Spread Betting Explained

Spread Betting Explained

doc’s sports | Jason Shimberg ( Tue 15th, January 2008 )

Doc’s Sports offers spread betting explained in a way that is easy for even novice bettors to understand

Doc’s Sports offers spread betting explained in a way that is easy for even novice bettors to understand. The definition of point spread is the predicted scoring differential between two opponents as quoted by a sports book. The point spread is also called the line. If you have have bet a sporting event in the past, but have never bet on the point spread this will ease the process and explain how it works.
How the point spread works – When two teams meet on the playing field or on the basketball court, one team is typically better than the other or in a more favorable position because of factors like playing at home. If all you had to do were pick the winning team in a game, everybody would simply wager on the best team or the home team in a even matchup and bypass all the lines and collect their winnings at a high rate.

A point spread – Lets take, for a hypothetical situation on one of the types of football bets (using the point spread), that the Kansas City Chiefs were visiting the Detroit Lions and Detroit was established as a six-point favorite at game time, which is commonly written as Detroit -6. Kansas City would be the underdog and displayed as Kansas City 6. If you bet the favorite, Detroit has to win by more than six points to win your bet. Remember, the Lions are favored by six points, so we subtract six points from their final score on a spread bet. If Detroit were to win 27-20, Lions bettors would win their wager. If the Chiefs were to win the game by any score and you picked the Chiefs you would win not including the extra six points. If the Lions were to win, 20-14, it would be exactly six and a push, so you would get your money back.

Betting against the spread – In the sports betting industry the acronym ATS is used to label a team’s record when betting against the spread. ATS records are a valuable tool in sports handicapping. A team may be playing great straight-up, winning a lot of games but at the same time they could have a dreadful ATS record because they are overvalued by the general public and the oddsmakers. And, conversely, a team could be losing a lot of games but playing in a lot of close games as underdogs and have a good ATS record going.

Bookmaker’s interest – In order to guarantee a profit for the house, a bookie needs to create even action on both sides of a particular game. In a perfect world the bookie would have 50 percent of the handle come in on the underdog and 50 percent on the favorite. This ensures that the sports books are guaranteed a profit because of the 10 percent commission or “vigorish” charged on most sports wagers. This is why there is “movement” on the point spread. If one side on a game is being bet more heavily, the bookie must move the number in order to attract interest on the other side in order to balance action.

Spread betting is not convoluted – Many people decide that it’s too arduous without ever giving it a try. In fact, once the simple concept has been grasped it becomes exceedingly painless to comprehend. Settle on if you think the oddsmakers’ prediction is too low or too high. It’s that straightforward. Learn the basics, so you and your wallet are not spread too thin.

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College Football Bowl Season

College Football Bowl Season

Sports Central | Kyle Jahner ( Sports Central | Monday, January 14th, 2008 )

Bowl season came, and bowl season went. Pop quiz: who played in the PapaJohns.com Bowl? Didn’t think you knew. Then again, with 32 bowls and silly corporate names that many writers consider signs of the apocalypse, sometimes it can be hard to keep up. Seriously, do you think Wake Forest’s goal at the beginning of the year was to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl?

So to help orient ourselves in the myriad of bowls, I took the Liberty (Bowl) of renaming the bowl games. Which was a lot easier after the fact.

Holy Crap, The-Bowls-Started-Already Bowl

Utah beats Navy in a 35-32 thriller in what was formerly known as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. (And you wondered why I felt the need to re-name them.) Good start, gonna be a nice season. Except that the first one usually catches most people with their pants down. Figuratively.

The Vegas Disadvantage Bowl

Okay, let’s be honest here. A bunch of college players go to Sin City for a bowl after its coach was fired. And that team has to face BYU, a team of Mormons. Not to be stereotypical, but the temptations of Vegas are more likely to effect 18-21-year-old UCLA players than, well, even the most risque on the Cougars, most of whom are into well into their 20s and have already been on their Mormon missions to other countries. Face it, those kids aren’t going to be on the tables at 7 AM when they realize it’s already light outside. We have found an advantage that goes well beyond home field noise. By the way, how isn’t UNLV good at football? Being used to it has to help. Final: BYU 17, UCLA 16.

The Early Bowl Pick’em Buster Bowl

In what was formerly known as the Hawaii Bowl, many thought Boise State would run over East Carolina. Thanks to last year, everyone knows who Boise State is. Most didn’t know what colors East Carolina wears. And so in the latest fantasy craze, most people picked Boise State with a pretty high confidence rating. (You can always tell it’s officially a craze when ESPN wastes time catering to it on “SportsCenter.” For the uninitiated, you pick all 32 bowls and rank them according to confidence, which determines the points you get if the pick is correct.) But the Broncos were playing in a bowl of notably less prestigious this year and were presumably thrilled to just be in Hawaii rather than Boise in late December. And the Pirates had Chris Johnson. ECU had a built a 38-14 lead with Johnson on his way to 408 all-purpose yards, 223 on the ground.

