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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

US Open Day 3 Picks 2015 (September 2nd)

It looks like being a frustrating day for the picks as two players in a strong position to win their matches, and cover the number, saw their opponents pull out with injuries on Tuesday.

That is a disappointment, but it raises the problem with the amount of retirements there have been throughout the first two days of the competition as the intense heat of New York City plus a long season takes its toll on the players. It is hard to know what can really be done about players cramping up during matches as Thanasi Kokkinakis did, although anyone who is going into a Grand Slam with a slight injury can't be made to withdraw.

It is a lot of money for a First Round defeat and some players know they have worked very hard to get into the main draw that they don't want to lose the money that a withdrawal prior to their match would effectively mean. There are some suggestions of players being given at least 50% of their match fee even if they withdraw prior to the first match simply as a means to encourage players to perhaps pull out when they aren't sure they can complete a match, but I am not sure how it will all work.

Up to this point it has been a more settled day compared to the stunning upsets that came out of the Monday matches, but there are still some big names that have yet to play and who knows what the rest of the evening will bring.

On Wednesday we are on to the Second Round matches as the top half of the draw is back in action and hopefully the winning picks aren't the ones that are seeing retirements as they did on Tuesday.

David Goffin - 6.5 games v Ricardas Berankis: I am a big fan of the David Goffin game and I think the best of five set matches are a very good time to back the Belgian in his current form. While he can be a slow starter, Goffin is clearly a smart player who works things out on the court and that has seen him begin to break down opponents and eventually come through in matches.

As I have said many times about Goffin, he might not be able to win a Grand Slam with the power limitations compared to the very top players, but he can see off opponents like Ricardas Berankis despite the clear talent the Latvian possesses.

There have been flashes from Berankis through his career, but the 25 year old has struggled for consistency with his high-risk tennis. He also has to work hard behind the serve and that is something that Goffin will sympathise with and this could actually be one of the better matches in terms of the type of tennis we will witness on Wednesday.

However, Berankis has already played a five setter in what has been very hot conditions in New York City and I do wonder how much he will have in the tank. It will likely begin close as both players are capable of creating break point chances and have some very talented shots in the locker, but eventually I think Goffin prevails in a 75, 64, 62 kind of win once he breaks down Berankis mentally and physically.

David Ferrer - 6.5 games v Filip Krajinovic: It has been a long time since we saw David Ferrer on the court having missed Wimbledon and the last two months of tennis with an injury. The rustiness showed early in his First Round match against Radu Albot and the first two sets were very tough, but Ferrer was able to fight back from dropping the opening set and eventually broke down his opponent.

That is what Ferrer has been able to do for much of his career as he has outlasted opponents and he is going to have to do something similar against Filip Krajinovic.

The young Serbian player is unlikely to match the achievements of compatriot Novak Djokovic, but he did represent his nation in the Davis Cup Quarter Final in July and has produced two Quarter Finals and won a tournament since then. OK, those tournaments have all been at the Challenger level and on clay, but Krajinovic was a convincing winner in the First Round too in his first match on the hard courts since the Miami Masters.

Confidence won't be an issue and other players have used strong runs on the Challenger Tour to propel their game on the main ATP Tour so don't dismiss Krajinovic easily. However, he is now facing the ultimate grinder in Ferrer who should be in a better place for his First Round win and rallying with the Spaniard over three hours is tough for anyone.

Another slow start from Ferrer can't be a surprise, but I think this time he'll just dig in to take the first set and push on from there for a 75, 63, 63 win.

Evgeny Donskoy + 2.5 sets v Marin Cilic: The current US Open Champion Marin Cilic had to battle through a couple of tie-breakers to see off Guido Pella in the First Round in that straight sets wins. Not many have tipped Cilic to be a threat to defend the title he won last season in Flushing Meadows, but most would expect him to move into the Third Round and a potential blockbuster of a match against Grigor Dimitrov.

I am not going to argue with those who think Cilic will play his part and win this match, but I think he looks an awfully short price to win this one in straight sets. His opponent Evgeny Donskoy doesn't have the same level of experience as Cilic and doesn't play at this level too often, but he has been performing strongly at the Challenger level in recent hard court tournaments.

Donskoy has reached the Quarter Final, Final and won a Challenger since Wimbledon on this surface and the confidence was carried over into the US Open qualifiers. Winning three more matches there and then a fairly comfortable First Round winner makes Donskoy a dangerous opponent, especially as he pushed Marin Cilic to three sets on an indoor hard court last year too.

