Featured post

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...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Wimbledon Day 2 Picks 2015 (June 30th)

The warm weather has come at a very good time for Wimbledon which saw the first day of the tournament bathed in perfect weather for tennis. The next few days might be a little more awkward for the players as the heat is expected to hit some huge highs and there is even talk of a heat rule being enforced similar to what the Australian Open regularly fields.

In terms of British tennis, the big news story of the day was Liam Broady winning his First Round match, but I thought it was a little amusing the way the win was being portrayed. Yes, anyone who comes back to win a match from two sets down has to be respected, but Broady was a pretty healthy favourite to beat Marinko Matosevic which makes me look at the match from a different angle.

It would have been a huge low if Broady hadn't won the match and the fact he was 2-0 down in sets to a player that has barely won a match in three months has to be a disappointment. I can understand taking the positives of the comeback and the fact Broady has moved into the Second Round, but the BBC were almost making it out to be a huge upset and the odds suggest it simply wasn't and the upset would have been Matosevic moving through.

There weren't too many surprises on Day 1 at the tournament and most of the big names have moved through to the Second Round that were scheduled to play on Monday. The biggest players that have been knocked out are Carla Suarez Navarro and Tommy Robredo, but the exit of Suarez Navarro underlined previous thoughts I have had about her and what looks like an inflated Ranking.

As well as Suarez Navarro can play and as pretty as her game looks, the lack of power means she is vulnerable in every tournament she plays where the Spaniard fails to bring the consistency to the court. Her defeat to the 2014 Junior Wimbledon Champion Jelena Ostapenko was disappointing, but the manner of the 62, 60 defeat is nothing short of embarrassing for a supposed top ten player and I expect a significant drop in Suarez Navarro's Ranking this time next year.

Gilles Muller + 1.5 sets v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: This would likely have been a difficult First Round match for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in normal circumstances, but his lack of grass court action prior to Wimbledon just increases the danger Gilles Muller presents.

After injury meant Tsonga's 2015 season started later than others, it is another injury since his Semi Final run to the French Open which has prevented the Frenchman from taking part in any grass court tournaments this last month. Now he has to take on an in-form opponent who has the kind of serve and physical play to make life very difficult for him.

Gilles Muller has had decent results in Hertogenbosch and Queens prior to Wimbledon and the lefty delivery naturally will head towards Tsonga's weaker backhand wing. Muller doesn't have the biggest serve on the Tour, but his accuracy is very good and he will be tough to beat if he is hitting his marks.

This was a First Round match I considered the upset to be a real chance of happening and I still believe that. I am not completely convinced by Muller who might be a little over-rated from his performances at Wimbledon, but Tsonga will need time to get used to the grass and has not been playing much tennis of late.

Muller has to hit his spots to keep the pressure on Tsonga and I can see a couple of tie-breakers playing a major part in the match. Tsonga did beat Muller in two tight sets in Metz last year, but the injury issues and Muller's form suggests he can turn that around. I will play it a little safer and back Muller to win at least two sets on the handicap rather than actually back him to complete the upset and backing Muller to win at least two sets looks a decent price.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: This is the lowest Rafael Nadal has been Ranked heading into Wimbledon for over a decade and there hasn't been too many times in that period where Nadal comes in not as the defending French Open Champion. A win in Stuttgart, Nadal's first title on a grass court since winning Wimbledon in 2010, was good preparation for this year's event in SW19, but an early exit at Queens suggests it would be a huge surprise for Nadal to win it all.

The Spaniard might have hoped for someone a little more routine than Thomaz Bellucci in the First Round, although Nadal has won all four previous matches. That includes a straight sets win at Wimbledon three years ago and Nadal has yet to drop a set to Bellucci, although the hot conditions will give the Brazilian a chance to really get his serve ramped up.

Bellucci has reached the Third Round at Wimbledon in the past so he is far from an easy prospect on grass, although recent years have been more of a struggle. The Brazilian has lost six matches in a row on grass and many of those have been in straight forward fashion.

He will have his way with Nadal at some point in this match, but I think he won't be able to keep it up mentally. While Bellucci might keep it tight for a set, eventually Nadal will begin to wear him down and I think the latter is the kind of player that never drops his intensity, even if the performances on the court are not quite up to scratch.

I expect Nadal will manage to get enough balls back in play and he may wear down Bellucci with a 75, 63, 63 win.

Tomas Berdych Win 3-1 v Jeremy Chardy: The last few years since reaching the Wimbledon Final in 2010 have been difficult for Tomas Berdych on the grass and his form coming into Wimbledon is not exactly inspiring. He could have asked for a much easier First Round match than against Jeremy Chardy who has the game that is suited to the grass courts, although Chardy hasn't been in the best form himself.

Both men will look to dictate things behind a big first serve and look to attack the second when they can, although I do think Berdych is the more consistent player on the ground. The extended rallies should see Berdych find a way to power Chardy into mistakes, but the Frenchman is more than capable of playing special tennis as he showed at the French Open in a four set defeat to Andy Murray.

Berdych has generally been able to play at a consistent level which is enough to keep Chardy from causing a shock and that has also led to three wins against him in the past. The grass courts haven't been the most productive for Berdych though and I think this match is a little more difficult than the last two wins over Chardy have been for him.

I can see a couple of tie-breakers being played in the match and perhaps each player to win one of those, but Berdych should be a little too strong and solid for Chardy in a four set win.

Camila Giorgi - 5.5 games v Teliana Pereira: It seems like Teliana Pereira has given up the ghost when it comes to playing on the grass courts and decided to take no preparation tournaments in prior to Wimbledon. That might have been because Pereira was beaten in all three matches she played on grass last season and two of those losses did come fairly comfortably.

Now she takes on Camila Giorgi who won the title in Hertgenbosch and who has the game to be a real threat on the faster surfaces. The Italian hits very big from the back of the court and has a decent first serve, although Giorgi has the tendency to throw in far too many double faults to think she can be a threat to win a Grand Slam at this stage of her career.

However, I do think Giorgi will hit a little too flat for someone like Pereira who might not have much in the way of belief to stay in the tournament if she falls behind. Giorgi is not someone I would regularly back to cover big spreads because of the yips she gets on serve, but this looks the perfect First Round match for her and I expect her to take advantage.

After a tough opening set, Giorgi might take control and move through 64, 62.

Sabine Lisicki - 4.5 games v Jarmila Gajdosova: I do respect the kind of game that Jarmila Gajdosova can bring to the court, but I also know she is the kind of player that can lose heart when things are not quite going to plan. On the grass courts, Sabine Lisicki has the kind of power to break someone mentally and I think that is going to be a factor in a routine First Round win.

There are many other players in the draw that Sabine Lisicki might have preferred to face because Gajdosova can be very dangerous when she brings her 'A' game to the court. She can serve big and has heavy groundstrokes that will expose some of the movement issues that Lisicki can have, but I think the scoreboard pressure might play a big part.

As good as Gajdosova's serve can be, Sabine Lisicki's is a huge weapon on this surface and the German serving well will put a lot of pressure on her opponent. She can get herself out of trouble with big aces and that will frustrate Gajdosova and I believe will lead to her breaking down the Australian's game.

It should be a fun match to watch while it lasts, but I think Lisicki will end up coming through with a routine looking 75, 63 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller + 1.5 Sets @ 1.90 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Camila Giorgi - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units) To be completed at 1-1 in sets.

Wimbledon Update: 2-2, - 0.34 Units (8 Units Staked, - 4.25% Yield)

Monday, 29 June 2015

Copa America Semi Final Picks 2015 (June 29-30)

Unlike the European Championship, the Copa America is not a tournament that lasts too long with just twelve teams taking part and we have reached the business end of the tournament in Chile.

The neutrals will be hoping the two favourites can power through their Semi Finals this week and set up the hosts Chile versus the favourites Argentina in what could be a memorable Final at the weekend. However, there are plenty of people in Peru and Paraguay that will be hoping their respective nations can upset the apple-cart and reach the Final.

