Monday, 30 July 2012

Duo added to Malaysian list

Top-20 players Juan Monaco and Alexandr Dolgopolov have both confirmed their participation in September's Malaysian Open.

Argentinian Monaco has recently reached the top ten in the world rankings for the first time, after securing three ATP Tour titles so far this year.

The 28-year-old has enjoyed the best year of his career and will hopeful of making a big impact at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament.

Clay-court specialist Monaco, a six-time winner on Tour, will aim to upset the tennis odds on hist first appearance on the indoor hard courts in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, world number 17 Dolgopolov will return to Malaysia to join a strong field for the tournament - which gets underway on September 22.

The Ukrainian is still looking for his first Tour title of 2012, having been beaten by Andy Murray in the final in Brisbane early in the year.

Dolgopolov, who is likely to feature heavily in US Open betting, revealed: "I have fond memories of my last visit to Kuala Lumpur. My coach Jack and I felt very comfortable and welcome in Malaysia and we are excited to return and play the highest quality tennis."

The field in Malaysia is headed by David Ferrer, with the world number five likely to start as the favourite for the men's singles title.

Rising Japanese star Kei Nishikori is another top player taking part in Kuala Lumpur, with the 22-year-old up to 18 in the world rankings.

There have been three different winners of the event in the last three years, with all three victors coming from Europe.

Nikolay Davydenko (2009) and Mikhail Youzhny (2010) claimed back-to-back Russian victories, before Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic took the title in 2011, with a straight sets win over Marcos Baghdatis.

MLS Turn to Walton

Former Premier League referee, Peter Walton, has been snapped up the MLS, in order to improve the refereeing standards in the USA and Canada.

The 52-year old only stopped officiating in one of the most testing and high-profile leagues in Europe last season, immediately taking up an offer from the MLS to act as their new referee maestro.

Last March saw the MLS and U.S. Soccer announce the creation of the Professional Referee Organisation (PRO), tasked with improving all areas of soccer officiating, as well as introducing a new wave of younger referees into the game.

Walton will oversee the development of the organisation, bringing a host of top flight experience with him, gathered over a career spanning nearly 20 years in the English leagues.

Walton has admitted that there is plenty of work to do to get the level of refereeing in the MLS up to the same level as it is in the Premier League, highlighting the fact that player-referee relations need to be built, in order for games to run smoothly.

This is a method used in England, with officials trying to work with club captains to maintain control of matches, rather than the headmaster-style approach previously adopted.  

"It's imperative referees in MLS culture start building relationships with players and coaches. I have learned so much by spending time with them outside of the pressure cooker of match day, and that is something I need to introduce here,” admitted Walton.

“Refs must recognize when the center half and forward are not getting on well or spot the little midfielder — there’s one in every game — who wants to ref the match for you.”

MLS’ bad boys better watch out. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Fans who like to watch football live should pay a visit the Bet365 website, where the latest odds, tips, and football scores are available free to supporters.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Settled Johnson shines in Seattle

Eddie Johnson’s career may not have gone quite how he and many others believed it would, however, the striker is beginning to prove his qualities that led to so much hype when he was younger. The 28-year old returned to the MLS following a disastrous four-year spell in Europe, in which Johnson failed to fulfil his potential, leading him to end his time across the Atlantic and return back to the US.

After so much instability during his time in Europe, Johnson knew he needed to find a place to really call home. That appears to have come in Seattle, with the striker beginning to rediscover the form he first burst on the scene with FC Dallas almost a decade ago.

Johnson has been a major part of the Sounders impressive MLS season so far, scoring eight goals for a team that currently sit third in the Eastern Conference. It took the striker a few months to find his feet again, but five goals in his last five games have given Johnson his confidence back and punters who bet on soccer games regularly see him as a candidate to net first. 

Head coach Sigi Schmid and his coaching staff have managed to get the best from the talented striker, and Johnson has admitted his form on the pitch has come from being in a part of a talented team.

"When you go into a new organization, it takes time. Some people adapt earlier than others, some people adapt later. But one thing that helps bring the confidence in your ability is the people around you.”

If Johnson can maintain his current form then the Sounders  are one of the safer soccer betting tips when it comes to the end-of-season charge for the title, as well as giving the forward a chance to re-establish himself as part of the national side.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Federer more dangerous than ever

Roger Federer, a firm favourite with tennis fans on can be aggrieved that he has continuously needed to prove his greatness. First he needed to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open.

Then he needed to surpass Pete Sampras' record haul of 14 majors. With this achieved, questions were asked over his relative standing compared to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

A seventh Wimbledon victory, Djokovic beaten in the process, has ended the unfavourable comparisons with his two great rivals, with the return to world number one the proof.

