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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (August 31-September 1)

This is the weekend that all Manchester United fans look forward to when the fixtures are released in June and that is when the side is travelling down the M62 to take on the old rivals, Liverpool, at Anfield. This will always be the biggest game for most fans of these clubs and should be a fascinating game on Sunday to see where both clubs are in the early Premier League season.

There is another big game played later on Sunday afternoon as Arsenal take on Tottenham Hotspur for the first time this season, but otherwise it could be a fairly tough week when it comes to predicting what will happen in the Premier League.

Manchester City v Hull City Pick: It was a shocking way that Manchester City blew their 0-1 lead at Cardiff City last weekend and I have a feeling that Hull City are going to pay for it this week with the way that City can pour forward in their own stadium.

There is a lot of attacking talent in the Manchester City squad and they are going to want to score goals to protect a defence that looked a little shaky last weekend, no one more so than Joe Hart.

The press in England love to proclaim Hart as the best goalkeeper in the world, but I think he struggles to take the title as the best goalkeeper in Manchester and it was his mistake that gave Cardiff City the lead, although he seems to get a pass from all pundits not called Roy Keane. Unfortunately for England, Keane has been spot on with his comments made about Hart and I think he is definitely over-rated.

What isn't over-rated is the forward and attacking options that Manchester City have at their disposal in this one and it will be tough for Hull City that played with ten men for the majority of their game last weekend and were forced into extra time during the week at Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup.

Winning both of those games will give Hull some confidence coming here, but Steve Bruce knows his side are going to get their points mainly at grounds unlike the Etihad Stadium and I think the former Manchester United player will just want to see a real good effort put in by his side. Bruce will also be hoping that Hull can play like they did in the second half at Stamford Bridge to open the season and not start off in the manner they did in that game.

If they do start slowly, Manchester City could be out of sight by the end of the first half, but either way I like the home side to come through comfortably and I think they will score at least three goals in this one.

Cardiff City v Everton Pick: Cardiff City would have been over the moon with the way they played against Manchester City after trailing 0-1 last Sunday and earning their first three points of the season would be very welcome after a poor start to the season at West Ham United.

Malky Mackay will be aware of the importance of picking up points at home in their bid to avoid the drop this season and there will be a confidence they can do that against Everton this weekend. I don't think any team will fancy coming to the Cardiff City Stadium this season and the fans can play a huge part in helping push the side on in games even when energy might be sapped for the players.

I expect Cardiff City will have chances to score in this game against an Everton team that push forward in numbers, but can be left short when being counter-attacked. They are still getting used to the methods that Roberto Martinez wants to employ, while the uncertainty surrounding Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines' futures at the club isn't helping matters.

Everton showed what they could be about this season in their 2-2 draw at Norwich City where they were unfortunate not to pick up the three points and they have a chance of doing that here. However, their vulnerabilities at the back by pushing too far forward could also be exposed and the safest option in the match could be backing both teams to score.

West Ham United v Stoke City Pick: West Ham United have made a very strong start to the new season and I can see them having a deep run in one of the cup competitions because they look a side with depth to the squad and a decent first eleven that could pick up yet another top half finish in the Premier League.

They beat Cardiff City here without too much fanfare on the opening day of the season and I can see them being a little too strong for Stoke City here. Mark Hughes has seen his side earn back to back wins in the Premier League and the League Cup during the week, but he has to change an away culture that has seen them win just 2 of their last 29 games away from the Brittania Stadium.

Last season, I am not sure how West Ham didn't win their home game against Stoke and while this will be another physical battle between two tough teams, I like the Hammers to just have a little too much quality and come through with a 2-1 win.

It might not always be the prettiest football from either side, but West Ham won't care if they go into the international break with another three points under the belt as making sure they surpass the 40 point mark which leads to safety is still the first concern for Sam Allardyce. Getting up to 7 points after 3 League games would be a great start towards that goal and the Hammers should be able to manage that on Saturday.

Liverpool v Manchester United Pick: This is still the game that I look forward to more than any other as a Manchester United fan and there will be a lot interest from the neutrals too as it could be an early indication of what to expect from these two sides this season.

Liverpool will be looking to maintain their 100% start to the new season after back to back 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Aston Villa, but the fans will see the visit of the Champions as an acid test of what to expect for the rest of the season.

There are still some question marks about the defence, although that is an area of the pitch that is expected to be strengthened before the transfer window closes on Monday evening. Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel are both carrying knocks and the centre of the defence is going to be tested fully by a Manchester United attack that boasts the talents of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

The focus won't only be on the home side, but David Moyes has a chance to silence the critics that have had their knives out for his away record as Everton manager against the top teams in the League. Moyes must be fed up of answering those questions from the press and the best way to silence them will be to lead United to a win at Anfield on Sunday.

It is a tough game to predict- I am not sure that Liverpool deserve to be favourites, regardless of being at home, but you have to respect the fact that they have won 4 of their last 6 at Anfield against United.

On the other hand, United won the most recent game here, albeit against ten men, and both sides certainly have the players that can score goals in this one. The 1-1 draw is a real player in the game, a result that both teams wouldn't think is the worst in the world, but neither is likely to sit back during the game and hope for the point.

There is every chance we will see a few goals in this one and that will be my pick for the game with the hope that United come out on the right side of the result.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The North London derby has produced a hatful of goals in recent matches between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium and there is every chance we could see more of the same on Sunday afternoon.

The absence of Gareth Bale does take away some of Spurs' speed on the counter-attack, but Daniel Levy has to be credited for spending the money that is going to be provided by the sale of the Welshman to Real Madrid and Spurs look a more solid team than they did last season.

The spine of the team looks decent and I think they can pose Arsenal some real problems in this one. The home fans would have looked at Spurs' spending with some envious eyes this summer as Arsenal's own chase for big signings have failed to really materialise. However, Arsenal still have a first eleven that will be able to cause this new-look Tottenham team problems as they will all know what to expect from one another on Sunday while the away team is still gelling together.

30 goals have flown in during the last 5 games between these teams here and I think there is every chance they can add another four on Sunday. An early goal for either side could really open things up and that looks the pick for me, but keeping units to a minimum for that one.

Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Real Madrid have dominated the recent games against Athletic Bilbao as they have won 7 straight against them, while they have won the last 9 at home against the Basque club.

Both teams bring in 100% records into the fixture for their new managers, but Real Madrid are very tough to play at home and they have a long unbeaten run to protect here. However, they have yet to be really convincing this season with close wins over Real Betis and Granada to their name, the former coming thanks to a late goal after Real Madrid had trailed 0-1.

Unlike the Premier League in England, teams in La Liga don't come to the biggest clubs with the intention of defending deep for long periods and Athletic Bilbao will push forward in this one. They are unlikely to have enough to earn a result, but they will have chances to score and that will lead to me picking the home side to win in a match where both teams score.

Valencia v Barcelona Pick: There are very few times that Barcelona will be a big price to win a game in La Liga and I think the only time they will be odds against is when they face Real Madrid, but that doesn't mean they are going to walk through every team they play.

Barcelona won the Super Cup on Wednesday night, but did so without beating Atletico Madrid in either game, while they only won 0-1 at Malaga last week so there are some chinks in the armour here.

It is also never easy to visit Valencia and to come away with the three points and I believe the layers have under-estimated how tough it is to play at this stadium. Barcelona are rightly going to be favoured to win most games they play, but the home team have avoided defeat in 4 of their last 6 games against Barcelona here so backing the draw at a big price could prove the value play.

MY PICKS: Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (3 Units)
Cardiff City-Everton Both Teams to Score @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.88 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Real Madrid Win and Both Teams to Score @ 2.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Valencia-Barcelona Draw @ 4.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

August Update12-20, - 2.63 Units (42 Units Staked, - 6.26% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

US Open Day 6 Picks 2013 (August 31st)

If the weather forecasts are to be believed, there is going to be a lot of broken tennis for the next four days as plenty of rain is scheduled for Flushing Meadows and that doesn't bode well for the tournament that is beginning the Third Round for the men's matches this weekend, although half of the women's Third Round matches were completed on Friday.

Even with the added day for the men's Final which is being played on a Monday this year, there is still a chance that some players will be forced to play in consecutive days at the back end of the tournament and that has proven to be a difficult hurdle for the player coming through the last Semi Final to overcome in recent seasons.

