Sampras too good and odds too short

SPORTS BETTING

Such is Pete Sampras' domination on everything but the clay of Paris that punting on the men's singles at Grand Slam events holds little interest for the ordinary backer.

Only William Hill's prices on the US Open, which begins today, were available yesterday, but they are unlikely to be dramatically out of line with those of their competitors. Sampras is their 4-5 favourite and the fact that they can do no better for a second-favourite than Michael Chang, whose sole Grand Slam success remains the French Open almost a decade ago, does not imply that Pistol Pete will face many significant challenges over the next fortnight.

Indeed, it is depressing that so many of the old names - Goran Ivanisevic and Thomas Muster are also in the first five - head the market and while Yevgeny Kafelnikov would not be the most surprising of winners, at 9-1 he is still a few points short of representing value. Mark Philippoussis may find some each-way supporters at 20-1, but he has yet to make significant progress in a Grand Slam this year.

Even the most fervent of patriots, meanwhile, will hesitate before throwing money away on Britain's two challengers. Tim Henman is rated a less likely winner than Greg Rusedski, but at 50-1 and 40-1 respectively, a place in the last 16 appears the most that either can hope for.

Once again, it seems that Pete Sampras is too short to back but too good to oppose.

With betting on the women's singles yet to appear due to doubts about the fitness of Martina Hingis, this is another tournament which must pass without a bet.

US OPEN TENNIS (Hills): 4-5 P Sampras. 8-1 M Chang. 9-1 Y Kafelnikov. 14-1 G Ivanisevic. 16-1 T Muster. 20-1 M Philippoussis. 25-1 C Moya, R Krajicek, S Brugeura. 33-1 J Bjorkmann, M Rios, T Enqvist, P Rafter. 40- 1 A Agassi, A Corretja, G Rusedski. 50-1 A Costa, F Mantilla, J Courier, J Stoltenberg,P Korda, T Henman. 66-1 C Pioline, M Larsson. 80-1 T Martin, T Woodbridge. 100-1 A Berasetagui, A Medvedev, A O'Brien, B Steven, C Woodruff, D Wheaton, J Stark, K Novak, M Rosset, M Woodforde, S Draper, T Haas.

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