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Monday, 11 May 2015

Rome Tennis Picks 2015 (May 11th)

The tournament in Madrid turned out to be a very productive one for the picks, but it still ended with a big surprise as Rafael Nadal was crushed by Andy Murray. That has put the hammer down on the Spaniard's World Ranking, while a confidence boosting title win ahead of the French Open was not secured as most would have expected in the Final.

It is hard to know where that leaves Nadal just two weeks away from the start of the second Grand Slam of the season, but I still think he is the most likely winner in Paris outside of Novak Djokovic. Andy Murray's win was very impressive, but I am not convinced he can get the job done in a best of five set match on the clay courts of Paris against a few other players on the Tour, although he has to be feeling very good about his chances at Wimbledon and the US Open, the two Slams he has won previously.

Now the Tour moves onto Rome where Novak Djokovic makes his return having decided to sit out Madrid as he focuses on finally adding the French Open crown to his other Grand Slam wins to complete the career Grand Slam. On current form, it would take something memorable to stop Djokovic taking the title in Paris as far as I am concerned, while the women's event is likely to be a lot more open.

The First Round began on Sunday with a few matches in both the Masters and Premier Event taking place in Rome, but I wasn't convinced I knew the way any of those would go. I have a better feeling about the following matches as the last big event before the French Open takes place in the Eternal City.

John Isner - 3.5 games v Joao Sousa: I don't think it is being harsh in saying that John Isner is only ever going to go as far as his serve will take him, but that he is always likely to fall short of winning big tournaments because of a limited return game and ineffectiveness from the baseline more often than not.

Fair enough, that is a little harsh, but I am impressed that Isner might have figured that out himself as he looks much more willing to come forward and get to the net. The American is such an imposing figure at the net that he is tough to pass and it has given him another crease to his game which is important no matter what stage you are in your career.

In a match like this one against Joao Sousa, Isner's serve can create enough scoreboard pressure to help ease his way through to the Second Round and I expect that to happen. Sousa can play some good stuff, but his serve is limited and it will just take a couple of really solid returns from Isner to give him a chance to break through and I like his chances to do that.

Sousa might feel he can win the majority of the longer rallies, but dealing with the pressure to do that behind a weak first serve might end up with a 63, 76 win for Isner.

Simone Bolelli - 1.5 games v Dominic Thiem: It is no surprise that young players can be inconsistent early in their career and that is what has been affecting Dominic Thiem through the 2015 campaign. The Austrian may be very disappointed with his lack of success during this portion of the season and he now has to deal with the home crowd who should be firmly behind Simone Bolelli who has been having a decent year on the Singles Tour.

The best work done by Bolelli has come in the Doubles alongside Fabio Fognini, but I think he is a solid clay court player that will give Thiem plenty to think about. The Italian should be inspired about playing in front of the home crowd, but he has struggled in Rome in the past which would be a concern, although I still believe Bolelli has a little too much for Thiem at this moment in time.

Bolelli has just earned the better results of the two players and I think that will give him the belief in a match that might easily need a deciding set to separate the two players. While Bolelli can see his head drop when he falls behind, Thiem may also struggle to recover if he makes a slow start and I will back the home player to move through to the Second Round despite the expectation that Thiem is the more talented player.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Steve Johnson: I honestly don't think I will ever feel great about backing Fabio Fognini who can be spectacular one moment and then absolutely atrocious the next.

Even playing in the Italian capital might not be enough to get the best out of Fognini who has a poor record in Rome in the past, but the match up with Steve Johnson should be one that favours the clay courter in this First Round.

Johnson, like many other American players before him, does not feel comfortable on the clay courts in Europe as it doesn't go with the quick fire style of tennis he wants to play. The serve doesn't set up too many easy chances to put away a winner with the first strike and Johnson is going to have to work for what he gets assuming Fognini is taking the tournament seriously and not just happy to be back home.

As I have said, you don't always know what you're getting with Fognini, but I expect him to battle to a 64, 63 win in this one.

Madison Keys - 3.5 games v Madison Brengle: I am not sure if Madison Keys will ever really develop into a serial winner on the clay courts, although not many would have thought Maria Sharapova would become as effective as she has on this surface.

As much potential as I think Keys has, her body can let her down physically and the pounding on the clay courts might not suit her, while her movement can be a little cumbersome at times too. If Keys gets time to strike the ball, not many hit the ball harder and cleaner than her, but you have to have patience on clay too and I am not sure she has that in her game.

However, I expect her to be too strong for her compatriot Madison Brengle who was beaten comfortably by Keys at the Australian Open, although who has shown some real form on the clay courts over the last month.

I still think Keys' power in this one will give her the edge and she has had some decent results on this surface so I don't disregard her future success on the clay. If Keys serves well, she should work her way through to a 64, 64 win thanks to the additional advantage she has in the power department.

Angelique Kerber - 4.5 games v Alize Cornet: It doesn't take much to forgive Angelique Kerber's early loss in Madrid last week when you consider she had been on an 11 match winning run which had also seen her win titles in Charleston and Stuttgart. After a really miserable start to 2015, this return to form will be very welcome for Kerber fans and I believe she can get a new run going by beating Alize Cornet in this tough First Round match.

These Premier Event First Round matches are generally very tough so this one is no different, but I think Kerber has been playing well enough to beat Cornet, even if the Frenchwoman is a strong competitor on most surfaces.

Cornet can be a little inconsistent, while she isn't up to the level of some of the players that Kerber has beaten over the last month which includes Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Maria Sharapova and Andrea Petkovic and there have been some stunning performances in those wins.

I have seen times when Kerber can make too many unforced errors to allow her opponent to take sets and sometimes matches that they shouldn't, which would be a concern with a spread like this. However, I like how Kerber has been performing and look for her to tough out a 75, 63 win.

Roberta Vinci - 2.5 games v Heather Watson: I don't think either Roberta Vinci or Sara Errani are the players they were any more and so Heather Watson has a real chance to surprise the former. However, I don't know how comfortable Watson is on the clay courts and this is still the strongest surface for Vinci who will also receive the support of the home crowd.

The sliced backhand can be a shot that troubles opponents, but Vinci's problems come if players have gotten used to seeing that and can really expose her game. If under pressure, the idea is to get the ball back to that wing because Vinci will rarely hit an outright winner and someone like Watson is capable of getting a lot of balls back into play from defensive positions.

Watson will know what to expect having beaten Vinci in straight sets earlier this season, but her confidence might not be in a great place with three straight losses on the clay courts. The British Number 1 has also failed to make a real impact on this surface at this level and I am not sure she will cope with having to try and be the aggressor on the court.

I am expecting some long rallies, but ultimately I think Vinci uses all of her experience on clay to oust Watson and allow the latter to begin preparation for Roland Garros.

MY PICKS: John Isner - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Simone Bolelli - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roberta Vinci - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Madrid Final: 9-1, + 14.36 Units (20 Units Staked, + 71.8% Yield)

Season 2015+ 46.29 Units (607 Units Staked, + 7.63% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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