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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Wimbledon Middle Sunday 2013 (June 30th)

Wimbledon is the only Major tennis tournament that decides to take a day off in the middle Sunday of the event and that is the position we have reached after an interesting first week of the tournament.

That does mean that Monday is going to be a packed schedule as always with all the Fourth Round matches to be played on the one day.

Despite some of the huge headlines we have seen this week with big upsets and withdrawals throughout both draws, it does lead to mind that it could be a slightly disappointing second week with the potential big matches the draws thrown up not coming to fruition. The British media won't be disappointed as Andy Murray's chances of winning Wimbledon have increased, while Laura Robson is having another good run at a Grand Slam following her successes at the US Open last year.

A Grand Slam tournament going into the second week without Roger Federer hasn't happened since the French Open in 2003 and his defeat in the Second Round has a lot of people worrying about this being the end of his time as a real threat at Grand Slam level. Federer is going to be ranked at World Number 5 next week when the new Rankings come out and life is just going to become more and more awkward for him at the Majors.

Federer was still speaking a good game following his defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky, but it is tough to see where he goes from here after a tough six months in 2013. His old rival, Rafael Nadal, is another who will have to answer some questions about himself in the coming weeks as the Tour moves onto the hard courts of North America, although I expect the Spaniard to bounce back from a disappointing First Round exit here.

The problem for Nadal is that the North American hard court swing is not his favourite time of the season so both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray could be the players to beat in New York in a couple of months time after both are expected to reach the Final here at Wimbledon.

A quick look at the first week of the tournament shows that both of my outright picks from the Women's draw have fallen off, while Rafael Nadal was one of the players I backed in the Men's draw.

However, Novak Djokovic is going well and the layers were offering money back if Andy Murray wins so that leaves those picks in a decent position. David Ferrer is still on course to win his Quarter, but he will need to play much better next week than he has in the first week when he had to battle through three tough matches.

The daily picks have been in very good shape after another decent day on Saturday and hopefully that will continue on Monday for the next week of the tournament.

Picks from Monday's matches will be up on the blog on Sunday as we all get a rest day to enjoy the sun in London with a break from the tennis.

Wimbledon Update: 13-7, + 12.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 31.38% Yield)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 6 Picks 2013 (June 29th)

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a very big fan of the talent that Laura Robson possesses so it was good to see her making it through to the Third Round at Wimbledon after backing up her First Round surprise over Maria Kirilenko.

Robson has so much upside that it really is hard to see her failing to at least make it into the top ten of the Women's game, although there are some big rivals around the same age that are certainly going to make it tough for Robson to win a Slam. I do think Robson has the talent to pick up one of the big prizes, especially if she can find some consistency behind the lefty serve, but she is likely to be rivaled by the likes of Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Kristina Mladenovic over the years and all three of those players look like future Grand Slam potential winners too.

Unlike the Men's game, teenagers are making a real impact on the WTA Tour and giving us a glimpse of the future of a sport once Serena Williams decides that other people should be given a chance to win the major prizes.

Roberta Vinci - 2.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: Over the last couple of years, Roberta Vinci has seriously upped her game on the grass courts and I think she can overcome a tough opponent in Dominika Cibulkova to make it back to the Fourth Round here at Wimbledon.

The Italian has found a way to earn success against Cibulkova, winning their last four matches including a the US Open last year and also on a grass court a couple of years ago. The variation that Vinci uses in her game is clearly an issue for Cibulkova judging by the fact she has lost four in a row and eight of nine sets played between these players and it could be more of the same on Saturday.

Vinci did have to come through a very tough test in the Second Round, but she is a player that regularly juggles singles and doubles within the same Grand Slam so I don't foresee her having too many fitness issues.

Another straight sets win could be on the cards for Vinci and I like the Italian to cover this spread.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: Jeremy Chardy is an improving player on the Tour and has already reached a career high Ranking ahead of this tournament at Wimbledon, but this does not provide the best match up for him.

Chardy has lost all six previous matches against Novak Djokovic, including a comprehensive loss here at Wimbledon the last time they faced one another back in 2011. On that day, Chardy won just five games as he was blown away, but I do expect him to make more of a match of this one.

However, he is playing a man on a mission at the moment and I think Djokovic will create chances on the Chardy serve and the only reason I have for him not covering is if he is as poor on the break points as he was against Bobby Reynolds. Djokovic admitted as much when he pointed out that was one area he was not happy with and I expect him to be better on Saturday.

The Frenchman can be a little unplayable when full of confidence, but I am expecting Djokovic to make enough returns to keep pressure on Chardy. That should lead to a place in the Fourth Round after a 63, 64, 62 scoreline in favour of the World Number 1.

Tommy Haas - 1.5 sets v Feliciano Lopez: Both of these players have shown tremendous form over the last couple of months even though both are on the wrong side of 30 and two of the older players in the draw. Tommy Haas is 35, but playing almost as good as when he reached Number 2 in the World and looks like he has a big chance of winning a place at the End of Year Championships in London on current form.

Feliciano Lopez is turning 32 in a couple of months, but won the title in Eastbourne in the final warm up event for Wimbledon and has the game that works perfectly on the grass courts.

Both players are actually very comfortable on the grass courts and that makes this a fascinating Third Round match for the right to likely face Novak Djokovic on Monday in the Fourth Round. However, when you break down the games of both men, I think Haas is the more consistent- Lopez is a solid player, but the backhand is the weakest shot in this match and I believe the German will force him to play that shot enough to find success.

They haven't met since 2004 on Tour and I am looking forward to this one... I just feel Haas is going to have the edge and will likely take this in four close sets.

Tomas Berdych win 3-1 in sets v Kevin Anderson: Tomas Berdych has met Kevin Anderson on eight occasions since the beginning of 2012 and he has won all eight matches they have played, while he has also won 11 sets in a row against the big South African.

This is the first time the players will be meeting on the grass and I just think there is a decent chance that we will see tie-breakers and I think Anderson can at least break his run of losing sets to Berdych.

When I have seen these two play one another, Anderson has certainly had his chances to win sets but has just come up a little short. The grass should make his game a little bigger and while Tomas Berdych has quietly put together a couple of wins in straight sets, it might not be as straight-forward this time around.

We saw Ernests Gulbis beat Berdych in three straight tie-breakers last season, but I expect his dominance of Anderson to continue in this match. However, I won't be surprised if Anderson steals a set in a 63 67 76 64 win for the third highest seed left in the Men's draw.

MY PICKS: Roberta Vinci - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Haas - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych win 3-1 @ 3.60 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
Benoit Paire - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units) Already Advised

Wimbledon Update: 9-6, + 5.98 Units (30 Units Staked, + 19.93% Yield)

Friday, 28 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 5 Picks 2013 (June 28th)

After three and a half days of clear weather at SW19, finally we saw rain at Wimbledon which ended the Thursday schedule early. It wasn't too bad for the organisers with most of the matches already through to keep the tournament on schedule, although there could be more rain to follow on Friday and that is going to lead to problems.

There is every chance that Andy Murray could earn his place in the Fourth Round on Friday, while other players could still be looking to complete their Second Round matches if the bad weather hits that some are expecting. With Centre Court being the only one where play is guaranteed, the likes of David Ferrer will be hoping there is a window big enough for him to complete his Second Round match that is scheduled first up on Court One.

The Third Round of the tournament will begin on Friday and these are the picks for the matches to be played today:

Nicolas Almagro v Jerzy Janowicz: The bottom half of the draw has opened up, especially for the winner of this match as I certainly could see them going all the way to a Grand Slam Semi Final.

Both Nicolas Almagro and Jerzy Janowicz will feel they are more than capable of reaching their first Grand Slam Semi Final, particularly if they can get this match out of the way and both will approach this in a very similar way.

There is every chance this match is played indoors as it is the second match due on Centre Court and that will only aid both players that will look to dominate proceedings behind a big serve and big forehand. The backhand wing is definitely one area that Nicolas Almagro has the edge and looking at both players games, I am a little surprised that the Spaniard is set as the underdog in this one.

