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BETFAIR WASHUP: MELBOURNE PARK MIRACLES

The Stunners keep coming at Melbourne Park

The great players are defined ultimately by the number of titles they win, but the true story of why players become number one in the world is hidden in the details of their journey.

Winning when you shouldn’t, and when you seemingly have no right to do so, but simply finding a way to stay in the contest is what marks a champion. It’s not your day but you refuse to go home, and that attitude was summed up in the performance of Poland’s Iga Swiatek yesterday.

The World No.1 has had on paper one of the hardest draws a player of her ranking could receive at a major. First up it was 2021 champion Sofia Kenin, and in the second round it was 2022 finalist Danielle Collins.

With both players returning from injury and entering the tournament unseeded, it made them dangerous floaters in the draw.

Swiatek was staring down the barrel at 1-4 in the third set with two breaks, and the market reflected her struggles as she peaked at $7.

Collins, a former world No.7, was $1.17 at the same stage, and was matched for $13,000 at less than $1.20!

Swiatek rattled off five straight games, including three breaks of serve in a row, to pull the contest out of the fire. The four time Grand Slam champion also drifted from $3.60 out to $28 to win the title during that third set. She is now back into a tournament low of $3.25.

The stunning results haven’t stopped all through the event, with America’s Jessica Pegula beaten in straight sets after opening the contest at $1.12 yesterday.

The night session on Rod Laver Arena was expected to be a straight forward one for last year’s finalist Elena Rybakina, but what followed made history, with an outrageous third set tie-break.

Rybakina fought back from a set down to force a decider, and that third set went to a 10 point tie-break. That breaker would be the longest in the history of grand slam Women’s tennis, stretching 31 minutes and finishing with the underdog Anna Blinkova prevailing 22-20!

The two combatants had 13 match points between them and the odds would fluctuate remarkably throughout.

Rybakina started the breaker at $1.41 and drifted out to $2.96 when down 1-4. She hit her highest price at $5.30 when down match points at 7-9 and shortened back into $1.18 when serving for the match at 18-17.

Blinkova would start the tie-break at $3.14, shorten into $1.23 when holding match points at 9-7, and would trade at higher than $6 at three different stages throughout.

Daniil Medvedev closed out the night session by coming from two sets down and a max price of $3.95!

Last year’s semi-finalist Jiri Lehecka lost in four sets earlier in the day after being as short as $1.10 in the run.

What happens next? Let’s find out.

A crazy night at Melbourne Park!

The magic of sport is the unpredictability day to day, and in the case of tennis, from moment to moment!

As echoes of the Kokkinakis/Murray classic from 2023 still reverberate around Melbourne Park, a new chapter of stunning results are being written before our eyes.

22nd seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania would be no stranger to the ups and downs of tennis but she was reminded in brutal fashion during her first round clash with Yafan Wang of China.

The pre-match favourite was dominating the contest, racing to a 6-0, 3-0 lead inside 35 minutes with thoughts of the dreaded “double bagel” in the minds of many watching.

Cirstea traded at $1.01 on the Exchange with more than $50,000 matched on her at that price.

The World No.94 Yafan Wang seemingly flicked a switch though, winning 13 of the last 17 games to prevail 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 having traded at $100 in-game.

Steve Quick from Ace Previews put the result in perspective.

“Cirstea was 56-9 since 2019 after winning the first set of a match,” Quick said.

“It was certainly a surprising result given the total domination of the first 30 minutes.

“Wang won only three points on serve in the opening set which did give her room for improvement based on that low first serve percentage.” He added.

Quick pointed to the 2024 Australian Open throwing up numerous examples of momentum swings.

“Like a number of matches across the opening days the tide turned very quickly, with Wang, who defeated world No.16 Caroline Garcia at the US Open last year, running away with the decider.”

Wang now opens the draw for herself by taking the run of the seeded Cirstea and will now face Emma Raducanu in the second round.

The turnarounds didn’t stop there, with Australian comeback queen Ajla Tomjlanovic getting in on the action.

Tomljanovic was 1-4 down in the third set against Croatian veteran Petra Martic before peeling off five games in a row to secure the win.

The Aussie traded at $24 on Betfair with her opponent getting as low as $1.04 with $2500 matched at that price.

“Just super happy,” Tomljanovic said post match.

“I mean, I really didn’t think at 1-4 in the third, two breaks down, it was going to happen.

“I felt like the match the whole time, I would lose two games quickly because she just played great.

“Then I was straight back in. It felt so up and down. I knew if I just kept snagging games, I might find myself in a position of not being so far off.” she added.

Tomljanovic will now play Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

Steve Quick provides daily previews of all the Australian Open action, and you can check them out here

MAXWELL SMASHES RECORDS TO BREAK AFGHANISTAN HEARTS!

Glenn Maxwell has sealed Australia’s place in the semi-finals of the 2023 World Cup with what is conceivably the greatest individual performance delivered in one-day cricket history.

