Dominic Thiem – Age 23, Ranking 9
The oldest player in the list, the Austrian has already reached a Grand Slam semi-final, falling to Novak Djokovic at last year’s Roland Garros.
Pros: When given time on the ball, Thiem is devastating on both forehand and backhand. Like most top professionals, his favoured shot is the inside out forehand, which he hits with enormous spin and pace. Thiem is an expert at manoeuvring his opponent around the court with a succession of viciously angled forehands and can finish the point either with a quicker, flatter forehand or by coming to the net and showcasing his much improved volleys. He also possesses a sumptuous single handed backhand which must be the envy of amateur hackers worldwide: a long, regal take back is followed by powerful rotation through the hips and shoulders, generating terrific racket head speed, and finishes with his torso rotated and his right arm fully extended. When given time, Thiem can consistently rip this shot both cross-court – with acute angles when needed – and down the line, and can easily take the ball at shoulder height and above. Thiem’s defensive slice has improved considerably in recent years; whereas it used to float rather harmlessly and land in the middle of the court, he has added greater bite on the shot and is hitting with better depth, adding to his already formidable defensive game.
Thiem has an excellent service motion, featuring a deep knee bend which enables him to drive up and into the serve with great force. His most eye-catching delivery is the kick serve on the advantage court, which he hits with enormous topspin and vicious angle. The result is a serve which violently kicks off the court, taking his opponent way out of position to his left, leaving the court open for Thiem’s second shot. In the past few years the Austrian has added a huge flat serve to his repertoire, and can hit upwards of 140 MPH on both the deuce and advantage courts. Perhaps he need only add a more consistent slice serve on the deuce court to be a complete server.
Aged 23, Thiem must be counted as one of the most complete athletes on tour. His acceleration, balance when hitting on the stretch, and sheer stamina combine to make him a formidable defensive player. When coupled with his grit and determination on court, Thiem presents a devilish puzzle for his opponents to solve, even more so on slower courts where it is harder to hit winners past the resolute Austrian. Despite his exhausting style – Thiem throws his full body-weight into every serve and ground stroke – he rarely shows fatigue, and is happy to engage his opponents in lengthy rally after lengthy rally, confident that his durability and athleticism will eventually grind down and overwhelm his opponent.
Thiem’s biggest weakness is undoubtedly his return game, where he struggles both to return big first serves and to attack weaker second deliveries. While Thiem can mask the deficiencies of his return on slower clay courts, it presents a huge obstacle to success on every other surface, and is largely responsible for his poor record against top ten opponents on hard courts – thirteen losses and just the solitary win. Thiem struggles to hit through returns on both sides but his forehand return is perhaps more worrying. Partly due to a long swing and extreme western grip, the Austrian struggles to time his forehand return and often resorts to a chipped or bunted shot which immediately places him in a defensive position in the rally. If Thiem is to successfully employ a chipped return, he must improve his depth on the shot, which will preclude opponents from teeing off on their immediate reply. With so few players opting to serve and volley, he need not worry about hitting a floating return, so long as it lands deep in the court.
On the second serve return, Thiem alternates between an aggressive, Andy Murray-esque position inside the baseline, and a more defensive stance some metres behind. The former is designed to take time away from his opponent and start the rally on the front foot, but it does require that he abbreviates his strokes and hits a flatter, riskier return. With his stroke production, Thiem should arguably be standing a few metres behind the baseline, giving him the time to take a full swing and use his ferocious, spin-laden shots to start the rally. While his hard work and bravery to change and add to his game is commendable, it has resulted, in the time being at least, with a muddled returning strategy which arguably does not play to his strengths.
Due to his long strokes and extreme grips, Thiem requires time and space in order to hit his looping strokes and deliver his ballistic groundstrokes. As a result, he is most comfortable standing several feet behind the baseline where he can best affect play. This makes him vulnerable to elite baseliners with compact groundstrokes, who are able to stand on top of the baseline and take the ball on the rise, stealing time away from the opponent. Against players with this aggressive style – call it the Andre Agassi blueprint – Thiem will be forced into the role of retriever & counter-puncher. While this does not preclude victory for the Austrian, it does mean there will be certain match-ups where the fate of the match will, to some degree, lie on the opponents racket.
Chance of Grand Slam victory: 25%
Thiem possesses the raw athleticism, ball-striking talent and dedication needed of a Grand Slam winner. However, modern tennis has become increasingly dominated by those who can strike the ball early, powerfully and consistently from the baseline, a style of play which does not come naturally to Thiem. A vulnerability to elite power-players is exacerbated by Thiem’s rather passive return of serve, which limit his opportunities to get on the front foot in rallies. In order to win a Grand-Slam on anything other than clay, Thiem will need either to make adjustments to his game, or have a fortunate enough draw so that he can avoid elite and in-form baseliners .