Jerzy Janowicz is highly aggressive on court and he does look to intimidate his opponents, but he is still a little inconsistent as shown by a defeat to Mirza Basic in Halle a couple of weeks ago. He has also been a little fortunate in the draw and although he has the perfect game for a grass court, I still think he is learning his trade at this level as shown by the fact that he had to qualify for Wimbledon last year.

I could be made to look foolish once this match is completed, but I think Almagro, who beat Janowicz in straight sets at the Australian Open earlier this year, should have been a clear favourite of around 1.66 in this one so backing him as the underdog makes a lot of sense.

Jurgen Melzer v Sergiy Stakhovsky: Another underdog that I am going to be backing in the Third Round is Jurgen Melzer who could take advantage of this section of the draw now that Roger Federer is out of the tournament.

Sergiy Stakhovsky surprised the seven time Wimbledon Champion on Wednesday and may find it tough to back that win up against Melzer here. Stakhovsky hasn't had much success on the grass courts leading into Wimbledon as he was beaten early at Queens and failed to qualify for Eastbourne and this has all the makings of an 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' for Stakhovsky.

I also feel that he is going to struggle to replicate the level of play he produced against Federer in the last Round, while Melzer is certainly capable on the grass courts.

I can't help thinking that if this was a First Round match, Melzer would be no better than 1.61 to win this one and the layers have over-reacted by making the Austrian an underdog here.

Benoit Paire - 4.5 games v Lukasz Kubot: Benoit Paire is an improving player on the ATP Tour and he brings in a 4-0 head to head record against Lukasz Kubot to the table in this one.

Kubot has performed well at Wimbledon in the past so this won't be easy, but Paire is definitely on the way up the Rankings while his Polish opponent is on the way down and I think he can get through in a similar manner to when these two players met in Paris in the French Open last month.

I can see the first two sets possibly being shared in this one, but I also think that Paire will begin to find more success against the Kubot serve as the match progresses and could easily take a set either 61 or 62 and that should give him a strong chance to cover this spread.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Almagro @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Jurgen Melzer @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units) 64, 30 To Be Completed
David Ferrer - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 7-4, + 6.08 Units (22 Units Staked, + 27.64% Yield)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 4 Picks 2013 (June 27th)

I started the post yesterday stating that there were major headlines after the Rafael Nadal exit on Monday, but the Gods of tennis must have sensed my 'boredom' and decided to really spice things up at this Grand Slam.

In all my time watching tennis, I can't remember the draw in a Major being decimated to the level that it has in the first three days at Wimbledon- in fact, I would go so far as to say I can't remember the last time a Masters event, or Premier WTA event, saw so many of the top players either withdraw through injury or see so many upsets.

Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer were the big surprise losers on Wednesday and it happened to opponents I would never, ever have expected to cause the surprises. Sergey Stakhovsky is the epitome of a journeyman player and he should not be beating Federer on the grass courts, but I do think it is further signs that the 'greatest player of all time' is certainly coming to the end of his career.

Federer may want to stick around until the Rio Olympics in 2016, but I can't see him recovering to become a regular threat at the Grand Slam level these days, especially with his Ranking likely to drop in the near future. I don't think, assuming Rafael Nadal will stick with the Tour for the rest of the season and David Ferrer continues his own terrific run, that it will be a big surprise for Federer to drop outside the top four in the World Rankings over the next six to nine months and life will become even more complicated for him.

It is also true to say that the aura he once had has been eroded over the last couple of years and we may look back at Wimbledon 2012 as being his swansong at the top of the Men's game.

Something very similar was written about Federer after his defeat in the Final of the Australian Open in 2009, but he managed to continue challenging towards the end of Grand Slams. However, 2013 has proven to be a tough season for the Swiss maestro and it does feel like he is much more vulnerable than Federer has been since winning his first Slam in 2003.

The courts have also come under severe criticism early in the week as they have been responsible for a couple of retirements and there have been lots of complaints from the players as to how they are playing. It has really led to a disappointing tournament in the sense that the paying public want to see matches won and lost on the court and not in the medical bay.

It does feel there have been a lot more heavy falls than I have seen in previous years, even though the All England Club have released a statement that they have not changed preparation from previous years. This will definitely be something to keep an eye on as the tournament continues into the second week, a time when the courts tend to become a little more stable than earlier in the week.

Sabine Lisicki - 1.5 games v Elena Vesnina: Forget the fact that Sabine Lisicki has a 2-1 head to head lead against Elena Vesnina from matches played early in her career and I still like her chances in this one.

Vesnina has been playing some very good tennis over the last month as she picked up a title in Eastbourne and she has put her good form down to the fact that she has found love and is feeling better about herself overall.

The Russian has also enjoyed success on the doubles court which has improved her singles performances, but prior to winning in Eastbourne, Vesnina had lost four matches in a row. She has also not enjoyed the same level of success on the grass as Sabine Lisicki has in the past and I do think the latter is more comfortable on this surface.

The grass courts make Lisicki's serve a little tougher to break down and I expect her to have an 'easier' time to hold on to that aspect of her game than Vesnina. There can be times when Lisicki goes walkabout in her matches, but she seems to enjoy playing at Wimbledon and I like her to find a way to win this one in straight sets.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: I was at Queens watching these two players compete earlier this month and I remember coming away thinking that Alexandr Dolgopolov was a little unfortunate not to win in far more comfortable fashion than he did.

On that occasion, Dolgopolov won in three sets, but he was a break up in the second which would have led to a straight sets win, while he had a double break in the final set but had to serve for the match on two occasions.

He should be the fresher of the two players after coming through his First Round match with the minimum of fuss while Santiago Giraldo was involved in a five setter against Horacio Zeballos. I have had a problem with Dolgopolov in the past as he is a player that seems to lose concentration too often in matches, but this looks a good match up for him and I expect him to frank the form from Queens and win this one in four sets, 63, 46, 64, 64.

David Ferrer - 7.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: At the start of the season, Roberto Bautista-Agut made some real waves on the ATP Tour, but I think it is asking a lot for him to make life difficult for someone as good as his compatriot David Ferrer on an unfamiliar surface that grass is.

In fairness, Bautista-Agut has played well on the grass over the last couple of weeks, but this is a different test for him as Ferrer will make him play a lot more and will likely expose any mistakes he makes.

Ferrer himself came through a surprisingly testing First Round match against Martin Alund, but the Quarter Finalist from last season was solid throughout and it will take a lot of exceptional tennis for Bautista-Agut to spring the latest surprise at this tournament.

I do think the veteran Spaniard will find a way to crack the serve in the course of this match and I like Ferrer winning this 64, 61, 63.

Feliciano Lopez win 3-1 v Paul-Henri Mathieu: Feliciano Lopez has certainly been enjoying his time back on the grass courts and I think he can win this match against Paul-Henri Matieu, although not as easily as the layers are expecting.

Mathieu is still capable of stringing together winners, although not as consistently as he used to be able to, and that could be enough for him to take a set off a player that he will know very well.

These two players will be playing for the eleventh time and it has to be said that eight of those matches has seen both players win at least one set. They met twice last season with both Lopez and Mathieu winning one of the matches, but I do think the Spaniard is the better grass court player.

It was actually Mathieu that has won their one previous meeting on the grass, but Lopez is a little more comfortable getting to the net and I think he finds a way to get himself through to the Third Round with a 76, 46. 63. 76 win.

MY PICKS: Sabine Lisicki - 1.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez win 3-1 in sets @ 3.75 Coral (1 Unit)

Wimbledon Update: 6-4, + 4.28 Units (20 Units Staked, + 21.40% Yield)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 3 Picks 2013 (June 26th)

There were fewer major headlines after the second day of the tournament at Wimbledon, although the final British Wild Card was knocked out in the First Round and has sparked a debate as to whether many of these players should be given a pass to pick up £23,500 when poor performances are the norm.

It has made for an interesting debate and I certainly think the LTA have to make it clear what criteria needs to be met for a Wild Card to be picked up. And I certainly think that consistent failure should not be rewarded and you can understand so many people being a touch annoyed that one player in particular has picked up £150,000 from her Wild Card appearances at Wimbledon, yet won around three matches ever at the event in ten tries.

