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Under 21 European Championships and Confederations Cup Picks 2017 (June 16-July 2)

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 28th)

There was definitely a hope that we would have seen more tennis at Eastbourne on Tuesday than we ended up seeing after a total of twenty minutes clear time was produced over the course of the day.

The early forecasts suggested there would have been around three hours playing time on what was always going to be a wet day on the south coast, but it now means a backed up tournament will be looking for players to play twice on the same day.

That is the case in both the men's and women's events being played in Eastbourne, but the forecast for the rest of the week is not exactly encouraging. The problem on the grass is that even misty rain makes the playing surface dangerous for the players so the tournament organisers both in Eastbourne and those running the Wimbledon Qualifiers will be hoping the expected clear day on Wednesday does come about.

Unfortunately there will be delays at some point with the rain in the area, but hopefully the majority of the matches that need to get this tournament back on track are able to completed during the day.

With the rain at Eastbourne, it meant I only had one pick that was able to be played on Tuesday and Fernando Verdasco was a fairly comfortable winner for me.

That keeps the week in a positive position although the majority of the picks have been held over from Tuesday and scheduled for Wednesday in Eastbourne. You can read those picks here.

Antalya has proved to be a tournament played at the right time with sunny conditions expected all week. At least I know any picks from that event, even if it is not exactly the most inspiring set of players brought together, will be completed without any delays.

Heather Watson + 2.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: There is only one WTA Third Round match that has seen two of the participants move through this week and that will be one of the late matches scheduled for Wednesday. While the rest of the players have to potentially play Second Round and Third Round matches on the same day, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Heather Watson should be well rested when they face one another.

After getting past the defending Champion Dominika Cibulkova, Heather Watson may have hoped for a much easier task than facing Pavlyuchenkova in the Third Round. Unfortunately the draw in Eastbourne is a tough one so Watson has to accept she has to play her way past some big names if she wants to restore her World Ranking back inside the top 100.

Watson has been serving well enough over the last two weeks to think she can challenge the Russian in this one. It was the serve in the second set that impressed against Cibulkova and has given Watson the confidence to go on the attack when it comes to the return games.

She will need to be at her best against Pavlyuchenkova who has previous on the grass courts having reached the Wimbledon Quarter Final twelve months ago. However this has been a tough couple of weeks for the Russian whose serve has not been working as well as it can and that should give Watson her chances.

It feels like the match could be another close one with Watson perhaps still lacking the confidence to produce consistently. I am expecting the British player to give Pavlyuchenkova some work to do and I will take her with the games to keep this one close.

Janko Tipsarevic - 1.5 games v Andreas Seppi: Go back six years and Janko Tipsarevic and Andreas Seppi would have already competed in the Final at Eastbourne which ended when Tipsarevic was forced to retire with an injury. Injuries have been all the Serb has known in recent years and he is on the road to another full comeback on the Tour.

Age has also been an issue for both players which means both players come into this one outside the top 70 in the World Rankings. The better recent form has been produced by Tipsarevic, although those wins being put together have mainly come on the clay courts.

His loss to Victor Troicki last week at Queens was a disappointment, but Tipsarevic hasn't been producing bad numbers and I think he can get the better of Seppi. The Italian looks on course for his third losing record on the main Tour over the last four years and he has clearly slipped.

You don't want to dismiss the grass court tennis that Seppi is able to play, but his opponent in this one is also comfortable on the surface. Both have been beaten by players in decent form over the last couple of weeks, but I do think the Tipsarevic service numbers give him a big enough edge to back him to win this Second Round match.

I will ask him to cover the number because a retirement is always a possibility in Tipsarevic matches these days. He should have enough to challenge the Seppi serve and break him down on that front with the help of serving well and I will back the Serb to get past Seppi into the Quarter Final.

Radu Albot - 1.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: It came as a big surprise to me that Paolo Lorenzi is the Number 2 Seed in Antalya, but that says a lot more about how well he has played on the Tour in general rather than an indication of his grass court successes. The Italian was beaten comfortably in Halle by Alexander Zverev last week, which is no disgrace, but that is a part of a long run of poor results on the surface.

Lorenzi has lost ten matches in a row on the main Tour in grass court events, although he will feel someone like Radu Albot does give him a chance. However some of the losses for Lorenzi have come against the likes of Teymuraz Gabashvili and Lukas Lacko so it isn't just the big names like Zverev and Roger Federer which have produced such a poor record.

In saying that, Lorenzi will belief he has a good chance to take out someone like Radu Albot. The latter is Ranked much lower than Lorenzi and was beaten by the Italian when they met a couple of weeks ago on the clay courts.

The grass may produce a different result for Albot though after beating Joao Sousa in the First Round thanks to an impressive serving day. He didn't have much of a grass court pedigree before reaching the Second Round at Wimbledon in 2016 after Albot had come through three Qualifiers too and it may have given him confidence to perform on the surface.

Albot's height means he has to really push to get something out of the serve, but he is capable. He has the better returning numbers than Lorenzi too and I will look for Albot to win this match and cover this number in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Heather Watson + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Janko Tipsarevic - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Radu Albot - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-3, + 4.82 Units (18 Units Staked, + 26.78% Yield)

Monday, 26 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 27th)

The tennis Tour has moved across to Great Britain, as well as some other European destinations, over the grass court season in preparation for Wimbledon. We have been fortunate in getting plenty of clear weather to allow these tournaments to get through the matches they have scheduled, but that may not be the case on Tuesday this week.