Boise State, not ones to go quietly into the unbearably pleasant Hawaiian night, made a comeback and then created another magical bowl moment when Marty Tadman picked up a fumble off a miraculous bounce and returned it for a touchdown with 1:25 left to tie it while the Pirates tried to run out the clock. Unfortunately, the stunning twist came too fast this time, leaving enough time for ECU to drive for the winning field goal. Stupid Tadman, he should have known better. (Or Boise State shouldn’t have run a mere cover-2 with East Carolina needing a big chunk of yards, allowing a 36-yard pass down the sideline to the Boise 23.)

The Petrino Bowl

When Purdue went to half up 34-13, you probably pulled a Petrino, i.e. gave up on it halfway through. And who would have blamed you? Bobby Petrino bailed on an entire franchise midseason in Atlanta. You simply walked away from a MAC team being stomped in the Motor City Bowl; not exactly a sports-fan felony. But after a furious Chippewa comeback and Purdue last-second field goal to win it, the dedicated (or really bored) few were rewarded with die-hard dividends in the form of a great game. By the way, Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter’s 526 passing yards are still sinking in for me.

The Letdown Bowl

Arizona State was supposed to have turned a corner with Dennis Erickson. Texas didn’t have as good a year as it had hoped, but was still a good Texas team. Plus, it was the first bowl between two BCS conference schools. Should have been a good Holiday Bowl. Instead, Arizona State didn’t make the trip to San Diego in a Texas-sized, 52-34 beatdown. Fun.

The Awkward Social Contrast Bowl

Anti-edifice vs. anti-establishment. Attack helicopters vs. activist hippies. F-16s vs. F-authority. Missiles vs. munchies. Yes, Air Force vs. Cal. Explosive and delicious.

Yes, I’m just using stereotypes. But they’re fun, and sports are all about the bad, overdrawn clichés, so just relax and roll with it. Ironically, it was Cal’s air-strikes that decimated the Falcons, although it was sad to see Air Force quarterback Shaun Carney, who had been shredding Cal with the Academy’s option attack, go down in a close game with a brutal knee injury, ending the senior’s career and costing his team a potentially dramatic shootout finish. Once he was done, the Falcons had no answers on either side of the ball.

Related note: the funniest thing I saw this season was outside the stadium at Cal where Tennessee fans that had made the trip gawked up at the “tree people” outside stadium, a group of hippies literally hanging out in trees with posters talking about how good trees were. (Generally Berkley locals, not associated with the school: Cal people generally just roll their eyes.) The visitors from the South were unimpressed, but amused. “I feel like I am at the zoo,” one said, and I couldn’t disagree.

The Validation Bowl

Missouri ventured into the Cotton Bowl, disappointed that the FedEx Orange Bowl snubbed the Tigers in favor of a Kansas team that didn’t beat a single high quality opponent. Rather than pack it in and sulk (See Cal, 2004 Holiday Bowl) the Tigers went out and fried a coach-less Arkansas team, 38-7.

The Carr Bowl

The Capital One Bowl proved a few things. One, Mike Hart is physically capable of fumbling. Twice inside the five. After not fumbling in 1,002 touches. It also proved the Big Ten isn’t completely and utterly worthless, and that SEC does not directly translate into Better Than You. It proved that Tim Tebow was pretty much the only weapon Florida had (and what a good one he is), but it also showed this year’s Gator team was in desperate need of a running back and, well, an entire defense.

But mostly it proved that the Wolverines respected the hell out of Lloyd Carr and played their butts off for their outbound coach. Whether fired or retired, whether Michigan was right of expecting more of the program than the 1997 National Title and a trio of Rose Bowl appearances in the last five years (like beating Ohio State once in a while), seeing Carr carried off during the dramatic 41-35 victory was one of the high points of bowl season.

The Why Didn’t We Invite Georgia Bowl

Instead, Illinois received an invitation to the game formerly known as the Rose Bowl Presented by Citi. With Big Ten champion Ohio State backing into the BCS title game, the folks in Pasadena could have paired the two hottest teams in the country, USC and Georgia. Instead, it invited a three-loss team tied for second in the Big Ten. Tradition, meet my friend mediocrity; he’ll be replacing you. And Illinois, meet USC; they will be beating you like a drum for four quarters to the beat of 49-17.

The Why Didn’t the Rose Bowl Invite Georgia Bowl

Sure, the Nokia Sugar Bowl was glad to have an SEC team, but the game was a mismatch. The hottest team in the SEC (better than Oklahoma last year) steamrolled an undefeated WAC team with an underwhelming schedule (not as good as Boise State last year). Result: a statement win for the ‘Dogs. The statement was that Hawaii had no more business playing Georgia than Illinois did of playing USC. And so neither USC nor Georgia got the chance to prove themselves against an elite team, negating the chances of a split national title via AP dissension.

