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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 31st)

It has been a mixed couple of days to open this week, with some picks just requiring a little bit of luck to get over the line, while some others have just been poor from beginning to end.

For a long time I had Alexandr Dolgopolov on my black list simply because he was far too erratic to really get a good feel of what you're going to get when he enters the court. While he has produced some winning picks over the last twelve months, there is something not quite right with him at the moment and the manner of his last two defeats has to be a real concern for his supporters.

The Second Round will continue at the events on Wednesday as the tournaments keep moving forward with the next Masters tournament fast approaching.

Victor Hanescu v Albert Montanes: Both of these players are very comfortable on the clay courts and will be very familiar with one another having met ten times on the Tour including earlier this season in Nice, a match that Albert Montanes won in two tight sets on his way to the title.

This should be a fun match with the contrasting styles of Montanes looking to grind down his opponent by attempting to get one more ball back into play and trying to extract mistakes, while Victor Hanescu will look to be aggressive behind serve and try to hit through his opponent.

The conditions in Kitzbuhel may just help Hanescu do that as it will give his serve a little more bite, but he will need to keep his cool and not offer too many unforced errors up for Montanes. The altitude here in this part of Austria may also help the ball move that much quicker that the speed of the Spaniard is not so much a factor this time around.

It is Hanescu who has been in the better form over the last month and I will back him to win this pick 'em contest.

Juan Monaco - 4.5 games v Andreas Haider-Maurer: It has been a rough start for some of the seeded players in Kitzbuhel, but Juan Monaco may be able to take advantage of a local hope Andreas Haider-Maurer.

The Austrian is a Wild Card this week and won his First Round match against a compatriot who had qualified, but facing someone like Monaco is going to be very difficult if the latter is able to perform to the best of his ability.

It hasn't been a great season for Monaco, but he held match points in his Quarter Final against Mikhail Youzhny, the eventual winner in Gstaad, last week. As long as that hasn't had a negative effect on the Argentine, he should be able to come to Kitzbuhel with the game to take out Haider-Maurer.

Monaco can be a bit hit and miss behind his serve which is a problem when it comes to spreads like these, but he is capable of testing the rhythm Haider-Maurer has in his own game and extracting unforced errors from his opponent as he forces him to get closer and closer to the lines to win points. As long as Monaco doesn't commit some of the errors that have blighted his game at times this season, I would expect him to win this 63, 64.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The last time Fernando Verdasco was on court, he was fuming at some of the missed opportunities that saw him beaten at the Quarter Final stage in Hamburg. However, it has been a good month for him since reaching the Quarter Final at Wimbledon and he has a strong chance of being seeded at the US Open next month.

I believe he will see this as a big week to pick up points, even though his game does remain effective on the hard courts where the Masters tournaments begin next week ahead of the final Grand Slam tournament of the season.

He should have a strong chance to progress to the Quarter Final here in Kitzbuhel as he takes on his compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a player that won in the First Round, but who hasn't been in great form recently. Garcia-Lopez has had some big defeats against Nicolas Almagro and Juan Monaco in the last month and someone like Verdasco could certainly put him under a lot of pressure.

However, Verdasco has the tendency to drop serve at silly times in matches and he needs to remain focused if he is to win this match. The saving grace is that Garcia-Lopez doesn't possess an intimidating serve himself and I expect Verdasco to get the best of the breaks of serve to come through 64, 64.

Laura Robson + 3.5 games v Petra Kvitova: When players are as wildly inconsistent as these two, spreads that are a little short like this one could easily go either way.

However, there are a couple of reasons I think Laura Robson is capable of making a real match of this against Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon Champion who was beaten by Robson at the Australian Open back in January.

This is the first match Kvitova will have played on the Tour since Wimbledon, although Robson has only one more match under her belt following her First Round win yesterday. Both players are very comfortable on the hard courts as shown by Kvitova's two titles during this coming period last year and Robson reaching the Fourth Round at the US Open last September.

I also believe these are generally the kinds of matches that Robson really enjoys at the moment- she isn't at her best when there is the pressure of being the favourite, but playing the best players on the Tour as the underdog has been right up her street in her young career. Over the last twelve months she has pushed Maria Sharapova in a tough match and beaten the likes of Kim Clijsters, Na Li, Agnieszka Radwanska and Kvitova.

Robson may not win this match, but I expect she can push Kvitova and take a set off the inconsistent Czech player. As long as she remains mentally focused, Robson should be able to keep this close.

MY PICKS: Victor Hanescu @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Juan Monaco - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Laura Robson + 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-5, - 1.14 Units (20 Units Staked, - 5.70% Yield)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 30th)

It was almost a terrible opening day of the week for the picks, but fortunately the two from the tournaments in North America both came in to at least restrict the poor start.

You can still see the outright picks I have made from the tournaments in Kitzbuhel and Washington here.

Victor Hanescu - 2.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: It has been a pretty solid month for the veteran Victor Hanescu and I believe he can go a little further here in Kitzbuhel as he takes on Aljaz Bedene in the First Round.

With a decent first serve, Hanescu should certainly find the conditions here in Austria to his liking as the altitude of the court will give his serve a little more pop. He should be able to find a way to put Aljaz Bedene under pressure with the serve, while he also has some heavy groundstrokes that can certainly push his younger opponent onto the back foot.

It has to be said that Bedene had a decent week last time out in Umag where he shocked Alexandr Dolgopolov, but a lot of that could be down to the latter being a little off his game. Bedene also has a decent serve and when he is on his game, he can be very tough to play.

However, he is also someone that can suddenly put together a number of poor games and I think a steady performance from Hanescu will help the Romanian win this one 76, 64.

Robin Haase - 3.5 games v Guillaume Rufin: After a long tough week on the Tour, it can be difficult to guess the state of someone's physical well-being, particularly when they have reached the Final of an event and are travelling to the next stop on the Tour.

That is the case for both Robin Haase and Guillaume Rufin who played in Finals on Sunday- Haase came up short in Gstaad, while Rufin won a Challenger on the clay courts in Germany.

It seems this match could come down to who has recovered from their exertions last week the best, although Haase will be very comfortable in the surroundings considering he has won the title here in both of the last two years since it returned to the calendar. Haase was in a positive state of mind on Sunday despite his defeat in the Final in Switzerland and if he serves and returns as well as he did last week, for the most part, he will be tough to beat here this year.

His opponent can certainly play some very effective tennis as Rufin has a good serve and likes being very aggressive, attacking the net and trying to take the ball on. However, his consistency can be an issue and that is why he is Ranked just inside the top 100 after moving back into this position thanks to his win last week.

The Frenchman is just 4-10 in the last three seasons on the main Tour when it comes to clay court events and I think Haase is going to find a way to crack him here. I believe solid serving will help Haase come through 64, 64 in this one as long as he isn't too shattered from some of the matches he played last week.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 games v Somdev Devvarman: This has definitely been a down season for the talented, but wildly inconsistent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, but a return to Washington where he won the title last season should surely inspire him here.

He was beaten in his first match in Umag last week, but it seemed like Dolgopolov may not have been feeling well in that match against Aljaz Bedene so it will be interesting to see how has taken to the travel across the Atlantic. However, Dolgopolov has had a few days to get ready for the tournament here and faces a good opponent in the Second Round.

Somdev Devvarman is at a false position outside of the top 100 in the World Rankings as injuries have affected that Ranking over the last couple of years. Even so, the Indian player, who will be well used to the North American hard courts as he studied in the States for a number of years, has a game that will give Dolgopolov a chance to use all of his variations of shot.

As long as the Ukrainian isn't feeling the affects of the issue from last week, he should be a little too good for Devvarman in this one and come through 64, 63.

James Duckworth - 2.5 games v Yuichi Sugita: These two players haven't had a lot of experience at the main ATP level of tournaments and there are only four places between them in the World Rankings.

I believe the lower Ranked player, James Duckworth, has the edge in this First Round match as he has been winning the slightly higher quality of matches. The Australian has a decent serve that will be given a boost by the conditions in Washington and I think he can use that serve to help him build the foundation to success in this match.

Duckworth is against an opponent that can certainly make life tough as he can ensure he can get one more ball into play and force the errors from Duckworth's game. Sugita has a serve that is attackable, but he can be aggressive on court by getting to the net and putting away volleys so this certainly won't be a cakewalk for the Australian.

This has a real chance of going into a three set match, but I like Duckworth to find a way to come through 75, 46, 63.