It looks like the rain in going to arrive in Eastbourne from around 2pm on Tuesday which is likely to cut short the play where there are plenty of Second Round matches scheduled from the WTA event as well as the completion of the First Round from the ATP event in Eastbourne.

Novak Djokovic is likely to have the space to complete his own Second Round match which opens the main court play from 11am, but some of the players later in the day have to prepare themselves for double play on Wednesday when things look a little clearer.

So it sounds like John McEnroe ruffled some feathers with his comments about Serena Williams on Monday, although only those who have offered his comments out of context are getting the silly responses. McEnroe basically told a reporter he did not call Serena Williams the 'best tennis player' in the world instead of his use of 'best female tennis player' because she would not be Ranked in the top 700 of men's tennis.

For some that caused an outrage including calling McEnroe sexist, but only an idiot would disagree with him to put it bluntly. It seems like you can't just call a spade a spade these days.

Serena Williams would not beat anyone in the top 500 of men's tennis on a consistent enough basis to be Ranked much higher than where McEnroe suggested. Only fools who don't understand tennis would disagree with that and this really is a total non-story when you realise his comments have been extracted and then used out of context.

Someone was even dumb enough to suggest Serena would beat Nick Kyrgios, but ultimately looked the bigger fool.

I don't get why people get so upset when people say that the women's players would not be able to compete with the men? It seems to be the only sport where people tend to really get upset about it, but it makes no sense to me at all.

Poor Johnny Mac mustn't know what all the fuss is about, but this kind of story seems to pop up every few months or so.

The tennis picks made a decent start to the week on Monday with a 5-3 finish, but it perhaps should have been a lot better if not for a couple of bad luck moments. That happens and I am looking for the momentum to build on Tuesday even if not all the matches I am picking from can make it through to completion past the expected rain delays.

Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 games v Steve Darcis: Both of these players have shown they can spark on the grass courts at various times throughout their careers, but I am looking to the big hitting that comes from Fernando Verdasco to be too much for Steve Darcis.

The latter has at least won one match here which could make this a closer match than initially anticipated, but Darcis was perhaps a little fortunate to get past Denis Istomin. He doesn't have the big serve to put opponents on the back foot, not even on the grass courts, and someone like Verdasco should have his chance to dictate the tempo of the match.

The lefty Spaniard has a decent first serve which he can use to set up his points, although Verdasco is no longer the player of old and can be very inconsistent. Verdasco has played well on the grass though and his losses have come against some of the better players on the surface which means he is a danger to all in this draw in Antalya this week.

Generally Verdasco won't run into the very top grass players here and I think he can get his week off to a solid start with a win over Darcis. This is a new tournament so it may take Verdasco a little time to find his rhythm here, but the courts are expected to play well having taken advice from Wimbledon as to best prepare them for the event.

It should mean Verdasco can find his feet after a few games and I think that will help him control the match behind his serve and big forehand. I like Verdasco to find his way to a 7-5, 6-4 win in this one.

Mischa Zverev - 3.5 games v Ryan Harrison: The grass courts should be very much what Mischa Zverev is appreciating after a rough time on the clay and he has had some solid results on the surface over the last couple of weeks. A rare serve-volley exponent is tough to break on this surface and I think he can get off to a positive start in Eastbourne on Tuesday.

The conditions are tough for players to try and rally from the back of the court when the wind picks up, but Zverev backs up a strong first serve with nice volleys. For opponents it is a blast from the past that they are not used to seeing and Zverev will look to get to the net as much as possible when he takes on Ryan Harrison in the First Round.

The American is another who will be glad to be off the clay courts, but Harrison's best results tend to come on the hard courts these days. Harrison has actually lost his last eight main draw matches on the grass courts and he hasn't lit things up at the lower levels or Qualifiers either having gone 4-11 on grass since reaching Wimbledon in 2014.

Harrison has had a good season overall as he is set for his most wins on the Tour since 2012 and he has also won titles in 2017. However he still has a tendency to throw in a couple of loose service games and Zverev has been returning well enough over the last two weeks to think he can take advantage of those lapses in concentration.

I think that will lead to Zverev finding a way to come through this match with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Sam Querrey - 2.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: Over the last two years Daniil Medvedev has shown the improvement he has made on the grass courts as his competition have stepped up. Medvedev reached the Quarter Final in Hertogenbosch having come through the Qualifiers and then did the same at a loaded Queens event which shows this young player gets how to play on the green stuff.

One concern has to be the shoulder issue which was bothering Medvedev at the end of his run in Queens and I think that may give Sam Querrey enough of an edge to come through with a win and a cover of this number.

The American was also a Quarter Finalist in Queens last week and Querrey has shown his game works well on the grass with a big serve and heavy forehand combination the key to his success. He had a mixed preparation for Wimbledon last year, but Querrey was a Quarter Finalist in SW19 where he famously beat Novak Djokovic.

Querrey has regularly made the Quarter Final or later in this preparation events on the grass, although his return of serve remains sketchy to say the least. He is also a former winner at Queens back in 2010, but Querrey's biggest strength in this match up may be his steadiness behind the serve which can lead to errors from his opponents.

