Saturday, 25 August 2012

Seeds of Doubt - Men

It might be too much to expect an early upset on the scale of Lukas Rosol's victory over Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon, but some seeds are sure to be knocked out early at the US Open. Three of the men's top 16 seeds lost in the first round last year and all three are again vulnerable this time around.

11th seed, Nicolas Almagro, has never reached a Slam quarterfinal away from Roland Garros and, in Radek Stepanek, he has a tricky first round opponent. 

Julien Benneteau dealt with the Spaniard in 2011, and the clever Czech operator, who has won both previous meetings with Almagro, has a similar style. Stepanek can veer between the very good and very bad in the same match and his best will be a tough test for Almagro.

28th seed, Mikhail Youzhny, is more temperamental than Stepanek and will need to be on his guard against Gilles Muller, having lost to Ernests Gulbis in his opener last year. Will it be the Youzhny that lost in the first round at the Australian Open who turns up at New York, or the version that reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals a few months later? 

Viktor Troicki has lost in the first round at the last two US Opens, a poor return for a player who reached number 12 in the rankings last June. He has struggled since. and is seeded 29th at Flushing Meadows, although a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon hinted at better things. 

He should have too much for world number 97, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, but a slow start will pressurise fragile confidence.

The big player with the trickiest draw is sixth seed, Tomas Berdych. He has been on the periphery of the elite group of players for some time, sitting at the same high point he achieved in the rankings two years ago, and has not kicked on since reaching the 2010 Wimbledon final. 

He had a decent clay court season but a first round exit at Wimbledon, combined with two opening losses at New York in the last four years, begs questions. 

David Goffin, one of the breakthrough stars of the year - he reached the fourth and third rounds at Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively in his first appearances - is more than capable of taking advantage. 

The 56th ranked Belgian is a star of the future and could start his rise to the top in earnest at New York. The European player is definitely worth a bet on US Open 2012, for supporters thinking of betting on tennis, this summer.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Canucks Keen to Keep Burrows

The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to tie Alex Burrows to a contract extension, after confirming that they have opened new deal talks with the winger’s agent.

Assistant general manager, Laurence Gilman, said: "We’ve had preliminary discussions about extending Alex's contract but, beyond that, it's not our policy to discuss ongoing negotiations."

Burrows, who is about to start the final year of a four-year contract that pays him $2million a season, has been one of the Canucks’ star performers in recent years, scoring at least 25 goals in each of the last four seasons.

The 31-year-old’s most prolific season was in 2009-10, when he scored 35 goals and 67 points, but he still managed to contribute to NHL scores last season, netting 28 goals and 52 points for the Canucks.

"Alex is an important player on our team, both on the ice and in our dressing room," added Gilman. "If we can get him signed to a long-term deal that keeps him with us for a number of years, it would be a very good thing."

It is believed that the Canucks could be willing to offer Burrows a $4million-a-season deal that would put him on the same level as the likes of Wayne Simmonds, who recently signed a new six-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit forward, Johan Franzen, and New York Rangers winger, Ryan Callahan.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are still hoping to buy Shane Doan from Phoenix although the player is waiting to see how the Coyotes’ ownership situation develops before making a decision on his future.

Doan is believed to prefer to stay with Phoenix but has named the Canucks as his next best option if he does not re-sign with the Coyotes. If Vancouver do snap up Doan, it could have an impact on Burrows, who would then be forced to play on the second line with Ryan Kesler.

It could also have a major impact on the NHL standings, should Doan prove as prolific at the Canucks as he did at Phoenix.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Federer Victory inspires Li Comeback

Watching Roger Federer lift the men’s singles title at the Western and Southern Open inspired the Chinese player, Li Na to go out and win the ladies event just a few hours later.

"I was thinking, `OK, I really want to do the same,''' she said, having seen Roger Federer posing for photographs and lifting the trophy after beating Novak Djokovic to win the Cincinnati masters title.

This has been a long season for Li Na who, despite reaching three finals had yet to win a trophy up until yesterday and her Tennis Odds before the tournament did not suggest imminent success.