Greatest chance of success: Roland Garros
Thiem’s greatest chance of glory undoubtedly lies at Roland Garros. His blend of savage competitiveness, athleticism and enormous topspin makes him perfectly suited for the long rallies typical of clay court tennis. Future opponents will need to go through hell and back to beat the Austrian at Roland Garros. If Thiem can stay fit and patient, he is bound to have an opportunity somewhere down the line to emulate his countryman Thomas Muster and lift La Coupe des Mousquetaires.
From elite professional to recreational hacker, timing is crucial in tennis. The ability to judge the speed, depth, spin and trajectory of the ball, anticipate the bounce and swing accordingly is a large part of what determines someone’s ceiling in the sport. In this article, we will consider timing as an entirely different construct.
With the big four – Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic – either at the end of their peaks, or just approaching the downside of their athletic curve, we may well be experiencing a transitional phase at the top of the game. For a world-class prospect, there has not been a better time to compete for a grand slam since the start of the millennium, when Hewitt, Roddick, Gaudio and Ferrero all grabbed Major titles before the emergence of Federer & Nadal. Whereas the aforementioned Murray and Djokovic generally had to struggle past one or both of Federer and Nadal in their primes, elite players coming into their peaks in the next five years will likely have an easier task at hand. This is not to say that they will stroll to Grand Slam victory, merely that they will have the opportunity to do so without needing to topple one of the game’s all time great players.
Over the next five blog posts, we will consider five players perfectly poised to take the next step and claim Grand Slam victory. We will look at their strengths, weaknesses and assess their best chances of success. First up in the list is the Australian born Nick Kyrgios.
N.B. The age cut off, for the purposes of this list, will be 23, an admittedly arbitrary indulgence.
Nick Kyrgios – Age 21, Ranking 16
The now-infamous Kyrgios feels older than his 21 years of age, partly due to his reaching the Wimbledon quarter finals in 2014 aged 19, partly also because he has already been involved in numerous high profile controversies during his brief career.
Pros: As seen in his recent victory over Djokovic, Kyrgios has an absolutely monstrous serve. Against arguably the world’s premier returner, Kyrgios hit 25 aces in just 2 sets, achieved 74% first serves and won 80% of all his service points. The Australian has a smooth yet dynamic service motion, which coupled with his natural athleticism and live arm (cf. Pete Sampras), combines to produce a devastating delivery. A habit of hitting second serve aces points to either his supreme confidence or recklessness, depending on one’s point of view. This can make him erratic at the worst of times, but near enough unplayable when at his best, placing control of the match on his own racket and largely taking the opponent out of the picture. This probably adds to Kyrgios’ conviction that he alone can decide the fate of any match.
Added to this, Kyrgios has a powerful and versatile forehand. Known for blasting highlight reel winners at 80 MPH+, the huge racket head speed he achieves also generates significant spin, giving his forehand a healthy margin for error. Like many of his peers, he is comfortable blasting the forehand from an inside-out position, but can also work acute cross-court angles and go down the line when needed.
Blessed with athleticism and a long stride, Kyrgios could, in theory, become adept at defending and counter-punching from the baseline. Given his mental disposition and preference for shot making however, it is likely that his excellent court coverage will be used mainly to attempt high-risk winners from unlikely court positions.
Cons: Whereas his forehand possesses great power combined with huge spin, Kyrgios’ backhand lacks variety, and is a rather one-paced shot. While Kyrgios can blast his backhand cross court and redirect it up the line, both are very flat shots, dependent entirely on his timing and court positioning – there is little margin for error if either goes awry. Kei Nishikori has established a simple but effective strategy for neutralising Kyrgios on slower courts, especially clay: simply keeping the ball deep on Kyrgios’ backhand side, mixing it up to the forehand often enough to keep him from cheating over to the backhand side too much. Those possessed with a world class two handed backhand, such as Nishikori and Murray, will generally be able to trap Kyrgios in his backhand corner, as the Australian does not have the control or weight of shot to consistently play himself out of trouble.
It is fair to say that the return of serve and defensive baseline play are not Kyrgios’ forte. While not terrible by any means, his lack of elite return game means he can get dragged into long, five set matches with fellow big servers, both being unable to break one another. Equally, Kyrgios’ defensive game leaves something to be desired. Against weaker opposition, the Aussie can rely on his innate athleticism and dominant offensive game and therefore largely gets away hitting lackluster defensive shots combined with rather mediocre anticipation. When playing against the very best however, he struggles when placed onto the backfoot in a rally. Unable or unwilling to vary his play and hit more looping, spin-laden shots, he often resorts to blasting high-risk winners from unlikely positions, with predictable results.
