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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Monday, 30 June 2014

Wimbledon Day 7 Picks 2014 (June 30th)

At the other three Grand Slam events, the second Monday of the event would be known as 'Day 8', but Wimbledon has no play on Middle Sunday and so the seventh day of this tournament comes at the beginning of the second week.

Unfortunately for the event, Saturday's play was heavily curtailed by the heavy rain in SW19 and that also means the organisers have made an executive decision to move some of the Fourth Round matches in both men's and women's draws to Tuesday and not play the entire Round on Monday as is tradition.

I think it was the only sensible thing to do if you are to give every player an opportunity to win the title, although I do feel for the likes of Feliciano Lopez, John Isner, Denis Istomin and Stan Wawrinka as they will have to play three best of five set matches in consecutive days to reach the Semi Final.

That does give the physical edge to those players that are already into the Fourth Round in the bottom half of the draw who will be benefited by having two days off to recharge the batteries before they go again. One of those is Rafa Nadal who might be the big threat now he has three wins on grass under his belt and I feel comfortable having backed him, along with Andy Murray, at the start of the tournament.

However, the first week of the tournament hasn't been all that good news for my outright picks after Serena Williams was dumped from the tournament and showing a worrying trend- the defeat in the Third Round against Alize Cornet adds another surprising name to those that have beaten Williams in Grand Slams over the last couple of years, but the bigger concern is that she has failed to reach the Quarter Finals in four of her last five Grand Slams.

I know pre-tournament that some were suggesting that Williams might be on the downward curve and I think there will be a lot of questions that she needs to answer at the US Open in August- it's almost a 'must win' tournament for Williams' psyche to prove she can win the big events after the disappointments of the last twelve months.

Where do I stand? I still think Williams is the player to beat on the WTA, but she is finding it tougher to grind out the wins when not playing at her best and she is perhaps very, very vulnerable in the first week of the Grand Slam tournaments, more than she has been in the last three/four years.

After the rain of Saturday, fans with tickets for the next week at Wimbledon will be looking forward to the strong forecast of sun and plenty of quality tennis to enjoy. However, the end of the week doesn't look like it will be avoiding the rain and that could mean the tournament being decided on an indoor court, something that could potentially favour players like Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer.

That's all for another day as players will be concentrating on Fourth Round action on Monday/Tuesday and we know how often they will tell the press that they only take it one match at a time.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: I was so impressed with the way Marin Cilic played against Tomas Berdych and I truly believe the grass courts remain his best opportunity to win a Grand Slam title. It may be beyond Cilic to actually get over the hump in this era of men's tennis, but I think he can move into the Quarter Finals with a win over Jeremy Chardy.

The Frenchman has come through the last two Rounds as the underdog, both times while I have picked him too so I do have a soft spot for Chardy and his achievements of the week.

He has a strong first serve that can give him cheap points, but Chardy can sometimes be erratic off the ground and Cilic has been returning with aggression under the tutelage of Goran Ivanisevic since partnering with the former Wimbledon Champion.

That aggression makes him dangerous on the grass courts where the reaction time is made more difficult by the lower bounce, and I think Cilic will force more break point opportunities. He may need four sets to move through, but the Croatian should find a 63, 36, 64, 63 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: He had to dig deep in the Third Round, but that might have been the match that sparks a deep run at Wimbledon for Grigor Dimitrov who was clearly over the moon to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in five sets.

He has had the weekend to recover from those exertions and I think the match up with Leonardo Mayer will be a good one for Dimitrov who is definitely the more comfortable on the grass courts. Mayer has played well to reach the Fourth Round for the first time in a Grand Slam, surprising the likes of Andreas Seppi and Marcos Baghdatis, but this will need another gear or two improvement for another surprise.

Mayer has a serve that can produce the cheap points and I think that will make him competitive, but he could find it tough to stay in the match mentally if he falls behind a set or two and allow Dimitrov to take charge and move clear.

It wouldn't surprise me to see a tie-break in the first set, but Dimitrov to eventually prevail 76, 64, 62.

Andy Murray - 6.5 games v Kevin Anderson: If you have a serve like Kevin Anderson, this amount of games could be very hard to overcome, but he is playing against one of the best returners on the Tour in Andy Murray.

That means I would expect Murray to get plenty of balls back in play and into the rallies, while the variation in the Murray game could see Anderson pulled around the court. The ball stays low on the grass courts anyway, but the Murray slice and drop shots he employs will make it that much tougher for a six foot, eight inch Anderson getting down and and making the difficult balls back in play.

The last time they met saw Anderson batter Murray in Montreal back in 2011, but I think Centre Court has become a very comfortable setting for the British Number 1 and I don't think it'll be anything but a straight-forward win for Murray.

After a tight first set, I expect Murray to take complete control and win this match fairly comfortably while getting over the number.

Novak Djokovic - 6.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Every single Novak Djokovic fan must have had their heart in their mouth when he went down in the third set of his win over Gilles Simon while clutching his shoulder.

It looked extremely serious judging by the reaction of the World Number 2, but I do think it was the shock of the fall that made it all the more painful and I expect Djokovic will be ready to go in this big Fourth Round match.

In the last couple of years, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has proven to be an almighty test on the grass courts, but he hasn't been at his best this year and has had a lot of tennis under his legs in the first week. Tsonga has struggled at times with his serve not being the brutal shot it has been in previous years on the grass courts and mentally this has to be a huge challenge for the Frenchman.

That is because Djokovic has dominated their recent matches including a thumping of the highest order at the French Open last month. Djokovic has won nine in a row against Tsonga and there are so many 61 or 62 sets thrown in that I can see the Serb getting away from Tsonga again and winning this 76, 62, 64.

Lucie Safarova - 4.5 games v Tereza Smitkova: One of the surprises of the tournament to this point is Tereza Smitkova who has come through the qualifiers to reach the Fourth Round at 19 years old.

It has been a surprise in her first professional matches on the grass courts, especially as she lost in the First Round of two 'Challenger' level events in the weeks prior to Wimbledon, while Smitkova hadn't played a main Tour level match since the end of last season.

Add in the factors that she had to win an eighteen game final set in the Third Round to reach this stage and she is coming up against Lucie Safarova from the same country may make it difficult for Smitkova. Playing a compatriot is never easy, but playing one who has represented the country for so long can be tough to deal with emotionally.

Safarova also has a decent serve and heavy groundies to put pressure on Smitkova and I think she will work through with a 64, 63 win.

Eugenie Bouchard - 3.5 games v Alize Cornet: Following up a huge win over Serena Williams might be a tough burden for Alize Cornet to face from a mental standpoint as the expectation soars around her.

However, the grass courts haven't really seen the best of Cornet in the past and I think it is going to be tough to prevent Eugenie Bouchard reach yet another Quarter Final in a Grand Slam event this season.

Bouchard has really come on leaps and bounds over the first six months of the season and she looks very comfortable at this level, while her serve and aggressive groundstrokes makes her a real threat on this surface. I do like the competitive fire inside of Cornet too, but I think it might be a little overwhelming having achieved what she did on Saturday and even her thoughts of following Marion Bartoli might be ended at the first hurdle since the win over Serena Williams.

I think this will be a fun match for the crowd inside Centre Court to open proceedings on Monday, but one that I expect Bouchard to have a little too much firepower and come through 64, 64.

Petra Kvitova - 5.5 games v Shuai Peng: With Serena Williams out of the draw, the layers have installed Maria Sharapova as the favourite to win the Wimbledon title she first won ten years ago... However, a more recent Wimbledon Champion in Petra Kvitova could be the person most likely to take advantage.

The serve has been working this week and Kvitova follows that up with big, heavy shots from the baseline that keeps opponents off guard and she showed that added mental toughness in her win over Venus Williams.

While that match went three sets, albeit expectedly with the nature of the two players on show, Kvitova had run through her previous two matches and I expect her power to ease her through to the Quarter Finals against Shuai Peng.

Peng is a solid competitor on the Tour, but hasn't come close to matching her 48 wins in 2011 over the last three years. She has struggled to deal with what Kvitova brings to the court in her four career losses to her and I also think Peng is going to be under pressure by the penetrating groundstrokes she will be faced with through this match.

It is unlikely that she would just crumble in the match, but Peng's serve is not the most potent and I think Kvitova will be able to force her backwards and eventually come through 75, 62.

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 5.5 Games @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez-Feliciano Lopez First Set Tie-Break @ 2.00 Coral (2 Unit) Already Advised
Denis Istomin + 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units) Already Advised
Yaroslava Shvedova + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units) Rain Delay with Shvedova leading 76, 66
Sabine Lisicki + 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units) Rain Delay with Lisicki leading 64, 11

Wimbledon Update: 20-20, + 3.02 Units (74 Units Staked, + 4.08% Yield)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup Second Round Picks 2014 (June 28-July 1)

It has been an engrossing opening to the World Cup which has seen the last two weeks fly by in the Group Stage- most casual fans would have been extremely have happy to see the huge amounts of goals flying which had not been a feature of the previous tournament in South Africa.

There's no doubting that it has been an extremely fun tournament in terms of viewing, but I had a horrendous set of results in the middle round of games that has put a dampener on the results achieved.

The good news is the tournament looks to be building nicely with some intriguing Second Round matches and potential Quarter Finals ahead.

It does seem a good time to reflect on which of the teams have looked the most likely to win the tournament after my brilliant call on Spain fell at the wayside. I have been most impressed by France, despite the lack of quality in their Group, while I do have my doubts about Germany even if they did beat Portugal beat 4-0.

That result doesn't really look as great when you see how Portugal played the rest of the way and I do fancy France to win that Quarter Final if it is the one we get.

I do expect better things from Brazil, while Argentina have the bonus of being on the other side of the draw than the hosts, France and Germany. All in all it should be a fascinating final two weeks of a wonderful tournament to this point.

Brazil v Chile Pick: This is the most fascinating Second Round match as Luis Felipe Scolari has been adamant for months that the one team he didn't want the hosts to be facing was Chile.

That is the situation that has developed for Brazil and there is a real tension that this could be the match that undoes their chances of winning the World Cup on their home soil.

I can understand the concern- Chile play with a high-tempo, pressing game that can cause any team problems as they showed in the Group alongside Spain and Holland and there is a sense of misfortune that they didn't top the section.

With players like Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, Chile can create chances against a Brazil defence that has looked vulnerable through the tournament. I'd very much expect Chile to score, but can they hold their nerve and record a huge victory for the nation.

That I am less convinced about- Brazil haven't played well but there are signs that they are getting into the groove, although nerves should be frayed in this one. If they fall behind, Brazil could find themselves in big trouble, but a lead could give them the opportunity to counter-attack and win this game.

