Saturday, 28 July 2012

London Olympics 2012: Tennis

I watched the entire opening ceremony last night and have to say, however cheesy it may sound, I was proud to be British. I love the Olympics, so was never as sceptical as many whinging Brits can be in the run up to these things but even so, I wasn't expecting to be moved emotionally by a bunch of dancers and singers! Just great that it wasn't all about matching the awesome spectacle of Beijing but about conveying Britain in a humorous, informative, innovative and at times, touching manner - a great success.

The stars are all taking part in the tennis at Wimbledon, starting today. Beijing was probably the first games where many of the world's best players started taking it seriously and this year is undoubtedly the biggest ever tennis tournament at the Olympics. Almost every single top player is taking part and desperately wants the opportunity to add a gold medal to the Grand Slams and other tournament trophies. Make no mistake; this is now considered almost as big as a Grand Slam (though the field and ranking points on offer are much smaller, on a par with a Masters 500). Very few of the top players have played during the past 2 weeks and the only player who has deliberately decided not to take part, is Mardy Fish. Apparently, he was so gutted at reaching the final and losing in 2004, that he can't face returning, so he'll be playing the 500 event in Washington next week instead.

Alexander Dolgopolov is the only other player who you'd expect to be in London, who is in Washington instead. He's easily Ukraine's best player (ranked 17), yet Sergei Stakhosvsky (94) has been given a wildcard because the Dolg doesn't meet qualification criteria of playing enough Davis Cup matches - he hasn't played at all in 5 years! Defending champion Rafa Nadal has already pulled out with an injury, so Roger Federer remains in pole position for a second gold medal to add to his doubles win in 2008. Feliciano Lopez takes Nadal's spot, with Marcel Granollers very unlucky not to make the 4 Spanish slots, as he's a top 25 player these days. Just shows how strong the Spanish depth is.

There will be a new champion for the women too, as 2008 winner Elena Dementieva has retired. Marion Bartoli has the same problem as Dolgopolov. Due to a dispute with the French federation (who won't allow her father to be involved with Federation Cup matches) she has not played for France for 8 years and so is ineligible. The only other top player not in the women's draw is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (ranked 28), who would easily qualify but suffers in the same way as Granollers - due to the fact that there are 4 better ranked Russians. Unfortunate when you consider Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein and Paraguay's Veronica Cepede-Royg have been offered wildcard places by the Olympic Tripartite Commission, despite being ranked 233 and 188. I have never heard of either but I'm guessing they are trying to even up representation for certain nations/continents.

This is basically Wimbledon Mark 2, so another Roger/Serena double would not surprise me in the slightest. None of the genuine men's contenders have played a single match since Wimbledon, so it's difficult to pick based on recent form. Of the top 10, only Janko Tipsarevic and David Ferrer have been in action, both winning titles on clay. Juan Monaco is newly in at number 10, after he won Hamburg. These three should be best equipped to hit the ground running and will be confident. 

Serena Williams won in Stanford, so we know she's on a hot streak still, but the other top ladies have all rested completely since Wimbledon. Dominica Cibulkova comes into the Olympics with a title under her belt in Carlsbad and so she will be a dark-horse to watch - playing superbly and close to a top 10 spot now. Watch out for Brits Laura Robson and Heather Watson too. Both will have the usual home support they get at Wimbledon but will be really enthused about this tournament because they only just qualified at the last moment by taking the place of injured Petra Martic and Alona Bondarenko.

Losing finalist Aga Radwanska knocked Watson out of Wimbledon but a kinder draw could see her go far and she's got one for the first round at least, in Silvia Soler-Espinoza. Robson had her best ever tournament on the main tour a couple of weeks ago, reaching the semi final in Palermo and so is in the best form of her short career. She has a tougher draw against Lucie Safarova but from what I saw in Palermo, Robson is more than capable of winning and causing a few upsets next week.

Another key thing to take note of, is that all men's matches are best of 3 sets, unlike the slams. This can work against the top players, as they are less likely to recover from a bad start and have less time for their class to shine through, as they would do in a best of 5 set match. It is more likely that players who are not as strong on the fitness side of the game but are technically superb (such as Gasquet or Youzhny) will go further into the tournament. For example, you'd never expect Gasquet to beat Murray over 5 sets but over 3, he's always got a fighting chance - and they are scheduled to meet at the Olympics!