Finally no analysis of Kyrgios’ game could reasonably gloss over his mental fortitude, or lack thereof. Incidents where Kyrgios has insulted his opponent, thrown a tantrum, gotten into a spat with the umpire or otherwise mentally melted down are well known. While undoubtedly distasteful to observe and certainly not conducive to winning tennis matches, these faults can, from a forgiving observing, be attributed to a fiery competitor simply spilling over into the realms of unacceptable behaviour, ala John McEnroe. More worrying are some of Kyrgios’ losses where he has showed very little belief in his chances to win the match and has gone down with a whimper. This to a possible lack of determination which may well prove to be his undoing when it comes to Grand Slam success.
Chance of Grand Slam victory: 50%
So much depends on the space between Kyrgios ears that estimating his chance of a Grand Slam victory is fiendishly difficult. Even with an unpolished game and a scatty mental approach, Kyrgios has managed to reach 16 in the world at the mere age of 21. His power and athleticism alone have taken him this far – if he can add a few nuances to his game, remain fit, and somehow focus for seven matches in a two week period, then his chances of winning a major are very high indeed. However, the history of professional tennis is littered with spectacularly talented men and women who, for a variety of reasons, could not maximise their vast abilities to achieve Grand Slam glory.
Greatest chance of success: Wimbledon
Kyrgios loves the big stage, and arguably there is none bigger than Center Court at SW19. On a technical level, the speed at which the ball travels off the grass, and the low bounce, help Kyrgios in several ways: first, his huge serve is made even more devastating; second, he is able to attack his opponent’s second serve, knowing that a well-struck return will elicit a weak reply, or no reply at all; and third, his flat backhand skips off the grass with greater effect than on clay or hard courts. Never one blessed with patience or disposed towards lengthy rallies, the quicker surfaces allow him to play his natural game.
As the most high-profile youngster in tennis today, Nick Kyrgios is fairly practised in causing upsets -whether through defeating more established players, or generally causing upset with careless behaviour and ill-thought out remarks, the young Australian is accustomed to being the centre of attention. How disconcerting it must have been therefore to have the outcome of this Round 3 match-up totally taken out of his hands.
Some of Kyrgios’s best results to date have come from overwhelming his opponents with his dynamic power tennis. In his two Grand Slam quarter-final appearances, the Australian faced relatively defensive, steady players in previous rounds, defeating Seppi in the 2015 Australian Open and (more famously) Nadal at Wimbledon 2014. Seppi and Nadal proved rather accommodating opponents – neither serve particularly big and both are content to engage in long rallies, waiting for a short ball before attacking. Such an approach gives Kyrgios numerous opportunities to use his explosive power off both wings. Even when manoeuvred out of position, his athleticism enables him to hit highlight-reel winners from unlikely positions.
Against the number 6 seed Tomas Berdych, he faced an entirely different challenge. Whereas Kyrgios can simply over-power many of his opponents, Berdych is an expert at taking and maintaining the advantage in rallies. The Czech was actually out-served, hitting a mere 8 aces compared to Kyrgios’s 18, and making 6 double faults to the Australian’s 2. Furthermore, Kyrgios won an impressive 82% of points on his first serve, serving at 60% first serves in. This ensured that Kyrgios was winning a substantial number of free points and was often starting rallies on the front foot. This made it imperative that Berdych dominate the bulk of the neutral rallies on his and Kyrgios’ second serve.
Few players on the tour hit the ball so cleanly, and with as little topspin as Berdych, and therefore Kyrgios could be forgiven for struggling to adjust his game accordingly. While the Australian came back into the match, winning the third set, this was as much due to a lapse in concentration from Berdych, as it was credit to an improvement from Kyrgios. The latter has a habit of defending through a reliance on his athleticism – often hitting weak, mid-court slices, before retreating a few steps and using his speed and agility to retrieve whatever is thrown at him. Against a power-hitter like Berdych, such a strategy isn’t really viable. The Czech hit an enormous 25 winners off his forehand alone, evidence of his devastating potential to lead the play when given a chance.
Generally speaking, players have had success against Berdych by using the Czech’s power against him, and pushing him out wide. Once pushed outside the tramlines, Berdych does not have the malleability on either groundstroke to play a defensively savvy shot – rather than give himself time with a deep, looping topspin shot, he will invariably go for a hard, flat winner, with a relatively low probability of going in.
Nikolai Davydenko, himself never a Grand Slam finalist, had a dominant head to head record over Berdych, leading the series 9-2 (not including a retirement), going on a run of eight victories in a row over the Czech. Despite being 6 inches shorter, and possessing of a far weaker serve, the Russian was able to outmanoeuvre his larger opponent. Using his superb reflexes and compact groundstrokes, he was able to stand right up on the baseline and re-direct Berdych’s powerful groundstrokes, stretching his opponent out-wide, into a position he doesn’t want to be.
