Featured post

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

French Open Day 7 Picks 2014 (May 31st)

I had been wondering whether there was going to be some bad luck heading my way after some close calls already this week and it turned out that Friday was going to be that day. Two more outright picks exited the tournament, while the picks made on Friday couldn't produce enough winners.

The second I saw Tommy Robredo had lost the first two sets despite winning five points more than John Isner, I had a feeling that this wasn't going to be a great day and that was the way it turned out. Jerzy Janowicz was a break up in sets two and three and couldn't win either, Roger Federer had numerous chances to break serve against an inspired Dmitry Tursunov.

Any of those players doing what they had the chance to do would have resulted in another winning day, but instead the week's work has been ruined and I rue the Andy Murray miss from earlier in the week that much more.

In saying that, I also feel there will be a day when things all fall into place and I am hoping that will turn around a tournament that has been very successful over the last three seasons. I still also believe in Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep, although both still have to negotiate Third Round matches on Saturday.

David Ferrer - 8.5 games v Andreas Seppi: When I first looked at the number of games on this spread, I was perhaps surprised considering how well Andreas Seppi played in his Second Round win over Juan Monaco. However, Seppi is going to be worked very hard by David Ferrer and I was less surprised that the latter had won all six previous matches between the pair.

Ferrer has won every set they have competed and Seppi has only managed to reach at least four games in two of the twelve sets they have played. His serve won't provide as many easy points as Seppi would likely need in a match like this and that is where Ferrer's consistency, speed around the court and ability to construct effective points helps him dominate the matches.

I have been impressed with the two wins Seppi has secured at Roland Garros to reach the Third Round, but I think he is going to be given a real working over in this match and Ferrer is likely to win one set very easily.

If Ferrer can do that, I see him powering his way to a 63, 64, 62 win and a place in the Fourth Round.

Kevin Anderson - 1.5 sets v Ivo Karlovic: Another player that has had an impressive week so far is Ivo Karlovic who has backed up his Final appearance in Dusseldorf with a surprise win over Grigor Dimitrov and then came through the Second Round very easily.

Karlovic has a big serve and gets to the net to pressure opponents, but the clay courts are not really the best ones for his game and I think he will find it tough to beat Kevin Anderson who has shown more form on the surface in the past.

The big South African did reach the Fourth Round last season and it has taken better clay court players than Karlovic to beat Anderson on the clay this season.

The serve of Karlovic gives him a chance to take at least a set, but I think Anderson puts enough pressure on him with his own serve and forces the win without needing to go to a final set.

Fabio Fognini v Gael Monfils: The Third Round match that could provide the most entertainment for the watching crowds on Saturday could be between the home favourite Gael Monfils and the flamboyant Fabio Fognini.

Both players like hitting flashy shots and both are very adept at playing on the clay courts and this has the hallmarks of a five set classic, although I have a feeling the home crowd may end up disappointed.

Fognini has form- he beat Monfils from two sets down here four years ago, while the Italian has been the better player in the last two matches they have had against one another including on the clay courts of Umag last summer.

These two players are both exuberant on the court, but that can lead to erratic periods of play, but I think the edge may just land on the side of the Italian considering his recent success against Monfils. There should be a lot of breaks of serve and some great tennis to watch when they meet, but Fognini could just prevail in five sets.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez v Donald Young Over 35.5 Games: Donald Young may have surprised pretty much everyone who watches the tennis Tour on a regularly basis as he moved through two Rounds in Paris. Young has been telling the media it is the first time he has won one match on the European red clay, but he was even more impressive in seeing of Feliciano Lopez and will be full of confidence as he looks to make good on the potential he showed as a youngster.

He gets another real test in the form of Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who has beaten Stan Wawrinka already in the tournament and who won a title in Casablanca during this portion of the clay court season. The experience could be vital in making the difference in the match as well as the comfort of playing on a clay court but it is unlikely to be straight-forward.

That is because Garcia-Lopez has a serve that is vulnerable to being attacked and he may drop at least one set even in a winning performance. Young has shown enough in the last two matches to get to the Third Round that he can play well enough on the clay to win a set, but also has the confidence to perhaps get more and I would be surprised if this match is a straight sets victory for either player.

With that in mind, I think there is every chance the total games is surpassed as long as the match remains as competitive as I feel it should be.

Fernando Verdasco v Richard Gasquet: Richard Gasquet has come through the first two Rounds in Roland Garros in straight sets, but he has admitted that his back is still bothering him and that he wouldn't have played if this wasn't his home Grand Slam.

Wins over Bernard Tomic and Carlos Berlocq, especially the latter, have been impressive, but Gasquet is going to be tested much more by Fernando Verdasco who has come from two sets down to remain in the tournament.

Verdasco is comfortable on the clay courts and has a big game that could really pressure Gasquet, although the Spaniard may want to be a little more patience before pulling the trigger on his shots knowing his opponent is not feeling the best. He also has won three of the last four matches against Gasquet on the clay courts and Verdasco has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes that can stretch out the Frenchman.

I would have favoured Verdasco if both players were at full health as the underdog and I will back him at Ladbrokes who pay out once the match starts, even in the case of an early retirement from a clearly injured Gasquet.

Petra Kvitova v Svetlana Kuznetsova: Another player that I want to back in her role as the underdog is Petra Kvitova in this Third Round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, even if the latter has the better clay court pedigree of the two players.

To this point, Kvitova's power has proved to be the difference in three tight matches between the pair, all of which have been won by the Czech player who may feel she can have a real impact in a Grand Slam that is missing the top three Seeds thanks to early defeats.

I respect Kuznetsova as a former French Open winner and she has won a couple of matches here comfortably to reach the Third Round, but I also believe she is a little more erratic these days and may struggle to match the power that comes from the other end of the court.

It wouldn't be the biggest surprise if this match has to go three sets to provide a winner, but it is one that I believe Kvitova can come through as the dog.

Sloane Stephens - 1.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: Both of these players may not consider the clay courts as they favourite surface, but both Sloane Stephens and Ekaterina Makarova are yet to drop a set at the French Open.

Both have had success at Slam level in the past, although their best results have been on the hard courts of Melbourne Park and I think the edge goes to Stephens in she has shown more form on the clay courts compared with Makarova.

The American reached the Fourth Round here last season and beat Makarova in two tight sets back in 2012 in Paris too. It might come down to which of these players take their chances the best in the match to separate them, but I think Stephens loves the Slams and has played better on the clay courts over the last two years so will back her to come through to the Fourth Round again.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 8.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez v Donald Young Over 35.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 1.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

French Open Update: 14-14, + 0.50 Units (53 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Friday, 30 May 2014

French Open Day 6 Picks 2014 (May 30th)

Thursday proved to be a straight-forward day for the majority of the seeds that had to complete their Second Round matches and that made a change from three straight days of major shocks in both men's and women's events.

The same couldn't be said for the picks I made on Thursday as a mixed set of results led to a small profit, although that does mean winning ends to every day of the tournament to this point. However, there hasn't been a really big day so far and I am bound to have a day when things don't go right so I am hoping that anything like that doesn't remove the success made to this point.

With Na Li and Serena Williams both exiting the tournament, it was better news for the outright picks with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep winning on Thursday, but both have a long way to go before they can get to the winner's enclosure.

The Third Round of the tournament will get underway on Friday as Paris has avoided some of the poor weather that had been expected at the start of the week. It is expected to warm up in the coming days which will suit Rafael Nadal and also make someone like Roger Federer that much more dangerous in the bottom half of the draw.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Dmitry Tursunov: These two players met on the hard courts in Indian Wells earlier this season and it needed two tie-breaks for Roger Federer to extend his record to four wins and zero losses against Dmitry Tursunov. On that occasion, Federer should have perhaps had an easier day in the office after having some success against the Tursunov serve without quite getting to the point of breaking, and I believe the clay courts will suit him even more.

There is no doubt that Tursunov has to be in decent nick having reached the Third Round here, but I also know that the next few months is when the Russian will feel much more comfortable as we get onto the grass and North American hard courts.

Tursunov doesn't have the patience to really compete on the clay and the damper conditions may make it that much harder for the Russian to look after serve against Federer in this match.

It has to be said that Federer wasn't at his best in his Second Round win, but a lot of credit has to be given to Diego Schwartzman for the performance he provided and I think Federer will be able to work through a 63, 64, 63 win.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: Over the last eighteen months, Tomas Berdych and Roberto Bautista-Agut have met three times and I am a little surprised that the latter has the winning record with two wins.