We move into the Second Round on Wednesday and these are the picks I have for this day:

Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 games v Guillaume Rufin: Nicolas Almagro has had a quiet couple of moths which has been riddled with some surprising early losses. He was beaten in the Fourth Round of the French Open despite holding a two set lead and a break advantage in the third set against Tommy Robredo, but I think the draw is a decent one for him at Wimbledon to move through to the Third Round.

This is a rematch of last year when these two met at the same stage and on that day it was Almagro who came through in four sets.

There is no doubt that Guillaume Rufin has the game that should work very well on the grass courts, but he still makes a few too many errors and that is where Almagro should be able to take advantage. The Spaniard's big serve and forehand will help him very much keep on top of his own serve and I just think he will be a little too solid for Rufin.

Jurgen Melzer - 1.5 sets v Julian Reister: Both of these players came through as underdogs in the First Round, but I am surprised that the layers think this is going to be a closer match than I had it down as.

I would have made Jurgen Melzer a much stronger favourite as he has enjoyed some success on the grass courts in the past. Melzer has a decent serve and is also very comfortable getting to the net and using his volleys to close down points.

On the other hand, Julian Reister has done very well to qualify for the tournament and also move through the First Round against last year's surprise package Lukas Rosol. The German was perhaps a little fortunate to come through in five sets in that match and I think he will be under pressure to repeat that performance against Melzer.

Melzer can be a little up and down in matches which would be a concern in a match where tie-breakers could play a key role, but I imagine he is capable of getting through in three or four sets in this match.

Nicolas Mahut - 3.5 games v Tommy Robredo: Tommy Robredo made some history by becoming the first player to recover from 2-0 down in sets to win in three consecutive matches at the French Open, but it is a different story for him when he gets on the grass.

Robredo did come through the First Round comfortably, but he has only got through the Second Round in one of his last eight appearances at this Grand Slam and he had been beaten in the First Round in his previous two visits before winning his last match.

The Spaniard hasn't even bothered with the warm up events since 2010 and now is coming across a player that loves the grass. Nicolas Mahut will always be remembered for his match with John Isner at Wimbledon, but this a former Queens Finalist and his serve-volley game will give Robredo plenty of issues.

Mahut should have plenty of confidence having won the warm up event in Holland last week, although he will remember being surprised in this Round at Wimbledon last year. I expect it to be different this time around and I like Mahut to come through 63, 46, 64, 64.

Marin Cilic - 6.5 games v Kenny de Schepper: Marin Cilic's return of serve should cause plenty of problems for Kenny de Schepper once he gets a read on things and that is why I think the Croatian is going to find a way to cover this handicap.

The big Frenchman certainly has a powerful serve, but his volleying isn't the best and I think he will be put under pressure by Cilic. The latter is a tall man himself so he can get a lot of balls back in play and that should open the door for some chances to break serve.

We have already seen de Schepper take some big defeats during this grass court season and Cilic is one of the best players on this surface. I would be surprised if this match is very close and I like the Croatian to continue moving through the draw with a 75, 63, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jurgen Melzer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 4-3, + 2.44 Units (14 Units Staked, + 17.43% Yield)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 2 Picks 2013 (June 25th)

At the beginning of the tournament, all the talk surrounded the fact that this was the first time in twelve months that the best four Men's players in the world were all entering the same Major.

There were some discussions surrounding the fact that Rafael Nadal was 'only' the fifth seed here behind David Ferrer, although John McEnroe made a strong point as to why no one in the British media has spoken about why Roger Federer is seeded below Andy Murray considering he has won 7 Wimbledon titles to none and also has been the World Number 2 up until around two months ago.

All of these issues became a moot point on Monday evening as the big surprise in the Men's draw was the exit of Rafael Nadal, a straight sets loser to Steve Darcis. It was a stunning result, although the immediate concern is the issue Nadal seemingly had with his knee and whether that means he will have another long lay off before the clay court season next year.

I do expect Nadal to stay with the Tour and move on to the hard court season in North America which will start in August for the top players with the back to back Masters in Canada and Cincinnati before the US Open kicks off at the end of the month. However, there has to be concern for Rafa fans that the Spaniard is no longer able to stay clear of injuries to the knees, although the positives is that he will get plenty of chances to rest ahead of the hard court swing and he has won a title on that surface this season already.

How Nadal responds to his first ever defeat in the First Round of a Grand Slam is going to be fascinating viewing over the next three months...

The defeat for Nadal also means one of my five picks made before the tournament started has already gone down, although I had my second smallest stake on the Spaniard to win this event. It has also opened the door for both Andy Murray and Roger Federer, two comfortable winners on Monday, to move through the draw and set up a blockbuster Semi Final in around ten days time.

In better news, the picks went 3-1 yesterday, although the one loss was a little disappointing as Ernests Gulbis had a chance to win his match a little easier than it turned out to be. Hopefully that will be the start of a productive two weeks and these are the picks from Day 2 of the tournament:

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 sets v Ivan Dodig: Both of these players would probably tell you that they are very comfortable playing on the grass courts, but I do think Philipp Kohlschreiber is a little more consistent of the two and can make his way through to the Second Round.

The German was a Quarter Finalist here at Wimbledon last season and he has a very healthy 25-10 record on the grass courts over the last five seasons. Kohlschreiber can use the surface to really put some bite into his serve and groundstrokes, although he does enter Wimbledon having lost back to back matches against Mikhail Youzhny and Radek Stepanek.

Those two players certainly have the game suited to grass too so Ivan Dodig, a Semi Finalist at Eastbourne last week, will believe he can cause problems for the German. Dodig has a decent serve and likes attacking the net and like many of his Croatian compatriots, he doesn't mind playing with his surface beneath his feet.

My one issue with Dodig's game is that he doesn't give himself a lot of margin for error and that is where I think Kohlschreiber will prove to be a little too consistent. The German does have a 3-1 head to head record against Dodig, including a win in Doha earlier this season, and I think Kohlschreiber will very likely win this one in straight sets or, more likely, in four.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Florian Mayer: Novak Djokovic is right in thinking that this is not the straightforward First Round clash that a top seed can get in the Grand Slams, but I still think he will be far too strong for Florian Mayer.

The grass courts are actually very conducive to the game that Mayer plays with his slice and variation- on the grass courts, the slice can be deadly as the ball is kept so low, while Mayer is fairly comfortable getting to the net and putting away volleys.

Mayer is 12-6 on the grass courts over the last four seasons, but his biggest weakness is his serve and that is where the best returner on the ATP Tour will be able to take advantage.

Novak Djokovic has won all 3 matches against Mayer, including in the Quarter Final here last season and he has won at least one set in each of the 3 victories by the 61 scoreline that will set him on his way here.

I would not be surprised if we see a similar score to last season when Djokovic beat Mayer 64 61 64 and I'll take him to cover this spread.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 sets v Gilles Simon: It has only been three days since these two players contested the Final in Eastbourne that was won by Feliciano Lopez in three sets.

The weather conditions on the south coast were absolutely dreadful and I would have thought that would have suited Gilles Simon more than Lopez, but it was the Spaniard that created the chances to break serve and was probably a little unlucky not to win in straight sets.

Winning the title will surely give Lopez a little more confidence coming into Wimbledon, especially with his game being very suited to the grass courts. He is a former Quarter Finalist in SW19 and should be able to enforce his game a little more in better conditions expected on Tuesday.

Lopez should be able to hit through Gilles Simon's defences a little better on the grass, while he will be the player more likely to get into the net and force the Frenchman to find passing shots. The grass courts haven't been the best surface for Simon as he doesn't have the same aggression that makes players successful on these types of courts.

Simon was beaten in straight sets by Xavier Malisse last year in Wimbledon and I think Lopez will frank the form from last week and win this one in four sets.

Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games v Marcel Granollers: This should be a fairly routine victory for Richard Gasquet at the Grand Slam where he has achieved his best result when reaching the Semi Final.

Marcel Granollers is capable of performing on the grass courts as he has a decent first serve and doesn't mind using his aggression to cut off the net, but the Spaniard hasn't had any grass court preparation this season and could be outgunned by Gasquet.