So once again, we ask the question: can Murray win at Wimbledon? Of course he can but as with Wimbledon, the Scot has a tough draw on paper and 'best of 3' makes it even tougher, in my opinion. Nadal is out the way but he would still meet Djokovic in the semis if they both came through as expected (which leaves Federer a nice 'easy' route to the final). But if the sun we've finally had in England over recent days, decides to stick around, it would mean an outdoor match if he meets Federer. And as I said during Wimbledon, that changes everything.

NB: Can you name the 8 tennis players who carried their nation's flag at the opening ceremony? Answers in my next post!

Marta Domachowska:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Iverson v Cassini: The Sultan Sticks His Oar In!

A very interesting debate has been sparked between two heavyweight traders (in terms of fame as opposed to obesity) Mark Iverson and Cassini. I'm sure you've already read the post on Green All Over, so I won't regurgitate it here. All I wanted to add was a few points of my own and my comments ended up too long to add to Cassini's blog!

Firstly, in an ideal world, where every trader had the same personality and the same set of circumstances, clearly Cassini is correct. We should never let an arbitrary date on the calender affect our trading in any way. I've mentioned ever since I began this blog that I don't set monetary goals and believe short-term monetary targets in particular, can be very damaging. However...........we are not all trading under those 'ideal' circumstances and we all think and act very distinctly as individuals.

Pressure is a major factor in how we act as traders and as someone who has traded full-time with my entire livelihood dependant on the amount I make each month, I fully understand what Mark is doing. I don't necessarily agree with it but I do empathise. Let's not forget, Cassini trades part-time and has never as far as I'm aware, experienced the pressure of trading for a living. That's fantastic; it's the ideal way to trade and I only wish I had gone down the same route but that's irrelevant right now. I don't think anyone can knock someone's methods unless they have either a) been in the exact same position or b) can get inside the mind of that trader and know exactly what they are doing.

The pressures involved in part-time trading are not even close to full-time trading. When you have to pay the rent, mortgage, bills etc, every month, then the end of each month is not just an arbitrary date - it becomes one where if you don't have enough money, you are in a lot of trouble. As a part-time trader, Cassini can trade what he wants, when he wants. He doesn't have to trade anything at all for the entire YEAR if he doesn't want to. I doubt Mark has that luxury! With full-time trading, it all comes down to pressure and how that affects your mindset. You can argue that if Mark is feeling that pressure to the point where he treats trades differently depending on the day of the month, then he is doing something very wrong. But we don't know his personal circumstances. We don't know what his P&L is at the end of each month. If what he does works for him, then that is all that matters.

A big part of trading is knowing yourself; how your mind reacts in certain situations. If Mark has decided that towards the end of the month, he would rather play it safe, knowing his family is taken care of and knowing that this will enable him to trade better because it calms him or keeps his decision making stable or prevents him from panicking, then that is the best way for HIM to trade. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or what the ideal way to trade is. I know that some traders (myself included) during a bad spell, will slightly adjust the way they trade by cutting winning trades shorter than they normally would to take a couple of smaller greens and stabilize things. I'm pretty sure Cassini has done something similar following large losses because I seem to remember reading about it on his own blog (I'm setting myself up for a fall here but I remember it because it surprised me so much!). Is this really that different to what Mark does? We should always let our winning trades run as long as we feel the value remains but as far as I'm concerned, if I have wracked up lots of consecutive reds or am starting to feel agitated or frustrated at missing opportunities, I know myself well enough to understand that I might need to take action before I lose control. If that means playing it safer for a short period, then so be it.

You can argue all day long that I shouldn't feel that way if I trust my strategy but sometimes, we just have to go with what works best for us as individuals. The frustration thing is something I'm constantly working on and until the day comes when I am able, like Cassini perhaps, to just sit back and relax with a huge bank behind me and a quarter of a million profit on Betfair (I think he's almost there!) and no worries paying bills month to month, I'm going to stick to whatever helps to keep my little bank in tact. I admit that I no longer have the same monthly pressure of needing to make a certain amount to live off (and this helps massively when keeping calm at the end of each month) but I have been there and understand the pressures and I don't even have a family to look after, like Mark. For the record, I don't ease up at the end of each month but I have done in the past.