Paraguay showed four years ago that an unfancied side can go all the way in the short Copa America and will look to the penalty shoot out win over Brazil to be a lucky omen for them having beaten the same nation at the same stage in the same manner last time.

It has mostly been a very positive Copa America with attacking football being played and the two Semi Finals look like they could be very entertaining, especially if they feature early goals.

Monday 29th June: Chile v Peru
There is a long history of rivalry between Chile and Peru which has stemmed from political decisions that have encompassed their sporting matches too. The 'Clasico del Pacifico' is always an important game for both of these nations, but a Copa America Semi Final has ramped up the expectation for the game.

The hosts Chile were always expected to challenge for the Copa America title and the fans will never forgive this 'golden generation' if they were to be beaten in the Semi Final. After beating Uruguay in the Quarter Final in a tight battle, Chile are big favourites to progress past Peru, although they can't look beyond a team that has surprised by getting this far in the competition.

For a nation that hasn't really threatened to return to the World Cup in recent years, even in the extended era where five teams from South America regularly represent the continent, Peru have found success in the Copa America. This is the second consecutive tournament that Peru have reached the Semi Final, although they were beaten by eventual winners Uruguay four years ago and are the underdogs this time around.

Peru have played well in the tournament with their only defeat coming to Brazil thanks to a last minute goal. Since that opening defeat, Peru have beaten Venezuela and drawn with Colombia without conceding a goal before they beat Bolivia 3-1 in the Quarter Final. Pablo Guerrero was the top scorer at the Copa America four years ago and he moved to join Arturo Vidal at the top of the chart at this tournament thanks to a hat-trick in the Quarter Final and he will be the main threat for Peru again.

However, Guerrero and Peru could be in for a more challenging time against a Chile team that has had three clean sheets in four games as they moved through the draw. The Group was always one that Chile were expected to negotiate comfortably and their 2-0 win over Ecuador and 5-0 win over Bolivia sandwiched an incredible 3-3 draw with Mexico. In the Quarter Final, Chile beat defending Champions Uruguay 1-0, but it was a controversial game which has seen Gonzalo Jara suspended for the rest of the Copa America after seeming to poke Edinson Cavani in the backside.

The scoreline might have read 1-0, but Chile created a host of chances in that game with Uruguay and they have looked a constant menace when they get the ball into the final third. Chile will be tested by the Peru defence which has conceded only one goal in their last three games, although there is also no doubting that the hosts have a far greater threat than Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia.

Expectation could be the much bigger problem to overcome for Chile who play in their first Semi Final at the Copa America since 1999 and have never won this competition. They have dealt with that expectation well earlier in the competition, but you can't underestimate what that can do to players in each passing round as they begin to smell their chance to win it all.

However, it does look like Chile have a real attacking threat that is going to be hard for Peru to nullify and I think the best chance the latter have is to take this to penalties and take their chance there. The problem for Peru will be if they fall behind because Chile have to one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in international football and have the pace up front to really pick teams off.

I'd expect Peru to pose some problems too, especially as they have only failed to score in one of their four games at the Copa America, but this is their first real away game and Chile have the better of recent meetings. Last year Chile beat Peru 3-0 in a friendly at home and they have won their last 5 home games against their rivals.

4 of those 5 wins have come by a couple of goals at least and I think Chile have the capabilities of picking off a Peru team chasing the game and moving into the Copa America Final.

Tuesday 30th June: Argentina v Paraguay
Most of the neutrals would have been hoping Brazil were able to earn a measure of revenge for their Copa America defeat to Paraguay four years ago and set up the monumental Semi Final with Argentina at this years competition. However, lightning did indeed strike twice as Paraguay defeated Brazil on the penalty shoot out for the second time in a row in the Quarter Finals of the Copa America and Argentina would be the first to tell you how difficult Paraguay have been to play.

That is because the two nations met in the Group Stage and Argentina blew a 2-0 first half lead to have to settle for a 2-2 draw with Paraguay that effectively ensured both nations would move into the Quarter Final. That game was the first for both nations in the Copa America, but with Jamaica one of the four teams in the Group, both Paraguay and Argentina beat the Caribbean nation 1-0 to move into a position to qualify.

It was Argentina who came through the Group as the winners of the section thanks to a 1-0 win over Uruguay while Paraguay settled for a 1-1 draw which meant they went through behind Argentina. Both teams had to come through on penalty shoot outs in the Quarter Final as Argentina somehow failed to break down a Colombia team despite a whole boatload of chances in that game and dominating the possession throughout.

I'd expect both nations to be very confident coming into the Semi Final- Argentina were World Cup Runners Up last year so they have the experience of big matches, while Paraguay ground their way to the Copa America Final four years ago. Paraguay had to win both their Quarter Final and Semi Final on penalties four years ago, and they have continued that trend at this years competition with the win over Brazil, although holding out for a draw with Argentina for a second time will be far from easy.

During the World Cup Qualifiers, Argentina hammered Paraguay both at home and away while they also beat them in a friendly back in 2011 so I do wonder if complacency played a part in the draw with this nation in the Group. Argentina had enough chances to win that game comfortably and they have definitely improved from a defensive standpoint through the Copa America as they bring in three clean sheets in a row.

It would take a monumental era of judgement from Argentina to give Paraguay the time and space they afforded in the Group as they were pushing far too hard when with the lead earlier the competition. Now there seems to be more balance in the Argentina line up and I don't think they will be as wasteful in front of goal as they were against Colombia.

There will be a respect for Paraguay in the Semi Final having seen them overcome Brazil in the Quarter Final and I expect that will lead to a much more solid and convincing performance from Argentina. Lionel Messi has yet to really get going in the tournament as the focus is on stopping him, but there were signs of an improved level in the Quarter Final and Argentina also have other strikers that can take the opportunities that might come their way.

I have to respect Paraguay after seeing what they did against Argentina from 2-0 down in the Group and the fact this nation reached the Final four years ago. However, it would be a surprise if the dream Final between Chile and Argentina is not set for the weekend.

MY PICKS: Chile - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Argentina - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Quarter Final Final1-3, + 1 Units (5 Units Staked, + 20% Yield)
Group Stage Final5-12, - 6.20 Units (25 Units Staked, - 24.80% Yield)

Wimbledon Day 1 Picks 2015 (June 29th)

The third Grand Slam of the season has arrived as the gates at SW19 are opened on Monday and the tournament could be bathed in the warmest of weather for the entire week, a surprise at most years at Wimbledon.

The weather forecast calls for very, very high temperatures which should mean six days of tennis for the fans before the break in Middle Sunday next week.

I have made some picks from the outright markets at Wimbledon which can be read here.

Day One of any Grand Slam is absolutely loaded on the schedule and it looks a great day for the fans that will be attending Wimbledon, as Novak Djokovic opens up on Centre Court as the defending Champion.

Marcel Granollers - 2.5 games v Janko Tipsarevic: Janko Tipsarevic returns to Wimbledon for the first time since 2013 as he continues his return to the ATP Tour which has been stop-start to say the least. He would have preferred to have a much more straight-forward First Round match than Marcel Granollers who is comfortable on the faster surfaces and can give Tipsarevic all he can handle.

I do like Granollers' chances of progressing to the Second Round because Tipsarevic has been having a few issues trying to find his consistency on his return from injury. I am a big fan of Tipsarevic and would love for him to get back to the level he was producing in 2012, but I have a feeling the Serb might not be able to do that and might not be long for the Tour.

He does love playing tennis, but Tipsarevic won't want to go on a losing run as confidence dips and his age perhaps begin to play a factor in any decision on retirement. The serve is still a decent weapon, but Tipsarevic has struggled to back that up and I think Granollers likely moves through in four sets.

The Spaniard should have enough to get over this number of games too and I will back him to do that.

Novak Djokovic - 6.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: The big question for Novak Djokovic coming into Wimbledon as the defending Champion is whether he has been able to get over what had to be an extreme disappointment in Paris earlier this month. The French Open has long been a main goal for Djokovic and failing to win that tournament, despite beating Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, will have hurt.

