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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 29th)

This has usually been the time of the season where Rafael Nadal racks up the points that helps him sit high in the World Rankings, but there have been a couple of upsets before the big month of May.

With two Masters in Madrid and Rome, and also the Grand Slam event at Roland Garros, Nadal's position as a strong favourite must have loosened with his defeats over the last couple of weeks. The defeat to David Ferrer was disappointing, but you could chalk that up to a bad day in the office, but then being defeated by Nicolas Almagro in Barcelona was a huge shock.

Nadal may have reached the Final in Miami and won a tournament during the South American Golden Swing in February, but I don't think it is too far fetched to think he hasn't been the same since his back injury cost him the Australian Open Final.

Of course it is too early to consider Nadal anything but the favourite to win the next three clay court tournaments, but the draw is going to be that much more important as he may be vulnerable to a surprise result.

If that is the case, who is the most likely player to take advantage of that and win the next Grand Slam tournament? In past years, Novak Djokovic looked the most likely and perhaps should have won the event last season, but his wrist injury has to be a concern for his backers.

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are likely next in the market leaders and both Swiss players will feel they can perhaps add to their own Grand Slam successes after contesting the Final in Monte Carlo. Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray both are vulnerable on the clay courts, while David Ferrer has to grind through too many matches to think he could beat two or three of the big names to win his maiden Grand Slam title.

The one thing the Nadal losses have done is make the French Open as intriguing as it has been for a number of years in terms of contenders for the title there.

There are a couple of tournaments being played this week but there was too much uncertainty for me to make outright picks when I am not comfortable that every player has the right motivation. In Portugal, the top two seeds, Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, should go close, but both have lost silly matches on the clay courts and I couldn't trust either.

In Munich, Tommy Haas was one of the leading contenders, but there are doubts about his right shoulder, while other players might be focusing on having to play the qualifiers for the Masters tournament in Madrid next week.

Let's face facts- the next month is the important time for most of the top players on the Tour with the two Masters events back to back and then a short rest before the French Open begins. Therefore, this week may see some more strange results as has been the case during the clay court season to this point.

Feliciano Lopez v Jan-Lennard Struff: Feliciano Lopez has not had the best start to his clay court season with a retirement and an early surprising loss to his name and he could have his hands full against Jan-Lennard Struff who had to come through qualifiers.

That should give Struff confidence in front of a crowd that will offer him plenty of support, but he hasn't really progresses on the Tour as he may have expected, although he certainly has the tools to win as the underdog in this First Round match.

However, I believe Lopez can put some pressure on the German if he is serving well and he does seem to use the scoreboard to build the pressure to the point that Struff could end up snapping.

The concern comes from the recent Lopez form and the retirement, but I think he is being given a generous price to win this one.

Thomaz Bellucci v Ivan Dodig: Another qualifier in Munich will play his First Round match on Tuesday, but this time I am backing Thomaz Bellucci to find a win against Ivan Dodig.

The clay courts are definitely favoured more by Bellucci than the are by Dodig whose serve and attacking the net game are better suited to the faster surfaces.

It has been a fall from the upper reaches of the men's game for Bellucci who has suffered from a loss of form and injuries, but coming through three qualifiers should inspire him to look for more from the tournament.

Bellucci is expected to be in the qualifiers for the Madrid Masters next week which is a distraction, but he has the better clay court pedigree of these two players and I expect he can find a win in the match, even if it takes three sets.

Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 2.5 games v Alejandro Gonzalez: Daniel Gimeno-Traver is at his most comfortable on the clay courts, but he is not normally a player that I would like backing as his serve can be a real weakness. I especially don't like backing him as a favourite because of that initial issue, but he has won three qualifiers here and I expect that to give the Spaniard the confidence to beat Alejandro Gonzalez.

Gonzalez hasn't played since Houston and he hasn't really been able to take the form he has shown in the level below the main ATP Tour into tournaments like this.

However, he will also have some confidence in facing a player like Gimeno-Traver who is at the level that Gonzalez would see more often. The problem is that I still think there is too much experience and clay court nous and that will help Gimeno-Traver come through with a 75, 64 win.

Santiago Giraldo v Albert Montanes: I will never forget the way Santiago Giraldo announced himself at the main Tour level with a crushing of Juan Carlos Ferrero a few years ago, but he has never really hit those heights since.

However, Giraldo may point to a couple of strong tournaments over the last three weeks to show the confidence he is in and I like his chances to beat Albert Montanes as long as last week in Barcelona hasn't taken too much out of the Colombian.

Giraldo reached the Final last week before finding Kei Nishikori far too strong, but Montanes is not as good as the Japanese star and I expect it could be a tough day for him. Montanes has had a few surprising results, but the veteran is wearing down and he has struggled against Giraldo.

They have met five times previously and it is the Colombian who has won four times, including twice earlier this season. That includes a win on the clay courts and I am surprised he has been picked as the underdog in this one unless Barcelona has taken its toll. Still, I have to back him at odds against to beat the veteran and move through to the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Thomaz Bellucci @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Daniel Gimeno-Traver - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Picks Final4-4, + 0.10 Units (16 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.11 Units (561 Units Staked, + 6.44% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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