A huge thing I've learnt over the past year that's really helped me become a better trader, is that sometimes it's better not to fight against your emotions. Often, it's better to accept them and deal with them in the easiest way possible. It's possible that Mark is actually playing it too cautiously and doesn't really have any of the emotional issues that I have or any serious financial issues either. In that case, he has maybe just got into a mindset which is a bad habit and could even be holding him back from doing better. But then, if he is content with what he's making, what does it matter? Sometimes traders worry far too much about what others are doing and should concentrate on themselves. There's more than one way to skin a cat with sports trading!

Camila Giorgi:

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Big 'Thank You' to Betfair

It's been really interesting for me to compare where I was and see how I was feeling last year, to the same date this year. As I showed in my previous post, I was at another huge low with my trading in July 2011. You may remember that this was also the time when Betunfair introduced the 40-60% Premium Charge. A lot of the big players moved over to Betdaq during the initial furore, bleeding the market dry of a lot of money, particularly on the lay side. Whilst I can't blame this entirely for my struggles (I was burnt out and my focus was appalling, plus I didn't have a consistent, proven strategy anyway) it certainly didn't help. I found it much more difficult to get matched, as people fought over the thinning pot that was available, forcing prices down way below their true value.

Now of course, things have changed since then and the big players have pretty much all reverted back to Betunfair and getting matched would no longer be an issue. But what happened forced me to change my entire way of thinking and trading, fundamentally. At first, I panicked and started to worry that the markets changing spelt the end for my dreams of making it as a tennis trader. But rather than give up or carry on with a losing strategy, I started (reluctantly!) to look into other ways of doing things. Through August and September 2011, I got back to doing something I had neglected for a long time - hard work. I came up with various plans to help with my focus, patience and discipline, started reading a few more financial trading books to see if there was anything else I could pick up and most importantly, started trying to look at the markets in different ways. I wanted to see if there were better strategies out there that might suit my personality more and most importantly, be more viable than the one I'd manufactured myself and had been reluctant to move away from for so long.

It took till November for me to come up with all the answers I was looking for but I did eventually find the seeds that were to grow into the strategy I use today. A year on and I can honestly say that I am becoming a decent trader and it's all thanks to our favourite betting exchange - cheers, Betunfair! If it wasn't for your disgusting disregard for your customers and insatiable, rapacious greed, the traders who you unfairly taxed an extra 30% of winnings, would never have disappeared, forcing me to re-evaluate my entire way of trading. Instead, I would probably have continued with an ailing strategy and it may have been many months until I finally realised a change was needed - or I might have just given up or crashed n burned. At the time, I always believed that my strategy was fine, it was ME that was the problem. I felt that in the right hands, the system would be profitable but I needed to change as a person, in order to make it work. I'll never truly know if I was correct but my guess is, I wasn't.

My results were poor over a reasonably long period but I always put that down to my awful discipline. I think this is a dangerous crutch that traders often use. We convince ourselves that if we just improve with cutting our losses earlier and getting rid of those big reds, our P&L will improve drastically. That may well be true in many cases but I think it's easy to over-look those winning trades that perhaps, with proper discipline, would not have been winning trades at all. And when our strategy hits a good spell, we often don't recognise that it might just be variance working in our favour short-term. So instead of staying level-headed and waiting for a better, long-term picture of how things are working, we get over-confident, increase stakes and stop analysing and working hard. I believe that is exactly what happened to me last year.

However good or bad it may have turned out to be, one thing I'm sure of is that my old strategy was nowhere near as suitable for me as my current one. Looking back, I think it was over-complicated, far too risky, inflexible and lacking in basic fundamentals such as 'value'. But I was scared to even consider changing it because I couldn't face the fact I may have to throw 12 months graft down the drain. In the end, that is exactly what I did and I haven't looked back. This past week has been my best ever week of trading and I'm on course for another record-breaking month and that all-important 6 months of consistency. And it's all thanks (inadvertently) to Betunfair!

Sorana Cirstea:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Trading is Easy

The title of this post is a phrase I despise. It is one of the biggest fallacies of trading and was something that I read on numerous occasions when I first began to learn. You don't seem to see it quite so often these days I've noticed, though maybe that's because I don't spend any time on the Betfair forum! But every now and then, I will still see a sentence such as 'it is relatively easy to profit from this strategy' or 'you should be able to make money easily this way' or 'easy money'. It really gets my back up because I don't believe that anyone who is long term successful at trading would ever say such a thing. I always conclude that there are 4 types of trader who will ever say that trading is easy: scammers, liars, the short-term profitable and people with a system to sell. The former and the latter are often one and the same, though not always.

