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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Wimbledon Day 6 Picks (June 30th 2012)

We are finally at that point when all the British interest (big exception being Andy Murray) are no longer in the draw and I guess that is a good thing for those who enjoy watching decent tennis rather than mismatches.

In saying that, I think Heather Watson should be given credit for reaching the Third Round here, but the hard work for her will start now- she has to find a way to push forward and get better consistency from her results and start moving up the Rankings as soon as possible.

Right at this moment though, I would favour Laura Robson to end up having the better career of the two youngsters that British Women's tennis are pinning their hopes to. Robson has is a lefty, has some punishing groundstrokes and also has a decent serve- she is also feeling more comfortable in her body now that her growth spurt is slowing down and she looks like she will have the capabilities of moving up the Rankings as long as she is given the tactical support.

On the other hand, Watson is more a scrapper that will look to play like a wall against opponents, but I think there is only so far you can go playing that way on the WTA Tour these days. Agnieska Radwanska is the ultimate grinder on the Tour that will look to use the pace of her opponents and she has reached World Number 3, but I think it is telling that she has failed to reach a Semi Final at the Grand Slam level.

With the power involved in the Women's game, there is every chance that someone is hitting too big on any given day and you have to have some element of aggression if you are to achieve major things at this level. Unfortunately, Watson doesn't strike me as someone that is going to ever be comfortable looking to play her shots and I don't think she has the movement skills of Radwanska to push herself up into the upper echelons of the Women's game.

I might be wrong, but I am going for Robson to finish with the better career of the two players.

The picks went 2-2 yesterday for the slightest of losses, but it could, and perhaps should, have been better as Sabine Lisicki seemed to mentally check out of the second set despite winning a tight first set. Oh well, I can't always have it my way, although the Janko Tipsarevic loss to Mikhail Youzhny was a big surprise in my mind.

Day 6 Picks:

Yanina Wickmayer + 3.5 games v Tamira Paszek: I mentioned on my Twitter page yesterday that I can't believe the amount of players on the WTA Tour that insist on mindlessly hitting the ball as hard as possible and not really look to construct points and Yanina Wickmayer is the ultimate example of that.

Wickmayer has not really reached the heights of making the Semi Finals at the US Open in 2009, but she has enjoyed some success on the grass in the past. The Belgian did reach the Fourth Round here last season, although she is coming up against an opponent that should be full of confidence as she continues a winning streak.

Tamira Paszek is very comfortable on the grass and she has continued her form from winning in Eastbourne last week when surprising Caroline Wozniacki in the First Round.

Paszek has had a nightmare season going 2-12 on the Tour, but she has turned that around with a 7-1 record on the grass courts. The Austrian reached the Quarter Final here at Wimbledon last season too, but losses to Anne Keothavong and Alison Riske in other pre-Wimbledon grass court tournaments have to be a slight concern.

This match does have all the makings of going into three sets so taking the games could be very valuable and Wickmayer can get so hot that she can roll of games in succession that could see her cover even in a three set loss. I will  just keep my fingers crossed that the crazy, error making machine does not turn up tomorrow.

Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: This looks like it could be a mismatch as the defending Wimbledon Champion takes on a player that had a 2-10 record in grass court matches in her career before winning in the first couple of rounds in this tournament.

Petra Kvitova hasn't really played as well as she did at Wimbledon last season, but she did have a much more comfortable win in the Second Round than she did in the First and I think that will have at least improved her belief that she can retain the title.

She will also have plenty of confidence having won both previous meetings against Varvara Lepchenko including a straight sets win for the loss of just three games at the French Open last month.

The American is a left-handed player but her advantage will be negated by Kvitova who is also a lefty, and Lepchenko has not faced anyone of this quality so far in this tournament.

It's unlikely to be as easy as the French Open meeting as that was terribly one-sided, but a 6-3, 6-2 win would not be that surprising in my opinion.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 sets v Lukas Rosol: This is really a pick made against Lukas Rosol who must surely come back down to Earth following a truly once-in-a-lifetime match against Rafael Nadal to beat the Spaniard in the Second Round.

How many times in a tennis tournament will a player have a terrific performance to cause an upset and then struggle to reach those heights under new expectations in their next match? That is the problem for Rosol as he not going to be under the roof in Centre Court, but on the outside courts with the cameras fixed on him.

It won't just be the expectation that will be a problem for the Czech player, but the fact he is playing Philipp Kohlschreiber who is a very good grass court player himself. The German won the tournament in Halle last season, and he also reached the Semi Final there this season, although he has not progressed beyond the Third Round at Wimbledon.

You know Kohlschreiber is good enough to try and keep the pressure on Rosol and I will look for him to take advantage of Rosol who may just have had a hard time focusing on what he wants to do in the tournament following all the attention he would have received since Thursday night.

It might be too much for him to take mentally and it has to be remembered that Rosol isn't that experienced in matches played on the grass and I think Kohlschreiber can get through in three or four sets.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Sam Querrey: Marin Cilic has quietly made his way through the draw and I think he can set up a potentially exciting match with Andy Murray in the Fourth Round with a win over the big-serving American Sam Querrey in this encounter.

Cilic won Queens, albeit through a David Nalbandian default, but he showed some solid signs there all week and he continues to play well on the grass. He has all the tools to do well on the surface, but the most under-rated may be his returning game at the moment which is helping him set up a number of break point chances. I think at Queens he was winning almost 50% of return points before the Final, while he also was showing his ability in that aspect of his game in the exhibition match he played against John Isner days before the tournament started.

Sam Querrey has had his best performance at a Grand Slam since 2010 by reaching the Third Round here and he is clearly also very comfortable on the grass as a former winner at Queens and also reaching the Fourth Round here in 2010.

However, the American is still trying to get back to the form that took him that far at Wimbledon and the US Open following an injury that kept him out for a few months last season and I think he may have a few problems as he may not be able to rely on his serve as much as usual with Cilic returning the way he has been.

The Croatian also has a 2-0 head to head record against Querrey with both wins coming on grass courts... However, both of those matches had to go the distance as Cilic won in five sets at Wimbledon in 2009 and was a three set winner at Queens earlier this month.

I believe this one will be settled in his favour in four sets and I believe he will earn enough breaks of serve to cover the spread.

MY PICKS: Yanina Wickmayer + 3.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 11-9, + 5.32 Units (39 Units Staked)

Friday, 29 June 2012

Wimbledon Day 5 Picks (June 29th 2012)

This has to have been one of the more 'headline-making' days during the course of the entire tennis season so far as news story after news story made the rounds before the surprise exit of Rafael Nadal in the Second Round of the tournament.

The day began with the sports pages all talking about Gilles Simon who had made the comment that Women do not deserve equal pay at the Grand Slams as he felt the Men were bringing in more coverage and thus should be reflected in the payroll scale. It was interesting as the Frenchman has just been elected to join the ATP Player Council for the next two years so is clearly someone that has the respect of his peers.

You got the normal reaction from some who will criticise anyone that is not 'politically correct' in any statements they make (these same people are also the ones most vocal about the lack of characters in sports these days, yet won't want anyone to rock the boat with anything they have to say to the press). Others shrugged their shoulders, while it was obvious that Simon was going to be grilled in his Press Conference following his match with Xavier Malisse.

Simon has also been criticised by some of the female players on the Tour, but he has been fighting his corner and openly stated that every other male player actually feels the same way.

What's my take on the matter? I actually semi-agree with Simon if I am honest... I don't think there should be level pay on the Grand Slam level as the Men play best of five sets and so should be given more money for essentially doing more work. HOWEVER, I do think some of the Masters events, like Miami and Indian Wells for example, that have Men and Women events should actually make the prize money the same as they do the same amount of work.

Some of the players suggested that TV ratings should determine which of the two Tours deserve more money, but that makes no sense as it swings in roundabouts where both have the edge at different times.

I do think the WTA Tour should be pushing for their matches to be extended to best of five at the Grand Slam level though to make this argument moot. I keep hearing how the Women work just as hard as the Men, so I don't think there will be a fitness issue, although it may be tough for tournaments to be completed on time if there are too many matches going the distance and lasting for a few hours.

That shouldn't be an argument against extending the Women matches to best of five though, and I think it would make a lot of sense for them to do so for the Grand Slams. It would differentiate the Slams from the other tournaments, as it does for the ATP Tour currently, and I actually think it would make the Women matches more exciting as more momentum shifts means more drama.

This is just a personal view, but this sounds like an issue that may just be under the spotlight again.

Andy Murray got through to the Third Round today and later drama means there will be growing expectation on the British Number 1 to reach his first Wimbledon Final. However, the biggest story coming out of his match was the Press Conference given by Ivo Karlovic in which he essentially said he was 'cheated' out of a win by a number of foot faults that were called against him.