And you have to say that Marin Cilic is battling through a lot of tie-breakers in recent weeks on this surface, a lottery really if Donskoy can put together seven impressive points. I do think Donskoy has to take one of the first two sets because his head may drop once finding himself 2-0 down in sets, but he is playing with confidence and Cilic is certainly a vulnerable player to dropping a set so backing the Russian to take at least one at odds against has to be the play.

Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: Someone like Mikhail Kukushkin is the kind of player that can one day turn up on the court and play like someone who should be Ranked far higher than his current 56 World Ranking. On other days he can be very, very average and it is hard to know what to expect with Kukushkin on any given day.

For the most part Kukushkin has really held himself together when representing Kazakhstan in the Davis Cup and that is where he has had his biggest wins. It has not really happened for him in the Grand Slams with his previous best being a Fourth Round at the Australian Open and Kukushkin had lost in the First Round at all three previous Slams in 2015 before Yen-Hsun Lu retired on Monday.

If Kukushkin is on form, Grigor Dimitrov has to be really careful, but anything less and the Bulgarian should be able to back up his impressive First Round win. There have been some issues bothering Dimitrov through 2015 and I do wonder if that has played a part in his relatively poor season, but the win over Matthew Ebden in the style it was produced will have built some confidence.

Dimitrov still looks someone who is on the edge of losing that, but he should be able to get into a rhythm in this one which is important for him. I wouldn't be surprised if Kukushkin wins a set, but I think Dimitrov progresses 46, 63, 62, 64.

Benoit Paire - 5.5 games v Marsel Ilhan: The biggest concern in backing Benoit Paire is that he is going to produce an 'after the Lord Mayor's show' kind of performance after producing the biggest upset on the men's side of the draw at the time of writing.

Benoit Paire beat Kei Nishikori in five sets on Monday and he will have needed the time to recover both mentally and physically before he takes on Marsel Ilhan who benefited from Radek Stepanek's retirement. Paire showed tremendous strength of character to win a fourth set on Monday in the tie-breaker and then take the decider, but the Frenchman has to back that up and produce a run that those who believe he can reach the top of the game expect of him.

Beating Nishikori has opened up his section and Paire has to take advantage, and he is rightfully favoured to beat Ilhan who has had a hard time moving his game up to the main ATP Tour level. There are some things to like about the Ilhan game as he has a decent first serve and can produce some very good shots off the ground, but consistency, or lack thereof, is an issue which has cost him at the highest level.

There is no doubting that Paire is a hard player to trust to back up good performances, but he has performed better at the Challenger level than Ilhan and should have the edge when it comes to consistency. If he can serve well too, Paire should have enough for a 63, 46, 64, 63 win.

Rafael Nadal - 8.5 games v Diego Sebastien Schwartzman: I have only seen some highlights of the way Rafael Nadal played against Borna Coric and also read a few reports which all seemed to be very positive about the Spaniard. It was expected to be a test for him and one he looks to have passed impressively and I think the match up with Diego Sebastien Schwartzman is going to be perfect for Nadal to back up that First Round win.

I am not trying to be disrespectful to Schwartzman, but the Argentinian is one of the shorter players on the Tour that has to really work for every point he is going to win. He doesn't get an awful lot of help out of the serve and now faces an opponent who is going to play every point, or at least try to, as if it is the last of his career.

That has been the feature of Rafael Nadal and he produced more positive moments in his win over Coric that will give him some confidence. Nadal spoke about those positives, which has been rare for him in 2015, and I do think this is a kind match up for him.

I have no doubt that Schwartzman will produce some stunning tennis at times that gets the crowd behind him, but ultimately it is tough to defend on hot days on the fast hard courts. Nadal was serving well in the First Round and anything similar to the numbers produced in that match should see him ease through to the Third Round after a 63, 61, 64 win.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 4.5 games v Anett Kontaveit: It wasn't a great start to the 2015 season for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but there have been signs that the Russian is bringing her game together. She has reached the Semi Final in Baku, Final in Washington and Quarter Final in Cincinnati, while Pavlyuchenkova also had an impressive win over Magdalena Rybarikova in the First Round.

All of those are positives for Pavlyuchenkova, but she has to pull it together for this Grand Slam as she looks to move back up the World Rankings. There is a lot of power in the game that has to be admired, but Pavlyuchenkova's movement has perhaps been the downside as well as the mental focus in matches when things begin to go against her.