The tournament organisers will be hoping there are enough gaps in the weather to keep the tournament on schedule, although a couple of long five set matches, an increased possibility as the competition thins and the best players begin to meet, will really put them behind the black ball going forward through the rest of the week.

I will be posting the picks for Day 6 of the tennis in the hours leading up the start of play at 11am local time, so check back for those then. It has been a bad tournament for the picks, much like the last few weeks ever since the end of Wimbledon, but little things like Laura Robson needing one more game and being broken from 30-0 up, or Juan Martin Del Potro having a shocker against Lleyton Hewitt by not turning up in the fourth set tie-break are making a ton of difference and it is really very frustrating to say the least.

Kevin Anderson was another who played a shocker, while the last couple of days has seen Feliciano Lopez blow a strong winning position, Bernard Tomic doing the same and those matches alone changes a poor record into a very strong one and that is the part that irritates the most.

David Ferrer - 7.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: David Ferrer is quietly going through his section of the draw, while some of the dangers have already been knocked out so instead of facing Ernests Gulbis, he has to face Mikhail Kukushkin in what looks a much more comfortable Third Round match.

Kukushkin is a player with a decent serve and he has heavy groundstrokes, but he has been struggling for consistency since being injured at the US Open last year and much of his time has been spent on the Challenger circuit as he tries to rebuild his confidence.

That confidence should be in a much stronger place now he has come through 3 qualifying matches and also won two matches in the main draw, although Kukushkin couldn't have wished for a much better draw in the first two Rounds here.

David Ferrer will be happy with the draw too as he has looked vulnerable with poor performances being the case since Wimbledon and I thought he may have a hard US Open, but players going out early has opened up this section for the Spaniard. He has played pretty well early in the tournament, and I think he will have a little too much grind it out tennis for Kukushkin who will be forced to play one too many shots on occasion.

I can imagine the first couple of sets being tight ones, but Ferrer should then be able to pull away and a record a 75, 63, 61 win.

Feliciano Lopez v Milos Raonic: I was surprised to see Milos Raonic as such a big favourite to come through this Third Round match considering he hasn't exactly looked convincing at times this week, regardless of the two comfortable looking wins on the scoreboard that he has recorded.

He has the big serve that will always get him out of trouble, but Feliciano Lopez also has a serve that will see him hold serve with some comfort during periods of the match and the left-hander may also give Raonic a different look today.

This could be a quick match with both players rattling through service games, but I just think the value is with the Spaniard and he shouldn't be as big a price as he is to beat Raonic despite the run the latter had at the Montreal Masters in preparation for the US Open.

Rafael Nadal - 8.5 games v Ivan Dodig: I still have strong memories of the way Ivan Dodig beat Rafael Nadal in Montreal two years ago, but I think Nadal is playing too well at the moment for a repeat of that surprise in this Third Round match.

There has been little to no pressure put on Nadal since his first set against Ryan Harrison in the First Round and winning those back to back Masters tournaments has increased the confidence in the Spaniard to add to his sole US Open success this time around.

Ivan Dodig has a decent serve that should keep him close in a set, but he can lose his way at times while coming to the net off of poor approach shots and that is where Nadal could make hay in this match. Dodig can also be guilty of dropping his head when he gets behind and I believe Nadal will wear him down and end up recording a 64, 62, 63 win.

Roger Federer - 9.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: With all the rain that is forecasted around Flushing Meadows today, I am not sure Roger Federer will get a chance to get out on court, but it should focus the former five time winner here to try and get through the match as quickly as possible.

I was surprised with the way Adrian Mannarino beat Sam Querrey in the last Round, although the American will be kicking himself for the number of chances to break serve that he missed with poor returns and poor construction of points.

That is not going to happen with Federer for the most part and it will be tough for the Frenchman to keep him at bay if a similar level of performance to the one that saw off Carlos Berlocq is produced by the World Number 7 here.

If Federer can make a fast start, he could put himself in a strong position early on in this match and I do think he will be too good for Mannarino and prevail with a 61, 63, 63 win.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Christina McHale: Ana Ivanovic is not really considered as a credible threat to win the US Open this season as she is still too erratic with her play, while her serve can go off the boil at any time.

In saying that, Ivanovic has played well her in two matches so far in New York and I think the Serb will be too good for Christina McHale who has taken advantage of a decent draw in her first two matches.

McHale is not someone that I think is without potential- when I have seen her play, McHale looks capable of hitting the ball well off both wings and she has a decent serve, but confidence has been short in 2013 and that is tough to come out of when a player has suffered a lot of losses.

The two wins will give the American some belief in her game, but Ivanovic should be able to come through the match if she can take what is likely to be a tough first set. Win that, and she should be able to move away in the second to go through 64, 62.

Alize Cornet + 7.5 games v Victoria Azarenka: I may have backed Victoria Azarenka to be the player lifting the trophy in the women's event next Sunday, but this a match that could give her the most trouble before the Final.

Alize Cornet is full of beans thanks to a strong summer on the hard courts and she will have memories of pushing Azarenka all the way at the French Open earlier this season. She has the game that can put pressure on the Azarenka serve and this does look an awful lot of games to be giving the Frenchwoman.

I think this will be closer than the layers may imagine and Cornet is playing with a lot of confidence which should stand her in good stead, even if Azarenka has been in very good form with her win in Cincinnati and two comfortable wins here.

Daniela Hantuchova - 3.5 games v Julia Glushko: Daniela Hantuchova took apart the feel-good story of Victoria Duval in the last Round and I think she can beat another youngster that qualified for the US Open in this match.

I haven't seen a lot of Julia Glushko, but she is has played a lot of tennis in the last week and she is yet to really make the breakthrough on the main Tour. She is playing a player that has a lot of experience in this Third Round match and I can see Hantuchova just using that experience to provide the difference in a straight sets win.

It's never easy against a youngster with confidence, but Hantuchova dealt with that in the Second Round and I believe she will do so again with a 64, 64 win.

Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 games v Camila Giorgi: When I saw Camila Giorgi play at Wimbledon and I think the young Italian has a decent future on the WTA Tour, but she could be frustrated by Caroline Wozniacki who played very well in the Second Round.

Wozniacki might struggle against the top players that can hit through her with consistency, but players like Giorgi are likely to have some success before finding themselves having to hit one too many shots and that is where the Dane can grind down her opponents.

Qualifiers that reach the Third Round have a lot of tennis in their legs and while this will improve Giorgi's Ranking, but it could also mean that it catches up with her especially with Wozniacki providing as much mental pressure as she could in this one.

I expect the first set to be close at times, but Wozniacki may just win the key points in that to take it and then manage to go clear of Giorgi in the second.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 7.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez @ 3.20 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Rafael Nadal - 8.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 9.5 Games @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alize Cornet + 7.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Daniela Hantuchova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

US Open Update: 15-21, - 7.95 Units (57 Units Staked, - 13.95% Yield)

Friday, 30 August 2013

US Open Day 5 Picks 2013 (August 30th)

It has been an interesting few days at the US Open with the retirement of James Blake on Wednesday evening after he failed to covert a 2-0 lead in sets into a victory against Ivo Karlovic.

We have also seen a few upsets, mainly on the women's side of the tournament, although Dan Evans is responsible for back to back upset wins on the men's side.

It has been a really strong week for Evans who will be flying up the Rankings at the end of the tournament here and that means getting the chance to qualify for some of the main Tour events towards the end of season and going on to next season. Evans has shown flashes of potential in his Davis Cup performances for Great Britain against much higher Ranked opponents, but he finally seems to be knuckling down and applying himself fully to the demands and rigours of the full Tour.

He is reaping the rewards of his hard work and becomes the second Brit to surprise at this Grand Slam following the exploits of Laura Robson last year.

On Friday, we will be moving on to the Third Round action in the women's draw, while the men will get to complete the remaining Second Round matches. At the time of writing this, the schedule for Friday has been released, but not all the markets are readily available at the moment so I will post the picks and update of the weeks totals in the hours ahead of Day 5 action picking up.

Florian Mayer - 1.5 sets v Donald Young: I have no doubt that there was something not quite right with Martin Klizan in the First Round match against Donald Young so I have to take the result with a pinch of salt and not use it as the basis of Young being in tremendous form.

Klizan had drifted in the market all day before that match and then won just 2 games in three sets against the former high hope in the US men's tennis game. This should prove to be a totally different test for Young and I can't help think that Florian Mayer has been under-estimated in the match.