While it remains to be seen if Kyrgios has the technique and hand-eye co-ordination to adopt such an approach, he certainly cannot remain so passive in rallies against opponents like Berdych.
Had Kyrgios drawn a different seed in his quarter – say David Ferrer or Rafael Nadal – he might well have progressed further in the tournament. Furthermore, with his talent and ability, he may well go on to achieve more than Berdych in his career. For the time being however, this remains a bad match-up for the pugnacious Aussie.
Australian Open 2016: First Round – thoughts on Murray vs Zverev
As expected, the number 2 seed Andy Murray made quick work of Alexander Zverev, winning in straight sets, 6-1 6-2 6-3. Murray was rarely troubled during the 2 hour encounter, his young opponent only able to apply any kind of pressure on the Murray serve toward the tail-end of the match. While the match wasn’t of great interest as a contest, it did prove fascinating in another sense, as an opportunity to see the youngest player in the top 100 up against the world number 2. There probably isn’t a sterner test for a young player than a five setter against the consistent, cerebral Scot. Here are some notes from the match:
While it is notoriously difficult to predict future stars in tennis – harder still now that players tend to peak in their mid to late twenties – Zverev seems a relative ‘lock’ for a berth in Top 10 at some point in his career. Zverev was an elite Junior, reaching number 1 in the rankings, and winning the 2014 Australian Open. While this is not necessarily a guarantee of success as a professional (cf. Donald Young), Zverev appears to have the basic tools to make the transition. Whereas others have dominated the Junior ranks by simply being more consistent and patient than their peers, Zverev already possesses the tools necessary to make a dent on the professional circuit.
Crucially, Zverev possesses a great serve. The motion itself is a thing of beauty – deep knee bend, proper arching of the back, full extension on contact – and as such he already has incredible power on first and second delivery. Against Murray, the German hit 5 aces against Murray’s 3; had an average 1st serve speed of 126MPH to Murray’s 116MPH; and also produced the fastest serve of the match at 135MPH. One he learns to apply his power more efficiently, and hit his spots more carefully, the serve will become a devastating weapon.
Power off both wings
Simply turning up the volume and looking away from the TV for a few minutes would make clear that Zverev hits a huge ball. Particularly off the forehand wing, the youngster can generate a lot of easy power – the sound of the ball coming off the strings not so dissimilar to Marat Safin. One small concern would be the relative lack of variety of his backhand. While Zverev has a very solid topspin backhand in rallies, he runs into problems when stretched wide: against Murray, he didn’t seem able to hit a more looping, heavily spun shot, and nor did he appear to possess a great slice. The net result is that when pushed out wide, he does not have the variety on his backhand to slow the rally, in turn enabling him to recover position and re-set the rally. The young prospect could do worse than study some tapes of David Nalbandian in this respect.
Murray’s route to the Final
The first Grand Slam event of the calendar year, the Australian Open is said to always favour those who come in with the best preparation. It is therefore little surprise that Murray, one of the hardest workers on tour, has made the final on four occasions. The Scot has a notoriously gruelling training camp during the off-season, and always comes to Melbourne in great condition. This year appears no different, and Murray has the additional benefit of a relatively kind draw. Crucially, the number 3 seed Roger Federer was drawn in Djokovic’s half – if draw plays out according to seed, Murray will play the number 4 seed Stan Wawrinka in his semi-final. Otherwise, his half of the draw contains remarkably little threat. The highest seed in his quarter is David Ferrer, whom Murray has beaten on the last five occasions. Compare that to Djokovic, who has the dangerous Kei Nishikori in his quarter, or Federer, who will in all likelihood have to face either Berdych, Cilic or Krygios, should he make the Quarter Finals.
The Mens 2012 US Open Final: Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic
With Rafael Nadal pulling out through injury and Roger Federer knocked out in the Quarter Finals, it was always likely that the US Open final would feature Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Despite the latter being the reigning US Open champion and leading the head to head with Murray 8-6, all signs point to this match being an even, carefully balanced contest, which will be decided by a few key points.
The similarities between the two players are striking: born within a week of each other, they entered the top 100 together and reached the top 10 at roughly the same time. Both have won numerous Masters Series finals, made Grand Slam finals and generally done the most of any players on tour to disrupt the hegemony of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the game. Djokovic has five Grand Slam titles to his name, whereas Murray has four defeats in finals, picking up a lone set in an otherwise series of forgettable performances.
However, Murray has had a superb 2012, and has shown that he doesn’t fear Djokovic in the same way he did Roger Federer, when he seemed overwhelmed by the stature of the Swiss great in the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open Final. Murray should come out with plenty of belief, and there is a real chance of a classic final along the lines of their Australian Open encounter eight months ago, which finished 7-5 Djokovic in the fifth set. Here are two crucial factors which will decide tonight’s tie:
1. The First Serve % and the Return
Serve and return should be dealt with together as one entity when discussing a match up between players who return far better than they do serve.