A cramping and sore Maxwell guided Australia from the brink of disaster at 7/91 to a three wicket victory with 19 balls to spare with some of the most extraordinary hitting you will ever witness.

The Australian struck 201 not out off 128 balls with 21 fours and 10 sixes, and in the process became the first Australian to score a double century in one-day cricket.

His score was the also the highest ever in a run chase, surpassing the 193 made by Pakistan’s Fakhar Zahman against South Africa in 2021.

It was also the highest score ever made by a non opener in one-day cricket history, surpassing Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry who struck 194 against Bangladesh in 2009.

The records didn’t stop there though…Maxwell’s double century was only the third ever scored in a World Cup and was also the second fastest of all time.

His 10 sixes also elevated him to third on the all time list of World Cup sixes, behind Chris Gayle and Rohit Sharma.

Maxwell arrived at the crease with Australia reeling at 4/49, and the situation got worse at 7/91 when his skipper Pat Cummins joined him at the crease.

Cummins contributed 12 not out off 68 balls as he dropped anchor to support the swashbuckling all-rounder who contributed a staggering 176 runs to their 201 run partnership.

This Cricket World Cup has generated extraordinary Betfair Exchange activity, with staggering matched volumes and in-play activity and this match was clearly no exception.

Australia began the match as $1.36 favourite with Afghanistan $3.15, but Afghanistan are enjoying the best tournament in their history and their score of 7/291 was imposing.

The Aussies crashed to 7/91 and traded at a staggering $230 in-play at that moment.

Afghanistan hit $1.01 at the same stage and were matched for nearly $68,000 at that price, with additional matches over $100,000 at $1.02 and $1.03.

With over $6 million traded on the match overall it was one of the more remarkable betting matches of the tournament.

The UK betting activity on their Betfair Exchange was even crazier.

Prices of 663,000 pounds at 1.01, 3.3 million pounds at 1.02 and 5.2 million pounds at 1.03 were matched on Afghanistan.

Afghanistan won only one match collectively in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, which came against minnow Scotland, but victory last night would have catapulted them in to the top four, having already beaten England and Pakistan in this tournament.

Victory over South Africa in their final match still gives them a chance of progressing if results fall their way.

Australia joins India and South Africa as guaranteed semi-finalists with either New Zealand, Pakistan or Afghanistan to take the fourth spot.

The final word on Maxwell’s heroics go to his captain at the other end Pat Cummins, who spoke post match.

“I think that’s the greatest ODI innings,” Cummins said.

“It’s the best I’ve ever seen, probably the greatest ODI innings ever.

“We’re just chatting about it, all the players, and we’ve decided it’s one of those days where you just go, ‘I was there in the stadium the day Glenn Maxwell chased down that total by himself’.

“It’s just a one-man show. I’m up the other end and don’t see any gaps in the field, don’t see where I’m going to score a boundary and yet it seems like every time he sees that, it still just runs away for four. It looks so easy.”

CARLTON’S ROLLERCOASTER SEASON ON BETFAIR EXCHANGE

Cast your mind back to Round 23, 2022- Carlton vs Collingwood. The equation was simple for the Blues, win and they would play finals for the first time since 2013. After an eight goal to one third term which saw them take a 24-point lead into the final change, the Blues faithful could dare to dream. The last quarter saw Collingwood kick five goals to Carlton’s six behinds and the rest as they say, is history. A Jamie Elliot goal condemned the Blues to a one-point loss and had even the most devoted of fans wondering if their club was indeed cursed. When would the misery end? But as a wise man once said- there is always next year!

Prior to season 2023 Carlton were $1.63 on the Betfair Exchange to make the top eight and $12.50 to win the premiership; odds that were quite respectful of a team that hadn’t achieved anything yet. In punting terms, you could say they were ‘unders’. The Blues however began the year brilliantly with three wins and a draw and were matched at a season low of $1.30 on April 8 to make finals.

They would then lose six in a row from Round 8 to Round 13, with top eight odds ballooning to a high of $19.00 after defeat at the hands of archrivals Essendon on June 11. A season high price of 200/1 about an unlikely premiership was also available on the Betfair Exchange. It’s fair to say no one could’ve foreseen their resurgence.

A massive ten goal win against Gold Coast at the MCG before their bye was the catalyst for a staggering turn around in form. The results make for pretty reading for Blues fans since. A 60-point win vs Hawthorn, 53 point win vs Fremantle, 50 point win vs Port Adelaide, 71 point win vs West Coast and perhaps most fittingly a 17 point win in the redemption game vs Collingwood on Friday night. The Blues reached a high of $5.20 in-play, while Collingwood were matched at $1.21, with a few punters perhaps envisaging a Pies comeback like that of Round 23 last year. Not to be.

With four rounds to go of the AFL season, Carlton sits in 7th spot on the ladder with a healthy percentage of 116.5. Matchups vs fellow finals contenders St. Kilda, Melbourne and GWS remain, and if they were to win one of those games plus their Round 23 clash vs Gold Coast it would all but guarantee them a finals berth.