The Déjà Vu Bowl

Oklahoma has to hate Glendale at this point. Two Tostitos Fiesta Bowls have been played at the new arena there. Twice an underdog has embarrassed the Sooners. This one was considerably less embarrassing than the collapse to Boise State, considering West Virginia was a flop against Pittsburgh from the BCS title game, and no team beat the Mountaineers in a game Pat White started and finished. But as the Sooners watched the track meet that is West Virginia, they had to wonder what they have to do to win in the new building. On the other side, West Virginia proved you can win a bowl game with an intern head coach, unlike UCLA, Arkansas, or Texas A&M. Guess when your coach bails on you it gives a little more motivation to show him up than when he’s forced out.

And congrats on the win, Bill Stewart, and the removal of the interim tag from your title. You will need every ounce of good will with the numerous loose cannons in the fan base in that state. Just ask the family of outgoing Rich Rodriguez about the death threats it has been getting. Maybe his departure makes more sense than was first apparent.

The Should Have Seen That Coming Bowl

Kansas was in the FedEx Orange Bowl when most thought Missouri should have been. Virginia Tech was a perennial power in the ACC that thought it had a beef to play in the BCS title game despite the fact that LSU danced on them with glacier spikes to start the year. It was just too much for a basketball school that appeared to be in over its head in a bowl as though it were Notre Dame. You know, back when Notre Dame went to bowls.

But Kansas never trailed in the 24-21 win. And there were signs that this could happen. The ACC has now lost eight straight BCS bowls. The Hokies have lost four of them. Kansas last lost a bowl to Philip Rivers and North Carolina State in 2003. (Okay, so they’ve only played one since then…) More relevantly, Virginia Tech has a very stoppable offense, with a quarterback that threw for 200 yards just three times, and a starting running back that finished the year with a 3.7 yards per carry average. Kansas, meanwhile, was the type of well-coached team that would limit the Hokie defense/special teams’ ability to win the game alone, and with an offense that racked up 44 points a game to lead the nation, you knew there wasn’t going to be a 13-10 game coming. And with the clear cut third-best Big 12 team beating its champion among other results, the ACC may have taken a bigger hit this bowl season than the Big Ten.

Disclaimer: I still say Missouri should have been in this game. The media story line was that Kansas proved it belonged. No, Kansas would have proven that by beating the second-best team in the Big 12. Or one better than fourth-best. The Tigers would have kicked the Hokies in the gut even harder. But Kansas did prove it was on the level of a lower-tier BCS team this year, and with Mark Mangino doing a great job there, it should be a fun team to watch beyond this season.

The January Who Gives a Crap Bowl(s)

Rutgers pummels Ball State? Tulsa decimates Bowling Green? Wow, I’m so glad they invented these bowls to kill time before the title game. They do know there were NFL playoffs that weekend, right?

The We Had to Crown Someone Bowl

Okay, LSU showed that it was deserving to be among consideration for best team in the land after outclassing Ohio State. But West Virginia, Georgia or USC all would have given the Tigers a better game, and while LSU’s resume may be better than all the others, they backed into a title that no one else seemed to want.

LSU at least won its conference (or even its division, Georgia), didn’t have any horrible losses (looking at you, USC, I don’t even care who was injured), didn’t choke in their final game (ahem, West Virginia), and had a decent non-conference win against Virginia Tech to go with a tour of the SEC. They did dodge Georgia, but still, at least as good as any other two loss resume, save that they lost in their second to last game.

But we all know what we want. We wanted a playoff. Or at least The I Wish They Would Just Play One More Bowl … Bowl. Give say USC or West Virginia or Georgia a crack at an LSU team that hasn’t played a true top four team this year. (Missouri, despite an impressive Cotton Bowl throttling of Arkansas, had two cracks at the only conference champ it faced, and Oklahoma twice proved too strong.)

And yet, we deal with the stubborn commissioners of the Big Ten (afraid that their dogs would lose as big in a playoff fight as they have in four straight BCS Bowl losses) and of the Pac-10 (keeping top-dog USC, often the hottest team in the country come January, on a chain just to protect its precious Rose Bowl).

So maybe next year, we can have a bowl called The They Finally Removed Their Heads From Their … Bowl. But I wouldn’t count on it. Besides, Toys-R-Us would probably buy the rights anyways.

Sports Central

Will Federer Finally Sink Down

Will Federer Finally Sink Down

Sports Central | Ricky Dimon ( Sports Central | Friday, January 11th, 2008 )

Roger Federer is the favorite in Australia, don’t get me wrong. To suggest otherwise would be borderline crazy.

For the first time in years, however, it looks like the outcome of a Grand Slam is not a foregone conclusion. In Paris, it’s been [Rafael] Nadal, Nadal, and more Nadal, and everywhere else, it’s been Federer. But for the first time since Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian Open (11 slams have come and gone since then), could we possibly see someone other than Nadal or Federer holding the trophy at the end?

