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Friday, 5 June 2015

French Open Day 13 Picks 2015 (June 5th)

The two women's Semi Finals brought the drama in different ways on Thursday and gives the men something to aim for when they take centre stage on Friday.

It was great to Lucie Safarova reach her first Grand Slam Final, and not just because I had picked her to win that Semi Final against Ana Ivanovic, but she has always come across very grounded and the support and well wishers lining up to congratulate her suggests that she is a very popular player. For years I have thought she was better than her Ranking had suggested, but I wasn't sure she would ever be able to take that to the next level at a Slam, but the last twelve months have been very good for her.

In the Final she will meet Serena Williams who battled past Timea Bacsinszky and the flu to progress after winning the final ten games of the match. The American will be the strong favourite to win the French Open from here, but she will be desperate to recover her strength through Friday and be ready for the Final on Saturday afternoon.

Talking about that match, it was filled with drama during the first set and half through the second as it looked like Serena Williams could barely move, let alone turn the match around. At that point Tara Moore, a low Ranked British player decided to tweet her disappointment with the Williams 'act' and used the word 'pathetic' in a hashtag to underline the point.

Moore was trying to say that Williams shouldn't be taking the attention away from Bacsinszky who had been playing some solid tennis, but it was badly worded and she was told that in no uncertain terms by people replying to her tweet.

Now I don't agree with the hashtag she used, but the point she was making was an opinion that I am sure many have voiced about Andy Murray in the past. Of course she is a player on the Tour and perhaps should have been careful of it all blowing out of proportion by what was seen as a disrespectful tweet, but some of the responses she has received is mind-boggling.

I'm pretty sure the majority of people wouldn't think to talk like that to her face, but I have never understood the desire so many have in abusing people online- seriously, if you don't agree with someone you can make a point without resorting to personally abusing them, but it seems to be the 'norm' to do that on some of these social media sites.

Tara Moore made a bad decision in going in a little too strong with an opinion that might have otherwise received plenty of support, the hashtag in particular, but I would be ashamed if I was one of the people responding to her with personal insults, especially in defence of someone that doesn't even know they exist!

It was a good day for the picks yesterday as both women's Semi Finals came in as expected, although the Serena Williams match was a lot more difficult than anyone envisioned before reports of her illness came to the fore.

While the temperatures are expected to be soaring on Friday, there is also expected to be some thundery storms in the Roland Garros area which may see some interruptions to the two men's Semi Finals that will be played.

At least the tournament organisers got one thing right in sending Jo-Wilfried Tsonga out first in his match against Stan Wawrinka before the Novak Djokovic clash with Andy Murray. The last time Tsonga was in the Semi Final he was sent out second after a Djokovic-Rafael Nadal Semi Final and that meant the fans were flat, well those still in the stadium.

It didn't help Tsonga at all and his flat performance matched those feelings in the stands, but this time he should be fired up. It is an extremely tough match for him and both Semi Finals look decent viewing material.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga + 1.5 sets v Stan Wawrinka: I have been torn between two picks for this first Semi Final at the French Open and it might be a surprise to hear that the other was backing Stan Wawrinka giving up 3.5 games on the handicap, but I have settled for backing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win at least two sets.

So you might be asking how can those two markets tally up? I can honestly see Stan Wawrinka winning this match in five sets because he is the better player, and Tsonga could be worn down by Wawrinka in the sets he loses while his own set victories could come by narrow margins.

These two met at the French Open in 2011 and 2012 and both of those matches saw Tsonga take the first two sets before Wawrinka fought back to take sets three and four. In 2011 Wawrinka completed the comeback in a five set win, but in 2012 Tsonga managed to dig deep to win the fifth set and move through.

In both of those matches Wawrinka would have covered this spread if he had won the fifth set in both and Tsonga almost blew a two set lead in his victory over Kei Nishikori in the Quarter Final. However, I do think the Frenchman's hammering at the hands of Wawrinka in the Davis Cup Final last December is playing too big a price in this match even if his win over Roger Federer was very impressive.

You have to remember that Tsonga has shown he is fully back from the injury that affected him in that Davis Cup Final and still won a set in that match, while his own wins over Tomas Berdych and Nishikori show the level he is competing at. The layers seem to think it will be very easy for Stan Wawrinka, but matches between these two have been close aside from that Davis Cup Final and the conditions should suit Tsonga with the hot temperature speeding up the court.

Tsonga will need to serve well and make sure he is not pulled into too many backhand to backhand extended rallies, but the conditions and the atmosphere on the court should really favour the home favourite. Stan Wawrinka has been playing superbly this week in Paris after some struggles in recent weeks and he is a genuine contender for the title, but this has the makings of a match that could go the distance and I think Tsonga is performing at a level to make this much closer than when he was in the Semi Final two years ago.

On that occasion Tsonga was crushed by David Ferrer, but he will come out in front of a fired up crowd in very hot conditions and I think he wins at least two sets. It is still possible Stan Wawrinka finds a way to wear down the Frenchman and win this match and cover a fairly small number, but it might be in a classic Semi Final.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Andy Murray: Paddy Power have stuck their heads above the parapet by being the standout price on Novak Djokovic covering 5.5 games rather than the 6.5 game spread that is the one the other layers have priced up. Of course the price is shorter with the smaller games to cover, but I would feel that much more comfortable backing Novak Djokovic with his number out of respect to what Andy Murray can produce on the court.

Greg Rusedski mentioned that he thinks Djokovic and Murray are very similar players with the World Number 1 just a little better at everything and I can't disagree with that assessment. Novak Djokovic might have won 8 in a row against Murray since their Final at Wimbledon in 2013, but rarely have they been straight-forward as the British Number 1 can hold his own for some time.

One of the key differences is that Djokovic feels he can wear down Murray in these best of five set matches and you can feel the physical toll they place on one another whenever you watch them play at Grand Slam level. It hasn't usually been the case when they have met in the best of three matches in recent months, but the last two Grand Slam encounters have gone four sets including at the Australian Open Final in January.

If you take out the Wimbledon Final which was won by Murray against an extremely fatigued Djokovic, the last three Grand Slam matches between these players has seen the first two sets go to tie-breakers with each player winning one set apiece. At that point Novak Djokovic's physical superiority has shown through as he won the next two sets by margins of 7, 6, and 9 games.

Murray gets a good read on the Djokovic serve throughout the matches, but he tires both physically and mentally by trying to stay with the World Number 1. His own serve is attacked by Djokovic's aggressive returns and it eventually becomes too much for Murray and it is hard to see this match having a different feel on current form.

Of course this would have been much easier to say prior to the clay court season, but Andy Murray is playing at his highest level on this surface this season and that raises some doubts. However, Novak Djokovic is playing at a level above most at the moment and he is playing with the complete belief that he is going to complete the career Grand Slam.

Some might be interested to note that 5 of their previous 7 Grand Slam matches have featured at least one tie-breaker and layers are offering evens that there is at least one tie-breaker in this one. With both capable of breaking serve and the tight nature of the first couple of sets when they meet at this level, it wouldn't surprise me if that record becomes 6/8 Grand Slam matches needing at least a tie-breaker.

However I am much more convinced that Djokovic breaks down the Murray game over four sets and will move through to the Final with a cover of this number.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga + 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 44-32, + 18.44 Units (149 Units Staked, + 12.38% Yield)

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