Spaniards offer the best value in Paris

SPORTS BETTING
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The Independent Online
The usual state of affairs in world tennis is that one or two players stand out and make the betting on major tournaments unattractively lop-sided, but there can be no such complaints about the list on the French Open, which starts at Roland Garros today.

Taking prices from just the two biggest bookmakers, William Hill and Ladbrokes, alone, it is 8-1 the field, with double-figure odds on offer about the likes of Pete Sampras and Thomas Muster.

Sampras, of course, has never won on the Parisian clay and, even at 12- 1, the American makes little appeal. Muster, too, is easily overlooked, despite his superb record on his favourite surface, since he is not even close to his best form at present and may now be a declining force. The same comment applies to both Goran Ivanisevic and Jim Courier, and the best place to look for the winner may be among the strong Spanish contingent.

Sergi Bruguera, the champion in both 1993 and 1994, and Alberto Berasategui, the beaten finalist three years ago, should both be around for the second week at least, but since previous Grand Slam success is nearly as important in Paris as it elsewhere, it could pay to go a player who is less exposed than many of his rivals.

Carlos Moya, Ladbrokes' favourite but a 10-1 chance with Hills, and Alberto Costa, 8-1 with Hills but twice that price with Ladbrokes, are surely the pick of the prices.

On the football front, Crystal Palace are odds-on to return to the Premiership after today's First Division play-off final but, in what seems sure to be a tight contest, the outstanding bet must the 90-minute draw at 11- 5 with Ladbrokes.

Despite their one-day cricket successes, England remain 9-2 underdogs with the Tote for the forthcoming Test series. Australia are 4-11 favourites with the Tote, who offer 4-1 about a drawn series.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire look solid 7-2 favourites with the Tote for the Benson & Hedges. They have a favourable home tie in the quarter-finals against Northamptonshire (10-1) at Headingley tomorrow.

FRENCH OPEN TENNIS (Roland Garros, starts today): Men's singles: 8-1 Rios (Ladbrokes), 9-1 Chang (William Hill), 10-1 Moya (H), Corretja (H), 12-1 Sampras (H, L), Ivanisevic (H), Muster (L), 16-1 Costa (L), 20-1 Bruguera (H), Berasategui (L), 25-1 bar. Women's singles: (Ladbrokes): 11-10 Hingis, 7-2 Graf, 9-2 Seles, 14-1 Novotna, 16-1 Pierce, Coetzer, 20-1 Sanchez-Vicario, 25-1 bar.

FIRST DIVISION PLAY-OFF FINAL: 6-4 Crystal Palace (H), 9-5 Sheffield Utd (L), 11-5 the draw (L). Outright: 8-11 Palace (H), 6-5 Sheffield Utd (L).

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