The Frenchman is certainly playing with more confidence this season than I have seen in the past and he does usually play at a higher level when faced with an opponent he is expected to beat. I would think the first set will be a tight one, but Gasquet should be able to start getting a read on Granollers' serve and this could end being a 75, 63, 63 win for the Frenchman.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Sets @ 2.30 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 7.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 3-1, + 3.84 Units (8 Units Staked, + 48% Yield)

Monday, 24 June 2013

Wimbledon Day 1 Picks 2013 (June 24th)

The first day of the third Grand Slam of the season should begin in lovely sunshine and improving weather as the week goes on. I have put up a preview of the tournament and outright picks for the fortnight which can be found here.

Here are the picks from the first day of action at Wimbledon:

Andy Murray - 7.5 games v Benjamin Becker: I know these two players met at Queens a couple of weeks ago and Andy Murray had to come through a couple of tough sets, but I am expecting it to be a little more straightforward when they meet on Centre Court.

Murray seemed to lose a touch of concentration in the match with Benjamin Becker at Queens and made that a much harder match than it looked like being when he moved a double break up in the opening set.

The courts definitely play a little faster at Queens which would have aided Becker's game, and Murray will certainly make him work for his service games. I just think Murray will be a little more concentrated with the Grand Slam and I can see him winning this match 64, 62, 64 to go through to the Second Round with the minimum of fuss.

Fernando Verdasco v Xavier Malisse: Xavier Malisse has shown some decent form on the grass courts over the last couple of weeks, which isn't a big surprise considering the grass courts are some of his favourite surface.

However, he is playing an enigmatic player in Fernando Verdasco who is much more comfortable in best of five set matches these days than he is outside of the Grand Slams. Verdasco was beaten in five sets here by Malisse last year, but he definitely has the game to hurt Malisse and I think it is a misjudgment to have the Spaniard as the underdog in this one.

Verdasco has the arsenal to hit through Malisse, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is another long match between these two. It wouldn't even surprise me if this one goes to five sets again, but I expect Verdasco can overturn the result from last year.

Ernests Gulbis - 5.5 games v Edouard Roger-Vasselin: Ernests Gulbis has won all 4 matches played against Edouard Roger-Vasselin and I think Gulbis can make it five in a row after this one is completed.

Gulbis has continued to underachieve at Grand Slam level, even if he has started to show more consistent form on the Tour. He has the big serve and heavy groundstrokes to be very effective on the grass courts and his straight sets win over Tomas Berdych at this stage last season shows what he is capable of.

The match up does look a good one for him, especially as the Roger-Vasselin serve can be a bit of a weakness and I expect the Latvian to come through 76 64 63.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Virginie Razzano: Ana Ivanovic lost her only warm up match ahead of Wimbledon, but she has definitely shown some good form in the early Rounds of tournaments for the most part this season.

The Serb does come up against a qualifier in the form of Virginie Razzano, but this is a match up that has been dominated by Ivanovic and I do think the latter can frank the form that saw her beat Razzano in the First Round at the French Open last month.

Razzano hasn't had much success to write home about in the last three years on the grass courts, but my one concern for this pick is that Ivanovic can blow hot and cold during the course of a single match. That allows opponents to come back from seemingly inevitable losses, but I am expecting Ivanovic to record a 64 62 win in this one to move through to the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 7.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Wimbledon Outright Picks and Preview 2013 (June 24-July 7)

And just like that we have reached the third Grand Slam of the season, a time of the year when the British public actually remember tennis has a 'season' and the hopes of a nation turn to see whether a player can pick up the coveted title here.

After years of watching Tim Henman come agonisingly close to making the Final at Wimbledon, the Brits finally had a male player reach that landmark when Andy Murray got through to the last Sunday in 2012. However, Murray came up a little short against Roger Federer, although he is considered one of the top contenders to go a step further this time around now he has won an Olympic Gold and his first Major at the US Open.

Like all of the Grand Slams, the top four Men's players are the leading contenders and it is very unlikely that anyone out side of the usual contenders will win the title this time around. However, the draw has certainly looked lopsided with Rafael Nadal being the Number 5 seed at the Championships this season and ending up in the same half as Murray and Roger Federer has certainly made it feel that Novak Djokovic has the clearest path through to the Final.

Before the tournament began, the Women's event looked like being as straightforward as the French Open with Serena Williams being the clear favourite and the biggest question being whether Maria Sharapova would be in her half of the draw or share that with Victoria Azarenka.

Now, a war of words seems to have developed between Williams and Sharapova, the two biggest stars on the WTA Tour, and that will have a lot of people hoping that the two meet in the Final in two weeks time. There is clearly a tension between these two players that has existed for some time and the fact that Grigor Dimitrov, the current Sharapova boyfriend, is rumoured to have been dating Serena last summer hasn't gone down well with the American.

Williams and Sharapova might be a little one sided on the court at the moment, but I think the Russian has moved ahead in the war of words, up to the point I am writing this, and it will be interesting how Serena returns serve when she has her moment in front of the press.

Men's Event
First Quarter
The Number 1 seeded Novak Djokovic has been placed at the head of the Men's draw and he immediately would have been very happy to see his main rivals for the Wimbledon title all place in the other half of the draw. While a lot of 'experts' have claimed that gives Djokovic an 'easy' path to the Final, there are a couple of definite banana skin opponents that he will have to get through if he is to make it to his second Wimbledon Final in three years.

The first three Rounds shouldn't pose too many problems, even accounting for Florian Mayer which is a difficult First Round clash, but that is when Novak Djokovic will face his first real challenge in my opinion.

The Serb is likely to meet either Feliciano Lopez, a player that has reached the Quarter Final at Wimbledon before and has the game to suit the grass courts, or Tommy Haas, the player that has been enjoying an Indian summer on the Tour and who is very adept on the grass. Haas also has beaten Djokovic earlier this season and has previous by beating him twice on the grass courts in 2009, including a Quarter Final win over Djokovic at Wimbledon.

A potential Djokovic-Haas match would only be a Fourth Round clash, but I don't think it would be too far fetched to imagine the winner of that one making his way through to the Semi Final. Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet are the top seeded players that could stand in the way in the Quarter Final, while Sam Querrey can certainly use the grass to his advantage.

However, there would be question marks about their ability to beat Djokovic, the most likely player they will face at that stage, and the World Number 1 would kick himself if he doesn't make it through to the Semi Final.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic will have to be on his game to knock off Tommy Haas, but I do expect he will make it through this section.

Second Quarter
The problem with Rafael Nadal being the Number 5 seed was simply the fact that there could be one Quarter of the draw that looked a little weaker than the other three. Once the draw was thrown up, it worked out to be the case in the section where David Ferrer will be the highest seed.

Players like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin Del Potro will all feel that they are capable of reaching the Semi Final at the expense of Ferrer, but I think it is the Spaniard who has been given the best draw and has the least concerns surrounding his form.

Unlike those other names I mentioned, David Ferrer should be able to ease his way into the tournament and he showed his ability by reaching the Quarter Final here last season. He has a winning record against the likes of Raonic, who has been in poor form, and Kohlschreiber who are going to provide his toughest test in the Fourth Round.

After that, Ferrer has the chance to pick the bones of whoever comes through the tougher bottom half of this section and I wouldn't be surprised if we see the same thing as twelve months ago and that is the Spaniard knocking off Juan Martin Del Potro on the grass in the Quarter Final to win this section.

Prediction: David Ferrer to reach his fourth consecutive Grand Slam Semi Final

Third Quarter
The third section of the draw is very going to be decided between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and you can already imagine the tournament organisers salivating at the prospect of these two players meeting once again on the famous green lawns at the All England Club.

Federer and Nadal have shared nine of the last ten Wimbledon titles and on current form I think it would definitely be a match that the Spaniard would be favoured to win.

Neither one of these players will be too troubled by the draw ahead of their blockbuster Quarter Final, although Federer needs to be careful that he isn't blitzed by Lukas Rosol in a potential Third Round clash as Nadal was last season. On the other hand, Nadal will likely have the tougher Fourth Round match against someone like Stanislas WawrinkaLleyton Hewitt or John Isner.

However, it would be a big surprise, similar to when Nadal went out last season, if the the two old rivals are not facing each other a week on Wednesday. Out of the two players, Nadal is considerably stronger form than Federer and has been playing like the best player in the World since returning from his seventh month lay off.

Nadal has also got the better of Federer far more often than not, even if Federer leads the head to head 2-1 on the grass courts. The Spaniard has won 4 of the last 5 matches, including in the Semi Final at the Australian Open in 2012 and the stats make even more disappointing reading when taking away matches played on the indoor hard courts.

Without those, Nadal has won 14 of the last 16 matches between the pair and I would expect him to do the same again this time around.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal has been in very strong form and he is one of the better grass court players in the world and should be able to beat Roger Federer in a potential Quarter Final.

Fourth Quarter
The final quarter of the Men's draw is led by Andy Murray who will been raring to go having missed the French Open and a lot of the British public will be of the belief that he can end the long wait for the home Men's Champion at Wimbledon. He might be in the tougher half of the draw, but Murray can't been too disappointed with the path that has been laid out for him to the Final for the second year in a row.

Murray should be fairly comfortable in getting through to the Quarter Final even with the likes of Nicolas Mahut, Mikhail Youzhny and Janko Tipsarevic in this portion of the draw and I would be a little surprised if he drops more than a set to that point in the tournament.

It is there that things could get significantly tougher as he could face someone like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Marin Cilic, two of the more comfortable grass court players on the Tour. However, there is every chance that he could face one of those off the back of a really tough Fourth Round clash against one another, while Murray has had the better of the pair of them more often than not.

The World Number 2 has won 13 matches in a row against both Cilic and Tsonga combined and beat both on his way to the Queens title so anything other than Andy Murray being involved in the Semi Final again would be a surprise.

Prediction: Andy Murray looks the most accomplished player in this Quarter and he should be waiting in the Semi Final

Winner and Picks
Even though the best four players in the Men's game can't all be involved in the Semi Finals, I would be very surprised if one of those players isn't the person lifting the trophy in two weeks time. The 'easiest' path is certainly afforded to the World Number 1 and I think it would be silly to keep Novak Djokovic out of the staking plan.

However, grass is not necessarily Djokovic's most comfortable surface and that does make him a little vulnerable, but he will rarely receive a better draw in a Grand Slam and so I will make his one of my picks here.

I will also add Rafael Nadal to my staking plan considering the form that he has shown since returning from seven months off the Tour and a two-time winner here at Wimbledon shows that he has the temperament to move from the clay to the grass without too much negative impact on his game.

Nadal is the form player and his 13-5 head to head record, including 3-0 at Wimbledon, against Andy Murray is hard to ignore.

The final pick from the Men's draw that I will make is taking David Ferrer to reach his fourth consecutive Grand Slam Semi Final. The Spaniard seems to avoid the real dangers in his quarter of the draw until they have been in testing matches themselves and he has shown his ability on the grass courts over the last twelve months to think he can fight through the draw.

Women's Event
First Quarter
As is rightly the case, Serena Williams will head up the Women's draw at a tournament that her and Venus Williams have dominated over the last thirteen years. Serena won the French Open and is looking to win the fourth Grand Slam from the last five that have been played and it is tough to see how she will be stopped with the form she has shown.

However, the draw hasn't been as kind to the American as it could have been and the problems could begin as early as the Second Round where she could face Jie Zheng, the player that forced Serena into a final set decider here a year ago that was eventually won by the latter 9-7.

Tamira Paszek and Sabine Lisicki are very capable on the grass courts and are potential opponents for Serena in the Third and Fourth Round respectively, but while both have enjoyed success on the grass, I am not convinced they have the mental fortitude to beat Serena at Wimbledon.

The likes of Maria Kirilenko and Angelique Kerber are also in this quarter of the draw so there are potential pitfalls for Serena who is still putting in at least one match when she is not near her 'A' game in a Grand Slam and a surprise could be on the cards.

Prediction: Anyone but Serena Williams would be a huge shock, but there are potential dangers for her to consider in this quarter.

Second Quarter
Much like the Men's draw, the second quarter of the Ladies event at Wimbledon looks the one where the top seeded player is in most danger not to make it through to the Semi Final as expected.

Agnieszka Radwanska made it through to the Final last year before falling to Serena Williams, but the Polish player has not been in the best form over the last couple of months, pretty much since she dyed her hair blonde in fact.

That makes her vulnerable in my opinion, although there are not a lot of alternative choices that make more appeal. Na Li is inconsistent, but she has shown form on the grass courts in the past but the draw hasn't been the most kind with the dangerous Simona Halep  a potential Second Round opponent.

Other potential players that could upset the seedings are the likes of Daniela Hantuchova and Tsvetana Pironkova, who won the event in Birmingham and are a former Wimbledon Semi Finalist respectively.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska looks vulnerable, but it is hard to see which player is consistent enough to take the most advantage... Maybe a surprise Semi Finalist like Simona Halep is in the offing.

Third Quarter
The third quarter of the Women's draw is where Maria Sharapova has been placed and she will certainly have a bit of extra motivation to try and break Serena Williams' dominance of the WTA Tour after comments attributed to the American last week.

Sharapova is definitely very happy to be back on the grass where she won her first Grand Slam title, but backing that up has been difficult, although she did reach the Final a couple of years ago before losing to Petra Kvitova.

I don't think it is disrespectful to say that the Women's game doesn't have the same depth as the Men's and I don't see any real problems for Sharapova to reach the Quarter Final with the biggest challenge being Marion Bartoli, a player not really in the form to upset the Russian.

Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens and Sara Errani are potential Quarter Final opponents, but lack of form, experience and ability on this surface suggests Sharapova should make swift work of most of her opponents ahead of the Semi Final.

Prediction: Maria Sharapova could come through the section without dropping a set

Fourth Quarter
Victoria Azarenka is the Number 2 seed in the draw so has been placed in the final quarter and she looks in a decent position to arrange a potential repeat of her Semi Final against Maria Sharapova that was played in Paris around three weeks ago.

She should be too good for the likes of Jelena Jankovic before we get to the Quarter Final, especially with the latter being a much better player on the clay courts than she has shown consistently on the grass.

At the Quarter Final stage, it could certainly be a more awkward match for Azarenka as she could face opponents of the calibre of Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova or Petra Kvitova.

However, there are some serious question marks surrounding each of those players that would make it quite an upset if they are to knock off Azarenka- Ivanovic has struggled against the better players on the Tour, Makarova is very inconsistent, while Kvitova is not playing anything near the form that took her to the Wimbledon crown.

Prediction: Victoria Azarenka should be too good for her rivals in this quarter.

Winner and Picks
Serena Williams is rightly the player to beat in the tournament, but I can't help thinking she is far too short at the prices, especially with some tough looking matches that could cause problems if she is not totally on her game.

Instead, I will back Maria Sharapova to at least be her opponent in the Final by coming through the bottom half of the draw. I would favour Victoria Azarenka against Sharapova on the hard courts and possibly even the clay courts, despite her loss on the surface in Paris, but the grass courts should aid the Russian's game and help her get through.

Backing Sharapova does look a good option in case Serena does fall early and she will be the first pick I make from the Woman's draw.

I will also have a very small interest in Simona Halep to perhaps be one of the surprise Semi Finalists by winning the second quarter of the draw. Halep has been in very good form in recent weeks and comes in off back to back tournament wins, including on the grass in Holland last week.

Her form has been good in a section which does look open for a few players and she has the confidence of beating some of the bigger names in the quarter behind her. Halep is certainly an improving player and I'll have a very small interest in her.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic @ 2.20 Paddy Power (3 Units)
Rafael Nadal @ 5.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
David Ferrer to Win Second Quarter @ 2.50 Stan James (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova @ 7.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit E/W)
Simona Halep to win second quarter @ 11.00 (0.5 Units)

Note: Ladbrokes and Paddy Power will refund outright selections if Andy Murray wins the tournament

Friday, 14 June 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (June 14th)

The rain has really affected the the two tournaments that are being played in England, but all of the tournaments are on schedule to conclude at the right time this Sunday. We have reached the Quarter Final stage in Birmingham, London and Halle, while the Semi Finals will be played at Nuremberg, the only main level tournament that is being played on the clay this week.

