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Thursday, 28 May 2015

French Open Day 5 Picks 2015 (May 28th)

There haven't been too many surprises in the French Open over the first three days of the tournament, but the first truly seismic shock came on Wednesday as Simona Halep was knocked out in the Second Round.

Some would say Agnieszka Radwanska's loss was a big surprise, but no one really believed the Pole was going to challenge for the title at Roland Garros and there is no doubt that Simona Halep would have been a well backed player to come out of the bottom half of the draw. Her surprising defeat makes Maria Sharapova a strong favourite to reach her fourth consecutive French Open Final, although the Russian has a tough Third Round match against an in-form Sam Stosur to negotiate.

Halep's exit was most unexpected, especially at this early stage of the Grand Slam, but the other contenders in the bottom halves of both men's and women's draws made it through to the Third Round. On Thursday it will be the turn of the top half of the draws to take centre stage and there are some big names out on the courts who will be looking to ease their way through to the next Round and preserve some energy to do that.

During the middle of Wednesday my picks went on a 0-4 run, but fortunately the others managed to finish 3-0 to at least limit the losses on the day. That is the second losing day in a row which is a disappointment, especially as Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer both had chances to win their matches comfortably but failed to do so.  However the two winning days have made up for it although now I want to get back to picking winners on a consistent basis.

Marin Cilic - 8.5 games v Andrea Arnaboldi: It was an impressive First Round win for Marin Cilic over Robin Haase, although the latter hasn't really played well at the top level all season. Even taking that into consideration, Cilic was a very comfortable winner as he served very well and used his return to set up plenty of opportunities on the Haase serve.

That was a good solid win for Cilic, but I have to give Andrea Arnaboldi real praise for coming back from two sets down, and match point down, to beat James Duckworth in five sets. This is off the back of going the distance in the qualifiers, although it also means the Italian has spent a lot of time on court recently and has to be battling fatigue.

His confidence should see Arnaboldi through the early stages of this Second Round match, but Cilic will put him under a lot more pressure than Duckworth managed in the last Round. Cilic likes to be very aggressive on return and Arnaboldi is going to have to serve very well to give himself a chance of upsetting the US Open Champion.

It's just hard to imagine Arnaboldi can raise his level to match what Cilic is able to bring to the court and I think the Croatian will prove too good for him. Unlike the match against Duckworth, Cilic won't let Arnaboldi off the hook if he gets him down and I think he ends up coming through with a 75, 63, 62 win.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: Easily one of the more intriguing Second Round matches is the one between these two Spaniards which is scheduled to be the second match on the Philippe-Chatrier Court.

Nicolas Almagro produced a really high quality match against Novak Djokovic in Rome which suggested that he is almost back to his top level after his return from injury. However this is a different mental challenge for Almagro as he takes on Rafael Nadal who has dominated their head to head although Almagro did beat him for the first time on the professional Tour just over twelve months ago.

Unfortunately for Almagro, he is yet to really give Nadal the same kind of test in their two previous matches this season and I am not sure he has the 'belief' he can beat the player who has dominated these courts for a decade. Nadal is arguably at his most vulnerable coming into the French Open, but he will be well aware of what Almagro is going to try on the court and I expect Nadal to wear him down.

I can see one set being really competitive, but Nadal could break the spirit of Almagro by taking that set and then pull away in the match. That happened in their Quarter Final here in 2012, although Almagro might be more interested in a very close Quarter Final they played in Paris in 2010.

I just don't think Almagro is playing at that level and I think Rafael Nadal is going to have a little too much for him in a 75, 63, 63 win.

Bernard Tomic + 3.5 games v Thanasi Kokkinakis: These two are amongst the leading lights of Australian men's tennis alongside Nick Kyrgios and that will add a little extra spice to a Second Round Grand Slam match. I am not suggesting there is any animosity between Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis, but tennis such an individual sport that both will want to prove they are the better 'hope' for the future of Australian men's tennis.

