Category Archives: Gambling

Which players have the most volatile games and what does it say about them?

Not volatile temper, silly, volatile game. Volatile in the sense that a volatile player will break serve often but will also lose his serve a lot.

I, for one, believe that we are much better off embracing gambling and educating ourselves than bemoaning the trend and pointing fingers. To that end, I’ve been reading gambling advice on Betfair.com’s blog and found an interesting piece about volatility.

Matthew Walton rated all of the ATP players as follows: if the player broke serve or lost his serve, his volatility ranking would increase. If he held serve or failed to break serve, his volatility ranking would go down.

As you can imagine, big servers who don’t move all that well had low volatility rankings. Andy Roddick has the huge serve but he doesn’t break his opponent’s serve that much. Sam Querrey is in there too and so is Benjamin Becker who depends on his serve far too much. That may be why he’s slipped down to number 87 in the rankings. Querrey might want to take note of that and spend a lot more time on the clay developing his sliding skills.

Clay court players, as you’d also expect, since it’s harder to hold serve on clay, are the most volatile and Filippo Volandri is the most volatile of all. He’s already pretty popular with the bettors if you look at the number of suspicious matches his names pops up in but this is one more reason he’s popular and here’s why.

Betfair is a betting exchange. Bettors offer bets to each other rather than making bets with a bookmaker. A betting exchange is also different than the usual betting operation in that you can make bets throughout a match, not just before a match starts.

As Walton points out, there are a lot more mid-match betting opportunities on a match with volatile players than non-volatile players because Roddick and Querrey are in trouble if they lose their serve so the outcome is more predictable. If Volandri loses his serve, no big deal, because he breaks serve a lot too.

Why should you care if you’re not a day trader in the tennis market? The volatility ranking tells us some interesting things. As Walton also points out, if you’re in the middle of the pack it probably means you hold your serve well and break your opponent’s serve, which is a good thing.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in this group but so, surprisingly, is Ivo Karlovic. You’d think that being 6ft 10in would automatically put him in the “doesn’t move so well” category but apparently it doesn’t and that explains why his ranking has shot up in the latter part of this year.

Two other people in that mid-group are Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marcos Baghdatis and that means one thing: they have the potential to be top players, they just aren’t fulfilling their potential.

I don’t have time to lay down hundreds of bets but I would love to be on Betfair because they stream tennis matches from around the world. I can’t use Betfair, though, because I live in the U.S. and offshore gambling is illegal. If you have a few coins in your piggy bank and you love tennis, it could be worthwhile to set up an account just so you can see tennis matches from Beijing and Bangkok on your computer screen.

Just don’t come complaining to me if you lose your pennies. In other words, if you have any addictive tendencies, stick to the telly.

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Not the game of tennis itself. That’s not boring.

Serena and Venus Williams took home a pair of slams and we had a fantastic final at the women’s year-end-championships. Roger Federer still got his three slams but he missed out on four Masters Series titles by losing consecutive matches twice to an unexpected player. One of those unexpected players, David Nalbandian, not only resurrected his career, but he improbably took it further than it had ever gone before.

It’s not over yet. Next week Andy Roddick gets a chance to lead the U.S. to its first Davis Cup title since 1995 and leave his mark on the game as one of the great Davis Cup players of all time.

No, it’s the other stuff that’s missing. Look at the rest of the sports world, for instance.

Barry Bonds was indicted and Michael Vick reported early for his jail sentence in the past week. Alex Rodriguez’ superagent screwed up and upstaged the baseball World Series thereby damaging A-Rod’s reputation so badly that A-Rod sidestepped his agent and asked the Yankees to take him back. University of Alabama football coach Lou Saban got in trouble for comparing two straight losses to disasters such as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. England lost to Croatia knocking them out of the 2008 European Championship and fired its coach.

Tennis has had a few drug suspensions this year but, hell, the entire peloton at the Tour de France was probably juicing up their blood. Last year’s champion was barnstorming the U.S. to raise money for his defense fund and this year’s yellow jersey holder was sent home because he’d lied about his whereabouts to avoid pre-race testing then got caught lying about his lies.

Tennis does have a gambling controversy. Nikolay Davydenko is buckling under the pressure of the investigation into whether he fixed a match and Alessio Di Mauro got a nine month suspension for laying down $15-20 bets on tennis but that’s all we got. Baseball had the Black Sox scandal which had eight players fixing games. And they also had Pete Rose who bet on baseball and lost his guaranteed place in the Hall of Fame.