Carlton post Round 20 are $1.42 to make the top 8 and $13.50 win the flag on the Betfair Exchange. Will they provide their long-suffering fans with some overdue joy?

ENGLAND TAKE FIRST STEP ON LONG ROAD BACK

Five test series have been played 155 times since the very first in 1882/83, and only once has a team come back from a 2-0 deficit to win such a series.

Those 155 series don’t just cover the Ashes, but other five test battles played out between for example Australia and the West Indies, or England and India.

The one such occasion came in 1936/37 when Don Bradman’s Australian’s won the last Ashes series played in Australia prior to the second world war.

The key point of reference is that as Australia rattled off wins in the third, fourth and fifth tests of that series, Donald Bradman made 212, 270 and 169 to guide them home. Freakish numbers from a freakish player.

So that’s what it took to produce the only such “cricketing miracle” we’ve ever seen.

England have taken the first step on that unlikely road back with a gritty win at Headingley, fighting back from a difficult position more than once to prevail by three wickets.

One thing in their favour is the fact each test has been so incredibly even. Meaning England don’t require a monumental swing of momentum, or huge changes to get it done, as all three tests have come down to who can take their chances.

Only the 2005 Ashes has produced a string of results as closely contested as those we’ve seen here, in a series that is shaping as one of the greatest Ashes series ever played.

In 2005, England won a thrilling second test at Edgbaston by two runs with Australia pressing for victory with a late fightback from Brett Lee, Shane Warne and Michael Kasprowicz.

In the third test at Old Trafford, England set Australia 423, which the Aussies chase positively on the final day, so much so that at tea, all four results remained possible. The loss of wickets early in the final session saw Australia shut things down, bravely holding on for a draw at 9/371 courtesy of Ricky Ponting’s best ever test innings, a gutsy 156.

In the fourth test at Trent Bridge, Australia followed on for the first time in 11 years, before making 387, setting England 129 to win and nearly  bowling them out.

England were teetering at 4/58 and 7/116 before Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard got them home.

In all three tests, both sides could still win inside the final hour, and the same can be said for the gripping three tests we’ve had this current English summer.

Usually in a test match, it becomes clear that one side can no longer win well before the end, with a draw their only faint hope, however England and Australia have looked likely winners inside the final hour of all three tests.

The recent clash at Headingley saw Ben Stokes brisk 80 drag England to within 26 of Australia’s first innings total, when a deficit closer to 100 seemed likely.

England hit $6.50 to win the test midway through Day two, before closing that first innings at $2.90.

Travis Head’s 77 dragged Australia’s lead to 250, but they would feel they left a few out there with some soft dismissals halting momentum at key stages.

England looked shaky at 3/93 before steadying to head to lunch at 4/153, 98 runs from victory on Day 4.

At $1.36, they were warm favourites to get home with the well set Harry Brook and the captain Ben Stokes at the crease.

Stokes and Bairstow fell quickly after the break, with England teetering again at 6/171, still 80 from the target.

Brook (75), Woakes and Wood saw the runs knocked off quite quickly as England claimed a tense win at the scene of their 2019 series saving heroics.

 

MARKET MOVES

Prior to the third test Australia was $1.21 to win the series and $1.10 to retain the Ashes (a drawn series would be enough).

England were $11 to win the series at that same point.

After Headingley, the hosts have moved into $5.60 with Australia easing out to $1.45 to win the series and $1.20 to retain the urn.

A drawn series sits at $6.80 currently, which would need one of the last two tests to not produce a result which is unlikely given the pace with which these matches have been played.

$1.45 is still quite appealing given England would have to produce the greatest comeback in nearly a century to win the series.

Khawaja shortened from $1.76 into $1.59 to lead Australia’s runs total, in large part due to Smith’s double failure in his 100th test.

Travis Head has shortened from $12 into $6.60, with Smith out to $8.60 from $3.75. A significant drift given he’s still within distance.

Stokes is now favourite to lead England’s runs at $2.14, with Joe Root having been favourite all summer up until Day two at Headingley, when Stoke’s 80 tipped the balance.

Root is $2.92, Duckett is $5.80, and Day 4 hero Harry Brook is $9.20.

Khawaja at $2.48 is still favourite to lead the runs overall, with Stokes and Root next in line.

Pat Cummins ($2.10), Stuart Broad ($2.70) are the top two in the leading wicket taker market, with paceman Mark Wood sliding in at $4 despite missing the first two tests.

Mitch Starc is also into $7.20 after taking five wickets in the second innings.

As for the fourth test…dead even!

Both sides are $2.48 with the draw at $4.90.

England are an even money chance to take this to a decider and it’s hard to argue on the evidence of what we’ve seen.

In England’s last 16 tests at Old Trafford in Manchester they have 13 wins, 1 loss and 2 draws. The solitary defeat came in 2019…to Australia…who retained the Ashes in that match.

 

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