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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (June 24th)

The grass court tournaments before the beginning of Wimbledon continue on Wednesday and there is another full day of tennis as the events make sure they are going to be completed by Saturday. It might not be the case later this week when more rain is due to affect both Eastbourne and Nottingham and that might mean the tournaments are concluded indoors with none of the players likely to be too happy being postponed until Sunday.

At that point winning a title is an obvious goal, but all the players will want to be well rested for the travel to London and being ready to play at Wimbledon.

Qualifying also continues at Roehampton with both the men's and women's events reaching the Second Round of those qualifiers and we are now fast approaching the draw for the Grand Slam which is made on Friday morning.

It wasn't a great day for the picks with a lot of mixed results as a couple of surprise results went against me, but that can be an issue in the week before a Grand Slam. Not many of those in the ATP tournament will really expect they can win at Wimbledon, but the WTA tournament had been loaded with some high Ranking players, although that draw has been decimated by injury, illness and surprising results too.

The tournament in Eastbourne has regularly been seen as an important one on the WTA Tour, but it is clear that the new extended grass court season is still being worked out by the players to make sure they get the best preparation for Wimbledon.

Adrian Mannarino v Simone Bolelli: You may not immediately associate a player like Simone Bolelli with the grass courts, but he has had some decent success on the surface in the past. Bolelli reached the Third Round at Wimbledon last year which is the third time in his career that he has reached that far and Bolelli has a few wins under his belt on grass over the last couple of weeks.

Even with that in mind, I am a little surprised that Bolelli has been set as the favourite to beat Adrian Mannarino who is an improving player on the Tour.

The Frenchman has a Fourth Round appearance at Wimbledon under his belt and also reached the Quarter Final in Hertogenbosch earlier this season. Mannarino has a lefty serve that should cause Bolelli some issues to deal with and I do think he is the more comfortable player on this surface.

It will be a close match I am sure and it might come down to a tie-breaker in which the winner takes control of the match. However, I do think the wrong player is favoured and will look for Mannarino to put another Quarter Final on a grass court on his resume.

Sam Querrey - 3.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: Over the last few years, Pablo Cuevas has showed little interest in playing at Wimbledon- he was beaten in the First Round there last year, but hadn't played at Wimbledon since 2009 when he qualified for the Slam and reached the Second Round.

There might be some more interest in the grass from Cuevas this year as he actually entered a pre-Wimbledon tournament in Halle before heading to Nottingham. Cuevas was beaten in the First Round in Halle, but he did beat Dudi Sela here in two tight sets to give him some confidence to take into the match.

However, Cuevas is now facing a player who is very comfortable on the grass as Sam Querrey is his opponent fresh off a routine win over Santiago Giraldo. Querrey could have won much easier than the 76, 64 score suggested if he took his break point chances in any of three consecutive return games in the first set, but it was still straight-forward for the American.

Querrey is much more comfortable on the grass of these two players and his serve gives him a big edge in the match. You have to feel he will get enough chances to find a way to break the Cuevas serve in each set and that should be enough for Querrey to move through 64, 64.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 games v Dominic Thiem: Boris Becker might not believe there are too many 'characters' coming through to replace the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the ATP Tour, but I am not exactly sure what he is getting at.

It was in the same interview that he said none of the tennis players are allowed to show off their personalities, while he can't have meant from a talent perspective either. Dominic Thiem is one of those younger players that looks like he could go very far in the sport, although he is yet to really find his feet on the grass.

Thiem has admitted as much himself in the past and he had lost all four professional grass court matches prior to his win over Malek Jaziri this week. He dismissed him without any problems, but Alexandr Dolgopolov is a much better grass court player and can make that difference come off in the match.