In basic terms, Murray can hit his first serve considerably faster than Djokovic, but to the detriment of an poor first serve percentage. This is exacerbated by a weak second serve delivery, which opens the door for his opponents to tee off on the return and put holes in Murray’s service games – and no one is better than Djokovic (at least since the retirement of Andre Agassi and the decline of Davydenko and Nalbandian) at hitting clean winners off opponent’s first serves.
If Muray serves well he will be able to keep Djokovic out of the majority of his service games (accounting for the occasional 130MPH down-the-T serve which Djokovic will invariably return back into the corner with added velocity). To do so, he will need to strike a fine balance between maintaining a healthy 60%+ first serve percentage without neutering the power of his serve. Murray serves best on the ad court, where he can get enormous pace on the out wide flat serve. It is on the deuce side where he struggles more; his slice serve is not one of the best, and his down-the-T serve can be inconsistent.
Djokovic on the other hand, doesn’t have quite the same ability to serve through Murray. He will probably be best off contuining his high first serve percentage strategy; rather than trying to ace the best returner in the game, he will hope to hit the corners of the service box and eleicit weak responses from Murray, which will be enough to put him on the front foot in the ensuing rally.
There is merit in the strategy of a high first serve percentage when playing Murray: no one in the game is better than the Scot at clawing back huge serves, and he is extremely difficult to ace. Djokovic therefore might be better off going for higher percentages on his first serve.
Djokovic has the superior 2nd serve but this is negated by both mens outstanding returns. Getting the balance is key for both men. Murray will have to mix up his slice and T serve on the deuce court well enough to keep Djokovic guessing. Likewise, Novak may have to go for more on his first serves to ensure a few free points.
2. The forehand
Djokovic has fantastic rotation on his forehand, and generates considerably more topspin than Murray. This is partially aided by Djokovic having a more extreme grip. In theory Murray, with his more conservative semi-western grip, should find it easier to unleash flat forehand drives. However, he rarely opts to, and his forehand is certainly a weaker rallying shot compared to Djokovic’s.
Djokovic has a decided advantage in hitting the forehand from the ad court; while Murray has improved in this aspect, Djokovic has a superb inside out forehand, and his grip and motion seem more suited to hitting heavy inside out forehands. One area in which Murray has closed the gap is in the ‘inside-in’ forehand; previously he has been guilty of running around his backhand to hit a forehand up the line, not getting enough depth or pace on the shot, and leaving himself exposed cross court. With increased confidence on the forehand wing, he seems to have remedied this, hitting the shot with more conviction and power.
This match represents more of a challenge to Murray than his opponent; Djokovic will know that a repeat of his previous hard court Grand Slam performances against Murray will probably get the job done. For the Scot, he will have to serve smartly and well, and ensure that he hits his forehand with conviction.
Having endured another predictable clay season dominated by the ferocious Rafael Nadal, it is curious to remember a time ten years ago when the clay field was relatively deep and competitive, with a number of good-to-great specialists and no single competitor a la Nadal, able to sweep aside the competition over the clay season for the loss of mere sets.
Corretja was part of a pack of players in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, who together comprised one of the greatest clay court fields of all time. Among the Spanish contingent, there was also the eccentric Sergi Bruguera (winner of Roland Garros in 1993 & 1994), the forehand maestro Carlos Moya (winner in 1998), Albert Costa (Roland Garros champion in 2002), Juan Carlos Ferrero (champion in 2003) and Alberto Berasategui. Other great clay specialists of the time included the charismatic Gustavo Kuerten (three time winner in 1997, 2000 & 2001), iron man Thomas Muster (1995 champion) and American Jim Courier (winner in 1991 & 1992). Added to this prestigous group were a number of non-clay specialists who nonetheless thrived on the red dirt – Andre Agassi, Andrei Medvedev, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Magnus Norman. Owing to the sheer depth of the clay game at the time, Corretja never managed to grab a French Open title, losing twice in the final, once to Moya in 1998, and once to Kuerten in 2001. Ironically for a clay court player, his greatest triumph came at the end of year Masters in 1998, on the ice-quick surface of Hanover.
While Corretja possessed all the physical and combative qualities necessary to succeed on clay, he also played with beautiful grace and panache. His single handed backhand was a reliable and gorgeous shot: with its magnificent sweep and unnverving consistency, it mocked the fact that he learned it relatively late in his career, switching over from a two-hander. Having started a glaring weakness in his game, it was honed to perfection in the course of his career, and seen here, is regal yet industrious at the same time. His forehand motion is not entirely dissimilar to that of Juan Monaco’s (currently one of the better clay players on tour). Both men hit with considerable clearance over the net and monstrous topspin, despite using a relatively conservative eastern grip – a peculiarity for clay players, who tend to opt for either a full western or at least semi-western grip.
