Monthly Archives: August 2007

ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks for the U.S. Open

We’re deep into the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out my Fantasy Tennis Guide. You’ll find Fast Facts, Strategies, and Statistics to help you play the game.

Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

The deadline for picking your team this week is Monday, August 27, 10am EST, 4pm CET.

Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

I picked James Blake last week at New Haven because I’d failed to pick him at Cincinnati. Too little too late for me but better than nothing and hopefully it wasn’t too much for Blake. He won the title and thus played through the entire week instead of resting up for the U.S. Open.

Remember that we need eight players for our fantasy team. We need to pick the top eight finishers in the draw – the quarterfinalists – so I’m breaking the draw into eight parts.

Roger Federer’s Section

Federer has five qualifiers and Richard Gasquet in his part of the draw. Gasquet could reach up and play the kind of tennis that beat Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, but he lost his first match at Montreal and Cincinnati. Not a good thing for him but it makes our choice easy.

Andy Roddick’s Section

Tomas Berdych is a curious case. You lose track of him because he hasn’t done much then you look and see that he’s at a career high of number 9. But he does well on grass and clay, not hard court, and Paul-Henri Mathieu will probably beat him if he reaches the third round.

Andy Roddick has had a disappointing summer hard court season. He reached the quarterfinals at Montreal but only the third round at Cincinnati. But he should be able to get past Jose Acasuso and he beat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets in Washington earlier this month.

Mathieu has had a good year but his best results were on grass and clay too. He reached a semifinal this week in New Haven but didn’t beat anybody important. Roddick is shaky but there’s no one here to beat him.

Nikolay Davydenko’s Section

There are all kinds of people who could beat Nikolay Davydenko. He could meet Nicolas Kiefer in the second round but Kiefer didn’t do well in Montreal and Cincinnati and he had to drop out of the Los Angeles semifinal because his knee was bothering him. Nicolas Almagro reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati but he’s 6-8 on hard courts for the year and Guillermo Canas is slumping.

Andy Murray can definitely beat him and he got to the semifinals at Indian Wells and Miami. But he’s only won one match since April and there are reports that his wrist is still bothering him.

Davydenko is my shaky pick and I hate it because he’s the most baffling and inconsistent top player. He reached the semifinals at the Open last year but it was the first time he’d been past the third round. This is all the more reason to wonder about that curious Sopot match. Who’d put big money on such an inconsistent player?

James Blake’s Section

Tommy Haas and Marcos Baghdatis should meet in the third round and that’s hard to pick if Haas is healthy.

Baghdatis hasn’t gone past the quarterfinals of a hard court event this year. He’s also never been past the second round at the Open due to his notorious lack of conditioning. The Open is physically hard to play because of the hype and those five set matches in the heat. Baghdatis cramped in his second round match here last year and that was at night, not in the noonday sun.

Haas has two quarterfinal finishes at the Open including last year, but I have the feeling the air is slowly leaking out of his tires. He played well through Indian Wells but hasn’t beaten anyone ranked higher than number 23 since. I’m giving this to Baghdatis.

Sam Querrey and James Blake should meet in the third round. Blake must be tired. He had to play two matches in one day at New Haven and it was his third tournament in a row. But Blake has had a slammin’ summer, two finals and a title, and he’s reached the quarterfinals at the Open for the last two years. He may not win a five set match but even if he’s tired, he can probably outlast Baghdatis and Querrey.

Tommy Robredo’s Section

You can probably forget about Tommy Robredo, he’s had an awful summer. He lost in the first round at Montreal and Cincinnati and only managed to win one match at New Haven. Enough said.

The showdown here would be a third round match between Carlos Moya and Mikhail Youzhny. But that’s only if Youzhny can get past Philipp Kohlschreiber who’s beaten him both times they’ve met.

This year and last, Youzhny has followed a pattern: good results at Dubai followed by terrible results at the rest of the hard court events. Last year that was followed by an explosion at the Open where he got to the semifinals and beat Rafael Nadal in the process. Will it happen again?

It might but I’m taking Moya because he reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and he’s been playing excellent tennis. He’s reached the semifinals or better at six tournaments this year.

Novak Djokovic’s Section

Mario Ancic and Radek Stepanek are lurking in this section but it should come down to Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt and this is the toughest pick to make.

Keep in mind that Lleyton Hewitt’s record at the Open is 36-6 and he’s having an excellent year. But Djokovic is having an even better year and he beat Federer to take the Montreal title. He should reach the semifinals at this year’s Open.

Fernando Gonzalez’ Section

Fernando, Fernando! Three straight losses on hard courts this summer, what’s up with that? Gonzalez barely beat qualifier Frank Dancevic at Indian Wells and will probably lose to him in the third round, but we can’t pick Dancevic because he isn’t available for fantasy tennis.