“I was really hungry for the title,'' she added after defeating Germany's Angelique Kerber in three sets.

Maybe it was due to nerves, but Li started the match in the worst possible fashion, losing the first set 6-1, and she must have thought that her winless streak was bound to continue.

To her credit, though, the 30-year old fought back heroically and was a worthy winner;“She was playing unbelievable in the first set,'' Li said. "I was trying to play fast, but I was feeling she had no mistakes. Every ball just came back to my side” she added.

Prior to yesterday the last tournament that Li Na won was the French Open in 2011 and, having proved in the past that she is capable of winning Grand Slams, her victory in Cincinnati will certainly give her a huge confidence boost going into the US open next week; "I think it's a very good beginning,'' she said.

Li Na’s previous best performance at the US Open was a Quarter final appearance in 2009 and, having returned to winning ways her US Open Tennis Odds have moved in. She will be expecting to at least match that at Flushing Meadows this time around.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

More Manning to hopefully come

Peyton Manning’s appearance in a Denver Broncos jersey on Thursday may have been more of an anti-climax than spectacular, but the quarter-back did just enough to prove he can live up to his name this season and help his side defy NFL betting odds.

The 36-year-old starred in Denver’s pre-season game with the Chicago Bears, and his arm looked good for the single series he played before being replaced by Caleb Hanie. With the new season fast approaching, Broncos fans can be optimistic the veteran quarterback still has what it takes at the top level.

Manning needs no introduction after becoming one of the most iconic football stars of his generation. The four-time MVP finally moved on from his Indianapolis Colts home this spring after 14 glorious years.

The one sad factor for the Louisiana-born star was his final season at the Colts, which ended prematurely after vertebrate problems forced Manning to miss the entirety of last season. Yet with a Superbowl ring and 11 Pro Bowl appearances, Manning’s departure was still heavily felt in Indianapolis.

It is time to move on, and Manning appears to have done so with success at Denver. Although his appearance on Chicago’s Soldier Field was only brief, he completed four of seven passes to progress 44 yards, and in 11 plays advanced the Broncos 50 yards.

He did have a bit of luck with Geno Hayes’ failed interception at the end of the first quarter, but that scare should not deter Manning from coming into the new season with confidence. The most high-profile free agent this off-season, Manning signed a five-year deal with the Broncos way back in March.

It seems to have taken an age for the superstar to finally make his debut. Now Broncos fans and the betting NFL community can look forward to another Playoff appearance this season and hopefully a Superbowl or two to come.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Excelebration Struts his Stuff in France

Aidan O’Brien’s fine miler, Excelebration, finally had his chance to shine, and duly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, when comfortable landing a high-class renewal of the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday, writes Elliot Slater.
The four-year-old colt has had the misfortune to be born into the same generation as the mighty Frankel, and no less than five times over the last couple of seasons has finished second behind Sir Henry Cecil’s all-time great in the major mile contests in Britain. 

Most recently, he slammed 11 lengths as the world champion racehorse put up arguably his greatest performance in turning Royal Ascot’s Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes into an absolute procession.

With Frankel stepping up to 10 furlongs though, the way has now been left clear for Excelebration to finally make hay while the sun shines, and he duly ‘did the business’ when quickening up well inside the final furlong to easily account for the gallant, Cityscape and Elusive Kate, with an unlucky-in-running Moonlight Cloud finishing fast to take fourth.

As long as all goes well for Frankel in the Juddmonte International Stakes at the York Ebor 2012 Festival meeting on August 22, it seems that Excelebration will have more chances to shine at a mile this term. Races like the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and possibly the Breeders’ Cup Mile in the US in November are obvious targets for the imposing son of Exceed and Excel. 

There is also the option of dropping back to sprinting. O’Brien has given his charge an entry in the six furlong Betfred Sprint Cup, and judging by the way he travels in his races and quickens, there are good grounds for believing that, if he did change tack, the Ballydoyle colt would also be a force to be reckoned with at shorter trips.

