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Forecasting the Fortunes of the Top Seeds at the 2012 French Open 13

Posted on May 04, 2012 by JA Allen

The 2012 French Open gets underway on May 27, 2012

The clay-court season has offered few surprises so far for the men on tour.

Rafael Nadal has re-established his iron foothold on the red clay, offering his opponents a healthy dose of lethal backspin and Majorcan aggression. There is something about breathing red dust that instills Nadal with an air of invincibility few can overcome.

For the ladies, Queen Victoria Azarenka has bowed to few, trying to cement her grasp on the No. 1 ranking.

Losing only to Marion Bartoli at Indian Wells, Azarenka demonstrated no nervous tics or signs of relenting her perch at the top of the women’s game. That is, until she was buried under a siege of Russian ground strokes thrown at her by world No. 2  Marian Sharapova at Stuttgart.

Sharapova pulled the proverbial rug out from under Azarenka in Germany during the finals on Sunday, winning 6-1, 6-4.

The women’s top four players—Azarenka, Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska appear to have established some sort of stability for the ladies, although certainly not on a par with the men’s top four—Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and  Andy Murray.

In a few weeks, both the men and the women will roll into Roland Garros for the second Grand Slam of the season.

Those at the top will continue to be favored to win, but there may be some surprises on the terre battue in Paris.

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Djokovic? Federer? The Odds-On Favorites to Win the 2012 Australian Open 52

Posted on January 12, 2012 by JA Allen

Roger Federer won his last Australian Open title in 2010.

It is that time of the year when the snow is blowing while ice drips off your nose in the Midwest. Meanwhile, tennis moves “down under” to the warmth of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The official draw unfolded on Friday. That is when we saw whether the No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic would face Roger Federer or Andy Murray in the semifinals, assuming all the usual suspects make it that far.

Last year during the Australian Open Federer faced Djokovic in the semifinals, losing in straight sets 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 while Nadal, suffering from injury, folded early in the quarterfinals to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

At the 2011 French Open, Djokovic suffered his first defeat of the season during the semifinals when Roger Federer upset him 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. Nadal, on the other hand, breezed past Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.  In the final, Federer, who has never defeated Nadal at Stade Roland Garros, failed once again—losing 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1.

When the tour moved on to Wimbledon, Djokovic and Federer were once again drawn into the same half.  But this time, Federer did not meet Djokovic. He lost in the quarterfinals to an on-fire Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France—even after winning the first two sets, 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Nadal, once again, took care of Murray in the semifinals while Djokovic dismissed Tsonga.  In the final, Djokovic prevailed with surprising ease over the now world No. 2 Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

The 2011 US Open would prove to be the piece de resistance for Djokovic and a major blow for Federer. The Big Four made it to the semifinals where, once again, Djokovic faced Federer while Nadal manhandled Murray 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.  The other US Open semifinal should have gone to Federer who took the first two sets.  But even after serving for the match in the fifth set, Federer remained unable to close it out and Djokovic came back to win  6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.  In the final, Nadal was once again unable to dominate the Serb. Djokovic won 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1—claiming his third major title of 2011 and the No. 1 ranking.

After suffering a slump at the end of the year, pundits are once again pondering—can Djokovic do it again?  Only time will tell.  Right now, he must defend his title at the Australian Open.  Odds are in his favor at the moment.

Who will win the Aussie Open men’s title in 2012?  For a change of pace, Djokovic has been drawn into the same half as the No. 4 seed, Andy Murray while world No. 2 Nadal is scheduled to face Federer in the semifinals, should both make it that far.

Here are the top ten odds-on favorites to win the 2012 Australian Open.

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Murray and Del Potro’s Struggles Continue 1

Posted on May 07, 2011 by Thomas Rooney

Andy Murray lost in straight sets at the Madrid Open.

British number one Andy Murray’s search for form continues after crashing out of the Madrid Open in the third round.

The Scot lost in straight sets to Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, who ranks at number 36 in the world.

Bellucci took just 91 minutes to dismiss the challenge of Murray, winning 6-4 6-2.

The defeat for Murray may come as something of a shock to those placing regular free bets on tennis after he showed signs of returning to form in April’s Monte Carlo Masters, where he bowed out at the semi-final stage to Rafael Nadal.

Loss in January’s Australian Open final signalled a wretched run of form for Murray, who lost to qualifiers in the first round of his next two tournaments.

Worryingly, early chances to seize control of this game were not taken and with the French Open looming, prospects of significant progress at Roland Garros look bleak given he has never made it past the last eight stage of the major. Read the rest of this entry →

Previewing the Favorites at the 2011 French Open Championships… 4

Posted on April 27, 2011 by JA Allen

French Open gets underway in less than a month.

Last season the 2010 French Open marked the culmination of a player sweeping the major titles of the entire clay court season––the final act of the Tao of Nadal.

