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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

US Open Day 9 Picks 2015 (September 8th)

The US Open has always been the worst of the Grand Slams for my picks and this year looks to be no different, but I think this is the Slam that gives most people problems when it comes to picking winners.

Why is that? It might be down to the fact that it takes place eight months after the season begins and there are a lot more tired players out there, which in turn inspires big performances out of others. Confidence can be an issue at this time of the season, while I also think the erratic nature of the differing court conditions that the players regularly talk about has a big effect on how matches turn out.

It always seems to be the one tournament that has the most up and down performances from day to day, but now we have reached the Quarter Finals you would expect to see some more consistency out of the performances. However, the US Open has regularly thrown up 'unexpected' players in the later Rounds and that continues to be the case.

The Quarter Finals have been set and I can at least say that the three outright winners I picked are all still involved in the tournament. The question now is whether they can go on and win the event, although doubts about Simona Halep's fitness doesn't particularly inspire me.

Stan Wawrinka looks in good shape to win the Third Quarter of the draw as he will begin as the favourite to beat Kevin Anderson on Wednesday, while both Serena Williams and Roger Federer haven't done anything to make me have any less confidence in them taking home the titles.

I guess it will all become clear in a few days time as the final Grand Slam of 2015 draws to a close.

Marin Cilic v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: There is no doubting that the Second Quarter of the men's draw looked the most open and so it shouldn't be a huge surprise that Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are the last two men standing in this section.

On the other hand, not many would have picked these two players to be competing for a place in a Grand Slam Semi Final considering their performances in recent weeks. Marin Cilic hasn't looked the same player that won the US Open last season throughout 2015, but he has gained some confidence in the surroundings and four solid wins later is competing for a second consecutive Semi Final here.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played well to reach the Quarter Final at the Canadian Masters, but defeats to Fernando Verdasco and Steve Johnson since then won't have inspired too many. Give him credit though as he has come through four matches that he was favoured to win without dropping a set and he has already reached one Grand Slam Semi Final this season when doing that at Roland Garros.

Both players go hot and cold so quickly that this really is a toss up for me, but the layers seem to give a considerable edge to Tsonga to come through. It would mean reversing a poor recent record against Cilic and I do think the Croatian has the more consistent backhand which can prove to be the difference in a contest that will be decided by a few points here and there.

Tsonga is the better server, but I think Cilic gets a little more consistent penetration off the ground and this is a match he can win. Despite a pretty average season for a Grand Slam Champion, Cilic did reach the Quarter Finals at Wimbledon too so perhaps the best of five sets is suiting him a little more on his recovery from an injury. After another battle, I expect Cilic is still standing.

Feliciano Lopez + 7.5 games v Novak Djokovic: This might be a surprising choice to many on the slower Arthur Ashe Court to take Feliciano Lopez with the games against Novak Djokovic, but I do think the Spaniard can keep things competitive throughout.

I also believe Novak Djokovic will be a fairly routine winner on the day, but Lopez is a dangerous customer when he serves well and his ability to get the net to prevent the chipped return should see him remain close. Djokovic doesn't have to win this match by a wide margin and I think he has been looking to conserve some energy at a tournament he has a surprisingly poor record at, relatively speaking at least.

My concern for Lopez would be that he mentally wilts if he goes down a couple of sets or if Novak Djokovic breaks the spirit with an early break, but this does look a big number for the World Number 1 to cover. Lopez has given the likes of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal issues on Arthur Ashe in the past, but Djokovic is a far more effective returner than both and the key for Lopez will be to stay focused at all times.

He is only human though and it can be easy to be demoralised when playing someone like Djokovic who is capable of getting your biggest and best serves into play. However, Djokovic might not be that interested in expending energy to break serve more than he needs to and there is a high possibility of at least one tie-breaker being played, while you can't discount Lopez from stealing a set.

The Spaniard has only done that once in the last five matches against Djokovic, but he has played well so far this week and has the experience of playing Grand Slam Quarter Finals to think he keeps this close. I expect Djokovic to progress 76, 64, 63.

Kristina Mladenovic - 2.5 games v Roberta Vinci: On the face of things, I am guessing some people out there might see that Roberta Vinci is from Italy so is a clay courter who shouldn't be effective on the hard courts right? That would be wrong though as Vinci plays in her third Quarter Final in the last four years at the US Open.

Both of those matches resulted in fairly one sided losses for Vinci against compatriots Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta, but those experiences might play a really big part in this match. Roberta Vinci knows what to expect at this level, but Kristina Mladenovic is playing her first ever Grand Slam Quarter Final as she finally begins to fulfil the potential she clearly has.

As a Singles player, Vinci has had her best Grand Slam results at the US Open which might be a surprise to some, but she is a very strong Doubles player who has Grand Slam titles. However, I expect both Vinci and Mladenovic to have some nerves knowing what the prize is at the end of the match and it will come down to who deals with it best.

Mladenovic has the power and the big serve to earn some cheap points, but she was bamboozled by Sara Errani in Toronto to the point of winning one game in the last two sets despite taking the first 75. Vinci has the slice and dice game to rattle the mind of the Frenchwoman and that is a concern, but the Italian's serve, particularly the second serve, is very attackable and can keep Mladenovic on the front foot.

I definitely think Vinci has been in the better form, while Mladenovic had shown flashes of her ability prior to the US Open. However, I was very impressed with the way Mladenovic dealt with going level in sets in the last Round against Ekaterina Makarova and she can win this match 64, 64 if she continues going for and making the shots like she has been this week.

Venus Williams + 5.5 games v Serena Williams: Imagine Venus Williams is the answer to the trivia question 'who beat Serena Williams to prevent her completing the season Grand Slam in 2015'?

There is a chance that could happen, especially if Venus Williams can bring in the form that saw her dismantle Belinda Bencic in the last Round, although the key for the elder of the Williams sisters is to serve well and prevent Serena Williams from taking too many looks at the second serve. That was the reason she was beaten fairly easily at Wimbledon a couple of months ago as Venus won just 8/24 points played on the second serve.

Serena Williams served incredibly well in that match and prevented Venus from being able to get a foothold into it barring a few games early in the second set. It was one of the more comfortable 64, 63 wins you will see and it is difficult to imagine this match going a different way than a Serena Williams win again.

However, the Serena serve will have to be as on as it was against Madison Keys in the Fourth Round and it has to be pointed out that Venus Williams has won 2 of their last 3 matches on a hard court including in Canada in 2014. Their hard court matches have been very competitive and Venus Williams has taken at least one set in 5 of the last 6 hard court matches against her younger sister so this might be a more competitive match than people initially imagine.

Their US Open matches have been split 2-2, but none of those have gone the distance, so I had to go past the total games market which looks a tight one.

Instead, I will be looking for Venus Williams to keep this one competitive and know this is a number that Serena Williams would have covered once in their last 8 matches against one another. It might follow the Wimbledon path of a fairly routine 63, 64 win for Serena Williams, but I will look for Venus Williams to stay within this number of games.

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic @ 2.38 Coral (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez + 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Venus Williams + 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)

US Open Update: 31-30, - 3.11 Units (121 Units Staked, - 2.57% Yield)

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