Anyone who has seen Mayer play knows he is an awkward opponent that uses a bunch of variation to force errors and put his opponents in strange positions on the court. He will force Young to play a lot of tough balls and the German has a chance of surpassing his win total from last year so is clearly still capable while also playing at a higher level than Young this season.

There will be confidence in the American having qualified for the tournament and come through the First Round, but he hasn't shown a consistent level of form this season and I see Mayer being a little too experienced and come through in three or four sets.

Kevin Anderson - 4.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: Marcos Baghdatis came through his First Round match with barely a blip, but I am not convinced the Cypriot is in great form after some heavy defeats in the weeks and months leading up to the US Open.

He will be facing a tough opponent in Kevin Anderson who is capable of putting some pressure on Baghdatis behind his own serve and I think that pressure will be rewarded with chances to break the Baghdatis serve.

The Cypriot has lost 14 of his last 16 matches on the main Tour ahead of the First Round here, and the manner of some of his defeats have been particularly disappointing. Baghdatis may be good enough to sneak a set in this one if Anderson is serving a low first serve percentage as he did for periods in his win over Daniel Brands, but I do still think the big South African comes through 64, 64, 67, 63.

Juan Martin Del Potro win 3-1 v Lleyton Hewitt: Lleyton Hewitt didn't play great tennis in his win over Brian Baker in the First Round, but a match of this magnitude with the limelight on it as the opening of the evening session should inspire him.

Hewitt has always enjoyed playing the big servers on the Tour as his return of serve can nullify what they bring to the table. He will also be confident he can give Juan Martin Del Potro all he can handle having won their 2 previous matches this season and also holding a Grand Slam win over the Argentine, albeit on Hewitt's favoured surface grass.

Del Potro is also guilty of losing some concentration at times and we saw that in the First Round as he dropped a set against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and any such loss will see him drop a set in my opinion.

I think this could be a fascinating match under the lights today and I'll take the higher seeded player to come through in four quality sets.

Laura Robson + 5.5 games v Na Li: There are some concerns as to how Laura Robson's wrist is doing after she took a medical time out in the last match she played, although she made it clear that it was just a change in bandaging and there is nothing to worry about.

This seems to be a lot of games to be giving Robson who is very comfortable at Flushing Meadows and who has served so effectively. Her return game is still a bit iffy and if that was a bit more solid, she would have seen off Caroline Garcia very easily in the last Round after making too shanked returns at key points.

Na Li is a top quality player, but has to overcome the mental burden of losing to Robson at the same stage last season, but she is certainly capable of doing that with the way she takes the court. Li has played very well in her first two matches here and she has also been in good form at Toronto and Cincinnati ahead of this tournament so I am not under-estimating how much quality she will be bringing to the table.

The problem for Li is whether she can hold her serve enough and break enough times to cover this spread, which I already mentioned is quite a bit higher than I anticipated. Robson will be confident and has generally raised her level against the best players on the Tour so I will take the games in this one.

MY PICKS: Florian Mayer - 1.5 sets @ 2.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Kevin Anderson - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro win 3-1 @ 3.75 William Hill (1 Unit)
Laura Robson + 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)

US Open Update: 14-18, - 4.15 Units (51 Units Staked, - 8.14% Yield)

Thursday, 29 August 2013

US Open Day 4 Picks 2013 (August 29th)

It looks like being a busy Day 4 at Flushing Meadows as a prolonged rain delay means a number of matches had to be cancelled on Wednesday, but the organisers will be glad that the tournament is still likely to be on schedule with all of the men's First Round matches completed (at the time of writing, Andy Murray was almost ready to begin his match).

However, the lack of roofing at this tournament is likely to pose a problem going into the weekend with rain expected on both Saturday and Sunday and that makes the decision to play the men's First Round over three days look all the more bizarre.

The biggest thing the organisers will want to avoid is making players do double-duty, particularly on the men's side, to get the tournament back on track next week, so it is imperative they get through all the Second Round matches before Saturday. If the weekend is then rained out, they still have the option of playing all of the Quarter Finals in one day, but any left over Second Round matches could leave those players in impossible positions.

It has been a mixed bag for the picks up to this point, although it might have been a lot better if Laura Robson didn't play just the one loose game in her win over Caroline Garcia, while Benoit Paire is struggling in his match. However, a couple of the set options have come right this time, while Angelique Kerber's match was one of those that was victim to the weather and will be opening on court on Thursday.

As has been the case the last few days, the layers are still playing catch up so picks for Day 4 will be be put on here hours before the tournament restarts.

Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: I was quite impressed with Roger Federer in the First Round in his win over Grega Zemjla, although I have to say that his opponent was fairly limited and I expect him to be pushed a lot more in this one.

Carlos Berlocq came through a five set match in the First Round and was suffering with a back injury, having a medical time-out during that match, and there will be some painful memories of the Arthur Ashe court where he was dismantled by Novak Djokovic a couple of years ago.

I don't expect the Argentine to be beaten as comfortably as he was on that occasion, but he is going to have to work for every point as his serve is not particularly dominant. Berlocq can get under the skin of some of his opponents, but Federer is a cool customer that will be comfortable on this court and I believe the Swiss man will eventually prevail 63, 64, 62.

Sam Querrey - 5.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: Adrian Mannarino is a limited player on the main Tour and I would be surprised if he can keep Sam Querrey at bay with the home support firmly behind the American in this one.

The left-handed Mannarino doesn't have a big weapon and that should give Querrey a chance to tee-off at times, especially once he gets a decent read on the serve. Querrey will have benefited from playing a left-hander in the First Round and he begun to find form in that match by racing through the last two sets for the loss of just three games.

It hasn't been a great season for Querrey and he is in danger of dropping out of the top 32 in the World Rankings, but he reached the Semi Final in Winston Salem last week and generally plays against a higher level of competition that Mannarino deals with.

One set may end with a tie-break, but Querrey to come through 63, 76, 64 looks the call from this match.

Bernard Tomic - 4.5 games v Dan Evans: A lot of people in Britain are excited by the potential that Dan Evans has and he has had a strong summer which has reached a crescendo with a straight sets win over Kei Nishikori in the First Round.

Evans has come through qualifying for this tournament and has reached the Final of a couple of Challenger tournaments, while Bernard Tomic has not been in the best of form of late.

The Australian is considered as a potential top five player in the future, but he has struggled for consistency and he has had a poor summer, although the win in the First Round in battling circumstances should give Tomic some confidence.

The way Tomic approaches matches should give Evans some problems as he does make a lot of balls back in play, although his movement isn't the best so the British player should have some success. It just feels that Evans is a touch over-rated thanks to his recent form and impressive win in the First Round, but I expect Tomic to prove why he is considered such a talent and come through in four sets with a 75, 46, 63, 62 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 4.5 games v Bradley Klahn: While Dan Evans has played well in a couple of Challenger events to give him confidence, Bradley Klahn has won one of those events and he came through a tough First Round match in impressive fashion.

The level of competition has taken a couple of steps up the ladder for him in this one as he takes on fellow left-hander Feliciano Lopez, a player that has had a real revival in form over the last couple of months and who reached the Fourth Round here last season.

Lopez has a very strong serve and that is aided by the hard courts, while the temperature is set to help him further by speeding up the courts a touch in this one. The Spaniard's return game can let him down at times, but Klahn won't be used to all the slice that Lopez uses nor will he fancy passing him at the net for much of the match.

As long as Lopez can serve effectively, I believe he will create chances to break serve and eventually come through 76, 63, 64.

Richard Gasquet - 8.5 games v Stephane Robert: A battle between two compatriots should favour the higher Ranked Richard Gasquet to come through, although Stephane Robert will be feeling good about his game having qualified and come through his own First Round match.

Robert has benefited from a kind draw and this match represents a serious step up in class from what he is used to facing, while there may be some nerves on his part as he faces a player that has been in the spotlight in France since a young boy.

That could lead to a few erratic games from Robert and it is one of the reasons I believe Gasquet will come through this Second Round match with some comfort. Robert can play opponents tough when he is on form, but I have the belief that he will either lose a set 61 or 62 in this one and that should give Gasquet the chance to cover.

I like Gasquet to win this 61, 64, 64.