Tennis is like ice skating: we have one criminal. Ice skating has Tonya Harding and we have Roscoe Tanner, though he’s old news. There is actually some new news about him and I’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Is tennis culturally relevant? Other sports are.

Baseball reflects cultural and political changes in the U.S. The number of Latino ballplayers is increasing yearly while the number of black ballplayers is decreasing. That reflects the U.S. culture as the Latino community is passing the black community both in economic and political power. The NBA reflects the growth of the global market with its high number of international stars including a new star from China this year, Yi Jianlian.

Same thing in tennis. Tennis in the U.S. is losing popularity and losing tournaments while the huge Asian market is getting new tournaments. Shanghai gets a new Masters Series event in 2009 and Roger Federer and Pete Sampras flew all over Asia – not Europe or the U.S. – for their barnstorming exhibition this week.

Tennis is exciting to watch and more or less culturally relevant. Two out of three ain’t bad don’t you think?

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Andy Roddick advances to the semifinals and Roger Federer stays alive in Shanghai.

If you look at the photo above, you see eight terracotta warriors. These are the professional tennis player warriors, not the terracotta army that was buried with the Emperor of Qin in 210-209 B.C. Clearly the Emperor planned to rule the hereafter much as he ruled in his earthly life and for that he needed his army.

At the time this photo was taken, only Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had qualified for the year end championships in Shanghai. Now that two rounds of play are complete, Djokovic is out of contention and Federer and Nadal both have 1-1 records. The headless warriors have taken over.

Pat the Coach

My co-writer Pat Davis laid out Andy Roddick’s strategy for his match with Fernando Gonzalez today. Did Andy listen to her? Let’s see.

Here’s what Pat told Andy to do.

Gonzo is really feeling his oats since he beat Roger Federer in his first round robin match. Therefore, it’s very important to climb on him early in the point.

Andy not only climbed on Gonzo early in the point, he got out to an early lead. He broke Gonzo in his first service game and his second service game to go up 5-0 in the first set. Andy also went up a break early in the second set and that break was enough to win the set. He won the match, 6-1, 6-4.

Gonzo had to play brilliantly to beat Federer. Put so much pressure on him that he’ll have to play brilliantly to beat you too. Attack him and beat him to the net.

Andy got his first break point at the net – on Gonzo’s 1st service game no less.

On the next point, Andy went up 2-0 with a running forehand passing shot as Gonzo slipped to the court. A few points later, Gonzo fell down. He’d guessed one way and the ball went the other but instead of planting his foot and taking off in the opposite direction, he flailed his arms in a futile attempt to keep his balance. Clearly Gonzo was feeling the pressure.

As Andy’s brother John Roddick said, “I just like how he’s being very aggressive but he’s also up on the baseline so he’s really pushing Fernando around.”

Give Gonzo a change of pace now and then.

At 1-1 in the second set, Gonzo was running Andy around so Andy threw in a few backhand slices and followed them up with a beautiful running passing shot. An error by Gonzo on the next point and Andy had 3 break points. One more Gonzo error and Andy went up a break and that was all he needed to win the second set.

And of course, serve your ass off!

Andy hit an ace to go up 5-0 in first set, hit an ace and two winners while serving for the match, and did not face a break point.

Andy’s return of serve was an added bonus. Gonzo didn’t win a point on his second serve till the sixth game of the match and that was the only point he won on his second serve in the first set. As Roddick said: “I returned pretty well. I only remember missing a couple of returns all night, even off first serves.”

Pat, if Jimmy Connors gets tired of traipsing around the world trying to convince Andy to stay up on the baseline, I’ll send this column in as your application for Connors’ job. You have my full support for the position.

Federer Muddles Through

Andy plays Federer on Friday in his last round robin match. I’d be shocked if Federer didn’t beat Andy and here’s why: it’s a dead rubber. The match doesn’t mean anything to Andy because he’s already qualified for the semifinals.

Unless you’re a highly unusual individual, the fact that you’ve already qualified has to seep into your brain. Let’s say you’re facing three break points on your serve. You can’t help but say to yourself: “Well, at least I’m into the semifinals. If I lose this point, no biggie, I’ll still play another day.”