The Spaniard has the consistency that many of the better players that nation produces are capable of, but he is also one of the better defenders and that can frustrate Berdych and force errors. Bautista-Agut has a decent serve too which makes it that much harder for Berdych to fight back when he goes behind, and this is certainly going to be one of the more interesting Third Round matches on show.

Berdych will have the edge when it comes to serving and general play, but he has to keep himself in the match mentally which is something that he can struggle with. Someone has to tell Berdych that Bautista-Agut will look to frustrate by getting as many balls back in play and will likely make a few fabulous returns, but the Czech player will still prove too good if he can remain focused and not give up too many unforced errors.

You would think the previous experience of facing Bautista-Agut will help prepare Berdych and I think he comes through in four sets.

Tommy Robredo win 3-1 v John Isner: Another player that will likely have to keep his mind in the match mentally is Tommy Robredo against the big-serving John Isner who can keep himself in any contest when delivering his huge serve.

Even on the clay courts, Isner has shown his ability to take on the very best and no one will forget his five set match with Rafael Nadal here when the American held a 2-0 lead in sets. With a win over Roger Federer on a clay court in Switzerland, Isner will be confident he can spring what would be a surprise Third Round win, but I think Tommy Robredo is playing well and may have the experience to find a way through.

The danger for Robredo is pushing too much on his own serve and make too many mistakes which could give Isner a chance to win the match. However, I think Robredo can also make enough returns to bother Isner on a slightly slower court thanks to the conditions and I think the Spaniard may come through in four close sets.

Jerzy Janowicz + 5.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: After the success of the 2013 season, Jerzy Janowicz was looking for another leap up the Rankings and move into the top 10, but it hasn't been a good season to this point.

Janowicz did at least snap a nine match losing run with his back to back wins so far in this tournament and, despite the obviously diminished confidence, I can see him giving Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a few things to think about on Friday.

That is mainly because Tsonga isn't the best returner on the Tour and has to deal with a huge first serve that Janowicz does possess, while the Pole loves getting to the net and playing drop shots to pressure his opponent.

With that serve behind him, I can see Janowicz exerting enough pressure to win a set in this match, although I am not convinced he will do enough to beat the Frenchman. Tie-breaks could also be a factor and all in all, the games being given to Janowicz look a little too many to ignore.

Sam Stosur - 3.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: One of the dark horses to win the women's title at Roland Garros after the exits of Na Li and Serena Williams has to be former Finalist Sam Stosur who has impressively dismissed her first two opponents. On paper, the challenge of Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open Runner Up from January, looks far greater than what Stosur has faced, but there will be a real sense of confidence in the Australian's camp.

Stosur has dominated the head to head with Cibulkova and beat her fairly comfortably in Madrid three weeks ago and I believe she can frank that form again. As well as Cibulkova did to reach the Australian Open Final, she hasn't played that well during this clay court season nor did she really pull up trees last year.

The serve of Stosur should set up the easier points of the two and I think she is playing well enough and with enough confidence to earn another win over the diminutive Slovakian in this Third Round match.

The competitiveness of Cibulkova means she is likely to make this a very tight match and create chances, but I think she may just struggle to stay with Stosur in a 64, 64 loss.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 games v Ajla Tomljanovic: This should be a good match up for Agnieszka Radwanska against an opponent who has just struggled to take her form onto the main Tour despite looking too good for the level below.

Ajla Tomljanovic has had some good performances, most notably in taking Sloane Stephens to three sets at the Australian Open, but someone like Radwanska can expose the relative lack of consistency and has the habit of comfortably disposing of players far below her in the Rankings.

The real concern with a spread like this is the poor serve that Radwanska possesses and the chances she is likely to offer Tomljanovic in those games, but I also feel she will put plenty of pressure on her younger opponent.

I would expect Radwanska to earn enough unforced errors to win this match 64, 62 when it is all said and done and move through to the Fourth Round and the second week of the tournament.

Eugenie Bouchard - 5.5 games v Johanna Larsson: A run to the Australian Open Semi Final earlier this season open the eyes of the public to the talent of  Eugenie Bouchard and her win in Nurnberg prior to the French Open may just give her the momentum for another strong Grand Slam showing.

Bouchard has the power and the talent to beat Johanna Larsson in this Third Round match despite the Swede favouring the clay courts, and I think we will see a more complete performance than the Second Round win over Julia Goerges showed.

I do respect that Larsson got to the Final of Bastad on the clay last year, but she has struggled to put together wins this season and her back to back surprise wins in Paris are unlikely to be followed by a third.

The first set should be competitive at least, but I expect Bouchard to have too much consistency as the match continues and eventually come through 75, 62.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 2.30 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo Win 3-1 @ 4.33 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Jerzy Janowicz + 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

French Open Update: 12-9, + 5.30 Units (40 Units Staked, + 13.25% Yield)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

French Open Day 5 Picks 2014 (May 29th)

It was yet another day of surprise results in the women's tournament with Serena Williams exiting at the hands of Garbine Muguruza which means for the first time in the Open era, the two top seeds have failed to make it to at least the Third Round.

As well as Muguruza played, it was a tepid display from Serena and once again there have to be questions about the relative lack of success that Williams has had in the Grand Slams considering her overall dominance of the women's game over the last couple of years.

Too many surprising defeats have prevented her adding to her Grand Slam haul and Muguruza joins the likes of Virginie Razzano, Sloane Stephens, Ana Ivanovic and Sabine Lisicki who have beaten Williams in surprising circumstances in the Slams.

The exit of the top two market leaders in the women's draw has opened up the entire tournament, especially for someone like Maria Sharapova who may be the biggest beneficiary of Williams' exit. However, the tournament could also crown a new Grand Slam Champion with both Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic dangerous players in the second half of the draw, although both still have to get through some tough matches to reach the Final.

Juan Monaco - 1.5 sets v Andreas Seppi: This looks a classic clay court match between two players that are very comfortable on the surface and likely would consider the Grand Slam as the Major in which they can achieve their best results.

Juan Monaco has had his best results in the Grand Slams here in Paris and has shown some signs of form over the last couple of weeks while also coming through his First Round comfortably. He has to work hard for his points, but is able to construct points on the clay courts and also use his speed around the court to extend rallies from the back of the court.

He won't have an easy time against Andreas Seppi who came through against Santiago Giraldo in a surprising First Round win. The Italian has a similar style to Monaco in having to work his groundstrokes around after a serve that isn't going to earn too many cheap points and I can see a few breaks of serve each way during the match.

However, I feel Monaco is a little more consistent and a little more solid on the clay courts and comes through in three or four sets.

Richard Gasquet - 3.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: Richard Gasquet was an easy winner in the First Round against the out of form Bernard Tomic, but he did admit that he was still having a few issues with his back that has forced him out of the clay court season over the last two months.

He has also explained to the media that he will do his best at the French Open with this being his home Grand Slam and he did reach the Fourth Round last season, but it should be a much bigger testy for Gasquet in the Second Round against Carlos Berlocq.

The Argentinian seems to get under his opponent's skin with his loud grunting during points, and he has plenty of experience on the clay courts with two titles on the surface over the last nine months. Berlocq will battle hard and give Gasquet plenty to think about, but his serve can be vulnerable and the higher Ranked player would be expected to progress in full health.

The back injury is a concern, but I still believe Gasquet finds a way to come through and win this one in four sets.

Fernando Verdasco win 3-1 v Pablo Cuevas: Over the last couple of seasons, Pablo Cuevas has missed a lot of time on the Tour, but he remains a solid clay court competitor who should be able to give Fernando Verdasco some things to think about in this Second Round match.

Both players came through the First Round in straight sets although Verdasco needed two tie-breakers to see off Michael Llodra and I do think this will be a competitive match for much of the time they spend on court.

However, you have to think the added power on the Verdasco side of the court can end up making the difference in the match, although the Spaniard can be guilty of losing his concentration at times. With that in mind, Cuevas has played well enough on the clay courts to think he can take advantage and at least take on set in the match, although probably not have enough to win more than that and I do think Verdasco moves through in four sets.

Camila Giorgi + 4.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: She may now be considered a veteran of the WTA Tour, but Svetlana Kuznetsova remains a dangerous competitor when she brings her best tennis to the court. With both Na Li and Serena Williams out of the tournament, the former French Open winner may just feel she can have another deep run at Roland Garros, especially if she can negotiate a tough Second Round draw.

