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Monday, 25 July 2011

Tennis Outright Picks July 25th-31st

We have a number of tournaments running this week, with the final few clay court events in Europe until after the US Open and also the continuation of the hard court swing in Los Angeles.

The WTA Tour also has one of the most popular tournaments on their run up to the US Open starting this week in Stanford and there are a lot of big names involved there.

Hopefully I can identify some players that can enjoy strong weeks and build on the successes of last week.

ATP Umag
This tournament does not have the biggest names on the tour taking part and that is highlighted as the highest seeded player in the draw is ranked outside the top 20 in the World Rankings.

The top seed is Juan Ignacio Chela but the Argentine has not been in the best of form and was a surprise early loser in Hamburg last week. The top half is also looking like the tougher half of the draw and the favourite to come out of it is Marin Cilic.

Cilic was my outright pick last week in Hamburg and gave us a run for our money but I dont think it is correct that he is as short as 3.75 to win the tournament this week. He has been given a favourable draw this week and is unlikely to be pushed before the Semi Finals as well as receiving the support of the home crowd.

There were still some serious issues with the serve that need to be resolved last week and he was pushed to 3 sets by the likes of Bastian Knittel and Tobias Kamke so I dont think he should be as short as he is to win this tournament. Croatian players have also struggled in here recent seasons and Ivan Ljubicic's Quarter Final appearance last year is their best effort for some time.

Potito Starace could make his presence felt this week in the top half after reaching the Final here last season, while his fellow Italian Fabio Fognini may be able to take advantage of a kind looking draw.

However, I have too many question marks on players in the top half of the draw so instead will focus my attention on the bottom half.

The highest seeded players in this section are Ivan Ljubicic and Alexandr Dolgopolov, but I have reservations on both of them. As I mentioned before, Ljubicic and his Croatian contingent have not really enjoyed much success at this tournament, particularly when you compare it to Zagreb earlier in the year, while Dolgopolov has been struggling for form and clay is probably not the surface where he can do most damage.

The one player that really appeals to me in this section is Juan Carlos Ferrero- the Spaniard recently won the tournament in Stuttgart on clay and has an extremely strong record at this event, winning last season and finishing as Runner Up the year before that.

Spaniards have also had a good record here in the past, particularly Carlos Moya who seemed to win the tournament every season and the draw could really open up for Ferrero if he hits the ground running.

The biggest obstacle on a run to the Final looks to be a potential 2nd Round meeting with Ivan Ljubicic if Ferrero gets past Maximo Gonzalez in the 1st Round as I feel he should.

Ferrero is down 2-3 in the head to head with Ljubicic, but he did win their last meeting at the French Open in 2009 and their previous meeting before that was in 2005. Ljubicic has made a couple of good runs on the clay this season but has struggled in this tournament in the past and I think Ferrero can go all the way to the Final if he wins this match.

A Quarter Final match against Tommy Robredo or Carlos Berlocq will not hold much fear for Ferrero and a Semi Final against the seeded Dolgopolov would be a rematch of their meeting from this tournament last year that Ferrero won for the loss of just 3 games.

All in all, I will take Ferrero with the belief he can beat Ljubicic in Round 2 and go on to his 3rd consecutive Final at this event.

ATP Los Angeles
The US hard court swing rolls onto the West Coast and there are some decent players taking part this season as preparation for the US Open continues.

The Number 1 seed at the event is Mardy Fish, but I will be interested to see if he has much in the tank at the moment after winning the event in Atlanta last week and having played the Davis Cup the week before. He also faces a tough looking match with Gilles Muller in Round 2 so I would not be that surprised if he is not quite focused on this week.

There are other tough looking matches in this section for Fish to negotiate if he wants to reach another Final on this hard court swing and instead I will look at which players could take advantage of a Fish slip.

The person I feel could benefit the most is the Number 6 seed this week, Dmitry Tursunov- the Russian is a former winner in Los Angeles and has finally got back to form on the tour and has the perfect game for the hard courts of North America.

A real problem for Tursunov could be a Quarter Final with Marcos Baghdatis although he does have a winning record against him and could have the game to upset the somewhat inconsistent Cypriot. Baghdatis has lost early at Indian Wells and Miami this season while being beaten in the Quarter Final here last season.

While Tursunov has lost all 5 meetings with Fish, if the American goes out early, there is a chance that he can get through to another Final here.

So I am going to have a small interest in Tursunov here, but the main player of interest is the Number 2 seed Juan Martin Del Potro, a player that is definitely going the right way since a wrist injury destroyed his 2010 season.

Del Potro is arguably in the weaker section of the draw and has been given a bye to the 2nd Round, meaning he will have to win just 4 matches if he wants to win the title he took on his only other appearance in 2008.

The Argentine will face a tough looking 2nd Round match with James Blake and then could face Xavier Malisse in the Quarter Final. He is then seeded to meet Thomaz Bellucci in the Semi Final and that does not look the most daunting of tasks to reach the Final here.

As a former winner of the event, Del Potro looks set to catch another title as he looks to secure a better position at the US Open.

WTA Stanford
This is one of those tournaments on the WTA where the majority of the top players do come and take part in- this week has proven to be no different.

The current favourite for the event is Maria Sharapova, one of the form players on the WTA tour and one who is looking to make amends after just falling short in the last 2 Grand Slams. It is telling of Sharapova's form that her defeats have come to the winner at both the French Open and Wimbledon and it isn't much of a surprise that she is considered the favourite for this event.

However, the draw has been far from kind- she will likely face Daniela Hantuchova in the 2nd Round and that is no gimme with the way Hantuchova had been playing through to Wimbledon.

Furthermore, there are some real dangers waiting further down the line for Sharapova with Serena Williams looking like a potential Quarter Final opponent and Sam Stosur a potential Semi Final opponent.

All in all, whoever comes through the bottom half of the draw is likely going to have to do it the hard way so I will instead focus on the top half for my pick.

To that end, the Number 1 seed and defending Champion Victoria Azarenka looks like she will have a real chance of going all the way again. She has the perfect game for the hard courts and has previous form on this course.

The first real test Azarenka is likely to face is in the Quarter Final against Dominika Cibulkova, but she should feel confident as she has a 6-1 head to head record against the diminutive Slovakian and has won all 5 meetings on the hard courts.

A Semi Final with Marion Bartoli is most likely and that is another match that should not hold any fear for Azarenka considering she has won 6 of their 7 clashes too.

MY PICKS: Juan Carlos Ferrero @ 7.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit E/W)
Dmitry Tursunov @ 17.00 Ladbrokes (0.5 Units E/W)
Juan Martin Del Potro @ 2.50 William Hill (3 Units)
Victoria Azarenka @ 4.50 Stan James (2 Units E/W)

E/W are paid at half the price when a player reaches the Final

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