An adaptable and well rounded player, Corretja held other qualities not usually associated with clay court players. A fantastic returner, he twice beat Pete Sampras in big events, once on grass in Davis Cup Quarter Final, and once in semi finals of the end of year Masters. Clay courters of his grace and consistency are sorely lacking from today’s game.
The second of a two-part series guide to tennis betting, by Jonathan Premachandra (read part one here). Jonathan has an in-depth knowledge of sports betting, in particular tennis and cricket, and can be found on Twitter here.
This is a more lucrative form of sports betting and can even add excitement to one-sided lackluster matches such as the opening rounds of a Grand Slam. It can also be an effective way of making ‘safe’ money. There are various different betting strategies that one can employ when betting on in-play markets but I will start with the basics.
To bet in-play allows you to constantly change your mind about the outcome of a match, set, final score or even individual point winner. There are so many different things you can make calls on while the game is in play and these all continue to change, often after every single point in a game. For the sake of keeping things simple, we will just look at live betting on the outcome of an overall match.
For an example, let’s look at a typical game between Venus and Serena Williams, played in 2005 at a time when both sisters were very evenly matched, to a point the bookies could not choose a favorite and priced them both at 1.90 (10/11) before the match was played (there may have been slight variations depending on which bookmaker you used). As soon as Serena took the first break ,the odds shifted substantially, Venus became 2.5 (6/4) while Serena moved to 1.57 (4/7) favourite. Now the match is still only in its first few games and Venus could easily break back and take the set, even if she doesn’t she could take the next set and be back in contention for the match. Provided she is not injured or having a really bad day, now would be a good time to back her. Lets say we put £10 on Venus at this point.
At this point we hope that she makes some sort of comeback and the odds ‘shift’ or ‘swing’ back the other way. Sure enough she breaks back and goes on to win a tight tie-break to take the set. Now she is the favorite and even more so than Serena was after that early break. Venus is now at 1.4 (2/5) while Serena is now at 3.0 (2/1). You could choose to leave it now and you would be about to see a return of £25 from your original bet if Venus goes on to win, however I would now advise a cover bet.
It is only one set down and the second one has yet to start, you could even wait for Venus to hold her serve before hedging your bets. So after Venus holds her serve in the first game of the second set, Serena is now at 3.5 (5/2) so you can now cover by putting maybe £7 on Serena which means you will get a return of £24.5 from a total stake of £17 for the match if Serena was to comeback and take the match from here (Note: if Venus wins you will still get £25 but now you have staked a total of £17). With this bet you have now locked in a minimum win of £7.50 and have no chance of losing money (if the match is called off, all bets are void and you get your money back). This is what is known as ‘locking in your winnings.’ You can continue to bet as long as you feel that the match still has potential to change in a way that causes the odds to swing.
V. William vs S. Williams
Serena breaks at 2-2 and then holds to go 4-2 up
Venus is now underdog at 3.0 (2/1) – Bet £10 on Venus!
Venus breaks 5-3 down and holds to make it 5-5, they both hold and Venus then wins the tie-break to take the set.
Serena is now underdog at 3.5 (5/2) – bet £7 on Serena
So now a total of £17 has been staked..
If Serena wins, the return is £24.50 (£7×3.5)
If Venus wins, the return is £30 (£10×3)
Therefore you will be either £7.50 or £13 up.
The tricky part of this betting strategy is identifying swings in momentum and knowing when to back the underdog. It is far too easy to bet on a player who is a set down with odds of better than 2/1, however if they continue to lose, you will see no opportunity to cover your bet!
It is particularly profitable to use this tactic on an evenly contested game where the momentum is likely to shift back and forth, so pick matches where players are fairly evenly matched.
So choose carefully, do your research, look at how good the player in question is at fighting: are they in the gutless Tim Henman muold or would you liken them more to the stubborn Lleyton Hewit type player? Are they starting to hit their winners better? Is there first serve percentage improving? Can you really see them coming back after looking at how their opponent is playing? Is their opponent looking tired or suffering from a slight injury?
These are all things you need to consider before you make a call to back the underdog, the better you read these factors the more chance you have of locking in winnings by betting both ways.