I was very surprised recently when I saw someone I'd always believed was very reputable and certainly knew his stuff, claim that it was quite easy to make money from trading tennis. Broken down to its bare bones, trading is very simple - buy low, sell high. I am of the belief that we as individuals, over-complicate matters with intricate systems and in-depth stats that for the most part, can probably be disregarded. And making money over a short period is, in theory, very easy to do. A monkey could randomly tap the mouse pad to enter a bet and it could end up a winner. But if it's that easy to win, then it's just as easy to lose. And whilst anyone can make money over the short-term if variance starts out in their favour, over the long run, sustaining a profitable income is very, very difficult. Besides, anyone who has followed this blog from the start will know that tennis trading is anything but easy!

That said, I can now say with certainty, that although trading is not easy, it does get easier. Like most things that we learn, there is a curve. It starts off steep and tough, then we reach a hump where it may plateau and seem like no progress is being made and then eventually (if you don't give up) you should free-wheel downhill to easy street. I'm pleased to report that finally, I feel as though I am going down the slope. Trading is no longer a struggle for me and when you look at this post and see where I was exactly a year ago, you will understand just how much this means to me:

Rest and Recuperation

One of my goals for 2012 was to put together 6 months of consistent, solid profitability. I knew that if I could do that, I could really make a go of sports trading, professionally. Well, July will be my 6th straight month of clear profit, if I can hold it together for just 2 more weeks - and I'm well on course. As a result, I have more confidence now that my bank is decent, which allows me to relax more and take on slightly riskier trades and go for larger greens. I never have doubts about the strategy I use because I know it has performed over a reasonable period of time and this gives great mental stability when I'm in a  bad spell of variance.

Best of all, I look forward to trading every day. I'm able to enjoy the tennis much more and part of what drives me to do well is that I find it fascinating learning about the players and how each one is at a different stage in their career and going through different challenges.  To me, it's like a soap opera; a constantly changing series of plots and sub-plots, with each player a distinct character that makes up the rich tapestry of the ATP and WTA tours. When I was struggling with trading, I started to lose that passion for the actual tennis and in turn, this affected my focus. Now that trading comes much easier to me, I've found everything much more engrossing, like it was when I first started.

So whilst I will never say that trading is easy (who knows how the markets might change or my personal life may affect things) if you have the durability and the willpower, it can become much easier. Now let's see whether I've jinxed things..........

Caroline Wozniacki:

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Less is More

Perhaps the thing I've struggled with most as a trader, is patience. It's something I've talked about numerous times on this blog and is still something I seem to have a weekly battle against. But the tide is turning and one of the main reasons for that is Twitter. It has really helped to put the amount of trading I do into perspective. When you are trading, it is so easy to slip into your own little world and lose perspective. As a solitary activity, you can become completely lost in your own thoughts, to the extent that you no longer recognise just how many trades you are getting involved with and how many hours you spend on the ladders.

Over the past few months, I've started to realise that trading is all about quality, not quantity. Rather than getting involved in as many games as I can and aiming for several all-green screens, I have now changed my philosophy. My aim now is simply to bide my time, wait patiently and attack only at optimum moments. I know that I only need to catch one medium sized move a day (30-70 ticks) and I'm in a strong position for the week. This means totally disregarding the vast majority of matches, including some that I've set aside as potentially strong matches to trade. This is  a skill in itself because there are so many temptations. The Tuesday before Wimbledon for example, there were 29 in-play singles matches, spread over 4 lower level ATP & WTA tournaments - a bog-standard mid-week day. But still a lot of matches and a lot of temptations. Over the course of a standard week, that escalates into well over a hundred potential opportunities - and it's far more than that with football. It takes a hell of a lot of restraint for the average trader or punter to pick out a small handful of matches alone.