It's really tough to call because I have been so impressed with Chile in the tournament- however, they didn't have the best results in the qualifiers against their fellow automatic qualifiers and Brazil should be able to beat them. However, they look short considering the threat Chile pose and I think it might be a better option backing Brazil to win a game in which both teams score, which would have been a winner in their two Group wins.

Colombia v Uruguay Pick: There are two ways that Uruguay are likely to be affected by the suspension that has been handed out to Luis Suarez for his awful decision to bite Giorgio Chiellini in the final Group game- either Uruguay will employ a 'siege mentality' and rally together to move through to the Quarter Finals for the second World Cup in succession, or they will crumble without their best player as they did against Costa Rica in the first game at the World Cup.

It is clear that Oscar Tabarez is looking to find the 'siege mentality' from his latest press conference, but the players have to be feeling this situation with Suarez. It has to be a mental burden to try and concentrate on the football knowing what has happened to their talisman and they are up against a confident and, more importantly, settled Colombia team.

Colombia have been enjoying their football in Brazil and have scored plenty of goals in their games here, while the squad all seem to have rallied without their best player who couldn't return to fitness in time for the tournament.

That may even have freed up the likes of James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado who have been brilliant to watch in the tournament. Jose Pekerman is the kind of manager that will ask his team to go out and express themselves and as long as he doesn't make the mistakes that cost Argentina the chance to win the World Cup in 2006, I expect Colombia can beat their South America rivals in the Second Round.

I just don't know if Uruguay will have the belief they can win this game without Suarez and Colombia could punish them on the counter-attack if they have the lead and Uruguay push on.

Netherlands v Mexico Pick: This looks a brilliant Second Round match between two teams that may have exceeded expectations already by getting to this stage, especially from pre-tournament predictions, and both now feel they can go much further.

The two teams are very similar and they match one another in formation and style with both looking to counter attack which makes the first goal that much more important in my opinion.

The Netherlands have the pace and clinical finishing up front to cause some problems for Mexico, especially if they persist with the high line that was very close to being penetrated by Brazil a couple of times in the Group.

I do fancy Holland to get through and I think they will find the extra quality to do that, but this should be another quality game, although conditions could sap some energy towards the end of the ninety minutes. Mistakes may be a factor, but the Netherlands might just have the extra quality to make the difference.

Costa Rica v Greece Pick: Since the World Cup held in Mexico in 1986, at least two matches in the Second Round of a World Cup tournament have had to go to extra time/penalties and I would look at the fixtures and suggest this game is the most likely to follow suit.

There is a lot of hope behind both teams who can make a really big impact on the world stage by becoming the surprise Quarter Finalists of this tournament and from there Greece have proven that anything can happen in a major international tournament.

However, that might also lead to tension in both teams with a lot to lose in a defeat and I am not looking at a game that is going to provide a lot of goals.

Costa Rica will also have to deal with a different mentality and expectation now that they are the favourites to win a match after excelling in an underdog situation in the Group Stages. They have pace up front, but Greece have looked pretty certain of themselves defensively.

On the other hand, Greece might be worried about over-committing going forward and this has all the hallmarks of a match that could easily go to penalties. An early goal could change things, but if this game is level after the hour mark, you may see both taking less risk and the game ending up requiring the additional time and possibly penalties to separate them.

France v Nigeria Pick: I was very impressed with the way the Nigerians approached their game with Argentina, even if they did end up on the wrong end of a 2-3 loss, but they showed they could be a threat to teams in the Second Round and moving forward.

They have pace in the forward positions which makes them dangerous, but the team that has really had me sitting up and taking notice to this point is France and I think they will prove their readiness to win this tournament again.

France seem to have a lovely balance in the squad, while Karim Benzema is finally showing what he can do at a major international tournament following struggles in previous years. With that added potency in the forward positions, France look like a team that can go very deep into the tournament, especially as they seem to be playing as a team which is sometimes their biggest problem.

The French have also shown how devastating they can be on the counter-attack and there are definitely some weakness in the defensive positions for Nigeria that will be exploited. If France get ahead, it might be all the more difficult for Nigeria when pushing men forward and I do think this French team has a better defence than Argentina who were punished by the Nigerians in the final Group games.

I believe France should win this game, and it wouldn't surprise me if they were to win by a couple of goals after catching Nigeria pushing forward when chasing the game.

Germany v Algeria Pick: Revenge is a dish best served cold and this one has been cooling in Algeria for thirty-two years as they have the chance to avenge their predecessors.

Back in 1982 in Spain, Algeria beat West Germany in the Group Stage of the World Cup, but were still knocked out when the West Germans and Austria played out a convenient 1-0 win for West Germany that sent both teams through.

Watch the highlights of the game... After West Germany score early, the rest of the game is played at walking pace with neither team daring to venture into the final third of their opponents and was the catalyst for changing the rules and ensuring the last Group games are played at the same time to try and remove something as distasteful happening again.

Moving back to the present- this Second Round game looks a mismatch on paper, but Algeria are a better team than some people may expect and I don't believe they will just roll over in this one. They are technically pretty good and have a little pace in the forward positions that might worry a Germany defence that struggled to deal with that pace that Ghana generated in a 2-2 draw.

However, I expect Germany to have plenty of control of the ball through their midfield and they have shown there are goals in the side by scoring seven goals in three Group games. With Miroslav Klose also able to be called upon from the bench, I would be surprised if Germany don't go through and find a way to win this one by a couple of goals.

The killer goal could come on the counter-attack if Algeria commit too many men forward, while tiredness could creep in when chasing the ball in tough conditions for long periods. That fatigue cost Algeria against Belgium and they were certainly rattled by South Korea in the second half of that game despite leading 3-0 at half time.

With that in mind, I do fancy Germany to find a win by a couple of goals and set up what could be the best game of the tournament in the Quarter Final against the French as long as both win through on Monday.

Argentina v Switzerland Pick: The last two World Cups have seen Argentina start off very quickly and then fade before being knocked out at the Quarter Final stage, but this time they have started a little slowly and that may be good news for them.

After winning Group F with three nervy wins, Argentina were placed in the 'weaker' half of the draw to the Final and the fans will be expectant that they take advantage. They can't take Switzerland/Belgium/USA/Holland/Costa Rica as an 'easy' path, but when you think the four Quarter Finalists are Brazil/Colombia/France/Germany in the other half, you can also understand the fans excitement.

Lionel Messi needed to have a big World Cup and he has made a good start with four goals in three games, but anything less than guiding Argentina to the title may make it impossible for him to be put alongside Diego Maradona in the hearts of the regular man on the street.

It has been Messi that has provided the difference in all three games Argentina have played, so they will be hoping he can do the same against the Swiss who are perhaps over-rated thanks to the strange FIFA World Rankings.

The fact is that Switzerland are ranked far higher than France, but were obliterated by them in the Group and I am not convinced they have enough to beat Argentina. They have scored goals though and Argentina are vulnerable at the back so there is every chance that Switzerland can at least force a consolation before they head back home, but I do believe they will be heading back home at the end of this Second Round match.

Argentina have won every game by a single goal margin so far, but they have conceded in two of their three games and the value may be that they do so again in another winning effort perhaps inspired by Messi once more.

Belgium v United States Pick: If you believe what you read on any of the United States sports pages there is a conviction that their team can beat Belgium and make it through to the Quarter Finals for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.

After all, the USA came through a 'Group of Death' containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana and were seconds away from winning two of those games against the latter two nations. The team works hard for one another and Belgium weren't impressive in a very weak section so the feeling is the USA are going to be ready to create a big surprise.

The layers are less sure with Belgium set as the favourites, but it has to be said that the 'sexy dark horse' pick hasn't been as free-flowing as people would have liked to see, even if the most important thing is that they have moved through to the Second Round.

Both nations will believe they can really make an impact at this tournament now they are in the 'weaker half' of the draw, although the winner is likely to face Argentina in the Quarter Finals, and that may make this a tense, tight game.

The United States are compact, but have made some defensive errors to put them in trouble in games and Belgium can capitalise on those. However, this is not going to be an easy game for either team and I might just do a bit of value hunting again.

Two of Belgium's three games at the World Cup have gone in level at half time, the other was when they were behind to Algeria, but each time the Red Devils have recovered in the second half and exerted enough pressure to win all three games.

The USA games have been more mixed with all three possible results coming in at half time, but I can see this game developing like the other Belgium games- that is to say it will begin very tight as both defences hold the edge, but the fatigue and the conditions may make the second half more open. There was a suggestion to back the second half to produce most goals, a winner in all six of these two teams games, but the layers have made that the favourite in this game and instead it may be backing the Belgians to win this game after going in level at the break.

MY PICKS: Brazil Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.40 Tote Sport (1 Unit)
Colombia Win @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Netherlands Win @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Costa Rica-Greece Draw @ 3.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
France - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (3 Units)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (3 Units)
Argentina Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.60 Coral (1 Unit)
Draw-Belgium HT-FT @ 5.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Second Round Update: 4-2, + 5.49 Units (12 Units Staked, + 45.75% Yield)

Group Stage: 17-31, - 14.44 Units (84 Units Staked, - 17.19% Yield)

Wimbledon Day 6 Picks 2014 (June 28th)

It has been a strange feature of the Wimbledon tournament that we haven't seen the rain that usually affects the two weeks at the third Grand Slam of the season, especially as the forecast had called for a wet couple of days during the Third Round matches.

On Thursday the day ended a couple of hours earlier than expected, while on Friday play was delayed for around an hour, but otherwise it has been a good first week of the event which remains on schedule.

It will be interesting to see how much tennis is played on the courts other than Centre on Saturday considering we are expected to see showers for much of the day and it is going to be a stop-start day at the very least. That may mean the potential for 'People's Sunday' if the Third Round is still to be completed by Saturday evening, although the hope will be that there are enough breaks in the weather that the matches are completed through the day.

Friday turned out to be another positive day as I have clawed back the poor start from the first couple of days and I am not close to getting back into the positive column for the tournament. Unfortunately Dominika Cibulkova was the first of my outright picks made before Wimbledon began who has been knocked out of the tournament, but there are plenty of those that have moved through the draws and look set to get into the second week.

I am not sure how many of these picks will be completed by Saturday evening, but hopefully it can be another positive set of picks even if they have to be played on Sunday/Monday depending on the decision made by the tournament organisers.

Milos Raonic - 5.5 games v Lukasz Kubot: Lukasz Kubot reached the Quarter Final at Wimbledon last season so certainly won't be an easy Third Round opponent for Milos Raonic, although I think the big-serving Canadian is going to be too hot for Kubot to handle.

Both players have had impressive performances to get to this Third Round match, but I can see the serve of Raonic being the difference as it builds scoreboard pressure and perhaps leaves Kubot vulnerable to the breaks of serve.

That was the case when Kubot was beaten by Jerzy Janowicq a year ago when he just couldn't find the consistency to get into the service games and presented opportunities for Janowicz to break the serve.

Raonic has been surprisingly efficient at taking his chances so far this week with seven breaks of serve in his first two matches leading to comfortable straight sets win, which is unsurprising considering how tough it can be to break his own serve. If Raonic gets his nose in front in this match, I expect him to roll to a 63, 64, 64 win.

Feliciano Lopez-John Isner First Set Tie-Break:With the way that these two players serve, and also  the way they return serves, I think there is a better than evens chance that the first set will have to be decided on a tie-break.

Feliciano Lopez has come through in straight sets in each of the first two Rounds, but four of those sets have gone to a tie-break, while John Isner had to win back to back tie-breakers in his straight sets win over Jarkko Nieminen.

If you like big-serving and lots of aces and unreturned serves, this looks the perfect match for you and I do think break points will be at a premium. While I couldn't ever predict we would see a repeat of the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut match, if this goes to a fifth set, we could be in for a long wait to find out who is moving through to the Fourth Round.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: Rafael Nadal exorcised some demons when he beat Lukas Rosol in the Second Round, although even the Spaniard famed for his mental strength must have been wondering what was happening when he found himself a set and a break down.

The fact that Nadal came through that match might stand him in good stead for the rest of the tournament as he gets more and more used to the grass courts where he hasn't spent a lot of time in three years.

The match up with Mikhail Kukushkin may be more to Nadal's liking compared with Rosol and Martin Klizan as I don't think the Kazakhstan Number 1 is as powerful off the ground as those two players. Kukushkin does have a decent serve that can see him stay with opponents, but Nadal plays every point so doggedly that I believe he will wear down Kukushkin as the match goes on.

The first set might be very competitive, but Nadal should eventually prevail 64, 62, 63.

Denis Istomin + 4.5 games v Stan Wawrinka: There are times when I have seen Denis Istomin play lights out tennis, although his consistency leaves a lot to be desired with ups and downs in his performances, sometimes even within the same match.

However, the big stage should at least inspire Istomin to provide his best tennis and I do think he has the serve and heavy groundstrokes to trouble Stan Wawrinka who has just not looked comfortable through the first week.

Wawrinka was struggling with his serve and his return despite what a four set win over Yen-Hsun Lu may suggest and I do think Istomin can cause some issues for the Australian Open Champion to deal with.

They have met before at Wimbledon too, albeit four years ago, with Istomin coming through in five sets and I do think he is being given too many games in this match. If Wawrinka is as loose as he was on Thursday, Istomin has a chance to win one, possibly two sets at least. Personally I hope Istomin brings his better serving to the court if that is to happen, but I do think Wawrinka is being over-rated on the grass courts against a dangerous opponent.

Yaroslava Shvedova + 4.5 games v Madison Keys: They haven't met one another on the Tour in the past, but Yaroslava Shvedova looks to be under-rated to cause problems considering her success on the grass courts in the past.

Of course Madison Keys is the 'flavour of the month' after winning the title in Eastbourne and she does have the serve and groundstrokes to be very comfortable on the grass courts. However, she has played a lot of tennis over the last couple of weeks and is now playing someone who can hit a heavy ball and can use her own serve to set up 'cheap' points.

I still remember a couple of years ago when Shvedova came very close to upsetting Serena Williams at this venue and she has every chance to push Keys all the way too. I can see her doing enough to win a set too and the tie-breaker is a real player in the match which all suggests the games she is being given are too high.

Even in a losing effort, Shvedova may be able to keep this very competitive until the final point is secured.

Sabine Lisicki + 3.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: I have backed Ana Ivanovic to win the Second Quarter of the draw, but this was the one match that I thought would provide the biggest obstacle. I expected it to be close to a pick 'em contest, but Ivanovic is a warm favourite which doesn't seem right on the grass courts.

That is because these courts are the ones that Sabine Lisicki has enjoyed considerable success upon over the last three years including reaching the Final at Wimbledon last season and also beating the likes of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

Of course I picked Ivanovic in the Second Quarter because of her current form and winning the title in Birmingham, but I can't help think the match up is so close that three sets are a real possibility.

Sabine Lisicki also has every chance of winning this outright and all in all, the games being given to the German look too high and I think this is another match that could remain competitive throughout.

MY PICKS: Milos Raonic - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez-John Isner First Set Tie Break @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denis Istomin + 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Yaroslava Shvedova + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki + 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 18-20, - 0.48 Units (70 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)

Friday, 27 June 2014

Wimbledon Day 5 Picks 2014 (June 27th)

With Rafael Nadal a set and a break down to Lukas Rosol in the Second Round on Centre Court, there were a lot of people suggesting that lightning was going to strike twice in the same place. On this occasion, Nadal showed all the battling quality that has taken him to nine French Open titles in the last decade as he came back to win the second set and then controlled the rest of the match.

The victory over Rosol moves Nadal into the Third Round and he has to be happy with the draw that has seen dangerous threats like Ivo Karlovic, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils all exit his mini-section in the draw. Philipp Kohlschreiber was also knocked out which takes away another decent grass court player ahead of the Semi Finals and the 'daunting' draw that the 'experts' spoke about pre-tournament looks less intimidating now.

Rain shortened Thursday's tennis at Wimbledon which means a number of Second Round matches have to be completed on Friday, while the Third Round also gets underway. This is when the Grand Slams start producing the bigger challenges for those players that want to go all the way to the title and the competitive matches also produce more compelling television for the viewers.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v Gilles Simon: Novak Djokovic played two very strong sets against Radek Stepanek, but he was critical of his own performance in the last two sets as he was pushed to four in the Second Round.

Someone like Stepanek can be very awkward for any player on grass as he has an aggressive style that will look to attack the net, while his character on court can frustrate and put his opponent off their game.

That is unlikely to be the case with Gilles Simon who tries to grind down opponents with a consistent game that won't change too dramatically. His serve can be attacked and I think Djokovic is going to feel very comfortable opening Centre Court on Friday.

These two have had some close matches in the past, but came during a period when Simon was a top eight player and Djokovic has improved from 2009. Their most recent meeting saw Djokovic crush the Frenchman, but that was also four years ago and again I would say Djokovic has improved markedly since then.

Djokovic should be able to dictate the match more than Simon and I do think a 64, 64, 62 win is very much on the cards.

Leonardo Mayer v Andrey Kuznetsov: Leonardo Mayer and Andrey Kuznetsov both won surprising Second Round matches and this represents a great opportunity for both players to reach the Third Round of a Grand Slam.

Leonardo Mayer beat Marcos Baghdatis and Andreas Seppi in the first two Rounds, both times as the underdog, and has spent a fair amount of time on court. His serve has been effective on the grass courts and Mayer has the consistency that comes from playing on the clay courts, although I think he has also understood the added aggression you need on the grass.

He will feel the heavier shots in the match are going to come off his racquet and will look to take advantage of Andrey Kuznetsov's lack of experience at this level. Kuznetsov stunned David Ferrer in five sets in the Second Round, but I would hastily add that the Spaniard came into Wimbledon with big question marks surrounding his health.

Kuznetsov has won a lot of matches recently as he qualified for grass tournaments in Halle and Eastbourne, but he was beaten in the main draw both times at the first hurdle. While I respect what he did to beat Ferrer, I do think he should have been a bigger underdog to back that win up, even if Mayer isn't the best on the grass courts.

Grigor Dimitrov win 3-1 v Alexandr Dolgopolov: With David Ferrer out of the tournament, the winner of this match will certainly feel they should be reaching the Quarter Final at the very least.

After winning the title at Queens, Grigor Dimitrov has made a positive start to the tournament at Wimbledon and it does feel that the Bulgarian is ready to make a real impact at the Grand Slam level.

However, the match up with Alexandr Dolgopolov has the potential to be very awkward, especially if Dolgopolov serves as big as he did in his win over Benjamin Becker in the Second Round. Dolgopolov also uses a lot of slice and spin in his shots which should take to the grass courts very effectively, although he can be mentally a little fragile and not always pick the right shot when it comes to decision making on the court.

That is the reason I believe Dimitrov will prove to be too good for Dolgopolov, but there is every chance that the first two sets are split before one of the favourites to win the title pulls away for a four set win.

Jeremy Chardy v Sergiy Stakhovsky: It might not have produced the same seismic shocks as the victory over Roger Federer twelve months ago, but Sergiy Stakhovsky was back to his 'giant killing' best in dismissing Ernests Gulbis in the Second Round.

That win is a very solid one on paper, but anyone who follows tennis with any interest outside of the grass court season will know that Gulbis was not expected to be a big threat at Wimbledon. Of course the layers kept him onside after a stunning run to the French Open Semi Final last month, but the loss was perhaps not as unexpected as some may believe.

The match against Jeremy Chardy is going to be much more competitive and I do think the only reason the Frenchman is set as the underdog is simply because he has had two long matches already this week.

However, Chardy showed some real resiliency to come through the match with Marinko Matosevic, and I do think he has enough grass court nous to win the match with Stakhovsky. The latter has a decent serve, but throws in a few bad games that Chardy could take advantage of, while he has suffered some poor losses over the last couple of weeks.

It does feel that Chardy would have been the favourite if not being taken to five sets in the Second Round, and I will back him to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Marin Cilic v Tomas Berdych: Tomas Berdych has a 5-2 head to head record against Marin Cilic, but there are a couple of reasons that I believe the Croatian can get the better of him in the best of five set Third Round match at Wimbledon.

The first thing that would have to worry Berdych backers is the fact that he has admitted that he is suffering with a wrist complaint that is affecting his backhand and how he wants to play that shot. The backhand is the more consistent shot that Marin Cilic hits and he could potentially expose that area of Berdych's game in any extended rallies.

Secondly, Marin Cilic beat Tomas Berdych in two tight sets at Queens last year and it definitely feels he has the game that is perfectly suited to the grass courts.

My final reason is that Cilic has been playing far more aggressively this season and has been very strong in the return department and I can see him getting enough Berdych serves back in play to cause problems.

Even though Berdych reached the Quarter Final here last season and is a former Wimbledon Finalist, I have a feeling Cilic can get the better of him in what looks the best Third Round match to be played on Friday.

