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Thursday, 31 May 2012

French Open Day 5 Picks (31st May)

It has been more than a disappointing start to this Grand Slam for me and the worst since covering the last four over the previous 12 months. It has been my own fault as I have shortlisted plenty of picks that have turned out to be winners, but I have a knack of finding the losers and making sure they are all picked.

It's been a little frustrating too as players picked seem to fall apart at the merest hint of pressure, while their opponents seem to have all the mental toughness. Still, I still believe I have the right system in place and it is a matter of time before things turn around (and hopefully beginning today and before the tournament comes to a close).

Venus Williams sadly exited today, although that was the smallest interest I had in the outright stakes. It was more of a shame seeing a once great player just not look herself and I would not be surprised if this the last season we see her on the Tour unless she can get something to help her physical issues out.

Roger Federer dropped a set today, but Novak Djokovic has yet to lose one and that is good news for one of my outright picks in the Men's draw. I also think Federer is definitely looking vulnerable at the moment and his potential match with Tomas Berdych in the Quarter Final is beginning to look like being a real test of his credentials.

Day 5 Picks:

Andy Murray - 8.5 games v Jarkko Nieminen: This is definitely a step up for Andy Murray following his First Round win, but it is a winnable match as there isn't anything that Jarkko Nieminen can offer that will scare the World Number 4.

I have a lot of respect for Nieminen simply for getting the very best out of his game, although he is just a really solid player all round without being exceptional in any one area. A concern for the Finn will be his own serve which can be a liability at times and that spells trouble against one of the most effective returners on the Men's Tour.

There is some concern with how Andy Murray is doing physically, but he should be too good for Nieminen here having won their previous three meetings. They last met a couple of years ago at Wimbledon when Murray won by 9 games and I think something similar will happen in this match.

Hopefully Murray can make the fast start to this match as he did in the First Round and put himself in a strong position to cover.

Mikhail Youzhny - 1.5 sets v Robin Haase: I was going to favour Mikhail Youzhny to cover the big spread against James Blake in the First Round and it didn't take long for me to regret not pulling the trigger as he dismantled the veteran American.

Youzhny is one of the most talented players around, but he can be a little inconsistent at times, particularly as his career is winding down. The Russian hasn't played a lot of tennis this year down to injuries, but has been winning more than he has lost, while it has taken the best players to take him down on the clay courts.

Losses to Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic are no real disgrace on the surface and I think he is still too effective for Robin Haase despite the Dutchman favouring the clay over other surfaces.

Haase did enjoy a good run at Monte Carlo, but has since lost to Stanislas Wawrinka and Juan Carlos Ferrero while another to Santiago Giraldo is a little more concerning. He lost the only previous meeting with Mikhail Youzhny and was beaten by Mardy Fish in this Second Round last season.

I can see the first set being close, possibly even the first two sets, before Youzhny takes control and gets through.

Richard Gasquet - 6.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: If you haven't heard of Grigor Dimitrov, just to let you know that he is a talented youngster that has been compared to Roger Federer in his style of play and potential, but one who has failed to live up to lofty expectations at the moment.

Dimitrov also has the habit of letting his head drop when things are going against him, while some of his defeats on the clay this season have been puzzling to say the least. Last week he was beaten comfortably by Gilles Simon, but it is the defeats to Aljaz Bedane and Xavier Malisse that are much more troublesome.

Richard Gasquet had to work hard to get through his First Round match, but he should have enough consistency to extract the errors from Dimitrov in this match and help himself to the cover as well as a place in the Third Round. The Frenchman will believe he can win this match and seems to perform better when under those conditions than when playing players he doesn't have the same belief against.

I expect Dimitrov to at least push Gasquet at first, but perhaps fall away if he falls behind and allow Gasquet to win and cover.

Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games v Urszula Radwanska: Petra Kvitova may not be the most comfortable on a clay court, but I expect her to take care of the younger Radwanska sister on the Tour behind her own big groundstrokes and solid serve.

Kvitova won easily in the First Round and has all the tools to punish Radwanska who is not as good a defender as her big sister. If the Czech player can make a fast start, she could be well on the way to a cover by the end of the first set.

Radwanska did well to win in the First Round as the underdog, but this is a completely different test for her. Losses to Heather Watson and Melinda Czink on the clay courts will be a concern coming into this match. The Pole has also not been the most comfortable on the clay courts in her young career, so I expect the Wimbledon Champion to be too strong for her.

Tommy Haas to win 3-1 in sets v Sergey Stakhovsky: Sergey Stakhovsky caused one of the surprises of the First Round as he beat compatriot Alexandr Dolgopolov in five sets and he now faces a veteran who is having one more run here in the form of Tommy Haas.

Haas will be most famous to the casual fans of being the man who held match points against Roger Federer at the 2009 French Open the day after Rafael Nadal had been beaten by Robin Soderling. He has already had a successful week by qualifying and winning a round in the main draw, but Haas is unlikely to want to end things here.

I do think he is favourite to win the match, but the German is a little inconsistent these days and it is entirely possible that he could have a lapse in concentration that allows Stakhovsky to take a set in the match.

The Ukrainian has a decent serve and good movement so is comfortable on the clay courts. However, he could be a little tired mentally after a five set contest in the last round and may fall away if he goes 2-1 down in sets.

I think the first two sets are likely to be split, but that is when Haas' mental belief will see him through in what will be a tight match.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 8.5 games @ 2.40 Pinnacle (2 Units) Play suspended with Tsonga receiving serve at 6-2, 4-6, 1-1 (15-15)
Andy Murray - 8.5 games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 1.5 sets @ 2.17 188Bet (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 6.5 games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tommy Haas win 3-1 in sets @ 3.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

FRENCH OPEN UPDATE: 6-11, - 7 Units (31 Units Staked)

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