Lukas Lacko v Marcos Baghdatis: I don't know whether fatherhood has changed Marcos Baghdatis into a less competitive figure on the court now that his priorities in life have changed, but this has been a terrible season for the former Australian Open Finalist.

In fairness, Baghdatis hasn't reached the heights of 2006 and I don't think he made the best of the talent he clearly possessed. He hasn't won a match, outside of one Davis Cup match, since February and is coming into this tournament off the back of seven straight matches.

This one looks like another tough match for the Cypriot against Lukas Lacko, even though the latter hasn't exactly pulled up too many trees on the Tour this season. Lacko is another player that has shown flashes of what he is capable of, but has struggled for consistency, although his confidence should be in a better place than Baghdatis with a few wins in recent weeks, even at Challenger level.

If this match is close, the number of losses in recent months will very likely have a mental affect on Baghdatis and this is a hard pattern to break. Lukas Lacko may become the latest player to take advantage of a player whose Ranking in slipping on a weekly basis.

Urszula Radwanska - 2.5 games v Marina Erakovic: The last couple of seasons has seen the younger Radwanska sister begin to make a more consistent move on the WTA Tour and I think she can take out the qualifier Marina Erakovic in the First Round.

Radwanska made it through to the Quarter Final in Stanford last week and was only stopped in her path by the eventual winner Dominika Cibulkova, while she has won 31 matches on the hard courts in the last eighteen months.

There have been a couple of disappointing early losses for Radwanska this season, but generally she is beginning to beat the players she is expected to and that should stand her in good stead to move into the upper echelons in the Women's game.

She is playing Marina Erakovic who has not had a winning record on the hard courts in the last few season, at main Tour level, but Erakovic is certainly capable of playing some inspired tennis and is going to be in good nick after winning three matches to get into the main draw. Erakovic will give Radwanska some problems, but she has lost to players that wouldn't be favoured to beat the Pole on the hard courts and I expect Radwanska to find a 63, 46, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Victor Hanescu - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Robin Haase - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet 365 (2 Units)
James Duckworth - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Lukas Lacko @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Urszula Radwanska - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Unibet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, - 0.28 Units (8 Units Staked, - 3.50% Yield)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 29th)

The ATP and WTA Tours have moved on another week and that means a brand new game will begin on Monday as the tournaments in Kitzbuhel, Washington and Carlsbad all will be kicking off. Usually Monday can be a quiet start to the week as the tournaments get going, but the ATP tournament in Washington has gathered a big field and there will be plenty of tennis being played throughout the day.

You can see the two outright picks I have made this week, as well as updated totals for the season, here.

The action will all begin in Austria in the final clay court event, and we will go through the day with action beginning in Washington and then Carlsbad.

Marcel Granollers - 5.5 games v Mate Pavic: I am pretty sure that Marcel Granollers will be kicking himself that he couldn't quite put Robin Haase away in the Quarter Final in Gstaad last week, but he should be able to make a good start in Kitzbuhel. He faces a young Wild Card opponent in Mate Pavic who has struggled to have an impact on the Tour so far and is now facing a player that is comfortable on the clay courts.

Pavic was beaten comfortably by Gael Monfils last week in Umag in front of his home supporters, and the 20 year old hasn't had a lot of experience at this level.

Young players can struggle to maintain the level required to keep up with the players that ply their trade on their main ATP Tour and that can prove to be the difference as they struggle to mentally keep up.

That can be the case for Pavic at the moment and you do see a lot of sets where he falls away and there is every chance that can happen again as he faces Granollers in the First Round. As long as the Spaniard can win the key points, as he can sometimes wander mentally, he should be able to take care of business with a routine 64, 62 win.

Andrey Kuznetsov - 3.5 games v Dominic Thiem: Another player receiving a Wild Card this week in Kitzbuhel is one of the home hopes in Dominic Thiem- the young Austrian player is a former winner of the prestigious Orange Bowl and also reached the Final at Roland Garros as a junior, although he is still cutting his teeth on the professional circuit.

Thiem has played a couple of Challenger events here and there this season, while his only main Tour experience has come at this event in the last couple of years. Last season, Thiem was beaten in three sets by Martin Klizan so he could give Andrey Kuznetsov some problems.

Kuznetsov is much more experienced than Thiem and he has been very strong at Challenger level and he has three titles at that level on the clay courts in the last twelve months. While the Russian hasn't been able to convert that to the ATP 250 level and beyond, he is still capable of beating players that are playing at the level below that.

The way that Kuznetsov can be a little erratic off the ground is a concern for him in any match, but I think he proves to be a little too strong in this one for the young Wild Card and comes away with a 64, 63 win.

Denis Istomin - 2.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: The hard courts are the kind of surface that both Denis Istomin and Santiago Giraldo should enjoy with the way they approach tennis, but I think it is Istomin that will receive the greatest benefit.

The hard courts in North America can be some of the faster courts on the Tour as the paying public there like seeing the quick attacking tennis that those courts generally provide. Istomin is a little under-rated as far as I am concerned and he certainly has the serve to build a foundation for success against a lot of players on the Tour on these surfaces.

While Giraldo also has a decent serve, I think he is the more erratic player off the ground and that may be the difference in the match. The Colombian can be very generous and give away a string of points with unforced errors and that may offer Istomin the chance to come through with a 64, 75 victory.

Sam Stosur - 3.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: The tournament in Carlsbad has brought together some of the better players on the WTA Tour and so there are a few of these First Round matches that have put together a few of them.

Sam Stosur is a former US Open Champion and she has the serve to be very effective on the hard courts, although she was an early loser in Stanford last week when being surprised in the First Round. However, if the serve is working, Stosur can put a lot of scoreboard pressure on her opponent and that could be the case on Monday.

She is playing Varvara Lepchenko whose own serve can be a little erratic at times and I believe that will end up making the difference in this match. While Lepchenko will be able to get some easy service games under her belt, I am not convinced she has the returning game on the hard courts to keep Stosur at bay.

Last season was the best Lepchenko has had on the main WTA Tour, but she is only 4-8 on the hard courts this season and two of those wins came last week in Stanford. While Lepchenko pushed Agnieszka Radwanska last week, I think it is going to be more difficult to get back breaks of serve against Stosur if the Australian serves well and I like the higher Ranked player to come through 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Marcel Granollers - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Andrey Kuznetsov - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 3.5 Games @ 1.96 Unibet (2 Units)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Tennis Outright Picks 2013 (July 29-August 4)

It was a solid enough week for the picks last time out as we saw Mikhail Youzhny pick up his first title since early 2012, while the run of Fabio Fognini managed to come through a couple of awkward moments before the Italian was beaten in the Final at Umag by Tommy Robredo.

While the daily picks produced a lot of good winners, it was remarkably disappointing that Kevin Anderson couldn't at least help the outright picks into the positive too. While the Roger Federer pick was a poor one that didn't even get through one match, Anderson reached the Final in Atlanta, but he couldn't put away John Isner despite having all the chances.

Anderson had 11 chances to break serve compared with Isner's 1 chance, yet he failed to take any of those chances and lost a match that was decided by three tie-break sets. He may have lost two fewer points in the match, but it shows who was the better player in that Isner won by 10 clear points in the last two tie-breaks and it was Anderson that had all the opportunities.

Still, it was a solid enough week that could have been even better with a little more luck in that Final, but more weeks like this one are always welcome.

This week we have four tournaments taking place across the two Tours- we have the final clay court event of the season in Austria, while the other three tournaments are taking place in North America where the tennis will now begin the real lead up to the final Grand Slam of the season next month in New York.

ATP Kitzbuhel
This is a tournament that Robin Haase has won in back to back years since it returned to the Tour after a three year absence, but it might be a big ask for the Dutchman to complete a hat-trick in Austria as he made it all the way to the Final in Gstaad last week.

It hasn't helped that Haase is in the top half of the draw which is loaded with talent that will certainly feel they can go all the way to the title this week in the final clay court event before the move to the North American hard courts and the Masters events there. This week we have Fernando Verdasco, Carlos Berlocq, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Marcel Granollers all in the top half of the draw so there are going to be a plenty of problems in front of Haase if he is to make it three in a row here.

Out of those players, Verdasco could be the one to be competing in the Final next weekend, although he would have to maintain the form he has showed in the last few weeks compared with the rest of 2013 and all of the players in the top half have their own problems to get through.