The World Number 1 has shown remarkable mental strength in the past to pick himself up after a poor defeat, his run after the US Open defeat to Kei Nishikori last year underlining that point. I expect Novak Djokovic will be good to go at Wimbledon, where he won the title in 2014 after losing the French Open Final, although Philipp Kohlschreiber is as tough a test as he might have expected in the First Round.

The German has been strong on the grass through his career having won the title in Halle before, but Kohlschreiber looks a player on the way down from his peak. Pushing Roger Federer in a three set loss in Halle is one thing, but facing Djokovic on Centre Court at Wimbledon is a huge test for Kohlschreiber.

Djokovic has regularly got the better of Kohlschreiber in the past and even a close first set, which has to be expected after Djokovic missed the grass court season, might not prevent him covering. Once Djokovic settles down, he is good enough to produce a 76, 63, 63 kind of win which will put everyone on notice that no letdown is to be expected.

Lleyton Hewitt - 2.5 games v Jarkko Nieminen: Two veterans meet in the First Round and will both know they might not have too many more opportunities to play on one of the main show courts at Wimbledon in the remainder of their careers. Lleyton Hewitt knows that for sure as he finishes his career after the Australian Open in January 2016, while Jarkko Nieminen can't be too far away from retirement himself, but the winner of this match has the chance to likely meet Novak Djokovic in the Second Round.

This match takes place on Court 2 so will have a big crowd in as the former Champion Lleyton Hewitt looks to end his time in the UK with another positive performance. You know Rusty is going to be desperate to play that match with Novak Djokovic to have one last hurrah in the limelight, but his form has been below par since the Australian Open exit at the hands of Benjamin Becker.

Hewitt is far from a regular on the Tour these days and even the return to grass hasn't really been productive as he was beaten by Nicolas Mahut and Kevin Anderson preparing for Wimbledon. On the other hand, Hewitt had Anderson beaten in that match at Queens and the South African's run to the Final there suggests Hewitt can beat Nieminen for the sixth time in six matches.

I do think Nieminen is a wily veteran, but his own form hasn't exactly been much to write home about and I think Hewitt will appreciate the match up. The lefty serve can be awkward, but Hewitt will have a chance to get into the Nieminen service games as the first serve isn't the biggest. I like Hewitt to come through this match in four sets and I like him to find a cover barring a 60, 61 defeat in a set which is always a worry with the Australian at this stage of his career.

Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 games v Alexandra Dulgheru: These two players might be 1-1 in the head to head during their career, but Kristina Mladenovic has shown more form of late than Alexandra Dulgheru and looks to have the game that will make her a threat on grass.

Mladenovic has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes that certainly fizz through the court and her confidence has to be in a good place after reaching the Semi Final in Birmingham in preparation for Wimbledon. That follows a Quarter Final appearance in Hertogenbosch and I think Mladenovic will keep Dulgheru under pressure on the scoreboard in this one.

The Romanian has had some success on the grass in the past, but Dulgheru hasn't really given this time of the season much thought in recent years. Even this year she won a couple of qualifiers before being thumped in the First Round in Eastbourne and I am not sure she is that comfortable on the surface these days.

As long as Mladenovic is serving well, Dulgheru will feel the pressure mentally and I expect cracks to form in as she falls to a 63, 64 loss to her opponent.

Caroline Garcia v Heather Watson: I know Caroline Garcia hasn't had a lot of success on grass this season, but she was a Third Round casualty at Wimbledon last year and I am a little surprised she can't do more on this surface. The defeat to Andrea Petkovic was more forgivable than the one to Klara Koukalova, but I still am not convinced that Garcia should be the underdog against Heather Watson.

I mentioned it last week in Watson's loss to Sloane Stephens, but the British Number 1 hasn't had the best record on grass over the last few years and I am not completely convinced she is best suited to the surface. Watson is very much a defensive player on the court, but players are able to hit through her on grass and Garcia has the tools to take her down.

I do wonder about Garcia mentally though- she has a lot of talent but seems to lose her mind a little when things are not quite going as she is expecting. Even when in the lead, Garcia is never far away from a collapse in concentration and belief and that does mean she can slip into defeats that she shouldn't be taking.

The match does have the hallmarks of a three setter, and Watson will definitely get the vocal support on court. However, I think the wrong player is favoured and Garcia is more than good enough to win this match.

MY PICKS: Marcel Granollers - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Lleyton Hewitt - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Wimbledon Outright Picks 2015 (June 29-July 12)

The grass court season hasn't been my most productive period of the season and this has regularly been the case over the years going into the third Grand Slam of the season.

While my Grand Slam record remains pretty decent, Wimbledon is the one that I look forward to the least because of the surface and the erratic results it can produce.

It is no surprise that is the case compared with the clay court season as there is more emphasis on players needing to take their chances for you to be successful. There are also some dangerous players in the draw who perhaps don't produce a high quality return during much of the season, but love the grass and come alive at this time of the season. You have to be aware of these kind of things going into Wimbledon as it helps in making the right plays and hopefully leads to a strong couple of weeks before the Tour moves away from the grass (well after the event in Newport anyway).

So what advice would I have for someone preparing to make picks from the next two weeks? Well I have a couple of suggestions.

1) You will see a lot more tie-breakers on this surface than on the clay: This is important for those looking at the spreads, especially some of the really big ones you get in the early Rounds of Slams.

You have to be aware that even the top players can sometimes have the racquet taken out of their hands if an opponent is serving well on grass with the faster conditions that generally do still exist compared with the clay courts.

It does mean the spreads from 7.5 games and above can be a little more difficult to be confident in, unless of course the right match up is there but the increased chances of tie-breakers being a factor can't be ignored.

2) One break can sometimes be enough to end the set: Following on from the first point, you will also get a few break point chances in a set for each player, but sometimes it can take just one to finish the set.

On the faster surfaces there is less of an opportunity to recover breaks, and very little opportunity to not just recover the break but move ahead by a break. That is a lot more common on the clay courts than on the grass courts, especially in the men's game, and so any pick has to have an element more luck on this surface.

While you can always rely on the superior skill to be telling on the clay, the grass can sometimes be very frustrating for the returner as well as those who have made picks to cover certain handicaps.

It is also more important to open the set serving you would feel for a number of the funnier numbers and is something to watch out for, although the toss of the coin and decision of the winning player is way out of our hands.

3) Playing on grass is not the most comfortable experience for everyone: One of the big criticisms of the tennis Tour over the years has been the general unification of the speed of the courts no matter the different surfaces.

While the grass courts don't have the same speed of years gone by, it is still a surface that can provide difficulties for some players and relight the fire of others.

So watch out for some of the Seeds that are simply not that comfortable on the surface as the lower bouncing ball or the confidence in the movement is not there for them. Also watch out for dangerous floaters in the draw that might not have strong seasons, but love this portion of the Tour and can do significant damage if caught on one of their hot days.

4) Checking the schedules will give you an insight into how important the grass court season is for an individual: There are some players out there that don't usually do too much preparation for Wimbledon after the move from the French Open, the likes of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams coming to mind. These players will be challenging at Wimbledon just by looking at their past experiences on grass and their season success, but other players simply don't care too much about the grass courts and enter the tournament with little expectation.

No player wants to lose a match, but some accept the grass courts are not for them so it is always a good idea to see past experiences on the surface. It is a limited part of the season so you can't take success/failure as gospel, but it does give an idea as to how serious players are.

An example is Pablo Cuevas- he may be Seeded this year, but he has played just a couple of grass court tournaments in the last six years. However, he has shown more signs of wanting to get involved on the surface having entered two tournaments already on the grass this season.

It is something to keep in mind- if a player has shown little enthusiasm for grass, they might not be the most likely to dig in if things begin to go wrong for them and perhaps not a great person to back to keep within a big number. Conversely, they could be worth opposing if up against a competent player on the surface and has to be taken in as a factor.