With the shoulder potentially bothering him, Medvedev is capable of throwing in a poor service game which gives Querrey the chance to pounce. That is what I am expecting as the pressure on the scoreboard increases and I can see Querrey coming through with a 7-6, 6-4 win in this one.

Jeremy Chardy - 4.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: On a grass court this number of games can be tough to cover simply because of the limited chances that some players will get to break serve. However Jeremy Chardy has been returning well enough over the last couple of weeks to think he can beat a disinterested Dusan Lajovic who could be said to 'hate' the grass court season.

While most players will consider this the time of the season to build up some grass court preparation, Lajovic has played a couple of clay court Challengers since the French Open. He didn't play badly having reached the Semi Final in Todi last week, and I can't say I blame Lajovic who has a 1-13 record on the grass courts in his career.

The Lajovic serve isn't that bad, but he clearly can't find his rhythm on the surface and it isn't a serve that will earn enough cheap points to get through games. With Chardy returning as he has been, I would expect him to put the Serbian under pressure while Chardy has been serving big enough to be effective in a match like this one.

Chardy has played some solid grass court players over the last couple of weeks and it has taken Feliciano Lopez to stop runs in Stuttgart and Queens. Those losses don't look bad since Lopez won the title in Queens, especially as Chardy took a set off of him back in Stuttgart.

I would expect Chardy to have the majority of the better tennis played in this one and I would think he can earn the break points to put together a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games v Frances Tiafoe: There may be some big things tipped for Frances Tiafoe, but he is yet to really discover the best way to approach grass court tennis. Facing one of the better grass court players out there will make it very difficult for Tiafoe and I think Richard Gasquet will eventually make that tell on the scoreboard.

The question of motivation for Gasquet may come up as the week goes on after a strong run in Halle was ended in the Semi Final at the hands of Alexander Zverev. With Wimbledon around the corner, it will be interesting to see how much Gasquet wants another long run in an event considering some of the injuries he had, although he wouldn't have entered this event unless he wants to put some wins together.

He should have every chance to get the first of those on Tuesday in the First Round as Tiafoe looks to improve his 3-4 record on the surface. None of those matches have come against someone who is as effective on the grass as Gasquet and you can't ignore the fact that Tiafoe has been beaten comfortably in the four losses he has taken on the surface.

Protecting the second serve has proved a problem in his matches on the grass and I think that may be an issue for him in this one too. The young American is likely to face being given a lesson from the quality of tennis that Gasquet brings and I am expecting the latter to produce a solid win on the day.

Gasquet can serve well enough to keep the pressure on Tiafoe and I think he can come through with a 6-3, 6-3 win on the day.

Donald Young - 2.5 games v Jared Donaldson: It seemed like most people on Twitter on Monday morning had backed Donald Young to get past Kyle Edmund and they were rewarded when the American won the final four games of the match. It wasn't an easy winner after Young actually lost more points and didn't return as well as he would have liked, but he can ride the momentum of that win with another in the Second Round.

This time he faces compatriot Jared Donaldson who has employed two former American stars in Jan-Michael Gambill and Mardy Fish to aid him going forward. Donaldson had a real battle on his hands to get through his First Round match against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman where, like Young, he actually lost more points but won the match.

It was a rare positive result on the grass courts for Donaldson and I am not sure he is going to be able to back that up against Young. These two met on the grass courts of Newport last year in what was a comfortable win for Young in straight sets and the latter has shown more appetite for this surface than his younger compatriot.

The Donaldson serve has not been as effective as he would have liked on this surface and I think Young is able to capitalise on that. Of course you have to say that Young's serve is far from secure in what are likely to be difficult conditions, but I would look for him to back it up a little more effectively of the two players.

It could go three sets, but Young's better returning stats should show up in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win for the older American.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Lauren Davis: There was some relief for Agnieszka Radwanska when the clay court was officially over and she is back on a much more favoured surface now. The foot injury she has had has bothered her in 2017 and seen some poor results being produced, but Radwanska is more comfortable on the grass courts than many players on the Tour.

One of those is Lauren Davis who has benefited from being a 'Lucky Loser' back into the draw this week in Eastbourne. She took advantage to move into the Second Round but the American has not enjoyed her time on the grass courts.

You can see the problem for Davis whose serve can be attacked with real gusto on this surface as opponents are able to power through the court. Radwanska may not have the power to do that, but she can put the ball into difficult spots which can allow her to get up to the net and also use the drop shot to bring players less comfortable at the net further forward in the court.

The Davis return game is solid enough and she should have some joy against Radwanska's serve, especially as the Pole has been out of a competitive match since the end of May. However the overall grass court stats don't make for good reading for Davis either in 2017 or overall in her career.

After a few games to get back her edge, Radwanska can fight her way to a 7-5, 6-3 win.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: There was some bad blood between Romania and Great Britain in a Fed Cup tie earlier this year with the main issues coming during and after a match between Sorana Cirstea and Johanna Konta. I don't think there will be too many in the Eastbourne stands ready to remind Cirstea of some of the negative comments she made about Konta in a press conference after the match, but I am sure Konta hasn't forgotten them.

Now they meet on a grass court in Konta's home town where she has produced her best tennis on this surface. A decent showing over the last couple of weeks would have given Konta some confidence, but Cirstea is back in the draw as a 'Lucky Loser' and is capable of producing some top grass court tennis.