Janko Tipsarevic - 4.5 games v Dudi Sela: It has been a really poor year for Janko Tipsarevic who has dropped out of the top 10 and is now out of the top 20 in the World Rankings and that's a sharp decline for a player that qualified for the End of Year Championships in London last year.

While it has been a poor year overall, Tipsarevic has reached the Fourth Round at the Australian Open, Third Round at the French Open, although he also fell at the first hurdle at Wimbledon. The best of five set matches should at least give Tipsarevic a chance to play himself into matches and he should be fresh having received a retirement in the last Round.

His opponent, Dudi Sela, had to come through in five sets in the First Round, but he also won a Challenger over the course of the summer so I don't foresee confidence issues for him. However, Sela is someone that will give his opponents chances to break serve as that isn't a strong shot for him and he can also be overpowered by the top players on the Tour and Tipsarevic still counts even as poor as his form has been.

One of the few decent performances that Tipsarevic has produced this season came in Miami where he crushed Sela and I expect him to be too strong again.

Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 games v Chanelle Scheepers: Caroline Wozniacki made hard work of her First Round opponent, although a lot had to do with Ying-Ying Duan hitting out and finding the lines for a stretch of the second set.

I expect Wozniacki to be in a similar match this time as Chanelle Scheepers is unlikely to hold back, although I expect a similar scoreline to the Dane's First Round match and a 62, 64 win.

She frustrates opponents by making them play one more ball and that consistency to hit through Wozniacki is unlikely to be provided by Scheepers who had to go the distance to come through what looked like a decent First Round draw.

Scheepers has struggled when coming against the better players on the hard courts and I do think it will be the case in this Second Round match which will see Wozniacki come through relatively unscathed.

MY PICKS: Angelique Kerber - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units) Rain Delayed Yesterday
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 8.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Janko Tipsarevic - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 11-13, + 0.41 Units (35 Units Staked, + 1.17% Yield)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

College Football Week 1 Picks 2013 (August 29-September 2)

It's that time of the year again as all the preparation of the last few months has been all for the opening weekend of the coming season.

The College Football world is fast moving and there can be big swings from season to season as recruiting classes are tested, while some teams are decimated by the NFL Draft. We are still a year away from the College Play Offs so once again we are likely to see some controversy as a deserved team is not in the mix to compete for a National Championship.

Alabama will be looking to make history by winning the National Championship for the fourth time in five years and while they have lost some top players to the NFL, they still look the team to beat. How will Oregon react to losing Chip Kelly? Will Johnny Football be eligible at all this year? Can the SEC be stopped as they bid to have one of their teams win the National Championship yet again? All of these kinds of questions will be answered over the coming months.

Last season, the picks had a really disappointing start which put the chance of reaching a profit behind the black ball after the first ten weeks of the season. However, a strong end to the season meant the losses were limited after all the success of the 2011 season.

Early on in the season, some teams are more concerned with getting a lot of the back ups playing time, especially when games are in hand, so I did suffer from a few back door covers early in the season after teams gave up garbage time scores to fall just under the spread.

That is something that I will keep in mind early in this new season and that should hopefully help lead me back into the same situation as 2011.

The new season also means a time for new predictions as to will be amongst the leading contenders in the nation going forward. Below you will see my picks for each Division and Conference and a small blurb as to why I think they will win:

SEC West: Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0)- They may have lost some pieces from the team that won the National Championship last season, but Alabama have recruited well over the years and there is enough here to think they go close to winning the whole thing for a third time in a row.

The game at Texas A&M is going to be key but Nick Saban has a strong record when trying to overturn a loss to an opponent, Alabama have two weeks to prepare for that game and all the furore around Johnny Manziel means his eligibility is in question for the season.

The rest of the schedule looks very nice on paper as they host LSU and Ole Miss, while not facing any of the likely top four from the SEC East and the Crimson Tide should have a chance to compete for the SEC Championship and get back to the National Championship Game.

SEC East: Georgia Bulldogs (12-0, 8-0): Georgia need to have their game faces on from week one if they are to run the table and get back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game; they face Clemson Tigers on the road to open the season and also have to host South Carolina and LSU in the first month of the season and that could decide their fate for the whole year.

If they can win those four games, the Bulldogs will still have tough tests at Tennessee and Vanderbilt and face the Gators in Florida so there is every chance that Georgia will lose a game somewhere. However, I expect they can beat South Carolina and that could give them the tie-breaker over their nearest rivals, in my opinion, and thus take the SEC East title.

SEC Championship: Alabama Crimson Tide

Pac-12 North: Stanford Cardinal (12-0, 9-0)- Most people would still be picking the Oregon Ducks to win the Division despite the loss of Chip Kelly as Head Coach who moved to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ducks may have the 'easier' of the schedules compared with Stanford, but the Cardinal host Oregon and have beaten them twice in the last four years so they have every chance to taking the Division with that tie-breaker in their pocket.

A key for the Cardinal is negotiating the tough Pac-12 South schedule they have been handed with visits from Arizona State and UCLA, while they also have to go to USC. Even if Stanford lose one of those games, which is possible, beating Oregon will still give them the inside track to the Division.

Pac-12 South: Arizona State Sun Devils (9-3, 7-2)- The Pac-12 South isn't as strong as the North, but I believe Arizona State have the best chance of taking the Division because of the way the schedule shapes up for them.

A bad run of four losses in a row cost the Sun Devils a chance to compete for the Division last year, but they have a lot of positives this time including hosting USC and Oregon State, while their nearest rivals have the misfortune of facing the tougher opponents from the Pac-12 North.

Pac-12 Championship: Stanford Cardinal

Big Ten Leaders: Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0)- Urban Meyer surpassed expectations last season by leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to an unbeaten season and they are now considered the team most likely to break the SEC dominance of the National Title.

The Buckeyes have a manageable schedule as they host most of the tougher teams they play (Wisconsin and Penn State), but visits to Northwestern and particularly the Michigan Wolverines to end the season are the ones most likely to scupper a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 6th 2014.

Big Ten Legends: Michigan Wolverines (10-2, 6-2)- I have been impressed with the way Brady Hoke has turned things around at Michigan as he enters his third season as Head Coach. Michigan fans will believe they are capable of doing something very special this season and I do think the pieces are in place for the Wolverines to get to one of the big Bowl games.

However, they will have to negotiate some tough road games at Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan State and also have to host Notre Dame and Nebraska and that is all before they end the season with a home game against Ohio State. It is hard to see the Wolverines going better than 2-1 in those three road games but they should be able to win the Division by knocking off Nebraska and competing in the Big Ten Championship.

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State Buckeyes

Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-1, 8-1)- This might be the most competitive Conference in the nation, but there are now outstanding teams that you can say with any real confidence will have enough to get into the National Championship mix.

The powers like the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns have talent in their squads, but both also have doubts about experience plus toughness. Both teams also have some very tough scheduling and the schedule is one of the main reasons I have picked the Cowboys to win the Conference.

Oklahoma State are fortunate that they host most of their main rivals. although the trip to the Longhorns may be the reason they are not involved in the National Championship talk. This is a team that is capable of putting up a lot of points and they do look the team to beat this time around after going 5-4 in Conference play last season.

ACC Atlantic: Clemson Tigers (10-2, 8-0)- The Clemson Tigers have returned enough talent from last season to believe they can have a really special season this time around, although much of that may come down to how they do against two SEC East teams against whom they open and close their regular season.

Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks are big challenges for Clemson and both may be a little too strong, although the Tigers can point to their Bowl win over LSU last year for confidence. If they can win both of those games, Clemson may just get involved in the National Championship discussion.

The rest of the schedule is to Clemson's favour as they don't take on any of the top teams from the ACC Coastal and they host their main rivals in this Division, the Florida State Seminoles and I expect them to take advantage thanks to their powerful offense.

ACC Coastal: Virginia Tech Hokies (10-2, 7-1)- A lot of people may be tipping the Miami Hurricanes to be the team to beat in this Division, but I believe the Virginia Tech Hokies can get back to their rightful place under Frank Beamer and register a double-digit win season.

Logan Thomas was a disappointment last season, but he looks a prototype NFL Quarter Back and I expect more from him this season, while the Defense has 9 starters back and could be dominant. The Hokies are likely to start the season with a loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, but the key will be winning one of two tough road games against Miami or the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

If they can split those games 1-1 at least, the rest of the schedule looks like one Virginia Tech can negotiate and I do think Miami, their likely closest rivals, have a couple of really tough road games themselves which they may not win.