Visit the St Leger 2012 odds page on Betfair for the latest news, odds, and tips on the upcoming race meeting.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Podolski looking to influence Arsenal

New Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski believes Arsene Wenger’s men can finally fulfil their potential and win the Premier League title in the upcoming season.

The Gunners are currently on a run of seven years without atrophy, having not lifted silverware since winning the 2005 FA Cup, despite playing some of the most attractive football in Europe for most of the last decade.

The odds betting again puts them in the mix for silverware this time around, though the supporters are feeling less optimistic.

Veteran boss Wenger is famous for his preference of developing talent and his production line has seen the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy all go on to other clubs.

All three have hinted that the reason for their exit has been the North Londoners’ lack of ambition in the transfer market but there appears to have been a changing of the guard in recent months.

After finishing third last season, Wenger has decided to bring a number of more established players to the club, with Podolski arriving from German club Cologne, while the Gunners have also signed striker Olivier

Giroud from French champions Montpellier, as well as Spanish international Santi Cazorla.

The 27-year-old believes the trio’s arrival will help the Arsenal squad change their attitude and that their previous success will inspire their team-mates to pick up some decent early live scores results, starting on Saturday against Sunderland.

"The Premier League has fiveor six teams who can play for the title and we are one of them," he said."We really want to win this trophy and I hope I can score a lot of goals and make some assists to help the club in the Premier League.

"When you are a footballer you must be ready - you're on the pitch to win. Whether it is against Cologne or against Sunderland, you are a footballer and you must be ready to win matches," he added.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Horn outclassed at Olympic Games

Australian boxing fans were left reeling this week after their biggest medal hopefuls in 24 years fell at the final hurdle at London 2012.

Two of Australian boxing’s biggest names are already out after Naomi-Lee Fischer-Rasmussen and Jeff Horn both lost before reaching the semi-finals.

Without a medal since Graham Cheney’s lightweight silver in Seoul 1988, punters placed plenty of online bets backing Horn, a nippy light welterweight who has the talent to dominate his division in years to come, to come away with a place on the podium.

After defeating Zambia’s Gilbert Choombe and Abderrazak Houya of Tunisia, the 24-year-old came into London’s ExCel Arena knowing the weight of a nation was on his shoulders.

But up against Ukrainian favourite Denys Berinchyk, Horn confronted a challenge far superior to those set in the early bouts. Horn did well to physically impose himself upon Berinchyk but couldn’t bring his opponent into a proper scrap as the Ukrainian boxed his way to a 5-3 lead after the first bell.

Things went from bad to worse for the Brisbane fighter with the gap at 12-7 by the end of the second and, although he battled bravely in the third round there was nothing stopping last year’s World Championship silver medallist from coming through 21-13. It was a surprisingly heavy defeat that even line betting enthusiasts hadn’t predicted, but one in keeping with a difficult Olympic games for Australia up to this point.

Also 24 years old, Berinchyk has set the level that Horn must aspire to, while Fischer-Rasmussen was served the same treatment in the last 16 of the women’s middleweight, losing out to Sweden’s Laurell Anna 24-17.

Australian boxing will sit down after these Olympics and go through what went right and what went wrong, but it seems we will have to wait another four years before medal hopes can surface once more on the horizon.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Headingley Becoming England Curse

Whether it’s the inconsistent wicket, the swirling Yorkshire winds, or the raucous west stand, no one quite knows, but, for some reason, Headingley is fast becoming a cursed cricket ground for England.

Their most recent Test match – against South Africa, last week – ended in a draw and stretched England’s winless streak at the Yorkshire stadium to four matches. They have not won on the ground since May 2007 against a lowly West Indies, when England were at the peak of their game.

England defied the Betfair Cricket Odds to humiliatingly lose the Headingley Test during the 2009 Ashes, a match that they otherwise dominated, going down by an innings against the worst Australia team to tour in decades.

The second Test against South Africa really did hit home just how cursed Headingley is becoming. Having been completely outplayed in their first Test at the Oval, England had a fortnight to figure out what went wrong and prepare for a trip to Leeds.

