Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sultan's Blacklist

Often you'll see on betting forums people mention they have a 'blacklist' of teams or players they supposedly will no longer bet on. This is nearly always an over-the-top reaction because they've made a poor bet and lost. But there are undoubtedly teams and players that have an uncanny knack of throwing away good leads, losing their heads or just being very erratic. With tennis, I find it is usually the players with the most natural talent that are like this. They look like world-beaters one minute and the next they are crumbling as if they had never set foot on a court in their life. That is a dangerous combination because we as traders can keep getting sucked into believing that this time will be different. Sometimes, it will be, which makes it even harder to resist temptation to give them another chance. The Australian Open has already served up many of my potential 'blacklist' players.

Fernando Verdasco

How on earth did he manage to lose that game against Bernard Tomic? He was completely in command, playing superb, attacking, bold and confident tennis, the kind we don't see regularly enough from the Spaniard. Tomic is wilting at the other end. He's clearly ill and doesn't seem to have any desire or energy for a fight in the Melbourne heat. The crowd is quiet and he's playing passively. I am all green by now and so confident that I stick the lot on Fernando. Tomic calls out the trainer but then refuses his help when he arrives. From that point on, Verdasco disintegrates. Tomic (barely even trying), somehow wins the 3rd set and Verdasco mentally capitulates. He's talking to himself, chuntering at his box, wildly gesticulating with his hands, pulling that inane, wry smile he always pulls when things aren't going his way.

Tomic still seems ready to give up but probably just looking at Verdasco's body language is enough to keep him going. He levels it at 2-2 and now Tomic has belief he can win and ups his game. He's now playing Verdasco off the park but despite this, the Spaniard keeps saving break points. I decide to keep all my green on Verdasco as he's playing clutch tennis on his serve, world-class stuff. I remember a year ago at the Australian Open, he almost knocked out Rafa Nadal. He's probably the closest thing to Nadal on the tour, with the way he plays. But he will let you down when you least expect it. Except really, I should say when you MOST expect it - I just keep giving him one more chance to prove me wrong. He didn't.

Jarmilla Gajdosova

Another player I cannot stand. Her power, stroke-play and timing of the ball are as good as anyone on the tour but time and time again, she loses her head and with it, her ability. She would be an absolute nightmare as a girlfriend, you can see it in her eyes and her body language. I'm not surprised her and Sam Groth's marriage didn't last! I remember him being her coach too - bad idea! She was always arguing with him and he looked as though he required the patience of a saint. It only takes one bad point from her and she seems to crack. And when she cracks, it's like Teutonic plates shifting.

She becomes an unforced error machine and doesn't ever seem to have the self-realisation that she needs to take some pace off the ball and just keep the damn thing in play for a bit! And that sulky look and shoulder-shrugging she does must give her opponent a massive lift. She looked beaten after the very first game against Maria Kirilenko on Monday. To be fair, she at least stuck it out and didn't give up, as she appeared to do in recent matches.

In the Hopman Cup against Marion Bartoli, she stormed out the blocks, hitting three breathtaking winners. She then missed an easy put-away at 40-0 and that was it - mentally finished. Gajdosova was broken and lost the match without winning a single game - double bageled! Yet knowing her fragile mind-set, I still got involved, taking what appeared to be a value early price against Kirilenko but not taking into account my past experience of this girl. Just like what I was saying in my previous post - I didn't factor this instinct about Gajdosova into the price. The look on her face told you that she never believed she was going to win that game.

The thing is, you can guarantee that whenever I decide to stay away from the aforementioned players, they will put in an amazing display of shot-making. Gajdosova almost beat Wozniacki last year and probably should have done, as she was brilliant except when it really mattered on the key points. It just goes to show how important the mind is when it comes to sport - and that's no different with trading.

***Other hypothetical black-list players include: Sania Mirza, Alexander Dolgopolov, Aravane Rezai, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sam Stosur, Fabio Fognini, Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Jelena Dokic, Klara Zakopalova, Nadia Petrova and Stanislas Wawrinka all of whom have done me time and time again. They are all capable of giving the very best a run for their money but are just as likely to lose to someone ranked 250. All have one thing in common - supremely naturally gifted but flawed mentally. Except Stosur - she's just flawed mentally.

OFF-COURT BEAUTY: World number 29, Maria Kirilenko of Russia:


  1. Fair list, but I must disagree about Stosur. Over the last six or seven years, she's been mentally tougher than anyone on the WTA tour ( along with Schiavone ), during a time when so many talents have fallen away through mental fragility. I accept that she's not coped with becoming a grand slam champion and the expectation that brings, but I wouldn't write her off.

    By the way, I wrote a note a couple of years ago on a similar subject -

  2. Over 6 or 7 years, I'd agree but I've only been trading for 2 years and she's been a nightmare for me for much of that time! Came good at the US Open obviously but up to and after then, she'd been terrible for the most part.

    It's not a real blacklist anyway, I'm not daft enough to actually write anyone off. I just know that some players need keeping a closer eye on than others ;)


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