Since I joined Twitter, I've really noticed how some people seem to be involved in so much. I'm not being critical because I used to be very similar. As a football trader, I would be involved in every match that I could. If there was a 9am Indian I-League match on, I would play it. If Saturday morning started with a 7am J-League match, I wouldn't be having a weekend lie-in. And if I had to stay up late trading Copa Libertadores and MLS, then I'd be there till sunrise. As a tennis trader, the temptations are less because we don't have round-the-clock matches available and I am thankful for that. There are still parts of the year where it's possible to trade for close to 24 hours in-play, but not that often and I've learnt that it just isn't worth it.

But there are traders out there who won't stop at one sport; cricket, golf, football, tennis, NFL, NBA, F1 and even more obscure stuff can and is traded regularly by some. I'm quite shocked when I see on Twitter, blogs and forums, the quantity of trades that some get through. It can't be healthy and I know from personal experience that being sat at a PC screen for so long, stressing out, is only going to be detrimental to your trading. Obviously, much of this over-trading will be down to chasing losses but I think even a successful trader can be dragged into getting involved with matches that they should just leave. I think it's mostly down to human nature, in that we all have this desire to be right in our opinion. The problem with trading is that if we are right and we haven't gotten involved in the match, we are naturally pissed off. The more this happens, the more we want to take on opportunities that might be borderline, so it doesn't happen again.

Taking a loss is something which I have no problem with these days but sometimes, I still get riled when I opt out of a trade after some deliberation, only to see that it would've given me a nice green.  I've had to learn to really control my frustration and to accept that I'm going to miss out on  a few wins. I may even go through an entire day without placing a trade, which is something I would've found inconceivable even at the start of this year. That's a huge mental adjustment to make but is something that is becoming ingrained now.

The thing that helped me adjust to that the most, was realising that the more games you trade, the more likely it is that you will hit a long and nasty spell of bad variance. I've hit runs of 15-20 losses on the spin on several occasions but they would span over just 2 or 3 days. That isn't happening anymore because I'm far more selective. It will take me an entire week to trade that many games now and  because my selections are much tighter, the win-loss ratio is generally better and I don't have such long losing runs. I'm not saying that you can't profit  by getting involved in dozens of trades or several sports a day but I'd be very surprised if any long term successful professional sports traders, played more than a handful of games a week (though perhaps scalping horse races is different). I'd be even more surprised if they didn't specialise in just one or two sports.

 Anastasia Pivovarova:

Monday, 9 July 2012

Wimble-done: Back to the Grind

So finally, after 76 years, Britain has a male winner at Wimbledon! Congratulations Mr Jonathan Marray, the nation's new hero! In all seriousness though, what Marray achieved alongside doubles partner Freddie Nielsen of Denmark, should not be taken lightly. Marray only got into Wimbledon as a wildcard. He was ranked 76 in doubles, 2 off his best of 74. He has no singles ranking at all. Nielsen was ranked 318 in singles and 111 in doubles. They had only become partners because Marray's usual partners didn't rank high enough to qualify for Wimbledon, so Marray asked the Dane to accompany him. They'd only played together twice before; both small, Challenger tour events in Nottingham, during the weeks leading up to Wimbledon. They were up against seasoned doubles specialists who had played together successfully for years, such as the pair they beat in the final, Lindstedt and Tecau, who had lost twice in the Wimbledon final before. They beat the greatest doubles pairing of all time, the Bryan brothers, in the semi finals; reigning Wimbledon champs and winner of 80 ATP titles. That's quite a feat!

Of course, it is Andy Murray's defeat to Federer and subsequent tears that will be remembered. I was surprised at Federer's nervous start to the match but as I predicted, this match was going to be dictated by the weather and once it became an indoor match, Federer was never going to lose. You had to be made of stone not to feel even a little sympathy for Murray, who finally showed some emotion after his fourth defeat in a Grand Slam final. Judging from my Twitter timeline, the tearful speech he gave still won't be enough to stop people hating him. All I can say is, there are a lot of very bitter, pathetic individuals out there. Tim Henman never reached a final of any Slam, so to read people jeering Murray for crying was ridiculous, especially as these will be the same people who slate him for not showing enough emotion! He just can't win with some people.

I think after 2 weeks of intense pressure and the immense physical and mental effort he exerted in that final in particular (where he really showed much greater positivity and spirit than I've ever seen from him), he was completely drained and it all came out in front of the world. I am sure this will turn a few of the haters around, as let's be honest, he has never been great with a microphone in front of him. He deserves much more respect because he hasn't actually ever done anything wrong. He just doesn't have an engaging personality, like a Djokovic or a Federer. Sure, he doesn't do himself any favours with some of his on-court antics (the injury faking, swearing and constant negativity) but hopefully, that is now a thing of the past - Lendl seems to be working some magic.