It is never easy to face an opponent you are unfamiliar with and Anett Kontaveit will be that as well as someone who has had four wins at the US Open already including the qualifiers. That makes Kontaveit dangerous but the majority of her matches have come at the level below the main WTA Tour and the youngster has failed to really bridge that gap when coming up against it.

That makes her win over Casey Dellacqua impressive, but Pavlyuchenkova is another step up for Kontaveit and I expect the Russian to have a little too much in a 63, 64 win.

Serena Williams - 7.5 games v Kiki Bertens: I promise I have chalked up Kiki Bertens' performance at Wimbledon down to just one of those days and it hasn't been a major influence in this pick.

At Wimbledon, Bertens won just one point against the Petra Kvitova serve and now faces perhaps the best serve in the women's game in history when she goes up against Serena Williams on Wednesday. I don't think Bertens crumbles in the same manner as she did in SW19, but there is a big talent gap to bridge here and Serena Williams does look a player on a mission.

It does have to be said that Serena Williams has actually ground her way through the last couple of Grand Slams she has won and hasn't really dominated to the point of covering a number like this. However, Bertens has suffered two bagels, two breadsticks and a 62 and 63 loss in the Grand Slams this season to lesser players than Williams, while her hard court record is nothing to write home about.

There is a slightly vulnerable side to Serena Williams early in a draw, but it doesn't look like it will come in this Round and I expect the favourite to make serene progress after a 62, 61 win.

Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 games v Lauren Davis: Heather Watson admitted her disappointment with her level of performance in her defeat to Lauren Davis on Monday, but some credit has to be given to the diminutive American for maintaining her attacking game throughout.

She will need to do the same against Ekaterina Makarova, but it looks a big ask for Lauren Davis to beat the Russian unless there is still the lingering injury issue that Makarova has been dealing with. Makarova did look solid enough in the First Round win and her power is going to be a real issue for Davis to deal with, especially as she doesn't get a lot of help out of her own serve.

On the other hand, Davis is going to have to find a way to make effective returns off the first serve Makarova possesses and it does feel that she will have to do a lot more than is natural to turn this match in her favour. Makarova will have the edge in terms of serve, power off the ground and that is going to be difficult for Davis to deal with consistently.

With Makarova being able to play first strike tennis off the return, I am expecting her to come through this one 64, 62.

Belinda Bencic - 5.5 games v Misaki Doi: Winning the Canadian Premier Event having beaten the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep would have given Belinda Bencic a lot of belief in her game and those who support her will also have been encouraged by the performances. Add in Serena Williams to that list and you can understand why Bencic has been tipped as a future Grand Slam winner and World Number 1 in the women's game.

The new 'Swiss Miss' made a very strong start to the US Open and many would have tipped her up as a dark horse prior to the draw last week. Now we know that Bencic will have to beat both Venus and Serena Williams if she is going to surpass her Quarter Final run here last season and it might be a little while before we see her make the big impact in a Grand Slam tournament.

This year it is a Fourth Round at Wimbledon which has been Bencic's best run, but she is in very good form and I think she can lay down more markers with her second impressive win of the tournament. You know what you are getting out of Misaki Doi who is a solid competitor but who generally finds the top players a little too good for her.

Doi beat Daniela Hantuchova in the First Round, but Belinda Bencic is another step up and the form being produced should see her ease through this match. There should be enough break points earned by Bencic to make this a fairly routine 63, 62 kind of win and I think she does win tidily.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Irini Falconi: It has been a long time since Venus Williams was a factor in the US Open draw and four consecutive losses at the Third Round or earlier is not what many would expect from the former World Number 1. Of course there has been some injuries and illness that have factored into those early defeats and Venus Williams may feel she received a 'get out of jail' card in the First Round and can build upon that.

It hasn't been great preparation for Venus Williams heading into the US Open, but she should still be too good for Irini Falconi who has struggled badly. Falconi has suffered a number of heavy losses since Wimbledon on the North American hard courts and to players that are not of the level of Williams so this is a very difficult match for her.

Playing in the evening will give Williams some comfort away from the heat and she has the all around bigger game than Falconi which means this match will be on her racquet.

Some of the play this summer has been erratic from Venus Williams so there is a chance that she self-combusts in the evening session, but I think she has too many weapons for her compatriot. As long as Williams remains focused, she should progress with a straight-forward 64, 63 win.

MY PICKS: David Goffin - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Evgeny Donskoy + 2.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 8.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 7.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

US Open Update: 11-6, + 8.21 Units (33 Units Staked, + 24.88% Yield)

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