Marat Safin is here but I have Dancevic over him and I’d consider Juan Ignacio Chela but Ivan Ljubicic has beaten him six straight times. This pains me but I’m left with Ljubicic. If you’ve got a better idea, leave a comment and do it soon. The submission deadline is approaching.

Rafael Nadal’s Section

Rafael Nadal failed to reach the quarterfinals twice this year and both times he retired. He retired at Cincinnati with a forearm problem and that’s the only way he’ll fail to reach the quarterfinals here. If you’ve got a spy in the trainer’s room, pass the information on.

U.S. Open Draw

My Picks

Here’s my team: Federer, Roddick, Davydenko, Blake, Moya, Djokovic, Ljubicic (ouch!), and Nadal.

Happy fantasies!

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The ATP’s Gambling Problem

In early August, Nikolay Davydenko played a second round match against Martin Vassallo-Arguello at the Orange Prokom Open in Poland. Davydenko is one of the top tennis players in the world and Vassallo-Arguello is a journeyman who has never reached the final of an ATP event.

By the time the match was over, the world of tennis had its very own gambling problem. Users on, an online betting exchange based in England, played out a pattern of irregular betting that looked an awful lot like someone had fixed the match.

On a betting exchange, users offer bets to each other setting their own odds. Users can either accept someone else’s bet or offer their own. Bets can be placed throughout a match.

Matt is a Betfair user and professional gambler who writes the blog (betters are called punters in England). He bet on that match between Davydenko and Vassallo-Arguello and here’s what it looked like to him.

Several hours before the match, Davydenko opened at 1-5 odds, meaning that he was the prohibitive favorite. One hour later, Davydenko had gone from the favorite to the underdog. His lowly ranked opponent was now the favorite and nothing had happened, no ball had been struck.

Did someone have insider information about Davydenko? Did he have a previously undisclosed injury? Even if he had, according to Matt, “this is very, very unusual, even with a well known serious injury players rarely drift by this much.”

If Davydenko was injured, it didn’t stop him from winning the first set easily and he showed no visible signs of distress doing it. And yet Vassallo-Arguello was still trading as the favorite at the end of the first set. Not only that, but after he broke Davydenko’s serve and went up just 2 games to 1 in the second set, he was trading at incredible 1-17 odds – almost a certainty to win – despite the fact that he was still a set down.

How did this happen? Someone was repeatedly offering large bets with favorable odds for Vassallo-Arguello and it was too much for Betfair users to turn down. They couldn’t resist taking the bets because the odds were so good.

Think of it like this. Andy Roddick and Vince Spadea play a match. Roddick takes the first set easily then Spadea manages to break Roddick’s serve at the beginning of the second set. If someone offers Spadea as a 1-17 favorite at this point, do you take the bet? You’d probably run over your closest friend to get to the keyboard fast enough.

As the betting continued, Matt couldn’t believe what he was seeing: “I sat here laughing in shock at what I was witnessing, my jaw was on the floor.” As far as he was concerned, “this was very blatant match fixing, on a grand scale.” He decided to take action. He called up a fairly senior person at Betfair and explained the irregular betting patterns.

By the time Davydenko retired early in the third set – thereby losing the match – users had bet over $7 million on a second round match in a small tournament in Poland, more than ten times what you’d expect on such an event. Betfair investigated the incident and agreed that the betting was irregular. They took the unprecedented step of voiding all bets on the match.

Here’s what’s bothering me. I can’t think of any way this fix could have worked without Davydenko’s cooperation. Vassallo-Arguello isn’t good enough to beat Davydenko based on sheer will.

Someone might have know before the match that Davydenko was injured – he’d been having problems with his toes earlier in the week – but no serious gambler would have offered bets against him at the end of that first set.

Seven million dollars is a lot of money, by the way. Why would betters draw that much attention to themselves if they wanted to fix a match? In Matt’s opinion, “this has been done several times, so they were not expecting Betfair to void the betting on that match.” They probably thought they could get away with it because it had been done before.

The ATP is currently investigating the incident and they’ve enlisted the help of The British Horseracing Authority. No doubt they have more experience in such matters.

If the ATP decides there was no fix, they need to come up with an alternative explanation if they expect anyone to believe them. Both Vassallo-Arguello and Filippo Volandri have been involved in multiple matches showing irregular betting patterns as you can see in this report on

Matt thinks Betfair should remove players from the betting market if there are repeated cases of irregular betting on their matches. Surely the ATP should take action against a player before it reaches that point.