He has been at number one for longer than anyone else and should he win the Olympics for the first time next month, he really will have achieved everything there is to in the game.

A more relaxed Federer is a daunting prospect for his rivals.

The burning desire to succeed remains, but playing with less pressure helps all players, especially those who have the ability to make shots others cannot.

It is just as worrying that the Swiss legend has in a way a better record at Flushing Meadows than he does at Wimbledon.

He won in New York for five consecutive years, a run ended by Juan Martin del Potro in a tight five set epic in 2009.

Unlike at Wimbledon, where he fell at the quarter final stage twice in his 'barren' years, Federer retained consistency at the US Open, losing two more five set classics in the 2010 and 2011 semi finals against Djokovic.

Last year wasted two match points having been two sets up, proving Andy Murray's point that Federer had never really gone away.

He had just been losing tight matches. It is now tough to bet against him in these encounters.

Join the debate and check out the latest tennis odds:

Monday, 23 July 2012

Where now for Jonathan Bernier?

The Los Angeles Kings look to have made their bed as far as goaltenders are concerned, signing their Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Jonathan Quick to a 10-year deal.

That looks to spell curtains for Jonathan Bernier, even though the 23-year-old backup went 5-6-2 last season with a goals against average of 2.36.

Drafted as the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Bernier, who is still rated by many as one of the NHL picks in his position, has seen very limited game time ever since Quick sealed his position as one of the premier goalies in the NHL.

Bernier is one of the best goalies available this offseason, but with limited playing time he poses a risk for any team that wishes to take a chance on him. But there are sure to be several suitors, and amongst them would be Tampa Bay, Chicago and New Jersey.

The Lightning would be a good place for Bernier as the time is looking for an elite young goaltender to help lead them in the future.

LA would be asking for a lot in exchange for the young goaltender, and perhaps a first-round pick is what the Kings could get in the deal. Bernier certainly has the potential and youth on side to make Tampa Bay a force again in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago also has potential as a landing place for Bernier, especially in a bid to bolster their current incumbent Corey Crawford, who appeared to struggle in the playoffs and was unable to help Chicago get out of the first round.

A Crawford-Bernier tandem would benefit the Blackhawks in the sense that they would have two gifted young goaltenders on the same team.

New Jersey have two goalies already on their roster having just re-signed Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg, but both of those are in twilight of their careers and now is the time for the Devils to sign a new goal tender.

Although Bernier requested to be traded for the sake of becoming a starter right away, it wouldn't be long until he would start for New Jersey.

Granted, he would be filling the shoes of Martin Brodeur, but he is still young enough and being able to watch Brodeur for the next two seasons would only benefit him.

NHL betting tips suggest that he will be on the move and one of this triumvirate are a likely new home for Jonathan Bernier.

No ‘Hand of God’ for this Maradona

‘Maradona’ will represent the Argentina women’s hockey team at London 2012 but, before we go any further, it should be explained that this one is indeed female, and her name is actually Luciana Aymar.

Argentina are currently 7/2 to win the gold, according to the Olympics 2012 athletics betting on Betfair, behind 13/8 favourites, Holland.

She is often referred to as ‘the Maradona of hockey’ due to her ability with the stick, and also because she is up there on an iconic pedestal with the legendary footballer himself.

In fact, Aymar is so idolised in her own country that she has been chosen to carry the Olympic flag ahead of other notable sporting idols, such as tennis player, Juan Martin del Potro, and Luis Scola, a forward with the Houston Rockets.

Voted as Argentinian hockey’s top player no less than seven times, she has so nearly won every honour in the game, but not quite.

In three appearances at the Olympics, she has gained one silver and two bronze medals, but still no gold, and, at the age of 35, London 2012 is going to be her last chance.

It is going to be a tall order when you consider that Argentina won just two gold medals in Beijing, and one of those went to the Lionel Messi-led football team that have failed to qualify this time.

There is hope though, with “Las Leonas” among the fancied contenders in a group that also contains the United States, who caused a real shock when beating Argentina 4-2 at last year’s Pan American Games.

That was Argentina’s first defeat at that tournament since 1987, and meant that the team had to carry on playing to qualify for London, while the U.S. gained instant Olympic qualification.

Britain is in the other half of the draw, and it could well be that the two teams will meet in the Final on 10th August, the date of Aymar’s 35th birthday; what a leaving present that would be for the woman regarded as the best female sportsperson ever to emerge from Argentina.

Of course, hockey is just one of the many sports due to be contested in London; visit the Betfair boxing website, and enjoy the best odds on Team GB’s combatants.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rank and file

You might think that the golf world rankings would equate fairly closely with the betting lists for the Open Championship at Lytham, the number one would be favourite, number two second favourite and so on.