Let's not go over-board about the speech though. It was no different in content to any speech given by a losing finalist at any event. But it definitely showed a softer side to Andy that I think most people who aren't riddled with jealousy or malice, will appreciate. He'll still remain a dour, monotone Scot but I'm willing to bet he's no more miserable than the majority of people who slag him off for 2 weeks then never watch another tennis match for a whole year. Good riddance to that lot for 12 months!

We can now settle back down to the daily grind of 250s and International events. Wimbledon was a great tournament for me but after a quiet second week, it's nice to get back to a jam-packed schedule and this week is the busiest of the entire year so far, with 6 tournaments to get my teeth into. 3 ATP events take place on clay (Umag, Bastad and Stuttgart) and one on grass (Newport), plus a WTA event on clay (Palermo) and another on hard (Stanford). So things are going to be very busy for me as I attempt to raise my stakes. A shame they are all crammed in together but with the Olympics starting soon, I guess it couldn't be avoided. Hopefully, the Murray bile won't resurface in London that week................

Tsvetana Pironkova:

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Marray: Finally a British Wimbledon Winner?

Are 76 years of hurt about to end this weekend? Britain finally has a male finalist at Wimbledon and the nation is poised to celebrate a winner for the first time since 1936. Can all those years of promise be fulfilled? We'll find out later today, as Jonny Marray, alongside Denmark's Freddie Nielsen, take part in the doubles final!

Sunday sees miserable Scot Andrew Murray, playing some Swiss bloke in the singles final. Typical eh? You wait three quarters of  a century for one men's finalist and two come along at once! There is official 'Murray-mania' in the UK this weekend, although you'd be forgiven for thinking that much of that mania consists of negative vibes. If you tune into any British radio station, read any internet forum or sports publication, there is always a large swell of animosity towards the man who is arguably the greatest tennis player ever to come from the UK. This will seem alien to non-Brits because we do have a curious phenomenon on these shores, for not always backing our top talent. Let's make no mistake though; the majority of British people (both English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish) WILL be supporting Murray in the final, without question.

But there is undeniably a large minority who dislike Andy Murray so intensely as a person, that they would prefer Federer to win. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, he is one of the most sour-faced, dull, miserable, surly and charmless people that have ever picked up a tennis racquet. Even his greatest supporters would struggle to deny that. When he first came to the public's attention as a top player, he was dreadful in front of the camera; always trying to get away from interviews as quickly as possible and saying as little of interest as he could. Worst of all, he wouldn't even attempt to hide his displeasure at his valuable time being taken up. In recent years, you can see he's had media training and advisers have clearly told him to be nicer to the press. You still can barely get anything out of him other than standard cliches in a muffled, monotone, drone but at least he attempts to engage the public a little more.

Basically, Andy Murray comes across as someone you wouldn't want to have a pint with down the pub and this, above anything else, is considered a cardinal sin in Britain. You can get away with almost anything in this country, so long as you are seen as being a decent bloke you can have a drink with. Look at our last great tennis star, Tim Henman. He never reached a Grand Slam final, just a few semis at Wimbledon. Yet the nation loves him in a way that Murray will never experience, even if he wins Wimbledon for 10 years straight. It comes back to one simple reason - personality. Henman is everything Murray is not; charming, affable, politely spoken, inoffensive, always positive, smiley - and English.

Which brings me onto reason number two. Despite what many non-Brits might think, the malice shown towards Murray has little to do with the fact he's Scottish. The average Englishman couldn't care less where Murray is from. We love Welshmen like footballer Ryan Giggs (even though he's a dirty love rat). We love Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy. And we love Scottish Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Hoy. But it was Andy Murray himself who brought up the issue of Anglo-Celt rivalry, which turned so many English people against him. Back in 2006, Murray famously responded to an interview question about the football world cup by saying 'I'll be supporting anyone but England'. He was also reported to have worn a Paraguay shirt on the day England played them. This was picked up by national tabloid newspapers and made to look like Murray was having a dig at England, which infuriated millions of people. Many cited him as 'ungrateful' to the English because he was funded by the English Lawn Tennis Association. The actual comments were taken out of context, as Murray was just responding in a jovial manner to some light-hearted teasing from Tim Henman (who was being interviewed jointly) and the Daily Mail's Des Kelly, who brought up the fact that Scotland hadn't even qualified for the world cup. And Murray denies that he ever wore a Paraguay shirt. So it has been blown out of proportion but unfortunately, these important details are not known or over-looked, whilst the angry headlines have stuck indelibly in the mind of the public and are just another stick to beat him with.

However you view Andy as a person (and I'll admit that I don't like him either) you cannot deny his outstanding talent as a sportsman. And if you do (and reading some betting forums, there are people who slate his tennis too) then I'm sorry but you know nothing about tennis. As an Englishman and a Brit, I'll be very pleased if Murray wins Wimbledon. It's not his job to be jolly and witty and charismatic. As someone on my Twitter timeline said yesterday "Eddie the Eagle Edwards was always laughing like a loony and it never did him any good!" Eddie is always cited as the typical example of the British public loving a loser, as long as he was a nice bloke who tried his best. He was a laughing stock as an obscure ski-jumper at the Olympics but even he will be loved by more people than our greatest ever player of one of the world's most popular sports. If Murray does win Wimbledon, I'm sure many people will start to come round (as if one extra win will suddenly make a difference) though then he'll start to gain a new set of haters - people who will be waiting for him to fall off the pedestal and start losing, so they can gleefully bash him. It's what we tend to do in this country - build 'em up then knock 'em down. We don't hate winners, we just hate winners who aren't humble and who maybe wouldn't have a drink with us down the local. Go figure!

However, whether I'll be truly celebrating his victory will depend entirely on whether he has cost me a red or gained me a green! Trading wise, if there is any value at SP, it's all on Murray. Federer is sub-1.5 as I type, which looks pretty ridiculous considering the head to head (9-7 Murray). However, a number of things are in the Swiss's favour. Firstly, he doesn't have the weight of expectation. He's been there and done it many times before and Murray has lost 3 slam finals already, without even picking up a set. Federer has already beaten him in a final this year, in Dubai, in straight sets. So psychologically, there's no doubt where the pressure lies. Also, if the roof comes on (which it looks like it will judging from the weather forecast) then Federer is in his element. He is the best indoor player in the world and although Murray is good indoors, he's better outdoors because the slower conditions allow him to chase down more balls. Indoors, Federer will be more able to finish points quickly with his offensive tennis and unless Murray can up his aggression too, he'll find it hard to live with Roger with the form he is showing - he'll be world number one again if he wins.

So whilst 1.5 looks an attractive lay, I won't be touching it. I expect the roof to be on, I expect Federer to come out hard and fast as he always does and I expect him to take the first set. He may be worth a lay after that, as Murray will surely take at least one set but he will need to play his best ever tennis to win on Sunday. It's possible that might happen but I just think with the roof on, it's  a step too far. If by some miracle the rain stays away, then we are talking a whole new ball game...............but you are probably better off backing Jonny Marray to win Wimbledon!

NB: Women's final - Radwanska is my favourite player (the most all-round talented player in women's tennis) but it's Williams all the way. That is all. Hope I'm wrong!

Flavia Pennetta:

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Golden Bagel, Golden Wimbledon, Golden June

The first week at SW19 comes to a close and in every way possible, it's been a golden tournament. Firstly, the tennis itself has been fantastic, with plenty of upsets, closely fought battles and exciting drama. The pick of the matches was of course, Rafa Nadal's defeat to world number 100 Lukas Rosol. People who don't watch tennis that much will often show disbelief when a player ranked that low beats a well-known name but my approach to tennis, sport in general and trading, is that anything can happen and you should never discount anyone in any match up. Anyone who plays the game professionally can always put in a display like we saw from Rosol, where he went for everything and just didn't miss. The quick conditions aided his big-hitting style of play and Nadal (although he had an off day) didn't play all that badly, there just wasn't much he could do against the power and accuracy coming at him.

The main difference between a player like Rosol and a top star like Nadal, is consistency. Nadal plays closer to the top of his game far more often than Rosol and when he does have an off day, he is still able to win matches. With Rosol, he is not able to sustain that level of performance for more than one or two games on the spin.  And that is why I confidently predicted he would lose his next match, which he duly did very easily to Phillip Kohlschreiber. There were some people on Twitter who were proclaiming that a 'new star is born' and that Rosol could go on to win Wimbledon, which did make me laugh. At 26, he is not young in tennis terms, so if he was that gifted, he would've ranked far higher than he had done so far in his career (high of 65). The truth is, Rosol is a 50-150 player, no better and will almost certainly continue to flit in and out of the top 100.

I can't deny though, that once he'd lost the first set, I never expected a come-back and was genuinely shocked to see Nadal out. Not as shocked as I was to see the level of brown-nosed, arse-licking that Nadal received when interviewed by the BBC afterwards! He was labelled a 'true gentleman' and a 'class act' for giving up his precious time after a defeat - truly puke-inducing, especially as it is obligatory for players to speak to the press after matches. He wasn't so classy on-court, as he acted like a small child, complaining about Rosol time-wasting - the most hyprocritical piece of irony I have ever heard in my life, seeing as it came from the tour's biggest time-waster!

With Nadal out, things are looking a lot rosier for Andy Murray, who has a 'clear' path to the final now. I wouldn't rule out Jo Wilfried Tsonga from dumping him out before then though! Federer was given a real scare from Julien Benneteau of all people. Benneteau has beaten him before and was just two points away from doing it again (and netting me a huge green!) but the Swiss Maestro remains on course for a showdown with Djokovic in the semi final.

You have to feel it's Novak's crown again but Murray is looking very strong and will be battle-hardened if he does reach the final, as his draw is far tougher than the Serb's. Could this be the tournament he finally gets his Slam? Don't bet against it! The drama in his match against Baghdatis was very unusual, as he fought against the clock to get the match finished! Officials were ready to stop the match at 11pm dead-on. Murray still needed another set to win at 10.35, so it was a race to prevent the game being re-started on Sunday. Murray blazed through the fourth set and managed to start the final game a fraction before 11, winning the match at 11.02 - just in the nick of time!

Further drama evolved at the same time, as Marin Cilic beat Sam Querrey in the second longest Wimbledon match of all time - five and a half hours! Cilic is one of 4 players I picked as outsiders who might run deep through Wimbledon, that are still in the draw going into week 2 (Malisse, Youzhny and Kohlschreiber are the others) - not bad going!

The women's draw has had a few upsets but no Rosol-esque shocks. Bartoli lost to Mirjana Lucic but she is strong on grass and was a Wimbledon semi finalist many years ago. Li Na went out to Sorana Cirstea but I don't think that surprised too many traders. Cirstea is always a danger and Li has been very up and down all year. Stosur's exit to Arantxa Rus shocked many but not me. I predicted in my last post that she would go out early to a lower ranked player and that's exactly what happened. She traded at 1.04 in that match too, a price I snapped up greedily for my best trade of the tournament so far. Sharapova and Serena were both given tough rides, dropping sets to Zheng and Pironkova but they still remain the two to beat, in my opinion. Clijsters and Kvitova are both looking very good though and Kerber is still a dangerous dark-horse. Tamira Paszek also continues into week 2 and is the only female left in the draw from my 'outsider' picks. Her match against Wozniacki was a belter and my fave of the week.

The two biggest stories have included the rise of the teenage Italian ranked 145, Camila Giorgi, who came through qualifying and has knocked out Pennetta and Petrova (who was in stunning form) to reach round 4. She looks a real talent, watch out for her next week.  Then there was the incredible Golden Bagel! Wild card Yaroslava Shvedova won her first set against Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani without dropping a single point! 24-0! I have never seen or heard of that happening before, so I assumed the stats were wrong when I first saw them! Shvedova went on to dump out the Italian in straight sets. Not really a shock as she is a good grass court player but it's not every day you witness a perfect set.

Wimbledon has also been a golden week for me personally. The first two weeks of the grass season had been a bit disappointing. With all the rain delays and windy conditions, my trading was largely spoilt and I lost focus and traded poorly at times. This week though, has turned my month around and showed that grass makes no difference whatsoever to the effectiveness of my strategy. The opportunities have come thick and fast and it is rapidly turning into my best ever tournament. My focus and confidence have never been better and I have decided to wait no longer - I am going to begin increasing stakes for the first time in 2 years. Now things are about to get very interesting..............

Camila Giorgi: