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Monday, 12 May 2014

Rome Tennis Picks 2014 (May 12th)

The Madrid Masters/Premier Event last week has just highlighted how open the French Open, the second Grand Slam of the season that is due to begin in two weeks time, is going to be in both the men's and women's draw.

For a long time, almost a decade, Rafael Nadal would have been the clear favourite to win at Roland Garros, but you can't feel good about him at short odds in his current form. There is little doubt in my mind that Nadal is not at 100% with his back ever since the Australian Open Final and that has meant he is having to work harder than usual and has given the likes of David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro wins over him in the past month.

Kei Nishikori was also in a strong position before an injury curtailed his progress with a set and a break under his belt, and you can't help but wonder if Nadal is not still there for the taking.

The big question remains, however, if there is a player out there that has the confidence to win a best of five set match against Nadal?

I'd struggle to back Roger Federer on anything other than an indoor hard court against the Spaniard, while Novak Djokovic's wrist injury makes it very tough to back him with the confidence necessary. Stanislas Wawrinka is probably the biggest danger along with someone like David Ferrer, but I think the draw could perhaps offer a surprise package the chance to compete for the title this season.

It is no less of an open draw in the women's draw as Serena Williams has to be a serious doubt of being at 100% for Paris after withdrawing from the Madrid Quarter Finals with a thigh issue. That had seen her serving at a much slower speed than we are used to and I am not sure if the problem would have cleared up in time to play a two week Grand Slam tournament, especially if Williams' focus is perhaps on the longer term and Wimbledon and the US Open.

Any failure to participate by Williams would make Maria Sharapova the favourite as the Russian won in Stuttgart and Madrid and has also won the title at Roland Garros in the past. However, clay isn't her favourite surface and there are some dangers in the draw that could cause problems, for example Na Li who pushed Sharapova last week in Madrid.

Just like the men's tournament, the draw in the women's tournament could be key in identifying a winner in Paris and makes it very interesting for the fans as we get closer to the second Grand Slam event of the season.

As a fan, it has been an intriguing clay court season as far as I am concerned, but the lack of certainty has also made it tough for the picks I have been making. Last week in Madrid was particularly disappointing as players couldn't quite get over the line when in a position to do so and it was one of the worst weeks of the 2014 season to date.

Hopefully this week in Rome will be a little more productive, although I am steering clear of the outright markets once again. I will be making picks every day that I see some matches worth backing and with a little more luck on the side of the picks, it will hopefully develop into a better week than the one that concluded in Madrid.

Feliciano Lopez v Marcel Granollers: On the face of it, the slower clay courts should favour Marcel Granollers against Feliciano Lopez, but the former has been in pretty poor form in 2014 and I think he could be there for the taking in this First Round match.

The venue might not bring back happy memories for Lopez as he was beaten by Granollers here in the First Round two years ago, but the left-hander got his revenge with a five set win over the same opponent at the French Open last season.

The bigger serve that Lopez possesses could be the key to the victory against an opponent that might not be that confident after a number of losses in recent weeks. While Granollers will likely win the extended rallies, Lopez can shorten the points and test the consistency of his compatriot and I have a feeling he is going to prove a little too good on the big points and come through, but possibly after thee sets.

Simone Bolelli - 3.5 games v Stefano Travaglia: Two players that will receive plenty of support from the home crowd are going to meet in the First Round and I think Simone Bolelli makes the better use of the Wild Card than Stefano Travaglia makes of his wins in the qualifiers.

I have to credit Travaglia for the first win in the qualifiers against the veteran Albert Montanes, but he has spent the majority of his time at the Challenger level and that is where Bolelli should be able to exploit the difference in quality that they have faced.

Bolelli has returned from injury this season after missing seven months on the Tour and he has won three titles at the Challenger level, including back to back tournament wins on the clay courts. The former Italian Number 1 has had a couple of weeks to rest since winning in Tunisia and I expect his added confidence and experience to make the difference.

I expect that to lead to a 64, 64 win for Bolelli in this First Round match.

Paolo Lorenzi - 3.5 games v Pere Riba: It has been a disappointing couple of tournaments for Paolo Lorenzi who continues to spend the majority of his time on the Challenger circuit, but I can see him coming through this First Round match in his home country.

It won't be straight-forward simply because he is coming against an opponent in Pere Riba that is comfortable in the conditions after winning a couple of qualifiers to enter the main draw. However, he hasn't enjoyed much success against Lorenzi in previous meetings and I expect the Italian to prevail again.

Lorenzi is a solid competitor on the clay courts but this likely to be a match that has a few breaks of serve both ways and I just feel his previous experience of facing Riba will stand him in good stead.

I also believe Lorenzi will be inspired by the home support to the extent of coming through with a 75, 64 win.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Karin Knapp: Ana Ivanovic understandably admitted she was not at the races last week in Madrid when she was beaten by Simona Halep, but I expect some response to that defeat in this First Round match in Rome.

She is up against an opponent that has lost 7 matches in a row and has not been as competitive in those matches as she likes, although Karin Knapp will be given ample support from the Italian crowd.

Unfortunately, Ivanovic is one of those characters that has plenty of admirers herself, particularly from a vocal male audience, and so even home support might not be enough for Knapp.

There are times that I have watched Ivanovic and she can be frustratingly inconsistent, but I would expect her to be a little too powerful for Knapp and come through 62, 64.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez @ 2.10 Stan James (2 Units)
Simone Bolelli - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paolo Lorenzi - 3.5 Games @ 1.96 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Madrid Final6-12, - 13.56 Units (37 Units Staked, - 36.65% Yield)

Season 2014+ 22.44 Units (613 Units Staked, + 3.66% 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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