She was a Quarter Finalist in Mallorca in 2016 but generally her time on the grass has seen her come up short against opponents. When Cirstea builds momentum she can be difficult to stop, but Konta should be able to return effectively enough to put the pressure on her opponent in this one.

Konta has some decent returning numbers over the last couple of weeks and Cirstea is someone who can make a number of errors behind her serve which should give the British Number 1 every chance of winning this match. The Konta serve has also been in pretty good shape in her matches in Nottingham and Birmingham and overall she should have enough of an edge to beat Cirstea by a wide enough margin to cover this number of games.

Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 games v Barbora Strycova: The grass has proved to be a difficult surface for Garbine Muguruza in general, but she had a good run in Birmingham last week and is a former Finalist at Wimbledon. A poor 2017 has dented some of the confidence, but I think Muguruza does get the better of Barbora Strycova in the Second Round here in Eastbourne.

There is room for improvement behind the serve from the limited stats we have in 2017 on this surface, but Muguruza does have a first serve that will give Strycova some real problems to deal with. The Spaniard has returned effectively enough too and I do think that sets her up for success in this one.

As well as I believe Strycova can play on the grass courts, she has been a little erratic with her play and the serve is not working as effectively as it might. That is so important to the outcome of this match as Strycova cannot really rely on breaking Muguruza consistently and allowing her last two opponents to win 41% or better of the points behind her own serve is not going to cut it.

Strycova does play well on the surface which means she will create chances against the Muguruza serve if the latter is not quite at her best. The second serve is where Strycova will look to get her points, but Muguruza's ability to produce the big serve could prove to be a difference maker overall.

I would expect the bigger hitting players to cause problems for Strycova and I am looking for Muguruza to be able to do the same. The Spaniard should have enough power to edge her way through with a 7-6, 6-3 win in this one.

Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 games v Naomi Osaka: I backed Lucie Safarova to beat Naomi Osaka last week but this is a different kind of match for the latter. There is still learning being done by Osaka on the grass courts and facing someone like Caroline Wozniacki who has earned her wins on the surface could be a step too far in Eastbourne this week.

Osaka has some factors that work for her with the most notable being the fact that Wozniacki is playing her first grass court match of the week. However the conditions in Eastbourne tend to be difficult and I think Wozniacki will be able to play her way in as she looks to extract errors from the Osaka game.

The power will come from Osaka as she displayed when brutally moving past Risa Ozaki in the First Round, but I would expect the counter punching of Wozniacki to leave Osaka in some awkward spots around the court. The returning stats have not been that impressive from Osaka either and Wozniacki can get some pop out of her serve on this surface which should mean she has enough of an edge in both serve and return games.

Big hitting players have given Wozniacki some real problems on the grass in the past as her losses have highlighted. While Osaka is in that mould, her confidence with her movement on the surface is perhaps not where it needs to be to cause an upset and I think the frustration of trying to penetrate the Wozniacki defences consistently may lead to more and more mistakes.

After a tight opener where Wozniacki rediscovers her movement on the grass, I can see the former World Number 1 running away with the match in a 7-6, 6-2 win.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Mischa Zverev - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Donald Young - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-3, + 3.22 Units (16 Units Staked, + 20.13% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 26th)

We have three events taking place across two venues this week and the tournaments in Eastbourne and Antalya have already begun on Sunday.

The big story this week will be focused on Novak Djokovic and how he plays at Eastbourne in preparation for Wimbledon. This is the first time we will have seen Djokovic since he apparently gave up at the French Open and took a hammering at the hands of Dominic Thiem, but I am not sure how much Djokovic will enjoy his time on the south coast.

The wind was strong enough on Sunday and that is expected to be an issue all week, while rain delays should also be in play after the heat of last week in England. It's not exactly the kind of weather you want to play in when trying to find your rhythm on the court and Djokovic has regularly struggled in the wind anyway so let's see how he gets on.

Last week ended on a negative for the tennis picks but it could have been a lot worse having been in a poor position in the middle of the week. There were some tough days, but it is a week in which the results will help just improve things for the remaining couple of grass court events including the big two weeks at Wimbledon.

The Qualifiers will be played for Wimbledon over the next few days before the draw for the men's and women's events will be released on Friday. Hopefully we are in for some good weather during the two weeks at SW19 with improvements expected in England next weekend prior to the beginning of the event.

This week the picks are focused on the tournaments being played- the WTA event at Eastbourne looks a very strong event that could highlight players in the kind of form to win an open Wimbledon title, while the majority of big name players will be sitting out at the two ATP events.

There are plenty of matches scheduled for Monday where the First Round matches continue at the events being played this week and some Second Round matches are also scheduled in preparation for the Saturday conclusion.

Nicolas Mahut - 1.5 games v Robin Haase: There is a feeling that Nicolas Mahut's best days as a Singles player may be long behind him now as he has also struggled on the grass courts over the last couple of weeks. He has formerly been a specialist on the surface, but Mahut's numbers are down both on serve and return and he is not the player he once was.

That means I am more likely to want to oppose Mahut where I see him being over-rated, but that may not be the case in this First Round match in Eastbourne.

While Mahut has struggled, he is facing someone in Robin Haase who can be hit and miss on the grass courts too. Haase had a couple of solid wins in Halle last week which will make him dangerous and he has had strong runs on the grass courts before.