You can see the extra fire this match up has given Bernard Tomic in his two wins over Kokkinakis earlier this season and that is understandable with Tomic a couple of years older. For a long time it looked like Tomic was going to replace Lleyton Hewitt as the flag-bearer for Australia, but the arrival of Kokkinakis and Kyrgios will have put his nose slightly out of joint.

The actual match up is quite a good one with Tomic comfortable playing on the defensive, but also with the firepower to turn rallies around, while Kokkinakis has a big all around game.

The clay courts are unlikely to be the favoured surface of either of these players going forward, but I think Tomic has the better movement which should aid him in this match. He will have to serve well to match up with Kokkinakis and put pressure on his younger compatriot, but I do feel there is every chance Tomic wins this match outright.

However I do respect the fact that Kokkinakis did a lot more winning on the clay courts than Tomic over the last couple of months so I will take the games and look for a close and competitive match throughout.

Andy Murray - 9.5 games v Joao Sousa: Andy Murray is playing very aggressively on the clay courts and he will feel very confident in his Second Round match against Joao Sousa. As well as Sousa played in reaching the Final in Geneva last week the level of competition goes up tenfold in this Second Round for him and he has to block out previous memories of playing Murray to give himself any chance.

This is the sixth time Murray and Sousa will play each other, albeit first time on the clay courts, and Murray hasn't just won the matches but has generally won them very comfortably. That includes two thumping wins at the Australian Open and Dubai earlier this season and there won't be a lot that Sousa can do to turn that around except maybe hope Murray is not 100% focused.

It is hard to think of a reason that Murray won't be focused as he knows he needs to keep plenty in the tank for bigger matches that he will have to play later in the tournament. He won't be at all intimidated by the Sousa serve and Murray will believe his added aggression coupled with his defensive skills will see him extract enough unforced errors from the Sousa game to go along with his winners in another dominating win.

Sousa will be confident on his favourite surface after his run to the Final in Geneva, but this is all about Murray for me. If Murray remains focused on the task at hand, I can only see another strong win for him against Sousa as he moves through 61, 64, 63.

David Ferrer - 9.5 games v Daniel Gimeno-Traver: In the early Rounds of a Grand Slam, the leading contenders for the title love to have an opportunity to play themselves into the tournament. That means the draw is one they appreciate when they are matched with opponents that they know well enough to anticipate much of what they will do on the court.

That is the case for David Ferrer as he takes on his compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver in this Second Round match and he was an impressive winner in the First Round. The chances of Ferrer winning the title at Roland Garros are very slim these days, but he has gone deep in the tournaments played on the clay in preparation for this event and is still good enough to trouble the best players.

Gimeno-Traver had a strong First Round win, but his game will suit Ferrer down to the ground as he doesn't have any overpowering weapons to intimidate the latter. The serve is little more than a rally starter and Ferrer should be able to get his teeth into plenty of return games.

The one concern with a spread of this size has to be Ferrer's tendency to throw in sloppy service games of his own these days, but I see him out-working Gimeno-Traver and wearing him down the longer the match goes on. It could be a tight couple of sets in there for Ferrer to get through, but I also expect a big set for him in a 63, 62, 63 win.

Simone Bolelli v Victor Troicki: Simone Bolelli has already been beaten twice by Victor Troicki in 2015, but he has to believe the move to the clay courts will favour him and the layers tend to agree. I also believe the Italian is the more likely winner of this competitive looking Second Round match, although I hope Bolelli has steered clear of Doubles partner Fabio Fognini who has been suffering from an illness.

It was supposedly food poisoning that affected Fognini in his Second Round loss to Benoit Paire so I guess I should simply hope Bolelli didn't eat the same meal as his friend.

If he is healthy, I think Bolelli is the better clay court player of these two players with his confidence in the movement required on the surface giving him an edge. Victor Troicki has liked the match up against Bolelli, but he shouldn't get as many free points behind serve as he had in the first two matches they played against each other on a slower surface.