With that in mind, it might make most sense to look at the bottom half of the draw and the Number 2 seed here in Austria, Juan Monaco, to be the player to make the most of the circumstances. 2012 was a great season for Monaco and while he has taken a step back, this looks a good draw to put himself in a position to win his second title on the clay this season.

Monaco would be the favourite to beat either Roberto Bautista-Agut or Daniel Gimeno-Traver in a potential Quarter Final, although he did lose to the latter at the French Open earlier this year. Other players like Albert Montanes, Jurgen Melzer and an in-form Victor Hanescu would certainly feel they will be in good enough form to give Monaco problems in a potential Semi Final, but the Argentine might not get a much better chance to reach another Final this season than the one the draw has given him here.

I am a touch concerned that Monaco hasn't shown the form that took him to one title and one Final at this time last year, but he had match points against eventual Gstaad winner Mikhail Youzhny last week and the draw does look good for him this time around. However, I can't recommend more than one unit on Monaco considering his lack of real form over the last few weeks.

ATP Washington
There are five former winners of the title at this event that will be in the large draw this week in Washington and one of them is the Number 1 seed and big favourite to win the tournament this week, Juan Martin Del Potro.

It is perhaps a surprising choice that Del Potro opted to take a Wild Card here considering the tournament is followed by back to back Masters tournaments on the hard courts in North America. He had some issues with his knee at Wimbledon, but a MRI scan suggested there was nothing abnormal there and the US Open will be a real target for Del Potro to add to his Grand Slam tally.

However, he hasn't been presented with the best opening match as both Ryan Harrison and Lleyton Hewitt, another former winner in Washington, have shown some good form on the North American hard courts in the past.

If Del Potro gets through that test, you will be able to see why he is a short favourite this week, although a potential Quarter Final against Kevin Anderson would not be an easy pass for the Argentinian.

While Del Potro will be favoured to go all the way, those couple of issues may open the draw and picking Tommy Haas to come out of this section and perhaps win the tournament could pay off. Haas has a horrible record against Del Potro and that match up doesn't work for him, but he could take advantage if the Number 1 seed is shocked before the Semi Final.

Haas should be able to take care of Ivan Dodig in the Third Round and while both Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey and Denis Istomin will be able to cause problems for the veteran in the Quarter Final, Haas can beat either if he is on his 'A' game.

There are some talented players in the bottom half of the draw, but I have a question mark about all of the seeds in that section and there are definitely a couple of dangerous non-seeds that could take advantage by reaching the Final next week. If John Isner can recover from his exertions in Atlanta last week, and he is given a bye in the First Round to aid him in that respect, he could be the seed that is most likely to earn his way through to the Final.

However, too many doubts cloud my vision for the player most likely to come out of the bottom half of the draw.

Despite the terrible record that Tommy Haas has against Juan Martin Del Potro, I will back the German this week with the belief that the Number 1 seed will not make it through to that potential Semi Final. This hasn't been the most productive tournament for Haas in the past who has made it to the Quarter Final as his best effort in seven previous appearances, but he may be able to improve on that this time.

MY PICKS: Juan Monaco @ 4.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Tommy Haas @ 10.00 Bet 365 (1 Unit E/W)

Tennis Outright Picks (July 22-28)0-2, - 3 Units (2 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)
Tennis Daily Picks (July 22-28)20-14, + 11.32 Units (65 Units Staked, + 17.42% Yield)

Season 2013+ 35.62 Units (920.5 Units Staked, + 3.87% Yield)

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

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 28th)

There are still a couple of matches to be played from the Saturday Semi Finals which will give me a clearer picture as to how the week has gone.

I will update the weekly total on Sunday once the late matches in North America have been completed and I will add picks, if any, for the Finals to be played at Stanford and Atlanta at that time.

UPDATE: Kevin Anderson reached the Final of the tournament in Atlanta last night and that is good news for the outright picks as he was the one of the two picks I made this week. However, he is the underdog in the Final against John Isner and the head to head shows how close their matches are with plenty of tie-breaks involved while Isner leads 5-4.

I am hopeful that Anderson can win the title, but he has to serve a lot better than he has in the last two matches- while he has been effective behind the first serve, the percentage has been a touch low an he won't want to give Isner too many chances to get involved in his service games. Isner has also been successful in Atlanta in the past, although he has come up short in winning the title, and this should be a tight Final regardless of who comes out with the trophy.

I have also updated the weekly totals at the bottom of the page and added the pick from the Final in Umag that is played later.

Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 games v Robin Haase: Both of these players would have appreciated the week they have had so far as they get set to contest the Final of the clay court event in Gstaad, but I believe that Mikhail Youzhny will be the player picking up the title.

This is actually the fifth time Youzhny and Robin Haase have met on the Tour and it has been comfortably one-sided in favour of the Russian who has won all four previous matches and won all ten sets they have contested.

Youzhny has an under-rated serve that can certainly help set up the points while he has the big advantage in any backhand rallies they may get involved in. While Haase has been serving well this week, this is an area of this game that can slump at times and he can be a little erratic with his ground strokes too.

I also expect Youzhny to use a little more variation as he can trade from the back of the court, but also find his way into net. His speed should be able to cut any Haase dropshots from being the difference and it feels there are a lot of factors pointing to the Russian making it five for five against Haase and finding a 64, 64 win.

Tommy Robredo v Fabio Fognini: Fabio Fognini's stunning run looked like it was coming to an end in the Semi Final yesterday as he lost a 5-0 final set lead to lose 6 games in a row to Gael Monfils and was facing match point.

However, he once again showed the battling qualities that haven't always been evident in his career, but have been in full force throughout this week and the last month. Winning three tournaments in a row in consecutive weeks is a really tough ask of any player and I just have a feeling that he might be beginning to run on fumes.

He is facing a clay court specialist in Tommy Robredo who has had a strong week after a pretty poor run of form. Robredo will look to extend the rallies, although he doesn't have a big shot that can see him put Fognini under a lot of pressure.

With the form the Italian is in, I can understand why he is a pretty strong favourite in this Final to add to the two titles he has won in the last couple of weeks, but I think if this match was played three weeks ago, Robredo would have been the favourite.

Still, you can't ignore how well Fognini has played, but this is going to be a tough Final if he is beginning to feel the effects of all the tennis he has played. I'll only have a small interest in the Spaniard to win yet another clay court title in what has been a decent career.

MY PICKS: Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo @ 2.50 Stan James (1 Unit)

Weekly Update: 18-14, + 7.62 Units (62 Units Staked, + 12.29% Yield)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 27th)

After the shocking news about Victor Troicki yesterday, there are some reports today that suggest Marin Cilic is another player that has failed a random test, this time in Munich earlier this season. This news is still to be confirmed by the ITF so I am not going to say anything more about it until we have the full facts, but it should be enough to say I would be massively disappointed if this turns out to be the case.

Marin Cilic is certainly one of the players I enjoy watching on the Tour and it would be a real kick in the teeth if he is banned for doping. It would also raise a few more questions about the amount that tennis players are tested on the Tour with notable names like Novak Djokovic admitting he goes months without hearing the knock on the door.

With potentially two high profile cases, the random testing procedure will certainly be called into question going forward.

It was yet another very positive day for the picks on Friday, although I am writing this while the Santiago Giraldo-Ryan Harrison match is in the third set and Kevin Anderson-Denis Istomin is yet to begin. However, the earlier picks from the tournaments had mainly been successful to make this a very strong week already as we get to the Semi Final stage.

I will update the weekly totals from the last two picks once those matches have been concluded.

Victor Hanescu + 2.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: Both of the Semi Finals in Gstaad look like tight matches and I think taking the games in both will end up being the smart play in matches where the underdog has a real chance of winning outright.

The first of the Semi Finals is being contested by two players that will be well aware of what the other can bring to the table. Victor Hanescu and Mikhail Youzhny will be meeting for the ninth time on Tour and they have split the previous eight meetings at four apiece.

However, it is Hanescu who holds a 3-1 lead on the clay courts and that includes a surprise win over the Russian earlier this season. That match was closer than the straight sets win for Hanescu suggested, but he will feel he can back that up here with the conditions as they are in Gstaad.

The ball is moving pretty quickly with the altitude and that will only aid the Hanescu serve and Youzhny has spent a lot more time on the court this week with all three matches having to be decided in the final set. There is more than a little chance that Hanescu will win at least one set and that could give him a strong chance to cover this small spread even if he doesn't quite pull out the win.