Yesterday, the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray had to do some double duty on the centre court at Queens and both have made their way through to the Quarter Finals- both of those players are very effective on the grass courts, while Juan Martin Del Potro is also feeling a lot more comfortable on this surface these days compared with earlier in his career.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: Philipp Kohlschreiber has enjoyed considerable success at his home grass court tournament in the past and he has the game that is perfectly suited to this surface.

The match up in the Quarter Final looks tailor made for Kohlschreiber as he takes on Mikhail Youzhny, a player that he has beaten in 7 of their previous 8 meetings, although this is the first time they have met on a grass court.

Youzhny is another player that is capable of playing on the grass, but his opponent is a little stronger in all aspects of the game and I can understand why the German has such a good record against him. Both of these players enjoyed very good times on the grass court last season, but I can see the stronger Kohlschreiber serve being the difference in a 64 64 win for the home favourite.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 4.5 games v Denis Kudla: Denis Kudla has been one of the surprise packages this week and may have done enough to crack the top 100 after securing a couple of surprise wins to reach this Quarter Final.

However, that is where the run could come to an end as he faces one of the best grass court players in the Men's game in the form of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and I do think the Frenchman will have enough in his locker to win this one a little more comfortably than the layers think.

We know Tsonga has got a big game that is perfectly suited to this surface, while the suggestion is that Kudla was not really expected to have been as comfortable on the grass as he has been this week. Last week, Kudla won just three games as he was dismissed by Dudi Sela in Nottingham and I think it is asking a lot for the American to keep up with Tsonga as long as the latter isn't overly tired from his two matches played on Thursday.

It won't be easy, but I think Tsonga finds a way to win this Quarter Final 64 63.

Madison Keys v Magdalena Rybarikova: Madison Keys has shown some very good form this week and I do think the young American has a lot of potential and could easily be a seeded player by the time the US Open comes around.

Keys has come through a couple of tough matches this week and was then far too good for Mona Barthel and she has the serve that could earn her enough cheap points to make her a dangerous unseeded player at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks.

Magdalena Rybarikova has also been performing well this week, but I do think Keys has a lot more upside and I think she can find an easier way to hold serve to lead her to a win in this pick 'em match. It might go to three sets, but I think Keys will find a way to book her place in the Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 Games @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Madison Keys @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-4, - 2.50 Units (14 Units Staked, - 17.86% Yield)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (June 12th)

It was an on-off day at Queens yesterday and the forecast today isn't reading much better, although the organisers have at least used some common sense and started proceedings on all of the courts an hour and a half earlier than usual.

Even with that in mind, they will need to be fortunate in not having too many early matches going the distance as the rain is due back this afternoon and the event will be desperate to get back on course for a Sunday completion. The rest of the week is picking up in terms of weather so they should be able to complete the tournament on time, but they may need a bit of help today to do so.

Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Kenny de Schepper: Kenny de Schepper has a monster serve, but his overall game isn't one that would trouble the best players on the Tour and while Kevin Anderson isn't right at the top of the Men's game, I do think he is capable of finding a break in each set to see him through.

The big serve of de Schepper will help him through a number of service games, but if Anderson can get that ball in play, he should have a real chance of grabbing enough chances to take control.

The South African has a big serve of his own that should see him through enough service games with relative ease that will lead to a 63 76 win for the seeded player.

Feliciano Lopez v Julien Benneteau: Feliciano Lopez has a 1-4 record against Julien Benneteau, but the one sole win came on the grass courts here at Queens in 2010 and I do believe that Lopez is the more comfortable on this surface of the two players.

This one is bound to be close as both players have been in decent form coming into the tournament, but Lopez has had a bit of extra time on the grass courts and that may be enough to see him through in what could be a tight three set battle.

I just think the extra serving ability that Lopez has and the confident ability to get to the net and shorten the points should work in his favour in this one and may be the difference between the two players.

Denis Istomin v Igor Sijsling: This is another match that has been set as a pick 'em contest and I do think Denis Istomin is perhaps being under-rated to come through the match against Igor Sijsling.

Istomin is a funny player to get a read on as he can be so inconsistent, but he had plenty of success on the grass courts last season and he has the game that is certainly suited to the surface. On the other hand, Igor Sijsling hasn't been at his best on the grass so far.

Both players came through their First Round matches with straight sets victories, but I do think Istomin can continue his run here. It is a match that should be decided by two tight sets in favour of the Uzbekistan player.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units) Advised Yesterday
Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 2.35 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez @ 2.00 Stan James (2 Units)
Denis Istomin @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, - 0.50 Units (8 Units Staked, - 6.25% Yield)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (June 11th)

It was fun to see the grass courts being used again as I managed to catch some of the live tennis during my lunch break and also once I returned home in the evening. However, it is a real shame that the weather hasn't turned up so far after a cold Monday in London opened the Queens tournament.

The rain, at least, stayed away as the matches scheduled for the day all managed to get on court, although the forecast for the next few days, both in London and Halle doesn't bode well for those tournaments. It's the same situation for the WTA tournament being run in Birmingham, but so far so good for the schedules.

I do always laugh at how these tournaments in Britain are reported- anyone who knows tennis will be well aware of the fact that British Men's tennis has been in the doldrums for some time barring the odd Andy Murray or Tim Henman. So this is the time of the season when you will see more British players receive Wild Cards into events.

With that in mind, any kind of performance will be blown out of proportion and usually followed by 'Brit Watch' at Wimbledon- yesterday, it was reported that Dan Evans 'secures shock win' in his First Round win over Guido Pella.

In terms of Rankings, it was a surprise of course- but he was actually favoured by all of the layers and he was playing an opponent that had never played on a grass court before and clearly has been almost exclusively successful on the clay courts. Therefore, I think to describe his win as a 'shock' is poor reporting to be honest as most people expected he will be too good for Pella and that happened to be the case.

Personally I think a little bit of research would have told the author of that BBC article that it was a good win for Evans, but it was far from a 'shock' and should be written for the casual reader for what it is. It was a good win for someone ranked as low as Evans is, but there was no shock and he did what was expected of him.

On the other hand, James Ward was the big underdog in his match with Ivan Dodig and it was a match he should have won. He lost in three tough tie-break sets, but had chances to serve out the second and third sets and will be disappointed that he didn't complete what would have been a real surprise result.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Lleyton Hewitt: Both of these players came through some struggles to book their place in the Second Round, but I think Grigor Dimitrov definitely has the more upside of the two and that is why I believe he will beat the former Wimbledon Champion.

There are just too many unforced errors coming from the racquet of Lleyton Hewitt these days, while his first serve percentage has to improve markedly to give him a real chance in this match.

On the other hand, Dimitrov had to break Dudi Sela's serve to stay in the match yesterday, but he reached the Semi Final here last season and I think Hewitt's game is one that he can get the better of. I wouldn't be totally surprised if this ended up going into a third set decider or if Dimitrov wins two tight sets, but I do expect the Bulgarian to cover this spread.

Nicolas Mahut - 2.5 games v Rhyne Williams: It's not everyday that I would take someone to cover the games when they are ranked as low as Nicolas Mahut is, but the grass is the one surface that certainly favours his game more than other surfaces these days.

Mahut is a former Finalist at Queens and his serve-volley game will definitely give Rhyne Williams a number of problems, especially considering this is the American's second game on grass in his short career.

Williams was beaten in the First Round of a Challenger tournament on the grass in Nottingham last week, but I expect Mahut's veteran savvy to be too much for him here too despite having the surface under his feet. I think the Frenchman will find a way to cause enough problems on the Williams serve by attacking the net and forcing the younger man to find a way to consistently pass him.

That should lead to a 64, 76 win for Mahut in this one and a chance to play Andy Murray on Centre Court for the second year in succession.

Benoit Paire - 3.5 games v Denis Kudla: Benoit Paire is certainly beginning to make his mark on the ATP Tour and I think he can back up his win from the First Round by taking out the young American Denis Kudla in the Second Round.

Paire has been pegged as someone who can definitely reach the top 20 of the World Rankings, while L'Equipe's recent prediction of the top ten in 2018 included Paire in the list. He is only 5 wins short of reaching the same number of wins as he had in the whole of last season, and already proved he can be comfortable on the grass courts by reaching the Semi Final of an event in Holland last season.