It’s not so much that the 26-year-old Swiss is losing a step; it’s simply that men’s tennis is finally welcoming some other top contenders with open arms. David Nalbandian erupted from the depths of an abysmal 2007 season to win the final two Masters Series events of the year and he upset Federer in both. David Ferrer started last season ranked 14 in the world and he was up to fifth by the end. Andy Murray almost qualified for the year-end Masters Cup despite missing both the French Open and Wimbledon with a wrist injury. Novak Djokovic soared from 16th at the start of 2007 to third in the world; and a solid third at that. He did so by reaching the fourth round in Australia, the semis of both the French Open and Wimbledon, and the final of the U.S. Open. Djokovic also captured two Master Series events.

In other words, while it’s still a Federer/Nadal party at the top, finally others are invited.

What does this mean? It means that instead of going ahead and handing the title to Federer, the draw of Grand Slam event is finally, thankfully worth analyzing.

Top Quarter of the Draw

It’s only the second toughest quarter in this year’s draw, but this section has it all. It boasts the best player in the world — perhaps soon-to-be best ever — in Roger Federer. It’s home to young up-and-comers (American John Isner and Croat Marin Cilic), and it’s home to cagy veterans (Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Sebastien Grosjean and Korean Hyung-Taik Lee). It has clay-court specialists (Chilean Nicolas Massu, Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco, and Argentine Juan Monaco), big servers (Isner, Czech Tomas Berdych, and Australian Chris Guccione), and two of the biggest forehands in the sport (American James Blake and Chilean Fernando Gonzalez). If you’re a fan, this is the section of the draw on which you look with the keenest of interest. If you’re a player, it’s one in which you’d rather not participate.

Best First-Round Matchup — Fabrice Santoro vs. John Isner. The contrast in styles here will be amazing to watch. Isner will try to blow the veteran off the court with massive serves, while the Frenchman will try to frustrate the youngster by slicing and dicing him to death. The bad news is that the winner of this one gets Federer in the second round; otherwise the potential for a deep run in Australia would be very real. Isner burst onto the professional scene last summer with a surprising, third-set-tiebreaker-filled run to the final of the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C. He also won two matches at the U.S. Open and took the first set off Federer in the third round. Santoro, meanwhile, is looking good so far in 2008, as he is currently in the semifinals of the Sydney Medinbank International. Prediction: Santoro beguiles Isner throughout the match and the American hangs tough before fading in a tough five-setter.

Best Potential Matchup — James Blake vs. Fernando Gonzalez, fourth round. This would be a rematch of last year’s fourth-round clash that failed to live up to any hype. Gonzalez simply didn’t allow it to live up to high standards. As he did to everyone he faced in the 2007 Australian Open not named Federer, Gonzalez blasted inexplicable winners from all over everywhere and ran a discouraged Blake right off the court in straight sets. Neither one is playing great tennis right now, but if they each get three matches under their belts prior to this showdown, then look out for some incredible shot-making, especially of the forehand variety. These two have played eight times; Blake won the first three and the Chilean has won the last five in-a-row.

Most Intriguing Storyline — Both of last year’s finalists are stacked together in this rough quarter of the draw. Federer and Gonzalez would meet three rounds earlier than they did last year Down Under, but it will be no easy task even getting to a rematch. Federer gets the winner of Santoro and Isner in the second round and could play Tomas Berdych in the fourth. In addition to Blake registering on his radar screen, Gonzalez has to face either Chris Guccione, who is on fire in Sydney this week, or the always-tough veteran Hyung-Taik Lee in the second round. Federer should get through this section, but it won’t be cakewalk, especially not when you compare this quarter to the rest of the draw.

Favorite — Roger Federer

Bottom Section of the Top Half

This is the hardest part of the draw, and that’s probably not even debatable. The talent here — while sometimes inconsistent — is just sick. Marat Safin, Juan Carlos, and Lleyton Hewitt (and even Thomas Johansson) are all Grand Slam champions. Novak Djokovic, Marcos Baghdatis, David Ferrer, and David Nalbandian have shown they are capable of joining that group in the near future. Radek Stepanek, Nicholas Kiefer, and Dmitry Tursunov can flip their “on” switches at any moment and when on, they are scary. And then there’s Ernests Gulbis, whose third-round massacre of Tommy Robredo at last year’s U.S. Open (of which I witnessed every point from the front row) is the standard by which I shall judge all future tennis performances. He’s still probably a year or two away from stardom, but if he catches fire again, the Latvian could wreak havoc on the veterans in this section.