Kuznetsova cruised through the First Round, but Camila Giorgi has the youth and power that could potentially cause a lot of problems and I certainly feel the Italian will take to the court with plenty of belief.

She has a decent serve that could set up a few easy points, while Giorgi has the power to make Kuznetsova move around the court, although that is still a strength of the latter, and that has surprised me with the number of games being handed to Giorgi in this one.

I still believe Kuznetsova is most likely to move through, but it may take three tight sets to get the job done.

Sloane Stephens v Polona Hercog: I know of at least one other person on my Twitter timeline that was perhaps surprised with the price that the layers have for this match which is essentially a pick 'em and I believe that might be a little too long for the American Sloane Stephens to win the match.

My reasoning for the prices is simply Stephens' poor form for much of the 2014 season and the clay courts being her least favoured surface, while Polona Hercog can at least point to the success she has had on the surface.

On talent alone, Stephens would be the justifiable favourite, but she can blow hot and cold and struggles to cope mentally at time with what she is seeing on the court. However, Hercog may help her through those moments with her own lapses of concentration and patches of making too many errors.

The power is on Stephens side of the court too and I think she will make it through to the Fourth Round if she harnesses that and tries to stay in the moment mentally rather than getting too down on herself in her moments of crisis on the court. Either way, Stephens looks too big here and I will back the American to come through, although possibly in three tough sets.

Petra Kvitova - 5.5 games v Marina Erakovic: Backing Petra Kvitova to cover spreads of more than a couple of games has been hard work over the last twelve months simply because of the amounts of times she has been forced into three sets.

Kvitova has struggled for the consistency that took her to the Wimbledon title and is far more erratic these days which can even turn up from set to set and not match to match as it can for other inconsistent players. She did come through the First Round match relatively comfortably and I think the match up does favour her against Marina Erakovic, especially on a clay court.

The latter also came through fairly comfortably in the First Round, but Erakovic hasn't shown a lot of positive form on the clay courts during this portion of the season and she has taken some heavy losses in that time. The New Zealander hits the ball hard and has a decent first serve, but she may struggle to match the power that Kvitova brings to the court with any consistency.

That isn't to say Kvitova is going to consistently hit winners either, but I think a tight first set may lead to a more comfortable second set which results in the match being won 64, 62 by the Czech player.

MY PICKS: Juan Monaco - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Bodog (1 Unit)
Camila Giorgi + 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 9-6, + 4.80 Units (29 Units Staked, + 16.55% Yield)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

French Open Day 4 Picks 2014 (May 28th)

The day started off in decent fashion on Wednesday, but by the end only frustration had set in for myself despite picking up another positive return. That was because one of my outright picks was beaten in a surprising First Round result, although I still have a few running that can be read here.

Na Li's defeat in the First Round meant both Australian Open Grand Slam winners have exited without winning a match at Roland Garros, which would have returned at 87-1 if you had backed both opponents before a ball had been hit in anger.

Li followed Stanislas Wawrinka out of Paris and both had similar reasonings behind their defeats, namely not being able to mentally perform in the second Grand Slam of the year after winning at Melbourne Park. Neither will have much time to find the right formula before the third Slam begins at Wimbledon in a little under a month from now and both Li and Wawrinka will have plenty of soul searching to do to find the reason for their poor exits here.

My mood wasn't helped by a sloppy third set from Andy Murray who was leading Andrey Golubev 61, 64, *10 before deciding he doesn't know how to hold serve and thus winning the match in four sets and missing the cover of the spread by one game.

Dustin Brown looked to be on his way to at least forcing a fifth set against Marinko Matosevic when leading 52 and holding a double break in the fourth set, but then he managed to lose five straight games in a row to exit the tournament.

As I said, the two earlier picks both won to ensure a profit for the day, but I can't help feeling this tournament owes me a little luck, especially in the manner Murray failed to earn a third winning pick of the day.

On Wednesday, the tournament will take on a more regular shape as we will have one half of the Second Round matches scheduled for the courts, unlike the staggered First Round matches that are played over three days. There will be plenty of big names taking to the court on Wednesday in both men's and women's draws and hopefully the day will end with some good profits to show.

Ernests Gulbis - 7.5 games v Facundo Bagnis: One match that would have caught the eye in the First Round would have been Facundo Bagnis' win over Julien Benneteau which ended 18-16 in the fifth set for the young Argentine.

After coming through the qualifiers, it will be interesting to see how much energy Bagnis put into the first match, more mental rather than physical considering the first four sets were relatively quick sets. He will also be challenged by Ernests Gulbis who won the title in Nice last week and is someone that could have his best Grand Slam since reaching the Quarter Final here.

Gulbis came through a tough First Round match against Lukasz Kubot, but he improved after losing the first set and seemed to get stronger and stronger as the match developed. The Latvian has played with more consistency over the last few months than perhaps ever in his career and he has shown enough in his returning game to force a couple of breaks of serve in single sets on his way to winning them.

The clay courts should give Bagnis a chance, but I think he may struggle to keep his mind in the match if he falls a set and a break down and I would think Gulbis moves through with a 64, 63, 63 win.

Novak Djokovic - 9.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: Novak Djokovic showed why he is the favourite to the win the French Open with a comfortable First Round win, but things are going to get tougher for him over the next few days with the potential opponents he could be facing, starting with Jeremy Chardy.

However, Djokovic has won all eight previous matches against Chardy, including some thumping wins in the Grand Slams, and I think his return of serve is going to pressure the Frenchman to cracking point in this Second Round encounter.

As impressive as Chardy was in beating Roger Federer in Rome, his serve can be vulnerable and that is shown by the fact he lost the first set against Federer 61, while he also won just three games in a loss to David Ferrer on the clay courts earlier this season.

Djokovic has won 7 of his last 12 sets against Chardy with either a 62 or better scoreline and I think he will put in a performance that will have everyone sit up and take notice of his credentials to add the French Open to his Grand Slam haul.

Roger Federer - 9.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: There were some doubts about Roger Federer and his ambitions in Roland Garros after a poor showing in Rome following his second venture into fatherdom. However, his First Round impressive win showed that Federer comes to Paris with business firmly in the mind and I think Federer will prove too good for Diego Sebastian Schwartzman.

It has already been a good week for the 21 year old Argentine who will feel very comfortable on the clay courts in Paris having won four matches here already.

The problem for Schwartzman is that he has to work hard for every point that he is going to earn and he doesn't really have the power that would worry someone as good as Federer. That proved to be the case when he was dismissed by Rafael Nadal on the clay courts last season for the loss of four games in Acapulco and I believe Federer ends up with a similar scoreline to the one he achieved in the First Round and a comfortable place in the Third Round.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 games v Jurgen Melzer: This is the kind of match that could pose problems for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, especially if Jurgen Melzer brings his 'A' game into it.

The problem for Melzer fans is seeing that part of the Austrian's game comes ever more rarely these days, although there is a chance he can be inspired in front of a passionate crowd that will be firmly behind Tsonga.

The Frenchman has certainly enjoyed playing in Paris at Roland Garros in the last couple of years and uses the crowd to really get himself involved in matches. He had to struggle through the First Round in the early stages, but Tsonga managed to get stronger as the match with Edouard Roger-Vasselin moved forward and he ran away with his place in the Second Round.

Something similar could happen here against Melzer, a player Tsonga has beaten comfortably three times before and I will look for him to pull away with a 75, 64, 63 win.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Anna Schmiedlova: A win for Venus Williams in this Second Round match would likely lead to a Third Round clash with younger sister Serena and I think that is what we are going to get on Friday.

First, I expect Venus Williams to prove a little too strong for Anna Schmiedlova who has enjoyed plenty of success on the clay courts this season, but mostly on the level below the main Tour. In fact, the Slovakian hadn't win a main Tour match on the clay since the First Round of the French Open in 2013 and had been beaten comfortably in her first two main Tour matches on the surface this season.

Her win over Jie Zheng is a good one, although Zheng is hardly a clay court specialist, but that might give Schmiedlova some confidence considering Venus Williams isn't known for her own clay court performances over the last few seasons.

However, if Williams serves as well as she can, she should put too much pressure on Schmiedlova and come through with a 64, 63 win.

Daniela Hantuchova v Claire Feuerstein: Daniela Hantuchova is still hanging around in the top 32 of the World Rankings, but she is definitely in the twilight of her career although I was surprised that she is being priced as big as she is in this Second Round match.

The clay courts are not the favoured surface for Hantuchova, but she has had a decent last few weeks compared with the last couple of years and generally plays at a higher level than Claire Feuerstein.