This should be an opportunity for Paire to move through to the Third Round here despite the impressive win that Kudla had yesterday. However, that win came against a predominantly clay court player and this is a test at least a couple of levels higher for Kudla who was comfortably beaten in the First Round in a Nottingham Challenger last week.

I think the Frenchman should be able to find a way to grab a break advantage in each set in this one and I am expecting Paire to move through 75 63.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.16 Units (4 Units Staked)

Monday, 10 June 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (June 10th)

It is the start of the grass court season, except for the tournament being played in Nuremberg, and I am personally looking forward to getting down to watch a bunch of tennis over the next month or so.

After visiting Roland Garros, this is usually the time of the year when I can invest in getting down to Queens Club in West London for the pre-Wimbledon warm up tournament that takes place. This tournament may only be an ATP 250 event, but there has always been the feeling that it is a touch more important as a lot of the big names in the Men's game will arrive to hone their skills ahead of the third Grand Slam tournament of the season.

At the same time as London, the tournament in Halle attracts the likes of Roger Federer, while the WTA Tour makes a stop in Birmingham for a grass court event there.

I have made a couple of outright picks from the tournaments in London and Halle and they can be found here.

There is a lot of tennis starting on Monday, which is not usually the norm at the beginning of the week in tournaments outside of the Masters and Grand Slam level, but that is down to the fact that there are big fields in Birmingham and London more than anything else.

Lleyton Hewitt - 4.5 games v Michael Russell: Lleyton Hewitt showed some real signs of form in his opening loss in Paris last time out, but he has never been as comfortable on the clay courts as he has on the grass courts and I am expecting the veteran Australian to have more success here than he enjoyed last season.

Hewitt actually had a bad draw at both this tournament (Ivo Karlovic) and at Wimbledon (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga), but he did reach the Final of a grass court event in Newport following the third Grand Slam of the season. Hewitt also pushed Novak Djokovic to three sets at the Olympic Games on the grass and I do think this is now the surface where he can do most damage.

That is down to the fact that playing on grass doesn't come naturally to a lot of players on the Tour and he faces one of the few players that are older than him on the Tour in the form of Michael Russell in the First Round here.

Russell is a tough competitor, but he has had a tough season so far and is coming off a hamstring issue that forced him to retire mid-match against Martin Klizan in Paris. The grass courts haven't been the American's best surface, but he does have a decent serve and will pose some problems for Hewitt in this one.

He has previous against Hewitt too having taken him to five sets at the Australian Open in 2007, but I think this one will be a little more routine for the Australian and I like Hewitt to come through 75, 63.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Dudi Sela: You would think anyone nicknamed 'Baby Fed' would be a natural on the grass courts and Grigor Dimitrov showed he could be very capable on the surface with a run to the Semi Final here at Queens last season.

He has a decent looking match up against Dudi Sela in his First Round here and I do believe the Bulgarian will be far too good for his opponent in this one. Sela doesn't have the big weapons to really hurt Dimitrov consistently and this does represent a good way to build rhythm for the new face of Men's tennis.

Sela didn't bother getting involved in the clay court season and spent a lot of that time playing Challenger tournaments on the hard courts with some contrasting results, while the Israeli has also played a grass court tournament last week in Nottingham. However, he was comfortably beaten in the Second Round there and Dimitrov is certainly a step up in class.

I think this will be a routine victory for Dimitrov and I see him winning 63 63.

MY PICKS: Lleyton Hewitt - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Tennis Outright Picks 2013 (June 10-16)

Just like that, the second Grand Slam of the season is in the books as Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams both picked up the titles in the Men's and Women's tournaments. They were the two players that started as favourites to win at Roland Garros two weeks ago and barring a couple of blips, they were the two best players in Paris.

The end of the French Open signals the start of the short grass court season and two of the bigger preparation tournaments for Wimbledon, on the ATP Tour, begin on Monday. Queens and Halle have generally had the biggest players in the Men's game taking part, although both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are two players that won't be playing either tournament this week.

Djokovic has decided against playing one of these events for the last couple of years so his absence wasn't a surprise, but Nadal pulled out of Halle on Saturday citing fatigue from his exploits at the French Open before the Final was to be played.

It is a short turnaround in the next three weeks between the second and third Grand Slam events of the season and it is also wise to keep in mind those players that struggle on the grass, while also being aware of those that seem to come alive for this month of the year.

ATP London/Queens
The Number 1 seed at the tournament in London this week is Andy Murray who makes his return to the Tour after deciding to pull out of the French Open with a lingering back issue. He has been back on the grass courts for around ten days so I do expect he will be feeling better, while the grass tends not to aggravate the injury he has to the same extent as the long, drawn out rallies on the clay certainly can.

I can understand why Murray has been set as the favourite to win this tournament considering he is a two-time former winner of the event here, while he also reached the Final at Wimbledon and won the Olympic Gold on the grass courts last season. I do believe he is one of the more effective grass court players on the Tour, but he could potentially face a very awkward first competitive match back if Nicolas Mahut gets through to face him in the Second Round.

It was Mahut who beat Murray at Queens last season and his serve-volley game is perfectly suited to these courts for the former Finalist who is best known for his epic match against John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010.

Even if Murray can get through that Second Round match, as I would expect, he could face another tough challenge in Michael Llodra in the next Round with potential matches against Lukas Rosol, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga just to get to the Final.

I do expect Murray to get through to the Final, but there are too many question marks for me to feel comfortable at 3.00 and I will instead look at the other half of the draw.

There are some big names in the second half of the draw with the likes of Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, defending Champion Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov, but I do think it could make the most sense to back a different former winner in the form of Sam Querrey to come through to the Final at the least.

You can definitely question the credentials of every player in the second half of the draw- Berdych has been poor on the grass last season, Del Potro is coming off a lay-off, Cilic has struggled for form, Dimitrov has a tough draw with a potential match against Lleyton Hewitt in the Second Round, and Querrey hasn't won a title since July last year.

So why have I decided to pick the American Querrey? He has a decent record here as a winner in 2010 and reaching the Semi Final last season and he has the game that makes him a big threat on these faster surfaces. Querrey has a big serve and forehand and that certainly gives him a chance against anyone on the surface, while the draw could open up for him if he can come through his first couple of matches.

I am a little concerned that he doesn't have the best head to head record against potential Semi Final opponents like Berdych and Cilic, but the 29.00 being offered on Querrey looks far too big to me considering his previous form at Queens.

Berdych and Del Potro at single figures look remarkably short, while Cilic does not have the best draw and a lot is pointing at Querrey as being the man that could take advantage in this event.

ATP Halle
There was no doubt that Roger Federer would be feeling very disappointed in the manner in which he was beaten at the French Open, but he has been bullish about his chances to win titles now that he is back on his favourite surface. Federer has yet to win a title this season and he went to Paris for the first time in 13 years without having done so and I do believe that a good tournament here is imperative for his confidence ahead of his defence at Wimbledon.

I don't think he can complain too much about the field he faces here at Halle, a tournament he has won 5 times, even if he is likely going to face the big-serving Jerzy Janowicz in the Quarter Final and then a potential match with the defending Champion Tommy Haas or Milos Raonic in the Semi Final.

Haas did indeed beat Federer in the Final last year to make it the third German Champion in the last four years, but the veteran could be a little tired from his exploits in Paris last week and also has been given a very tough draw. His first match is going to be against the winner of the Ernests Gulbis-Marcos Baghdatis match and both could cause real problems while Raonic will likely be awaiting next.

The bottom half of the draw is headed up by Richard Gasquet and I do believe the Frenchman can get to the Final from the section. His biggest threat is likely to come from Philipp Kohlschreiber, the player who won this tournament in 2011.

Both players are capable of performing on the grass courts thanks to their strong first serves and ability to get to the net and volley effectively. However, of the two players, I do think Gasquet has been given the 'kinder' draw on paper and I do think he can ride the momentum of a solid performance in Paris into this tournament.