Best First-Round Matchup — Gulbis vs. Marat Safin. Oh, what I would pay to witness this in person. If nothing else, this one is going to be some kind of fun. Neither one of these guys has ever met a shot he didn’t like. ESPN is probably too uninformed to think of airing this match live, but perhaps HBO will pick it up, because this is going to redefine the term “heavyweight fight.” It’s not for a title, but it will feature non-stop, back-and-forth, vicious punching. Just as boxers are often bloodied and bruised following a bout, the stats of this Gulbis/Safin collision won’t look pretty. Gulbis and Safin know only one speed on the court. It’s all about hitting winners, winners, and more winners. While the winners are going to come early, often, and in spectacular fashion, this match could — if it goes five — also feature more unforced errors than any other in the entire tournament. Prediction: in a match that will leave both the contestants and fans gasping for air, Gulbis maintain his composure and outlasts the volatile Russian in a topsy-turvy five-set thriller.

Best Potential Matchup — David Nalbandian vs. David Ferrer, fourth round. This would be a rematch of last year’s epic five-setter in the third round of the U.S. Open. I was right next door on the Grandstand as that match was taking place, but never made my way in. The announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, Louis Armstrong Stadium is currently filled to capacity; please enjoy the action on the outer courts,” reared its annoying text on nearby TVs throughout the almost five-hour affair. Ferrer eventually prevailed 7-5 in the fifth. Nalbandian, however, exacted revenge later on at the Masters Series Paris in another high-quality match. The Argentine and the Spaniard are two of the best players on the ATP Tour right now, and if Nalbandian is 100 percent for the Australian (his back is currently an issue), this match will prove it.

Most Intriguing Storyline — Will Nalbandian’s back prevent him from continuing this hot streak? He was the hottest player in tennis at the end of 2007 so it would be a major shame if an injury hinders his chances Down Under. After sleep-walking through most of last season — he lost fourth round at both the Australian and French Open and third round at Wimbledon, and he never made it past a quarterfinal of any tournament — Nalbandian exploded out of nowhere in the last three weeks of the year. He stunned the field in Madrid to win the Masters Series event there, and he did so by upsetting the top three players in the world in consecutive rounds: Nadal in the quarters, Djokovic in the semis, and Federer in the final. Two weeks later, Nalbandian proved the Madrid win was no fluke by capturing a second straight Masters Series shield in Paris. There he took out Federer, Ferrer, and Nadal in the process; he beat Federer in straight sets in the third round and destroyed Nadal 6-4, 6-0 in the final. If his back allows, Nalbandian could very easily be the one to emerge from this brutal quarter of the draw.

Favorite — Novak Djokovic

Top Half of the Bottom Section

This is not the softest section of the draw, but it is by far the most up for grabs. Nikolay Davydenko is the top seed here and you can go ahead and pencil him into at least the fourth round, but he could have serious problems with Andy Murray and/or Richard Gasquet. Both of those youngsters are playing great tennis at the moment and should control the destiny of this quarter. Mikhail Youzhny and Stanislas Wawrinka, both of whom are looking good early in 2008, could have something to say about that. Ivo Karlovic is someone who never want to face; not at any point in a tournament. Little fanfare will accompany this portion of the draw, but in terms of following its progress, this could be the most interesting quarter to track for tennis aficionados.

Best First-Round Matchup — Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Andy Murray. This is simply a blockbuster opening-round matchup that would be much better suited as a second-week clash. Both youngsters are on top of their games at the moment. Tsonga, a promising 22-year-old Frenchman, reached the semifinals in Adelaide in the first week of January and his tournament featured straight-set wins over Gulbis and Lleyton Hewitt. Last year in three Grand Slam appearances, he gave Andy Roddick a tough battle in the first round of the Australian, reached the fourth round of Wimbledon (lost to Gasquet), and then won two rounds at the U.S. Open before falling to Nadal. It looks like Tsonga is ready for the big stage, and he’ll have to be against Murray.

Want a tell-tale sign of how good the 20-year-old Scot was in 2007? Well, he finished the season ranked 11 in the world and narrowly missed qualifying for the Masters Cup despite missing most of the summer — including the French Open and Wimbledon — with a wrist injury. Picking up where he left off, Murray kicked off his 2008 campaign with a dominant performance in Doha to capture the title there. It’s a shame one of these two rising starts will be bounced in the first round here. Prediction: Murray’s stellar return game blunts Tsonga’s power and the Scot prevails in four relatively close sets.

Best Potential Matchup — Richard Gasquet vs. Murray, fourth round. Gasquet, 21, really began to fulfill his potential last season. The Frenchman posted a milestone win over Andy Roddick in an epic quarterfinal duel at Wimbledon before losing to Federer in the semi-finals. That tournament propelled Gasquet to an appearance in his first ever year-end Masters Cup. He is 2-0 in head-to-head meetings with Murray, the most recent coming just a few months ago at the Masters Series Paris. If both are on top of their games — and it looks like they are — this one will be a lot of fun to watch.