They gambled in leaving out spinner, Graeme Swann, for another paceman, Steven Finn: it didn’t pay off.

Their inability to restrict South Africa in the opening innings meant a tricky 419 score had to be overturned. England’s reliance on Kevin Pietersen to bring in the runs was unnerving to watch, with none of the top six getting anywhere near a half-century, let alone KP’s 149.

South Africa were dominant in the second innings too, and again it was only Pietersen’s spin that gave England an inkling of hope: KP providing what Swann would have done, taking South Africa’s top three batsmen.

England betting fans were lucky that bad weather prevented the Proteas taking a 2-0 lead in the series, yet they were nevertheless left to scratch their heads and wonder why this ground continues to offer nothing in the way of success.

Friday, 3 August 2012

2012 Rogers Cup Preview - Women

The Rogers Cup is a good form guide ahead of the US Open. The last six finalists have all reached the final at Flushing Meadows at some time in their career and, as one of the two big events that precede the final Major of the season, it can be a good barometer of preparations for New York.

With holder and 2011 US Open runner-up, Serena Williams, absent, there is an ideal opportunity for her rivals to make a statement of intent, ahead of Flushing Meadows. The likely challengers to Williams at New York are under pressure to deliver at Montreal, none more so than Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova is 7/1 to win in the States on the Betfair Tennis webpage, behind Williams and Azarenka. 
The Russian overtook Agnieszka Radwanska as world number two after the Olympics, but she will not look back on her time in London with much fondness. A 6-0 6-1 hammering by Williams in the final, a few weeks after flattering to deceive at Wimbledon, is a major test of Sharapova’s notorious resilience. A maiden Rogers Cup triumph would restore confidence.

In contrast, Victoria Azarenka thrived at the All England club, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and picking up a gold and a bronze medal at the Olympics. A three-time semi-finalist at the Rogers Cup, the world number one thrives in the North American hard court season, but has never got past the fourth round at the US Open.

Sam Stosur was runner-up last year, a hint she was in good enough form to win at New York, but aside from a customary strong showing at Roland Garros, 2012 has been a struggle. She needs to rapidly regain form to be in with a chance of defending her US Open title.

US Open series leader, Dominika Cibulkova, is a spritely outsider in the US Open 2012 odds, whilst Angelique Kerber and Radwanska can build on strong Wimbledon showings to become genuine US Open title challengers.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

NHL: Is Nash worth the cash?

The saga and it was a saga has finally ended and Rick Nash is on his way to the New York Rangers and the Columbus Blue Jackets can start to look forward to their future in the NHL without the team revolving around one individual and there are plenty of reasons why the Columbus Blue Jackets benefited from moving Rick Nash to the New York Rangers.

Nash, still rated by many as one of the NHL picks, deserves to play for a contender and with him having gone to a team that can provide that it leaves the Blue Jackets to build a legitimate hockey team before placating the desires of a superstar.

The Nash era didn’t bring the success the Blue Jackets thought it would and they had terrible trouble in trying to find complementary talent. Whether through the draft, free agency or trade, nothing seemed to go right for them. Now at least they don’t have to deal with the demands that Nash imposed upon them, although they are a weaker team for it – but the move needed making.

The Rangers was also the right destination for the ex-captain as it means that Blue Jackets fans won’t see that much of him for the rest of his career - he is now the problem of the Northeast Division, which is arguably the best division in the NHL.

The departure of Nash has also allowed the Blue Jackets to upgrade and they will be a very different team from the abysmal team that took to the ice last season and they now look to have some strength in depth and it will be a team that is about more than one person.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a terrible history thus far in the NHL. With the movement of Rick Nash, the last bit of the old era is finally gone. Now, the team can actually concentrate on building a young and talented squad, instead of trying to cut corners for a playoff berth to appease Rick Nash.

Last season is gone and should be forgotten and it’s time for the Blue Jackets to move forward without Nash and to a brighter future, where they can harbour hope of defying NHL betting tips.