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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

French Open Day 12 Picks 2015 (June 4th)

You would have to have a cold heart to not feel anything while watching Rafael Nadal toil to keep up with Novak Djokovic on a court he has made his own for a decade and there was some kind of 'end of an era' type of feel to the match. There is no doubt that Novak Djokovic is now the man to beat on all surfaces and while I did expect the World Number 1 to be a fairly comfortable winner on the day, I was still not prepared to watch Nadal humbled on his favourite surface in the dominant manner he was.

It will be interesting to see where Nadal goes from here and how he will mentally pick himself up from such a defeat and what has been a poor European clay court that suggests his power has diminished. The Spaniard is going to drop as low as Number 10 in the World Rankings on Monday assuming Jo-Wilfried Tsonga doesn't make the Final in Paris, but Nadal will be out of the top ten of the Rankings if that was to happen this weekend.

He has scheduled himself to go to Stuttgart and Queens for the next two weeks as he gets his grass court preparation under way for Wimbledon and I have little doubt that Nadal will not pull out of either of those two events. Whether he is mentally ready to really perform at his best will be up for debate, but Nadal needs to get the feeling of grass back underneath his feet with the World Ranking likely meaning he is going to have to be at his best very early at the next Grand Slam.

There will be some out there that will be looking to rule out Rafael Nadal as a true threat at the top of the men's game going forward, much like they did with Roger Federer a few years ago. One key difference between those two players is that Nadal's body has looked like it was going to let him down way more than Roger Federer's ever did and I do wonder if all the injuries have taken something away.

As tough as his season has been, Rafael Nadal is still very much entrenched in the top eight when it comes to the Race to London and there is nothing much to defend in terms of points following Wimbledon which could see him rise rapidly up the World Rankings. Of course the drop means the draws will be more difficult to do that in the same way he did a couple of years ago after a long lay-off, but I think it far from the end for Nadal as he still looks like a player who has the motivation to improve.

He has just had his 29th birthday so there is still room for Nadal to achieve more in the sport and I wouldn't be quick to rule him out from making a return to Paris next year and reclaiming his title and making it 10 French Open victories.

70-2... Let that sink in for a second.

If I had said that was a record a friend had at a local club, I am pretty sure you would be a little impressed, but that is what Rafael Nadal has compiled at the French Open in eleven visits to Paris.

Imagine that, to dominate that soundly at a Grand Slam, the top level of a sport.

No matter if Novak Djokovic wins three in a row, four in a row, or five in a row in Paris from this year, Rafael Nadal's achievements of the red dirt will forever have him known as the King of Clay. There is little doubt in my mind that I won't see any player do that at any Grand Slam going forward and this record will stand the test of time.

Quite frankly it is a ridiculous level of domination which is only added to by Nadal's overall results on clay over the last decade and no one should even begin to diminish what he achieved.

So the French Open is almost at an end with just four days left beginning with the two women's Semi Finals on Thursday which will be followed by the two men's Semi Finals on Friday, the women's Final on Saturday and the men's Final on Sunday. It does feel strange there is still tennis to be played in Paris without Rafael Nadal in the draw, but you have to move on and there looks to be the potential for some good matches over the next four days.

All four Semi Finals to be played over the next couple of days have intrigue surrounding them and you can't ask for much more at the end of a Grand Slam.

Lucie Safarova v Ana Ivanovic: I was really hoping, and expecting, that Lucie Safarova would have been set as the underdog in this Semi Final because I am not sure Ana Ivanovic would have been able to cope with all of the nerves with that expectation around her.

Forget all this rubbish about teams and athletes not knowing what is expected of them- someone would have mentioned to them at a point that they are being favoured and I think it is incredible naive to not believe that is happening.

If Ivanovic had been set as the favourite, she would have had to cope with that expectation to win as well as the pressure of being in her first Grand Slam Semi Final since winning the French Open in 2008. Ivanovic has coped with the pressures in that spot before having won 3 of her 4 Grand Slam Semi Finals in 2007 and 2008, but it is a different feeling now as Ivanovic may believe she won't have too many more chances to reach a Slam Final considering her lack of successes in recent years.

That same pressure may be felt by Lucie Safarova, but I think the Czech player will have more belief having reached the Semi Final at Wimbledon last season. Safarova may now think she belongs with the best players on the Tour and she has played much better than Ivanovic over the tournament.

Playing the Doubles as well as the Singles could work against Safarova as she has reached the Semi Final of both draws and fatigue could be factor. However, she has been producing some stunning tennis over the last two Rounds and I think Safarova can expose any nerves Ivanovic has on her own serve.

The Safarova serve has been more consistent and she has backed it up well, while she has also had the better of Ivanovic in recent matches including a straight sets win at the French Open last year. Both players have had some disappointing results during the European clay court season, but Safarova looks to be the more consistent player and I like her chances to reach a maiden Grand Slam Final as Ivanovic suffers one too many dips in a three set defeat.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Timea Bacsinszky: Both of these ladies booked their places in the Semi Final on Wednesday and neither had to exert too much energy to do that, although Timea Bacsinszky made it slightly harder on herself than she should have done.

Serena Williams had dismissed Sara Errani in the same ruthless way she generally beats the Italian barring the Fed Cup match earlier this season and the American was something close to her best. There were still too many unforced errors for Williams' liking and she will need to clean those up if she is going to make it to yet another Grand Slam Final.

Unlike Errani, Bacsinszky has some decent power behind her shots and she couples that with the Errani smarts to use the variation in her play to bamboozle opponents. There were times Errani was able to do that to Williams, but it was the mistakes made by the American which was the biggest concern towards her chances of winning another Slam, her third at the French Open.

The positives was the general performance from Williams who put plenty of pressure on Errani throughout and she will be able to hit through Bacsinszky if she can keep the ball inside the tramlines. Petra Kvitova showed that in the first set against Bacsinszky earlier this week but couldn't maintain that consistency and Williams has shown she can do that when she is on her game.

Williams' power looked good and she was serving well for the most part which should keep Bacsinszky on the back foot. While I think the Swiss player will have her successes during the match, she has to cope with a new situation of a Grand Slam Semi Final against someone with the experience Serena Williams has.

I imagine one set will be closely competed, but Williams may eventually have too much power and know-how at this level to move through 64, 62.

MY PICKS: Lucie Safarova @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

French Open Update: 42-32, + 14.84 Units (145 Units Staked, + 10.23% Yield)

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