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Friday, 17 July 2015

Davis Cup Tennis Picks (July 17th)

The Davis Cup Quarter Finals are beginning this Friday and we also have the business end of the tournaments in Bastad, Bucharest and Newport that will be concluded by Sunday.

I have backed Serbia and Australia in the Outright Markets for the Davis Cup earlier this year, but I think the former are looking very vulnerable as they head to Argentina without Novak Djokovic. Victor Troicki has been playing well, but I am not convinced he is as effective on the clay courts and now Serbia will be facing an Argentina team very comfortable on the surface and with the home crowd behind them.

I do think Australia will be alright against Kazakhstan, while Belgium are strong favourites to beat a Canada team without Milos Raonic or Vasek Pospisil.

The remaining tie is perhaps the most evenly matched on paper as Great Britain take on France at Queens Club with Andy Murray in the line up and expected to win two rubbers. The key for Great Britain is either hoping James Ward can produce something special as he has in recent Davis Cup ties, but the bigger opportunity might come in the Doubles where France are missing specialist Julien Benneteau.

However, both Nicolas Mahut and Richard Gasquet have played well as Doubles players in the past too and I do think France are the worthy narrow favourites in this tie.

With the tournaments spread over the day, some of the markets are not up when I am writing this post so any additional picks will be put up during the day if I do find any picks to go with.

Thanasi Kokkinakis - 3.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: Playing on the grass courts should give the young Australian players a chance to build a good lead on the opening day of this Davis Cup Quarter Final and I think Thanasi Kokkinankis can get them off to a good start.

Don't get me wrong, I still think Kokkinakis has to find his feet on this surface having really struggled with his return game in early defeats at Queens Club and Wimbledon. The former loss to Gilles Simon was more forgivable as Kokkinakis had to make a trip back to Australia prior to that to see an ill family member, but the defeat to Leonardo Mayer at Wimbledon was perhaps a disappointment.

He did show his character in winning his first live Davis Cup tie earlier this year from two sets down against Lukas Rosol away from home and I expect Kokkinakis to be inspired in Darwin in front of a full support.

Kokkinakis has to be aware of how well Mikhail Kukushkin has played for Kazakhstan in Davis Cup action, although grass is not his favoured surface. Kukushkin is 15-9 for Kazakhstan in Davis Cup matches, although he is just 3-2 outdoors and more worrying has to be the fact he has lost his last 5 live Davis Cup rubbers on the road.

I expect Kukushkin does cause some problems because he has a decent serve and is a talented player that caused Andy Murray some considerable problems at Wimbledon. His experience of playing away Davis Cup rubbers will help him, but I just think Kokkinakis can put some scoreboard pressure on him with his own service games.

The layers are right in thinking this might be closer than some might think, but I think the long journey to Australia, playing on his weakest surface and Kokkinakis winning a big Davis Cup rubber already this season goes against Kukushkin. It might need four sets, but I like the Australian's to win this one and Kokkinakis to cover this number.

James Ward-Gilles Simon Over 3.5 Sets: Over the last couple of years, James Ward has done his best to raise his level when it comes to Davis Cup rubbers and he is 3-3 in live rubbers in that time. The two defeats in Italy on the clay against Fabio Fognini are forgivable losses for Ward, but he has dug in deep to beat the likes of John Isner, Sam Querrey and Dmitry Tursunov in that time.

Those wins have encouraged Andy Murray to play for Great Britain despite some of the awkward timing of the Davis Cup which has kept many of the top ten players in the World Rankings from taking part. However, Murray recognises that Great Britain have some sort of chance with Ward producing the goods and the entire team will be hoping the Londoner can use previous success at Queens Club to help Great Britain take the lead in this Quarter Final with France.

James Ward reached a Semi Final at Queens in the past and only recently was a Third Round player at Wimbledon which has helped him crack the top 100 in the World Rankings for the first time in his career. He is going to need to be at his best against Gilles Simon who has had a very productive grass court season and was a Quarter Finalist in SW19 earlier this month.

However, I think Ward has a real chance of coming close to an upset in this one as Simon has struggled representing France in the past and is just 5-9 in Davis Cup rubbers. Gilles Simon beat Jan-Lennard Struff earlier this season in France's victory over Germany in the Davis Cup which ended a run of 4 consecutive live rubber losses and was also Simon's first appearance in two seasons.

While he has played well, Simon does have a game which will always give someone a chance of breaking serve. On this surface it might only take one break to settle a set and while I think he might be too consistent for Ward, I'd be surprised if this is a match that is concluded in three sets. James Ward has ended up in some very tough, long matches in Davis Cup in recent years and this could easily be another.

Andy Murray-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Over 3.5 sets: The second rubber on the opening day of this Davis Cup Quarter Final has every chance of at least going three sets too, especially if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can get some joy out of the Andy Murray second serve.