Robin Haase + 2.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: Feliciano Lopez crushed Robin Haase at the US Open last year in their last meeting, but I do think Robin Haase is capable of keeping this match close and has a real chance of actually winning the match.

The clay courts are where Haase will certainly feel at his most comfortable and he too has a decent serve and heavy groundstrokes that can take advantage of the faster conditions here in Gstaad.

He will likely have to serve well as Lopez has been serving effectively for much of the week and has been particularly tough on any break points he has faced.

The match has a feeling of being one that could go the entire way to a three set encounter and Haase has every chance to win the match. As long as he doesn't crumble in a manner that the Dutchman can sometimes do, a set should be enough for him to put himself in a position to cover the spread even if Haase doesn't win the match.

Gael Monfils + 2.5 games v Fabio Fognini: The most in-form player on the Tour is a couple wins away from taking away three titles in back to back to back weeks, but this could be the toughest test for Fabio Fognini to overcome.

Fognini has been playing some very good tennis for the last month and he hasn't just been winning matches, but winning fairly comfortably for the most part. He has only dropped a couple of sets during his 12 match winning run and this week he has continued to look impressive.

His return of serve has been very effective and he is putting opponents under a lot of pressure, so much so that his own serve has been well protected for the most part.

However, Gael Monfils is a player that can force a lot of mistakes from his opponents and he can certainly grind some mistakes out of the Italian, while his first serve can be effective enough to set up points. It was that first serve that set up Monfils' win over Fognini in Nice earlier this season on the clay and I believe this could be a tight three setter which may allow the Frenchman to cover the spread even if he loses.

Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Ryan Harrison: Kevin Anderson came through a tough Quarter Final last night and I would expect him to serve a little more effectively in this match than he did yesterday.

His first serve percentage was too low and that kept him under a little bit of pressure on serve, but I expect him to have a little more success in this match.

Ryan Harrison hasn't had  a great season, but he came through a tough match yesterday to reach the Semi Final here in Atlanta for the second time in three seasons. He does look a little short of confidence and that could be seen in his play when he was over-reliant on the high, looping ball and that will be punished by a big hitter like Anderson.

The American does have a decent serve, but it is one that Anderson could get his teeth into and I like the Number 2 seed in Atlanta to win this one 64, 64.

Jamie Hampton + 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: I believe that Jamie Hampton can certainly make an impact on the WTA Tour now that her injuries have cleared up and she is going to be moving up the Rankings with a real chance to be seeded at the US Open.

Hampton can be aggressive on return of serve and that will be aided by the faster courts that are preferred in North America. She can certainly get involved in the Agnieszka Radwanska service games, while Hampton possesses a decent serve that could cause her higher Ranked opponent some problems.

My biggest concern is that I have sometimes seen Hampton collapse in a set and that could help her Polish opponent cover the spread even if this goes into a third set. However, I think there is some upside to the Hampton game and I do think she can force a decider and hopefully will do so and cover the spread even if she doesn't quite spring the surprise win.

MY PICKS: Victor Hanescu + 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Robin Haase + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jamie Hampton + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 16-11, + 9.86 Units (52 Units Staked, + 18.96% Yield)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 26th)

A couple of players exited the same tournament in Gstaad on Thursday and both of those have got a lot of questions as to where their career is going.

The first 'big name' to be beaten in Gstaad was Janko Tipsarevic who is having a terrible season on the Tour. He is likely to fall out of the top 20 at some point in the next month and he is far removed from the player that made to the ATP End of Year Championships in London last season and one who has 106 wins on the Tour in 2011 and 2012 combined.

This year he has 14 wins and I would question who helps him compile his schedule- for an out of form player, getting on to the clay could be a godsend as that is the best surface to build rhythm and confidence and this time last year, Tipsarevic reached back to back Finals in Stuttgart and here in Switzerland.

However, some 'smart' advisor suggested taking the appearance fee from the tournament being held in Bogota on the hard courts was the smart option to take before flying back to Europe for the tournament here. This is all before the Masters tournaments to be held in North America and the last thing an out of form player needs is to put in a lot of travelling and trying to accustom themselves to new time zones.

I am a big fan of Tipsarevic and what he has brought to the table in the last couple of seasons, but he has to find out whether he wants to put in the effort to get back up the Rankings by winning matches, or whether he is comfortable falling into the abyss outside of the top 20 in the World Rankings.

Another player that needs to find a better rhythm is Roger Federer who fell to another disappointing defeat on Thursday- I was worried that he is a little too erratic these days to beat the best players, but losing three matches to players that are 55 or worse in the World Rankings is beginning to get more and more people questioning whether the 17 time Grand Slam winner has much left in the tank.

There is an old saying that is used in boxing a lot of time and that is that no man can beat Father Time, the one fight that will always be a step too far.

It feels like Federer is playing Father Time these days and it looks like he is losing that battle on court. His serve lacks the bite that helped him to 17 Grand Slams and he is really erratic on his groundstrokes, while his loss to Daniel Brands was not the first time he has lost the key points in matches over the last five weeks.

The talk about reaching the Olympics in Rio in three years time looks like it won't actually become a reality and I don't know how much longer we are going to see Federer on the Tour- you have to remember that he is turning 32 next month and winning all those titles in his career means he has a LOT of tennis in his legs.

With a fair few points to defend over the next three months, there is every chance that Federer will finish this season perhaps as low as Number 7 in the World Rankings, especially if he can't find the form that we know he is capable of. It might not be like watching your favourite boxer suddenly get old in the ring, but there is something a little sad to see this once great player struggling to match players he would have dismissed without a second thought in his prime.

I really believe the next six weeks will give us a strong indication of how long we will see Federer on the Tour- he has always spoken about playing as long as he enjoys the game, but early defeats in Montreal, Cincinnati and Flushing Meadows would surely get him thinking about calling it a day. He has a young family and has nothing left to prove in the game while I can't imagine him enjoying playing on the circuit if he Ranking drops to a position where he could be facing the best players on the ATP at the Quarter Final stage of Grand Slams rather than the Semi and Finals he has in the past.

Too many times we have already seen premature obituaries written about Roger Federer's career, but the last month, and most of 2013, suggests a permanent decline and one that could see the former World Number 1 call it a day on the Tour.

I don't really know what to say about the news that Victor Troicki is going to be banned until January 2015 after he failed to provide a blood sample at the Monte Carlo Masters back in April. He was unwell and thought he would be excused after providing a urine sample, but it has proven not to be the case.

I have no doubt he will appeal the decision to ban him for eighteen months, but it is a sad state of affairs. There has not been a sudden upturn in form to suggest anything was being hidden by Troicki and I think tennis loses a character in an era when there aren't too many of those around. This will be an interesting story to follow in the coming weeks.

The picks had their ups and downs on Thursday, although I am a touch disappointed considering Dominika Cibulkova was broken when serving for the match before wrapping it up in a tie-break, but missing the cover. Alexandr Dolgopolov was clearly not quite right but finished his defeat, while Victor Hanescu was two games from winning the match when his opponent retired. The Hanescu pick was returned as a void, but a later retirement from Michael Russell in his match against Santiago Giraldo was settled as a winner as at least one set was completed, which is the rule with that layer.

It is still a positive week, but it could have been a little better with a little more luck landing on the side of the picks. Now we reach the Quarter Finals at the five tournaments being played and hopefully Friday will produce another positive day.

Victor Hanescu v Daniel Brands: It was a case of big serving at just the right time and taking his opportunities to break serve when they came up that helped Daniel Brands produce a surprise win over Roger Federer in the Second Round on Thursday.

It was another impressive performance from Brands who has now won 4 and lost 5 sets competed against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the clay courts this season, but I have a feeling he is in a perfect letdown spot here.

That doesn't even take into account that Victor Hanescu is a pretty solid clay court player himself- both Hanescu and Brands will be aided by the conditions in Gstaad and it won't be a surprise if we see at least one, possibly two, tie-breakers in this one. The Romanian served very well in his win over Roberto Bautista-Agut and I believe that Hanescu is going to be a little more solid at the key times in this one.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: This might not have been a tournament where Stanislas Wawrinka has excelled in the past, but he is the favourite to win it now that Roger Federer has been beaten.

It won't be an easy match for him against Feliciano Lopez who has shown a lot of decent form in the last couple of months. Lopez has a serve that can get him out of trouble, while the court has played pretty quickly this week to aid the Spaniard. However, he will be put under pressure by an aggressive Wawrinka serve and the left hander may not get a lot of change out of the Wawrinka backhand when they get into cross court rallies.

