Well, my selections in the outright winner market for the women have left me looking like a right mug! Barthel limped out in pathetic fashion, Cirstea didn't put up much of a fight against the reigning champion and Serena Williams went crashing out against a rank outsider - all in the very first round. Whilst Barthel and Cirstea were just long shots for a bit of fun that I was never likely to make much from, Serena well and truly left me open mouthed.
I wasn't at all surprised that Virginie Razzano gave her a good game. She's a former top 20 player and playing in front of her home fans on a show court, was always going to put in a fighting performance. But to win and in the manner in which she did so (coming from a set and 5-1 down in the 2nd set tie-breaker and then going 5-0 up in the final set) was truly astonishing. It's for matches like this that you fully appreciate the beauty of Twitter because you could really feel the collected sense of astonishment. There was a general feeling of not only shock but awe, as the match unfolded to a spectacular crescendo.
Williams came from 5-0 down to 5-3 and with Razzano cramping and barely able to get the ball over the net when serving, saved 7 match points in the 9th game of the set, a game which lasted 25 minutes!! That final game really had it all, with Serena throwing away several chances at break-point with some shocking returns. She even had help from the umpire, who awarded Williams 2 free points after penalising the injured Razzano for screaming out in pain several times during rallies - a clear distraction to her opponent. I held my breathe on every point, as my Serena/Novak double looked as though it was going to be safe but remarkably, the French-woman held on to win when she would surely have crumbled had she been pegged back to 5-4. I was annoyed that Williams chose this day to put in such a strange performance (her only loss on clay all year and first ever loss in the first round of a Grand Slam) but to witness such drama was worth every penny I lost.
Fortunately for me, the outright winner market is one I don't pay much attention to (this tournament was the first time I've placed a bet on this market). So whilst my pride is a little dented from the first round at Roland Garros, my actual in-play trading has more than atoned for this. Finally, I am beginning to have a Grand Slam I can be proud of! And the fact is, I chose to bet on a double because the odds for Serena and Novak to win as singles simply had no value. It saved me from getting seriously burnt, as millions will have been yesterday. This is why I don't and will never, put up single match tips or picks on this blog. In my opinion, there is very rarely any decent value available at pre-match odds in the tennis markets and certainly very little compared to what you will find in-play. I'd say on an average week, I'll be lucky to find more than one match a day where I feel there is significant value pre-match. And more often than not, that one match will provide even better value in-play.
Yet recently, I seem to be seeing more and more people tipping sub-1.5 shots on blogs and Twitter. These people need to wake up; picking a massive odds-on favourite to win is not a decent tip! It's not even a tip, really! They don't seem to realise that it's such a low price because every man and his dog also thinks they are highly likely to win and there is always a damn good reason for that. Even in-play, finding value backing under 1.5 is very difficult but pre-match, it's almost non-existent. Anything under evens is hard work.
Serena Williams was about 1.05 at SP. Nadal was 1.04 when he lost to Verdasco recently. Both were gubbed from 1.01 in-play. If 2 of the best players in the world can lose at such prices, what is it that makes people think a 1.5 shot will be easy money? And to then complain about it afterwards, saying their player didn't try or that it was 'typical WTA' (probably the worst excuse I've ever heard for a loss - if it was so typical, why did you bet on it?!) is ridiculous. No I think the moral of this French Open so far for me has been 'Why gamble when you can trade?'.
The markets are particularly volatile this week and I noticed a significant change starting a week before, in the run up to Roland Garros. The in-play markets have been much jumpier than usual, with prices crazily being offered way out of line with the norm at times. I've no doubt that this is because, with the football season over and a lull till the Euros, plus the attraction of a Grand Slam, there are a lot more new tennis traders in the market and they are not used to the quick pace and high volatility, so panic very easily. So opportunities are rife but a word of warning to any newbies - be careful! You've now seen with this incredible match (the best I've seen for excitement this year), everything that can happen in a tennis match and a tennis market!
OFF-COURT BEAUTY World number 70, American Sloane Stephens: