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Tennis anyone? Bet on it!

Aug 28, 2001 5:24 AM

The U.S. Open tennis tournament starts this week. Having just written that I’m afraid I lost half my audience.

Unlike in Europe, wagering on tennis is not a big deal in Nevada.

While golf and NASCAR have gained tremendous popularity with bettors here, tennis still hasn’t caught on.

The handle on tennis is minuscule, something like less than a half of one percent.

It’s too bad because sometimes you can find good handicapping opportunities. We’ll get back to that angle shortly, but first why doesn’t tennis draw more betting action?

“This is not a tennis town,” said Gerry Springer, club tennis pro at Sunset Park and an avid sports bettor. “We do 10 tournaments a year for adults.

“If you go to Phoenix, you can play a tournament every week out of 52, and probably 40 of those weeks you can pick the east side or west side.”

Lack of knowledge also hurts tennis. Aside from the top players, most people can’t name many tennis players. 

“People don’t know most of the pros,” Springer said.

The sports books only post odds on the four grand slam events. The U.S. Open, played in New York, is the only tournament convenient for people in this country to watch the matches live.

Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are the only tournaments that really draw any bets. Smaller sports books might not even post odds on the French Open and Australian Open.

Most of the money coming in on tennis is on matchups. However, the books don’t start posting matchups until the quarterfinals or semifinals.

Jay Kornegay, race and sports book director at the Imperial Palace, believes it would be easier to book and bet tennis if the draw was more publicized, similar to how the NCAA basketball tournament bracket is featured.

“They need to publish the bracket so people can track what’s going on in tournaments and who they face next,” Kornegay said. “This would give a sense of following the tournament.

“You’re wondering is this the second round or third round? What took place before?”

People like Springer, who really know and follow tennis, though, can do well betting the sport.

Yet like any sport, it’s often hard to find value on the future book. But sometimes you can find an edge in matchups.

One gambler said the best value he ever found betting any sport happened during the 1990 French Open finals pitting Andres Gomez against Andre Agassi.

Agassi was a heavy favorite. Part of this was due to Agassi being from Las Vegas and having a much bigger name than Gomez. The French Open happens to be played on a clay surface.

Because of that the gambler took Gomez, who was an absolute clay court specialist. Agassi has since become an excellent clay court player, too, but Gomez was in his prime and won the match. Many people considered it an upset. But it wasn’t to this gambler.

The same bettor also did well going against Ivan Lendl at Wimbledon. Lendl could never win a Wimbledon title because he wasn’t good enough on a grass court, which favors serve-and-volley players.

But all this is ancient history. How about this year’s U.S. Open?

Agassi is the men’s favorite at 3-1, followed by Pete Sampras at 7-2, according to odds posted by Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

“If somebody would give me a head-to-head bet, I would take Sampras on that surface every time,” Springer said. “On a clay surface I would take Agassi every time.”

At those low odds, though, Springer wouldn’t take either Agassi or Sampras. Instead he likes 19-year-old Andy Roddick, who LVSC had at an enticing 25-1.

“I wouldn’t hesitate,” Springer said about betting Roddick. “He should be 10-1. I think he’s a steal, and you don’t get steals in tennis. The odds are terrible.” On the women’s side, Springer likes Martina Hingis, who is the third-betting choice at 9-2 behind Venus Williams at 3-1 and Lindsay Davenport at 4-1.

Springer favors Hingis because of her good form and mental toughness. Hingis caught a break in the draw. She’s in the other bracket away from Williams, the defending champ, and No. 2 seed Jennifer Capriati.

OK, you can go back to football now.