The Frenchwoman will receive the support of the crowd, but has failed to really take her tennis to the main Tour regularly and has never been past the Second Round at Roland Garros despite being given Wild Cards to the event.

Hantuchova is still good enough to play tennis at a level that will be hard for Feuerstein to keep up with and I like her to come through this Second Round match.

Alize Cornet - 5.5 games v Taylor Townsend: Taylor Townsend is one of the players that the Americans will be hoping can reinvigorate their tennis and the 18 year old has won 11 matches in a row coming into this Second Round match.

However, like many of the North American players, the European clay courts may take some getting used to for Townsend and she is going up against Alize Cornet who is very adept at playing in front of her own home crowd.

Last season, Cornet took Victoria Azarenka to three sets in the Third Round in Paris and she will have the knowledge and experience to work Townsend around.

That could be key because for all of the power and decent groundies that Townsend can hit, her movement is perhaps still too much a weakness for the clay courts and I expect Cornet to move through with a 64, 62 win once she begins to understand her young opponent's game.

Sam Stosur - 5.5 games v Yvonne Meusburger: There were some impressive performances from the players that produced the biggest surprise results of the First Round, but Sam Stosur's dismissal of Monica Puig was right up there in terms of top quality wins.

The Australian is a former Finalist in Roland Garros despite the feeling that the clay courts are not the best for the type of tennis Stosur produces and she can move through to the Third Round without too many issues too.

Yvonne Meusburger had to come from a set behind to win her own First Round match and that also snapped a five match losing run on the clay courts for the Austrian. She can certainly play on the clay courts and cause Stosur some problems, but I think the power advantage comes from the Stosur side of the net and that may prove to be the difference.

The first set should be tight, but I expect Stosur to then pull away and win this match 75, 62.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 9.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 9.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Daniela Hantuchova @ 1.73 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alize Cornet - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)

French Open Update: 4-3, + 1.64 Units (13 Units Staked, + 12.62% Yield)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

French Open Day 3 Picks 2014 (May 27th)

I had been waiting for a real big surprising result at the French Open for most of the first two days, but it came down to the Number 3 Seed in the men's draw to provide the first big moment in the tournament.

Stan Wawrinka looked to have a decent draw, albeit with an opponent in the First Round that could have tested him, but the Australian Open Champion was far below his average form and crumbled out of the event in four sets. The rash of unforced errors in the match which surpassed 60 in number was too much for the Swiss Number 1 to overcome and it is by far and away the biggest result in either men's or women's event so far.

Kei Nishikori also exited the event, which may have been a surprise if taking his title win in Barcelona and Runner Up spot in Madrid in isolation, but the injury suffered in the latter of those tournaments made him a vulnerable Seed here.

You can still read my outright picks and preview of both men's and women's tournament here.

The First Round matches are scheduled to be completed on Tuesday as long as the weather forecast holds out for the majority of the day as expected. A lot of the matches look difficult to call so I have made just the four picks from the play scheduled and will be looking to improve on a Monday that proved profitable.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 7.5 games v Pere Riba: After winning the tournament in Dusseldorf on Saturday, Philipp Kohlschreiber has had the benefit of the schedule in not starting his French Open campaign until Tuesday and that should have him ready for this First Round match.

It hasn't been the best of clay court campaigns for Kohlschreiber over the last couple of months, although the title win last week will have boosted the confidence.

I also think he has a decent beginning to the tournament against Pere Riba- while the Spaniard favours the clay courts, Riba has a very comfortable game to play against and I expect Kohlschreiber to have a little too much power and consistency for Riba to deal with.

My concern is the lack of concentration that Kohlschreiber can have at times, even when he seemingly has a match in control, which may lead to a silly dropped set. However, Riba will be presenting plenty of chances for the German to break serve I feel and I like Kohlschreiber to move through with a 63, 63, 64 win.

Andy Murray - 7.5 games v Andrey Golubev: The exit of Stanislas Wawrinka may just have opened the door for Andy Murray to make his way back to the French Open Semi Final, although the clay is certainly his weakest surface.

I still would expect him to be far too good for Andrey Golubev who has a decent serve, but who struggles with the consistency off the ground when playing on the main Tour. Those inconsistencies should be highlighted by someone like Andy Murray who can force Golubev to play one more shot and will also make sure he forces his opponent to earn his points.

With the damp conditions around Roland Garros, Golubev may find it that much harder to hit through Murray and I would expect the Brit to come through fairly handily when it is all said and done.

Dustin Brown v Marinko Matosevic: He is claiming to be a little more patient on a tennis court these days, but Dustin Brown's game will unlikely make drastic changes from the power and high risk tennis we have seen from him in the past.

Even then, it is surprising that the majority of his success on the main Tour over the last few seasons have come on the clay courts and Brown may have something in the locker to surprise Marinko Matosevic.

The Australian makes far too many mistakes and may give Brown some confidence if he brings that tennis to the court on Tuesday in this First Round match, and those errors are highlighted on the clay courts where the longer rallies tend to develop.

Matosevic has a poor record on the clay courts over the last two years, but he is rightly the favourite considering the erratic nature of Brown and the performances he brings. However, I think a small interest on Brown considering the relative success he has had on the clay courts may be worth having in this match, especially if he can display some of the patience Brown claims he is bringing onto the court these days.

Simona Halep - 6.5 games v Alisa Kleybanova: Anyone who has read my outright picks from the tournament from above will know I am expecting a big tournament from Simona Halep after her performances during the last twelve months.

That will all begin with this First Round match and I would expect the Romanian to beat Alisa Kleybanova without too many problems as long as she has overcome her injury from Rome that forced a withdrawal.

It is still really good to see Kleybanova back on the Tour after her treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but her movement was never the best on the clay courts and I think that is where Halep will force the errors to win the match.

Kleybanova did prove she can be a handful on the clay courts when she beat Petra Kvitova in April, but Halep has been playing at an extremely high level over the last few months which has seen her reach the World Number 4 Ranking, and I think Halep wins 63, 62.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 7.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dustin Brown @ 2.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Simona Halep - 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 2-1, + 1.20 Units (6 Units Staked, + 20% Yield)

Monday, 26 May 2014

French Open Day 2 Picks 2014 (May 26th)

The French Open got underway on Sunday, but I didn't really have the opportunity to put together anything for the first day play, although I have my outright picks which can be read here.

I am still not used to the idea that this Grand Slam begins the tournament on Sunday rather than the traditional Monday, especially not the staggered nature of the First Round. That brings a different problem if the weather plays havoc with the tournament as might happen on Monday where there is scheduled rain and thunder storms in Roland Garros.

Day one also provided no real surprises as the big names moved through including Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Now the top two favourites in the men's draw get a chance to move their tournament on to the Second Round and both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are big favourites to win their first matches.

Albert Montanes - 6.5 games v Kenny de Schepper: At first glance, I did think this was a big number for Albert Montanes to cover against an opponent that has as big a serve as Kenny de Schepper.

However, the serve aside, I don't think de Schepper is capable of keeping up with the clay court veteran and that was shown in a heavy loss to the Spaniard back in April during the start of the European clay court swing.

If the rallies are extended for more than three shots each, I would favour Montanes to win the majority of the rallies and that should help him move through in straight sets. I would expect Montanes to grind down de Schepper and find a way to win the match with a 63, 64, 64 scoreline and move on to the Second Round.

Ivan Dodig v Marcel Granollers: I can understand the reasoning behind having Ivan Dodig as a fairly big underdog to win this match as his game doesn't exactly translate onto the clay courts. Dodig likes to play a serve-volley game where possible and that is more suited to the faster surfaces, while the conditions here won't be the best for him either.

Usually, backing a Spaniard at the prices would look the shout against Dodig, but Marcel Granollers is another player that prefers the faster courts and is someone who is not in the best of form.

Granollers has a losing record for the season and confidence has to be in a low place at this moment in time which makes this a tricky First Round match.

I will say that Dodig also has a losing record, but at least has won a few more matches over the last month and I will have a small interest in him winning this match.

Fabio Fognini - 6.5 games v Andreas Beck: You always have to have some respect for those players that have won three rounds during the qualifiers to reach the main draw at a Grand Slam, but Andreas Beck doesn't really compete at this level these days.

The draw also gives him a match against an opponent that should have been looking forward to the French Open after some of his performances over the last twelve months. Fabio Fognini had a great summer on the clay courts and had started 2014 effectively to think he could perhaps challenge his personal best of a Quarter Final here in Paris, especially as the clay courts makes this his favourite Slam.