There were 11 foot faults in all and, as Karlovic told the media, they all seemed to come at big moments in the match and this is a definite controversy that needs to be nipped in the bud immediately if the reputation of the tournament is going to be kept intact.

Someone needs to view the video of the foot faults ASAP and prove that they were made- the big issue is that foot faults are generally ignored these days so something needs to be done as to why so many were called today.

I am sure someone will have checked the video by the time you read this, but the 'integrity' of the tournament will be at stake if it is proved that the line judges were making mistakes in calling them over and over... What can they do if that was the case anyway?

There may be fines and there may be suspensions, but a player has been knocked out of the tournament now and this has to be settled so there are no other issues like this going forward. It was a stunning comment by Karlovic today and one that will need to be resolved- I also cannot wait for the reaction he gets when he goes out to play doubles tomorrow morning.

Finally, the drama I talked about above was the fact that Rafael Nadal has been knocked out of the tournament by a player ranked at Number 100 in the World- this is also the lowest ranked player that has beaten Nadal on the Tour and it was a stunning achievement from Lukas Rosol.

Nadal was outhit by Rosol, but he must have been cursing his misfortune of having to play in an indoor court against an opponent that was hitting monster serves and playing some lights out tennis. It was simply some stunning tennis from Rosol and he didn't seem to think about what he was about to achieve as he served out in the fifth set with two aces to wrap up the game.

The tennis played was once-in-a-lifetime stuff and this was probably the biggest surprise I have witnessed in the Grand Slams (in the Men's draw) since Robin Soderling beat Nadal at the French Open in 2009.

There were plenty of similarities to that match in my mind as I continued to wait for the moment when Rosol would make a couple of mistakes and open the door for the Spaniard, but it didn't come and Rosol was a worthy winner.

The expectations on Andy Murray will have increased as that seems to have opened up the bottom half of the draw, but I think the real beneficiary may be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who has nothing to fear from his Quarter of the draw.

Murray still has a couple of tough matches to negotiate before he gets to the Semi Finals, while Tsonga seems to have a clear run in all honesty and the Frenchman may just get a chance to prove he was right in saying he can beat Novak Djokovic on grass having pushed him so hard at the French Open.

Random thought: After seeing how the Nadal match finished, how much will Roger Federer be begging for rain on Semi Final day next Friday if he has Novak Djokovic as his opponent?

Day 5 Picks:

Janko Tipsarevic - 3.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: Janko Tipsarevic has lost his last two matches against Mikhail Youzhny, but the last of those came back in 2010 and I think the careers of these two players have gone in opposite directions since then and the Serb World Number 8 is likely to be too strong this time.

Tipsarevic has been serving pretty effectively during this tournament and I think he is enjoying the faster conditions that seem to be in operation at the moment. He has also played on this court before in the event and should be used to his surroundings unlike Youzhny who has been placed off the show courts.

The Russian is still a tough prospect and has moved through the draw without any real worries so far, but this is a marked rise in quality of opponent and Youzhny has also had an issue in protecting his own serve so far this season.

It wouldn't be a massive surprise if the match did indeed go into four sets, but I do like Tipsarevic coming through 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Richard Gasquet - 1.5 sets v Nicolas Almagro: My big concern about this match is the fact that Nicolas Almagro has a 3-0 head to head record against Richard Gasquet and I know the Frenchman can sometimes find it tough to escape the mental aspect of matches.

However, I think Gasquet is definitely the better grass court player of the two and I think he will eventually be able to show that off.

Both have been effective behind serve for much of the tournament so far, but it is Almagro who has been forced to spend more time on the court and that can come back to haunt a player especially if they are to fall behind in the match.

The players are likely to be showing off two of the best backhands on the court (expect the commentators to cream over that fact at least ten times during the course of the match), but Gasquet is a former Semi Finalist here and I think the grass court pedigree he has will be the difference.

This is possibly going to four sets, but I will look for Gasquet to be the player making his way into the Fourth Round on Monday.

Sabine Lisicki - 2.5 games v Sloane Stephens: This is a fascinating match, but it is one that I think Sabine Lisicki can come through.

Sloane Stephens is an up and coming player on the WTA Tour, but the young American doesn't have the same grass court pedigree as the German who reached the Semi Final here last season and that may just make the difference in this one.

Stephens has performed well this season as she looks to get up the Rankings, but I think she has come up a little short against some of the better players and Lisicki, on a grass court, does fall into that category as far as I am concerned.

Some may be concerned that Lisicki had to win a long third set to get to this match, but take a look at what she did last year- Lisicki had to come from a set behind to win 8-6 in the third against Na Li and then went on and comfortably won her Third Round match.

I don't expect it to be that easy, but a 6-4, 6-4 win for Lisicki would not be a big surprise.

Shuai Peng - 2.5 games v Arantxa Rus: I am going for the occasion to be a little too much for Arantxa Rus in this one having caused one of the surprises of the tournaments when she beat Samantha Stosur in three sets.

Shuai Peng is a decent grass court player, reaching the Fourth Round here last season, and I think the Chinese player can be a little too consistent for Rus in this one.

It wouldn't be the first time that a player causing a surprise is then beaten in the next match they play, while Rus has not really had a deep run in any of the grass court tournaments she has previously played.

The lefty serve may cause Peng a few early problems in all honesty, but I think she can get in front once she has the hang of that and come through possibly 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

MY PICKS: Janko Tipsarevic - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 1.5 sets @ 1.85 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki - 2.5 games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Shuai Peng - 2.5 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 9-7, + 5.72 Units (31 Units Staked)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wimbledon Day 4 Picks (June 28th 2012)

It was a pretty ugly day for the picks yesterday, although it was more down to the poor performances of players that gave up winning positions before faltering.

Stanislas Wawrinka and Ernests Gulbis were the biggest culprits as both threw away 2-1 set leads and were beaten in the final set by throwing in a poor service game. Richard Gasquet then compounded matters by breaking serve five times, but still not getting the cover and it has been a poor day all around.

These things happen in a Grand Slam event and it is all about bouncing back correctly and that is what I will look to do with Day 4 Picks:

Sara Errani - 4.5 games v Anne Keothavong: I like the chances of the French Open Runner Up in this match against one of the remaining home hopes left in Anne Keothavong.

There is always a little more pressure on the Brits to perform here at Wimbledon and Keothavong has regularly struggled to deal with that in the past and I think this could be her downfall again.

Errani will force the British player to hit more shots than she may like and that lack of consistency may let Keothavong down as she will likely have to hit one more winner on occasions when she would have won the point against other opponents.

The players are 1-1 on the head to head, but it was Errani who took the last match on a grass court in Hertogenbosch back in 2008 and I believe the Italian is a better player since then.

Tamira Paszek - 4.5 games v Alize Cornet: Tamira Paszek is very comfortable on the grass courts and, as long as she hasn't been celebrating her surprise win over Caroline Wozniacki with too much vigour, I would think she can take care of Alize Cornet in this Second Round match.

Paszek has played a lot of tennis recently after winning the title at Eastbourne just last Saturday but wins over Daniele Hantuchova, Tsventana Pironkova, Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber last week as well as Wozniacki here should have given her plenty of confidence she can get through to the Third Round.

On the other hand, Cornet is having a very good overall season after struggling for consistency over the last three seasons, but she hasn't enjoyed much on the grass courts. The Frenchwoman had actually lost NINE matches in a row on grass before her win in the First Round and she has never been beyond the Second Round here at Wimbledon.

They have split their two previous meetings, but this surface should favour Paszek and I think she can get through in straight sets in this one.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is one of the few Spaniards that prefers the faster surfaces to the slower clay courts associated with their country, but this looks too big a test for him to overcome.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga removed the doubts about his finger with an impressive win over Lleyton Hewitt in the First Round and he clearly loves playing on the grass courts. This is a tournament Tsonga really feels he can make an impact in with the way he plays the game and his confidence has only increased after a great showing at the French Open on his least favoured surface.

While Tsonga was essentially strolling to a First Round win, Garcia-Lopez was taken into a fifth set and eventually prevailed 10-8 so fatigue could play a part.

The fact that Tsonga is 4-1 up in the head to head strengthens his case and three of those wins have come fairly easily although there was one match that needed two tie-breakers to separate the players.

I don't expect that in this match and will be looking for a straight-forward 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win for Tsonga.