No matter how broad your knowledge of the game is and how much you analyse things, there is always a chance that something so unpredictable and so unforeseeable will happen that bookies and betters alike will be left stunned. A solid example of this is the Semi Final of the US Open in 2011 where Roger Federer was serving out for the match and 40-15 up. Most bookies stopped giving odds but some listed Djokovic at 40/1 before this point as a sort of ‘novelty’ bet. Why such steep odds? Because Federer only needed to find a solid first serve and that would be that. There is it was, a big first serve, for a split second the bookies could breath a sigh of relief, but what followed was indescribable:
Moral of the story: No matter what the circumstances, you can never be 100% sure about a bet, however if you stop yourself from being greedy and cover your bets when the opportunity presents itself, you can make a lot of money in the long run.
For a man who reached a career-high ranking of 31 in the world back in December 2010, remarkably little has been heard in the tennis press lately about Sergiy Stakhovsky.
This is surprising because not only does the Ukrainian possess a wonderfully old-school game, complete with cutting volleys and a vicious slice backhand, but he is also an affable and charismatic character. He speaks four languages in addition to his native Ukrainian – Czech, Russian, Slovak and English, the latter with what the flawless sensory perceptions of TennisNiche adjudges to be a charming mixture of Eastern European and East End Geezer, with a hit of of North American thrown in for good measure (Sergiy himself describes it as a mix of Canadian and British English- see this video to judge for yourself.)
Onto his tennis game:
He is one the current generation of players who has suffered the most from the overall slowing down of court surfaces. Of his four titles, two have come playing indoor (Zagreb in 2008 and St. Petersburg in 2009) and one on grass (‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2010). His captivating serve and volley game is almost tailor built for fast, low-bouncing surfaces, complemented by his flat groundstrokes and a knife-edged slice backhand, all of which makes his tennis very easy on the eye.
It is on the clay and slower hard courts, where he cannot approach the net as frequently, in which his play suffers. While his groundstrokes are technically sound, he can be inconsistent, particularly in longer rallies when his footwork is prone to breaking down. Having played a pure serve and volley game during juniors, he has had to adapt in seniors to play more at the baseline, befitting the current conditions of court surfaces in mens tennis. Seen in the video against Ryan Harrison (19 years old at the time), Stakhovsky is able to execute his wide array of shots against an inexperienced opponent who isn’t able to trap Stakhovsky behind the baseline with deep, consistent groundstrokes.
If Stakhovsky is to re-enter the top 50 (and looking further forward, to break the top 20), he will have to find the right balance between using his sophisticated serve and volley game and finding a greater consistency from the baseline when he is forced on the defensive.
Some points on a fascinating contest in the Quarter Finals of the Miami Masters Series between Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic, two of the most consistent baseliners on tour.
Tipsarevic is typical of the modern baseline player, one who has no stand-out weapon but relies on great lateral movement (witness the Serb’s monster quads and calves), a strong two handed backhand and unerring consistency off both sides. Tipsarevic’s best asset is his serve – standing at 5’11 (180cm), he gets not only impressive pace (hitting upward of 130MPH on his first serve), but fantastic angles owing to the full extension he gets on the service action, especially on his serve out-wide from the Ad-court.
Murray is almost the perfect foil to the modern generic baseliner, possessesing a variety of ways in which he can approach each encounter. He is adept at playing the patient baseline game, yet with enough power to seize the initiative in a rally when he feels it’s falling from his control. Furthermore, against a dogged opponent like Tipsarevic who feeds off rhythm, he can turn to his coniserable array of ‘touch’ shots to disrupt his opponent. He can knife his backhand slice in either direction, or float it in the middle of the court to invite his opponent to the net. His drop shot is another effective tool – he perhaps over-uses it, but gets away with it due to his great composure and finesse on both passing shots and when drawn to the net himself.
Tipsarevic largely had the best of things in the first set, and he broke Murray at 4-4 to serve out the set 6-4. Murray cut a frustrated figure; he had been broken out of sheer impatience, and afterwards was seen complaining about his stomach. As he does so many times though, the Scot came back strongly in the second set, cutting out his unforced errors and showing his gritty determination to out-last Tipsarevic.
If ruthless consistency and dogged consistency were the two base ingredients needed to compete with Tipsarevic on the slow courts of Miami, Murray then added his own flourishes to take the match above and beyond the level of Tipsarevic. In addition to the aforementioned touch shots, he was also hitting his forehand impressively, particularly when he chose to run around his backhand to hit it. He unleashed on some huge inside-out forehands, and hit his inside-in forehand with surprising consistency. He dominated his opponent in forehand to forehand rallies and forced Tipsarevic to go for too much, too soon in the rally. Murray proceeded to take the second set fairly comfortably, 6-3.
Murray also yielded some great results from the drop shot. As stated, he has a tendency to abuse the drop shot, but against a strict baseliner like Tipsarevic, it can be an extremely effective tactic. The real difference in quality between the two players was illustrated at 1-1 in the third set, the game in which Murray took a crucial break of serve. Serving at game point 40-30, Tipsarevic elected to hit his first drop shot of the match – Murray got to the ball with enough time to caress a backhand slice up the line, covered the net with typical nous, anticipated Tipsarevic’s pass and put away a volley winner. A simple combination of shots, but executed with a composure and class which is just above Tipsarevic’s ability.