The Swiss player will need to serve effectively and can't lose concentration as he did in the second set against Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the last Round. There is a chance that we could see a tie-break which will make it tougher for Wawrinka to cover this spread, but I have a feeling that the Number 2 seed is going to find a way to win each set with a break of serve more than Lopez.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Martin Klizan: While I have always respected the Fabio Fognini talent, I had a feeling he was going to be someone that was happy coasting on the Tour and enjoying life as a tennis player. Over the last month he has really highlighted how good his 2013 season has been and the performance against Thiemo De Bakker showed a new mental strength.

In the match with De Bakker, Fognini was down 1-5 in the first set after being broken in all three opening service games, but he fought back to win 9 games in a row and go on for a comfortable win.

It was impressive watching Fognini getting back into that match and I expect he is going to be able to give Martin Klizan similar problems by nullifying the serve to an extent. The left handed Klizan poses a different problem, but he has struggled against some of the hard-working movers on the Tour over the last month and we could see the same here.

Klizan can be inconsistent with his groundstrokes and Fognini will force him to earn a lot of the points and that could prove to be the difference in this one. There is the concern that Fognini will run out of steam at some point after winning back to back tournaments, but he looks like he is going out on to the court with the full confidence of expecting to win the match and I like him to come through 75, 64.

Albert Montanes v Gael Monfils: It is weird to see that Albert Montanes has a 4-1 head to head lead over Gael Monfils, winning all 4 matches played on the clay courts including twice earlier this season.

You would expect Monfils to be able to come through this type of match as they are similar players- both will use their ability to outlast opponents and will look to force their opponent to play one more ball and grind them down.

Then you would say Monfils has the better serve and is heavier of the ground, while also being the better athlete, but that hasn't panned out. The match in Monte Carlo was incredibly close with just one point separating the players in a three set match, while Montanes got off to a quick start when they met in the Final at Nice just before the French Open.

I don't know whether it is down to Monfils not really being as comfortable on the clay courts as Montanes, or whether he just feels the additional pressure of having to make one more ball himself rather than forcing his opponent to. Whatever it is, I think a small interest in Montanes as the outsider is warranted with the way the match ups have gone between them.

James Blake + 2.5 games v John Isner: This doesn't look a lot of games on the spread, but I believe it is better to have them in the bank during a match that could be a lot closer than the layers believe.

James Blake has played pretty well to come through a couple of matches here in Atlanta already, while John Isner is certainly having a down season. The hard courts will suit both of these players games, particularly the big serve that Isner possesses, but that can sometimes blind people to the match up on the court.

One thing you will have to remember about James Blake is that he can be very aggressive on his return of serve and that can cause Isner some problems as the ball comes back to him almost before he has finished his serving action. With that in mind, I think Blake has a great chance to win at least a set in this match and that will make it difficult for Isner to get over the spread.

Blake has also been serving pretty well, for the most part, this week and this has the making of a tight three setter. Both of their previous meetings have needed three sets to separate these players and Blake has been playing well enough this week to give Isner all he can handle.

Santiago Giraldo v Ryan Harrison: I am going to have a small interest on Santiago Giraldo in this match simply because I don't believe Ryan Harrison should be an odds on favourite to beat anyone in any kind of form after a poor 2013.

Harrison has dropped out of the top 100 in the World Rankings and he had won just 6 matches on the main Tour before this week. While the hard courts are his favoured surface and he has a couple of wins this week, Harrison's confidence can't be in a great place and someone who can play solid tennis may just give him a few problems.

That is where Santiago Giraldo can take advantage as he can play at a decent level- he has a good serve and can definitely string together winners to earn breaks of serve. He remained solid in his win over Michael Russell in the Second Round yesterday and I do think the Colombian will make life very tough for Harrison in this one.

Can he do enough to win? I think it is entirely possible, although for just a small interest.

Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Denis Istomin: I have picked Denis Istomin twice this week and he has come good by winning both matches without dropping a set and has shown some solid form.

However, he is going to have an altogether different challenge in the form of Kevin Anderson who served very effectively in his win over Matthew Ebden to open his tournament here in Atlanta.

Anderson can put a lot of pressure on his opponents when he is serving as well as he did yesterday and anything similar will give him a very strong chance to see of Istomin in this one. And the Uzbekistan player has to be careful that he isn't as generous on his own serve as he was in the opening set against Yen-Hsun Lu last night.

Istomin threw in too many double faults in that match, while his second serve points won were below par- anything similar against Anderson will make it tough for him to get back into the match.

The hard courts in North America certainly do see the best of Istomin's game as the speed of the court makes his game more dangerous. I think he can force a tie-break in one set, but Anderson may be a little too strong overall and record a 76, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Victor Hanescu @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Albert Montanes @ 2.40 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
James Blake + 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo @ 2.33 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 13-8, + 7.82 Units (42 Units Staked, + 18.62% Yield)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 25th)

It was almost a perfect day for the picks on Wednesday as five of the six came through and the only one that didn't was Stanislas Wawrinka to cover the spread despite getting into a 75, 40 position in the match.

That puts the picks into the positive for the week, while the two outright picks from this week will be opening their tournaments on Thursday, which is remarkably late for a tournament that began on Monday. With a little luck, the momentum from Wednesday will hopefully ride through for the rest of the week and these are the picks for Thursday.

Marcel Granollers v Federico Delbonis: I have been impressed with the way that Federico Delbonis has performed in the last ten days and he was just one point away, on three occasions, from picking up the title at the ATP 500 event in Hamburg last week. He beat Roger Federer during his run to the Final, but it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the form that has helped him on this run of form.

It won't be easy against Marcel Granollers who is comfortable, as any Spaniard is, on the clay courts and one who has picked up a couple of wins in the last couple of weeks that may rebuild a confidence that had to be a little shot after four straight losses.

Both players will be relying on a first serve to set up the easier points in this contest and whoever can do that best will likely win the match. However, I do think Delbonis has had a lot of tennis under his legs in the last few days and I also feel he could be a touch overrated due to his accomplishments last week.

While Delbonis has the making of a very good clay courter, defeats to the likes of Somdev Devvarman, Dustin Brown, Joao Souza and Aljaz Bedene on the surface this season suggests he is not quite there yet.

Granollers has generally lost to only the best players on the clay this season and I believe he can win this pick 'em contest, even if it takes three sets to do so.

Victor Hanescu v Roberto Bautista-Agut: This is virtually another pick 'em contest, but I am surprised to see Victor Hanescu set as the underdog in this one.

Both players have enjoyed successes on the clay courts at the Challenger level in the last twelve months so it is clear that both are comfortable with the red dirt underneath their feet.

Why do I think Hanescu can win this match? I believe Hanescu has the better first serve which will lead to more opportunities to win cheap points and Roberto Bautista-Agut can be a little more erratic of the two when it comes to groundstrokes.

Neither player can really claim to have had sustained success on the clay courts at ATP level, although both have winning records. Hanescu has a couple of Quarter Finals and a Semi Final to his name, while Bautista-Agut has a Semi Final too.

I just feel the reasons I mentioned will give the Romanian a slight edge in what could be yet another three setter, but this time the underdog in the close market will come through in my opinion.

Robin Haase + 2.5 games v Janko Tipsarevic: One of the more disappointing players on the Tour this season is Janko Tipsarevic who has dropped out of the top 10 and is now struggling to hold on to a place in the top 20.

After back to back 53 win seasons on the Tour, the Serb is only 14-14 this season and confidence can't be high. Personally, I would question who helps schedule his tournaments too as Tipsarevic is coming from a hard court event in Colombia, meaning he has gone from clay to grass to hard and now back to clay ahead of the two Masters tournaments in North America.

All of that travelling crossing time zones and having to get accustomed to yet another surface change can't be ideal preparation, while he is playing an opponent that would likely call clay his favourite surface.

Robin Haase isn't the most trustworthy player on the Tour simply because his play can be so erratic and there is every chance he drops a set with a couple of breaks of serve being given up. However, he at least has spent the last few weeks on the surface and I expect he will find a way to steal a set, which could be enough to at least get within the spread even if he loses the match.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Daniel Brands: A brand new racquet, but another tournament disappointment for Roger Federer was the story of Hamburg last week, but the former World Number 1 is very comfortable with where his game is at the moment.