MY PICKS: Radek Stepanek - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units) To be completed 6-2, 5-6
Sara Errani - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tamira Paszek - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 5-7, - 1.94 Units (23 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Euro 2012 Semi Final Picks (June 27-28)

We have reached the business end of the European Championships and I have to say I have been a little disappointed with the tournament as a whole- I might be the only one who feels this way, but I think there has been a lack of real stars at the event and the overall quality of football has really gone down in my opinion.

I might just be feeling nostalgic, but I was looking back at some of the names that were involved in the World Cup of 1998 or the European Championships of the early part of the 21st Century and I just think there are a number of players that would walk into the sides on show at this tournament.

It's the forward players that have disappointed me the most- you have people in the media speaking about how well teams are defending, but the number of absolute clear-cut chances that have been missed have been disgusting to be perfectly frank.

Mario Gomez is a prime example of someone who would not, in my opinion, have been near the starter of a national team going back ten years- I was looking at Davor Suker of Croatia and I honestly think he would pretty much walk into any national side that was involved in this tournament.

Like I say, maybe I am being a little nostalgic, but I do think there is a lack of quality in World Football at the moment as teams rely on athletes and hard-working players rather than those with skills in their boots (couple of exceptions being Ronaldo and Lionel Messi).

I actually think the best four teams in the competition have made it through to the Semi Final, but I am not entirely convinced we are going to see two great matches. The Spain-Portugal affair could be tight and tense, while Italy may be a little tired after their exploits in the Quarter Final against England.

It looks like we are going to see another Spain-Germany match at a major international event, the third time in a row that will occur, but the tournament has been devoid of any real surprises so far and maybe we are going to get our first with one of those nations failing to make it through!

June 27th
Portugal v Spain Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14535-Portugal-v-Spain.htm)

June 28th
Germany v Italy Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14536-Germany-v-Italy.htm)

MY PICKS:Spain to win 1-0 @ 6.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Germany to win and at least three goals scored @ 3.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Euro 2012 Update: 7-17, - 2.11 Units (36 Units Staked)

Wimbledon Day 3 Picks (June 27th 2012)

While we are in the early rounds here at Wimbledon, it means there is a lot of focus on the British contingent, a focus that doesn't usually last beyond the first few days as most will have exited by then (apart from Andy Murray who is a regular feature in the second week of most Grand Slam events).

That means the viewers are 'treated' to a bunch of commentators hyping up the potential of the British players and taking a keen interest in how they do, despite the fact that were pay so much interest outside of the four week grass court season.

The last couple of days have provided some stunningly bad insights into how the British players are doing (again I exclude Andy Murray from this criticism as he has achieved plenty in his career already).

We had Sam Smith comparing Laura Robson to Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova- it makes me wonder why Robson is ranked so low if she really is as good as those players and she is 18 now so this is a time for her to make a breakthrough. I actually think Robson has plenty of talent, but she needs to be given better direction on the tactical side and a better game plan in matches rather than 'hit the ball as hard as possible from all angles and don't worry about actually building a point'!!

I also don't think Smith's comparison is healthy for a player that has yet to make such a breakthrough and it would be better to suggest she may be 'under-achieving' to try and get a reaction from her. Robson has probably heard the big comparisons plenty ever since winning Junior Wimbledon and she hasn't progressed enough that people have to take a different tact and expect better from her throughout the year and not just during the time of Wimbledon.

The other player that seemed to get an 'over-hyped' reaction was Heather Watson- some 'experts' spoke of the big shock of her getting through her First Round match, but all failed to mention that she was the favourite in the match with the layers and that anything less than a win may have actually been a disappointing result. Again, I do question why no one tries to push these youngsters rather than praising them for doing what they should be and it is no surprise that Britain have failed to produce consistent stars on the Tour for twenty years.

It was a mixed day for the picks yesterday as the winning line saw two picks in the winning enclosure, while Tommy Haas was a 5 set loser rather than a 4 set winner. However, both Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Roddick are in tough spots in their matches and that means we could be seeing a slight losing day once it is all said and done.

Wawrinka is probably the more disappointing result as he led 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 after the first three sets were completed, but he struggled after that and failed to record another break and now finds himself down 5-4 in the fifth set with the match suspended at deuce on the Jurgen Melzer serve.

Day 3 Picks:

Shuai Peng - 3.5 games v Ayumi Morita: This is a battle between two Asian players as China takes on Japan in a Second Round match, but I am favouring the higher ranked Shuai Peng to take out Ayumi Morita.

This is actually the sixth meeting between the players and it is Peng who leads the way 4-1, winning the last three matches over the last two years.

Peng actually hasn't had the best of seasons, but she has reached the Third Round or better in six of her last seven Grand Slam events including the Fourth Round here at Wimbledon last season. Morita, on the other hand, has failed to get beyond the Second Round in her last six Grand Slam appearances, while she also lost her last five matches on a grass court before beating Jarmila Gajdosova in the First Round.

The Chinese player has also covered this spread in the last three matches between the two players and in all four wins over Morita and I will look for her to do the same again in this one.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Jerzy Janowicz: My biggest concern here is that Ernests Gulbis is going to have been celebrating his First Round win over Tomas Berdych and completely forgotten that he has another match to play today.

Gulbis won't be on the big Centre Court for this one either so his motivation may not be at its highest, despite him exclaiming the win over Berdych will be a turning point in his career (there have been plenty of those occasions where Gulbis believes this so take that with a pinch of salt), but he has to consider that the draw has really opened up for him now that he has taken out one of the top seeds.

Jerzy Janowicz is moving up the rankings and the young Polish player should be full of confidence having come through the qualifiers and then beating Simone Bolelli from a set down in the First Round. However, he hasn't played a Main Tour tournament this year before Wimbledon so fatigue may eventually become a problem for him.

These two players have split two previous meetings, with Janowicz winning most recently in a qualifier for the Masters event in Rome, but I expect this one to go in a similar manner to when Gulbis beat the Pole in four sets in a Davis Cup tie a couple of years ago.

I can see the first two sets being tight affairs, but if Gulbis can at least split those, I think he will be good enough to come through and grab the cover.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Ryan Harrison: This is a big match for the young American, but I think Ryan Harrison is going to have a really tough day in the office against a motivated Novak Djokovic that will not want to spend too much time on court with the unsettled weather that we are supposed to have on Wednesday in London.

I do think Harrison has a lot of talent and he has done well to reach the top 50 in the World Rankings at just 20 years old, but he might not have pushed on as much as he may have due to a temper on court where he mentally gives up sets.

Harrison seems to get down on himself when he is making errors and that is something Djokovic is likely to extract from him in a set or two as the World Number 1 is a very competent defender that can quickly turn defence into attack.

Djokovic beat Harrison 6-2, 6-3 on the hard courts of Cincinnati last season, and I think he will be too strong for the American again and I believe he will end up getting through 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games v Ruben Bemelmens: Richard Gasquet can be one of the more frustrating players on the Tour to follow as he seems far too passive and that holds him back from really making another impact at the Grand Slam tennis. The Frenchman has all the talent in the World, but he doesn't always put it together, either losing the real estate contest against his opponent or mentally checking out as he did in the French Open against Andy Murray.

However, I have also been adamant that Gasquet seems to be a little more forward when playing opponents he feels he can beat and I believe Rubens Bemelmens falls into that category.

I actually saw Bemelmens play David Nalbandian at Queens this year and he looked a player that had plenty of good shots and could be awkward with his lefty stance- however, his backhand is more than a little weakness and I expect Gasquet to get plenty of success attacking that wing and that may prove to be the big difference between the players.

Where I feel Gasquet won't be too upset rallying with his backhand to the lefty forehand, the Frenchman's forehand should have plenty of success going into Bemelman's backhand.

The Belgian has done well to get through the qualifiers and a tough match with Carlos Berlocq in the First Round, but Gasquet showed enough in his own First Round match to suggest he is likely to be a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 winner.

Radek Stepanek - 4.5 games v Benjamin Becker: Radek Stepanek is definitely on the downturn of his career, but I still think he will be too strong for Benjamin Becker even if the German player enjoys the grass courts.

Stepanek is one of the few players that is very happy coming to the net at any opportunity and I think that could be a huge difference in this match as I don't think I believe in the consistency of Becker to continuously pass him or make the Czech player hit awkward volleys and that pressure should be able to tell in at least one Becker serve per set.

The Czech also has a very solid record at Wimbledon in the past when he gets through the First Round and he has shown plenty of resolve by coming back from two sets down on occasions here. However, Stepanek needs to be careful as the last two exits from Wimbledon have come when he has been leading 2-0 in sets, but they have come against better players than Becker in my opinion.

Also, Becker's best performances on grass courts have generally come in events outside of Wimbledon and I think Stepanek will be too good for him.