However I think Mahut is the better player on the surface even if he has perhaps lost half a step getting up to the net. When the first serve is working, Mahut should be able to keep a player like Haase under pressure and I will look for that to be enough to earn a couple more breaks of serve over the course of the match.

Even on the return Mahut will try and get up to the net and see if Haase has the quality and clear thinking to keep making the passes and I will look for the Frenchman to come out on top there. It may need three sets, but Mahut can put a win on the board here and I will look for him to cover this number.

Cameron Norrie + 2.5 games v Horacio Zeballos: There is going to be some hard work ahead for Cameron Norrie as he transitions onto the professional Tour, but going through the College ranks in the United States has produced some quality players at this level. He struggled on the grass over the last couple of weeks, but I am going to back Norrie with the games in this one.

Ultimately he is playing an opponent in Horacio Zeballos who simply does not like playing on the grass and tends to miss this portion of the season.

During his career, Zeballos hasn't taken in too many grass court tournaments, although he did win three Qualifiers to get into the main draw at Wimbledon in 2015. That is a potential problem for me in this one as Norrie isn't much better than that kind of level at this moment in his career, but Zeballos is hard to back simply because he has lost his last six main draw matches on the grass.

Some of those have been disappointing and Zeballos will need to find his feet on the surface in this one. His lefty serve should be one that Norrie can read a little more being a lefty himself, while having had the grass court experience in recent weeks should be important for Norrie in this one.

It might not feel like a lot of games, but there is enough here to think Norrie can take advantage of them and I will take the young Brit with those games in hand.

Barbora Strycova - 3.5 games v Eugenie Bouchard: Things have taken a significant downward spin in the career of Eugenie Bouchard to the point that her 2017 highlight may have been beating Maria Sharapova. 2014 was a breakthrough year on the Tour for Bouchard, but she is just 52-54 in matches played since the beginning of 2015 and Bouchard has a losing record on the season.

There is definitely more press time offered to Bouchard than her results dictate there should be and her slip down to Number 59 in the World Rankings shows no sign of stopping.

Another early loss last week in Mallorca wouldn't have helped matters and Bouchard has struggled on the grass since reaching the Final at Wimbledon in 2014. The Canadian is 6-9 on the grass courts since then, and I am not sure she is going to be able to compete with a solid player like Barbora Strycova.

Strycova is comfortable on the surface and she has beaten Bouchard the last three times they have played one another on the Tour. It has been almost twelve months since they last played each other, but Bouchard hasn't shown much improvement since then and Strycova is someone who has been able to produce the wins on the grass court.

She has a decent enough serve to put Bouchard under pressure and Strycova will believe she can out-rally her where necessary and I am looking for the Czech player to produce a solid win in this First Round match.

Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Alison Riske: The first match on grass can always be something of a learning experience even for the very best players on the Tour. We saw that last week at Queens and have done over the years when players have just struggled to find their timing and feel comfortable with their movement.

That is arguably the biggest problem for Karolina Pliskova when she takes on Alison Riske in the Second Round in Eastbourne, but Pliskova has the big equaliser in a monster serve which may be the best on the WTA Tour now Serena Williams is on the sidelines.

Pliskova's serve should cause considerable damage on the grass courts and I think she will put Riske under some pressure with that shot alone. In 2016 Pliskova seemed to get an idea on how to back up that serve with a title win in Nottingham as well as reaching the Final in Eastbourne, even though she was stunned very early at Wimbledon.

This is the kind of match that should give Pliskova some rhythm to play with as Riske can try and take the ball on from the back of the court, but simply doesn't have the same power as the Czech player. Riske is a dangerous player when firing and confident, and there will be moments when she is dominating the net to put the pressure on Pliskova.

However, I think Pliskova will be able to have a few free swings on the return of serve that can help her move through with a 6-4, 6-4 win and get her grass court season underway.

Heather Watson + 4.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: For someone who doesn't really rate Heather Watson that highly, it might be a surprise to see that I am backing her as the underdog with the games for the second week in a row. Like last week, I think Watson is facing a higher Ranked opponent in Dominika Cibulkova who is not playing with a lot of confidence.

Last week Watson went down to Elina Svitolina but she did take a set in the match and it was a poor beginning which cost her. Having a win in the bag in Eastbourne may just give her the confidence to stick with Cibulkova for longer, although Watson will have to serve well to keep the Slovakian from getting on the front foot in rallies.

Watson should have a chance to recover breaks of serve against Cibulkova too though and Cibulkova is just 1-6 in her last seven matches. Cibulkova has had a couple of tight losses on the grass in the last two weeks which may not have dented confidence too much, but it suggests this will be another tight match for her.

Last year was a strong year for Cibulkova on the grass as she won the title here in Eastbourne and was a Quarter Finalist at Wimbledon, but the confidence levels were much higher then. While she has the power to hit through the court on the grass, Cibulkova's serve could see her having to defend at times and I am looking for Watson to do enough to stay within this number of games.

Hopefully this week Watson is not blown out in a set and instead can force a competitive match after her win in the First Round.

Daria Gavrilova - 3.5 games v Lara Arruabarrena: The majority of the success that Lara Arruabarrena has had on the Tour have come on the clay courts, which shouldn't be a surprise, but she can produce some tough tennis on the grass courts.

There aren't a lot of wins behind her, but Arruabarrena has to be respected having beaten a couple of competent grass court players in the Qualifiers. Wins over Richel Hogenkamp and Tsvetana Pironkova are good solid wins, but Arruabarrena is going to have to take another step up when facing Daria Gavrilova.

