by Simon Noble - 05/24/2006
New balls please!
This week we move to Paris and serve up a Royale with Cheese while looking for a betting edge in the second Grand Slam event of the year at Roland Garros.
The French Open is tactically very different from the other three Grand Slam events and is where tennis gets dirty (and I'm not talking about Anna Kournikova). At Roland Garros, the surface of the court is made up of natural clay covered with crushed brick which slows the pace of the game down and increases the length of the rallies. This hands an advantage to players with incredible power endurance - the ability to repeat short bursts of power over a long period of time - and to quick, nimble players who can reposition themselves well after every shot.
What are some things to consider when handicapping tennis match-ups at the French Open? The most obvious is the player's recent form on clay and their conditioning during winter training. While most will come in fit and firm, the French Open punishes those who haven't done enough conditioning.
In addition to playing five sets, clay courts are conducive to long rallies. These factors led to the longest game ever at the 2004 French Open - a grueling 6 hour and 33 minute war between Santor and Clement. Another critical thing to contemplate during the tournament is if a player played a full five sets in the previous match because five set matches wear a player out both physically and mentally.
Should a high seeded player win a difficult match against a weaker opponent, consider fading that player in the next round. A tougher than expected match might indicate a player's form is worse than other recent matches would suggest. Combine that with a tired player and there might be additional value on his opponent.
If you like a certain player to win the tournament, you might find better value backing that player - especially if they are one of the longer shots - to win through each of their individual matches rather than betting them to win on the futures market. Not only will you potentially earn a higher return on your investment, but you also have more control over your money if the player suffers an injury during the earlier rounds.
The reason for this is that when sportsbooks deal futures markets, they try to maintain a semblance of balanced action and attempt to limit liability on the worst case scenario. Due to a large number of bettors playing long shots, this can often lead to grossly depressed prices on underdogs. On the other hand, this may lead to solid value on the favorites.
At Pinnacle Sportsbook, futures markets are normally priced between 110% and 135% depending on the size of the field. This compares to futures markets of greater than 200% at most traditional sports books. Even though this represents excellent value on our future markets, often even these margins won't properly reward long shot players.
When betting tournaments like the French Open it's best to estimate the moneyline quote of a player in each round. After estimating the prices for your selection to win through, you'll be able to work out the estimated parlay price. Then simply compare the projected price for your parlay to the odds on the futures market and you'll find whether the future or a win parlay would give the best possible return on investment.
Another factor to consider when betting tennis is the juice you will pay on every bet. When playing head to head match-ups, Pinnacle Sportsbetting offers the best price thanks to our 10-cent lines. This means that when you bet at Pinnacle Sports Book, you'll get up to 75% better odds on tennis than other bookmakers who use 30 or 40-cent lines. Similarly, many of our prop bets also have a 10-cent line, offering players of every level the same great value. You can often gain as much equity from sports book shopping as you can from handicapping.
What should also never be overlooked, is that many players might spend hundreds of hours handicapping individual players, but often don't spend five minutes studying the sportsbook where they play. It's critical to know the rules wherever you play - especially on tennis. You'll find that one of the areas where Internet sportsbooks vary quite a bit is how a wager is graded if a player retires due to injury.
At Pinnacle Sports, if at least two full sets are completed, we grade the match-up normally despite an injury. Other sportsbooks will refund all bets regardless of when a player retires - even when that player is hopelessly losing. Still other books might state "Las Vegas rules apply". If you must deal with an online sports book that has no listed rule or follows Las Vegas rules (which is action after one serve), you might want to confirm via email how they'll grade such a result. You might be surprised how many sportsbooks are unaware of Las Vegas rules.
What are some of the more interesting line moves this week?
Will Nadal win the French Open? Yes -104
The 19-year old Spaniard Rafael Nadal currently owns a 53-match winning streak on clay. Federer is 39-3 on the year, with all 3 losses coming to Nadal. Many see the French Open as a 2-horse race, with it a given that Nadal and Federer will meet in the final. We opened the "No" for Nadal to win at -130 (Yes +120), and early sharp money was on the "Yes". After stabilizing near Pick'em, we're seeing heavy two-way action at this number.
UFC 60: Matt Hughes (-286) v Royce Gracie (+266)
Hall of Famer Royce Gracie was considered a master practitioner of Gracie jiu-jitsu, but hasn't fought in the UFC since 1995. Hughes is the current Welterweight champion and while he's a strong wrestler, he can also knock his opponents out. We opened Matt Hughes as a -400 favorite and early sharp money quickly pushed this number down. It went as low as -240 before favorite money returned, equalizing the price at the present number.
NBA Playoff series: Dallas (-360) versus Phoenix (+330)
Dallas opened as a moderate -245 favorite to win the Western Conference Championship. While we're now taking heavy two-way action, the early bettors clearly favored Dallas. The sharps have been on Dallas for the entire playoffs, including series and conference championships.