Most Intriguing Storyline — Who will emerge from this wide open, free-for-all section? When Nikolay Davydenko is the top seed in a section of the draw, you know it’s anyone’s ballgame. That’s not to say Davydenko isn’t rock solid, because he is, but the Russian racks up rankings points by beating up on lower-ranked players. Rarely does he beat the top players (in fact he is a combined 0-18 against Federer, Nadal, and Roddick. Throw James Blake and Lleyton Hewitt into the mix and he’s a combined 0-28). Davydenko would be ripe for the picking if he runs into an in-form Murray or Gasquet. Tsonga, Mikhail Youzhny (who just won in Chennai), Stanislas Wawrinka (who just reached the final in Doha), and huge-serving giant Ivo Karlovic also lurk in the dangerous waters of the draw’s third quarter.

Favorite — Andy Murray

Bottom Quarter

Was Nadal’s uncle and coach, “Uncle Toni,” the master of Australian Open draw ceremonies? You would almost think that after a close inspection of the bracket. Nadal’s section is by far the easiest. While it’s still far from simple, it’s nothing like what will be going on in the top half. Nadal should cruise into the fourth round, where he could meet compatriot Carlos Moya, which would be tough but not anything out of the ordinary for a fourth-round Grand Slam matchup. Andy Roddick most likely awaits in the quarterfinals; that’s also tough, but again nothing Nadal would have hoped against prior to the draw’s release. Quite unlike the free-for-all in the above quarter, I would be absolutely stunned if the semifinal representative from this quarter is someone other than Nadal, Roddick, or Moya.

Best First-Round Matchup — None. This section is arguably the weakest of the four, but another reason for the lack of quality opening-round matchups is that it’s littered with qualifiers. Perhaps the way the qualifiers fall into the bracket will produce a first-round match worth watching, but that’s yet to be seen. For now it looks like Carlos Moya vs. Stefan Koubek, Jarkko Nieminen vs. Frank Dancevic, and Davydenko vs. Michael Llodra (who just won in Adelaide) seem most likely to deliver the goods. A potential second-round all-American clash between Donald Young and Andy Roddick would be of serious interest to U.S. tennis fans.

Best Potential Matchup — Carlos Moya vs. Rafael Nadal, fourth round. The mentor and the pupil, both from the tiny Spanish island of Mallorca, have already squared off in 2008. That semifinal match in Chennai has most likely clinched being the best three-set match of the whole year and we are only two weeks in. Nadal prevailed 6-7 (3), 7-6 (10), 7-6 (1) and saved four match points in the process. It lasted a ridiculous three hours and 55 minutes. That’s right — three hours and 55 minutes for just three sets. Anything close to that in Australia would have to be considered not only the best match of this quarter, but also the best match of the whole tournament.

Most Intriguing Storyline — Which Mallorcan — if either — will navigate his way to the semi-finals and beyond? There’s really not much in this quarter of the draw to write home about other than the presence of Nadal and Moya. Just that, however, should be enough to peak the interest of hardcore tennis fans. Moya is intriguing because he is already 31-years-old, but he still had a resurgence of sorts in 2007, reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open en route to climbing up to 18th in the world. A fan favorite, Moya is in the twilight of his career (even though he is still playing great) and this could be his last chance to make serious noise Down Under.

Nadal is still just 21, but there are concerns about his physical style of play and grueling match schedule already taking tolls on his body. His form in Australia should be a good indicator of whether or not Nadal is ready to go for 2008 and primed to maintain his stranglehold on the No. 2 ranking (or even move up to No. 1?). Yes, Andy Roddick is up there at the top of this section and he would most likely be the quarterfinal opponent for either Nadal or Moya. But Roddick’s results have been modest recently and it would not be surprising at all if he bowed out to one of the Spaniards.

Favorite — Rafael Nadal

Overall

It’s too early in the year for predictions. Or maybe, for the first time in what seems like ages, it’s just too hard.

Sports Central

Australian Open Odds

Australian Open Odds

Doc`s Sports | Christopher G. Shepard ( Doc’s Sports | Thursday, January 10th, 2008 )

Sports investment powerhouse Sportsbook.com has released their 2008 Australian Open Odds and, not surprisingly, Roger Federer is the favorite to win for the men’s side and Justine Henin is the favorite to win for the women’s side as tennis’ Grand Slam season begins at Melbourne Park from Jan. 14-28.

Despite pulling out of the Australian Open exhibition tune-up, the Kooyang Classic, due to a stomach virus last week, Federer likes his chances to win his third consecutive Australian Open title and 13th Grand Slam title overall. A win at Melbourne would put the consistent Swiss one slam behind Pete Sampras, who he beat in a three-match exhibition 2-1 late last year. Federer beat Sampras 6-4, 6-3 in Seoul and edged the American 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in Kuala Lumpur, but lost to Sampras in Macao 7-6 (8), 6-4.

If you are planning on investing down under keep in mind that the tournament will actually start on Jan. 13 in the United States so if you are looking to play the futures tennis market of individual matches remember to play them a day earlier than the date posted on the Australian Open Web site.

Who will win the Men’s 2008 Australian Open?