It is going to be interesting to see how Murray is coping with his surprisingly one-sided defeat to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Semi Finals, while the British Number 1 will know all about Tsonga. This will be the fifth meeting between the two on grass and while Andy Murray has won the last four, it has to be said that Tsonga has won at least one set in all of those matches.

That includes a couple of three setters at Queens Club in the past and Tsonga is capable of taking the racquet out of Murray's hands if he is serving well and sees enough second serves to attack. His recent form has not been much to write home about as Tsonga had to miss the majority of the grass court season with an injury and was a disappointing Third Round loser to Ivo Karlovic at Wimbledon.

I make Andy Murray a strong favourite to win, but both players have performed very well in Singles duty in Davis Cup and that should inspire Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win at least one set. I think both players will be able to win a set, but Murray is likely to outlast Tsonga from a fitness perspective and eventually come through in four sets. However, I would rather back this match lasting at least four sets which looks a big price considering how previous matches between the two have gone.

Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have some doubts surrounding them after Wimbledon came to a close and this could be close for a while before Murray takes control.

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova - 2.5 games v Danka Kovinic: Both players have been in good form this week in Bucharest and they could be playing late in the evening which is good news for Danka Kovinic. She had a long, tough match against Julia Goerges in the Second Round, but has been given all the time she will need to be ready for this match, although I have to say Anna Karolina Schmiedlova has been looking very strong.

Matches between them in the past have been split two each and it was Kovinic won their most recent match last year on the hard courts in three tight sets. Back to back long weeks for Kovinic might play a part in this match as an accumulation of fatigue is potentially one hindrance to the player from Montenegro in this Quarter Final.

Both players have had the majority of their success on the clay courts this season, but it is a surface that Kovinic spends much more time on than Schmiedlova. I am not sure that will be enough to see her overcome her opponent who has been serving well and hitting the ball sweetly this week.

As much as I respect Kovinic at this level on this surface, I think Schmiedlova breaks her down in a three set win.

Jan Hernych + 3.5 games v Jack Sock: The tournament in Newport has regularly sprung up some surprise results in the past and this year looks to be no different. The first Semi Final was set last night as Rajeev Ram gets set to take on John-Patrick Smith on Saturday and those two names are not exactly renowned for their impact on the Singles Tour.

There is every chance that Jan Hernych could be another surprise Semi Finalist if he continues building on the momentum which has seen him qualify and win two matches in the main draw. My concern for the veteran won't just be his opponent Jack Sock, who looks the best player left in the draw, but also the fact that he had to play a long, long match with Alejandro Falla in the Second Round.

Three tie-breakers were needed for Hernych to see off Falla, but he did get Thursday off which should help him restore some energy. He is an older player, but Hernych should use the fact he beat Sock here two years ago to give him some mental confidence, as well as the fact that the courts seem to be playing very low which is good for someone who will attack the net and look to volley.

Sock has been a mixed bag in his first two performances here and grass is still a surface that he is getting to grips with as a Singles player. He did win the Doubles title at Wimbledon last year, but I am not sure Sock is happiest on this surface and his serve has not been as solid as he would have liked.

If Hernych serves well, I would expect him to keep this close and perhaps steal a set which will give him a good chance to stay within this number.

Federico Delbonis v Victor Troicki: If there is anything to learn from the Kazakhstan performances in the Davis Cup over the last few years, it is that some player really raise their game when it comes to representing their country in this competition. Victor Troicki has done that for Serbia with his 14-9 record in Davis Cup Singles matches, although the leading player for his nation in this tie has a 2-4 record on clay which is arguably his worst surface.

Argentina will be hoping that is a key for their path through to the Davis Cup Semi Finals and Federico Delbonis has been given one of the matches on the opening day of the Quarter Final. He has been rewarded for winning the vital fifth rubber against Brazil and there is little doubt that Delbonis is most at home on the clay courts.

While Delbonis has a lot of Ranking places to make up, it has to be said that he is 26-18 on the clay in main Tour events over the last two seasons while Troicki is just 6-7. That hasn't been missed by the layers who make this a pick 'em contest, but I think Troicki has been playing a lot of tennis over the last month and might struggle with against a decent clay courter.

Delbonis should be set to go having won a Challenger on the clay last month and only playing a single match on grass which means he has been preparing in Buenos Aires for some time. His experience of winning a decisive fifth rubber should help him in this one and I think Delbonis puts Argentina into a commanding position on the first day.

I like what Troicki has done since returning to the Tour and I do think he will be inspired by being the Number 1 Serbian player, but this is his worst surface and I think it will be tough for him to deal with someone as comfortable on clay as Delbonis.

MY PICKS: Thanasi Kokkinakis - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
James Ward-Gilles Simon Over 3.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andy Murray-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Over 3.5 Sets @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jan Hernych + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-9, - 7.04 Units (30 Units Staked, - 23.47% Yield)

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