Betting exchanges are here to stay and tennis has joined horse racing and soccer as a viable betting opportunity. That’s not a bad thing for tennis, but it will be if betters can’t trust that they’re watching a fair match.

Thanks very much to Matt for answering all of my questions.

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ATP Fantasy Tennis Picks-New Haven

We’re deep into the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season so check out my Fantasy Tennis Guide. You’ll find Fast Facts, Strategies, and Statistics to help you play the game.

Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

Pay attention, the deadline for picking your team this week is SUNDAY, August 19, 10am EST, 4pm CET.

Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

Awful. Just awful. One for seven and that’s if Roger Federer makes it to the final and he’s looked shaky all week. Despite my concerns, James Blake’s abdominal pull was not a problem and Nikolay Davydenko is in the semifinals with that stress fracture in his foot. What’s his explanation for retiring due to foot pain in Sopot on clay then getting to the quarterfinals and better in two straight hard court tournaments where the court must have felt like hot coals in the 99F° / 37C° weather?

On the other hand, who knew that Novak Djokovic would run out of gas and Rafael Nadal would lose temporary use of his left forearm?

Alright then, forward and upward. Let’s head into the last tune-up before the U.S. Open and see which eight players we can pick out. By the way, watch out for Mario Ancic because he’s in the qualifying tournament. Take a quick peak at the final draw before you submit your team to see where he is if he makes it through qualifying.

New Haven (hard court, first prize: $84,000)

Nikolay Davydenko’s Quarter

Davydenko actually won this thing last year. Amer Delic is his first opponent and Delic beat him in their only meeting at Miami but that was Delic’s only good result of the year.

Nicolas Almagro is here and up until last week I’d have called him a clay court specialist. But then he got to the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and took a set off Roger Federer. Still, he’s won only two other matches on hard court this year so I have no confidence in him yet.

Paul-Henri Mathieu is 0-2 against his first opponent, Nicolas Lapentti, but one of those matches was on clay and the other was on hard court in 2001. Plus Lapentti has exactly one win on hard court this year so I’m going with Mathieu.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a bit of a dark-horse. He’s been tearing up the challenger circuit on hard court and got to the fourth round at Wimbledon. He’s actually ranked higher than Juan Martin Del Potro but untested on hard court in the big leagues. If you were wild and crazy, you could pick him.

James Blake’s Quarter

This is James Blake’s home tournament, he lives in Connecticut. He won here in 2005 and has a pretty easy draw. Be sure to save him for the U.S. Open and at least one of the fall indoor tournaments. He’s won Stockholm both times he’s entered and that pays over $132,000.

Jarkko Nieminen is 3-0 over Feliciano Lopez and 2-0 over Fernando Verdasco so I’m going with him.

David Ferrer’s Quarter

Wow, David Ferrer is 17-5 on hard court this year which is the sixth best record on tour. I missed that last week. Maybe that’s why he got to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. He beat Igor Andreev here two years ago so I’m picking him.

Clay court specialist Potito Starace is putting in a token appearance before the U.S. Open. He took the title at a clay court challenger in San Marino instead of playing Montreal even though he’s ranked number 30 in the world. That’s called thumbing your nose at hard courts because Masters Series events are supposed to be required attendance.

This court is pretty fast so Ivo Karlovic pops out. Starace certainly won’t beat him and Thomas Johansson is unlikely to break his serve.

Tommy Robredo’s Quarter

This will be Tommy Robredo’s tenth tournament in a row. He extended his clay court season to get a clay court victory in Sopot but then lost his first match at Montreal and Cincinnati. Marc Gicquel has awful hard court results and lost to Gael Monfils here last year so the question is: can Monfils beat Robredo? I’m going with Monfils because he’s rested and he got to the semifinals in Washington.

The other part of this quarter is hopeless. Dominik Hrbaty is the only one with a hard court victory this summer and one of those victories was a win over Robredo so he gets the pick.

New Haven Draw

My Picks

Here’s my team: Davydenko, Mathieu, Blake, Nieminen, Karlovic, Ferrer, Hrbaty, Monfils.

Happy Fantasies!

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Carnage in Cincinnati

Eleven of the top twenty ATP players were on the blistering courts in Cincinnati today and lots of them, six to be exact, lost. The scoreboard looked more topsy turvy than the roller coaster ride at Kings Island which does repeated 360 rotations while dropping you 138 feet. Very hard on the tummy.

For starters, Nicolas Almagro beat Ivan Ljubicic, Sam Querry beat Mikhail Youzhny, Carlos Moya beat Novak Djokovic, and Juan Carlos Ferrero took out Fernando Gonzalez.

