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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (June 16th)

The first Monday of a new tournament, outside of the Grand Slam and Masters events, are usually fairly quiet, but that wasn't the case through the tournaments that begun this week. Queens, Halle and Birmingham all had plenty of matches scheduled for Monday as the grass court season continues.

Roger Federer needed to go into a final set tie-breaker to come through his First Round match, but it is the fans at Queens on Tuesday who will be in for a treat if they have tickets for Centre Court. Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Marin Cilic will all play back to back on that court and I guess the £72 cheapest ticket might actually be worth the price, even if it is in the upper level of the East Stand.

Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: After winning the French Open and reaching the Quarter Final at Wimbledon last year, his best effort on the grass courts of that Grand Slam, Stan Wawrinka is certainly going to have his backers this week as well as at the third Grand Slam of the season.

The win in Paris seemingly came out of nowhere as Wawrinka hadn't shown a lot of positive form heading into the French Open, but you can't argue with the results as he dominated Novak Djokovic in the Final. It will be interesting to see how he responds to that success having gone through some inconsistent results following his success at the Australian Open and this First Round draw could have been a lot easier.

However, I can't help but feel Nick Kyrgios has been a touch over-rated on his exploits at Wimbledon last year when he beat Rafael Nadal on the way to a Quarter Final appearance. Prior to that event, Kyrgios had been just 1-3 on grass courts and I still wonder if his injury at the French Open which restricted the service speed is still bothering the youngster.

I certainly do think Kyrgios' serve translates very well to the grass courts, but I remain unconvinced about his returning ability on this surface and Wawrinka is aggressive enough to create chances to break serve. As long as there is no French Open winning hangover, Wawrinka looks a little under-rated in this one.

Victor Troicki - 3.5 games v Paul-Henri Mathieu: Paul-Henri Mathieu won a couple of qualifiers to get into the main draw, but he won't be concerned about any fatigue as he takes on Victor Troicki who was playing in the Stuttgart Final on Sunday. That means the Serb has had to travel to London with just a single day rest from that Final before his First Round match in Queens, although the form Troicki displayed makes him a strong favourite.

It was a strong serving week for Troicki that took him through to the Final and he is a comfortable player on the grass courts as shown by his first even back on that surface for a couple of years. He will need his serving to be on point again this week, although I do worry about his ability to back up what was a successful week even if he came up a little short.

Troicki should be too good for Paul-Henri Mathieu in this First Round match as the veteran Frenchman struggles for the consistency to maintain his level over a couple of sets. Mathieu does have a couple of impressive wins under his belt from the qualifiers but he looks to be at the back end of his career and simply hasn't had a lot of success on the main Tour in the last couple of years.

He can't be underestimated because Mathieu has a decent serve and can still produce some very good tennis, but I think Troicki found something last week and can use that to edge to a 76, 63 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 games v Joao Sousa: Feliciano Lopez is the current World Number 14 and much of that is down to the strong grass court season he produced last year. Lopez reached the Final here at Queens before winning the title in Easbourne and then making the Fourth Round at Wimbledon, so the defeat to Sam Groth in his first match last week might have been a real disappointment.

The grass courts have always held a special place in Lopez' heart as his game isn't suited to any other surface as well as it to this one. The grass courts might not be as quick as they used to be, but the lefty serve and strong volleying still makes Lopez a real threat on the surface.

I expect he can use that to pressure Joao Sousa on his own service games, especially as the Portuguese player is simply much happier on the slower surfaces. Lopez has a really effective slice that he can use to bring himself up to the net and this looks a very good First Round match for the Spaniard.

The biggest concern has to be the poor form that Lopez has been in coming into Queens, but Sousa shouldn't really have enough to trouble him and he should wear him down in a 64, 64 win.

Bernard Tomic - 2.5 games v Steve Johnson: There is a clear difference with the results that Bernard Tomic and Steve Johnson have produced on the grass courts and I am surprised that the Australian isn't a bigger favourite to win this match.

Tomic is someone who loves the surface and is coming in off a solid enough week when he pushed Rafael Nadal in a three set loss having beaten Jan-Lennard Struff and Tommy Haas. His serve is very effective on the grass, while Tomic is comfortable getting up to the net to volley away balls.

He will need to be in form to beat Steve Johnson who is having his best season on the Tour and who was a Quarter Finalist in Halle a couple of years ago. The clay court season was never going to be the most productive for Johnson, but he did have some solid wins and reached the Third Round in Paris so confidence has to be in a decent place.

However, this is the first match on grass for him against a player that is very comfortable on the surface and Johnson will need to find comfort very quickly. He has a strong serve and decent groundstrokes which will give Tomic some issues, but I expect the latter finds the chances to break serve and wins this 75, 64.

Jiri Vesely - 2.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: Jiri Vesely is a young player with a bright future on the Tour and he does look to have a game that should transfer effectively onto the grass. He is yet to have a really big impact on the surface, but I think Vesely can get off to a good start against Mikhail Kukushkin in this First Round match at Halle.

Vesely has won a clay court Challenger event heading into this so this will be the first grass court match of the season which is always a difficult proposition when moving surfaces. However, the Czech player has a big first serve and some heavy groundstrokes that should be very effective on the grass.

I would say Kukushkin has the talent to be a threat on the surface too, but he has often flattered to deceive. For every match I have seen Kukushkin give the best players something to think about, there have been losses to the likes of Dudi Sela and Andrea Arnaboldi that makes you wonder if Kukushkin is getting the best out of his talent.

Kukushkin did reach the Third Round at Wimbledon last season, but that is rare success for him on grass and I think he will be put under pressure by Vesely and eventually be broken down. The first set may need a tie-break to separate these players, but Vesely can push on from there in a 76, 63 win.

Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: It still really bothers me to see Victoria Azarenka down at Number 26 in the World Rankings because I think we all know she is a much better player than that Ranking would suggest. Injury saw her fall down the Rankings, but Azarenka hasn't exactly been blessed with the kindest of draws at events where she could really improve that position and I think this week is another like that.

Azarenka is still trying to find her very best form, but you can't doubt the players she has been beaten by in recent weeks- that includes Serena Williams (twice), Maria Sharapova (twice) and Lucie Safarova, all three of those players amongst the best on the Tour.

Varvara Lepchenko doesn't really fit into that category and she has done a lot of losing this entire season which will have affected her confidence. A couple of years ago, Lepchenko was a dangerous player on the Tour but she has dropped down to Number 37 in the World Ranking and is yet for another fall.

There is no doubt that Lepchenko can be a threat on this surface as she does have a big game, but I think Azarenka has dealt with the players she should do fairly comfortably. As long as the change in surface hasn't disrupted her too much, I think Azarenka will be a little too good in most departments for Lepchenko, but will need to serve well to ensure a 62, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Victor Troicki - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jiri Vesely - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sam Querrey + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units) 64, 36 To Be Completed

Weekly Update: 2-2, + 0.3 Units (8 Units Staked, + 3.75% Yield)

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