No man has quite dominated the red dirt so completely since Bjorn Borg did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

That said, no individual has yet to equal Chris Evert’s record on clay, man or woman by winning 125 consecutive matches on the red dirt, and seven French Open titles in nine final appearances.

Is it possible that Nadal could surpass even the ice maiden?

There are few mysteries abounding about the results on clay in 2011. If Nadal can hobble on to the court, then he will no doubt win, according to the odds-makers.

The only unknowns come on the women’s side of the draw where no one stands out as a favorite to win. In fact the bookies remain fairly clueless.

Past winners like Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova remain mired in unending slumps punctuated by an unexpected win or two along the way.

Francesca Schiavone who won it last year over the woman who was supposed to win, Samantha Stosur, may be the best bet.

The sure thing about watching the French Open is that it is not pretty. Play on the red dirt can be long and ugly on a hot afternoon with unending rallies from the baseline.  It often becomes truly survival of the fittest.

So, selecting who will be standing holding the trophies at the end of the French Open can be a futile exercise but here are the favorites and where they stand at the beginning of May…

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Novak Djokovic Rules the Men’s Tennis Power Rankings After Dominating in Miami 5

Posted on April 06, 2011 by Marianne Bevis

Novak Djokovic has fulfilled the early promise of greatness so far in 2011.

The first three months of the tennis season pose some of the players’ biggest challenges.

With barely a fortnight to get their hard-court games into fine working order, the first Major of the year is upon them. Yet the Australian Open is just the beginning; ahead lie two months of hard-court rigor, all geared towards a second distant climax at the end of March.

Along the way are choices between indoor and outdoor, cool northern Europe and the hot Gulf states, even between hard courts and the points-rich Golden Swing on the clay of Latin America.

It is a topsy-turvy phase, where two of the most prestigious Masters events in the calendar close a season rather than building towards a concluding Major, and therefore, is often full of intrigue, unpredictable winners and surprising losers.

During the two months between Melbourne and Miami—where this edition of the Power Rankings is focused—there have been 10 different champions from 14 tournaments.

Kevin Anderson won his first tour title in Johannesburg, went on to reach the quarterfinals in the Miami Masters and now sits at an all-time ranking of 33.

Ivan Dodig won his maiden title in Zagreb and there was an even more significant first for the surging Milos Raonic, who started the year at 156 and now sits at 35. He announced his arrival big time by winning San Jose and then reaching the final of Memphis. Although he does not feature in this month’s rankings, he will surely join the party when the next hard-court season comes around.

One multiple winner, Nicolas Almagro, took titles in Brazil and Argentina and reached the final in Acapulco and, while he did not impress in the subsequent Masters, his form may impact on the clay road towards Roland Garros.

For each story of success, though, there has been one of ill fortune. Andy Roddick arrived in Miami on the back of his 30th career title in Memphis and with a 16-3 winning record for the year—and his record in Miami was second to none. But it soon became clear that Roddick was unwell during his opening match, and he made his earliest Miami exit since 2002. Now at No. 14 in the rankings, it is also his lowest position since 2002.

The biggest shock of this entire period, though, was the performance of Andy Murray, who replayed his post-Australian slump of 2010 with a vengeance.

Murray loves the North American Masters and was aiming to improve on last year’s quarterfinal finish in Indian Wells and his first-round exit in Miami. However, he lost in his first match at both as well as at the only other event he played, Rotterdam.

He is said to be reviewing his coaching setup ahead of the clay season and, with few points to defend before Wimbledon, that choice will have some time to bed in. One thing’s for sure: He needs to change something, and soon.

But while there have been surprises at almost every turn of the hard-court road that culminated in Miami, there has also been a clutch of constants. At every tournament they have played, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have stayed the course at least as far as the semifinals.

One of them has been as constant as the North Star—the winner of every match in every tournament he has played since the start of the year and he, of course, tops the latest Power Rankings.

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Federer? Nadal? 10 Men Who Can Win the Australian Open, Part 1 2

Posted on January 12, 2011 by JA Allen

The 2011 Australian Open gets underway on Monday, January 17 in Melbourne

The Australian Open begins on Monday, Jan. 17, in Melbourne, Australia.

The draw for the first Grand Slam of the season will not be held until Friday, Jan. 14.

Until that time, no one will know who they will be facing in the first round or which potential opponents might be waiting down the road.

According to oddsmakers, Rafael Nadal is slightly favored to win the title over Roger Federer.

So what do these betting gurus know?

They know about past patterns of behavior and predictable outcomes based on certain incontrovertible factors. They know about odds of winning.

“Beating the odds” means winding up with an unexpected outcome.

This is the crux of betting—figuring out which players may beat the odds.

Nothing is a given, although based on recent history it is not unreasonable to expect either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to win the championship in Melbourne.

It is almost inevitable that one of them will be in the final.

But that did not happen in 2008, and who is to say that 2011 could not repeat that aberration?

According to this author’s research, following are the 10 players with the best shot at winning in Melbourne…

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    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

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