However, I am concerned that Dolgopolov had to work so hard to beat Pablo Andujar in the Second Round and he has had a poor grass court season so far even taking into consideration a win over Rafael Nadal. Dolgopolov has had plenty of success on the surface in the past and looks to be the more comfortable of the two and I think he can get a measure of revenge for his loss to Thiem in Paris at the end of last year.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: You have to have respect for the way that Yen-Hsun Lu can play on the grass courts and hard courts, but Feliciano Lopez is the stronger player on this surface and I expect he will be making it through to the Quarter Final.

After a really strong 2014 grass court season which saw Lopez reach the Final in Queens and win the title in Eastbourne, 2015 has seen the Spaniard lose his first match in Stuttgart and in the Second Round at Queens Club. A win over Taylor Fritz in Nottingham was to be expected, but Lopez has to get a little more out of the return game if he is going to see off Lu.

Lu has already put together two good wins this week without dropping a set which includes a straight sets win over Andreas Seppi, the Finalist from Halle last week, in the Second Round. That will give him confidence and Lu has a decent serve and consistent groundstrokes that can be very productive on grass.

However, I think Lopez will get enough returns in play to find his way to the net and put the pressure on Lu, particularly if he is serving well. The backhand remains a weakness on other surfaces, but the slice employed by Lopez is a very effective shot on grass if he follows it to the net. The ball stays lower and players hit up to Lopez who is an effective volleyer and I think that helps him beat Lu 76, 64 in this Third Round match.

Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: When I said I thought Johanna Konta had a lot more potential in her game than she has perhaps shown on the WTA Tour so far, I was still not expecting the British player to beat Ekaterina Makarova in the Second Round. Konta highlighted how good she could be with an impressive straight sets win and I do wonder how she will deal with it from a mental perspective having beaten her first top ten opponent.

If Konta can take the win and be able to move on and concentrate on her next match, she will give Garbine Muguruza something to think about. Konta has already pushed Karolina Pliskova, the Birmingham Finalist, to a three set match this grass court season, and wins over Zarina Dyas and Makarova are impressive this week.

However, it can be tough for the lower Ranked players to produce the same level the day after a huge win like the one Konta had and that is where Muguruza could do some real damage. The Spaniard should have the game that transfers effectively onto the grass, but she hasn't produced consistent results on the surface at this point of her career.

I do wonder if Muguruza has a great feel for the movement on grass and whether the lower bouncing ball just disrupts her timing. She has reached a Quarter Final and Semi Final in Hertogenbosch so Muguruza can clearly play on the grass, but I do think it does bother her mentally to be on the green courts.

However, I think the win she had over Polona Hercog after dropping the first set will help Muguruza and she can perhaps take advantage of Konta if the Brit has just had too much to deal with after the biggest win of her career. It might go three sets, but Muguruza should have enough to find the cover.

Sloane Stephens - 2.5 games v Heather Watson: One of the weird head to head records on the WTA Tour had to be the 4-0 lead Heather Watson had over Sloane Stephens despite the latter achieving a lot more success on the Tour in general. I could understand it when you looked at the match up as Watson had the defence to frustrate someone like Stephens while giving her no pace to work with off the ground, but something may have changed at the French Open.

Watson won a match between the players at the start of the season in Hobart, but she was crushed by Stephens at the French Open and I think the American franks that form.

Both players had solid Second Round wins in Eastbourne and Watson is a former Semi Finalist in Eastbourne, but I do think Stephens is very comfortable on the surface too. She might not have played another grass court tournament prior to this week, but Stephens is a former Quarter Finalist at Wimbledon and I do think she has turned around her form after a poor start to 2015.

If Stephens can continue hitting the ball as she has been over the last couple of months, I think she will have too much for Watson again and I think the number of games is perhaps a couple of games too low. Some may think Watson has the stronger grass court pedigree but she was just 5-7 on this surface over the last couple of years prior to the two wins achieved in Eastbourne and I like Stephens battling through 76, 63.

MY PICKS: Adrian Mannarino @ 2.05 Stan James (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-3, + 1.06 Units (14 Units Staked, + 7.57% Yield)

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