However, Fognini has lost three matches in a row and his performances on the clay courts over the last six weeks have been disappointing to say the least.

In saying that, I still expect the Italian to be too good for Beck and he could perhaps record a similar win that he had over this opponent last season in the First Round here.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 7.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: Stanislas Wawrinka may have won in Monte Carlo on the way to the French Open, but I think there is little doubt he has had a difficult time following up his Australian Open Grand Slam win.

There have been a number of up and down performances from the World Number 3 in the months following his maiden Grand Slam success, but perhaps getting back into the best of five set arena will help him settle down a bit more.

Playing someone like Guillermo Garcia-Lopez looks a testing First Round match for Wawrinka, but the latter has dominated the head to head between the players and I think he will have too much power and consistency for the Spaniard to deal with.

Garcia-Lopez has a serve that can be attacked and I think Wawrinka will end up powering through after a tight first set and move into the Second Round with a 75, 62, 64 win.

Mona Barthel v Karin Knapp: Karin Knapp must have been extremely relieved by the week she had in Strasbourg as she made it to the Semi Final and also snapped an eight match losing run in the process.

However, I am not convinced that she has done enough to make this First Round match an almost pick 'em contest against Mona Barthel who made the Quarter Final in Nurnberg last week and who has at least being winning some matches over the last six weeks.

To be fair, the majority of those wins have come in qualifiers, but Knapp hasn't been performing above that level of late and I think Barthel has a very good chance of winning the match.

Being on a clay court might actually favour Knapp, but the damp conditions expected may expose some of fragilities when it comes to consistently finding the court. Knapp likes to harness her power, but that can lead to mistakes on the slower courts and Barthel may just have enough to come through in three sets.

MY PICKS: Albert Montanes - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ivan Dodig @ 2.88 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Fabio Fognini - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 7.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Mona Barthel @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

French Open Outright Picks 2014 (May 25th-June 8th)

The second Grand Slam tournament of the season is definitely one of my favourite ones through the season and that has nothing to do with the fantastic time I had at Roland Garros last year either.

I have personally always been fascinated by the clay courts which was much more mysterious during the non-internet years, especially compared with the up-tempo Wimbledon event that was covered thoroughly by the BBC.

Nowadays we don't have the extremely strong clay court specialists that made it so difficult for the likes of Pete Sampras in Paris, especially not with the uniform nature of courts throughout the world. I'm a big fan of the idea of making the court speeds a little different from week to week, but we have to make do with what we have and that means the recognised names are at the top of the market for the outright winner as we would expect in any of the events they enter.

French Open Men's Draw
The Number 1 Seed who is sitting proudly at the top of the French Open draw is Rafael Nadal, a player that has won the event eight times in his career, but he is still coming into the event as the second favourite according to the outright market.

That was a surprise on one hand as I think beating Nadal in a best of five set match on the clay has proved virtually impossible over the last decade, although he needed to ride his luck in his Semi Final with Novak Djokovic last season.

I have been saying for a few weeks that Nadal has been looking vulnerable, but the draw was going to be important and I don't think he would be too disappointed with how it has panned out for him. Of course, Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer are potential Fourth Round and Quarter Final opponents for Nadal and both have beaten him on the clay over the last six weeks, but a best of five set match is a different proposition altogether and I am not convinced in either player managing to do it in Paris.

The conditions don't favour Nadal early in the week, but I would expect him to negotiate those early Rounds and get into a position to have another big assault at winning the French Open crown for a ridiculous ninth time.

Grigor Dimitrov is another player I wanted to keep onside at the beginning of the tournament, but I don't think he would be good enough to beat Ferrer and Nadal which he would likely have to do to reach the Semi Final and the Bulgarian's time to shine may have to wait for at least one more Grand Slam.

Stanislas Wawrinka is the player that Nadal is most likely going to have beat in the Semi Final if he manages to get through to that stage as I expect the top seeded player in the second quarter to find his way through the draw. The Swiss Number 1 has admitted that he has found it a little difficult to cope with the expectation that comes from winning his maiden Grand Slam title of the season at the Australian Open back in January, but the draw couldn't have been kinder for him in my opinion.

It's not completely plain sailing, but I am sure Wawrinka would back himself to beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Fabio Fognini which could be his toughest opponents early in the tournament.

I also believe this could be a stronger tournament for Andy Murray who is close to naming a new coach and who is regularly not amongst the contenders on the clay courts. This is his worst surface by some distance, but Murray won't be too intimidated by the first four opponents he is likely to see this week.

The biggest issue ahead of the potential Quarter Final with Stanislas Wawrinka may be the Dusseldorf Champion Philipp Kohlschreiber, but the German is coming off a long week and may have too much tennis in his legs in the potential Third Round clash.

Other players like Richard Gasquet, who hasn't played a single clay court match this season having been off the Tour since Miami, and Fernando Verdasco, who is as inconsistent as ever, don't really appeal to block the Murray route and I can see the top two seeded players in the section meeting in the Quarter Final.

The third quarter of the draw might be the most intriguing in the men's draw as there will be some doubts over what the top two seeded players in this section can achieve this week. Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer have both performed well in Paris in the past, but I think both could be vulnerable this week.

Berdych has a couple of matches I would expect him to negotiate very comfortably, but someone like Roberto Bautista-Agut could prove to be too awkward in the Third Round, especially if the courts are playing a little slower under the damp conditions.

On the other hand, Roger Federer has recently become the father of another set of twins and I am not sure how much practice time he has under his belt for this Grand Slam tournament and we may not see the best of him until Wimbledon. However, I doubt Federer could have hand-picked a better draw unless the Nice Champion, Ernests Gulbis, can replicate the form that took him to his best ever result in a Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2008.

Those doubts over the top two players may open the door for the veteran Tommy Robredo to make his way through the draw and surpass his Quarter Final performance here in Paris from twelve months ago. He showed his mental resiliency in coming from two sets to love down to win three straight matches last year in Paris and he has a win on the clay courts over Berdych last season and also beat Federer in the US Open.

Robredo's form isn't the best, but the clay courts agree with him and I think he has a real chance to play himself into the tournament and could be the surprise package from the section.

The final section of the men's draw holds the favourite to win his first French Open title in Novak Djokovic, but the Serb's credentials are going to be tested almost immediately. The wrist that had been a big concern for Djokovic during this clay court season didn't adversely affect him as he won in Rome which made the World Number 2 the outright favourite to win the title, but he likely has to deal with Jeremy Chardy as soon as the Second Round.

Chardy beat Federer in Rome and while I would expect Djokovic to come through that test, the likes of Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could be the next two opponents. Cilic is someone who can raise his game and reach almost unplayable heights against anyone, while Tsonga has had a couple of big years at his home Grand Slam and pushed Djokovic to five sets here in 2012.

With the weather likely to play havoc early in the tournament, Djokovic may be asking to push his wrist in best of five set matches on consecutive days and it will be interesting to see if the likes of Cilic and Tsonga can perhaps find the inspired tennis to knock off the favourite in the relatively early stages of the tournament.

I think there would have been a lot of people rushing to back Kei Nishikori after his achievements during the clay court swing with a title in Barcelona and a runner-up spot in Madrid, but the back injury that forced him out of the latter Final is hard to ignore. If he was fully healthy, he might have been the threat in this section, while my thoughts on Milos Raonic means I would find it hard to back him in a normal situation.

The draw has made this anything but a normal situation for Raonic who has been given a pretty good opportunity to get through to the Quarter Final at the very least. The one player that could potentially cause an obstacle is Alexandr Dolgopolov but he has come off the form he was showing earlier in the season and his inconsistencies remain a concern for those that back him.

The outright market for the winner of the French Open is dominated by the two best players in the world and I can't help but think Rafael Nadal is vastly overpriced considering all the success he has had in Roland Garros throughout his career.

I also feel he has the more 'comfortable' path through to the Final than Novak Djokovic who could be extremely tested by the likes of Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, although it does feel that the two top players will meet in the Final in two weeks time.

Still, I will back Rafael Nadal at this stage and be on the look out for a surprise in the bottom half of the draw.

Talking of surprises, I am also backing Tommy Robredo to come through the Third Quarter of the draw for a small interest- as I highlighted above, there are some doubts over the two top players in that section and Robredo did reach the Quarter Final last season in Paris. He did beat Roger Federer in the US Open last season so will feel better on the clay courts and even the poor form shown by Robredo in the clay court season could be forgotten.