The latter can be a frustrating player to back because her style of player means she is capable of dropping a set with a couple of breaks of serve against her. Aggressiveness is one thing, but it's difficult to maintain that behind a serve that can be a little loose and could be under threat in the windy conditions that generally affect Eastbourne.

However that aggressiveness should see Gavrilova attack the Arruabarrena serve with some real success too and I am anticipating a few breaks of serve to be shared out between these players.

The Arruabarrena serve does look the weaker of the two in this match though and I think it will mean Gavrilova is able to win this match 7-5, 6-4.

Jelena Ostapenko - 1.5 games v Carla Suarez Navarro: This is the first appearance for Jelena Ostapenko since winning the French Open title and it will be interesting to see how she responds to a new found fame. We have seen the likes of Garbine Muguruza struggle under the expectation that comes with winning a Grand Slam title, while it has to be said that Ostapenko's game is right on the edge so a series of surprise losses won't be as much of an upset as the odds may indicate.

In saying that, I think Ostapenko's game does transfer very well onto the grass courts. She is a former Junior Wimbledon Champion and the aggressive play should be even more penetrative on the grass courts.

She should be able to hit through Carla Suarez Navarro who has the character to battle through to some solid wins on the grass. However much will depend on her opponents being a little out of sync because the Spaniard will need to defend plenty of balls on a quicker surface than she perhaps like and I think Ostapenko will be a little too good for her.

The risk is clearly in backing a player on their first grass court match of the season and coming off an emotional tournament like Ostapenko has done. She has beaten Carla Suarez Navarro on the grass before and a good serving day should set her up for success in this Second Round match.

Windy conditions can be difficult, but Ostapenko handled those well in Paris and I will look for her to break down Suarez Navarro with a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Shuai Zhang - 1.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: It looked like Varvara Lepchenko was struggling with some sort of injury in Mallorca, but that didn't stop her coming through two Qualifiers to get into the main draw in Eastbourne. The American has a big serve and a heavy forehand that can make her a threat on the grass courts, but Lepchenko can struggle for consistency off the ground.

Giving away poor breaks of serve can be costly on the grass courts and Shuai Zhang can take advantage of Lepchenko here.

She has been returning well in the last couple of matches, but generally this has been an issue for Lepchenko on the grass courts. While we have not seen the best of Zhang on the grass courts, she played well last week in Birmingham to think she can put her opponent under pressure and get the better of Lepchenko.

This has been a difficult season for Zhang which can affect the confidence of players, especially when they see the finishing line. However she is facing someone who has had problems of their own when it comes to winning matches and I do think Zhang can return well enough to put Lepchenko into some difficult positions on the court.

It may need three sets to separate them, but Lepchenko looked a little out of sorts last week in Mallorca and Zhang may just have enough to come though with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Mahut - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Cameron Norrie + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Barbora Strycova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Heather Watson + 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daria Gavrilova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Jelena Ostapenko - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Shuai Zhang - 1.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Season 2017- 17.26 Units (1176 Units Staked, - 1.47% Yield)
Season 2016- 5.64 Units (2013 Units Staked, - 0.00% Yield)
Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 25th)

We have reached the Final of the four events that began last Monday and there looks to be some quality matches on show throughout the day.

At the same time we will get to see the beginning of the tournaments that are played next week which begin earlier than usual so they can complete it in time for Wimbledon which is now only eight days away from beginning.

The Saturday results were a mixed bag for the tennis picks with the frustration of seeing Lucie Safarova pull out of her Semi Final when a set and a break down to Petra Kvitova.

The week has been a mixed one in general, but one that could have been a lot worse.

All will be decided on Sunday as I look to secure a winning week before heading into the final grass court events prior to Wimbledon beginning. The picks next week might not be as frequent as I am not a big fan of the tournaments in the week immediately before a Grand Slam, although I am sure some decent picks will present themselves at the strong WTA event in Eastbourne this week.

Alexander Zverev + 2.5 games v Roger Federer: This doesn't feel like a lot of games to oppose one of the best grass court players of all time with, especially not one who has won all of the big tournaments he has entered in 2017. However I am very behind Alexander Zverev being ready to make the kind of impact on the Tour that so many have expected of him and one of the dark horses for the Wimbledon title will have his odds slashed if he can win the title here in Halle.

Beating Federer in Halle won't be something new for Zverev who managed to do that in the Semi Final last year and my only real concern in backing him is that he has reached the Final of the Doubles here this year too. That means he has been playing a lot of tennis and Zverev has been pushed into a third set in his last two Singles matches here which might also have sapped some energy.

He is young enough to recover that though and Zverev has been producing some monster serving which was again on display when seeing off Richard Gasquet in the Semi Final. Once again Zverev came from a set behind to win a match, the second time in a row he has done that, but the numbers have to be offering him some encouragement.

The German has been returning effectively and protecting the serve with some heavy groundstrokes behind a big first serve and that should see him pressure Federer. The latter has played well on the grass as usual but Karen Khachanov showed what can happen when a young player comes out and looks to overpower Federer by having enough success to give Zverev confidence.