MY PICKS: Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units) To be completed 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 4-6, 4-5 40-40
Andy Roddick - 7.5 games @ 1.96 Pinnacle (2 Units) To be completed 7-6, 4-2
Shuai Peng - 3.5 games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games @ 2.10 Panbet (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games @ 1.90 Panbet (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Radek Stepanek - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 4-2, + 6.40 Units (11 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Wimbledon Day 2 Picks (June 26th 2012)

The first day of a Grand Slam usually throws up a couple of surprises and this years Wimbledon proved to be no different as Tomas Berdych, a dark horse that was fancied by a few people to go deep in the tournament (includes me), was beaten in three tie-breakers to exit at the first hurdle.

Ernests Gulbis was brilliant today, but he has shown this level of performance so little in his career and that is the reason he has failed to match the potential he has. I wouldn't be considering this a turning point in his career just yet, and it is going to be interesting to see how he copes against an opponent in the Second Round where he will be expected to win.

That match was the major talking point of the day as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic comfortably made their way through this first step on the way to a potential Semi Final and I feel the road has already been cleared a little to that eventuality with John Isner another awkward opponent already out of the tournament.

The Women's side of the draw saw the end of Venus Williams and it is going to be interesting to see if the older Williams sister decides to keep going. In the immediate aftermath of her defeat, Venus did say that she was going to be coming back next year, but it is hard to imagine her accepting too many more defeats like today when it is clear that she would have handled her opponent in her prime.

The other main contenders for the title all got through on day one, including Maria Sharapova who is the favourite to win the title. Things are going to be a lot tougher for Sharapova in the next Round as she faces Tsvetana Pironkova, but she did look comfortable in her first match on the surface since winning the French Open.

The picks went 2-1 yesterday, but I was vastly disappointed that Fernando Verdasco could not get the cover despite getting through in straight sets. Verdasco was 5-3, 40-15 in the first set before heading into a tie-break, then he was 5-3 up in the second and was broken serving for the set, while he STILL could have covered if he had completed the win at 5-2, 40-0 in the third set!

Still, it's best not to be greedy and just accept at least it was a winning day and try and kick on from there.

Day 2 Picks:

Victoria Azarenka - 6.5 games v Irina Falconi: I am not a big fan of these extremely big handicaps, particularly in a best of three rather than a best of five match, but I do like Victoria Azarenka to make a strong start to this Wimbledon against Irina Falconi.

Azarenka should be able to play with a little bit of freedom now that she is not coming into a tournament with too many expectations and she is not a World Number 1... In a way, Azarenka is coming in under the radar with few tipping her to go on and win this event and that, I believe, will play into her hands.

Irina Falconi won't be an easy test as she has performed well in the warm up events ahead of this tournament, but this is the hardest test she will have faced in that time and she was crushed in the First Round here last season by a player not on the same level as Azarenka.

If the World Number 3 can hold her nerves in playing her first match on the grass this season, I think we could see a 6-3, 6-2 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 sets v Kevin Anderson: Before I get on with the pick, I have a confession to make that I backed Kevin Anderson to beat Grigor Dimitrov when the players met at Queens a couple of weeks ago, but I saw enough from that match to think the Bulgarian can frank that form with another win over the big South African.

Dimitrov showed a lot of talent at Queens and is clearly comfortable on the grass- it was an extremely tough day to play tennis when he was beaten in the Semi Final by David Nalbandian- and I don't think he will be too perturbed in playing Anderson again.

The potential star also seemed to get a decent read on Anderson's serve and that could be the key to his success in this First Round match. I don't usually take too much from one match, but Dimitrov seemed to be consistently finding himself in front of Anderson when the big man was serving and that pressure can be tough to take.

Dimitrov also beat Anderson on the grass courts at Eastbourne last season for the loss of just 5 games and that means he has won 4 of the 5 sets these two have competed on grass courts so backing him to come through in 3/4 sets looks the value here.

Tommy Haas to win 3-1 in sets v Philipp Kohlschreiber: Philipp Kohlschreiber suffered an ankle injury last week in Eastbourne so I am not entirely sure how ready he will be for Wimbledon and whether that was just a precautionary retirement to ensure he is OK.

IF Kohlschreiber is at 100%, I think we could see a very good contest between him and his compatriot Tommy Haas who has been showing some really good form in recent weeks. Haas reached the Third Round at the French Open having qualified for the event and he followed that up with a tournament win at Halle where he beat Roger Federer in the Final.

Haas also beat Kohlschreiber there in the Semi Final in two tight sets meaning he has won the last two meetings between the players, both on the grass courts in Halle, although it was Kohlschreiber who won the first meeting which also took place at Halle.

Only five points separated them when they met two weeks ago and while I think Haas is still going to be too strong for Kohlschreiber, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes him four sets to do so.

Andy Roddick - 7.5 games v Jamie Baker: The headlines in Britain will be all about a Scottish player representing the country as he goes up third on one of the main show courts... Jamie Baker will be hoping that he is the one making the headlines on Wednesday morning if he can beat Andy Roddick at the same time Andy Murray is due to start his latest assault on a Grand Slam.

Roddick is not the same player as a couple of years ago, but he should have picked up a lot of confidence after winning the event at Eastbourne last week and he still has the serve that can see him through matches on the grass courts.

The American also showed enough in his return game to suggest he will create chances against Baker and I think he will have enough ability to create a couple of breaks of serve in one set and that should help him along to the cover.

Baker doesn't have the huge weapons that will be able to affect Roddick's game in my opinion and I think he may end up falling to a valiant 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 loss.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Jurgen Melzer: Jurgen Melzer is definitely on the downward curve in his career and I can't help but think he is being a tad over-rated due to his past experiences at Wimbledon.

That, coupled with the struggles Stanislas Wawrinka has faced in the last couple of years, seems to have had the layers making this a closer match than I think it will be.

Wawrinka hasn't made it past the Second Round in his last two appearances at Wimbledon, but it has to be remembered that he has twice got as far as the Fourth Round and also pushed Andy Murray in a five set epic back in 2009. The Swiss Number 2 has also displayed much better form in recent months, especially compared with Melzer.

Melzer cannot have a great deal of confidence having gone just 13-13 in main Tour matches this season, although he does have the tools to be effective on grass. However, a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Tatsuma Ito last week in Holland cannot have helped his mindset.

The Austrian was also beaten 6-4, 6-1, albeit on a clay court, when he faced Wawrinka earlier this season and I just think the latter is going to have enough to win this in 3, possibly 4 sets. As long as Wawrinka doesn't take a heavy loss in the one set he may lose, I expect him to cover this spread.

MY PICKS: Victoria Azarenka - 6.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 sets @ 2.38 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tommy Haas to win 3-1 in sets @ 4.33 Stan James (1 Unit)
Andy Roddick - 7.5 games @ 1.96 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 2-1, + 2.64 Units (6 Units Staked)

Monday, 25 June 2012

Wimbledon Day 1 Picks (June 25th 2012)

The third Grand Slam of the season will be starting on Monday 25th June and I have my Preview of the tournament and Outright Picks here

Day 1 Picks:

Fernando Verdasco - 6.5 games v Jimmy Wang: First things first... Jimmy Wang has to have the best name on the ATP Tour.

Fernando Verdasco has never been a great grass court player, but I think he is going to be too strong for Wang and I would imagine he is good enough to get through in straight sets. Verdasco did have a poor showing at the French Open when beaten in the Third Round, but he does prefer the Grand Slam best of five set matches and I think he can take advantage of that here even if he starts off a little slow.

Wang has won three qualifying matches to get here so cannot be under-estimated, but he has not played that many matches against opponents of this level and I think that is what will find him out.

I'll be looking for Verdasco to win 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Ryan Harrison - 1.5 sets v Yen-Hsun Lu: Yen-Hsun Lu has previous at Wimbledon having knocked out Andy Roddick here in the past while also going as far as the Quarter Finals, but this could be a really difficult match for him against an opponent that has beaten him in their two previous meetings.

Ryan Harrison should have the tools to translate his game onto the grass courts effectively, and he did show he can really take it to some of the players on the Tour having pushed David Ferrer to five sets here at Wimbledon last season.

Harrison has also beaten Lu twice previously, as I have already mentioned, and that included a straight sets win last week in Eastbourne meaning he has won the last 4 sets contested between the players.

It will be a close match, but I can see Harrison doing enough to see off Lu, most likely in four sets.

Na Li - 5.5 games v Ksenia Pervak: I think there is a real chance for Na Li to have a good run at Wimbledon this season after the disappointing end to her defending her crown at the French Open last month.

Li has the groundstrokes and decent serve that will make her tough to beat on this surface and I she has history having beaten Maria Sharapova on the grass courts of Birmingham a couple of years ago.