But of course it doesn’t quite work like that. Like tennis, where rankings points can be earned on different surfaces to the grass faced at Wimbledon, golf rankings points can be earned on all types of courses and will often bear little relation to a player’s ability to take on a links challenge. There are other reasons for the differences, but that is the main one.

Phil Mickelson, a regular fixture in Golf Open Championship Betting markets, is a good case in point, close to the very top of the rankings year upon year and yet with such a dismal record in our Open.

But comparing current rankings with Open odds should still be instructive and give punters an idea where some value might lie, even though they need to factor in the ‘horses for courses’ equation.

The first discrepancy to notice is Luke Donald, ranked first in the world, but only fourth choice in the market. This would appear to represent good value, but of course Donald’s Open record is nothing to write home about and it may well stay that way until he learns take the pressure of himself. Conversely, the clear favourite, Tiger Woods, is ranked fourth in the world, but the reasons for this discrepancy are entirely obvious.

But then Padraig Harrington, fifth best in the betting, is ranked as low as 60. Okay, he is playing good golf again this year, but has it been good enough to warrant such an exalted place in the market?

Better value may lie with the likes of top-ten ranked Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar. But the biggest discrepancy is Bubba Watson, ranked six in the world, but barely in the top 20 in the betting markets. Now we know that Bubba can’t win an Open, don’t we? Just like we knew he couldn’t win a Masters, right?

Join the debate and check out the latest golf odds:

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sloppy Tomic loses in Stuttgart

Australian teenager and third seed Bernard Tomic suffered a shock straight-sets defeat to the Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in the second round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.

Betfair Tennis punters had backed Tomic, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year and the fourth round of the Australian Open six months ago, to progress to the next round. But they didn’t account for a slick display from clay court specialist Bellucci, whose 7-6 6-3 win, sets up a quarter-final clash with German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

The German veteran and number eight seed Tommy Haas was also surprisingly knocked out by the Slovak qualifier Pavol Cervenak and world number 206 6-4 6-4.

"It's been a bad day for me," admitted Haas afterwards. "I wasn't striking the ball well and missed a lot of crucial points."

Only last month, Haas defeated Roger Federer to win the Halle grasscourt tournament.

In the quarter-finals Cervenak will play the Argentine second seed Juan Monaco, who thrashed Germany's Tobias Kamke 6-2 6-3 and is the new favourite on Betfair  at time of writing.

Monaco is enjoying the best season of his career and has already won two tournaments this year - in Vina del Mar and Houston - clinching 24 victories in his 33 matches in 2012.

Third seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, who has won his way through to the quarter-finals of a tournament for a seventh time this year, comes up against the 32-year-old German Bjorn Phau.

Tipsarevic is currently ranked eighth in the world but is the only top-ten player not to have won a tournament so far in 2012, although he was the beaten finalist in Chennai in January.

In the final last-eight clash the German wildcard Dustin Brown takes on the Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Whose Side will God be on at Lytham?

Surely, it is only a matter of time before a bookmaker introduces a ‘God Squad’ market for the Open, a special category comprising those golfers, mainly American, who have found the Lord, and whose chief purpose is to win the Claret Jug for His glory.

Many golfers are religious, of course, but most keep their beliefs to themselves. But we know there is a growing band of born-again Christians on the other side of the Pond - because that’s the first thing they tell us when they win anything.

And the US God Squad does seem to be winning quite a lot these days. Tom Lehman, Paul Azinger, and Corey Pavin were from the last generation of American golfers who won Majors.

The new kids in church are doing all right, too, with Zach Johnson (Masters), Stewart Cink (Open), Bubba Watson (Masters), and Webb Simpson (US Open) all dedicating their triumphs to Jesus. And Ricky Fowler will do the same if he ever wins a big one.

Now, of course, this does not always go down too well with the Europeans – remember Sam Torrance blasting Lehman (who wears a bracelet saying ‘What Would Jesus Do’) at the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline?

The American side trampled all over Jose Maria Olazabal’s line in celebration, after Justin Leonard had sunk a long and hugely significant putt on the 17th – “And he calls himself a Man of God!”

Their post-triumph praises to God do not go down that well today, either, being construed by some as both preachy and arrogant. Somebody even wondered whether Simpson, who confessed to praying more than he had ever done on the last three holes, was actually cheating.

But if the likes of Johnson, Cink, and Watson (and whoever else feel that their victories were the result of prayers to the Lord on the back nine) I wonder whose side He will be on, if they all come down the home stretch together, locked in battle?

The Betfair golf odds currently favour Tiger Woods to claim the Open Championship. The Almighty has yet to reveal His allegiances, however.