Prior to the Rome Masters, Troicki had really been struggling to get his game right on the clay courts too and I do believe Bolelli is the more comfortable player on the surface. It won't be easy for the Italian who can struggle to cope mentally at times, but I think is stronger pedigree on this surface will help him come through in what may need to be four or five sets.

Andrea Petkovic - 5.5 games v Lourdes Domingues Lino: An injury last week in Nuremberg saw Andrea Petkovic pull out of the tournament during her Second Round match, but it looks like it was a precautionary move after a strong First Round win in Paris.

The thigh injury she suffered will still be sore and that is what Lourdes Dominguez Lino will be looking to exploit having been fortunate to get through her First Round match against Christina McHale. Dominguez Lino saved two match points in that win and also benefited from an injury McHale suffered in the final set and the veteran will look to wear down her opponent in this one too.

The big question in the match is how fit Petkovic is going to be having suffered that injury last week in a home tournament, but if she is good to go after her own win over Shelby Rogers I would favour her to win this one fairly comfortably. As well as Dominguez Lino battled in her win in the last Round, her second serve is a real weakness and that is an area that Petkovic can exploit.

Petkovic won't win this match with the double bagel she put on Dominguez Lino on the clay courts of Charleston last season, but she should be too strong assuming she is fit. The pressure she puts on the Dominguez Lino serve should lead to a 63, 62 kind of win.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 games v Francesca Schiavone: No one on the WTA Tour will appreciate being called a 'veteran' but that is the status that should be afforded to both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone who meet for the fifteenth time on the Tour. However the last match was six years ago and both players are not performing at the same level as those days.

Out of the two players, Kuznetsova is still producing some solid tennis albeit inconsistently. The clay courts remain a surface she is very comfortable on as she showed by reaching the Final in Madrid as Kuznetsova had some impressive victories under her belt.

That is a world away from Schiavone who is dropping down the Rankings and doesn't look like she has a lot left in terms of a Singles career. The Italian is a former French Open Champion and reached the Final in consecutive years in Paris, but Schiavone had lost 4 of 5 matches on the clay courts before recovering from a set down to come through her First Round match.

The consistency has gone from her game and Schiavone doesn't have the same athleticism as a few years ago when her movement could hide her lack of power on the court. Schiavone will have some success in this match against Kuznetsova because the latter can be highly inconsistent too, but I think the Russian proves to be a little too good at this stage of their career.

Schiavone and Kuznetsova may split some breaks early in the match, but eventually I look for Kuznetsova to battle through to a 64, 62 win.

Heather Watson + 4.5 games v Sloane Stephens: Sloane Stephens had a really poor start to the 2015 season, but there have been plenty of signs that she is ready to turn things around. The talent is clearly there when the American is on the court, but I think the focus leaves a lot to be desired while Stephens can also get highly agitated and frustrated when things aren't going perfectly.

Those emotions could really be exploited by someone like Heather Watson who is capable of very good defensive plays and forcing Stephens to hit one extra ball than she would like. It might be the real reason Watson has a stunning 4-0 head to head record against Stephens including a comprehensive win over her on the way to the title in Hobart to open the season.

It has been a really underwhelming clay court season for Watson though which would concern me in relation to her chances of improving that head to head record. She has lost matches she shouldn't be losing, and Watson will need to be at her very best to keep on top of Stephens in this Second Round match.

I do think Watson can force Stephens into enough mistakes to take a set though which makes this number of games very appealing, although Watson is also capable of throwing an absolute stinker of a set. If Watson can frustrate Stephens and get her talking to herself and focusing on everything but the next point, there is a chance the upset comes in, but I will simply look for the British Number 1 to keep this competitive.

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic - 8.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic + 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Stan James (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Simone Bolelli @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Andrea Petkovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Heather Watson + 4.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

French Open Update: 16-9, + 11.90 Units (50 Units Staked, + 23.8% Yield)

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