Women's French Open Draw
The men's draw is much more fascinating despite the feeling that the top two players are likely to come through to contest the Final that everyone wants to see in two weeks time. Even with that in mind, there are players through the draw that will feel they can at least stun Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic if either player is not in top shape for the tournament and I don't think the same can be said about the women's draw.

Let's face it- if Serena Williams turns up, she could blitz her way through the draw and win the tournament for the second year in a row, but the one factor that continues to nag away in the back of the mind is her number of surprising losses in Grand Slam tournaments over the last two and a half years that she has once again dominated the WTA Tour.

Virginie Razzano beat Serena here two years ago, while losses to the likes of Sloane Stephens, Sabine Lisicki and Ana Ivanovic over the last eighteen months in the Majors has to be a concern to those backing Serena at short odds.

The aforementioned Lisicki and Razzano are both in Williams' section of the draw as is big sister Venus, but it is tough to see Serena losing considering the way she came through the tournament in Rome to erase doubts about a thigh injury that forced her out of Madrid.

Maria Sharapova would be the biggest beneficiary of an early surprise loss for Serena Williams, but I can't favour the Russian to come out of the section as long as the latter is in the draw considering the head to head between the players.

I wouldn't be holding much hope for Agnieszka Radwanska from the second quarter of the draw if she made it through to the Semi Final of the tournament either, although the Pole is a player that can always find at least one player too good for her. She is a solid competitor, but can be outhit by players on the Tour and I think she is destined to never win a Major (famous last words perhaps).

The draw hasn't been unkind to her though and that is in her favour in case Serena Williams is beaten before the Semi Finals, but even in that scenario I wouldn't be rushing to back Radwanska to knock off her likely opponent in Maria Sharapova.

I am not sure anyone in this section is going to prevent Radwanska reaching the Semi Final but I expect that is where her tournament will come to an end.

The third section of the draw looks much more competitive with the likes of Simona HalepAna IvanovicPetra Kvitova and Sloane Stephens all capable of coming through the draw.

Of those three players, Kvitova is one that has struggled for her form ever since she won Wimbledon three years ago, and I would be very surprised if she was to get through to the Semi Final. The draw means she would have to face Svetlana Kuznetsova early in the tournament and I think it would be a real turn in form for Kvitova to come through.

Someone like Ivanovic has shown some improvements over the last two months, but she is still inconsistent and Stephens has raised her game at the Slams but is probably on her worst surface.

That leaves Halep who has beaten both Ivanovic and Kvitova during this clay court season and who showed her ability on a clay court by reaching the Final in Madrid. The draw also should give Halep the chance to build momentum through the section and I think she could prove how far she has improved over the last twelve months by erasing memories of her First Round exit at this same event.

Finally we get to the last section of the draw and Na Li will be expected to be the player that not only comes through the section, but the most likely one to be playing in the Final in two weeks time. Li is a former winner at the French Open back in 2011, which was a surprise to her but proved she could perform on the clay courts.

Li actually has her second best winning percentage at the French Open and the draw here looks good considering the doubts about Caroline Wozniacki who is the player seeded to meet her in the Fourth Round.

There is going to be a moment where Li will struggle, but if she can get through those difficult times, she should be able to go very close to winning the tournament and at least getting the chance to play for the trophy.

One player who could beat Li before the Semi Final is Jelena Jankovic but the Serb would have to beat Sara Errani who reached the Final in Rome in the last Premier Event. Errani loves the clay courts and has reached the Final in Roland Garros before and I think she may prove a little too good for Jankovic in the Fourth Round that they could potentially meet.

While Jankovic could give Li a lot of problems, Errani only just held on to beat a sick Li in Rome and their past history suggests it would be tough to back the Italian to beat her again.

Like the men's draw, the outright market has the correct two players at the head of the choices and I think I will have an interest in both Serena Williams and Na Li- if Williams is on her game, she will win the event, but Li could be a good cover if the American is beaten early in the draw as she was in the Australian Open earlier this season which was eventually won by Li.

I also think backing Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep to come through the second and third sections of the draw could be worth backing at the prices. As I said above, I think both have been handed good draws to achieve those aims and can go deep in the tournament, even if I believe the Williams-Li combination will prove too good for them in the Semi Finals.

MY PICKSRafael Nadal @ 2.88 Bet Fred (4 Units)
Tommy Robredo to win Third Quarter @ 26.00 Paddy Power (0.5 Units)
Serena Williams @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (4 Units)
Na Li @ 7.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit E/W)
Agnieszka Radwanska to win the Second Quarter @ 3.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Simona Halep to win the Third Quarter @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Weekly Final9-7, + 3.06 Units (31 Units Staked, + 9.87% Yield)

Season 2014+ 34.70 Units (688 Units Staked, + 5.04% 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

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (May 24th)

The French Open draw was made on Friday and I will have a full breakdown of the event before the Grand Slam gets underway on Sunday. For now, I am concentrating on the Finals of this week's tournaments that are to be completed on Saturday and allow the players to make their way to Paris with some momentum behind them.

Of course, the majority of the players left on Saturday won't be expected to have a deep run in Paris over the next two weeks, but the added confidence they have earned this week may make them surprise packages against the more established names on the Tour.

After the disappointment of Thursday, Friday proved to be a much better day with the luck ending up going with me rather than against me. That was proven by Ivo Karlovic's win in his Semi Final in Dusseldorf despite winning fewer points than Jiri Vesely and also means the week has at least recovered from the terrible Thursday action.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Federico Delbonis: Both players have come through to the Final with little trouble in the Semi Final, but overall you would have to say that Federico Delbonis has had the better week in terms of results and ease of moving through the draw.

That won't matter to Ernests Gulbis who will look to keep the pressure on his opponent with a big serve that can produce a lot of easy points. The easy power that the Latvian can generate off the ground should also give Delbonis plenty to think about, although you have to credit the young Argentine for reaching another Tour Final on the clay courts.

The lefty serve will cause some problems for Gulbis, particularly early in the match, but I think the latter will still get involved in more service games and eventually that pressure will help him breakthrough.

At the end of the match, I would be expecting Gulbis to be lifting the title after a 64, 64 win.

Monica Puig - 3.5 games v Silvia Soler-Espinosa: I have a lot of respect for what Silvia Soler-Espinosa has done this week considering she had to come through the qualifiers before heading all the way to the Final in Strasbourg, but her run should come to an end at the hands of Monica Puig.

The hard hitting South American is very comfortable on the clay courts and she has been very impressive all week and I think Puig has the confidence and ability to finish it off in the right manner and pick up the title.

I expect Puig's power to be one of the key differences between the two players and I also think three consecutive matches that have needed three sets to be completed may end up taking the toll on Soler-Espinosa. That is more fatiguing when considering matches have been played without rest for three or four days and it has already been a long week for the Spaniard.

There should be some breaks of serve, but I expect Puig to come through 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-7, - 0.50 Units (27 Units Staked, - 1.85% Yield)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014- Champions League Final (May 24-26)

The World Cup is fast approaching now and much of the media attention has turned to the festival of football that begins in a little under three weeks from now, but first there is the small matter of the 'richest game in football' as the Championship Play Off Final is contested and the European Champions League Final to be completed.

Both of those games look like making fantastic viewing on Saturday, but there will still be a couple of other loose ends to tie up before the end of the Bank Holiday as both League One and League Two Play Off Finals will also be completed.

It has been a decent season and one that improved on last year which is all you can hope for, but football is always a tough sport to end with a winning performance. May has been a solid month too and will hopefully end this weekend with a final flurry of positive results that ensures another winning month.

That'll keep the season results intact and I can then begin concentrating on the World Cup which I will have any outright picks and previews of the Group out the weekend before the event begins.

Derby County v Queens Park Rangers Pick: The Championship Play Off Final has been called the 'richest game in football' because of the vast financial incentives on offer for playing in the Premier League as shown by what Cardiff City received this season despite finishing bottom of the table.

Both clubs could be set up even with one season in the top flight, but both Derby County and Queens Park Rangers have bigger ambitions than a sole season in the Premier League. They have two managers that have coached at extremely high levels with Steve McClaren a former England manger and also having won titles in Holland and Germany while guiding Middlesbrough to a UEFA Cup Final.

Harry Redknapp had vast success with Tottenham Hotspur in reaching a Champions League Quarter Final and also won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and both managers will feel they should be coaching in the Premier League.