Place a bet on golf, or find out the latest information on Woods, McIlroy, and Westwood at

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

NHL: Draft busts

Whilst it’s always the successful drafts and draftees that are at the centre of most conversations, many are quick to forget those drafts that didn’t work out and were swept away under the carpet.

There have been several over the past few years and those that bet on hockey are sure there’ll be some more out of this year’s draft class.

So here we go taking a look at a few names that you may have heard of in the last few drafts and then thought - ‘I wonder what happened to them?’

Back in the 2006 draft there were three potential top class netminders drafted.

Jonathan Bernier and Semyon Varlamov were two of them, while the other was Riku Helenius who was the 15th pick overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So far he has played just once for them and, though he has just signed a new two year deal with them, at the moment it hasn’t been much of an NHL career for the 15th overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Hugh Jessiman was taken by the New York Rangers as the 12th overall pick of the 2003 draft class.

At that time they could have taken any out of Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards or Corey Perry, but they ended up with Jessiman.

To say that was an error of judgement is an understatement as they ended up with a player who never played a game for them, and who has only made two career starts for the Florida Panthers.

The most recent significant blemish on the draft came in 2007, when Thomas Hickey – rated as one of the NHL picks at the time - was taken 4th overall by the Los Angeles Kings.

All the rest of the top seven look to have decent futures, yet Los Angeles took Hickey when they could have had players like Karl Alzner, Sam Gagner, Jake Voracek, Logan Couture, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Hickey has yet to play an NHL game for the Kings, so not great use of a first-round pick, especially when there was plenty of talent left available.

So when you look through this year’s first round picks, it’s interesting to think about who is going to be in the same position as these guys, who promised so much, but have delivered so little.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Woods and his barometer of success

One of the ways of tracing Tiger Woods’s level of golfing dominance in the 15 years since he first blew everybody away by 12 strokes and more in the 1997 US Masters is to look at the price he was offered at by bookmakers running into each major.

Predictably, the layers were quick to catch on to the Woods phenomenon and the Open Championship Odds of 4-1 they offered for the 2000 Open at St Andrews just a month after he had run away with the US Open by 15 strokes was soon the sort of bet punters could only dream of making.

For several years after that, backers did well to get better than 6-4 Tiger winning any particular major as he started collecting them for fun and that lasted pretty much until it all began to unravel after he won the 2008 US Open ‘on one leg’ as injuries and then revelations of a seedy private life took their toll on his career.

Now, following a lengthy time out, punters, layers and US Open Golf Tips writers recognise him as a force to be reckoned with again, but his price of around 7-1 favourite for the Open reflects neatly the unease and uncertainty surrounding the physical and mental states of his game.

One week he struggled and we all wondered whether we would ever see the old Tiger again; the next week (the Memorial Tournament) he was indeed the old Tiger, arrowing irons to the pin and sinking every putt; the week after that he was struggling again.

Everyone, from his old coach Butch Harman to the ‘expert’ at the bar at the 19th hole, seems to have their own technical take on what has gone wrong with Woods’s game and what he needs to do to put it right.

The suspicion is that he will sort it out for himself in the near future, soon enough maybe to add to the three Opens he has already captured. As those same pundits never tire of reminding us, form is temporary, class is permanent.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Gayle fails to deliver

Chris Gayle’s glorious return to limited overs international cricket came to a premature end of Sunday when Steven Finn nicked him for just two runs at the start of his t20I innings for the West Indies.

The right-hander was back in the top order for the tourists after over a year of exile due to differences with selectors and his presence affected Betfair England cricket betting odds.

His inclusion in the squad for June’s short-form tour of England came as a great surprise to West Indies fans, many of who expected their side’s fortunes to improve on the back of his returned presence.

But Gayle’s quick exit sadly confirmed that it will take a lot more than one man to rejuvenate this side.

Playing in his first t20I for over two years, Gayle swung at a short Finn delivery to top edge it to fine leg, where Jonny Bairstow scrambled to the boundary to catch.

Earlier that morning former England captain Nasser Hussain pinpointed England’s best chance of nicking Gayle was from the short ball, and Finn delivered in only the third over of a match as England went on to win by seven wickets.

The ease of which Finn got his man will be of great concern to West Indies’ backroom staff.

Gayle will have come into the game full of confidence from his IPL exploits with the Delhi Daredevils where he was one of the star men, yet this eagerness to get off the mark at Trent Bridge cost him and his side dearly.

The man West Indians thought they could rely upon let them down against England, and served not as a test for Finn and co. but rather an example of how an over-hyped return does not always generate results.

Check out the latest England v Australia odds at Betfair.