It is becoming a real risk in backing Federer to cover spreads as his serve is certainly not as effective as it was in his prime and he is a little more erratic off the ground with too many unforced errors.

However, he saw the Daniel Brands game last week when he had to come from a set down to move through that match and I believe seeing what the German can do will certainly help Federer overcome him this time around with a little more ease.

There is no doubt that Brands' style can make him a very dangerous opponent as he proved when taking Rafael Nadal to four sets at Roland Garros. However, Brands can also be a little mentally weak at times and crumble in matches when the chips are down and I expect Federer to find a way to come through with a 64, 63 win.

Tommy Robredo - 3.5 games v Victor Troicki: After three defeats in a row, Tommy Robredo will be glad to have got through his First Round match against Jan Hajek and I think he has a strong chance to move through to the Quarter Final with a win over Victor Troicki.

I do think Robredo is the better clay court player of the two and I think he can outlast Troicki more often than not in this match.

The Serb had a poor 2012 season, but he is definitely having a better year this time around and he has had a few solid runs on the clay courts this season, including reaching a number of Quarter Finals and also the Fourth Round in Paris.

However, I think Troicki will find it more difficult against a player that is willing to stay out there all day and his consistency could be tested. The second serve Troicki possesses can be attacked and that is where I think Robredo will find the success to lead to a 64, 64 win.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: Umag has been a good venue for Alexandr Dolgopolov as a former winner here and also reaching the Semi Final last year. While he is an inconsistent player that has all the shots needed to become a real force in the game, I expect Dolgopolov will be a touch too strong for Aljaz Bedene.

Bedene did come through a First Round match earlier this week, but I don't like players making a number of switches in surface in a short period and that is what the Slovakian has done with a return from Bogota where he played on the hard courts last week.

However, Bedene has had success on the clay courts in the past, especially at the level below the main ATP tournaments so this will be a tough test for Dolgopolov. The Ukrainian will need to serve well if he is to come through and I am hoping some of his erratic play is left in the locker room in this one.

Dolgopolov can be aggressive on return and I think he can pull away after a tight first set and record a 76, 63 win.

Denis Istomin - 2.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: I picked Denis Istomin to come through fairly comfortably in the First Round against Lukas Lacko and I believe he will be able to come through against Yen-Hsun Lu in this Second Round contest.

I think it would be wrong to underestimate Lu, a player that has a decent serve and can play a lot of flashy winners and make it tough to go against him. He won a Challenger in Beijing a couple of weeks ago on the hard courts  and he has always had the majority of his success on the hard courts.

I expect both players to go through periods of this match where they are holding serve comfortably, but I also think Istomin has a little more toughness about him on the hard courts. I think one set is very likely to be decided on a tie-break, but Istomin will likely have the more chances to break serve of the two players.

Istomin may end up sneaking one of those chances and helping himself to a place in the Quarter Final after a 76, 64 win.

Santiago Giraldo v Michael Russell: Michael Russell toughed out a First Round win over the returning Mardy Fish in rain delayed contest that was concluded last night, but I think he will find it a little too hard to back that up against Santiago Giraldo.

I still remember the way Giraldo announced himself on the Tour with a dismantling of Juan Carlos Ferrero on the clay courts of Rome as he overpowered the Spaniard with a range of big winners, but Giraldo hasn't really reached those levels again.

However, he still has a pretty big game and will be a hard task for Russell as long as he isn't making a raft of unforced errors. Mighty Mike also has a decent serve and a game that is tailored to the hard courts and he continues to find success at Challenger level on the surface.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for Russell to convert that form to the main ATP level and I think that will be the case again in this Second Round match. The first set could very much be decided on a tie-break and I think if Giraldo can win that, he should be able to come through with a little more ease in the second.

Dominika Cibulkova - 3.5 games v Stefanie Voegele: It can be hard to get a feel of what a player is feeling when they have been off the Tour for a little under a month, but that is the case for Dominika Cibulkova in this Second Round match.

I do think Cibulkova has a decent game and she has a lot more power than you would expect from a girl that isn't one of the taller players on Tour. She is a solid hard court player as she is able to hit through her opponents, although consistency can be a problem and has also prevented Cibulkova from actually breaking the top 10 and maintaining a spot there.

Stafanie Voegele has become more settled on the main WTA Tour this season, but she hasn't had a great time on the hard courts despite the win in the First Round. Her serve can be attacked and that is where I believe Cibulkova will have the success to come through and also cover this spread.

MY PICKS: Marcel Granollers @ 1,85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Victor Hanescu @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Robin Haase + 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-5, + 4.52 Units (26 Units Staked, + 17.38% Yield)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 24th)

The tennis will continue coming thick and fast this week as we move into the middle of the tournaments that are being played throughout the Tours.

It is time for Second Round action on Wednesday and hopefully the weather will hold out to keep the tournaments on schedule.

Mikhail Youzhny v Pablo Andujar: After some of the abuse that Pablo Andujar has been receiving on the social network sites, I was glad to see the Spaniard end his six match losing run that had begun in Nice back in May.

However, I don't believe Andujar will be able to back that win up against Mikhail Youzhny, a player that plays every match as hard as he can and one who can certainly mentally tough out a win against someone whose confidence may be a little low.

Andujar is certainly a very capable player on the clay courts with two Semi Finals to his name this season, but he is also a player that can struggle to get out of bad runs of form and even the win over Victor Crivoi hasn't convinced me that he has turned a corner mentally.

These two met at the French Open and ended with a fairly comfortably win for Youzhny and I think he can back that up with another win over Andujar here.

Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: Feliciano Lopez had missed a large chunk of the Tour earlier this season, but he is certainly making up for lost time in the last two months- in that time, Lopez has reached the Third Round at both the French Open and Wimbledon, while going on long winning runs at Queens and Eastbourne where he won the title.

While the clay courts are not his best surface, Lopez is capable of beating players when he serves well and he has been playing some good tennis to keep confidence high.

He is up against an opponent in Andrey Kuznetsov that won a lot of titles at Challenger level on the clay courts, but one who is still trying to find the consistency to turn that form to the main ATP events.

Kuznetsov gutted out a tough First Round win over Sergiy Stakhovsky and this is clearly a surface he feels comfortable on, but Lopez could put some scoreboard pressure on him if he serves well. The Russian's serve can also be attacked and I think that is why Lopez will find a way to win this one in straight sets with a break more in either set.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Daniel Gimeno-Traver: This is potentially the best season that Stanislas Wawrinka has ever had on the ATP Tour and he will be looking to make an impact in Gstaad, although this is a venue where he has struggled in the past.

Wawrinka will be playing his first match since being beaten in the First Round at Wimbledon, but he has been very strong on the clay courts this season and could make his return to the Tour with a big performance.

The Swiss Number 2 has one title on the clay this season, while he has reached the Final of a couple of other tournaments and was also a Quarter Finalist at Roland Garros. He has been serving much more effectively this season, while he is a lot more consistent off the ground and that is making Wawrinka a much more dangerous player on the slower surfaces.

Meeting Gimeno-Traver looks a nice way to get going in the tournament, especially as the Spaniard only just snapped a six match losing run with his win in the First Round.

Gimeno-Traver can be a tough out on his day, but his serve can be vulnerable and I definitely think Wawrinka will get chances to break serve on a number of occasions. If Wawrinka serves well, he should be able to come through with a 75, 63 win.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Blaz Kavcic: I didn't get to watch the highlights from Umag yesterday so I have no idea what happened to Florian Mayer after the first set against Blaz Kavcic, but there was a significant drop off of form from that moment.

It might be a little more difficult for Kavcic in this Second Round match against Gael Monfils, a player that has the ability to scramble and force his opponent to play one more shot. That ability can certainly make life easier for the Frenchman when it comes to playing opponents that are not in the top 20 in the World Rankings as it is their lack of real consistency that prevents them moving up the Rankings.

Against a player outside of the top 100, making them play one more shot can be the ultimate difference in the match and I expect Monfils to make Kavcic earn as many points as he can.

Monfils will need to serve better than he did yesterday if he is to clear this spread, but he has a decent first serve that should set him up to win the points a little more comfortably and I expect the former top 10 player to come through, after a few breaks of serve, 64, 64.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Thiemo De Bakker: At what point will all this tennis catch up with Fabio Fognini? The Italian has won back to back tournaments to move into the top 20 in the World Rankings and confidence has got to be sky high as he finally produces consistent tennis and wins titles (his first two at the main ATP level).