As the third set progressed, it became increasingly evident that Tipsarevic had no solution to Murray’s relentless barrage of power, guile and physicality. As a result he had resolved to become the master of his own fate, going for broke on his shots very early on in the rallies. While he succeeded with an aggressive approach in the first set, by this point he had neither the consistency nor the confidence to hit through Murray’s resolute defences. He also made the decision to hit a very high percentage of first serves, a curious move considering his opponent is perhaps the best returner of first serves in the men’s game. Ultimately Murray’s momentum was not to be stopped, and he triumphed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
One area which Murray can still improve is his backhand down the line. For years he has been one of the best in the world at nailing his backhand down the line, causing havoc with his opponents rhythm by using it as a change of pace after a succession of slow, spinny shots. Curiously, he has started 2012 by improving his inside-out forehand but suffering an almost equal decline in his backhand down the line. If he can recall this world class shot, maintain a decent first serve percentage and keep a positive mental attitude, he has every chance of not only beating Nadal or Tsonga in the semi-finals, but winning his maiden Grand Slam in 2012.
The first in a two-part beginners guide to tennis betting, written by gambling prodigy Jonathan Premachandra. Jonathan has an in-depth knowledge of sports betting, in particular tennis and cricket, and can be found on Twitter here.
A Beginners Guide to Tennis Betting
As a keen follower of the game, you may be tempted to have the odd bet every now and then just to make things more interesting. It can certainly make even some of the dullest matches more captivating and you barely need to risk much to enjoy it. The principles of tennis betting can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make them but if you really want maximize your winnings, here’s some advice on how to go about it. This can be used by anyone who follows tennis and is looking to take a bit of extra money off their bookies.
Coming into a game, unless you are just betting for the fun of it, it is obviously important that you know about the players and have been following their form coming into the match. Most betting sites give you a list of their past matches and information of their head-to-head record with basic stats on every match coming into this encounter. This is all very helpful but it is not nearly enough to call a game just based on these raw figures.
You need to have watched the previous encounters between these two players, seen how their styles match up against each other and seen how well they have actually been playing recently by watching their games in the run up to this match. Important things to pick up on vary from player to player but unforced errors, 1st serve percentages and winners hit are always crucial.
For an example of how these stats vary with each player you just need to look at the winning stats on players that rely heavily on their serve such as Isner, Roddick and Karlovic. There stats can often be misleading as they line up for a game against one of the top 7. We know that these ‘big servers’ can dispatch their opponents with ease until they play someone who is a very strong returner and has a lower rate of unforced errors like Murray or Nadal.
“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”
Past records can be very deceptive if you choose to follow them on their own, for example, take a look at the recent Federer v Murray final in Dubai. Coming into that game, Murray had a solid record against Federer in 3 set matches (8 wins vs 5 losses)
So with this lone stat, a price of 2.5 (6/4) for Murray to win another Dubai final against Federer (he beat him in the other Dubai final they met in back in 2008) looks pretty good. So surely that must mean it would be a great bet to take, right? Wrong. Murray was outplayed in straight sets inside two and a half-hours, showing nothing of the form he had used to oust Federer in the past. However, if you had been following the matches leading into this final you would have seen Federer in blistering form, while Murray, despite dispatching Djokovic in the Semi, was far from his best. His three set win against Djokovic was always going to have a draining effect on him and if you looked at the stats, you could see his first serve record was not great. The casual tennis fan rushed to bet on Murray after seeing those odds but if they had watched how Federer had dominated on his route the final, they would have known that those odds were justified (Federer was around 4/7 favourite at the start).
There are countless factors that you can look at such as a player’s abilities on a particular surface; their past records at the same tournament, their form in the last few tournaments etc. You can also factor in things like fatigue and injuries, just look at Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals last year, after such a successful calendar year, he was exhausted coming into the tournament. Nadal was suffering with an injury while Federer, who had taken a short break before the tournament was fresh and near his flawless best. Long story short, the bookies faltered and gave odds of 6/4 on Federer for the tournament just before the semi final stage, he then strolled past Ferrer in straights and won the final against Tsonga in a fairly comfortable 3 set victory and in doing so he helped me pay off a large chunk of my student overdraft!
These types of odds have to be spotted and you have to weigh up whether or not the bookies are making a mistake. In the case of the Dubai final, the odds were spot on as Federer took it fairly comfortably, but given the conditions of the other players and Federer’s form in the Masters, there was good money to be made on Federer at the half way stage.
Look out for the second part in the next few weeks, which will deal the more lucrative in-play betting.
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