Federer, on the other hand, has to win more sets than Gonzo to advance and he’s currently only one set ahead of him. That makes for a huge difference in motivation.

Federer beat Nikolay Davydenko today by the score of 6-4, 6-3, but the score is a bit misleading. Federer had 38 unforced errors in the match. What is happening to him? Is he falling apart or is everyone else catching up? What do you think?

Not only that but Federer has been losing his cool. After he lost the second set tiebreaker to Gonzo yesterday, he chewed out the chair umpire. I’m not exactly sure what happened but Federer could have been annoyed that the chair umpire didn’t see him motion for a challenge.

Whatever it was, Federer accused the chair umpire of making him “look like an idiot.” The umpire’s response was unsatisfactory because Federer followed that up with: “don’t give me that shit.” Hmmm, can we say misplaced anger?

Davydenko is not a particularly challenging opponent this week. The ATP recently interviewed his brother and his wife as part of the investigation into a possible fixed match between Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August.

The investigation has uncovered a group of nine Russian gamblers who placed $1.6 million in bets on the August match. The ATP investigators have also requested phone records from all phones that Davydenko uses to see if they can connect him to any of those gamblers.

Davydenko’s lawyer says the poor guy “is showing the classic signs of depression, ” and who can blame him. I’d be depressed too.

In light of that and Federer’s loss to Gonzo, I would say that even if Federer gets to the semifinals, David Ferrer has a very good chance of beating him should they meet. Wouldn’t that be something?


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Join us for the WTA Championships final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 11th, 2:00pm Los Angeles/5pm New York.

Gambling, cocaine and poison provide more than enough content for a celebrity tennis show.

If Jim Rome is talking about tennis, then tennis is definitely cool again. Rome is the spoken word king of daily sports radio in the U.S. and he talks about tennis about as often as he talks about the ballet.

Why was he talking about tennis? How about this: Tommy Haas believes he may have been poisoned during Germany’s Davis Cup semifinal against Russia in Moscow earlier this year. German Davis Cup player Alexander Waske reported that a Russian man casually told him that Haas had been poisoned.

Haas became sick after losing his first match in the event and had to withdraw. He plans to get medical tests to see if there is any evidence of poison in his system: “I want to find out if any poison can be traced or confirmed, ” he said. The International Tennis Federations (ITF) – which runs Davis Cup, is investigating the charge.

There’s a reason that Deadspin.com gets a gazillion hits every day. If you want to know everything about O.J. Simpson’s latest legal problem or read Big Daddy Drew’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo, that’s the place to go. Controversy sells. Sex sells.

The top online celebrity site, TMZ.com, is so popular that it now has its own television show. If breaking news means cutting to Britney Spears making an illegal left turn from Coldwater Canyon onto Mulholland Drive – an actual feature on TMZ this week, be sure to tune in.

Celebrity, controversy, and sex are now making they’re way to the tiny screen – your cellphone. CBS’s mobile entertainment division introduced a show focusing on fashion and gadgets but they scrapped that idea when they noticed that viewer numbers went up when celebrities were on screen. They now have a twice daily show focusing on celebrity gossip.

Don’t think tennis isn’t affected by the world of cellphone entertainment. I can now watch Wimbledon on my tiny screen. All I have to do is hook up a Slingbox, record Wimbledon on my DVR, and the Slingbox will beam Andy Roddick to my cellphone screen. It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in my backyard or cruising the back roads of Baja.

If original tennis programming makes it to cellphones, it’ll probably focus on players such as Martina Hingis who recently retired after testing positive for cocaine – known on the street as “blow” – and retired. Check out this hilarious cartoon. It shows Martina snorting the sideline of a tennis court.

Dour, camera shy Nikolay Davydenko would be a regular on our Celebrity Tennis show. Suspicious betting patterns on Davydenko’s match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August of this year kicked off the current controversy over gambling on the professional tennis tour.

This week’s Davydenko episode would focus on the ATP’s demand that Davydenko turn over records for all of the phones he owns or uses. Davydenko’s lawyers have refused to comply.

The next episode would feature an interview with Davydenko’s lawyer, Professor Frank Immenga, who blasted the ATP this week for conducting a witch hunt against Davydenko by fining him $2, 000 for “not trying” in one match and warning him about the same infraction in another. I have to agree with the professor on this one. The betting pattern in the August match clearly showed the fingerprint of a fixed match, but if the ATP can’t prove that the match was fixed and Davydenko was involved, don’t hound the guy to death.