ACC Championship: Clemson Tigers

American Champion: Louisville Cardinals (11-1, 7-1)- The Louisville Cardinals are not flying under the radar this season after destroying the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl at the end of last season and fans will be expectant for an 11 win season again at the least.

I read that Louisville were considered the Number 1 team that could go unbeaten on CBSSports.com and I can't argue too much with that as they have every chance of running the table with a very comfortable looking schedule on slate.

However, the games at Kentucky and particularly the final game at Cincinnati look like the biggest dangers to that happening for Louisville. The Bearcats may still be in contention to win the Conference when that final game comes around, but they have three significant road tests at South Florida, Rutgers and Houston during the season that may end up giving them two losses and only the opportunity to play spoiler in the final week, something they could end up doing.

Mountain West Mountain: Boise State Broncos (10-2, 7-1)- The Boise State Broncos have just missed out on competing in the National Championship Game over the last few seasons, mainly because they have had one lapse of concentration during the course of the season.

It is unlikely they will run the table this time around too with some tough road games at Fresno State, BYU and Utah State on the schedule, while a trip to San Diego State is another tough game to get through. However, I expect Boise State to win two of three on the road against Conference foes from those games selected and that should give them the edge over Utah State in the Mountain Division.

The added benefit of getting two weeks to prepare for the game at Utah State should give Boise State the tie-breaker in the Division and the opportunity to play for the Conference title.

Mountain West West: San Jose State Spartans (10-2, 8-0)- This may be their first season in the Mountain West Conference, but I think San Jose State Spartans could find themselves competing for a title with a bit of luck falling their way.

The Spartans host their two closest rivals in the Division, while all four road games in Conference play look very winnable which should give the San Jose State the edge over Fresno State San Diego State.

My pick here could all rest on how San Jose State begin their Conference play when they host Utah State, who whipped them here last season... Win that game and confidence and home advantage could see the Spartans to a Conference title game.

Mountain West Championship: Boise State Broncos

MAC East: Bowling Green Falcons (9-3, 7-1)- This Division was won by the Kent State Golden Flashes a season ago, but I believe Bowling Green Falcons could win their first title since 2003 when they were part of the West.

I do think the one Conference loss will come against Kent State, who Bowling Green face on the road, but the Champions of last year have to visit Ohio and Ball State and also host Northern Illinois and may end one game out of winning the Division again.

Bowling Green host Ohio and that could prove to be the tie-breaker in the Division as the Falcons return 17 starters from a season ago.

MAC West: Northern Illinois Huskies (9-3, 7-1)- Northern Illinois will have to go some to get close to the success of last season with only 3 starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, but I do think they are in line to win their third consecutive MAC West title.

The Conference schedule certainly should suit the Huskies and the key is that they get to host Ball State in what could be another tie-breaker in the Division.

You can't rule out Ball State completely as they can certainly win the other seven Conference games they play and the game between the top two teams in the West on November 13 will be a winner takes all contest as far as I am concerned.

MAC Championship: Northern Illinois Huskies

Sun Belt Champion: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns- The reigning Champions Arkansas State have lost their Quarter Back Ryan Aplin and could take a step back in Conference play this season. The team I believe will take advantage is the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.

The key for the Ragin' Cajuns is their Defense to give them a little bit of help- the team can score plenty of points, but they allowed 30 points per game last season which was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference.

There are some tough games on slate for Louisiana, but the key is that they have their biggest rivals at home, although the game at Arkansas State may provide a sole loss in the Conference. However, the fact that Louisiana host the ULM Warhawks may be the game that gives them the tie-breaker in the Conference and help them pick up the title... As long as the Defense plays some sort of a part.

Conference-USA East: Marshall Thundering Herd (9-3, 7-1)- I have picked Marshall Thundering Herd to win this Division over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, although I wouldn't be surprised if the latter do overturn that prediction.

Middle Tennessee host Marshall at the end of November and could decide which of these teams win the Division, especially as both teams will host the other threat to win this Division in East Carolina.

If Marshall win that game, I still don't think they will run the table with another tough road game at Tulsa Golden Hurricane who are one of the top teams in the West Division. Marshall at Middle Tennessee may be the Division decider as East Carolina have the toughest schedule of the top teams in the East.

Conference-USA West: Rice Owls (10-2, 7-1)- I think there isn't a lot that separates Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Rice Owls in the Conference and I can see all three beating one another in matches to all possibly end with a 7-1 Conference record.

However, I believe the Rice Owls may have the biggest upside with 18 starters returning from last season when they won their final five games and even the fact that five of their eight Conference games are on the road, the only really difficult one is the game at Tulsa and they do host the Bulldogs.

Rice will need more out of their Defense if they are to win the Division, but the fact they have 10 returning starters and the improvement in the final five games last season suggest the Owls are in for a big season.

Conference-USA Championship: Rice Owls

There are also a few Independent schools that could have a real impact this season. I particularly like the BYU Cougars (9-3) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)- the latter won a number of close games on their way to competing for the National Championship last season, but I feel they may come up short when they go to Michigan and Stanford, while the game against Arizona State in Arlington is another tough game for the Fighting Irish to overcome.

Thursday 29 August
Just got the one pick for the opening day of the College Football season, although will add Friday and Saturday games once I have shortlisted the ones I like.

USC Trojans @ Hawaii Warriors Pick: The Matt Barkley era ended in disappointing fashion for USC last season, but there is still enough talent for the Trojans to come to Hawaii and register a big win.

The Quarter Back position is still not decided in place of Barkley, but Hawaii are likely to have another disappointing season after their struggles of a year ago and there is still too much in the Southern California squad for them to cope with in my opinion.

I have to write this short blurb with little time, but this USC covering the spread is my first pick of the new season and I'll have more in the coming day.

Friday 30 August
I've already received the first bad break of the new season as USC, leading 30-5 with 20 seconds left, allow Hawaii to hit a 60 yard TD pass after giving up nothing more than a field goal and a safety in the first 59 minute and 20 seconds. It was a bit unlucky, but those backers of under the total points really had a bad break with 15 points scored in the last minute of the game which saw the game go from under to over the 38 point total.

Texas Tech Red Raiders @ SMU Mustangs Pick: There have been some changes made at Texas Tech in the Head Coach department which has the fans hopeful of a strong season, but they have to make a positive start in a tough road game at the SMU Mustangs.

It will be interesting to see if Garrett Gilbert is more comfortable in the SMU Offense this season after having a few struggles last year, although the Mustangs have lost a lot of players on both sides of the ball. The Red Raiders need to be careful with the ball as last season the Mustangs forced a lot of turnovers, but Texas Tech look like they could grab the win here.

SMU have been strong as the home underdog under June Jones and they have won their last 5 home openers so this is not an easy game for Texas Tech. However, I think the Red Raiders are going to be able to put together a lot of scoring drives this season and score a lot of points and they should be able to open with a win and a cover.

Saturday 31 August
Texas Tech were very impressive in their win yesterday and there are plenty of positive signs for them, although a tough Big 12 Conference will make it tough for them to get to a Bowl game.

Oklahoma State Cowboys v Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick: If Mississippi State can keep tabs on Oklahoma State early in this game, this could be very close and the surprise is on, but the Bulldogs could be troubled by this game being played inside a dome where the Cowboys Offensive power can be aided.

The Bulldogs also suffered collapses in their defeats last season, losing all 5 games by an average of 21.4 points per game and the closest defeat was by 14 points.

Oklahoma State have big expectations this season and they can make a statement by knocking off a team from the SEC. If the Defense can use their aggression to knock Tyler Russell around, I like the Cowboys to win this one by at least 12 points.

Alabama Crimson Tide v Virginia Tech Hokies Pick: It has to be noted that the National Champion usually kicks off the new season in impressive style- since 1999, they have won every opening game by an average of over 30 points and Alabama added to that a season ago with a crushing win against the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan are a better team than Virginia Tech are this season and I also think Alabama are just as strong as last season.

Don't believe the hype about unfocused business from the Crimson Tide who won't be allowed to rest on their laurels by Nick Saban and who have TWO weeks to prepare for their next game which is the important one at Texas A&M which has all sorts of National Championship ramifications.

Alabama have covered the spread in their last 6 games on a neutral field and they look a little too strong on both sides of the ball and I like them to cover.

