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Friday, 4 September 2015

US Open Day 5 Picks 2015 (September 4th)

It was a much more effective Thursday than the awful Wednesday that had preceded it, but it could have been a little better if Denis Istomin hadn't retired when down two sets and a break.

The frustration of that is it is the third time this week that I have not benefited from a retirement as it looked like the pick I had made was in firm control when the match was prematurely concluded.

After some of the horrors of Wednesday, it did make me wonder why no one was going to pull out in those matches, but hopefully that will balance off at some point in the remainder of the tournament.

There are still irritations- I am not sure how Andy Murray won two sets 61, but failed to cover because of a really poor start, while Petra Kvitova allowed Nicole Gibbs to stick around despite dominating the points. Her unforced errors gave Gibbs a piggy-back through a very easy match for Kvitova who is easing through the draw, but that kind of thing does frustrate me when I think a game or two the other way and both win.

There are still a fair few matches being played at the moment so there might be some upsets that I have not noted, but most of the big names have been easing their way through the Second Round matches.

On Friday it is the beginning of the Third Round but the weather might just have changed in New York City meaning there is a decent chance we see our first rain delay of the US Open. The tournament organisers must be hoping for a little bit of rain to underline their reasoning for building the roof over Arthur Ashe, but it has been the heat rather than the wetness that has bothered players to this point.

Later next week there is more gloomy weather forecast, but for now fingers crossed the tournament can get through another clear day.

And I really can't finish up here without talking about Johanna Konta who continues a truly special summer for her which has been extended with a win over Garbine Muguruza in the Second Round on Thursday.

I had tweeted out prior to Wimbledon that Konta's talent was of a player that should be far higher than what was a position outside of the top 100 in the World Rankings and that might finally be recognised. Konta has been on a great run on the hard courts which has seen her pick up two titles as well as winning five matches at the US Open including three qualifiers and she will feel unstoppable at this moment.

The tests will continue to come for Konta, but it was a special win over the Wimbledon Finalist and has underlined the progress she has been making this past couple of months.

Fabio Fognini + 5.5 games v Rafael Nadal: The second of the late night matches on Arthur Ashe looks to be a fascinating one between Fabio Fognini and Rafael Nadal, although the Italian has to bring his game face into this one. I think Fognini loves playing against Nadal judging by their previous matches and has every chance of earning the upset if he is focused, although that is not always the case with Fognini.

That lack of focus is my biggest concern with this number of games as Fognini doesn't have seem that far away from a 61 or 62 set being given up when he simply doesn't try if a set is getting away from him. However, Fognini should have plenty of chances to break the Nadal serve if the latter plays as poorly as he did in the Second Round.

It was a complete contrast to his performance against Borna Coric in the First Round and the lack of confidence on the ground was a real issue in the last Round. The matches with Fognini have been very, very competitive in 2015 and it is the Italian who has won two of those, although the most recent saw him give up chances to serve out sets in a straight sets defeat in Hamburg.

If that was to happen here, you'd only think Fognini would crumble in the third set and fail to get within this number, but I think he is capable of getting a set or two on the board in a competitive match. The upset is not impossible in this match and I think it could be very enjoyable for those who like some late Friday night tennis in what could be one of the best matches in the US Open to date.

Marin Cilic Win 3-1 v Mikhail Kukushkin: The reigning US Open men's Champion Marin Cilic has come through the first two Rounds without dropping a set, but that is mainly down to playing the big points very well. He will be challenged much more by Mikhail Kukushkin who has been playing well enough to take a set in this one, although I am not sure how he will be feeling physically having come through a tough five setter against Grigor Dimitrov.

Kukushkin is a difficult player to get a read on because there is clearly some talent there, but he seems to fall apart very quickly when things are not going his way. Some of the play is a little high-risk with a lot of flat hitting, and the second serve can be a bit of a weakness, but there might be enough left to give Cilic something to think about.

However, I think the long match with Dimitrov will end up being crucial to the match and I just don't believe Kukushkin will have a lot of reserves left if he goes down 2-1 in sets. Marin Cilic has played just well enough to come through his first two matches easily enough, but he will likely be forced to dig a lot deeper in this one.