Na Li - 5.5 games v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova: Barbora Zahlavova Strycova has had another very good grass court season with a couple of impressive wins under her belt in this tournament too. She reached the Final of the tournament in Birmingham in preparation for Wimbledon and I think she has all it takes to give Na Li a really competitive match.

So why do I think Na Li can cover what is a fair amount of games for a two set match? Well, Li seems to have found something of a groove on the grass courts with three consecutive sets won by the same 62 scoreline.

Li has the game to really go deep into the draw at Wimbledon with the power and aggression certainly being a positive on the grass courts. She has also worked with Carlos Rodriguez who has gotten Li to move forward and attack the net, albeit with limited success, and I think she has the better serve of the two players.

I'd expect a tight first set to be replaced with a more comfortable one for Li in this match and a 75, 62 win could be the final result.

Dominika Cibulkova v Lucie Safarova: Having to go deep into a third set in the Second Round doesn't bode well for the long-term future of Dominika Cibulkova in this tournament, but I also believe that has inflated her odds to beat Lucie Safarova in the Third Round.

Cibulkova has enjoyed the match up in the past with three straight wins over Safarova, including at Wimbledon back in 2010, and I think the 'pocket rocket' has enough penetration on her groundstrokes to win this match.

As well as Safarova can serve, she has struggled for consistency on the grass courts as I don't feel she is as comfortable moving on the surface, while she has also been playing with some niggling injuries recently.

The Czech player has had to battle through the first two Rounds too with three of the four sets ending in tie-breakers and the other 75, but Safarova has yet to drop a set. I expect that will change on Friday as Cibulkova proves a bit too much to handle and move through to the second week for the second time at a Grand Slam event this season.

Petra Kvitova-Venus Williams Over 21.5 Total Games: Two players that are very comfortable on the grass courts will meet relatively early in the draw at Wimbledon as Petra Kvitova takes on Venus Williams for a place in the Fourth Round.

They have met four times before and every single one of those matches have needed a third set to decide the winner, although it is Kvitova that has won three of those matches.

I do think the Wimbledon Champion of 2011 is capable of beating Venus Williams on current form, but Kvitova is also going to be put under pressure by the American and I am not going to be in the least bit surprised if this does need a third set to separate them.

The games are a touch on the low side considering both players can serve well enough to see us need at least one tie-breaker and I would be surprised if either player falls away from the competition. I did consider backing this match to go the distance, but I will back the over in the total games market which could be covered in a tight two set contest.

MY PICKS: Novak Djokovic - 7.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Leonardo Mayer @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov Win 3-1 @ 3.60 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Jeremy Chardy @ 2.20 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic @ 2.90 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Na Li - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova @ 1.75 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova-Venus Williams Over 21.5 Total Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units) Already Advised but postponed due to Rain

Wimbledon Update: 13-16, - 3.32 Units (54 Units Staked, - 6.15% Yield)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wimbledon Day 4 Picks 2014 (June 26th)

Most of the big names have progressed through the draw at Wimbledon in the first two Rounds, but Thursday brings about the big rematch between Lukas Rosol and Rafael Nadal in the Second Round.

2012 will live long in the memory of those that watched Rosol beat Nadal in a fifth set under the roof of Centre Court at the same stage of the tournament, but I think the Spaniard might be ready for a spot of revenge as you will see below.

There are some big matches that will be played on Thursday as the likes of Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova all look to move their tournaments on to the Third Round. Twelve months ago, three of those four names had exited Wimbledon by the end of Thursday evening so this is a big moment for all of them as they ease onto the grass.

The picks had a decent Wednesday, although a couple of bad calls didn't help myself. I am hoping that I will stop picking those players that are demolished by 61 or 62 scorelines and instead have a few of those ending on my side.

Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: There were a couple of lapses of concentration from Richard Gasquet in the First Round that prevented him from having an easier time, but he will have to be better against another young Australian in Nick Kyrgios.

This player has everything to be successful on the main Tour, although Kyrgios has only turned nineteen years old and he might not have the stamina and power to really mix in this company for a consistent period of time.

That was what essentially happened when these two players met in the Davis Cup earlier this season in a 76, 62, 62 win for Gasquet. Kyrgios has also won a Challenger on the grass courts which should prove this to be a closer match than that one which was played on the clay courts, but I still think Gasquet ends up pulling away after taking a close first set and should win this 76, 63, 64.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 6.5 games v Simone Bolelli: I have suggested that this could be a big week for Philipp Kohlschreiber and I would expect him to be far too good for Simone Bolelli on the grass courts which are not the favoured surface of the Italian.

On the other hand, Kohlschreiber is very happy on this surface and I think the draw gives him a great chance to reach the Quarter Finals at the very least. He was a convincing winner in the First Round and I would expect him to be too good for Bolelli who may already be planning for the clay courts this summer.

Bolelli has done well to reach the Second Round here, but he was a Lucky Loser into the main draw at Wimbledon and has played a fellow qualifier in the First Round. The draw gets a lot more difficult for him now and I think his second serve may prove to be vulnerable in the match.

It won't always be straight-forward unless Kohlschreiber serves well, but I am expecting him to come through 63, 64, 64.

Tommy Robredo - 2.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: One poor set cost Tommy Robredo the chance for an easy win in the First Round, but he still came through in four sets and I think Adrian Mannarino is a touch over-rated in this match.

There is no doubt that Mannarino has enjoyed a lot of success on the grass courts over the last couple of years, including reaching the Fourth Round here last season, but his serve is vulnerable and I think he is perhaps being over-estimated because of those performances.

As I said, the serve will give Robredo chances to break serve and I also think the Spaniard is more comfortable on the grass courts than his record may suggest. He has the edge in consistency, serve and overall quality of tennis and I would be surprised if Robredo isn't moving through to the Third Round at Wimbledon again, even if it takes four sets.

As long as Robredo doesn't throw in another completely shocking set as he did against Lukas Lacko, I like him to win and cover.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Lukas Rosol: I am sure there will be a fair few people out there that will be backing Lukas Rosol to beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon for the second time in three years, but I am of the belief that it was the perfect storm that led to Nadal's demise in 2012.

It was a stunning display of hitting from Rosol with the consistency that has never really returned to his game and Nadal showed he can handle the Czech player when beating him 62, 76 in Doha at the beginning of this season.

Martin Klizan showed that it is possible to get after Nadal on the grass courts and Rosol will take heart from that, but I think there were a few nerves for Nadal after his recent performances on the surface. The win should have settled him down and I think he can weather the Rosol storm before heading off with this match.

As well as Rosol can play at times, he is also just as capable of throwing in a load of errors and I think Nadal will take advantage of those this time and come through with a 64, 76, 62 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: I don't want anyone to think I am disrespecting Yen-Hsun Lu by taking such a big number against him, especially on the grass courts which he has enjoyed in the past.

However, I think Stan Wawrinka is capable of easing past him as Lu has had a few injury issues of late and had to come through a five set match in the First Round. He was also beaten comfortably by Julien Benneteau last week in Eastbourne and I do believe Wawrinka is too powerful for him as long as he can bring in the form that saw him ease past Joao Sousa in the First Round.

Lu has a decent serve that can see him rattle through games, but he has been struggling with that aspect of his game and I think Wawrinka has chances to break the serve through the match. If he takes those chances, it just wouldn't surprise me if the Swiss Number 1 wins this 63, 64, 64.

Feliciano Lopez - 5.5 games v Ante Pavic: There has to be a lot of tennis in the legs of Feliciano Lopez, but he must have been pleased with a straight sets win in the First Round and the fact that he has a day rest between matches. After reaching the Final in Queens and perhaps choking away the title, Lopez bounced back by defending his title in Eastbourne before heading to Wimbledon.

The grass courts suit Lopez' game as he can get forward and be very aggressive and attack the net, while his backhand slice stays low on the surface. With the big serve keeping him out of trouble, Lopez is a real threat this year at Wimbledon- maybe not to win the title, but definitely to cause problems for any of the 'favourites' he may bump into.

Playing a qualifier in Ante Pavic may even up the amount of tennis that Lopez has played, although you can't under-estimate an opponent that has beaten Alejandro Falla in the First Round without dropping a set.

The win over Falla is a good, solid win, but Pavic doesn't play players of the quality of Lopez too often these days and I think the scoreboard pressure may lead to a 76, 63, 64 win for the Seed.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Jie Zheng: The winner in Birmingham certainly has the confidence to go deep into the draw at Wimbledon, although Ana Ivanovic may have wished for a slightly easier draw. She was given a tough test by Francesca Schiavone in the First Round, while Jie Zheng has been a productive grass court player in recent years.

However, it has to be said that Zheng isn't the same player of three or four years ago and the aggressive game that Ivanovic brings to the table may cause too many problems to overcome.

Her biggest issue could be herself... There are times when Ivanovic struggles with her serve and allows matches to be a lot closer than they perhaps should be, and that would be a big problem against someone as competitive as Zheng can be.

Zheng had a very good week in Hertgenbosch when reaching the Final, but Ivanovic crushed her opponents while winning the title at Birmingham and a good serving performance could see the same happen here.

Sabine Lisicki - 3.5 games v Karolina Pliskova: The grass court season is certainly the time of the year when Sabine Lisicki really loves to get going and I think she can follow up her convincing First Round win with another, this time over Karolina Pliskova.

That same level of success that Lisicki has had at Wimbledon has not been followed by Pliskova and I think it is going to take a big effort to make this a competitive match after Pliskova needed a long third set to come through her own First Round match.

Fatigue could be an issue, but Lisicki hits big off the ground and has a solid serve and those attributes really suit the grass courts. The German was the Runner Up a year ago and looked in good shape to make another concerted effort to get there this season and I would be surprised if this is anything other than a routine 64, 64 win for Lisicki.

Eugenie Bouchard - 6.5 games v Silvia Soler-Espinosa: As the only player on the WTA Tour to have reached the Semi Final at the two previous Grand Slams played in 2014, Eugenie Bouchard must certainly be confident in her own ability to go deep into the Wimbledon draw.

It hasn't been the kindest draw with both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in her quarter of the draw, and that means Bouchard needs to come through her early matches as soon as possible to conserve energy.

Bouchard had an impressive win over Daniela Hantuchova in the First Round, and I think the match with Silvia Soler-Espinosa is a good match up for her in the Second Round considering the lack of success the Spaniard has had on the surface.

The serve and aggressive play of Bouchard is going to be key on the grass courts and I do think she comes through 63, 62 and moves one step closer to a huge Fourth Round clash with potentially Serena Williams.