UAB Blazers @ Troy Trojans Pick: There should be plenty of points scored in this one as both schools have more faith in what they can do with their Offense than what they can with the Defense.

Home field advantage should prove to be the difference in the game, as it has in the majority of their recent series, although it may also come down which of the teams has the ball last.

Troy just seem to have the edge on the Offensive side of the ball to think they will move the chains more consistently in this game and that may be enough to cover the spread.

Washington State Cougars @ Auburn Tigers Pick: Confidence won't be high in both programs for this season, but there is a belief that both will be going in the right direction come the end of the season.

Washington State have a brutal schedule and may struggle to win the 3 games they did a year ago, but the fans are just hoping to see some better performances from the team now that Mike Leach has had a season under his belt here.

The Auburn fans will also be excited about having Gus Malzahn back as Head Coach and will be believing he can spark and Offense that struggled all season.

Teams at the bottom of the SEC will still be a match for a lot of schools throughout the nation and I don't think this will be disproved and I expect Auburn to win the game. However, the Tigers are giving up a lot of points and Washington State may just earn the cover.

Boise State Broncos @ Washington Huskies Pick: A new season's opening weekend can be tough to read simply because of the high turnover of personnel at some schools, but that isn't the case for Washington.

There are a lot of factors that go in their favour including the revenge angle and the game being played in their new stadium which will make the fanbase a little louder.

However, I just feel the Boise State Broncos are a touch under-rated in this one considering how much winning the school has done under the guidance of Chris Peterson.

If the Defense can play surprisingly better than some may expect, the Offense can score enough points to keep this close at least and I'll take the points in this one.

MY PICKS: USC Trojans - 23.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders - 4 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys - 11 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 21 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Troy Trojans - 4 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Washington State Cougars + 14 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Boise State Broncos + 4 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

US Open Day 3 Picks 2013 (August 28th)

After the disappointment of the first day of the tournament, it was at least a little more of a productive second day at the US Open, although there are still some matches being played at the time I am writing this.

We have seen most of the players come through their first matches at the tournament, although Andy Murray has been given the short straw in that he has had to wait until the third day to open up his defence of the title he won last year. There are suggestions of wet weather tomorrow evening and that could mean Murray is still to play his first match at the tournament while some of his rivals will be getting ready for their Second Round matches.

From what I have seen, there doesn't seem to be a lot of contenders in the women's tournament to beat the top two players- Sam Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki were particularly disappointing against limited opponents and it would be a surprise if either of those players are still around in ten days time unless performances improve markedly going forward.

Roger Federer came through his delayed match with very few problems, but his tests will definitely be tougher than what Grega Zemlja brought to the court.

The tournament moves on to the Second Round for the women's event, while the men's First Round matches will be completed on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the layers have again been delaying their markets so the picks will be put up hours before the matches begin on Wednesday.

Lleyton Hewitt win 3-1 v Brian Baker: Brian Baker has one of the best stories of players on the Tour as a promising junior player had to wait a number of years, overcome a number of injuries, before making a return to the senior Tour and reaching the Fourth Round at Wimbledon.

That happened last season for Baker, but another major injury at the Australian Open means the American player missed the majority of 2013 and has only recently made it back to the Tour. This is a tough First Round match for him against the veteran Lleyton Hewitt and while I don't think Baker wins, I think he is good enough to take a set.

A lot of that is down to the fact that Hewitt isn't dominant behind serve and he will give Baker an opportunity to take a set- I also think Baker plays solid enough tennis for a 35-40 minute period which should put him in a strong position to take at least one set, although Hewitt will need to be careful that he doesn't allow Baker to build too much momentum.

Hwitt hasn't played a lot of tennis this summer because he would have had to qualify for the Masters tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati so decided to skip those events. The US Open has been a good event for him in his prime years and I do think Hewitt comes through in tough four sets.

Ivo Karlovic v James Blake: It was announced prior to the beginning of the US Open that James Blake was going to call time on his career- Blake has got the best out of his game by reaching World Number 4 and that occurred after a freak accident on the court where he fractured his neck and I think the American should be proud of what he achieved.

This is potentially his last ever match though as Ivo Karlovic has the confidence of qualifying for the tournament and his big serve could prove a little too much for Blake to overcome. Blake is very aggressive on return which will pose Karlovic some problems, but the big man likes closing the net and it will be tough for Blake to continuously pass him over a best of five set period.

The other factor is Blake's aggression working against him on his own serve as he makes a lot of unforced errors at times and Karlovic also holds the 6-3 head to head record. They haven't met for a couple of years now, but I was surprised Karlovic was the underdog and he is worth an interest.

Kevin Anderson win 3-1 v Daniel Brands: It has been a tough summer for Kevin Anderson and there are some suggestions he is running on fumes after what has been a strong 2013, his best on the Tour.

This isn't as easy a match as the layers may think as Daniel Brands has a big serve that will always aid him on the faster surfaces, although the German is erratic at best with his groundstrokes. I have seen Brands look unplayable at times, while at others he looks nothing more than a club player with a strong first serve.

I am expecting Brands to at least push Anderson for a couple of sets today and there is every chance he can split those before Anderson takes over. The South African's big serve poses problems, but he can sometimes have too low a first serve percentage to give his opponents some chances and tie-breaks are very much in play.

I do believe Anderson, the stronger player overall, will have too much when it is said and done, but may easily drop one set along the way.

Benoit Paire - 4.5 games v Alex Bogomolov: I have no doubt that Benoit Paire is one of the more over-rated players on the Tour ever since beating Juan Martin Del Potro on the clay courts a few months ago, but his opponent seems to be given a little too much credit in this one for me.

Alex Bogomolov is a decent all round player, but he doesn't really have a dominant shot in his arsenal and he can be erratic with his groundstrokes and I would expect Paire to pressure him behind his decent first serve.

However, Paire himself is hardly the model of consistency and can be an unforced error producing machine at times. He hasn't had a great summer and has some poor losses on his record throughout the course of the year, but I still am expecting a little bit more from him than I am from Bogomolov and I like the Frenchman to cover here.

Marcos Baghdatis win 3-1 v Go Soeda: A few years ago, I would have expected Marcos Baghdatis to blitz through someone like Go Soeda, but these days it should be a closer match with the latter making enough balls back in play to extract mistakes from the Cypriot's game.

Confidence has to be an issue for Baghdatis who has won a couple of matches in Washington, but otherwise has been on a long losing run on the main Tour. He was embarrassingly beaten by Fabio Fognini in Montreal and barely made the match with Julien Benneteau competitive in Cincinnati, while Soeda qualified for the main draw here and should feel ready to go.

I don't have a lot of faith in Soeda being able to win this match because of his style of play which allows opponents to sit and hit through him, especially the better players on the Tour, but Baghdatis has enough losses to think the Japanese man can steal a set, if not more.

Mikhail Youzhny win 3-1 v Nicolas Mahut: Neither one of these players would be considered strong hard court players, but I feel Mikhail Youzhny is a little over-rated and his chances of dropping a set on his way to victory is higher than the layers may think.

Youzhny rarely comes through matches without a slight dip in form, especially as he has reached veteran status, but he has the heart and determination to still win matches. His style and aggression means Youzhny can make mistakes and give opponents chances to break his serve and I also think Nicolas Mahut has a serve that can see him hold enough times to sneak a set.

Mahut's game is best suited to the grass courts where the ball keeps slightly lower when he approaches the net, making it that little bit harder to get the ball to pass him or to make his volleys difficult- the hard courts will give Youzhny a touch more room to find the angles and that is why I think the Russian comes through.

It just wouldn't surprise me if Youzhny plays a sloppy set at some point and come through in four.

Angelique Kerber - 4.5 games v Eugenie Bouchard: Like her best friend Laura Robson, Eugenie Bouchard is one of the up and coming talents on the WTA Tour but she has yet to make the breakthrough that Robson has.

This could be her chance at the US Open against a former Semi Finalist in Angelique Kerber, although I am expecting the German to be a little too tough at this moment in their respective careers.

Kerber's left handed serve can cause a few problems for Bouchard and I believe she is consistent enough to hold of the surge of form that the Canadian will show at points in the match. We saw Bouchard steal a set off of Serena Williams in Cincinnati so she is a confident player that can compete against the best players on the Tour, but Bouchard struggled mightily to come through her First Round match.