Men's Tournament
It is no surprise that Novak Djokovic decided that he needed to recharge both physically and mentally from his exertions at the French Open and thus only played a couple of exhibition matches on the grass in preparation for Wimbledon. The defeat in the French Open Final would have been a bitter pill for Djokovic to swallow, but he has stated himself that he feels comfortable heading to SW19 with this schedule behind him as he has won the tournament in similar circumstances in the past.

That includes recovering from a French Open Final loss in 2014 to win and the defending Champion will come in as the favourite. However, Djokovic must have been hoping for a far more straight-forward match than facing Philipp Kohlschreiber in the First Round, especially as the German is very comfortable on the grass courts himself.

If this tournament entered a time displacement machine (yeah, I've been watching The Terminator), Djokovic would have been really worried about a potential Second Round match with Lleyton Hewitt. However, the Australian is no longer the force of old and no sure thing to get out of his First Round match against another veteran Jarkko Nieminen, although I think the former Wimbledon Champion will get one more day out in the sun at this tournament.

Bernard Tomic, Jerzy Janowicz and Kevin Anderson are potentially dangerous threats to Djokovic through to the Quarter Final, but the World Number 1 has been in incredible form through 2015 and it is hard to see him losing to any of those players in a best of five set match.

I don't think Djokovic would be too concerned if he does get through to the Quarter Final as there are some big doubts about Marin Cilic, John Isner and Kei Nishikori coming into the tournament and Novak Djokovic does look like he will have the opportunity to peak at the right time for this tournament.

You do have to feel that Novak Djokovic might have mistimed his form at the French Open thanks to the Quarter Final match against Rafael Nadal and the Semi Final against Andy Murray. Most players would think beating those two players back to back would be enough to win most big tournaments, but especially at the French Open, and I do think that might have contributed to Djokovic's struggles.

That is taking nothing away from Stan Wawrinka who was magnificent in Paris, but I am not convinced he is going to reach his Seeded position of the Semi Final here at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal was the last player to win the French Open/Wimbledon double back in 2010 and this has notoriously been a big test for the best players, while Wawrinka has not been beyond the Quarter Final here.

Wawrinka did play well in SW19 last year, while his defeat to Kevin Anderson at Queens is forgivable so this might be the chance for him to go beyond his personal best here. However, I would be a little concerned with the way Wawrinka followed up his Australian Open win and he is always someone that could potentially be caught early in a Grand Slam draw, even if Wawrinka has been given a very cosy draw up to the Quarter Final.

At that point, I can see one of three players standing in his way- Milos Raonic is Seeded to get there, but didn't have a deep grass court resume before Wimbledon last year and relies too much on tie-breakers; Richard Gasquet has loved playing on the grass in the past, but was beaten by Raonic at Queens Club and so I am looking for this surface to reinvigorate a certain Grigor Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian has been in poor form in recent weeks, but the defeat to Gilles Muller at Queens might not be as poor as it initially may have felt for him. Dimitrov was a Semi Finalist at Wimbledon in 2014 and he is a previous Semi Finalist and Winner at Queens so clearly loves to play on the grass.

Dimitrov's form is a concern, but he has the chance to play his way in at Wimbledon with what looks a decent First Round draw and then a more challenging one against likely Steve Johnson. His 0-4 head to head with Gasquet would be a concern, but their last match came in 2013 and I think they have by-passed one another from that time and I would think Dimitrov has enough to come through.

He has a decent record against Milos Raonic and beaten Stan Wawrinka three times in a row, including twice on clay prior to the French Open, so Dimitrov has every chance to return to the Semi Final and try and reverse the loss to Djokovic from last season.

Nick Kyrgios is the wild card in this Quarter of the draw, but the Australian is struggling with some sort of elbow injury as well as other niggles. He can be dangerous on his day, but those injuries may prevent him from reaching the Quarter Final as he did last season and I think Dimitrov could be the player to back out of this section.

The top half of the draw does look like one that Novak Djokovic will be a strong favourite to get out of, but the bottom half looks loaded with talent. The intriguing matches look to be coming thick and fast from it, especially after Rafael Nadal was thrown into the same section as Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

In all honesty it is hard to get excited about Nadal's chances prior to the draw simply because of his recent struggles on the grass courts. He did win in Stuttgart, but Wimbledon has proved problematic since he reached the Final here in 2011 which was Nadal's fifth time in a row he had managed to get to the final Sunday of the tournament (one absence in a six year period between 2006-11).

Since then Nadal has not been beyond the Fourth Round, and while many are looking to the potential Quarter Final with Andy Murray, the Spaniard has a number of tests to pass. The First Round shouldn't present a problem, but Nadal could potentially face Dustin Brown in the Second Round (beat Nadal on grass at Halle last year), Victor Troicki in the Third Round (Nadal beat him in a close Final in Stuttgart) and then David Ferrer who can never be underestimated.

I actually think Nadal might be a very dangerous opponent for Andy Murray in the Quarter Final because that run could have him played into form, although his recent experiences at Wimbledon would mean it is hard to trust Nadal. Someone like Brown could take the racquet out of his hands if in top form and Troicki has played well enough to be considered a real danger in the Third Round.

Murray does seem to have the more straight-forward path to the Quarter Final, although there are some dangers in the section that can't be ignored. You'd still expect Murray to come through on the form he has displayed since Munich, even if he faces someone as awkward as Ivo Karlovic in the Fourth Round.

I'd put a line through Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which might be dangerous considering his previous grass court form and how well his game is suited to the surface. However, the Frenchman has been injured and not played any grass court tennis heading into Wimbledon and has a ridiculously difficult First Round match against Gilles Muller and I would be surprised if Andy Murray isn't the man to come out of the section.

Rafael Nadal might be 3-0 against Andy Murray on the grass courts of SW19, but the last of those matches was in 2011 in the midst of Nadal's run of Finals at Wimbledon. Things have changed since then and Murray's destruction of Nadal in Madrid should have shifted the balance going into that Quarter Final.

The problem for Murray in being in the second half of the draw and in the same Quarter as Rafael Nadal is that he will have to follow that potential Quarter Final with a potential Semi Final against Roger Federer.

The seven time Wimbledon Champion has to be pleased with the draw he has been handed for the next two weeks, although his Grand Slam record in 2015 has been poor by the standards Federer has set in the past. In saying that, Wimbledon and the US Open give Federer his best chance of winning another Grand Slam in my opinion and he will be a dangerous opponent for anyone on his favourite surface.

Federer won Halle, but he perhaps wasn't as convincing which might have opponents thinking they have a chance for the surprise, but I don't see too many threats for him early in the tournament. Sam Querrey might have a decent grass record and Jack Sock is a Doubles Champion at Wimbledon, but beating Federer in a best of five set match looks unlikely for both.

Feliciano Lopez has never beaten Federer and you look through the names that he might have to beat prior to the Quarter Final and I don't think too many would be expected to challenge Federer.

The biggest obstacle to Federer reaching another Semi Final here has to be Tomas Berdych who did beat Federer the last time they played at Wimbledon in 2010 on his way to the Final that year. Berdych looks to have a much more awkward path to the Quarter Final though with a dangerous First Round opponent in Jeremy Chardy and grass court specialist Nicolas Mahut a potential Second Round opponent.

There are other dangers before the Quarter Final for Berdych and his inconsistency at Wimbledon since reaching the Final in 2010 has to be a concern. Berdych has made just one Quarter Final since then and was beaten in the Third Round last year.

That potentially opens the door for one of two Frenchmen to perhaps move into a surprise Quarter Final- Gael Monfils has not been in as effective form as Gilles Simon and had to deal with an injury in Halle, but both will be hoping to be involved in the Davis Cup tie with Great Britain at Queens Club the week after Wimbledon.

Neither would really worry Roger Federer and he might be in a much better position physically by the time he gets to the Semi Final if the potential Rafael Nadal-Andy Murray Quarter Final develops into a classic Wimbledon Quarter Final.

It is hard to look past the two favourites at this Grand Slam- as long as Novak Djokovic can come through the early couple of Rounds, I expect he will get stronger and stronger as he looks to retain the title he won last season.