Like 2016, I can see this match heading into a third set to decide it and that is where these games could be very valuable. I think Zverev has every chance of winning the match, but I will look for the young German to keep this one competitive at the very least and will take the games behind a player who has been serving as well as Zverev has this week.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: In Halle we have one Finalist who has reached the Final of the Doubles as well as the Singles, and Sunday is going to be a busy day for Marin Cilic at Queens. He plays the Singles Final before having to compete his Doubles Semi Final and potentially playing the Doubles Final all in the same day.

Getting that much grass court tennis under the legs is going to give Cilic perfect preparation for Wimbledon where he will be a potential dark horse winner of his second career Grand Slam title. Cilic has been serving so well this week and his aggressiveness on the return of serve has given him the platform for a strong run in the draw.

He will be tested by Feliciano Lopez who has been serving wonderfully himself and both men come into the Final having allowed just one break of serve all week.

Where do I think the difference can be made? I think Cilic is some way stronger on the return of serve than Lopez, although the Spaniard can surprise people with the sliced return which can extract mistakes. However generally Cilic has shown he has been the more effective returner while beating and breaking the likes of John Isner and Gilles Muller.

Seeing Muller in the Semi Final was huge for Cilic as this will be the second big serving lefty he would have seen at Queens. That should mean Cilic is prepared for the different spins that comes from the lefty server and I think it will stand the Croatian in good stead. They've met here twice before and both matches have headed into the decider, which wouldn't be a big surprise in this one, but I think Cilic will find the breaks of serve to cover this number.

Alison Riske - 3.5 games v Alize Cornet: The final pick from the Sunday tennis matches will actually come from the First Round at Eastbourne where their WTA event will have a few First Round matches scheduled for today. I will be looking for the American Alison Riske to have too much for Alize Cornet who has struggled for consistency on the grass courts over the last couple of years.

While Cornet has some solid wins at Wimbledon, she has been terrible in grass court events outside of Wimbledon. The Frenchwoman is 2-11 in grass court matches outside of the Grand Slam event at SW19 and was beaten by Naomi Broady last week and now faces an opponent in Riske who is comfortable on the grass courts.

Riske has also matched up well with Cornet having beaten her three times and won each of the six sets they have competed. That includes a crushing win over Cornet in Eastbourne in 2015 and I think Riske is going to be too good for her again.

It hasn't been a great grass court season for Riske so far with a couple of early exits behind her, but the draws haven't been too kind to her either. In 2016 Riske had a lot more success on the grass courts than she has had in 2017, but I like her serving ability on this surface and Riske will also be able to put Cornet under pressure on the return of serve.

I can see Riske continuing her run of successes against Cornet with a 6-4, 6-3 win in the First Round in Eastbourne.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alison Riske - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 17-16, + 0.12 Units (66 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 24th)

I had an extremely late night on Thursday which was always going to make it difficult to research the tennis picks for the Friday Quarter Final matches across the board.

At that point it is better to take a rest day and it came at a decent time with a really strong Thursday turning around what was looking like being a losing week. It had been a poor week up to that point with some struggles over the first three days, but an 7-1 record on Thursday means I am back in a positive position for the week.

There are still two days left for the tournaments being played this week, while the tournaments set to be played next week will begin on Sunday in preparation to finish on Saturday, two days before Wimbledon begins.

The big news for next week is Novak Djokovic's decision to take a Wild Card into Eastbourne- it is a real surprise when you think of how he was sounding at the end of the French Open and the fact he took the Wild Card into a tournament in the week prior to the third Grand Slam of the season.

It says a lot about how Djokovic looks to be feeling ahead of Wimbledon, while I thought it would make more sense to have taken a Wild Card into one of the big tournaments in Queens or Halle this week. The conditions in Eastbourne are notoriously tough too and I think this decision is just another which makes me doubt that Djokovic knows what he needs to do to get back to his best tennis.

On Saturday we are down to the Semi Final matches over the four tournaments being played this week. There are some quality matches coming our way through the day and it should be a decent day for watching tennis.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There is a lot to like about Karen Khachanov and the potential he is showing. A strong French Open has now been followed by a Semi Final run on the grass here in Halle, although I think the young Russian has been fortunate with the way the draw has panned out for him.

Beating an overrated Gilles Simon and narrowly getting past Andrey Rublev surrounded a Kei Nishikori retirement and now you have to say there is a big step up when Khachanov faces Roger Federer.

Federer has had a couple of big wins this week and he looks to have put Stuttgart behind him having been beaten there earlier than expected. Federer should be able to control Khachanov with his serving and I think it will be tough for the latter to really get his teeth into too many of the Federer service games.

As well as Khachanov has played, the grass courts might still be a surface he is getting used to. The first serve makes him dangerous, but I would expect Federer to be able to do some damage when he does see the second serve and he can extract errors from the Khachanov game by using the slice.

Khachanov is confident enough to come to the net and try and put away some volleys to take away the slice and chips from Federer, but I think the latter will get himself into positions to break serve on a few occasions. If he is as strong at those moments as he was against Florian Mayer, Federer can come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win to move into yet another Final in Halle.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: A lot of people had tipped up Alexander Zverev as a dark horse at the French Open after he won the title at the Rome Masters, but the young German had a disappointing early exit at the hands of the dangerous Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Zverev is definitely a threat on the grass courts too and Wimbledon might be a more open tournament where he could make his breakthrough at the Grand Slam level. Winning it won't be easy, but Zverev has shown plenty of strong form over the last couple of weeks and his serving in Halle could see him go a step further than 2016 when he finished Runner Up here.