Maria Sharapova - 6.5 games v Timea Bacsinszky: If Samantha Murray had a little more luck and belief in her game, she would most definitely have given Maria Sharapova more problems in the First Round than what we ended up seeing.

Sharapova admitted the change in surface took some adjustment and she will have to serve better if she wants to win her second Wimbledon title ten years after shocking Serena Williams in the Final.

She should have too much for qualifier Timea Bacsinszky, although you have to show respect to the Swiss player for her performances over the last three weeks on the grass. Most of those have come against players far shorter of the quality that Sharapova brings to the table, but confidence has to be in a good place for Bacsinszky.

Unfortunately for Bacsinszky, she hasn't shown enough on the grass courts in her career to think she can cause a surprise and even getting closer than 63, 62 will be a considerable achievement.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 5.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 2.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 6.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 8-12, - 5.20 Units (36 Units Staked, - 14.44% Yield)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Wimbledon Day 3 Picks 2014 (June 25th)

The first couple of days of the tournament have been rough for the picks with some strange performances within matches putting me on the back foot. It was the same situation on Tuesday with three main picks all coming close, but falling on the wrong side of the line.

Richard Gasquet dropped the first set, but looked to have control against James Duckworth except he had one poor service game in the third set that led to a 2-1 deficit. I had Gasquet winning in four sets and it made me feel a little more aggrieved that the Frenchman won twelve of the last thirteen games to comfortably go through except for that one poor game that cost him another set.

Both Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo came one game from covering the handicap marks and I can point to a couple of poor service games that Nadal played as being the difference despite dominating the last two sets. His fellow Spaniard Robredo had one poor set where he was broken three times to lose it 61, but was a comfortable winner and missed break points in three consecutive Lukas Lacko service games in the final set that would have seen him cover the mark.

It is frustrating when you do get that close, but I am hoping that I will have some fortune on my side going forward as we reach the Second Round with the majority of the big names all still intact. I can see the tournament being one a really good one if we get to see some matches on the grass courts that have a real potential of occurring as the tournament progresses.

One match that has been set is the rematch of Wimbledon 2012 between Rafael Nadal and Lukas Rosol which takes place on Thursday- expect to see plenty of images of that match two years ago over the next couple of days.

There was some criticism of Naomi Broady, one of the few British players that took advantage of her appearance at Wimbledon by coming through the First Round but who decided to go on the offensive against the LTA. Some mentioned that she should have kept her thoughts to herself, but I have no problem with her making a point of the lack of funding and support she has received compared to other players from these shores and I hope she gives another good showing of herself on Wednesday as she takes on Caroline Wozniacki on one of the show courts.

Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Edouard Roger-Vasselin: There may be some limitations in his game, but you have to credit Kevin Anderson for getting as much as he is from it and he is a regular in the second week of a Grand Slam, even if he is yet to really become a threat to win at this level.

Kevin Anderson has a big serve, but follows it up with some heavy groundstrokes and has more consistency off the ground than perhaps given credit for. He also seems comfortable on the grass courts, although I don't think he can afford to under-estimate Edouard Roger-Vasselin who is also very comfortable on the surface.

The Frenchman is a solid professional who will give his all in every match he plays so Anderson has to be careful. He is unlikely to believe this is going to be an easy match after having to come from two sets down to beat Roger-Vasselin at the Australian Open and the conditions in London should aid Anderson in winning the match.

The difference may be that Roger-Vasselin does give his opponent chances on his own serve and that could be critical to his chances to win this match- if he goes a break down in sets, Anderson's serve could be a real mental blow to Roger-Vasselin and I like Anderson to win this one 63, 76, 63.

Jeremy Chardy v Marinko Matosevic: This looks like being a big hitting match between two players that can play some big time tennis, but I was surprised that Jeremy Chardy is going off as the slight underdog in the match.

Marinko Matosevic won his first ever match at a Grand Slam event last month at the French Open after previously losing in 12 straight appearances in Slams, but he backed that up at Wimbledon by surprising Fernando Verdasco in the First Round.

That is an impressive win, but Verdasco can be so inconsistent and I think Jeremy Chardy is a more solid player even if he doesn't have the same level of talent as Verdasco. He has a big serve and is comfortable getting forward to the net and I do think the Frenchman will have the belief that he can win this match.

I won't be surprised if this needs four, possibly five sets, to separate the two players, but Matosevic can be so erratic at times that Chardy's more solid game might be enough to make the difference.

Marcos Baghdatis - 4.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: Marcos Baghdatis has struggled with his fitness at times in his career and that has to be the biggest concern with the Cypriot entering a best of five set Grand Slam event, even after taking three months off the Tour to improve that aspect of his body.

He was pushed to four sets in the opening match against Dustin Brown, but that was a 'quick' match with not too many extended rallies and so I fully expect Baghdatis to be too good for Leonardo Mayer on the grass courts.

Mayer is definitely more comfortable on the clay courts, although he stunned Andreas Seppi in five sets in the First Round. He has a decent, solid all around game, but I think Baghdatis has more weapons to his disposal on the lower bouncing grass courts and should prove a little too good for the Argentine.

As longa as Baghdatis can serve well, he should come through with a 63, 75, 64 win.

Mikhail Youzhny - 5.5 games v Jimmy Wang: He may have the best name in tennis and Jimmy Wang has been a familiar name in the Wimbledon main draw, but we saw how good Mikhail Youzhny is on the surface in the way he dismantled James Ward.

Wang is a player that clearly enjoys playing on the grass considering he has come through qualifiers for the third time in a row at Wimbledon, but the difference in quality between these two players should be apparent by the end of the match.

There will be moments where Wang attacks the net and causes problems for Youzhny, but the veteran Russian is very adept at performing on the grass and he should be able to slice and dice through Wang's game.

Every set should be contested very well, but Youzhny may make the big plays necessary and come through with a 64, 63, 75 win.

Gilles Simon - 3.5 games v Robin Haase: Robin Haase wasn't expected to beat Vasek Pospisil in the First Round, but you would think his game should be suited to the grass courts. The problem for Haase is that he can be far too loose with his shots and being broken on grass courts are tough to recover consistently.

I would expect someone like Gilles Simon to extract the errors that can blight Haase's game, although the Frenchman's own serve is extremely vulnerable and he has to work extremely hard to hold on to his serve as he does on every surface.

Simon has shown more ability on the grass courts than Haase in the past, although both players can argue they had bad draws twelve months ago at Wimbledon and perhaps have more to offer in the tank.

However, Simon might just have the edge in terms of playing a game with fewer errors and I am not sure Haase has the consistency to win more than a set on this surface against this opponent. I'd be thinking that the match ends with a 76, 46, 63, 64 win in favour of Simon.

Tomas Berdych win 3-1 v Bernard Tomic: This is the time of the year when Bernard Tomic comes alive and there is little doubt that he loves the grass courts, but the Australian may have to settle with a similar final result as the one he had against Tomas Berdych twelve months ago.

It was an incredibly tight match which saw Berdych's added quality eventually shining through after the first two sets were shared in two tie-breakers.

I do think Berdych is vulnerable on the grass, but Tomic would have to dig a big performance out of himself to avoid a loss and even winning more than one set may be beyond him at this current time.

2014 has been a struggle for Tomic who is 7-7 on the season after winning his First Round match and I think Berdych will take control of the match after splitting the first two sets as he did a year ago and has to be worth a small interest to win this in four sets.

Venus Williams - 5.5 games v Kurumi Nara: Venus Williams had to come through in three sets in the First Round, which was a surprise, but it just underlined that this is not the same player that enjoyed so much success at Wimbledon through her career.

There are just too many mistakes that come off the racquet these days from Williams and that will give Kurumi Nara some hope, although the latter has a very poor record on grass and might struggle to bridge the gap in class.

That is my thinking in going back to the well in backing Venus Williams to cover a fairly substantial spread, but her young opponent has only won one main Tour match on the grass courts in four seasons when coming through the First Round.

Nara has had some big losses in that time and I think Williams should be too good and record a 63, 63 win as long as she can return better than she did at times on Monday.

Petra Kvitova - 4.5 games v Mona Barthel: Mona Barthel had a career high wins in 2012, but she fell fewer than those wins in 2013 and looks to do the same in 2014. On the grass courts, you would think Petra Kvitova is going to be too strong for the German and I would expect her to cover this handicap mark.

The only concern I would continue to have when backing Kvitova is her habit of throwing a sloppy game or two that forces her to dig deep into three set matches, but she has been a little more dominant over the last couple of weeks.

The grass suits the aggression that Kvitova brings to the court whether that is with her serve or with her groundstrokes and the former Wimbledon Champion should be able to impose her will on this match.

Barthel can be a threat when bringing her best to the court, but that has happened fewer and fewer times the last couple of years and I would expect Kvitova to win this 64, 62.

MY PICKS: Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy @ 2.30 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych Win 3-1 @ 3.60 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Venus Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 4.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 3-9, - 9.9 Units (21 Units Staked, - 47.14% Yield)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Wimbledon Day 2 Picks 2014 (June 24th)

The rain that had been forecasted eventually came to SW19 on the first Monday of Wimbledon, but it was fortunate that it came at the end of the day and only cut play by about an hour. That means the majority of matches were completed and only a few are going to be carried over to Tuesday.

It was a surprise free opening to the tournament with the big names all moving through the draw and even the exit of Sam Stosur may have been expected considering her poor record on the grass courts here.

The likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova all managed to record some comfortable wins and the other big names that will be getting their tournaments underway on Tuesday will be hoping to do the same.

It was a mixed day for the picks with the completed matches going 2-2, but I was frustrated that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will not be able to cover the 5.5 games despite winning sets with 61 and 62 scores. Unfortunately, Tsonga missed a lot of chances to break the Melzer serve and dropped the second and third set by the same 63 score.

Tsvetana Pironkova won the first set of her match with Varvara Lepchenko, but she found herself a break down in the second set when the rain came and I think the American has a huge chance of springing a surprise win if she gets off to a strong start when play resumes on Tuesday.

Richard Gasquet win 3-1 v James Duckworth: I really liked the way James Duckworth played in a couple of matches that I saw of his at Queens and I think he has enough to at least give Richard Gasquet something to think about in this First Round match.

The young Australian has come through the tough qualifiers to reach the First Round at SW19 and he showed in his tight loss to Tomas Berdych that he can be a threat on the surface- there was definitely a little of the Lleyton Hewitt about Duckworth, and I think he would take half the career that the veteran Australian has had on the Tour.

Richard Gasquet definitely is a big test as he feels very comfortable on the grass courts and seems to be over his back injury that bothered him through the French Open. Gasquet reached the Final in Eastbourne last week so should have the confidence to win this match, but he does offer his opponents a chance to get into the match and I do think Duckworth will take that.

As long as the qualifiers haven't taken their toll on Duckworth, there is every chance he can take a set, although winning the match might be too much to ask of him.

Frank Dancevic v Ivo Karlovic: Frank Dancevic has a decent serve which will always give him a chance on the grass courts, even if he got into the main draw at Wimbledon thanks to a couple of withdrawals.

He was actually beaten in the last Round of qualifiers by Jimmy Wang, and Dancevic hasn't had a lot of tennis at this level over the last few years, but the Canadian can play on the grass courts and has every chance of causing a surprise in the First Round.

That is because Ivo Karlovic has regularly failed to perform at Wimbledon despite having all the tools to feel right at home on grass. Even in the last two weeks Karlovic has lost a couple of surprising matches and the lottery of the tie-break always makes him a dangerous favourite to rely upon, even at Wimbledon.

If Dancevic can serve well, he will have every chance of causing the upset and has to be backed for a small interest.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Martin Klizan: There seems to be a steely look in the eye of Rafael Nadal heading into Wimbledon this season and I think it is going to be a big week for the World Number 1.

There has been a different sort of expectation from Nadal himself at Wimbledon the last couple of years, but he has been reminding people, and most likely himself, that he is a two time former winner here and has also reached three other Finals.

I am convinced Nadal can perform very well on the grass and I am ignoring the loss he suffered at Halle as Nadal regularly fails to perform in the warm up events coming so soon after Roland Garros.

The match up with Martin Klizan is an awkward one with both players being left-handed and Klizan also surprisingly took a set off Nadal at the French Open in 2013. Klizan has a decent serve and can play solid tennis from the baseline, but he hasn't had a lot of success on the grass in the past and it does give Nadal the perfect chance to play himself into the tournament where he has suffered surprising losses the last two years.

The first set is going to be a tight one, but if Nadal can nose in front, I think he will pull away as the match goes on with a 64, 63, 63 win.

Milos Raonic win 3-1 v Matthew Ebden: When I was putting together my research for picks on Day 2 at Wimbledon, I was very tempted to pick Matthew Ebden with a 2.5 head-start in sets in this match with Milos Raonic, especially as it was at evens.

On further analysis, I think it might be asking a lot for Ebden to win more than than a set in this match though and that is why I decided to just have a small interest in Milos Raonic winning this in four sets.

It isn't a unknown fact that Raonic has struggled at times on the grass as he can't quite get the movement right and he is definitely not as comfortable as he feels on other surfaces. The serve is still effective, but players seem to get to Raonic mentally on the grass and these two have met previously on the surface in what ended up being a three set win for the Canadian at Newport two years ago.

If Ebden had been in better form, the shock could have been on in this First Round match, but I don't know if the Australian has more than a set in him to take away from this one.

Tommy Robredo - 2.5 games v Lukas Lacko: A couple of years ago, I really though Lukas Lacko would start making a concerted move up the World Rankings, but his career has stalled somewhat and I think Tommy Robredo is being under-rated in this First Round match.

Yes, the grass courts are not the favoured surface for Robredo, but he reached the Third Round at Wimbledon last year and is certainly capable of putting together results on the surface.

I also think the match up with Lacko is not one that will intimidate Robredo who remains close to being a top 20 player and the longer best of five set matches allows the Spaniard to work his way back into a match.

Both players will have to work hard to win the match, but Robredo should have the slight edge in terms of quality of shot and also consistency off the ground and I was surprised that this handicap wasn't at least two, possibly three games higher.

Monica Puig + 3.5 games v Madison Keys: After winning Eastbourne last week, Madison Keys showed why so many people have tipped her to have a huge future on the WTA Tour and potential Grand Slam Champion.

The big serve and the heavy groundstrokes makes Keys a very difficult prospect to face on the grass courts, but she would be very wise not to under-estimate Monica Puig who reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon last season.

Puig hits a very heavy ball herself and she certainly has the power to push Keys back in this one and my feeling is that it could easily go to three sets to decide which of the players moves through.

With that in mind, the head-start on the handicap looks a touch high in favour of Puig who can be unplayable at times and I like her to at least cover in a close match, especially one that she could potentially win outright.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet Win 3-1 @ 4.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Frank Dancevic @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.35 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Milos Raonic Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Tommy Robredo - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Monica Puig + 3.5 Games @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tsevtana Pironkova - 3.5 Games @ 1.87 Pinnacle (2 Units) Rain Delay, Pironkova leads 76, 02
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units) Rain Delay, Tsonga leads 61, 36, 36, 62, 54

Wimbledon Update: 2-2, - 0.4 Units (8 Units Staked, - 5% Yield)

Monday, 23 June 2014

Wimbledon Day One Picks 2014 (June 23rd)

This time next season, we will have another week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon and I think it is about time that the Tour has extended the grass court season. It's not just for the idea of having additional grass court tournaments, even if I am glad to see Queens/Halle being upgraded to ATP 500 events, but it gives the top players more of a chance to recover mentally from a gruelling clay court season and mentally prepare to change surface.

No longer will Rafael Nadal, who looks to continue his dominance on the clay courts, have to jump on a train/plane out of Paris within twenty-four hours of winning a title so he can take part in a grass court event. It is no surprise to me that Nadal has only won one title on grass outside of Wimbledon and regularly fails to get beyond the Quarter Final stage at warm up events considering the schedule so hopefully even an additional week will make a difference.

The variation in courts between clay and grass are not as great as they once were, but this is still a time of the year when some players come alive and others fail to really get going. The outright picks I have made this year highlights that, although I still feel the big names are going to be there at the end of the next two weeks to pick up titles. You can read my outright picks here.

Over the last month, there have been plenty of very warm days in London, but the forecast for Monday is not the best and there is every chance that we will be seeing the roof in action on the very first day. You can't always trust the forecast though and the hope is that the majority of Monday is a clear day for the players opening their title bids, including defending men's Champion Andy Murray.

I haven't had a great grass court season to this point with a decent first week thanks to Grigor Dimitrov winning at Queens, but a poor follow up week which had a hit on some of the season totals. Hopefully Wimbledon, which has been the worst of my Grand Slam results in each of the last four seasons, can provide more winners this year than it has.

My reasoning behind that is the layers seem to be on the ball a little more at this tournament, while some of the handicaps are harder to cover with a lack of concentration that can't be made up for in the same manner as on the hard courts and clay courts. Good luck to all over the next two weeks though and let's hope for an exciting tournament to at least take away some attention from a fantastic World Cup that has been played to this point.

Marcos Baghdatis v Dustin Brown: Marcos Baghdatis admitted that he took three months off the Tour so he can recharge his batteries, work on his fitness and spend time with his young family. There is no doubt that Baghdatis seems to be much happier within himself and he returned to win a Challenger event on the grass courts before withdrawing from Queens with a shoulder complaint, although the Cypriot admitted that was likely to be down to playing too much tennis in a short space of time.

Out of the matches that are scheduled for Day One at Wimbledon, the one against Dustin Brown looks to be very exciting with both players capable of playing flashy tennis and really getting the crowd behind them. If I had a ground pass for SW19 and not for the main show courts, I would 100% be finding a seat to watch these two players go at it.

Dustin Brown had a very strong run at Wimbledon last year and beat Rafael Nadal in Halle with his powerful serve and net play working very well on the lower bouncing surface and I expect Brown to have success in this match.

However, Marcos Baghdatis has loved playing on the grass in the past and I think he is content in himself and is going to weather the big time tennis Brown plays and counter effectively. There will be times when Brown is unplayable, but he is also capable of making a long run of errors and I think that is where 'Baggy' takes advantage and wins this match.

Mikhail Youzhny - 5.5 games v James Ward: You just know that Mikhail Youzhny is coming towards the end of a very successful career and I have always been a fan of the Russian and the passion and fire he displays on the court. 2014 has been a tough season for Youzhny and it is something of a risk to back him to win this match and cover a fair old number, although I expect his experience and solid grass court game to give James Ward all he can handle.

This is the time of the season that 'Brit Watch' is the game that casual fans of tennis will be playing through the first couple of days at the tournament and James Ward showed at Queens and when qualifying for Roland Garros that he can raise his level.

However, he is just as likely to have his limitations exposed as Donald Young did to him in Eastbourne or Steve Johnson did to him in Nottingham and Youzhny has enough know-how on the grass to do something similar.

It might go four sets, but I can see Youzhny pulling away for a win and he could easily record a 62 or better set along the way.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 games v Jurgen Melzer: One player who would have been disappointed with his early showing back on the grass would have been Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who lost his second match at Queens. This surface has proved to be one that Tsonga has enjoyed a lot over the years, although it was Wimbledon where he had to pull out a year ago that cost him a few months of 2013.

That does mean the Frenchman doesn't have a lot of points to defend over the next two weeks and he remains a threat on the surface, especially if his serving is on point. The heavy forehand and the ability to get to the net makes Tsonga a real danger to any of the top players, although he usually finds at least one player too good.

I would be surprised if that player is Jurgen Melzer who is another veteran that perhaps is winding down his career. Melzer was a danger on grass simply because of a decent lefty serve and his own aggressive instincts that makes any player dangerous on this surface. I expect he will cause problems for Tsonga, but it has been a match-up that the Frenchman has enjoyed including a comprehensive victory over Melzer at the French Open last month.

It is harder to record the big wins that Tsonga has enjoyed over Melzer recently when it comes to the grass courts, but I can see a 63, 76, 64 scoreline which is generally a fairly straight-forward win for the Frenchman.

Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: Mirjana Lucic-Baroni will be remembered for making the Semi Final at Wimbledon back in 1999, but to say she has failed to live up to that potential is an under-statement. There have been issues in her personal life, but you do have to look at her as a player that has failed to achieve what was expected of her.

A retirement at Eastbourne is not the best way to come into the next Grand Slam of the season, but she has the capabilities of pushing the better players on the grass courts, especially one that is coming off a long injury as Victoria Azarenka is.

Azarenka had a tough loss last week, but she showed signs that she is ready to go this week and I think she has the capability of beating Lucic-Baroni with a little room to spare. The former World Number 1 is a tough competitor and I think she has given herself a full amount of time of recovery before returning to competitive tennis and that should pay off.

It is unlikely that Azarenka gets deep into the second week to be honest, but I think she would be too strong in this First Round and come through with a 64, 62 win.

Venus Williams - 5.5 games v Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor: There are a few players that will be glad to know the current grass court season is as short as it is and I would put Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor in that category, but she couldn't have asked for too many tougher First Round encounters.