In recent weeks, Bouchard has lost fairly comfortably against two left-handed players and I like Kerber to make it a hat-trick in a 64, 63 win.

Laura Robson - 3.5 games v Caroline Garcia: This is a match that could potentially be for major titles in the coming years as both players are expected to reach the top of the women's game. However, of the two, it is Laura Robson that has already begun to make her breakthrough on the Tour, while Caroline Garcia is still finding her consistency tough to come by.

I do like the Garcia game, but Robson's is bigger and more effective at the moment and I think that will prove to be the difference as long as the British players wrist holds up.

The left-handed serve will also pose a different problem for Garcia to deal with and I think that Robson will get the cheaper points off that shot, while is a little more consistent with the groundstrokes.

It will be tough at times as Garcia's talent shouldn't let her fall away easily, but I like Robson to win 64. 64.

MY PICKS: Lleyton Hewitt win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Ivo Karlovic @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Kevin Anderson win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Benoit Paire - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Mikhail Youzhny win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Amgelique Kerber - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Laura Robson - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)

US Open Update: 8-9, - 0.44 Units (26 Units Staked, - 0.02% Yield)

Midweek Football Picks 2013 (August 27-29)

This week we have the conclusion of the final European qualifying matches and then the draw that a lot of fans would have been looking forward to all summer- the Champions League Group Stage draw which takes place on Thursday evening and teams begin plotting their way to Lisbon next May.

The Europa League Group Stage draw is made on Friday morning and then we have one more weekend of League football before the transfer window will close, thankfully, and teams can settle down for the long winter of football.

The first legs of the Champions League have seen a number of teams take away very healthy leads from the opening games and there are a few who are in very strong positions- that means they are unlikely to go for the win from the off in the second legs so there is a need to be aware of that.

The same will apply to Europa League games and don't be surprised if Tottenham Hotspur make wholesale changes with the game against Arsenal in mind, especially with a 0-5 win in Georgia under their belts. It is something to consider in the coming few days.

We also have the Second Round of the Capital One Cup taking place this week, another competition where keeping an eye on team news and being wary of the upsets have to be kept in mind. The sides taking part in Europe won't enter the competition until the Third Round, but there are some big teams involved in the next two days, but I would tread carefully with the minefield these opening Rounds become.

Arsenal v Fenerbahce Pick: There are bound to be a number of changes to the Arsenal side in the wake of their 0-3 win in Turkey last week and it would be a real surprise if anything but an Arsenal place in the Group Stage is secured tonight.

It is interesting to note that the layers are not sure what Arsenal are going to do in this game- while they are expecting changes to the starting line up, there is also the added factor that the home team don't have to go for the win in this second leg.

Fenerbahce do have to open up and try and play football though and it would be a surprise to me if they come to London with damage limitation in mind. The Turkish side have to score three times without reply to give themselves a chance of extra time, while only a win by at least three goals will give them a chance to progress.

The first leg showed how limited in the pace department the defenders Fenerbahce have are, and that is an area Arsenal could exploit on the counter-attack again. The added factor that the Gunners take on Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday raises more questions about their desire to win this match, but Arsenal have enough about them to book their place in the Group Stage with style and I like them to win this by at least two goals again.

Basel v Ludogorets Razgrad Pick: It was a highly entertaining game in Bulgaria last week, but Basel have put themselves in a commanding position for this second leg after securing a 2-4 win in the first leg.

That puts all the pressure on Ludogorets Razgrad who either have to win this game by at least three goals, or score at least four goals in a two goal win to give themselves any hope of reaching the Group Stage.

Everyone will be expecting goals in this second leg because the Bulgarian side have no real reason to build their way into the game- they have to attack and score goals... There is the possibility the game would slow down if they managed to go 0-2 up early in the game, but this looks like a match where Basel will look to hit Ludogorets on the counter and the away side will be pushing to score themselves.

An early goal will certainly help get the game going and I will back over 2.5 goals from this one.

West Ham United v Cheltenham Town Pick: There are plenty of League Cup games taking place on Tuesday evening, but as I said above, it is a minefield to try and second guess what teams managers will play and what desire they have for a long run in this competition.

The success of Swansea last season should inspire a few more of the middling Premier League clubs and I think West Ham United fit that bill- they have a squad that can be rotated effectively, they have a strong chance of finishing in mid-table to the top half in the Premier League and, given the right draw, could be a match for anyone in the English Leagues.

Sam Allardyce has taken Bolton Wanderers to the Final of the League Cup before so it is a competition he doesn't necessarily completely ignore- while the goal is to maintain Premier League status, West Ham could give the fans a little more especially with the positive start they have made to the new season.

They should be too strong for Cheltenham Town who have suffered a slight hangover from their Play Off loss last season, although they did grab their first League win of the season on Saturday. I expect West Ham to bring a strong team into this game and I like them to win this one by a couple of goals.

Queens Park Rangers v Swindon Town Pick: The only goal for Queens Park Rangers this season is to get back into the Premier League, but it seems Harry Redknapp will use the Capital One Cup to rotate some of his squad, but also to build momentum.

Redknapp named a strong team that went to Exeter City in the First Round and came away with a 0-2 win and I expect to keep that philosophy up in the Second Round. He has a number of striking options that will all think they can cash in against League One Swindon Town at Loftus Road, although the latter have only lost 1 of their last 4 games in all competitions.

Unfortunately for Swindon, they don't have the luxury of playing in front of their own supporters and they have lost 5 of their last 6 away from home, including both games this season.

If Redknapp plays a team similar to the one that started the First Round, I expect QPR to win this one with room to spare.

Zenit St Petersburg v Pacos de Ferreira Pick: I did not see Zenit St Petersburg coming away from Portugal with a 1-4 win last week, but Pacos de Ferreira were the surprise Champions League third entrant from Portugal and proved that.

Zenit's added experience means they have virtually secured their place in the Group Stage with the win last week and there is no pressure on them this week. I still expect the Russian side to book their place in the next stage with another win in this one though as all the form is pointing for them to do so.

They have been strong at home in European competition and don't concede many goals here- compare that to Pacos de Ferreira who have lost 4 games in a row in all competition and have failed to score in 3 of those games.

I do expect Zenit to play a solid game in this one and look to keep a clean sheet, but I also feel they will be able to score so backing them to win to nil is the call.

Aston Villa v Rotherham United Pick: Did anyone else see the number of surprise results from the Capital One Cup yesterday? There were some big comebacks that prevented Sunderland falling to a League One club, while Liverpool blew a 2-0 lead against Notts County before coming through in extra time.

Other League One clubs, notably Bristol City and Peterborough United, beat higher League opposition so all the warning signs are there for Aston Villa.

However, Villa have played well to start this season and should be focused having reached the Semi Final in the League Cup last season- they also have a free weekend having had their game with Chelsea moved so the complete focus can be put onto this game.

I expect a strong team to start for the home side and while Rotherham United have made a good start to life in League One, I expect Villa to be too strong for them in this one.

Stoke City v Walsall Pick: Mark Hughes will be looking to beat Walsall in the League Cup Second Round for the second year in succession- last season he managed Queens Park Rangers to a 3-0 win over Walsall and I expect he will use this competition to give his Stoke City team a little more momentum following their first League win of the season on Saturday.

Walsall won't be a pushover having lost just 2 of their last 21 games in all competition, but I am expecting home advantage to be the factor that gives Stoke a little more room for manoeuvre in this one.

Team news will be important for the home side, but I do think Hughes will play a team that helps Stoke to another win at the Brittania Stadium in the space of four days. Stoke usually pride themselves on strong defensive performances and I expect that will be a major goal of theirs in this game, so backing them to win to nil is my call. 

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Basel-Ludogorets Razgrad Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
West Ham United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Queens Park Rangers - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Zenit St Petersburg Win to Nil @ 2.25 Coral (1 Unit)
Aston Villa - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Stoke City Win to Nil @ 2.40 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

August Update10-15, + 0.22 Units (35 Units Staked, + 0.06% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

US Open Day 2 Picks 2013 (August 27th)

You have to take the rough with the smooth when you make picks regularly as I have for the blog, as there are going to be times when stretches of bad luck are around as well as times when everything seems to slot into place just as predicted.

For the first time, despite a number of close calls going the other way over the last month (players getting to match point and still losing, players covering spreads against me even though they lose the match outright when I am taking the games, not going against them, players reaching Finals and dominating matches but failing to take the title home, etc, etc), I did let out a sigh as I caught up with the results coming through.

