Sampras could be worth opposing

SPORTS BETTING
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The Independent Online
Pete Sampras is deservedly the 5-4 favourite with Ladbrokes to win the Men's Singles title again at Wimbledon this year, but the American appears to have been done no favours by the draw. It may be worth looking for a bit of value elsewhere, especially bearing in mind Sampras lost in straight sets to MaliVai Washington in the Quintus Cup final in London on Saturday.

Boris Becker, 4-1 with Ladbrokes, is a grass specialist who is in good form, while the No 10 seed, Michael Stich, is playing in a manner that suggests his seeding is an insult and has accordingly been cut to 7-1 in most lists.

Perhaps the best policy is to have an interest in Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who is 12-1 with City Index. He impressed when winning the French Open recently and, though his best form is on an artificial surface, Kafelnikov handles grass well enough and is young enough to have the potential to develop into a Wimbledon star. The same cannot exactly be said of the more experienced Jim Courier, but he appeals as a reasonable grass-court performer and, at 40-1 with Ladbrokes, is surely overpriced.

Steffi Graf is the red-hot 1-2 favourite to land the Women's Singles but she has had injury problems of late. At those odds, the slightest doubt makes the German worth opposing. Monica Seles makes a little more appeal at 7-2. She had not been particularly impressive at Eastbourne until she demolished Mary Joe Fernandez in the final, and still looks a shadow of the player she was four years ago.

The best bet may be Jana Novotna at 16-1 with Ladbrokes and City Index. Widely dismissed nowadays because she is regarded as a banker to go to pieces under pressure, Novotna would not be the first player to shrug off the "bottler" tag at the umpteenth attempt.

England's penalty takers and goalkeeper certainly lacked nothing in the cylindrical narrow-necked vessel department on Saturday and, with the advantage of overwhelming home support, it would be no shock to see them now go all the way in Euro 96.

However, from a punting point of view they will certainly be priced up at ridiculously short odds for both the semi- final and, if they get there, the final. The serious punter must give England a berth the width of which is only matched by the circuitous route the serious patriot is advised to take if sighting a betting shop.

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