Take a bow, Jill Craybas. The veteran American's wins over the last couple of nights in the WTA Miami qualifying have won me a paltry £3.00. But it's not for this reason I salute Miss Craybas. We have to go back in time to June 2004........
I have never been in a betting shop in my life. I lost the occasional pound during the nineties via alcohol-fuelled evening meetings at Pontefract races, but could never see the fun in potentially losing money, whether at the bookies or in a slot machine. But as a big sports fan, with particular interest in footy and tennis, I was always willing to give an opinion on likely outcomes.
I think the catalyst for my entry into the world of sports betting was the delivery of a new computer, with a huge improvement in my internet performance. I came across the Blue Square website just as Wimbledon began, and decided to throw a few pounds into an account just to have a play. My first bet was typically a loss, the odds-on Michael Llodra going down against Cyril Saulnier ( where he now? ). So Miss Craybas takes the stage as my first ever win, my bet being on her higher ranked opponent, Magdelena Maleeva, who won in straight sets.
I quickly switched to a William Hill account ( better odds ), and in the following weeks and months I found betting on Craybas' opponents to be my own 'free money' system. Without having kept a detailed log of those bets, I'm certain that I made hundreds of pounds backing her misfortune for the rest of the year.
Four and a half years later, we're both still alive and fighting on. I've earned more in knowledge than cash - hopefully the next four years may be payback time. Jill Craybas' continued survival is probably more surprising than mine. Her disastrous second half of 2004 and early part of 2005 saw a slide in the rankings from 64 to 108 at the age of 30. This is generally terminal in the harsh week-on-week rankings chase of the ATP and WTA tours. But now, at 34, Miss Craybas remains in the WTA top 100 and led the United States team in February's Federation Cup tie versus Argentina. With no great weapons on the court, she has relied on experience and determination to maintain her career against the odds.
We need a few journeymen/women to keep the plethoro of talented teens in check. So, I give you, Jill Craybas.