It has been a tough twelve months for Li since she won the French Open, but that pressure may just have been released now that she has lost that crown and she may be able to get back on the horse effectively.

Ksenia Pervak won't be an easy test having reached the Fourth Round here last season, but Li managed to beat her 6-3, 6-1 in Australia earlier this season and I think the Chinese player will be a little too tough for her again.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 6.5 games @ 1.95 Panbet (2 Units)
Ryan Harrison - 1.5 sets @ 2.40 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Na Li - 5.5 games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Preview and Outright Picks (June 25-July 8)

I am really looking forward to the third Grand Slam on the tennis calender, especially after the draw was revealed which shows the makings of a very competitive event in both the Men's and Women's events.

At Roland Garros, I felt the top four players on the Men's Tour had been given fairly kind draws and it turned out that way with only Andy Murray failing to make the Semi Final when he ran into a better clay court player in David Ferrer at the Quarter Final stage.

This time, I think it is not going to be as straight-forward for any of the top four to reach the Semi Finals and Final and there is every chance we won't see the fifth consecutive Final contested between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

In the Women's draw, there are some intriguing questions to be answered- how high is Serena Williams' motivation and can she recover from her early loss at the French Open? How will Maria Sharapova cope with the challenge of winning back to back Grand Slams? Can Petra Kvitova find her form and retain her title from twelve months ago? And can Victoria Azarenka remind everyone why she was tipped to dominate the Women's game after going on a long unbeaten run to start the season?

Both events look like they will provide a lot of pleasurable viewing and I can't wait for the tournament to start on Monday.

Men's Event
First Quarter
As per normal, this is the section reserved for the Number 1 seed and, in this case, it is also for the defending Champion as Novak Djokovic will proudly see his name at the top of the draw.

I don't know how Djokovic will be feeling about his draw- on the one hand, it is an awkward one but very negotiable, on the other, it is one that could provide a surprise if he is anything less than at the top of his game.

A First Round clash with Juan Carlos Ferrero does not pose the same level of threat that it would have a couple of seasons ago, but the former World Number 1 should not be under-estimated as he is still capable of producing his game on an one off occasion. Those occasions are rarer and rarer these days and it is hard to see him being consistent enough in these longer best of five matches.

Likely further matches against Yen-Hsun Lu and Radek Stepanek are, again, awkward, but winnable matches and I don't see too much affecting the Serb until Djokovic gets to the Quarter Final.

That is where Djokovic is likely to meet either Nicolas Almagro, Richard Gasquet or, much more likely in my opinion, Tomas Berdych.

Berdych is a former Finalist here at Wimbledon having beaten Djokovic and Roger Federer in consecutive rounds before falling to Rafael Nadal in the Final in 2010 and he is a very real threat on the grass courts.

The big serving Czech should negotiate the enigmatic Ernests Gulbis in the First Round and then should not have too many worries until the Fourth Round where he will face the winner of the Almagro-Gasquet match. Berdych is likely to want to avoid Almagro after a few close matches against him this season, but he will not be too bothered about facing anyone on the grass as he feels very comfortable on the surface and that would lead to that blockbuster clash between himself and Djokovic.

Djokovic has won all 7 matches against Berdych since that loss in 2010 at Wimbledon and that is the only defeat he has suffered against the big man in 10 matches overall- however, those are still some big demons to exorcise and it could be the match that ends the Serbs run in reaching Grand Slam Finals.

Prediction: Would be crazy to rule out Novak Djokovic, BUT Tomas Berdych is the kind of special player that could produce a performance to do it!

Second Quarter
The first thing that most will look at when the draws for these big events comes out is which side has Roger Federer been placed- does he face Nadal or Djokovic in the Semi Final under the seedings?

Once again, it is Djokovic who will have to face the Swiss master that has won more Grand Slam titles than anyone in history, but who has not added to his haul since 2010 at the Australian Open. Federer has been stuck on six Wimbledon titles and would dearly love to match a couple of records by winning this one.

IF Federer wins the tournament, he will once again be the World Number 1 and will also have seven Wimbledon titles- he would then level Pete Sampras for the longest time spent at World Number 1 and equal his Wimbledon haul, two records Federer would dearly love to hold.

I don't think Federer can have too many complaints early in the draw and I would expect him to see off Albert Ramos, Michael Llodra, Julien Benneteau and Fernando Verdasco before the Quarter Final stage. Out of the top four seeded players, I think Federer is the one that should make the least work out of his opponents.

At that stage, Federer could face a really tough challenge in John Isner, particularly if the Amercan's serve is working effectively... He may also come across an old rival that has given him plenty of things to think about in the past in David Nalbandian if the Argentine can beat Janko Tipsarevic in the First Round.

Nalbandian has really been playing well since moving onto the grass courts (take away his default at Queens and remember his form and the fact he was leading that Final at the point of losing his temper and making the mistake that cost him that Final) and he seems to have a run he can take advantage of IF he beats Tipsarevic.

The Argentine has split two matches with Tipsarevic on the hard courts of North America this season and it is now ten years since he reached the Final here at Wimbledon and I think he has another run in him. Tipsarevic is no mug on grass as he has reached the Fourth Round here twice before, but he has not progressed beyond the Second Round in the last three appearances at SW19 and is there for the taking (I feel bad saying that as Tipsarevic is one of the nicest tennis players I have met and I actually really respect his game on the court).

IF Nalbandian wins in the First Round, I think he makes it through to the Fourth Round and that is where he will be able to gain his revenge for the horrible call that cost him a win over John Isner at the Australian Open and move through to a big Quarter Final with Roger Federer...

One match to look out for in this section is the potential John Isner-Nicolas Mahut match in the Second Round... That will be the third meeting between the two at Wimbledon in consecutive years, all beginning with that famous 70-68 final set from 2010.

Prediction: I am hoping for a big run for David Nalbandian, but Roger Federer should be the Semi Finalist from this part of the draw.

Third Quarter
If anyone wants to talk about the most loaded section of the draw, be it in the Men's or the Women's event, they should start and end the conversation with this section.

David Ferrer, Andy Roddick (former Wimbledon Finalist), Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Cilic (Queens Winner), Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Andy Murray all reside in this section and there are dangers, and great matches, almost everywhere you turn.

Andy Murray has the pressure of a nation on his shoulders, and he has been given a cruel draw at the tournament starting with a match against Nikolay Davydenko- granted this is not the Russians favourite surface and he is not the player of a couple of years ago, but that is not an easy way to work your way into a draw.

Murray is also likely going to have to beat Ivo Karlovic, a player that can control a match behind his huge serve, Marcos Baghdatis or possibly Grigor Dimitrov in the Third Round and then the likely winner of the Cilic-Raonic match.

All of that just to get to a Quarter Final shows the depth of talent in this section of the draw and it is very difficult to see who is going to come out of it.

Before the draw was made, I was very much looking forward to seeing where Marin Cilic would land as he was playing some exceptional tennis at Queens, particularly on the returning side of the court and I think the Croatian may make a big breakthrough here.

The winner of the event at Queens has usually enjoyed some success when coming to Wimbledon and I think Cilic will ask some big big questions of Andy Murray.

I also don't think he will fear the challenge of playing Del Potro or David Ferrer on a grass court, while I don't think Andy Roddick is the same player that reached the Final here (and should have won in my opinion) back in 2009.

Prediction: This is the section where I think there will be a big shock and I really think Marin Cilic is playing well enough to come through a quarter with a number of dangerous players lurking.

Fourth Quarter
Rafael Nadal leads the way at the bottom of the draw as he looks to regain his World Number 1 spot by winning the tournament and overtaking Novak Djokovic in the Rankings.

With so many dangerous players already out of the way, it would be easy to think that Nadal should breeze through to the Semi Final, but that won't be the case. In the Third Round, he is likely going to face either Philipp Kohlschreiber, the player that beat him at Halle, or Tommy Haas, the veteran who won that tournament by beating Tomas Berdych, Kohlschreiber and Roger Federer on consecutive days.

Haas is a former World Number 2 and showed some real form in reaching the Third Round at the French Open and the grass courts have always been his favoured terrain. It was only in 2009 that he reached the Semi Final here having beaten Novak Djokovic along the way and he should not be under-estimated... Whether he can sustain the form required to beat Nadal over five sets is another matter, especially at 34 years old!

Even if Nadal is still around in the Fourth Round, it won't be much easier with Feliciano Lopez potentially in wait- Lopez is one of the Spaniards that very much prefers the faster surfaces to the clay and he could definitely push Nadal if he is serving well and mentally ready to win a match of that magnitude.