However, it is up to the players on the field to perform on Saturday in what is a tense game with so much hard work being put into getting into this position. A long season can feel a total disappointment if promotion is not achieved now and that is where Queens Park Rangers may have the edge in terms of their player experience.

On the other hand, Derby County have youth and pace on their side and they have scored so many goals that they will feel they can punish Queens Park Rangers in this one. Derby County have been in better form heading into the Play Offs and were much more impressive in their Semi Final win over Brighton than QPR were against Wigan Athletic.

The feeling is also that Derby have enough confidence and goals that they could potentially recover even if they fell behind in the game, while Queens Park Rangers could also be exposed on the bigger pitch with older legs in the team.

One other factor could be that Steve McClaren actually worked with Queens Park Rangers to open this season before taking the Derby County job- that inside information may help him form enough of a tactical game plan to earn an advantage in this Final.

Over the last eight years, the team that has finished 3rd in the Championship has won promotion through the Play Offs five times and Derby County have looked the better team. That just helps lead me to backing the Rams to get back to the top flight and help Steve McClaren earn a little more redemption in his reputation with the fans in England.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Champions League Final Pick: This looks to be the Final that made the most sense with the way these teams have played in the Champions League this season and there are so many stories surrounding the game.

Can Real Madrid win their tenth European Cup, the first team to reach double digits, or can Atletico Madrid do the 'impossible double' of winning the top European trophy and adding it to the La Liga title they won last weekend?

Most people seem to be expecting a tight battle in this Final, but their previous meetings this season suggests it may be a little more exciting than that. The only issue is that both teams like to play a counter-attacking brand of football and might be worrying about over-committing when they do have the ball in possession.

Real Madrid have the individuals that can create a bit of magic in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, although there are question as to how healthy they are having missed a few games at the end of the season. However, it is too simplistic to think of them as a team of individuals with the way Carlo Ancelotti has set them up and made Real Madrid a solid, organised team.

The absence of Xabi Alonso is a big miss for Real Madrid, but Atletico Madrid could be missing Diego Costa who is arguably more important to their style of play. Diego Simeone has done an excellent job of plugging the gaps and the team is set up to play together that they can make up for pieces that are missing, but Costa's goals are going to be hard to replace.

Atletico Madrid have shown no fear of playing the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, except in the Copa Del Rey Semi Final when the latter proved to be too good. I expect Atletico will try and make life difficult for Real Madrid and the possession should be dominated by the latter, but this will come down to the chances and who is more likely to take those.

If Costa is missing, or not at 100%, Atletico Madrid may find it harder to finish off their opportunities, while a returning Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to add to the 16 Champions League goals he already has. I also believe Real Madrid have been preparing for this game ever since they beat Bayern Munich in the Semi Final and Atletico Madrid have had to tough out the Spanish title race.

I believe a moment of magic will end up handing the Champions League trophy to Real Madrid for the tenth time.

MY PICKS: Derby County @ 2.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Real Madrid @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

May Update12-13, + 6.60 Units (44 Units Staked, + 15% Yield)

April Final16-17, + 2.33 Units (58 Units Staked, + 4.02% Yield)
March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14152-170-3, + 12.24 Units (530 Units Staked, + 2.31% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2014 (May 23rd)

That was pretty much as awful a day as I have had in the whole season with players not getting over the line and winning matches despite taking first sets/serving for the match and it was an extremely disappointing Thursday.

Friday sees the tournaments reach the Semi Finals, but the biggest talking story in tennis will be the draw for the French Open that will take place in the morning before the Grand Slam begins on Sunday. I think the draw is probably as important as it has been at Roland Garros for a decade, especially on the men's side, as the top two players in the world may just be a little vulnerable if they have to go through some big tests to reach the Final.

I will have an outright preview of the French Open out this weekend before the tournament begins once I have had the chance to look through the draw that will be out by lunch time.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Albert Montanes: Ernests Gulbis has dominated Albert Montanes since being beaten by the Spaniard at the French Open in 2007 and he is much more of a resilient competitor these days. Gulbis highlighted that in his Quarter Final win yesterday when he came from a break down in the final set to beat Dmitry Tursunov in a tie-break.

He seems in a much better place mentally these days and could be the player that de-thrones Montanes as the winner in Nice, even if the veteran showed a real fight to defend his title by coming from a set down to beat Leonardo Mayer on Thursday.

However, Montanes' serve is much more vulnerable against someone like Gulbis who can dominate behind his own serve and create pressure with 'easy' holds. That proved to be the case when these two players met in Barcelona in April on the clay courts and I can see Gulbis proving a little too good again for the veteran.

Gulbis came through a tight first set and then ran away with the match and he may do something similar on Friday.

Ivo Karlovic v Jiri Vesely: There is no doubt that the clay courts are not the favourite surface for Ivo Karlovic, but he has proven this week that he is capable of producing big results on the clay. I think he is being completely under-rated against the talented youngster Jiri Vesely who may struggle mentally with facing a server like Karlovic.

Older heads can stay in the match by accepting their inability to get a racquet on every Karlovic serve effectively, but a younger player may allow it to pressure him mentally and also struggle to cope with that facet of the game. Karlovic also earned a big win over Juan Monaco, a real clay courter, on Thursday so his confidence has to be high.

I don't doubt Jiri Vesely is feeling very good about his own game after dismissing Jurgen Melzer without a breaking a sweat in the Quarter Final. The Czech player is comfortable on the clay courts, but I still don't think he should be such a strong favourite to win this kind of match just yet in his career.

With that in mind, a small interest in Ivo Karlovic to win the match is my call.

Monica Puig v Madison Keys: There is a lot to like about Monica Puig's game from the heavy groundies to the fact that she can protect serve effectively and I think she proves a little too good for Madison Keys in this Semi Final.

Keys certainly has a bright future on the WTA Tour in my opinion, but I think she has yet to gain the consistency that is required to make sure her solid first serve is backed up by a decent second serve.

That is where I think this match will be won- I think Puig is going to win a higher percentage of second serve points and I think she is going to get a higher percentage of first serves in play and that looks like giving her the edge in this match where the slightest edge could make the whole difference.

Both players have enjoyed a successful week to this point, but I expect Monica Puig to be playing in the Final on Saturday.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic @ 3.10 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Monica Puig @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-7, - 6.40 Units (22 Units Staked, - 29.01% Yield)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (May 22nd)

The French Open draw is now only twenty-four hours away and the tournaments that are being played this week are already at the Quarter Final stage. The tournaments need to be completed by Saturday as the second Grand Slam of the season starts the First Round action on Sunday.

There are a couple of big name players in action this week, but not really anyone that you would consider a contender to win in Roland Garros, so the players should be able to give their all to win a title and perhaps more money than they will in Paris next week.

Leonardo Mayer v Albert Montanes: Albert Montanes did win the title in Nice last season so will have a big motivation to defend his title this week, but I think Leonardo Mayer can produce a surprise win in this Quarter Final.

Mayer has plenty of momentum behind him having won five matches in Nice already to get to this stage, although the concern would be all that tennis causing fatigue.

He does have a good record against Montanes and Mayer has a decent clay court pedigree to think he can come through even as the underdog. The Argentinian player has a serve that could set up a few more cheaper points than Montanes and I expect there to be opportunities for both players to take control.

However, I believe Mayer has a little more quality at key moments that helps him through in three sets.

John Isner v Federico Delbonis: On a clay court, someone like Federico Delbonis will certainly feel they have a better chance in taking on John Isner and the huge serve he possesses, but the American has always said he feels comfortable on the slower surfaces.

Isner explains that his serve doesn't lose as much bite as the hard courts, while he can set up his groundstrokes a little better on the slower surface and he certainly feels he has a chance to perform on the clay courts.

He has big wins on the surface in the past having beaten Roger Federer, while also pushing Rafael Nadal to five sets in the French Open. I expect the serve to put a lot of mental pressure on Federico Delbonis whose own game is a little inconsistent and makes his serve vulnerable to being broken.

Delbonis will feel he has a real chance considering some of the losses that Isner has suffered during the clay court swing, but I would be worried about what decent servers like Ivan Dodig and Feliciano Lopez have done against the Argentinian too. I just feel he won't cope with the mental burden of keeping ahead of/up with Isner and I like the American to win a place in the Semi Final.

Carlos Berlocq v Gilles Simon: I was surprised that Gilles Simon is being set as the favourite to win this Quarter Final and have a feeling his performance against Rafael Nadal in Rome may be keeping his price artificially high.