This is a player who has previously beaten Roger Federer on the grass and the serving he has produced this week has been very strong. It certainly can give Zverev the chance to put pressure on his opponents if he can continue throwing caution to the wind with his strong returning stats also a plus point for him.

Richard Gasquet has had a decent week and is very comfortable on the grass courts, which will always make him a danger on this surface. He was perhaps fortunate to beat Gael Monfils in the First Round, but Gasquet can be a threat when he gets on a roll.

He should be able to have his moments against Zverev, but I think the 'Next Gen' star can ride out the storm. After a tight first set, I will look for Zverev to keep the pressure on with another strong serving display and that can lead to a 7-6, 6-4 win for the German.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: Opposing Gilles Muller on his current run may not be for everyone, but he is going to have to serve at the very top of his game if he is going to beat Marin Cilic. Both players are comfortable on the grass courts and this is not going to be a long match with plenty of big serving dished up by both players.

The Muller serve is so dangerous coming from the lefty and he is very good at hitting his spots and getting a high percentage of first serves in play. Muller backs that up with impressive ability to get to the net and put away volleys which makes it difficult for opponents to really get into their return games.

However Cilic is one of the better returners on the grass courts and he plays with aggression that can force Muller to make difficult volleys. Cilic should be able to get enough balls back in play to be a danger to Muller and I think the Croatian will punish the second serve.

Cilic's experience of beating John Isner this week will stand him in good stead and I have to say his serving has been very impressive too which can keep the pressure on Muller. Of course you can't dismiss a player on a seven match winning run when you think of some of the players Muller has beaten in that time, but I think Cilic's aggressiveness on the return will prove to be a decisive factor.

He should continue to produce the top serving against a limited returner like Muller and I am going to look for Cilic to find a crucial break of serve in a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: The grass court season may not be that long, but there are still some players out there who are very strong on this surface and can be a threat to anyone. Someone like Feliciano Lopez is definitely one of those grass court specialists that can beat anyone they face with a strong lefty serve followed up with strong play at the net.

However I think he may be the second lefty to lose his Semi Final match at Queens on Saturday as I believe Grigor Dimitrov gets the better of Lopez in this match.

He might not have come through the draw as well as Lopez has, but Dimitrov has produced some solid numbers and is perhaps guilty of just lacking focus at a critical time. That has seen DImitrov drop sets in matches that he has been in control of and he can't be as loose against Lopez who has been serving very well this week.

Lopez just hasn't been able to return as effectively as Dimitrov and I think that makes a difference in this Semi Final. I would be surprised if there are a lot of break points in this match, but I think Dimitrov's stronger returning will likely present him with the better chances to find a crucial breakthrough.

This one could easily need three sets to separate them, but I will be looking for Dimitrov to come through with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 kind of win.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Lucie Safarova: The return from a hand injury that almost cost Petra Kvitova her career as a professional tennis player has been surprisingly good for the two time former Wimbledon Champion. The grass courts have always been a surface she has thrived upon and Kvitova looks like she may go into SW19 as the favourite to win there.

She is certainly increasing her support with a really good tournament in Birmingham where Kvitova has been very strong behind the serve and backing that up by producing plenty of solid return games too.

However this may be the biggest test Kvitova has seen this week when taking on compatriot Lucie Safarova who has racked up the wins in recent days. Safarova might never have beaten Kvitova before, but she has won six of seven matches on the grass and continues to come through difficult spells to work her way back into matches and turn them around.

That has seen six of her seven matches need a deciding set too and Safarova is serving well enough to be considered a danger. Whether she can keep producing those serves when facing the firepower that Kvitova produces on the return is going to be key for Safarova, but all this tennis being played has got be accumulating up on her fitness levels.

There will be times Safarova is able to come through her service games relatively unscathed, but I think the Kvitova serve will keep her under pressure. That should lead to a couple of cracks and I think Kvitova will find her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win to move through to the Final on Sunday.

Caroline Garcia - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: Winning back to back titles in Mallorca will be a big achievement for Caroline Garcia and she will be the favourite to do that having returned to the Semi Final. She had to battle through two wins on Friday but managed to do that and I think she gets the better of Anastasija Sevastova for a second year in a row.

Last year this was the Final here in Mallorca and while Sevastova has improved, I am still not convinced the grass courts suit her. The Latvian has a decent first serve, but that is still an area of her game which can be attacked as we have seen through this week.

Sevastova's strength is in her return games and she has been very strong in that regard, but now faces an opponent whose serve can be the foundation for her success. Garcia gets a nice pop off the serve which can become a real weapon on the grass courts and I think she will be able to earn the short ball throughout much of this match.

Errors can still be a problem for Garcia, but she should have confidence having had a strong French Open before returning to Mallorca to defend the title she won in 2016. Garcia has done enough on the return games to give Sevastova problems, especially as the latter could have some tiredness in the arms and legs having needed three sets to win all of her matches this week.

Sevastova had a difficult Quarter Final win over Ana Konjuh which could have sapped some energy both mentally and physically and I will look for Garcia to expose that. I do think Sevastova will have her successes with the confidence she has built up over the last couple of months, but Garcia can break her down in a 6-4, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-13, + 2.06 Units (56 Units Staked, + 3.68% Yield)