Regardless of the tough competitors in front of him, it would be a BIG surprise if Nadal did not make it through to the Quarter Final, but that is where the biggest and most capable player of beating him could be in store... Jo-Wilfried Tsonga!

Tsonga should have taken huge heart from his run at Roland Garros and has beaten Nadal on the grass before, albeit at Queens last season. He suffered a finger injury at Queens this year, but he hasn't broken it and I expect the Frenchman to be firing after reaching the Semi Final here last season while taking out Roger Federer.

If the finger is giving him any concerns, he won't be too impressed at seeing Lleyton Hewitt on the other side of the net- Hewitt is a tough competitor that has seen his better days go past, but one that is still capable on his day as he proved at the Australian Open in January when beating Andy Roddick, Milos Raonic and then pushing Novak Djokovic to four sets in a losing effort.

However, Rusty is not the same player with the amount of injuries he has suffered and a lack of matches is not going to help him- he might push Tsonga to four, but I would expect the Frenchman to get through as long as the finger he injured is healed.

Stanislas Wawrinka, Bernard Tomic and Mardy Fish are all dangerous opponents in this area for Tsonga to negotiate, but I would expect him to take care of all of them, while the most dangerous, Fish, is coming off a long lay off and may not make it far enough to take on Tsonga.

Prediction: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's performance at Roland Garros had me intrigued for how he can do here, but it is Rafael Nadal I expect that will get through to the Semi Final.

As I have indicated above, I think there are some real question marks around some of the favourites at this tournament. I would have been intrigued with Roger Federer, but I have said for some time that I don't think he is 100% healthy at the moment as he was making far too hard work of a simple draw at the French Open and lost in the Final at Halle.

In saying that, he couldn't have asked for a better draw and he has to be in any staking plan you have simply because of what has been put in front of him in this tournament.

Another player that you cannot ignore is Rafael Nadal- normally I would have run a mile considering he has the enigmatic Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his quarter of the draw, but I think there are enough doubts about Tsonga's total fitness that makes me think the Spaniard will be the beneficiary.

I also think he will take advantage of the fact that I don't believe Andy Murray will get through his section and whoever does will be tired for a Semi Final, of that I am very sure considering the route they are likely to have tread.

It is a little boring, but I will take both Nadal and Federer in my outright staking plan.

The final outright pick I will make is backing against Andy Murray and I am going to say that the British Number 1 is going to have a tough tournament that will see him exit at the Fourth Round stage- he will already have had three tough matches by that stage and will meet either Marin Cilic, Sam Querrey or Milos Raonic at that stage and the 5.00 on offer that he is beaten then looks a little high... Put it another way, apart from Sam Querrey, I would be surprised if Murray's opponent is higher than that come the day of the match so it looks worth taking an interest in.

Women's Event
First Quarter
This is going to be a controversial opening to my preview of the Women's event, but it is the draw headed up by Maria Sharapova and already I am beginning to get a little nauseous with the love the British media seems to have for her... Don't get me wrong, I think Sharapova is a brilliant player, that cannot be denied, but some of the writers make her out to be the Queen of SW19 and I can't help the fact that she is a tall, blonde girl that seems to have them salivating a little more than is appropriate.

For example, I saw a headline describing how Sharapova can replicate the 'fairytale' of when she won this event at 17... You see other articles trying to portray her winning her fourth Grand Slam title, albeit completing a career set, as being the ultimate in achievements.

Let's face some facts here- she is FAR behind the Williams sisters in terms of achievements, yet I don't think that fits too snugly into the middle class All-England club atmosphere... When was the last time Sharapova was shoved into the nothingness of Court 2 at the back of the Wimbledon grounds? Yet that seems to happen a lot to both Williams sisters who have won more titles here than the rest of the draw combined!! You make of that what you will...

Anyway, back to the tennis.. Maria Sharapova is the favourite to take the Wimbledon crown, but I will not be backing her as I did at the French Open as she has been given a really tough examination of her credentials and as early as the Second Round.

That is where she could face Tsvetana Pironkova, a former Semi Finalist and Quarter Finalist here and a player that clearly relishes the grass courts over any other surface. It won't get any easier with Sabine Lisicki also lying in wait as a seeded opponent for the Fourth Round and I just don't see Sharapova getting the 'easy' route she enjoyed at Roland Garros.

There is also a chance that she would have to face Kim Clijsters as a Quarter Final opponent, although the Belgian has a slight injury concern and faces a really tough First Round clash with Jelena Jankovic. If Clijsters can get through that, she will also have to beat Angelique Kerber, but whoever Sharapova faces is going to provide yet another tough test.

It looks a really tough quarter of the draw and, barring any quick exits to open up the draw as happened at the French Open, it is going to need a big effort from Sharapova to get through to the Semi Final from it.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova is the player in form, but there are plenty of tough tests in the section so don't be surprised if AN Other is playing in the Semi Final instead.

Second Quarter
Ironically, I think the player coming out of the first quarter is probably going to be thinking they will face an 'easier' opponent in the Semi Final than they would have played just to get through to that stage.

There are plenty of names in this section but I have plenty of question marks over all of them:

Agnieska Radwanska: Continues to flatter to deceive at the Grand Slam level.

Venus Williams: Performances are so up and down from one day to the next due to her illness that it is hard to imagine she can put it together for five matches to get to the Semi Final.

Daniela Hantuchova: Just back from a long injury lay off.

Na Li: Too many up and down performances since winning the French Open in 2011.

Samantha Stosur: Seemingly with all the tools to produce on a grass court, but regularly a disappointment on the surface.

These issues makes it tough to predict who will come out of this section with any certainty. We also have players like Nadia Petrova, who just won a tournament on the grass in Holland, that could cause a surprise or two, but I really think picking a Semi Finalist is a very difficult task here.

Prediction: Could be any of up to six players making it out of the section... Gun to my head, maybe Na Li can live up to expectation as she has produced positive results on the grass in the past.

Third Quarter
This is the section of the draw that I think the winner will come out and I would struggle to look too far away from the player that has dominated the grass courts and that is Serena Williams.

Granted, Williams was a surprise First Round loser at the French Open, but the clay courts have never been her favourite surface and she will feel a lot more comfortable coming back to the grass courts of SW19- I think her reaching the Fourth Round last season despite barely playing due to a serious illness says it all about her belief at this tournament.

Williams was also in fine form going into the French Open and her early exit could be a blessing in disguise as she has been able to rest the back complaint that forced her out of the tournament in Rome a couple of weeks before Roland Garros. The American also has the perfect draw to work her way into this tournament and I think she will have no real issues in getting to the Quarter Final.

That is where the first problem is likely to arise as Petra Kvitova, the defending Wimbledon Champion is likely to be lying in wait... However, Kvitova has struggled to reach the level she showed last Summer all season and I think the Czech player is there for the taking.

One potential player that could take advantage of Kvitova is Dominika Cibulkova, the player that beat Victoria Azarenka at Roland Garros last month. Cibulkova has also pushed Caroline Wozniacki in the past here at Wimbledon and has the belief and determination to cause Kvitova some issues. However, the 4-0 head to head on Kvitova's side suggests she is the most likely opponent to face Williams in the last eight.

Prediction: I am going to go with Serena Williams bouncing back in style from her First Round loss at the French Open

Fourth Quarter
This is the final quarter of the draw and features some players that would have been amongst the leading contenders for Grand Slams over the last 18 months.

Victoria Azarenka seems to be the most forgotten player on the Tour after a disappointing French Open, but I think she may just appreciate the return to this surface having reached the Semi Final at Wimbledon last season. She should get through the first three matches without too many issues, but that is when things will become a little tougher.

At the Fourth Round stage, Azarenka is likely to face either Ana Ivanovic or Julia Goerges and either player is potentially problematic. I would expect Azarenka to win through either, but that could be a little tougher than expected if she is not mentally in the correct place coming into the tournament.

The other half of this quarter has some big name players like Caroline Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marion Bartoli all involved, but there could be a surprise if Tamira Paszek can replicate the form that took her to the title in Eastbourne last week.

Paszek actually meets Wozniacki in the First Round, but there are so many potentially tough matches that you would feel that the player that makes it through this half is likely to come unstuck against Azarenka due to the energy expended.

Prediction: I think Victoria Azarenka can move through to a Semi Final for the second year in a row.

I am not going to say too much here except I really like Serena Williams' chances of making it through to another title here at Wimbledon- she was clearly the form player on the Tour ahead of the French Open and I am not going to read too much into her First Round upset as clay has never been her favourite surface.

It says a lot that Serena missed most of the year ahead of the tournament last year at Wimbledon and still managed to reach the Fourth Round- this time I expect Williams is in much better shape and will be ready to make waves.