I also had Andy Murray as the favourite prior to the draw and looking through his part of the draw hasn't reduced my belief in him. Of course Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches is a huge test for anyone, but I am still convinced Murray is playing at a high enough level to at least reach the Final and perhaps win the tournament for a second time.

I do think Roger Federer still has something left in the tank and we are most likely to see that either at Wimbledon or the US Open. After reaching the Final here last year and winning in Halle in preparation for Wimbledon, I think the draw has been kind enough to back Federer to win the Fourth Quarter of the draw, although Tomas Berdych is a real threat in the section.

Finally I am going to have a small interest on Grigor Dimitrov to rediscover some form and win the Second Quarter to at least match his performance at Wimbledon last season. Dimitrov has a very tough section, but he has strong records against the likes of Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka and I would expect the Bulgarian to get past both of those players if he can see off Richard Gasquet in the Third Round.

Raonic is still coming back from an injury and Wawrinka has never really pulled up too many trees at Wimbledon so Grigor Dimitrov could be a big price in ten days time.

Women's Tournament
Any time you look at a women's event that has Serena Williams involved in the draw, you have to say the World Number 1 is going to take some stopping to win the title. However, Serena Williams has won just one of the last four Wimbledon tournaments she has competed in while she has failed to reach the Quarter Final in the other three events in that time. Add the fact that no one has done the French Open/Wimbledon double in the women's game since 2002 when Serena Williams achieved that and you have to wonder if the favourite should be opposed.

However, the theory has been that you need to 'get' Serena Williams early in any tournament she enters and it is difficult to see who is capable of beating her before the Quarter Final. If she gets to that stage, Serena will be incredibly difficult to stop and would be a strong favourite to go on and win the event.

Daniela Hantuchova, Dominika Cibulkova and Caroline Garcia are all capable players, but they would all be big underdogs against Serena Williams, and the biggest threat in her section may be older sister Venus Williams.

Venus Williams might not have reached the Final in SW19 since 2009, but no one came closer to knocking Petra Kvitova out last year at Wimbledon and she has a respectable path through to the Fourth Round where she can potentially meet younger sister Serena. Venus Williams won the last meeting with Serena Williams at the Canadian Masters last summer, but it is Serena who holds a 3-2 lead at Wimbledon in the head to head having beaten Venus in the Final in 2009.

Players like Belinda Bencic, Tsvetana Pironkova, Ana Ivanovic and Victoria Azarenka all have their positives, but many negatives too which makes it hard to oppose Serena Williams if she was to come through the Fourth Round.

If Serena Williams was to make it through to the Semi Final, I don't really think there are too many players that she would be afraid of ahead of the final Saturday of the tournament. Maria Sharapova looks an awful third favourite to win Wimbledon, despite being a former winner here, especially considering she has reached the Final once in the last eight years and failed to get past the Fourth Round in seven of those years.

While Sharapova is expected to get past the early Rounds relatively easily, dangers lurk later on in her Quarter of the draw with the likes of Andrea Petkovic, Flavia Pennetta, Lucie Safarova, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova all potential Fourth Round and Quarter Final opponents.

The latter three players look the most likely Semi Final opponents for Serena Williams and I do like Karolina Pliskova's game and the way it transfers onto the grass courts. She was a Finalist in Birmingham, but the draw could have been a lot kinder for her and Serena Williams may be picking the bones of whoever comes out of a tough section of the draw.

The second favourite for the title is Petra Kvitova who has hopefully recovered from the illness that forced her out of Eastbourne last week and the defending Champion will be pleased with her draw.

Well, I think she would have more pleased if she had seen the draw a month ago after Agnieszka Radwanska rediscovered some form on the grass courts over the last three weeks. In saying that, Kvitova has a dominant head to head against Radwanska and the power on the grass courts to really get the better of the Pole in a potential Fourth Round blockbuster!

Kvitova might be more wary of her potential Quarter Final opponents which looks like it could be either Madison Keys or Ekaterina Makarova assuming Eugenie Bouchard's struggles have yet to be overcome. Keys has a win over Kvitova at the Australian Open earlier this season and has the kind of game that will be a huge presence on the grass for years to come, although I think she is carrying some sort of injury which lessens enthusiasm for her.

Makarova is a much more interesting candidate having a 1-2 record against Kvitova on the grass, but all of their matches have been highly competitive and she can match the big lefty serve. However, Makarova had to withdraw from the Doubles at Eastbourne with an achilles injury and it does seem to be working out for the defending Champion Kvitova to have another deep run at what is clearly her favourite Grand Slam.

To me there is clearly no doubt that the most intriguing Quarter of the women's draw is the third Quarter where there are many players that will feel they are good enough to not just reach the Semi Final, but go all the way to the title.

Simona Halep has won a grass title in her career and was a Semi Finalist at Wimbledon last season; Angelique Kerber won the big tournament in Birmingham and is a former Quarter Finalist and Semi Finalist at Wimbledon; Sabine Lisicki has reached the Quarter Final three times, the Semi Final and the Final in her last five appearances at Wimbledon.

I have drawn a line through Caroline Wozniacki because I find it hard to believe she will recover from her back issues in time to be a threat at this tournament, while Garbine Muguruza is just not comfortable enough on this surface to be trusted.

A couple of dangerous floaters in this section are Timea Bacsinszky and Camila Giorgi who both have had previous success on the grass. Bacsinszky might struggle to back up her performance at the French Open, while Giorgi is still a very erratic player with little room for error in the way she plays.

The Italian did win the tournament in Hertogenbosch, and she has previously reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon after coming through the qualifiers so has the experience of playing a lot of matches on grass, but I am not convinced Giorgi can tone it down when the mistakes start flowing from her racquet.

The French Open/Wimbledon double has proved troublesome for the women's players in recent years, but Serena Williams can become the first player to do that since she did the same back in 2002. The draw looks to have worked out very well for Williams who I assume is over the physical illness that affected her so badly at the French Open.

The fact she won her worst Grand Slam despite the illness is a remarkable achievement and I think Serena is ready to reclaim her crown at SW19. Her biggest problem might be facing her elder sister Venus in the Fourth Round, but I think Serena is going to be able to work through the gears over the next two weeks and I would be pretty surprised if she is not making up one half of the Final on Saturday 11th July.

Like the men's event, it is hard to see the top two favourites being beaten over the next couple of weeks, although I do have more doubts about Petra Kvitova than I do about Andy Murray which may be surprising when looking at the names they have to face. However, Petra Kvitova's form at Wimbledon is so hard to ignore when you think she has won Wimbledon twice, been to the Quarter Final twice and the Semi Final over the last five years here.

The draw has also seemed to have worked out in Kvitova's favour and I think a similar staking plan to the men's tournament in the outright markets may work out.

I am also keen on having a small interest in the middle two Quarters of the draw and think the two Finalists at Birmingham a couple of weeks ago are worthy of support against higher Seeded players in their section.

Karolina Pliskova has the perfect game for the grass courts of SW19 and I think she can be supported to reach the Semi Final ahead of someone like Maria Sharapova who has struggled at Wimbledon in recent years. I am a big fan of Lucie Safarova and Sloane Stephens has been playing well in recent weeks, but Pliskova might be able to pick off whoever comes through to meet her in the Fourth Round and perhaps take advantage if Sharapova is beaten early again.

In the Third Quarter I believe Angelique Kerber can be the player to make it into another Wimbledon Semi Final. She was playing very well in Birmingham and looks to have the 'easiest' path into the Quarter Final in this section.

She has a strong record against Sabine Lisicki, who is a potential Quarter Final opponent, and I am not convinced Simona Halep is playing with enough confidence to maintain her unbeaten head to head with Kerber. It is Lisicki favoured to come out of the Third Quarter, but I do think her compatriot can surprise by taking the Semi Final spot instead.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic @ 2.40 Coral (4 Units)
Andy Murray @ 3.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov to Win Second Quarter @ 9.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Roger Federer to Win Fourth Quarter @ 1.80 Bet Victor (4 Units)
Serena Williams @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (4 Units)
Petra Kvitova @ 5.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova to Win Second Quarter @ 9.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Angelique Kerber to Win Third Quarter @ 4.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Weekly Picks Final8-12, - 9.64 Units (40 Units Staked, - 24.1% Yield)

Season 2015+ 30.38 Units (997 Units Staked, + 3.05% 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)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (June 26th)

The Wimbledon draw is going to be made on Friday morning so my attention will be shifting to that tournament over the weekend.