It has been the kind of path into the second week where Cilic is not really garnering too much attention, but he is comfortable in his surroundings and might be a dangerous opponent as the tournament progresses. Another comfortable day should develop for Cilic after a couple of tough sets as he pulls away with what could be a four set win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 games v Sergiy Stakhovsky: I will admit that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not the force of old and is less trustworthy to cover these kind of big numbers with his inconsistent play. However, Tsonga has looked comfortable on the New York courts with consecutive big wins and I think he can beat Sergiy Stakhovsky for the fifth time in a row.

The last matches were back in 2012, but Stakhovsky hasn't had a great 2015 season and he has taken advantage of what has been a kind draw at the US Open. His preparation for the tournament wasn't great and Stakhovsky took some heavy losses to Bernard Tomic and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, although it wasn't like Tsonga's form was anything to write home about before this week.

Tsonga still has a big serve that can set up his points, although his return game is limited at best. However, I think he will be aided by Stakhovsky who likes to attack the net and thus gives his opponents a target to pass, even on his own service games.

This pick doesn't have much room for error, but I think Tsonga is capable of finding his way to a 63, 64, 64 win and a place in the Fourth Round behind some big serving.

David Goffin - 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: When you look at the way both David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut approach tennis matches, you would be hard pressed to miss the similarities in their game. Both seemingly lack the power to beat the top players, but their consistency and hard work ethic is good enough to see off lesser opponents and it was that consistency and fitness that saw both win Second Round matches in five sets.

Fortunately for both players, neither spent an obscene amount of time on the court in those matches and it is a fascinating match between Goffin and Bautista Agut.

Expect to see a lot of tough rallies being fought out by both and even the 2-0 head to head in favour of Bautista Agut shouldn't matter with Goffin a much improved player since 2013. I am looking for Goffin to underline why he has taken a place inside the top 20 in the World Rankings and Bautista Agut has dropped out having been here twelve months ago, although it will be far from easy for the Belgian player.

I am expecting this to go into at least four sets, but Goffin showed again against Ricardas Berankis that he can make the adjustments to start dominating matches against opponents he is expected to beat. I will look for him to do that again after the first two sets are shared and come through 63, 36, 62, 64.

Ekaterina Makarova - 1.5 games v Elina Svitolina: This is a fascinating Third Round match between two players who will feel the winner can go all the way to this Grand Slam Semi Final with the way the Seeds have fallen out of the Second Quarter.

However, both Ekaterina Makarova and Elina Svitolina will know how difficult this match is going to be as both have come through the first couple of Rounds easily enough. Svitolina had the most success in preparation for the US Open with a run to the Semi Final in Cincinnati before finding Serena Williams too good and she has a pretty big game.

She also reached the Semi Final in Stanford, but I am interested to know how she will deal with the consistent power coming from the other side of the court from Makarova. The lefty serve can be a problem to deal with and Makarova hits off both wings with plenty behind those shots and I do think Svitolina has struggled when opponents are willing to hit back with interest.

Makarova crushed Svitolina in Miami earlier this season and was also a fairly comfortable winner in Sydney against her. There were some concerns about an injury when coming into the tournament which would raise some doubts, but Makarova has looked strong enough to win this one and cover a small number.

Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: Daria Kasatkina was the young player who earned a bit of fortune when getting a Lucky Loser spot into he draw to replace Maria Sharapova. After successes at the Junior level, the 18 year old might not have been expecting much from her first effort in the Slams, but she has won two matches and reached the Third Round.

However, she is playing another young player who has a few years experience over her and Kristina Mladenovic has begun to put together all the potential that people believed she had. This has easily been Mladenovic's best year on the Tour and I think she has the power to take advantage of this portion of the section and see off Daria Kasatkina and move into the Fourth Round.

Both players have some impressive wins in the last couple of Rounds, but Mladenovic will be the physically better shape of the two and I think that makes a difference too. She should have the better consistency out of the serve and Mladenovic should create the more break point opportunities in the match.

It has been a fun run for Daria Kasatkina and she is a name to look out for in the future, but I am not sure she is ready to win a match like this at this moment and I like Mladenovic to win this 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Fabio Fognini + 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marin Cilic Win 3-1 @ 3.75 William Hill (1 Unit)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

US Open Update: 19-18, - 1.63 Units (73 Units Staked, - 2.23% Yield)

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