Oy, what is wrong with Gonzalez? He has yet to win a match in the summer hardcourt swing. And what’s up with clay courter Almagro? He has now won a total of four matches on hardcourt in this year.

Kings Island is next to the stadium so Rafael Nadal could probably see that rollercoaster during his match with Juan Monaco. But it was his forearm, not his tummy, that was bothering him. He was hitting his forehand short and putting drop shots into the net. He still managed to get to the first set tiebreaker but he lost it then called for the trainer and by the time he was down 1-4 in the second set, he retired.

Lleyton Hewitt beat Richard Gasquet who retired with a blister on his right hand. After the match Gasquet said: “Two days ago, I couldn’t touch my racket, but yesterday it was better.”

I’m only a fantasy tennis player. I don’t pay anything to play the ATP fantasy tennis game and if I win, my prize will be a South African safari for two. But if I were a gambler and I’d put a few thousand dollars on Gasquet, I’d be pretty mad to find out he couldn’t pick up a racket just two days ago and I knew nothing about it.

Here we go again. Lack of injury disclosure. We didn’t know that Nikolay Davydenko had a stress fracture in his foot when he lost that highly suspicious match to Martin Vassallo-Arguello in Sopot. Over $7 million dollars was laid on the match at, much of it against Davydenko after he’d already won the first set 6-2. Davydenko ended up retiring in the third set.

I’m obsessed with this injury disclosure thing. I didn’t pick James Blake for my fantasy team this week because he withdrew from Montreal last week with an abdominal strain. Without specifically knowing his current condition, how did I know whether to pick him this week or not? He looked like it was bothering him in his victory over Nicolas Kiefer today – he wasn’t extending on overheads or getting much topspin on his second serve – but after the match he said it was indigestion.

Why is it that I don’t believe him? I find myself trying to decode verbal and visual signals in the absence of real information. It’s like trying to read cues from your lover. If you read too much into his or her facial expressions, you’ll be accused of being paranoid. If you ignore them, you’ll be accused of neglect.

I’ve been in contact with a Betfair user that bet on that Davydenko match and followed the situation closely, by the way. I should be writing something about it in the next few days.

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Read about the Tall Dudes in Cincinnati

Tall Dudes in Cincinnati

The U.S. is turning out tall dudes who serve big.

John Isner is a shade over 6ft 9in and he hit a 125mph (201km/h) second serve in Cincinnati today. Damn that’s quick. Isner has really awkward ground strokes though. He stands straight up when he hits the ball. With all that height, imagine how hard he could hit it if he bent his knees a tad.

Isner was ranked number 745 less than a month ago. Then he won a challenger and hit 144 aces in Washington and now his ranking is 192. Today he hit only nine aces and lost in straight sets to David Ferrer, 7-6(3), 6-3.

Amer Delic is similar. He’s 6ft 5in and he’s good as long as he gets his first serve in. He couldn’t get it in often enough today and he fell to Ivan Ljubicic, 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.

The U.S. is turning out tall dudes with big serves and they are hopeless once they leave hard courts. Sam Querrey is 6ft 6in. He played six clay court tournaments this year and lost in the first round four times. That was so discouraging that he lost in the first round of his next four tournaments.

Querrey is slightly different from Isner and Delic because he has a baseline game. He had a beautiful thirty stroke rally today with Marc Gicquel, a master retriever. Querrey lost the point but he won the match, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4

Every day on my way to the media room at last week’s WTA event in Los Angeles, I passed a demo of a synthetic red clay court. They’re rare in the U.S. but there are a few thousand of them in Europe. No watering necessary and the lines are painted on. The USTA should start peppering the country with these things and see if the U.S. can turn out some tall dudes who can serve big but also have the patience to construct a point.

It’s a lot cheaper than sending all our juniors to a tennis academy in Barcelona for their teenage years.

Finally, a New Poll

I kept forgetting to change the poll over there on the right side of this page. As a result, it had some interesting numbers. The poll asked the following question: How many Wimbledons will Rafael Nadal win?

Originally, the choices were 1, 2, and 3 or more. I left out 0 because I assumed most people watched Nadal lose Wimbledon by a hair to Roger Federer this year. Someone disagreed and added the choice 0 and that turned out to be the winner.

It only won by one vote but you have to wonder what those people were watching. Nadal is only getting better on grass. Today I’m putting up a new poll and I’m leaving the 0 off again. Here’s the question:

What are Roger Federer’s chances of winning the U.S. Open? 25%? 50%? 75%? 100%?

They just went down with his loss to Novak Djokovic in Montreal and they’d already suffered with Federer’s other hard court results. We just started our fourth hard court Masters Series event of the year and he has yet to win one.

Look to the right side of this page and do your duty. Vote!

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