I will be looking to get the Wimbledon preview with any outright picks out by Saturday and picks from the first day of the tournament to be ready for Sunday so look out for those over the weekend.

Before all that, Eastbourne and Nottingham will be looking to put a full stop on what has been decent tournaments at both venues this week. The tournaments are scheduled to come to an end on Saturday which will ensure the Finalists have ample time to get ready for Wimbledon, although those are only going to be completed as long as the weather continues to play ball as it has for much of the week.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 games v Denis Istomin: This has already been a very good week for Marcos Baghdatis and he might just be catching Denis Istomin at the right time this week. As well as Istomin has done to reach the Semi Final, he had to come through a long Quarter Final with Leonardo Mayer and will also be battling fatigue as well as Baghdatis in the Semi Final.

It hadn't been a great grass court season for Istomin prior to this week with losses to Joao Sousa and Yen-Hsun Lu behind him, but he has had success on grass in the past. In fact this is the second season in a row he has reached the Semi Final in the event prior to Wimbledon and Istomin has a decent serve and heavy groundstrokes that should transfer onto the grass.

However, Baghdatis has really turned back the clock this week in his four wins where he is yet to drop a set. The 64, 64 win over Simone Bolelli in the Quarter Final was very impressive from the Cypriot and Baghdatis has always been very comfortable on the grass.

He has served well and continuing to do that will give Baghdatis a real chance to keep the pressure on Istomin and help him break him down. It potentially will need three sets to separate them with the way Istomin has been playing, but I like Baghdatis to win this 63, 46, 64.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 games v Sam Querrey: It was remarkable watching Sam Querrey somehow get out of the second set with a win against Gilles Simon in the Quarter Final and I do think he is on borrowed time here. Querrey was 15-40 down on serve at 5-5 in the second set having dropped the first, while Simon missed match point by an inch in the tie-breaker before falling away in the final set.

The American has the kind of game that could frustrate Alexandr Dolgopolov, who made much harder work of Yen-Hsun Lu than he should have in his own Quarter Final, although I do think the variation in the Dolgopolov game will be able to extract mistakes from Querrey too.

You can't dismiss Querrey simply for his background on the grass courts as a former winner at Queens and he also has to be respected for the kind of tennis that works well on the grass. Querrey has a big serve and follows that with a heavy forehand and will win plenty of short points if he has his eye in.

The key for Dolgopolov is to force the rally into the fifth/sixth and beyond number of shots where he should have an edge. He has to stop some of the loose mistakes as he won't recover too many leads he hands to Querrey, but I do think Dolgopolov has played the better tennis over the last couple of Rounds.

This is likely to be tight and is another of the Semi Final matches in Nottingham that might need to go the distance, but I think Dolgopolov finds a way to come through with a 67, 76, 64 win.

Sloane Stephens + 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: I was surprised with the ease in which Agnieszka Radwanska dismissed the challenge of Tsvetana Pironkova on Thursday and she is a big favourites to progress to the Final. Radwanska has the head to head advantage in this one, is a former Wimbledon Finalist so comfortable on the grass, and has looked to be getting back to her best over the last couple of weeks.

She takes on Sloane Stephens who received a walkover to the Semi Final and is still trying to make her first Final on the Tour so there will be some pressure on her shoulders. However, it has to be said that Stephens has been playing a high level this week, although this represents another step up in class from what she has seen so far.

Stephens has to avoid becoming frustrated by an opponent that will get a lot of balls back in play, but she certainly has the game to win this match outright. Her serve can give her the chance to win cheap points and Stephens has to make sure she hurts the Radwanska serve and make the Pole feel her recent struggles on the court prior to the grass season.

Matches between them have been competitive in sets, but too often Stephens has allowed Radwanska to win an 'easy' set which is a concern for my pick. However, I do think Stephens has the kind of game that should give Radwanska problems on this surface and I will look for her to keep this competitive.

Belinda Bencic + 3.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: She might only be 18 years old, but Belinda Bencic won't want to be taken to school by Caroline Wozniacki in the manner she was in Istanbul last year when she was double bageled. Any concerns that there is a mental issue was removed when Bencic beat Wozniacki at Indian Wells earlier this season and she will be looking to get to another grass court Final this week.

Bencic reached the Final at Hertogenbosch before finding Camila Giorgi a little too hot to handle, but the Italian is a very aggressive player that can take the racquet out of an opponent's hands. The same can be said of Sabine Lisicki on a grass court, as her 27 aces against Bencic proved, but the Swiss teenager will know Wozniacki is unlikely to blast her off the court.

That means there will be some long rallies between two players more known for their accuracy and consistency than their overwhelming power on the court and I think this could be a very entertaining match. Bencic's serve was letting her down at times in her Quarter Final win, but Wozniacki faced the same problem and there could be a number of break points for both women.

Whoever plays the big points best will win, as is the case in most tennis matches, but I do believe this is a competitive contest throughout. Both Bencic and Wozniacki should have their moments and there is every chance we need three sets to separate the players which makes this number of games being offered on Bencic look attractive.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-10, - 5.64 Units (36 Units Staked, - 15.67% Yield)

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (June 25th)

We are now just a couple of days away from the Wimbledon draw and that means the tournaments in Eastbourne and Nottingham have reached the Quarter Final stage. Both have been interesting tournaments, but there have been a bunch of strange results this week as players have perhaps begun to look ahead to performing at the next Grand Slam of the season.

However, the remaining sixteen players left in Eastbourne and Nottingham must now be looking at their chance to win a title so the expectation is that the focus is a lot clearer in the remaining three days to give the winner some momentum to take into Wimbledon.

Marcos Baghdatis - 2.5 games v Simone Bolelli: Simone Bolelli had to dig deep to come through his Third Round match against Adrian Mannarino and he has beaten Marcos Baghdatis in their two previous matches. That includes a thumping in the First Round of the Masters in Miami, but I think the grass courts can allow Baghdatis to come through with his first win over the Italian.

It hasn't been a great grass court season for Baghdatis even if the surface should be one the Cypriot favours, but he is playing with more confidence this week. There is no doubting that Baghdatis is a player that has to be feeling good about himself if he is going to put together wins and I think that confidence can help him even if Bolelli won their last match comfortably.

Bolelli did have a very good win over Adrian Mannarino after struggling for a set and a half to get into the match, but he has to be more consistent behind his serve. Hr has played some very solid tennis this week and Bolelli will be a real threat if he can start to read the Baghdatis second serve, a shot he might see far more often than Baghdatis would like.

If Baghdatis is able to look after the serve, I think he has played effectively off the ground to think he can find a way to create break point chances. The first set could be incredibly tight, but I think Baghdatis finds his way to a 76, 64 win.

Gilles Simon - 1.5 games v Sam Querrey: I was interested to see how Gilles Simon would react to the eighth longest three set match in ATP history in his win over Marcel Granollers, but he proved effective with a straight sets win over Joao Sousa.

The Frenchman has admitted that he is very pleased with his form going into Wimbledon, but he won't want it to end here against the dangerous Sam Querrey who is yet to drop a set this week.

The big serve of Querrey is a huge weapon on the grass courts, but Simon has a real ability to get plenty of balls back in play and showed he can frustrate big servers in his win over Milos Raonic at Queens last week. Simon couldn't handle the Kevin Anderson performance, but Querrey isn't playing with the same confidence the South African was and I also think the head to head is important to note.

These players might not have met on grass before, but Simon is 4-0 against Querrey including 3 wins on the hard courts. Pablo Cuevas showed that Querrey can be troubled if the rallies are extended and that is a key for Simon who can replicate that but with more confidence on the grass courts than Cuevas had.

