Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Soderling's Upset Tops Buster Douglas

Rafael Nadal

Going into yesterday’s match against Robin Soderling, Rafael Nadal was 31-0 at Roland Garros and was aiming for his fifth straight French Open title.

The odds of Nadal losing Soderling, the 29th ranked player in the world, were extremely high. How high?

Well, put it this way: Soderling’s odds of winning the match were higher than Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson in Tokyo in 1990.

Douglas was a 42-to-1 underdog. Soderling opened the match at 48-to-1 at Betfair, the English bookmaker that takes enough money on tennis that it works with the ATP to monitor betting irregularities.

Betting $163 on Soderling at the start of yesterday’s match would have yielded a healthy $7,863. Betting the same $163 on Nadal would have only returned $167.

Despite the fact that betting on Nadal was nearly useless, there apparently was plenty of action. Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin told me that $28.9 million was bet on the match.

Calvin said that while Soderling’s upset of Nadal perhaps was bigger than the Douglas-Tyson upset in betting terms, it’s not the same “in perception terms.”

“Nadal has been beaten before,” Calvin said. “At the time, Mike Tyson was unbeaten and considered unbeatable.”

By the way, only one reporter called a Nadal upset. That would be Marv Salter who wrote this on the New York Times “Straight Sets” blogon Friday: “Buster Douglas, do you think it’s impossible to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros?”

(Special thanks to reader Jon Apple, who alerted us to exactly how much of betting longshot Soderling was.)

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