Australian Open odds have Federer as the 4/9 favorite and he has made handicapping the men’s Grand Slams relatively easy as long as they weren’t located in France. The last player to win the Men’s title other than Federer was Marat Safin in 2005. Federer won his first Australian Open in 2004 and before him Andre Agassi won three titles. With Agassi long since retired and Marat Safin in the twilight of his career, is there anyone who can beat Federer on a surface other than clay? It is likely that at some point Federer will lose his stranglehold on the Slams, but probably not this year at Melbourne Park.

The next odds on favorites to win this Slam are David Nalbandian, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, all set at 8/1. Certainly it has been a frustrating three years for Rafa who has finished in the No. 2 spot behind his nemesis Roger Federer. Certainly the hard-serving Nalbandian is always a threat to win a title, as is Nadal, but somehow whenever an opponent raises their game against Federer he finds another level of super-human tennis excellence and records another win.

One only has to look back to last year’s US Open Final when Federer played a tough match against the rapidly rising Serb who had beaten Federer earlier that month in a three-set US Open series match. At the US Open Djokovic gave Federer his all, pushing the first two sets to tiebreakers; both of which Federer won and then he won the third set, 6-4, in a match that was closer than the straight sets victory appeared. Keep in mind that Djokovic held five set points against the great Swiss in the first set and another two in the second but was unable to overcome his nerves at center court to beat Federer.

But Imagine that you are Djokovic and won 5 ATP titles last year, recorded a 19-4 record in the Grand Slams only losing to Federer and No.2 Rafael Nadal, to move to No. 3 in the world and to know that if you are to make the finals in Australia you’ll need to get by Federer in the semi-finals. All that hard work for naught! Not that I am saying Djokovic will lose to Federer in the semi-finals, but I am not saying he’ll beat him either.

As for Rafael “Rafa” Nadal, the current No. 2 player in the world, he is coming off a terrible, 57-minute, 6-0, 6-1 loss in the final of the season opener at Chennai, India to Mikhail Youzhny. Of course tennis observers consider the loss an anomaly since his previous match to Carlos Moya in the semi-finals was a record 3 hours and 54 minute three-setter that was the longest three-set match in 15 years on the ATP. Regardless, the loss showed a few weaknesses in Nadal’s game. Long considered as one of the most in-shape tennis players on the circuit, Nadal’s tennis look features bulging bicep’s and manpris. He seems most at home during long, hard-hitting points on the red clay of Rolland Garros. So his loss in the final was a bit surprising. He’ll no doubt recover in time for the Australian Open but he already starts the year at 0-1 in titles and will have a tough draw to get to Roger Federer in the final.

Looking at the rest of the field it is very difficult to see anyone else with a chance to contend for the title. Looking down the list we see how far once promising stars have fallen as Aussie Lleyton Hewitt is set at 30/1. He always seems to run into a few grueling five setters that he just manages to win and then he falls to stouter competition. Not long ago it was Andy Roddick, set at 25/1 to win, who was the second favorite to Federer, but even changing coaches and employing the great Jimmy Connors as his coach has done nothing to help Roddick win a Slam. Certainly he has come close but either he chokes under the pressure or runs into some guy from Switzerland that he has never been able to beat on an international stage as huge as the Grand Slams.

One of the most entertaining tennis players on the circuit, and not necessarily for his tennis, but his enormous Cypriot contingent that he manages to find on every continent he plays, is Mario Baghdatis who is set at 50/1. He is sort of like the Jacksonville Jaguars in this year’s NFL playoffs; the team that nobody wants to play. Another player worth looking at is Nicolay Davydenko, No. 4 in the world rankings, and perhaps now best known for losing a match he shouldn’t have and being accused of match fixing – he is the current scourge in the tennis world today. So why is the No. 4 in the world at 60/1 odds at the Australian Open and the No. 10 in the world, David Nalbandian, set at 8/1? Because Roger Federer is going to win the Aussie Open. It’s a no brainer.

Pick! Novak Djokovic 8-1

Hedge! Roger Federer 4/9

Odds to win the 2008 Men’s Australian Open

Roger Federer 4 – 9

Novak Djokovic 8 – 1

David Nalbandian 8 – 1

Rafael Nadal 8 – 1

Field (Any Other Player) 10 – 1

Andy Murray 20 – 1

David Ferrer 25 – 1

Andy Roddick 25 – 1

Lleyton Hewitt 30 – 1

Marcos Baghdatis 50 – 1

Fernando Gonzalez 50 – 1

Nikolay Davydenko 60 – 1

Mario Ancic 60 – 1

Richard Gasquet 80 – 1

Marat Safin 100 – 1

Mikhail Youzhny 100 – 1

Ivo Karlovic 100 – 1

James Blake 100 – 1

Tomas Berdych 100 – 1

Tommy Haas 100 – 1

*Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.com

Who will win the Women’s 2008 Australian Open?