It might need three sets to separate these players, but the Frenchman can continue a strong grass court season by reaching the Semi Final here.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: Both players had an impressive win on Wednesday in their Third Round matches, but I think it will be Alexandr Dolgopolov who is more likely to move into the Semi Final in this match with Yen-Hsun Lu.

The Dolgopolov win over Dominic Thiem was much more expected than Lu's surprisingly comfortable win over Feliciano Lopez, but both men should come into this match with plenty of confidence.

I don't always know what to expect from Dolgopolov and his inconsistency is a big reason he has not maintained his position inside the top 20 in the World Rankings. While Lu won't really move much from the level he provides on the court, Dolgopolov is just as likely to play like a top player as he is to play like someone who has never picked up a tennis racquet in their life before.

Dolgopolov can be a very awkward customer on the court with his slices and flat shots not a common sight for opponents. Lu has struggled to deal with him in the past and I think the Ukrainian can move into the Semi Final after a three set win.

Tsvetana Pironkova + 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: There were signs in Nottingham a couple of weeks ago that Agnieszka Radwanska might be turning around a poor 2015 season by her standards. A disappointing defeat in the Semi Final of that tournament might have dented some confidence, but Radwanska has been in fine form this week in Eastbourne too.

The Pole has won two very good matches this week without really breaking a sweat, but I am expecting Tsvetana Pironkova to test her to the fullest.

Radwanska might be a former Finalist at Wimbledon, but she was a fairly consistent player across the board, while Pironkova really has saved some of her best performances for this surface. Wins over Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova in the last couple of Rounds should show the confidence Pironkova has on the grass courts as she had suffered lots of defeats to those two players before this week.

Her power on the grass comes through with the flat shots off the ground fizzing through the court and Pironkova could have a lot of success attacking the Radwanska serve. The Bulgarian might be 2-10 on the head to head with Radwanska, but one of those wins came on grass and the four previous meetings on this surface has seen Pironkova be very competitive three times.

The slight dip in the confidence levels of Radwanska has to be a worry for her fans and Pironkova is playing well enough to keep this very competitive with three tight sets likely to be required to separate the two players.

Belinda Bencic - 3.5 games v Johanna Konta: You'd probably never guess that I think Johanna Konta should be Ranked much higher than her current 146 World Ranking, especially as I am going to go against the British player for a third time this week.

It hasn't been much fun the first two times as Konta continues defying the Ranking and the talent differential to beat players that will be disappointed with their performances. Garbine Muguruza just made too many mistakes when it came down to it on Wednesday, but she did drag Konta into a deep match and fatigue could play a part in this one.

Of course playing in front of her home crowd should provide Konta with a shot of adrenaline to get into this match against Belinda Bencic, a player she beat here in Eastbourne last year. However, this time Bencic comes into the match in much better form and her performances in this grass court season will have raised her confidence.

Bencic is a player that is set to reach the highest level in the women's game and she has had impressive wins over Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard, even if the latter had to retire when down in the second set. Her consistency is still being built up, but that is unsurprising for a player that is 18 years old, but Bencic has been performing very well over the last month having one Final under her belt at Hertogenbosch.

I have a lot of respect for the level of tennis that Konta has produced at times, but it is hard to imagine she can keep it up. Even though she beat Bencic convincingly last year, both players might come in with different levels of fitness this time and I think the young Swiss player finds a way to battle through and cover this number of games.

Sloane Stephens - 3.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: I was very impressed with some of the tennis that Sloane Stephens produced in a convincing win over Heather Watson on Wednesday and there is no doubt that Stephens is enjoying her best portion of the 2015 season. She will have to be on her game again if she is going to make the Semi Final this week as Stephens takes on Lucky Loser Daria Gavrilova who has taken full advantage of her fortunate path into the main draw.

It hasn't been easy for Gavrilova to take advantage of her luck to get into the main draw as she came from behind to beat Camila Giorgi, the Hertogenbosch Champion, and also needed three sets to see off Sara Errani. Sloane Stephens plays much more like Giorgi and will take note of how close she came to beating Gavrilova, although there is plenty of power off the Gavrilova racquet that will trouble the American.

This has already been a productive week for Gavrilova who had previously been just 3-4 on the grass courts, but she has to contain Stephens who made a fast start in her last two matches to take control. Some of the consistency she showed against Watson was impressive, but Gavrilova is likely to fight fire with fire and this looks a big hitting match.

Stephens just has the look of someone who is rediscovering her game and I think that helps make the difference in a good match as she comes through 75, 64.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tsvetana Pironkova + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-7, - 3.46 Units (26 Units Staked, - 13.31% Yield)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Copa America Quarter Final Picks 2015 (June 24-27)

The Copa America only eliminates four teams at the Group Stage of the competition so there is little surprise that all of the favourites remain in contention to win the tournament this year.

Chile have looked the most impressive of the teams making it through to the last eight, but they were also in a Group where their quality could be shown off. I would still be a little concerned with the manner of the goals conceded to Mexico in the 3-3 draw the hosts had against them, although Chile are in the weaker half of the draw and should think they are good enough to at least reach the Final.

Argentina remain the favourites, but narrow wins over Uruguay and Jamaica and a 2-2 draw with Paraguay doesn't exactly inspire confidence. However, Argentina fans will point out the tight wins in the World Cup last summer that took them to the Final, although they potentially have to beat Colombia, Brazil and Chile to win this tournament which is going to be far from easy.

I do have to say it is far from guaranteed that Brazil make the Semi Final as they have to take on a Paraguay team that beat them in the Quarter Final four years ago and who are unbeaten in the Copa America this year despite facing Argentina and Uruguay in the Group.

There won't be too many people rushing to back the likes of Bolivia and Peru to win the tournament, but Paraguay made the Final four years ago and you just never know in the Knock Out Stage of any competition.

Wednesday 24th June: Chile v Uruguay
The hosts have qualified out of Group A in a fashion that the fans would have expected, but the big story remains off the pitch surrounding Arturo Vidal and the drink-driving accident he had last week. However, the Chile national team have made it clear that they are going to stick by Vidal and the whole team responded with a resounding 5-0 win over Bolivia in their final Group game to top Group A.

That meant they were going to take on one of the teams that finished in third place in their Group, although I don't think many would have picked Uruguay to be one of those teams. After beating Jamaica 1-0, Uruguay were beaten by Argentina and could not hold on to a lead against Paraguay in a game where they had to settle for a point and finishing behind those two nations.

Knowing they were going to be without the services of Luis Suarez was always going to give Uruguay a problem in this tournament, but it is the changing of the guard in other areas of the squad that hasn't helped them. Uruguay might have won this tournament four years ago but the expectation wasn't there for them to do the same this time around as they rebuild a squad that will be able to make the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Replacing the Suarez goal output was another difficulty Uruguay had to resolve as he is such an integral part of the set up, while the Barcelona forward is also someone that can create space for others. It is little surprise that Uruguay have only scored twice in the Copa America in their opening three games without him and they have not shown a consistent attacking threat.

You have to feel a consistent attacking threat is the only way Chile are going to be stopped at their own tournament as they look to win the Copa America for the first time. They are in the weaker half of the draw with the likes of Argentina, Colombia and Brazil all in the other half and Chile have scored plenty of goals in the Group Stage to suggest they will make the Final. Chile scored at least twice in each of their games in the Group, although Uruguay is a much tougher defensive unit than they have faced.

Diego Godin will return to the starting eleven to strengthen Uruguay at the back, while Uruguay have not lost to Chile in their last four games at the Copa America. In fact Uruguay have lost just 2 of their last 6 visits to Chile and won a friendly here 1-2 last November so they won't be intimidated by the atmosphere in the Quarter Final.

With the recent success Uruguay have had here, it does make Chile look short in the market to win. All of the pressure is on the hosts to win the tournament and that also makes them a dangerous pick against a team that still has a lot of experience like Uruguay.

While Uruguay haven't set the world alight with their attacking football in the Group, I do think the layers are taking a chance with the odds against quote for at least three goals being shared. That happened in their friendly here last November, while Chile have scored plenty of goals in the Group and not always looked secure at the back despite two clean sheets.