Serena also has a fairly comfortable way to ease her way into the tournament and I really like her chances.

The Women's event has a number of players that may also make waves, but there are too many issues for me to consider anyone else for my outright picks so Serena Williams will be my only choice from this draw.

Outright Picks: Rafael Nadal @ 3.25 Ladbrokes (3 Units)
Roger Federer @ 6.00(1 Unit E/W)
Andy Murray to lose in Fourth Round @ 5.00 Stan James (1 Unit)
Serena Williams @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (3 Units)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Tennis Recap June 18-24

The final grass court tournaments before Wimbledon have been completed and now it is all eyes on the third Grand Slam of the season.

I will have a full preview of the tournament out shortly, but I think it is one of the best draws  in the Men's draw that I have seen for some time with lots of intriguing matches coming up and plenty of threats for the big four players to be worrying about in the coming two weeks. Let's hope for some great weather and great tennis moving forward.

It wasn't a good week at all for the picks as players either tanked at the wrong time, or were just not capable of producing what I expected on the day... Suffice to say it is the worst week I had this season, but I would rather get that out of the way now and hope for a strong Wimbledon than have a terrible Grand Slam.

What does Andy Roddick's win at Eastbourne mean? I have read in a few places that people are once again considering the American as a credible outsider that could win Wimbledon because he won the event at Eastbourne, but anyone who saw him play will know Andy Roddick is far removed from the player that last reached the Final at SW19 back in 2009.

These wins were actually the first he had since March, and I think the fact he dropped a set against Fabio Fognini while not being as effective behind serve suggests he will not go too far at Wimbledon. His draw is not the kindest as I think he is in the toughest Quarter and I will be more than a little surprised if he is still around come the middle of the second week.

It was a good win for his confidence, but Roddick is not the same player he was and I don't put too much faith into what he managed to achieve at Eastbourne.

How much should someone take into account the form at exhibition tournaments? This has really come about due to the two defeats suffered by Andy Murray at the exhibition event held at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire over the last week, but I don't think it is as big an issue as some would like to believe.

How many readers know there are big exhibition tournaments before the Australian Open and the French Open too? How many would be surprised that the likes of Roger Federer have played in such events and actually performed better at the Grand Slam event they are preparing for?

That's all this is- it is players trying out a couple of things and just getting the feel of the grass underneath their feet as they get ready to start their Wimbledon challenge.

Those two defeats to Janko Tipsarevic and Novak Djokovic would not worry me in the slightest- the draw Murray has received at Wimbledon is a different matter though!

The Boodles exhibition tournament: I was fortunate enough to attend The Boodles event held at Stoke Park this year and it truly was an enjoyable event and one that I will definitely be adding to my calender in the coming years.

Having been to Queens for many years now, I wasn't sure there was a venue where we could get easier access to the top players in the game, but that was the case at Stoke Park where the players are happy to walk through public access areas and also very happy to pose for a photo and sign an autograph.

The court itself is in a very intimate setting and it is clearly enjoyable for the tennis players too who do have some fun (another reason I wouldn't be overly concerned by a couple of defeats for Andy Murray).

If you ever get a chance, I would recommend attending highly!

Weekly Final: - 10 Units (18 Units Staked)

Season 2012 Update: + 51.74 Units (528 Units Staked, 9.80% yield)

Season 2011: + 82.02 Units

Friday, 22 June 2012

Tennis Picks June 22nd

It wasn't a good day for the picks yesterday, but I still have two matches running that were called off because of all the rain at Eastbourne- now we will really see the motivation of the players left on the Men's draw as they have to play two matches in the same day if they are to reach the Final and all just days before the tournament begins at Wimbledon.

Talking about Wimbledon, the draw for the Men's and Women's event will be released on Friday morning so I will look to get my into that tomorrow evening while watching the Germany-Greece Euro 2012 Quarter Final and I would look to have it completed, with full outright picks, by Saturday afternoon.

Monday's order of play is likely to be released on Sunday, by which time the layers should have all their markets available, and I will start making picks from the tournament then.


Xavier Malisse - 2 games v Philipp Petzschner: I really like how Xavier Malisse has been playing during the grass court season so far, although this is not an easy test against Philipp Petzschner who has come through qualifying here to take his place in this Semi Final.

Malisse reached the Quarter Final at Queens last week before running into David Nalbandian and he has to be taken seriously on the grass courts as a former Wimbledon Semi Finalist and a player that has compiled a 21-7 record on the surface over the last three seasons.

Petzschner did reach the Final at Halle last season, although beaten early there this season, and he has the tools to cause plenty of problems for Malisse- however, I think the Belgian veteran has enough talent to get a few more returns into play and that could be the difference in seeing him through, even if the match goes the distance.

Kim Clijsters - 4.5 games v Urszula Radwanska: Kim Clijsters has been back in action in her final season on the Tour as she looks to get some sort of match fitness ahead of Wimbledon and the Olympics and it says a lot about her quality that she has breezed into the Semi Final here.

I expect she will be too strong for the younger Radwanska sister, although Urszula is not to be under-estimated considering she has won a lower-level tournament on the grass at Nottingham and has come through qualifying to earn her place at this stage. However, this is going to be the toughest challenge she has faced on the grass so far this season and it is tough to see her come through it.

Clijsters was an early loser at this tournament last season, although that was down to an injury she was playing with and the one that kept her out of Wimbledon. The year before, Clijsters reached the Quarter Final at Wimbledon and I think she will still want to get a little more match sharpness here in Holland so will look for her to win this game with room to spare.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units) Advised June 21st
Denis Istomin - 1.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units) Advised June 21st
Xavier Malisse - 2 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kim Clijsters - 4.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-5, - 6 Units (14 Units Staked)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Euro 2012 Quarter Final Picks (June 21-24)

I can't believe we have already reached the Quarter Finals of the European Championships in Poland/Ukraine- it seems the tournament only started yesterday, but it has been a busy month for sports so I guess that, along with work, has seen the time pass much quicker than would have been expected.

Anyway, all that means is we are getting closer and closer to the start of the Premier League season again with slightly under two months to go until kick off!

Group A saw a surprising turn of events in the group stage as Russia, who had won their first game 4-1 against the Czech Republic, actually exited the competition, while the Czech Republic went on to not just qualify, but actually win the group!!

I didn't much rate the Czech Republic before the tournament began, and I don't particularly rate them now, and the fact that they won the group says to me that Group A was arguably even weaker than I imagined before the tournament began.

Russia will be kicking themselves as they could not take their chances in their last two games against Poland and Greece, eventually losing 0-1 to Greece when any kind of positive result would have seen them through to the next round. It was a real surprise turn of events and I just didn't see it coming, not after the way they played in the first game. They will be severely disappointed back home with the showing of the side, but I think they will bounce back and be in contention for playing at the World Cup in 2014 where they will look to regain their reputation.

Group B was labelled the 'group of death' and it was the case for Holland who went out of the tournament with a little more than a whimper- three defeats, just two goals scored and it was all over for the Dutch. It seems to be the case that the dressing room just can't get on with one another during these major tournaments (2010 World Cup being an exception rather than the rule), while tactically they looked a mess at times.

Portugal and Germany were the two teams who got out of the group and I think both have very real chances of reaching the Final on July 1st, with a small possibility that they could face each other again after Germany beat Portugal 1-0 in the opening group game.

IF Cristiano Ronaldo can fire, Portugal look a real threat in this competition, although they are likely to meet Spain in the Semi Final. I expect they will be too good for the Czech Republic in the Quarter Finals and they look a real dark horse contender.

Everyone knows about Germany and they may be secretly quite happy with the way their route to the Final has worked out. They will be heavily favoured to beat the Greeks in the Quarter Final and would then face the winner of the England-Italy game, a winner that they will not fear.

It was almost one of the big surprises of the competition as Spain were labouring in their game with Croatia and the latter were presented an absolute sitter to take the lead, a lead that would have seen them leapfrog Spain in the standings and join Italy in the last eight.

However, it was not to be for Croatia but Spain look every bit the vulnerable favourites I thought they were at the beginning of the tournament. It is clear they are lacking a real forward who they can rely on (even reduced to picking Cesc Fabregas ahead of Fernando Llorente), while the defence has never looked so vulnerable.

For all the possession Spain have, both Italy and Croatia created some real openings against them and I think it would now almost be a surprise to me to see the Spanish win their third major international competition on the bounce.

Italy joined Spain in the Quarter Finals, but they haven't really impressed me that much in the competition- for sixty minutes they have looked a solid team, but they seem to lack the stamina to see out games and have looked vulnerable in the final 20-30 minutes of games. It's hard to imagine a team being able to win a big prize with that as a major concern, especially as the defence has not been as tough as would be expected of the Italians.