With her divorce, a hard to pronounce hyphenate, and nagging injuries apparently put behind her, the 25-year-old Justine Henin seeks to win the Australian Open for the second time since 2004. It is to believe that the No. 1 women’s tennis player and winner of 5.4 million dollars in 2007 will not win in Melbourne this year. She is clearly the woman to beat as the oddsmakers have set her as the 5/4 favorite. It has been two years since she played in Melbourne when she retired due to injury in the 2006 Australian Open and last year she opted out for personal reasons. Since then, though, Henin has been on a tear winning the French Open and the US Open and finishing the year as the WTA No. 1 player.

This week Henin played her first match since last November in the Sydney International and crushed her competition in straight sets, barely working up a sweat over Estonian Kaia Kanepi. Moreover, this win was her 26th-straight and her 42nd in her last 43 matches since winning the French Open. Her only loss was at Wimbledon last year. Can anyone beat the Belgian at Melbourne? Maybe, as the women’s field has four former champions (not including Henin) in the Williams sisters – Venus and defending champion Serena – Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport.

Last year’s runner up, Maria Sharapova, is set as the second favorite at 5/1and will look to improve on her embarrassing, inexplicable meltdown loss in the women’s final last year to Serena Williams. Sharapova breezed through her draw last time only to be dominated by Serena who apparently can only win the Australian Open on odd numbered years as Williams has won the event in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Sharapova looked like she is in top form, beating rising star Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the JB Group Classic exhibition tournament. However, in the finals she once again was defeated by a Williams in straight sets, only this time it was Venus rather than Serena. I think we’ll see another let down for Sharapova in Melbourne this year.

Granted the hottest player in women’s tennis is the flaxen-locked Maria Sharapova with her model looks and tight body, but when it comes to serving up actual wins that sobriquet goes to the 2000 Australian Open winner, 31-year-old Lindsey Davenport, who, after her 11 month “retirement” to have her first child, has taken the WTA by storm notching an amazing 18-1 singles record and she has won three out of her last four tennis titles.

However, Davenport will likely face the stiffest competition that she has seen since she returned to the circuit last year as this year’s edition of the Australian Open Women’s Draw features 108 direct acceptances and also has its lowest ranking cutoff ever at 108, which includes Russian Evgenia Linetskaya, who has an injury-protected ranking of 92.

On Dec. 31, Davenport breezed through and won the ASB final in 66 minutes in Auckland New Zealand and improved her singles winning percentage to 79.4 percent, which is the best winning percentage ever in women’s tennis. For those looking for a live longshot Davenport has been installed at 20-1 and is playing at a higher level than her deceptive world ranking of 61.

Other realistic title challengers include last year’s US Open runner-up, No. 2 ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova. However, she’ll have to play with confidence throughout the fortnight and not get distracted by bad calls and double-faults. I do think the 22-year-old Russian Kuznetsova’s ranking is misleading and she will ultimately fall this year, perhaps out of the top-10.

Meanwhile, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, both set at 8/1 to win the Open, put Serbia on the tennis map when they shot up the world rankings last year and have shown that they can be a force to be reckoned with if the conditions are right and they are playing at the top of their games; which they will have to do if they hope to beat Henin this year.

Of course, you can’t handicap women’s tennis and not give both William’s sisters a nod to win any Slam that they enter. Serena is set at 13/2 while her sister Venus, fresh off her victory over Sharapova at the JB Classic Exhibition in Honk Kong, is 10/1; the same odds as the field. Notorious for their odd training regimens and flights of attention span during crucial moments in tennis matches, the sisters are always in the mix to win.

However, as I stated before Serena only wins every other year and Venus always looks like she could care less if she wins or loses a match. But then you only have to look at recent Grand Slam history to see that one of the Williams sisters has won at least one Grand Slam tournament in seven out of the last nine years and multiple titles in six of those seasons, including four straight from 2000 to 2003. Keep in mind that before the Australian Open last year the New York Times wrote a cover piece on why Serena would not, could not win in Australia; she was out of shape, she’d lost her killer instinct and her best days of tennis had passed her by. So Serena went out and did what she does best and won the whole damned thing.

Pick! Lindsey Davenport (20/1)

Hedge! Justine Henin (5/4)

Odds to win the 2008 Women’s Australian Open

Justine Henin 5 – 4

Maria Sharapova 5 – 1

Serena Williams 13 – 2

zx Field (Any Other Player) 10 – 1

Venus Williams 10 – 1

Jelena Jankovic 12 – 1

Ana Ivanovic 12 – 1

Amelie Mauresmo 15 – 1

Nicole Vaidisova 15 – 1

Lindsay Davenport 20 – 1

Svetlana Kuznetsova 20 – 1

Anna Chakvetadze 30 – 1

Nadia Petrova 50 – 1

Agnes Szavay 50 – 1

Tatiana Golovin 60 – 1

Elena Dementieva 60 – 1

Shahar Peer 80 – 1

Marion Bartoli 80 – 1

Daniela Hantuchova 100 – 1

Agnieszka Radwanska 100 – 1

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