It is a Knock Out tie too so spaces could potentially open up if one team is chasing the game and I think both teams will score in this one, although I just favour the hosts to have the edge.

Thursday 25th June: Bolivia v Peru
There wouldn't be too many hands raised if you asked for a show of hands of people who thought Peru would finish above Colombia in Group C... That number would be reduced significantly if asking for those who also thought Bolivia were going to make it into the Quarter Finals of the Copa America for the first time since reaching the Final in 1997.

I mean how could anyone possibly back a Bolivia side that hadn't won a game at this tournament since hosting the event in 1997? However, they broke that sequence with an incredible 3-2 win over Ecuador having gone 3-0 up by half time and essentially hanging on towards the end of the game, but that was the win that put Bolivia into the Quarter Final at the expense of Mexico and Ecuador.

Some may have looked at the 5-0 defeat at the hands of Chile as Bolivia's bubble being burst at the Copa America, but they decided to make changes to their team in that one having already qualified for the Quarter Finals. Now this Bolivia team should have more of a feel of that which earned four points from their first couple of Group games, although the expectation is that their tournament comes to an end here.

Peru have looked much stronger than Bolivia having barely been beaten by Brazil thanks to an injury time goal in their first game at the Copa America. They followed that up by beating Venezuela, the result which ultimately proved decisive for them, before Peru earned a goalless draw with Colombia to finish above the latter in second place in Group C.

They have played well but two goals from their first three games has to be a worry, particularly the lack of composure shown against Venezuela despite having a man advantage for 70 minutes of that game. Peru have also won just 2 of their last 7 games so it does look a very short price having them at odds on to win this game, especially when you add the recent head to head with Bolivia.

Of course Bolivia have only won 2 of their last 19 games heading into this Quarter Final, but they have lost just 2 of their last 6 matches. The games with Peru have been tight in recent years and the last four have all ended in draws including in both World Cup Qualifiers played a couple of years ago.

The last two times they have played at the Copa America have also both ended in draws and Bolivia showed enough in their first two games of this tournament to think this will be far from easy for Peru. One problem for Bolivia would be if they end up chasing this game as I am not sure they have enough to contain Peru if they fall behind and whether they have enough attacking threat to get back into the match.

However, this has the makings of a game that might see both teams having to settle for the penalty shoot out to decide matters. The pressure of expectation on Peru might give them an issue and they don't look like a team that will score a lot of goals, while the recent head to head suggests this will be a much closer contest than the layers believe.

Friday 26th June: Argentina v Colombia
Out of the four Quarter Finals, this looks to be the 'biggest' as two of the top four favourites to win the Copa America meet earlier than expected. Argentina won Group B as expected, but Colombia were surprisingly one of the best third place finishers and that meant they had to be paired with the favourites in this Quarter Final.

It hasn't been the free-flowing tournament that Argentina fans might have expected from their side, but they remain on course to win their first major international tournament in over twenty years. After coming so close to winning the World Cup last summer, Argentina came into the Copa America tournament as the big favourites and wins over Uruguay and Jamaica helped them top the Group.

Both of those wins came by the same 1-0 scoreline, but Argentina's most disappointing result was the 2-2 draw with Paraguay as they allowed a 2-0 lead to slip in their opening game.

Lionel Messi has yet to really spark at the tournament, but Sergio Aguero has scored a couple of goals and is expected back in the starting line up having missed the game with Jamaica as a precaution. His replacement Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner in that game, but Argentina have to up their performance against a quality team like Colombia who have perhaps underachieved to this point.

That has shown up in the fact they have beaten Brazil, but Colombia could only manage a goalless draw with Peru which meant they had to finish in third place behind those two nations. Colombia were beaten 0-1 by Venezuela in their first game at the Copa America and they are looking to surpass the Quarter Final at the tournament for the first time since 2004.

Some of the criticism of Colombia has been the lack of goals despite players like Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez to call upon. One goal in three games is a disappointment, but Colombia may point out that they have only conceded one goal in those games too and will feel they can blunt what looks a very good forward line for Argentina.

It does look like a match that will be closely contested as both teams have looked to make sure they are defensively sound, but have perhaps not been as fluent in the forward areas as they would have liked. Argentina have looked the more threatening on a consistent basis through the tournament, but defensively they have looked more vulnerable too which makes this an intriguing contest.

There is no surprise that games between Argentina and Colombia have been so close in recent years and 2 of the last 3 have ended in goalless draws. That includes their meeting four years ago at the last Copa America which occurred in the Group Stage and penalties is a distinct possibility in this match.

I don't imagine there will be too many goals in the game as both teams have been more focused defensively and neither Argentina or Colombia will want to risk being exposed at the back against the vaunted attacks in front of them. I do give the edge to Argentina over the ninety minutes, but I think it is incredibly tight and this match might need penalties to decide it.

Argentina were beaten at this stage on penalties four years ago, but they have a strong record generally in penalty shoot-out matches and a small interest on them winning this on in a shoot out looks warranted.

Saturday 27th June: Brazil v Paraguay
The last time Brazil had to make do without Neymar at a major international tournament saw them embarrassed at the hands of Germany and the Netherlands, but they have decided to accept the suspension that was handed out to their captain and talisman. That means Brazil will have to win the Copa America without the services of Neymar as they get set to take on Paraguay in the Quarter Final of this competition for the second consecutive tournament.

Four years ago it was Paraguay who managed to come through the Quarter Final on a penalty shoot out after a goalless draw and they will be confident they can beat Brazil for the second tournament in a row. While Paraguay struggled in the World Cup Qualifiers, they have looked a strong team at the Copa America as they came out of a Group containing Argentina, Uruguay and Jamaica unbeaten.

The side found themselves 2-0 down to Argentina in the first game, but showed the heart and character Paraguay have by coming back for the 2-2 draw. The 1-0 win over Jamaica was harder work than they would have perhaps expected, but the 1-1 draw with Uruguay was enough for them to finish above Uruguay in Group B.

After seeing both Peru and Venezuela give Brazil some problems in the 2-1 wins for the latter, Paraguay won't be coming into this match with an inferior complex. Brazil were also beaten 0-1 by Colombia and they don't have the same look of a team that had won 10 friendlies in a row since going out of the World Cup last summer.

Whether that is down to the expectation on their shoulders or whether Brazil are simply still scarred by their last tournament experience is hard to judge, but Dunga is clearly struggling to get the best out of them in Chile. Now they are without Neymar, Brazil simply don't seem to have the same attacking threat and a team like Paraguay have shown they can cope with the best South America has to offer in their Group performances.

Despite the performances, Paraguay haven't done a lot of winning and I think it will be tough for them to win this one in ninety minutes. However, they have proven tough to beat in recent matches and have drawn 4 of their last 6 including those two games with Argentina and Uruguay.

It would be a bit of a surprise if Paraguay don't make sure they are tough to beat in this one too and hope to nick a goal, which they have managed in every game in the Group. However, I think they focus on trying to blunt the Brazilian attack that is missing Neymar and Paraguay won't be concerned about taking their chances on the shoot out after beating Brazil in that manner four years ago.

That was a remarkable shoot out with only 2/7 penalties being converted, but Brazil are unlikely to miss four straight again this time around you would feel. Technically the Brazilian players shouldn't be afraid of a penalty shoot out as they have shown through their history, while the Under 20 team won both penalty shoot outs at the Under 20 World Cup earlier this month.

Pressure does a funny thing though so it won't be guaranteed that Brazil can win what is often described as a 'lottery', but this could easily be the third penalty shoot out of the Quarter Finals.

MY PICKS: 24/06 Chile-Uruguay Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Coral (2 Units)
25/06 Bolivia-Peru Draw @ 3.40 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
26/06 Argentina to Win on Penalties @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
27/06 Brazil to Win on Penalties @ 6.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Quarter Final Update: 1-3, + 1 Units (5 Units Staked, + 20% Yield)

Group Stage Final5-12, - 6.20 Units (25 Units Staked, - 24.80% Yield)