He is playing some special tennis at the moment and even the big-serving Thiemo De Bakker could be put under pressure by Fognini's return of serve.

Fognini is returning very effectively at the moment, mixing aggression with depth, and that is going to give the Dutchman a few problems as his own consistency off the ground does not match up well against Fognini at the moment.

As I said, there is bound to come a moment when it is one match too far for Fognini, but he is playing with the confidence that Juan Martin Del Potro displayed in 2008 when he went on a long winning run during the Summer months (winning four straight tournaments) and I think Fognini can continue that for at least one more match and he still looks the man to beat this week in Umag.

MY PICKS: Mikhail Youzhny @ 1.73 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
James Blake @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units) Rain Delay postponed match until Wednesday

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 23rd)

It was a slow start to the tournaments on Monday as rain affected the events in Gstaad and Atlanta and the forecast for the rest of the week at most of the events suggest there will be rain delays as a common factor.

The outright picks from Atlanta and Gstaad have been made and can be read here.

The picks went 1-1 yesterday and while the play on Albert Ramos was a terrible call, Mikhail Youzhny should have been a much easier winner in his victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu than it turned out to be. He essentially dominated the match, but didn't take his chances to win the match in straight sets, although he did enough to cover the spread to level the picks up.

Dustin Brown + 3.5 games v Victor Hanescu: Dustin Brown has qualified for the main draw in Gstaad again after reaching the Second Round here last season and I think he can cause some problems for even a clay court specialist like Victor Hanescu.

The conditions in this part of Switzerland won't be a surprise for Brown after he won two qualifying matches to get through to the main draw and his style of play could be awkward for Hanescu to deal with.

I won't dispute the fact that Brown is not the best returner of serve and will win fewer points against the Hanescu serve than the other way round, but there is a real chance that the German will find a way to steal a set.

Even if he doesn't, Brown can certainly make this a close match with every chance of getting a tie-break on board and the spread could be a touch high if Hanescu is even a little erratic with his play.

Robin Haase - 3.5 games v Joao Souza: Joao Souza has performed well in the level below the main ATP tournaments this season, and over the last few seasons, but he will certainly be a little more confident he can go somewhere this week after qualifying for the main draw.

He is facing an opponent that can be erratic at the best of times, but Robin Haase has generally been too good for the players that ply their talent at the Challenger level.

Haase had a couple of tough matches last week in Hamburg after reaching the Final in a Challenger event the week before. Most of the Dutchman's successes on the ATP Tour have come on the clay courts as he has a decent serve and can follow that up with heavy groundstrokes.

As long as he has had enough rest over the last few days, I like Haase to win this one in straight sets, likely 64, 63.

Tommy Robredo - 3.5 games v Jan Hajek: Tommy Robredo has been in poor form over the last couple of tournaments back on his favoured clay court surface as he has suffered defeat in the first match he has played in Hamburg and Bastad.

That means Robredo has lost three matches in a row, but he has generally had a good season on the clay and has one title to his name from Casablance. I expect a better performance against an opponent like Jan Hajek who will be forced to work hard for all the points he wants to earn.

Hajek is fresh off a decent performance against Roger Federer last week, but he is a player that isn't used to playing at this level like Robredo is. The Czech player has not exactly pulled up trees with his performances on the Challenger level on clay courts and this is a tough match for him if Robredo can recover his form.

I would expect Robredo to come through with a 64, 64 scoreline.

Florian Mayer - 3.5 games v Blaz Kavcic: With a serve that can be a little weak at times, Florian Mayer will give his opponents some chances in matches against him. However, the variation of spin and attacking the net can also throw opponents off their game as they are just not sure of what to expect from ball to ball.

That variation has caused problems for better players than Blaz Kavcic, although the latter has won three qualifying rounds to get through to the main draw and has to be confident of his chances.

Kavcic had a decent win over Victor Hanescu last week after qualifying for the tournament in Hamburg and he has put in some solid performances against higher Ranked players. However, he has generally struggled in main Tour events and I think Mayer's different type of game will surprise him here and lead to a 75, 64 win for the German.

Denis Istomin - 2.5 games v Lukas Lacko: Every time I have watched Denis Istomin play, he has either looked like a player that will be able to reach the top 20 in the World Rankings, or he has played like he has barely picked up a racquet in his life.

The North American hard courts should certainly favour his game as he has a decent serve and a heavy forehand and he has a strong record against Lukas Lacko who has had a disappointing year on the Tour so far.

Much like Istomin, Lacko's level of play fluctuates between the sublime and the terrible and it can be hard to predict what you are going to get from him.

Lacko did reach the Final of a Challenger tournament in Canada last week and he also has a Semi Final in another Challenger in South Africa, while he began the year with Quarter Final appearances on the main Tour on the hard courts of Doha and Auckland.

Out of the two players, Istomin has the bigger serve and I think that will lead to the difference in the match. I expect Istomin will be able to win a few more cheaper points and should be able to hold on to serve more effectively than Lacko and it could be tough for the Slovakian to hold off the charge.

As long as Istomin remains focused, he could take advantage of Lacko who has played plenty of tennis last week and I expect the Uzbekistan player to come through 76, 64.

James Blake v Tim Smyczek: Tim Smyczek has won three matches to qualify for the main draw in Atlanta and will certainly feel confident in his chances of beating the veteran James Blake.

However, I don't think Blake is ready to be an underdog against an opponent like Smyczek on the American hard courts and that is why I like the chances of the older man to progress through to the Second Round.

The majority of Blake's successes on the Tour come on the hard courts and he is still capable of beating players like Smyczek that spend most of their time on the Challenger circuit.

Blake beat Ryan Harrison here in Atlanta last year, a big surprise at the time, and I think he still has a big enough game to win matches like this. He can be erratic at times and the consistency in his game is not as it was when he reached the Number 4 position in the World Rankings, but I think he can find a way to get through in three sets.

MY PICKS: Dustin Brown + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Robin Haase - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Florian Mayer - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
James Blake @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, + 0.10 Units (4 Units Staked, + 2.5% Yield)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 22nd)

It was a tough week last week, but it is time for a new game on Monday, although there are not a lot of matches to be played with a lot of the qualifiers to be concluded.

I have a couple of outright picks this week and those can be found here.

There are five tournaments being played on the ATP and WTA Tours this week and hopefully this will be a decent week after the poor performance last week.

Albert Ramos - 3.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: Albert Ramos has been beaten by the eventual winner in the last two tournaments he has played and he is certainly a player that feels at his best when on the clay courts.

The Tour will be moving on to the North American hard courts next month so Ramos has a chance to build some points in the next two weeks ahead of that time of the year. However, the Spaniard hasn't quite turned his performances into deep runs in the clay tournaments he has entered, even though he has three Quarter Final appearances already including in Bastad a couple of weeks ago.

Ramos should be too good for Leonardo Mayer, a player that hasn't won a lot of matches since being forced to retire in Miami back in March. The Argentine was a three set loser last week against Jan-Lennard Struff and he has won just two of his last seven matches on the clay courts.

The left handed Ramos will likely hold on to his own serve a little easier than Mayer and that could prove to be the difference in the match. I believe the Spaniard will win this match in two sets, likely 64, 64.

Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 games v Paul-Henri Mathieu: It has been a bad run of form for Paul-Henri Mathieu who has lost seven of his last eight matches on the Tour and it may get a little tougher for him as he takes on Mikhail Youzhny.

Youzhny was a First Round loser in Hamburg last week, but he is still a fairly consistent performer on the Tour and would be one of the seeds at the US Open if the tournament began next week, although he is clinging on to one of those spots by the fingernails.

He should be able to put some pressure on the Mathieu serve as he won't just go away the confidence in the latter has to be a little shot after so many defeats recently. There are times when Mathieu can raise his levels, and he did reach the Semi Final at this tournament last season to show he is a danger that can't be ignored.

However, Youzhny should find a way to be a little too strong for him and win this match 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Albert Ramos - 3.5 Games @ 1.86 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Unibet (2 Units)

Tennis Outright Picks 2013 (July 22-28)

Once again, Roger Federer has been beaten at the Semi Final stage of a tournament he would have steamrolled in his pomp and the questions remain about whether the 17 time Grand Slam winner is now in terminal decline.

He has always spoken about playing on until the next Olympic Games, but those are beginning to look a long three years away and I don't think Federer's ego will allow him to continue playing if he drops out of the top 10 in the World Rankings. That isn't likely in the immediate future, but he could have dropped a little more in twelve months time, especially with more and more players thinking they have the beating of Federer.