Did Guillaume Rufin really have a 2-0 lead in sets, but proceed to lose the next two sets 62, 62, before winning the match 61 in the final set?

Did Nikolay Davydenko have the expected slump in a set, but this time the player that couldn't stop breaking the Juan Martin Del Potro serve and playing unbreakable tennis in that match goes through a period of losing 8 of 9 games and wins the match 3-2 in sets, not 3-1?

Did Fernando Verdasco recover from 0-2 down in sets, have all the momentum but then open up by losing 3 games in a row and fail to take three break back chances in game 7 and another in game 9?

Did Carlos Berlocq really lose a third set where he served for it at 53, and also was 62 up in the tie-break?

To say I have been frustrated on the opening day of this tournament is unfair- it is a month long period of annoying little things happening which have turned potentially very successful weeks into some disappointing ones and ruined what had looked like being a season to match last years success at the least. The results from Day 1 have left me behind the black ball, but it is early in the tournament and that crappy luck will surely have to turn if players continue getting into strong positions- surely they can't keep choking those positions away!!

I would love to know what the organisers of the US Open were doing when they decided to schedule a 'concert' at 7pm local time which delayed the tennis until 830pm... Serena Williams rattled through her match, but the expected rain that had been promised in the evening arrived and that meant Roger Federer couldn't get onto court and the match was delayed until Day 2.

For some reason, the layers have been incredibly lazy pricing up the matches which are to take place on Day 2, especially as they are all First Round matches that had been set last Friday. That means the picks will be posted here in the hours before Day 2 begins so check back then. Hopefully, there will have been some element of a change in fortunes for those picks that are made at that point.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Anna Tatishvili: There are times that Ana Ivanovic looks nothing like a top 20 player as she can lose confidence within matches and end up struggling, while surprise losses have hit her ever since winning her only Grand Slam at the French Open.

There are also times when Ivanovic plays like she should be a lot higher than her current World Ranking of 15 and I am looking for that kind of performance from her today in her First Round match against Anna Tatishvili.

Tatisvili has had a few really tight losses this summer during the hard court swing, but that has dropped her to 0-8 on this surface in 2013 and the hard courts are not her favoured surface despite reaching the Fourth Round here last season.

If Ivanovic can keep her focus, she should be a little too good for Tatishvili and I do think she can win this one 64, 62 as long as her serve isn't going through the struggles that it can sometimes.

Alize Cornet - 5.5 games v Maria Joao Koehler: Alize Cornet isn't a player that has had a lot of success on the hard courts, but she has had a productive summer which should bring a lot of confidence to the table for this First Round match.

Cornet should be able to get enough balls in play to expose errors from the Maria Joao Koehler game, although the latter should also be feeling good about her game after coming through three qualifying matches to make the main draw.

Koehler has played well on the hard courts outside of the main Tour so she is a capable player, but I expect the French player to be a little too strong although there will be plenty of breaks of serve in this one. Cornet should be able to take a tight first set before moving away from Koehler in this one.

Caroline Wozniacki - 6.5 games v Ying-Ying Duan: There are rumours that Caroline Wozniacki has broken up with long-term partner Rory McIlroy, but she played well enough in New Haven last week to think the Danish player is still in a decent place mentally for this Grand Slam tournament.

Wozniacki will start her tournament against the qualifier Ying-Ying Duan who hasn't had a lot of experience at this level, but who spends 95% of her time playing in hard court tournaments. Duan won't be used to playing someone like Wozniacki and the very strong defence she has on a tennis court and I expect that to make a big difference in the match.

This should be a fairly straight-forward win for Caroline Wozniacki and I do think we will see a set end either 61 or 62 in her favour which should set her up for the cover of this big spread.

Dominika Cibulkova - 4.5 games v Elina Svitolina: It has been a strong summer for Dominika Cibulkova with a big win in the tournament in Stanford, but she has lost three matches in a row coming into this final Grand Slam of the year.

The problem that has always existed for Cibulkova is her aggressive style has a small margin between success and failure- there are days when she can't hit anything inside the court and that leads to defeats, while on others she can be unplayable with power and precision leading to wins.

If the latter comes out in this First Round match, she should be too strong for an inexperienced Elina Svitolina who also won a tournament on the main Tour this summer as well as picking up a Challenger title. The tournament that Svitolina won in Baku wasn't the strongest, but it will have given her confidence, although I am not sure she can keep tabs with Cibulkova and the more experienced player should come through 64, 63.

Sam Stosur - 6.5 games v Victoria Duval: A former US Open Champion takes on a young home hope that has come through three qualifying matches in this First Round match.

Sam Stosur seems to really enjoy her time in New York and is comfortable in the surroundings and I think she will have just too much for Victoria Duval to deal with at this stage of her career.

Duval has pushed Jelena Jankovic in a match earlier this season, but she generally plays at a lower level than the main Tour competitors and there aren't many players that can replicate the serve that Sam Stosur brings to the table. I expect the Australian to use that weapon to form the basis on a winning run in this one and it will also put pressure on Duval to keep holding her own serve to keep tabs on Stosur.

It should be competitive, but if Stosur remains focused, a 63, 62 win could be on the cards.

Denis Istomin + 1.5 sets v Nicolas Almagro: One of the most up and down players on the Tour is Denis Istomin who fluctuates from giving the likes of Novak Djokovic all they can handle to struggling to win games against Brian Baker or Guillaume Rufin.

The hard courts should favour Istomin's game, but this is an incredibly tough First Round match against Nicolas Almagro, although the Spaniard has been having a poor season this year compared with his most recent performances.

A best of five set should help Almagro who can play some sloppy sets, but Istomin is also capable of going through runs of unplayable tennis. I am going to have a small interest that Istomin wins at least two sets in the match, although I do have concerns with the way Istomin can suddenly playing some very poor tennis and Almagro is certainly someone not to take lightly.

Benjamin Becker - 1.5 sets v Lukas Rosol: Both of these players are erratic and I can trust neither with real conviction to play as I expect them to.

Benjamin Becker had his best moment on Tour at the US Open as he beat Andre Agassi in what was the American's last match on the Tour. He has a game that should work well on the hard courts, but Becker is erratic and can play some very poor tennis at times.

In saying that, he is going up against a player that has struggled this whole season to keep his consistency at a decent level- he has won a tournament on the clay courts, but Rosol has lost 8 matches in a row coming into the First Round match and he is just 8-14 on the hard courts in the last two seasons.

I saw Becker dominate the match he played against Rosol at Queens in June and I think he is good enough to win either in three or four sets.

Florian Mayer v Juan Monaco: I am having a small interest in the underdog to win this match as I had Florian Mayer as the favourite before I saw the prices on this match.

Mayer has the stronger head to head record, although Juan Monaco did beat the German in four sets in a Davis Cup tie on the clay courts, but the hard courts should favour Mayer a little more.

Monaco is just 2-5 on the hard courts this season and was beaten in the First Round at the Australian Open and at the US Open last season, although I will admit that Mayer can be very erratic with his play as he doesn't have a dominant shot to turn to when he is playing critical points.

I am guessing there will be a lot of breaks of serve in the match, but Mayer might just prove to be too good at the critical times and come through.

Steve Johnson - 1.5 sets v Tobias Kamke: The final pick from Day 2 will be taking a small interest in Steve Johnson to beat Tobias Kamke in either three or four sets.

The American had a solid week in Winston Salem last week, but Johnson hasn't found the consistency to really make a splash on the main Tour just yet. However, he is playing an opponent that can look flashy at times, but one who will also likely go through periods of making a number of unforced errors.

Tobias Kamke has a winning record on the hard courts so far, but his serve is not the strongest and he will give Johnson a chance to find breaks in those games and I just think he might not like the atmosphere on the court as his opponent will get a lot of support. Johnson did reach the Third Round here last season, but he can be erratic and that is why I can only have a small interest at best.

MY PICKS: Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alize Cornet - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 6.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denis Istomin + 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Benjamin Becker - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Florian Mayer @ 2.25 Stan James (1 Unit)
Steve Johnson - 1.5 Sets @ 2.30 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Carlos Berlocq @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit) To be Completed 63, 36, 67, 12
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units) Recommended Yesterday but Rain Delayed

US Open Update: 1-5, - 5.2 Units (9 Units Staked, - 57.78& Yield)