Since Andy Roddick actually is a celebrity, he’d turn up on Celebrity Tennis because he complained in his blog this week that he was fined $20, 000 for skipping Paris while Davydenko was only fined $2, 000 for not trying. Roddick said he was recovering from a “tweaked” ankle and wanted to be sure he was prepared for next week’s year end championships in Shanghai. As you can see, Roddick didn’t accuse Davydenko of not trying but he did have a problem with the ATP:

…in essence they [the ATP] are setting the precedent that preparing and getting healthy for their year end event is worth a 20 grand fine, but tanking (again I have no opinion on guilt or innocence here) only warrants 2 grand….

Alessio di Mauro would be the star in today’s episode of Celebrity Tennis. The Italian tennis pro was suspended from the tour for nine months and fined $60, 000 by the ATP for betting on tennis matches from November 2006 to June of this year. Di Mauro never bet on his own matches and reportedly his bets were small.

Wow, maybe I should produce Celebrity Tennis. I’ve already got a week of programming in the can.


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Join us for the Paris Masters final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 4th, 7:30am Los Angeles/10:30am New York/3:30pm London (remember to set your clock back one hour Saturday night if you live in the U.S.).

Will Roger Federer win the Australian Open and will Nikolay Davydenko ever get the ball into the service box?

Federer Looks Ordinary

I took a closer look at David Nalbandian’s win over Roger Federer in this week’s Paris Masters Series event. Nalbandian beat Federer yesterday to get to the quarterfinals.

Federer had lost the first set and had just been broken to go down 4-5 in the second when it hit me: Federer will not win the Australian Open next year.

A prediction on my part for sure and Federer actually broke Nalbandian in the next game to even the second set at 5-5. But Federer looked very ordinary. He couldn’t take control of the points consistently while Nalbandian was able to move Federer wide then hit winners to the open court again and again.

Nalbandian won the match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(3), and it was a rather routine win.

I don’t know what Nalbandian’s excuse is for playing so well considering that he hadn’t reached a semifinal in almost a year before he won Madrid two weeks ago. Evidently he was having some physical problems and couldn’t train properly.

I do know what Federer’s excuse is. This is his third tournament in a row and he doesn’t like doing that. He played Paris because Rafael Nadal is breathing down his neck. Nadal is into the semifinals in Paris and if Federer doesn’t do well in the year end championships in Shanghai, Nadal could be in position to take over the number one ranking early next year.

The surface at Shanghai is superfast so it’s unlikely that Nadal will do well there, but then it was unlikely he’d reach the semifinals in Paris. Luckily for Federer, Nalbandian will not be in Shanghai.

Who’ll beat Federer in Australia? At this point, Nalbandian and Novak Djokovic are the best candidates. Nalbandian just beat him twice in a row and Djokovic beat him in the final at the Montreal Masters which is an outdoor hard court event. Nadal reached the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open but his knees probably won’t hold up through a two week long hard court slam.

What do you think? Does Federer win the Australian? If not, who’ll beat him?

Davydenko Is Crumbling

The Nikolay Davydenko situation is getting ridiculous. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier warned him about his lack of effort while he was in the process of hitting ten double faults in his loss to Marcos Baghdatis in Paris yesterday. The ATP seems to be punishing Davydenko for his part in a suspicious match he played against Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August. There were irregular betting patterns on the match that made it look like the match was fixed. The ATP is still investigating the matter.

How else can you explain it but punishement? Last week the ATP fined Davydenko $2000 for lack of effort during a similar run of double faults. I understand how betting patterns can lead you to think that a match was fixed, but what’s the evidence here?

It looks to me like Davydenko is getting Guillermo Coria’s disease. He can’t get the ball into the service box. In Coria’s case the problem was a lack of confidence. I think Davydenko has finally succumbed to the pressure of constant scrutiny about the alleged fixed match. He gets asked about it at every tournament he attends and he’s not a guy who’s good with the media. He’s not smooth or well-spoken, he’s cranky if anything.

It would be surprising if it didn’t finally get to him. That’s immense pressure to face week after week. It’s not that I’m necessarily sympathetic. That match looked for all the world like a fixed match and until someone shows me an alternative explanation, I’ll be very suspicious.

But give the guy some resolution one of these days. That match was in August and he’s still twisting in the wind.


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