However, I am going to hold off on my judgement on Federer's future now he has picked up a new racquet and he will need a couple of tournaments to get a feel for that bat. The only issue I have with Federer's game that is unlikely to be given much of a change is the serve- he is definitely not as dominant behind that shot as he was a year ago and he is being made to work a lot harder to hold on to service games than he has in the last ten years on the Tour.

Another problem for Federer to overcome these days is that a lot more players feel they can beat him if they are on their game- that awe of playing the 'greatest player ever' is certainly not there at the moment, although that would quickly change if he starts winning tournaments again.

While Federer could not win as the favourite in Hamburg, it was down to Fabio Fognini to lift the title. This is only his second title on the ATP Tour, and comes just a week after he won in Bastad and it is clear the Italian is feeling very confident on the courts at the moment. He has had the talent, but has never shown the consistency he has this season, but now he looks a dangerous customer for most players on the clay, although it will be interesting to see if he can push on when the Tour reaches the hard courts of North America ahead of the US Open.

Either way, he will likely be making a leap into the top 20 in the World Rankings and that is a great achievement from a player that didn't look like he was going to convert his potential in the right manner.

Serena Williams won the tournament in Bastad and I am still not quite sure why she decided to play that event, particularly as she is skipping Stanford next week, a tournament that the best WTA players usually begin with in their preparation for the US Open next month.

It might have been down to something her sponsor has put in place or perhaps as the French Open Champion, Williams felt she should play one more clay court event this season, or might simply be because her big name rivals for the last Grand Slam of the year are also skipping the tournament.

It wasn't a good week for the picks, well the last two days were the poor ones that left the week in the red. Both outright picks made the business end of the tournaments in Hamburg and Bogota, both losing to the eventual winners, but it was not to be and that was a disappointment.

With a little more luck, it would have been another positive week, but it had been a good month so I can't complain too much. We have five tournaments being played this week as a new game begins.

ATP Gstaad
Just after Wimbledon was concluded, we learnt that Roger Federer was taking a Wild Card at two events in July- the first was in Hamburg last week and the second was in Gstaad to be played in front of his Swiss supporters.

The draw for the Number 1 seed could not be much better as far as I am concerned and this looks the perfect chance for Federer to double his number of titles this season. The first bonus for Federer is that he 'only' has to beat four players to win the title here while the seeded players in this section, Roberto Bautista-Agut, Juan Monaco, and Mikhail Youzhny will not hold too many fears for Federer.

Even the non-seeded players don't present a lot of dangers for Federer and I think it would be a huge surprise if he is not playing next Sunday.

It is very likely that we will see an all-Swiss Final next week as the Number 2 seed here is Stanislas Wawrinka and he is a player that is very capable on the clay courts and also has a reasonable draw in front of him.

However, Wawrinka has only reached one Final in Gstaad despite appearing here ten times in the past, although I can't pinpoint who is most likely to come through this half of the draw if the Swiss player can't make it through.

Janko Tipsarevic is playing here after flying from Bogota last week, while the clay is certainly not the favoured surface of Feliciano Lopez. It could be a couple of former winners that are able to take the most advantage of the draw as both Thomaz Bellucci (won here last season) and Marcel Granollers (winner in 2011) may go deep in the draw if they get through tough First Round encounters.

With the way the draw has panned out, it is tough to look past Roger Federer to add to his list of titles at an event that he does hold dear and backing him looks the call at odds against.

ATP Atlanta
This tournament is the first of the US Open hard court series as the build up to the final Grand Slam of the season will begin.

In the past, a big American contingent would turn up in Atlanta to open the run to the US Open and all three previous editions of the tournament have been won by an American- Andy Roddick won last season and Mardy Fish had won the first two editions, although he makes his return from large injury problems this time around.

John Isner is the Number 1 seed here this week and he looks in the tougher half of the draw in my opinion. He could meet Alejandro Falla, fresh off reaching the Final in Bogota last week, as early as the Second Round, but the biggest threat may just come through Lleyton Hewitt.

The Australian had a solid grass court season and he has a decent record against Isner by winning the last two matches between the pair and also holding a 5-1 head to head record. Hewitt loves playing a lot of the big servers as they give him the pace that makes his return of serve so effective, but he could face a tough battle against Ivan Dodig in the Quarter Final and it is tough to feel totally confident of which player comes through the section.

A man I backed last week could come to the fore in Kevin Anderson- the big serving South African is in the easier half of the draw as the Number 2 seed this week and he has had a very good 2013 while he reached the Semi Final last week in Bogota.

He could face his conqueror from last week in the Second Round in Ivo Karlovic, but the latter won the tournament last week and could be struggling for a bit of fitness after going three months off the Tour. Other players like Denis Istomin and Igor Sijsling could cause some problems, while the aforementioned Mardy Fish is coming off a long lay off so Anderson looks the call from this half.

A small interest on Kevin Anderson going a little better than in Bogota last week looks the call here. 

MY PICKS: Roger Federer @ 2.20 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson @ 5.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Tennis Outright Picks (July 15-21)0-2, - 3 Units (3 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)
Tennis Daily Picks (July 15-21)10-12, - 4.92 Units (44 Units Staked, - 11.18% Yield)

Season 2013+ 27.30 Units (853.5 Units Staked, + 3.20% Yield)

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

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Tennis Picks 2013 (July 20th)

It wasn't the best Friday for the picks as they went 2-2, while one of my outright picks this week, Tommy Haas, was beaten in the Quarter Final.

At least Kevin Anderson is still rolling in Bogota as we reach the Semi Final at all of the events this week.

Nicolas Almagro - 1.5 games v Fabio Fognini: Fabio Fognini is playing about as well as he has ever done in his career and he has followed his first title on the main ATP Tour last week by reaching the Semi Final this week.

Fognini is playing with a lot of confidence and that has been on show all week as he hasn't just come through his three matches, but he has come through with a lot of ease.

However, he is probably facing the most difficult challenge of the week in Nicolas Almagro, a proven clay court player that will try and outlast the Italian as far as he can.

Almagro has come through his matches fairly comfortably this week too, but he will have to play even better if he is to beat Fognini in the form he is in. I do think Almagro will be able to construct points behind his heavy groundstrokes, although Fognini's defence is one of his strengths.

It has been a long couple of weeks for Fognini, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the pressure that Almagro will put on him in this Semi Final. I don't doubt Fognini's fitness, but this amount of tennis in a short period of time is not something he will have been used to and I think if Almagro can get a foothold in the match, he should be able to see off an in-form opponent.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Federico Delbonis: It hasn't been a great week in terms of performances from Roger Federer, but he has found his way through the draw and is now in a Semi Final with a second title of 2013 looming.

The new racquet is feeling good for Federer, but he is using this as a learning week ahead of big tournaments in Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. That has seen him drop a couple of sets in his three wins this week, but I expect this one to a be a little more routine for him.

I believe that Federico Delbonis could be a little overawed in facing Federer for the first time and there were signs that he was looking a little tired in his Quarter Final win over Fernando Verdasco- you couldn't blame him either as he has had to qualify for the tournament here and so has won six matches in the last seven days to get to this stage.

While he has the making of a solid clay court player, Delbonis is still a bit erratic in his play and hasn't quite got the consistency in his game. He hits a lot of flashy winners, but also makes a lot of errors and Federer will have his chances to break serve.

Adrenaline could help Delbonis make one of the sets competitive, but Federer should be able to show his experience and quality in this match to come through 64, 63.

Flavia Pennetta - 2.5 games v Johanna Larsson: Flavia Pennetta may have been a little fortunate to get through an in form Simona Halep in the Second Round, but she could take full advantage by reaching the Final with a win over home favourite Johanna Larsson.

Both players came through their Quarter Final matches comfortably and both will be full of confidence in this one. Larsson reached the Final here in Bastad last year, while Pennetta is getting back to something like her best after an injury affected twelve months.

I do think Pennetta has a little more solidness about her game and that could prove to be the difference between them in this match. Both will create chances on serve to break the other, but I feel a little more comfortable with the Italian on side and I think she is a little tougher mentally of the two.

While Larsson has barely lost games, let alone sets, this week, I believe it will change in this Semi Final and the Bastad crowd will be disappointed that their Swedish hope has not reached the Final for the second year in a row.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Almagro - 1.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Flavia Pennetta - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 10-9, + 1.08 Units (38 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)