Personally, I think it would be quite an achievement for them to reach the Semi Finals, let alone go on and actually win the tournament.

Roy Hodgson has really set his England side up well in the tournament, although he has also been gifted with a bit of fortune to see them through to the Quarter Finals. Ukraine should have had an equaliser in the final game of the group and it would have been interesting to see how England would have coped with the boisterous atmosphere and lifted opponents if the score had reached 1-1 with 20 minutes to play.

England haven't been impressive, but have shown some toughness and resilience to get through the group and we have seen other teams ride their luck to big tournament wins in cup competitions already this season (Chelsea) so it is a little premature to rule England out completely.

It may take a little more luck, especially if they get through and were to meet Germany in the Semi Final, but the expectation is definitely beginning to rise in England- just take a walk to the water cooler at work and I guarantee you at least one person will say 'England CAN win this'!

Laurent Blanc guided France through to the Quarter Final but was visibly upset that they lost their final group game to eliminated Sweden and now have to face Spain instead of Italy in the last eight. I just haven't been convinced about France in the tournament as Karim Benzema's insistence on coming back deep to pick up the ball means there are little or no runners coming from midfield to exploit gaps and teams can remain compact against them.

I don't know if that is something they can change at this stage of a tournament, but it does make it hard to see them winning the trophy with the way they have played. England coped pretty effectively for the most part against the French attacks, as did Sweden, so you have to think the likes of Spain and Portugal are not too upset at having to deal with them.

June 21st
Czech Republic v Portugal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14519-Czech-Republic-v-Portugal.htm)

June 22nd
Germany v Greece Pick: Thanks to my laptop dying on me for the millionth time over the last 12 months, I didn't get a chance to write a full preview for this game.

However, I will be taking Germany to win by a couple of goals at least as I think they are far too good for a Greece team that have been defending averagely at best. Forget the clean sheet against Russia, they have allowed opportunities and the Germans definitely have the quality to hurt them.

If Germany get ahead, you can only see bad things happening to the Greeks today and I think they are just happy to be here- you never know though, maybe Germany will hit the post numerous times, miss some sitters and Greece will get a lucky goal on the counter (with the way my luck has been in this tournament, that is more than a slim possibility).

Still, if Germany play like they can, I expect they will win by 3 or 4 tonight in a one-sided Quarter Final and so I will take then on the Asian Handicap.

June 23rd
Spain v France Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14529-Spain-v-France.htm)

June 24th
Suffice to say, I was very unimpressed with a 92nd minute penalty that was awarded to Spain yesterday which pretty much ruined a game that I had almost capped perfectly... It's been happening all season with stupid late goals, so I am not that surprised.

It just seems a touch ironic that I back goals in the Portugal game and they decide to miss about 500 clear cut chances and we get 1 goal, yet in this game we have maybe 3 chances and we get 2 goals... Just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, but bloody annoying I tells you!

England v Italy Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14532-England-v-Italy.htm)

MY PICKS: Portugal to win and 3/4 goals scored @ 3.75 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (3 Units)
Spain-France Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Italy HT-Draw FT @ 17.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Euro 2012 Update: 7-16, - 1.11 Units (35 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Tennis Picks June 21st

This is going to be really short at the moment as I have a major headache this evening as sleep deprivation from watching game 4 between Miami and Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals and then getting up early to get down to the tennis has finally taken its toll on me.

I will be back before I start work to give you full reasons for my picks, but the short versions are below for now:

Lucie Safarova + 4.5 games v Marion Bartoli: I picked this match as a quick look at the history between the players shows that Marion Bartoli has dominated the win-loss record, but they have been some close contests, including a three setter here at Eastbourne last season.

I just felt Safarova has enough in her service games to push Bartoli, although you can never tell with the WTA Tour when too many lopsided sets can occur.

Tsvetana Pironkova - 2.5 games v Tamira Paszek: Tsvetana Pironkova clearly enjoys playing on grass courts as shown by her successes over the last two seasons. Tamira Paszek is no mug on the surface having reached the Wimbledon Quarter Final last season, but she hasn't shown the most consistency this season and may just struggled to get the win in this one.

Pironkova has also struggled for the most part this season, but usually comes alive for the three-four week period of grass action and also recorded a win over Paszek earlier this season.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 games v Andreas Seppi: Andreas Seppi is the defending Champions here, but I do believe it is Philipp Kohlschreiber who is the better grass court player and may be looking to pick up the points from this tournament that he failed to do in Halle when he was the defending Champion but beaten in the Semi Final.

That added motivation may be enough for the German to see him through this contest, although the players are pretty well matched up as shown by the 3-3 head to head record.

However, I think Kohlschreiber has the more consistent serve and that could make all the difference on the faster surfaces.

Denis Istomin - 1.5 games v Ryan Harrison: Ryan Harrison has no real grass court pedigree to speak of just yet, but the American looks like has the game that should transfer well onto the surface. However, Denis Istomin has proven in the past to be more than capable of playing on the grass and he has done well here in the past with a Quarter Final and Semi Final appearance under his belt already.

It could be a three setter, but I think Istomin will eventually have too much and pull the victory and the cover.

MY PICKS: Lucie Safarova + 4.5 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tsvetana Pironkova - 2.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 1.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-3, - 2 Units (10 Units Staked)

Tennis Picks June 20th

I have only made one pick so far this week as it is the final one before Wimbledon begins so I sometimes like to see what kind of motivation is still around for players. Much like last week at Queens, there have been a number of surprise results already this week as Richard Gasquet, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieska Radwanska have all gone out in their first matches played.

Others like Andy Roddick are around to get a couple more matches underneath their feet after a poor tournament last week, while the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych are playing in exhibition matches.

Today, I am going to play the following four picks:

Denis Istomin - 3 games v Marcel Granollers: I think Denis Istomin is definitely the more comfortable of the two players on the grass courts, while Marcel Granollers also suffered an ankle injury last week in Halle so it will be interesting to see how the Spaniard has recovered from that and whether he takes too many chances with the Grand Slam ranking points just around the corner.

Granollers has also struggled to make a real impact on the grass in his career, while Istomin can consider himself very unlucky last season to finish with a 1-3 record on the surface considering he was drawn against Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish and all of those players would have been heavily favoured against him.

The year before last, Istomin finished as a Semi Finalist here, while also pushing Rafael Nadal to three sets at Queens and Tomas Berdych to five sets at Wimbledon and I will back him to show his capabilities in this one.

Marcos Baghdatis - 3.5 games v Steve Darcis: Marcos Baghdatis was not that impressive at Queens last week, but he has the tools to play on the grass courts and he has been successful in the past to think he can take care of Steve Darcis in this one.

Both players won comfortably in the First Round, but it is the Cypriot who has shown the much stronger pedigree in the past on the grass courts and I think he can pressure Darcis enough with his returning game to win this match.

Baghdatis has beaten Darcis in both their previous matches against one another, including a comfortable four set win at Wimbledon and I will look for him to earn the win with a break in each set as he gets through in straights.

David Ferrer - 4.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: The motivation of the top players has to be questioned the week ahead of a Grand Slam event and that is the case for David Ferrer this week. This time last season, Ferrer used the exhibition tournaments to hone his skills on the grass, but he didn't have as strong a Wimbledon as he may have liked and that could have changed his schedule this season.

The Spaniard did reach the Fourth Round at Wimbledon, and he has shown his capability in playing on any surface, while he also comes across as someone that is unlikely to tank a match easily.

I also think he has the 'know-how' edge on Leonardo Mayer who is much more comfortable on the clay courts. Mayer has never really enjoyed any real success on the grass courts and I think Ferrer will be too consistent for him and should be able to get through without too many issues.

Petra Cetkovska v Klara Zakopalova: It is the battle of two girls from the Czech Republic and I am going with the younger and higher ranked player to come out on top of a pick 'em contest.

Petra Cetkovska had a really good grass court season last year, reaching the Final in a Challenger in Nottingham, while also getting through to the Fourth Round at Wimbledon having beaten Agnieska Radwanska and Ana Ivanovic on the way.

She is also having a decent season, even if it is not spectacular, and I think she is likely to be a little too consistent for Klara Zakopalova who has shown some grass court ability in her career, but who can be a little hit and miss in her matches.

Both have won 1 match apiece against one another, but it was Cetkovska who won the last meeting and that should take away an inferior complex she could possibly have against an older compatriot. I will look for Cetkovska to rubber stamp that with a win in this one.

MY PICKS: Denis Istomin - 3 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 3.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Cetkovska @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-1, - 2 Units (2 Units Staked)