happpens, we will make money on her on hardcourts this summer.
I like the "over" games in the Rainer Schuettler - Feliciano Lopez match. Schuettler is very much in the twilight of his career at 35 years old, but made the semis here as recently as 2008, he had a straight sets win over the seeded Thomaz Belluci in the first round, making few errors and serving well, especially on second serve, he is very shrewd and had good tactics really going after the brazilian on second serve returns. Lopez is a two time quarter finalist here and sereved really well at Queens, he dropped only five points on first serve and gave up no break points in his first round defeat of Berrer, so this match will be all about the serve and I feel we will see plenty of free points. Lopez's last six matches on the surface have seen every first set go to 10 + games, with four going to at least 12 games, something similar is surely on the cards today and will set up the "over" bet nicely. The two have met once previously at the All England Club, way back in 2002 when they played out a four set 42 game match, their most recent outdoor fast court meeting ( last year) also went the distance in three close sets. Lopez should progress, but in four sets at least.... 1.5 units "over" 39 games 1.847 Pinnacle. WON