Granted, Venus Williams isn't the same player that won this title on numerous occasions, but she is still very capable of putting together big performances. Her serve can be effective on the grass and Venus Williams is also comfortable getting forward to the net and putting away a number of volleys so I think she will feel she can dictate the match.

It is going to be tough for Torro-Flor to change that pattern of the match developing more often than not and the young Spaniard may find it tough to really get into this one. Venus Williams should have enough to record a 63, 63 win from this First Round encounter.

Tsvetana Pironkova - 3.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: I was extremely disappointed with Tsevtana Pironkova's collapse in Eastbourne against Heather Watson as she has proven to be one of the stronger grass court players on the Tour and I expect her to be too good for the American Varvara Lepchenko in this First Round match.

Lepchenko is probably already looking forward to the hard court summer swing back in North America as she hasn't had a lot of success on grass and I think someone like Pironkova is capable of playing the tennis that can send her on her way.

The power off the ground and the comfort level that Pironkova feels on the surface should aid her through the contest and I do think she can record a 64, 64 win and a place in the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tsventana Pirnokova - 3.5 Games @ 1.87 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Wimbledon Outright Picks 2014 (June 23-July 6)

The draw for the third Grand Slam event was made on Friday 20th June and there is definitely the potential for some big matches in both the men's and women's events over the next two weeks as Andy Murray looks to defend the title he won last season. Of course, there is no defending Champion in the women's draw since Marion Bartoli retired in the weeks after winning Wimbledon last year, but that means the honour goes to Sabine Lisicki to open play on Tuesday as the runner up twelve months ago.

Personally I am looking forward to Wimbledon with a number of younger players beginning to make their mark on both Tours, although I think it would still be a big surprise if a familiar name is not lifting the trophy at the end of the two weeks.

Men's Draw
First Quarter
He might not be the World Number 1 in the Rankings, but Wimbledon have their own formula for seeding and that means Novak Djokovic will be heading up the draw, although I am pretty convinced that he would swap places with Rafael Nadal right now.

Despite what the media may have you believe, I honestly believe Novak Djokovic has drawn the short straw of the top four players with his Quarter of the draw looking incredible difficult to negotiate.

Some of the names in the section include Radek Stepanek (Queens Semi Finalist this year), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice Wimbledon Semi Finalist), Ernests Gulbis, Fernando Verdasco (Wimbledon Quarter Finalist in 2013), Marin Cilic (former Queens Winner) and Tomas Berdych (former Wimbledon Finalist).

You can probably draw a line through Stepanek, Gulbis and Verdasco, but the other three names are all very capable of drawing a surprise from Djokovic before the Semi Finals, especially if the wrist is giving the Serb more problems.

He had to pull out of a scheduled match at The Boodles ahead of Wimbledon, but that could have been a precaution, although it raises enough questions to at least have a worry about the man set as the favourite to capture his second Wimbledon title.

Djokovic should be comfortable through the first three Rounds at the tournament, but then he has to be on his game if he wants to go deep into the second week with the likes of Tsonga and Cilic/Berdych the likely opponents in the Fourth Round and Quarter Final respectively.

In all honesty, I would fancy a fully fit Djokovic to see those players off in a best of five set match, but the wrist raises some questions, while the likes of Tsonga can 'get hot' and take the racquet out of an opponent's hands. On form, you'd have to think Djokovic still has too much, but he has to be careful to leave something in the tank for the remainder of the tournament if he is to capture his first Grand Slam title since the Australian Open in January 2013.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic, although he is likely to have been tested.

Second Quarter
Andy Murray finally broke the long wait for a British men's Champion at Wimbledon twelve months ago, but it is arguably going to be harder for him to defend that title, especially considering the lack of consistent form since going in for back surgery. Yes, Murray did reach the Semi Final at Roland Garros, but he did seem to take advantage of a decent draw and winning Wimbledon is going to be a different challenge with a lot more expectation of him on the grass courts.

I have argued for a while that Andy Murray is the best grass court player in the world even if he was surprisingly beaten by Radek Stepanek at Queens in preparation for Wimbledon. He had been on a long winning run on the surface prior to that result, a run that had seen him pick up the Olympic Gold Medal, the Queens title and culminate in winning Wimbledon.

I mentioned that Murray took advantage of a decent draw at Roland Garros to reach the Semi Final in Paris, and I don't think he will have too many qualms about the draw at Wimbledon either, especially in his Quarter.

There are serious doubts about David Ferrer who looks like he will participate, but that had been in question up until the middle of last week and I don't think the Spaniard is going to have the stamina we have come to expect from him. Ferrer has been suffering with some sort of illness that has lingered from the French Open and forced him out of Hertogenbosch last week.

The player that could take most advantage of any issues with Ferrer is the current Queens Champion Grigor Dimitrov who bounced back from an awful French Open showing that saw him beaten in the First Round by Ivo Karlovic. I picked Dimitrov to win at Queens because I feel his game is well suited to the grass courts and the Bulgarian may have the opportunity to match his best showing at a Grand Slam which is the Quarter Final he achieved at the Australian Open earlier this season.

A concern for Dimitrov will be the fact he has not surpassed the Second Round at Wimbledon, but he looks in a decent section of the draw to surpass that as long as he can remain in control of his emotions.

He does look the biggest threat to Murray from the section, especially if Ferrer is not healthy enough for the best of five set marathons, and that does look a fascinating Quarter Final to look forward to.

Prediction: Andy Murray v Grigor Dimitrov Quarter Final would be great viewing, but the defending Champion should have the edge in this part of the draw.

Third Quarter
There were a few players that I knew I would want to oppose in this grass court Grand Slam and while some of them have landed in the tough top half of the draw (Ernests Gulbis was always going to be over-rated after his Paris exploits but is in an incredibly tough First Quarter), some like Stan Wawrinka are heading up the Third Quarter of the draw.

Wawrinka did reach the Semi Final at Queens, but he had a very nice draw to reach that stage and he has openly admitted that he hasn't coped with winning the Australian Open, especially with a new expectation on a player that cracked the top three in the World Rankings.

His results at Wimbledon wouldn't have inspired much confidence even without the doubts that Wawrinka is suffering- he reached the Fourth Round in back to back years in 2008 and 2009, but Wawrinka has failed to get beyond the Second Round in his next four appearances in SW19 and has three First Round exits.

The chances of Wawrinka going deep into the tournament means beating the likes of either Denis Istomin or Dmitry Tursunov in the Third Round and then facing dangerous players like Feliciano Lopez or John Isner in the Fourth Round.

In all honesty Lopez or Isner could be the dark horse of a Quarter that also contains Roger Federer and I can see one of those two players reaching the Quarter Final. Their Third Round clash looks to be a big one, but I have to respect the form that Lopez has shown by reaching the Final in Queens and also in Eastbourne.

Federer is likely to be the Quarter Final opponent as long as he can erase the memory of his Second Round exit when he could face Julien Benneteau at the same stage- Benneteau had a two sets lead over Federer here back in 2012, a tournament the Swiss star eventually won and could pose some problems, but I don't have the same feeling that Jerzy Janowicz can turn around his 2014 form to replicate the Semi Final he reached at Wimbledon twelve months ago.

Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Robredo are a couple of veterans that would like to make their presence felt- however, I would be confident that Federer beats either on grass and the biggest threat to a Semi Final appearance for the seven time Wimbledon Champion could be Feliciano Lopez.

Prediction: Roger Federer likely to be the man to reach the Semi Final, but I won't be ignorining what Feliciano Lopez or John Isner could do this year.

Fourth Quarter
The media outlets have all described this as being a 'difficult draw' for the Number 2 Seeded Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon this year, but I think the nine time French Open Champion is in line to have his best performance at SW19 since finishing as Runner Up in 2011.

Two early exits over the last two seasons before the Second Round has raised doubts about whether Nadal can rediscover his form on the grass courts that helped him win Wimbledon and also saw him involved in two epic Finals with Roger Federer.

It is right to suggest Nadal is most vulnerable in the early stages of the tournament where the Spaniard could perhaps take a little time getting into his stride coming off the clay courts and limited action in Halle, but I also believe he will have something to prove to himself this year. Roland Garros was the main priority for Nadal, but the feeling is that Wimbledon could also be higher on his list than maybe expected.

Martin Klizan is the First Round opponent and being a lefty means Nadal's 'normal game' may not be as effective as it is against right-handed players across the net from him. However, I would expect Nadal to win that match and then we could see a potential repeat of the 2012 Second Round match between Nadal and Lukas Rosol.

That kind of big-hitter would be a problem, but Rosol is so inconsistent and they do say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot, while Ivo Karlovic has a pretty poor record at Wimbledon considering his game looks suited to grass so there is no reason to believe he is 100% going to be facing the Spaniard in the Third Round.

By the time Nadal is seeded to meet Richard Gasquet, he should be in a good spot mentally and I don't think the Frenchman believes he can win this kind of match, even if he does secure the title in the Final at Eastbourne which is to be played after I complete this preview for Wimbledon.

Milos Raonic has been touted as a difficult Quarter Final for Nadal by the media, but the Canadian is definitely very vulnerable on the grass and has suffered some incredibly poor losses on the surface over the last twelve months. There is nothing to suggest he would come through against the likes of Kei Nishikori or Philipp Kohlschreiber in a potential Fourth Round clash, if Raonic is even to get that far in the tournament.

There are doubts about Nishikori simply because he has reached one Quarter Final in nineteen appearances in the Grand Slams and whether his injury-proneness allows him to compete in the best of five set matches effectively is a big question. Philipp Kohlschreiber has had success on the grass courts including beating Nadal in Halle in the past, but taking out the World Number 1 in a best of five would be a huge task both mentally and physically and that is not what I would be trusting the German to do.

Prediction: It might not be the consensus, but I like Rafael Nadal's chances of making another big impact at Wimbledon this season after a couple of disappointing showings at SW19.

Outright Preview
There has been a lot of talk of the 'Big Four' players of the last few seasons perhaps seeing their dominance broken in 2014, especially when Stan Wawrinka won the Australian Open title and then followed that up with the first Masters on clay by winning in Monte Carlo.

However, we saw three of the traditional 'Big Four' reach the Semi Finals at Roland Garros and there is every chance that a familiar looking Semi Final line up could take place at Wimbledon.

Out of the top four seeds, I think Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are most vulnerable to someone playing a huge match to knock them out- Djokovic has a very difficult draw from the Fourth Round onwards, plus some concerns about his well-being with the wrist causing issues; Roger Federer did play well in winning the title at Halle, but he has only been beyond the Fourth Round of one of his last four Grand Slams and has surpassed the Quarter Final in one of his last four appearances at Wimbledon (albeit winning the title in 2012 when he did so).

The likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Feliciano Lopez will feel they can upset Djokovic/Federer in their respective Quarters and I think both players will also be tested to the point that they could be vulnerable in the Semi Finals if Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are the players that are waiting for them.

Backing Rafael Nadal is dangerous considering he doesn't feel as comfortable on the grass courts since the knee injury that curtailed his 2012 season and the two early losses he has had at Wimbledon in the last two years makes him a vulnerable player, especially early.

However, I think he can get on a roll with the way the draw has panned out if he does come through the first couple of Rounds unscathed and I like putting Nadal in my staking plan.

Defending a title can be incredibly taxing mentally for a player if you listen to what the professionals say in that position and I think you can ratchet up that pressure if you're Andy Murray and defending the Wimbledon crown. However, he can't have asked for a better draw and I am not reading too much into the defeat at Queens, while Murray remains arguably the best grass court player in the world as far as I am concerned.

There is the worry that Murray hasn't had a lot of success against the top, top players since returning from his back injury, but the draw has been kind in that regards and I think he has to be kept onside in this tournament too.

If Murray is to fall, there is the chance that it is down to the reigning Queens Champion Grigor Dimitrov and I am going to have a small interest in him winning the Second Quarter and making his biggest impact at a Grand Slam. As I have stated before, Dimitrov has the game to be a really strong grass player for years to come, and winning Queens has proven to be a big stepping stone for players in the past so there is every chance he can surprise Murray.

Another player who had a huge week at Queens has to be worth a small interest in the Third Quarter of the draw- Feliciano Lopez has reached back to back Finals on grass (still to play the Final at Eastbourne where Lopez is defending Champion) and has the serve and volleying skills that make him very dangerous.

His record against potential Quarter Final opponent Roger Federer leaves a lot to be desired, but Lopez is serving incredibly well at the moment and I think he can take advantage of a section that includes Stan Wawrinka and give himself a chance of moving into his first Slam Semi Final.

The match with John Isner is a tough Third Round match to negotiate, but if Federer and Wawrinka struggle, Lopez could be the man to get behind.

Women's Draw
First Quarter
Serena Williams is still heading up the women's draw despite failing to win either Grand Slam contested this season and she is perhaps coming into the Wimbledon draw with a few more doubts than we have come to expect from the American. There is no doubt that Williams is pretty unbeatable when she brings her absolute best to the court, but there have been plenty of sub-par days where she is very vulnerable to a surprise defeat.

It was Ana Ivanovic at the Australian Open and it was Garbine Muguruza at the French Open, while Sabine Lisicki stunned Williams at Wimbledon twelve months ago and the draw this year has a few tough questions that will be asked of the Number 1 Seed.

The First Quarter of the draw is loaded with threats to Serena Williams, perhaps none more so than French Open Champion Maria Sharapova who is seeded to meet Williams in the Quarter Final- if I am perfectly honest, I could never back Sharapova to beat Williams simply because of the head to head and some of the beatings the American has handed out, but there is no guarantee that Williams reaches the Quarter Final.

Eugenie Bouchard is the only player that has reached the Semi Final of both Grand Slams this season and is a potential Fourth Round opponent for Serena Williams, while Alize Cornet is a potential Third Round opponent that did beat Williams on the hard courts of Dubai earlier this season.

Even Sharapova is going to be tested before the Quarter Final stage with the dangerous Camila Giorgi and Angelique Kerber in her mini-section of the draw and the expected showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is certainly not a gimme.

Prediction: Tough, tough section- it is hard to go against Serena Williams if she is on form, but she better start off faster than she does at times if she is to reach the Semi Final.

Second Quarter
The Second Quarter of the draw looks a lot more open with the top seeded players in the section, Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic, having a few questions to deal with. Simona Halep did win the title at Hertogenbosch last season so can perform on the grass, but she reached the Final at the French Open and that may have taken its toll mentally on her, while Jankovic has struggled on the grass courts for consistency in recent seasons.

Out of the two top Seeds, you would say that Halep has more of a chance to play herself into the tournament in the top half of the section, but Jankovic is going to have to deal with a number of players that are confident on the surface and playing well.

Look at some of the names in the bottom part of this section- Ana Ivanovic (who won the title in Birmingham), Sabine Lisicki (last year's Runner Up), Madison Keys (the Eastbourne Champion), as well as potentially dangerous players like Taylor Townsend and Monica Puig.

With the clearer run, Halep has every chance of at least reaching the Semi Final, but I think the danger comes from Ana Ivanovic who has shown improvement through the entire season although it is her potential Third Round match with Sabine Lisicki that presents the most problems.

We have also seen young players breakthrough at the Slams this season so Madison Keys will interest people as a surprise Semi Finalist, but she is coming off a long week at Eastbourne and may just struggle to repeat the formula in a more pressure filled environment.

Prediction: Ana Ivanovic may be the surprise Semi Finalist if she brings her Birmingham form into SW19.

Third Quarter
Over the course of the season, I have moved Agnieszka Radwanska onto my 'do not trust black list' as the Number 4 Seed has begun to really struggle against opponents she would usually dismiss. Before this season, I always saw Radwanska as being a solid enough player to beat those below her in the Rankings, but wouldn't win a Grand Slam as she wasn't aggressive enough.

There is the issue of finding the right balance in her play and I do think she is perhaps pushing too much, but I think that makes her a vulnerable player in her Quarter.

The options to oppose Radwanska in this Quarter are plentiful- however, almost all of them have some doubts and that makes it all the tougher to call.

Dominika Cibulkova hasn't had the same sort of success in recent months as when she reached the Australian Open Final in January, but she has the kind of grass court pedigree that makes her dangerous. Victoria Azarenka is coming off a long lay-off, Ekaterina Makarova and Tsevtana Pironkova have grass court success but are so inconsistent, while Svetlana Kuznetsova is capable of springing a couple of surprise results but lacks the consistency that took her to two Grand Slam wins in the past.

I know there will be a few who back Garbine Muguruza, but she hasn't had a lot of time to digest her performances from Roland Garros and this Slam may come a little too quick, even if her game looks to be suited to the grass.

Fourth Quarter
I was a little surprised to see that Na Li has never been beyond the Quarter Finals at Wimbledon with the way she plays, but some players just don't ever get themselves right mentally to perform on the grass courts. Li is the Number 2 Seed here as she looks to bounce back from a poor French Open and she must look at the draw and think this is about as a good a chance as you can get in a Slam to ease your way into a tournament.

From the Fourth Round it looks to be more difficult with her likely opponent to be Caroline Wozniacki or Sam Stosur at that point and both of those players would feel they would have the edge in that potential match.

However, the biggest threat may be sitting at the top of the Quarter in 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova as long as the thigh issue she had at Eastbourne which forced her withdrawal is not too serious.

Kvitova would have to be fit to see off grass expert Venus Williams who may have one more big Grand Slam event in her despite not being at the level of a few years ago, while Sloane Stephens seems to find a way to turn up the heat in the Grand Slams. However, Kvitova loves the grass courts and a healthy player would surely go very close to repeating the success of three years ago.

The big lefty serve is a huge weapon on the grass, and Kvitova can certainly get into a groove when it comes to hitting winners, but she is really inconsistent and lets too many matches go into three sets instead of finishing off opponents as she should. That can take it's toll in a long two weeks of increasing mental pressure and that would be the bigger concern in backing Kvitova from an open section of the draw.

Outright Preview
I've always said that Serena Williams is the player to beat in the women's draw and that remains the case, although there must be more doubters considering her two Grand Slam losses in 2014 and this whole season being something of a come down from the last two seasons on the Tour.

Williams has already matched the same number of losses from the whole of 2013 and has only suffered one fewer than the whole of 2012, but she has shown the ability to bounce back from poor losses in tournaments down the line over the last two years.

She has won two Grand Slams in each of the last two seasons and she can match that by winning her two favourite Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open, but Williams has to be careful not to be caught cold.

Serena has suffered some poor losses in the Grand Slams, and she comes into Wimbledon in a similar manner as in 2012 when she did win the tournament. That season, Williams was beaten in the Fourth Round at the Australian Open and the First Round at the French Open before winning the last two Grand Slam events and you can't help but see the similarities to this season when she was beaten in the Fourth Round at Melbourne Park and Second Round at Roland Garros.

I do have a feeling that Williams had been suffering with some sort of injury, but her serve is usually a monster for her, especially on grass, and I can see the American returning to winning ways in the best possible way.

The biggest threat to Williams may actually be Eugenie Bouchard who could provide a Fourth Round opponent, but I would expect Serena to be 'warmed up' in the tournament by then and would fancy her to win that match. Maria Sharapova will be confident, but her record against Serena Williams is more than forgettable and I will back Serena Williams to rediscover her form and remind people of her power in the women's game.

It is actually quite hard to find an alternative to Serena Williams in what looks a wide open draw outside of the American and the odds back that up- only Maria Sharapova is at single digits to win the tournament so there is the potential to find a big priced winner. If Petra Kvitova hadn't been suffering with a thigh injury at Eastbourne, she could have been the one for me and instead I will back a couple of outsiders to win their respective Quarters.

The first of those is Ana Ivanovic in the Second Quarter as I think she is getting closer and closer to putting together the form that won the French Open and took her to World Number 1- her win in Birmingham will only aid her confidence and Ivanovic looks a real threat in the wide open Second Quarter as long as she can handle Sabine Lisicki in the Third Round.

Another Quarter that looks like it will open for a few players is the Third Quarter as I pointed out above and I think Dominika Cibilkova is a big price for a former Quarter Finalist. She hasn't been at her best over the last few months, but Cibulkova can take the game to the highest Seed in the section, Agnieszka Radwanska, and may surprise.

MY WIMBLEDON OUTRIGHT PICKS: Rafael Nadal @ 6.50 Bwin (2 Units)
Andy Murray @ 4.50 Paddy Power (3 Units) Refunding if player knocked out before Quarters
Grigor Dimitrov to Win Second Quarter @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Feliciano Lopez to Win Third Quarter @ 15.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Serena Williams @ 2.75 Coral (4 Units)
Ana Ivanovic to Win Second Quarter @ 5.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Dominika Cibulkova to Win Third Quarter @ 10.00 Coral (1 Unit)

Weekly Daily Final5-12, - 15.04 Units (34 Units Staked, - 44.24% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.82 Units (910.5 Units Staked, + 4.04% 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