He has been beaten in three of the last four matches against Carlos Berlocq, all on the clay courts, and I do believe the latter has a better clay court pedigree having won two titles on the surface over the last twelve months.

There should be a lot of extended rallies in the match as both players can get a lot of balls back in play, but I do think Berlocq has wrongly been set as the underdog and can eventually force enough mistakes from Simon.

Don't be surprised if there are a number of breaks of serve before it is all said and done, but Berlocq to move through is my pick from this Quarter Final.

Caroline Garcia - 1.5 games v Karin Knapp: This week has already been a productive one for Karin Knapp who snapped a long losing run on the Tour, but she may have to settle for reaching this stage of the tournament. That is because she is playing one of the form players in Caroline Garcia who is finally showing the form that had seen Andy Murray tip her as a future World Number 1 in the women's game.

There is a chance that Garcia is looking ahead to the French Open and a chance to play in front of her home support, but I think she will want to maintain the momentum that has seen her go 13-1 in her last fourteen matches.

That includes winning a title in Bogota on the clay courts and she will feel confident she can beat Knapp who had lost eight in a row prior to this week. Knapp has some easy power that will allow her to dominate some points of the match, but she can be frustrated by Garcia's defensive skills.

The Frenchwoman also has some easy power of her own and I think she will prove too much for Knapp and move through to the Semi Final.

Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 games v Yaroslava Shvedova: Eugenie Bouchard has won her first two matches this week without breaking a sweat and while I think this one will be more difficult, I also think the Canadian comes through fairly comfortably.

Bouchard did beat Yaroslava Shvedova last month on the clay courts in a match where she took her chances and served better than her opponent.

That will be the key to this match as Bouchard should earn the easier points if she gets a decent amount of first serves into the match and that should also give her a chance to fend off more break points than her opponent.

The extra power that Bouchard has on her side of the court could prove to be the difference in a 63, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Leonardo Mayer @ 2.10 Coral (2 Units)
John Isner @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Carlos Berlocq @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 1.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-2, + 3.60 Units (12 Units Staked, + 30% Yield)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (May 21st)

The tournaments before the French Open will be continuing on Wednesday as Second Round action commences. The Tuesday picks produced a 2-2 record, while I have only found two matches of interest through the day with thoughts already turning to Paris.

Dmitry Tursunov + 2.5 games v Robin Haase: It hasn't been a good clay court season for Dmitry Tursunov with some really poor results on the surface, but one of the successes he had came against Robin Haase in Monte Carlo.

The Dutchman also has had a pretty poor six weeks on the clay courts, although he did reach a Semi Final in Bucharest and that will have sapped some confidence for Haase who relies on mentally being in a strong place to win matches.

Tursunov's serve may keep Haase on his toes in this one and I think the heavy shots off the ground could give him the edge in this match. It was the first serve that gave Tursunov a platform to build upon in Monte Carlo and if he serves at a high clip in this Second Round, I would expect him to come through.

Either way, I am struggling to understand why Tursunov is the underdog in this match by a considerable margin and I will take the games he is being given.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Martin Klizan: Martin Klizan must feel in a great place having won nine matches in a row which saw him take the title in Munich after qualifying for that event. He had some big wins over the likes of Tommy Haas and Fabio Fognini in that tournament and is obviously in a good place, but Ernests Gulbis should pose plenty of problems for him.

It has taken some top players to prevent Gulbis from really going deep into a tournament the last month, but the Latvian is playing some of the most consistent tennis of his career.

Gulbis has a decent serve and a heavy weight of shot off the ground and I expect that will trouble Klizan, although the latter has a lefty serve that will cause its own problems.

A tight first set may end in a tie-breaker, but I expect Gulbis to then pull away and win this match 76, 63.

MY PICKS: Dmitry Tursunov + 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, - 0.20 Units (8 Units Staked, - 2.5% Yield)

Monday, 19 May 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (May 20th)

Two Masters tournaments have come and gone on the clay courts and that has left Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as the clear favourites to win in Roland Garros which begins at the end of this week.

They have both looked vulnerable at times and I am looking forward to the draw on Friday which will make it clearer as to who is likely to pick up the title in Paris, but the top two players in the World have certainly strengthened their positions at the top of the market for the French Open.

Serena Williams looked much stronger in Rome than when she was forced to withdraw from Madrid and I would expect her to remain a strong favourite to retain her title won at the French Open twelve months ago. If Williams brings her form into Roland Garros, it will be tough to prevent her winning the title, but over the last eighteen months we have seen her have one really poor match in the Grand Slams and suffer some surprising defeats that have prevented her sweeping all titles in front of her.

The absence of Victoria Azarenka hurts the women's draw, but the likes of Maria Sharapova, Na Li and perhaps losing French Open Finalist Sara Errani could have deep runs in the tournament and take advantage of any slip up from Williams.

Rome at least provided an upturn in fortunes for the picks after a pretty terrible time in Madrid and gives some momentum to move into this final week before the French Open. This week can be a dangerous one with most of the biggest names on the Tour having time to recover before the start of the second Grand Slam event of 2014, so there may be a few surprising results. However, most of the players taking part have very small real ambitions at the French Open and will likely put in a good shift to try and win a title.

I might not necessarily make picks for every day this week unless there is something that catches my eye, but hopefully we will see a positive week to take into the French Open whose main draw will be completed on Friday morning.

Carlos Berlocq - 1.5 games v Julien Benneteau: It was a strong week for Julien Benneteau who won the tournament in Bordeaux, albeit at the Challenger level, but that may also make him vulnerable early in the event in Nice.

Playing in front of the home support will inspire Benneteau, but he hasn't really performed on the clay courts in the last few seasons and may be a little fatigued from the events of last week. The win also came on the level below the main Tour and I think that is where Carlos Berlocq could take advantage.

The Argentinian has won a clay court title just three weeks ago in Oeiras, and even Berlocq's disappearance over the last two weeks might not be as big a concern in this match. Of the two, Berlocq is much more comfortable on the clay courts and he has won two titles at this level on the surface.

Berlocq might need three sets to come through, but I expect him to do that and cover this handicap.

Stefanie Voegele v Silvia Soler-Espinosa: Neither of these players have had a great season as they come into this match with identical 5-12 record in main Tour matches, although Silvia Soler-Espinosa has won a couple of matches in the qualifiers to boost the confidence.

That at least shows some form compared with what Stefanie Voegele has produced over the last three months, but the Swiss player has dominated the head to head with Soler-Espinosa.

Including in that is a win in Morocco last month, although I would have thought the clay courts would favour Soler-Espinosa more than Voegele. That hasn't been the case and I think Voegele has some sort of match up problem for the Spaniard to deal with and shouldn't be an underdog in this match.

Sloane Stephens - 2.5 games v Julia Goerges: Any time Sloane Stephens is playing in a smaller tournament where the attendance may not bring in the grandeur she loves, she can be guilty of perhaps not taking a match as seriously as she should.

Stephens has a ton of talent but her work ethic has to be questioned at times- how can a player that has made Quarter Finals in three of the four Slams yet to have made one Final in any Tour event is beyond me.

It hasn't been a good start to 2014 for a player that seemed to have made her breakthrough last season, but Stephens should have too much for Julia Goerges. This is a player that has struggled in the last couple of years and is now outside of the top 100 and her inconsistency is not helped by a poor mental attitude to constructing points outside of hitting the ball harder and harder.

There should be plenty of breaks of serve in this one with both players likely to have their moments, but I will back the American to come through 63, 46, 75.

Camila Giorgi + 3.5 games v Alize Cornet: Anyone who has seen this young Italian player on a tennis court will know that Camila Giorgi has a lot of talent that could lead her to the top of the women's game if it is handled correctly.

One issue is the stories that have accompanied Giorgi's rise on the Tour that came to a head earlier in the season and that has stunted her growth as far as I am concerned.

However, she should still have plenty in the locker to give Alize Cornet some real problems in this First Round match in Strasbourg, especially if their two matches earlier in the season are any indication. Giorgi has the power to really hurt the Frenchwoman's serve and I can see her powering her way to taking at least one of the sets in the match.

Whether Giorgi has enough to see off a hard working Cornet is another matter, especially during the periods when the shots are a little more erratic, but I think the games being given to the Italian could prove too much for Cornet to cover.

MY PICKS: Carlos Berlocq - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stefanie Voegele @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Camila Giorgi + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Rome Final14-8, + 9.20 Units (44 Units Staked, + 20.91% Yield)

Season 2014+ 31.64 Units (657 Units Staked, + 4.82% 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