Even though Federer is the most likely winner of the event, I don't feel comfortable including him in my staking plan this week as he does have some potentially very tough matches to get through. Instead, I will just have an interest in Richard Gasquet to at least get to the Final.

MY PICKS: Sam Querrey @ 29.00 Ladbrokes (0.5 Units E/W)
Richard Gasquet @ 5.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit E/W)

French Open Daily Picks20-15, + 9.18 Units (68 Units Staked, + 13.5% Yield)
French Open Outright Picks: 0-2, - 4 Units (4 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.36 Units (658 Units Staked, + 3.24% Yield)

Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Sunday, 9 June 2013

French Open Men's Final 2013- Rafael Nadal v David Ferrer (June 9th)

The Women's Champions was decided yesterday and I still can't quite believe that the score was 'only' 64 64 in favour of Serena Williams- it was by far the most one-sided match I had seen in some time that looked so close on the scoreboard.

To be perfectly honest, Williams did not return serve as effectively as she can and there were far too many unreturned serves, even off the second serve. Her break point conversion rate was poor and if I was watching that match without a scoreboard in front of me, I would have thought Serena had won 62 62.

Now we get to the final day of Roland Garros 2013 and that means it is time for the Men's Final. The weather forecast doesn't look the best and there is every chance that we may have to see the Final conclude on Monday for the second year in succession.

Both Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have no commitments next week so it won't affect other tournaments if that is the case, but I am sure Ferrer would rather get the match going today when the conditions are set to be cooler than it has been over the last week.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v David Ferrer: The conditions have certainly favoured Rafael Nadal over the last week of the tournament here and even though he is now competing in his eighth Roland Garros Final, I am expecting some nerves on his part. The fact of the matter is that Nadal is playing his first Grand Slam since Wimbledon last June and he is going to be a little nervous being back in this position to win one of the big prizes in the tennis calender.

It will also be interesting to see how much the Semi Final has taken out of Nadal, although his fitness has never been in question in the past. I would look at his response to his five set epic against Fernando Verdasco in the 2009 Australian Open Semi Final when he went on and beat Roger Federer in five sets in the Final.

On the other hand, David Ferrer has made the most serene progress through the draw, yet to drop a set and also spending around six hours less time on court than his compatriot, but the match up against Nadal has not suited him much, especially on the clay courts.

However, in saying that, he has at least made the matches a little more competitive the last two times they have played on the clay courts, with Ferrer picking up a set in both of those matches. The problem for Ferrer is maintaining the level required to hang with Nadal for more than a couple of sets and he also has to remove memories of his crushing defeat here in the Semi Final twelve months ago.

On that occasion, Ferrer won just 5 games as Nadal completely obliterated his game, but I am expecting this one to be a little closer. The conditions should help Ferrer today, but Nadal has looked a man on a mission in the last week.

Nadal had fortune on his side in the final set against Novak Djokovic on Friday and I think he will ride that momentum to a 64, 62, 63 win.

MY PICK: Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)

French Open Update: 19-15, + 6.68 Units (66 Units Staked, + 10.12% Yield)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

French Open Women's Final 2013- Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova (June 8th)

The second Saturday of the French Open is the day reserved for the Women's Final and I do wonder if the fans will have been able to recover from the emotional rollercoaster they were taken on during the Men's Semi Finals on Friday night.

The first of those Semi Finals was between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal- it wasn't the best Semi Final for the first three sets, with Djokovic's form particularly fluctuating too much to make it a real contest and an early break for Nadal in the fourth looked to have ended the match.

However, from that moment on, the match took a number of turns as momentum shifted both ways and it was a couple of moments that eventually cost Djokovic the match. The first was his constant frustration with the dried out court not being watered and the second was the moment he ran into the net when the point was almost certainly won at 4-3, 40-40 in the final set... The World Number 1 himself admitted that the match was decided at that moment and I would go a step further and say it was that moment that prevented him holding serve and putting himself just a game away from winning the match, something which I believe he would have done.

One question Djokovic has to have is what happened to him in set three- he almost broke Nadal in the first game, but then proceeded to lose the set 6-1 as he struggled with his form and it did seem that Djokovic had some sort of physical problem. While he hasn't discussed that moment yet, it is something to keep in mind with the third Grand Slam of the year just three weeks away.

The crowd were a little flat for the second Semi Final on Friday, even with home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in action and that did lead to a limp performance from the charismatic Frenchman. Playing David Ferrer was always going to be a much bigger challenge than most in the media made out, especially as Ferrer is very comfortable on the clay courts and Tsonga is certainly better on other surfaces.

Ferrer dominated the match for the most part and didn't make the errors that Roger Federer made in the Quarter Final against Tsonga and it was a very straightforward straight sets win.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Maria Sharapova: If you listened to some of the commentary during the last couple of weeks on both ITV and Eurosport, you would be forgiven for thinking that Maria Sharapova is the dominate player on the WTA Tour in this generation.

However, if you follow tennis for more than just the Grand Slam events, you would be very aware that the Alpha Female is Serena Williams, a player that is very likely to go down as one of the true legends of the Tour.

Serena has dominated Sharapova ever since losing back to back matches against her back in 2004 at Wimbledon and Los Angeles and even the Russian is the first to admit that she has to do something different to change the outcome in this one. Their recent matches have been fairly comfortable wins for Williams when it is all said and done and Sharapova has won just 1 of the last 18 sets they have competed against one another.

It says a lot that she has got to 6-4 or better in 5 of the last 18 sets as Williams has totally outplayed her- Williams hits the ball better than Sharapova, has more power and has the more consistent serve and all of this points to a win for the American, her second in Roland Garros. Sharapova isn't likely to get forward and attack the net and I can't see what she is capable of doing different to change the outcome of this match.

The problem for Sharapova is that she won't feel comfortable doing what she needs to change this match and I think Serena has had her one slip in this tournament that she seems to have in Grand Slams when coming through against Svetlana Kuznetsova. While I think the Russian will have some success at times in this one, it is hard to see how she can do enough consistently to hurt Serena and I like Williams to come through fairly comfortably.

6 of the last 7 matches between these players has seen Serena Williams win very easily and she can add to that with a 62 64 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

French Open Update: 19-14, + 8.68 Units (64 Units Staked, + 13.56% Yield)

Friday, 7 June 2013

French Open Day 13 Picks 2013 (June 7th)

The Women's Final was set yesterday as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova moved through to the final match to be played on Saturday, but some may argue that the Final of the Men's event will take place on a Friday this year, not the Sunday.

That is down to the fact that the winner of the Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic Semi Final will be the big favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday and this looks like a Semi Final to be remembered. Both players will feel they have the edge here and there are significant arguments to pick either to win the competition.

I have already picked Novak Djokovic to win the French Open so I am going to leave my fate in the hands of the World Number 1 as I do think he is capable of winning this match. If I hadn't backed him before the tournament had begun, I would still have recommended Djokovic in this match as I think the players are more evenly matched than the odds would suggest.

David Ferrer - 1.5 sets v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: It was a fantastic performance from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that saw him completely dominate his Quarter Final against Roger Federer, but I expect this one to be a lot tougher for him against the ultimate competitor in David Ferrer.

While Tsonga has reached a Grand Slam Final in the past, there will still be a lot of pressure on him as the French crowd will demand that he has a chance to emulate Yannick Noah's success of 30 years ago. Unfortunately, he is playing an opponent that is very capable on the clay courts and one that won't make the mistakes that Federer was guilty of in the last Round.

David Ferrer has been an improving player in recent years and hasn't shown too many signs of slowing down, but he is no fool either- there is no doubt that this is the best chance he is likely to ever have of reaching his first Grand Slam Final.

The Frenchman definitely has the edge in the match when it comes to serving ability and also the power, but his game is one that Ferrer can negate to some extent as he can force Tsonga to stay out there all day long. The backhand is more consistent on the Spaniard's side of the court, and I do believe the clay will suit Ferrer much more than it does Tsonga.

Even after that impressive win in the Quarter Final, I can't help thinking that Ferrer is going to be too mentally solid and will be able to find a way to break down the Tsonga game. It is likely to go at least four sets, but I do think Ferrer will be the man that progresses to the Final,

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 18-14, + 6.18 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.97% Yield)