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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Euro 2016 Quarter Final Picks (June 30-July 3)

Euro 2016 Quarter Final Picks
That image above sums up the England performance at the Euro 2016 Finals where they return home having won one of four matches and being defeated by Iceland in the Second Round.

How many would have picked England to be beaten by Iceland?

I'd hazard a guess at not many outside of that nation and it is easily the most disappointing defeat England have suffered in my lifetime. I can't argue with the suggestion it is the worst result in a major international tournament for England since beating beaten by the part-timers of the United States in the 1950 World Cup and once again they return home from a major international tournament with plenty more questions than answers.

Roy Hodgson had to go- he simply didn't have the guts to follow through with his convictions in terms of system or personnel and ultimately he has to take the blame for the failure at the World Cup in Brazil and now these European Championships in France. A manager to have the guts to tell the media where to go and not have them dictate the squad or starting eleven is the first thing England need, while it would also be wise of them to perhaps go into a tournament not believing their own hype, but be willing to work hard as a unit to grind their way to positive results.

While the Hodgson departure was inevitable, I think Wayne Rooney should be next in line to accept that international football has now passed him by. I can't imagine he will do that, but he was shoehorned into a spot in the starting eleven because he can no longer lead the line effectively and has lost the pace to be played in one of the wide positions in a front three.

His midfield performance against Iceland was embarrassing and came perhaps a step earlier than even I had called for. I have been very clear that Rooney is not a midfielder because his passing is vastly over-rated, his positioning is poor and he again doesn't really have the pace to challenge the best players in those positions, although those issues were exposed by anything but 'World Class' players.

It might also be time for the likes of Gary Cahill to move on from international football while Joe Hart should be dropped in favour of Jack Butland in time for the World Cup Qualifiers.

Hart is another player I have heavily criticised for being over-rated by the media for some time. How anyone thinks Hart is a better goalkeeper than David De Gea is beyond me and I think any pundit or journalist who makes that suggestion again should be banned from speaking about football again.

In fact he probably won't be Pep Guardiola's chose Number 1 soon enough and Hart might find a more acceptable level lower down the English Premier League and Jack Butland certainly looks a much better goalkeeper.

So who will England turn to to guide them to the next World Cup in Russia? The suggestion has been Arsene Wenger by the media, but I think England would do worse than to pick a manager like Sam Allardyce who has shown he can motivate players to perform above their abilities and is someone who isn't afraid to set his teams up in the manner he wants even if that upsets his fans.

He looks a manager who will believe in what he wants to do and I think it is definitely something England should be looking for in their next manager.

Iceland might not have received the plaudits they deserved, but it has to be said they are fully worthy of their place in the last eight. The stand out tie of the Quarter Finals looks to be the one between Germany and Italy on Saturday, while France might feel they have the best draw as they face Iceland on Sunday.

Portugal and Belgium are favourites to meet in the other Semi Final, but both Poland and Wales will feel they can upset the odds and the next four days will be very intriguing.

Thursday 30th June
Poland v Portugal PickYou have to think both Poland and Portugal are looking at this as being a big opportunity to get into the Semi Final of Euro 2016 with both likely to be fancying their chances of beating the other. Will that mean we get a tight game between two teams who are scared to make a mistake which will cost them, or will both teams take the game to the other in a bid to move through to what would be a winnable Semi Final regardless of whether it is Wales or Belgium in their way.

There is also a fatigue issue in play which may help contribute to how these teams can play this game. Both Poland and Portugal played 120 minutes in their wins on Saturday and Poland also had to battle through the mental baggage of a penalty shoot out and both physical and mental fatigue could be an issue making it harder to play a conservative style of play.

I have been impressed with Poland in the tournament, although disappointed with the lack of composure in front of goal. This looks a team that will create chances, but they have only scored three goals in their four games despite the opportunities that they have fashioned in all four games.

And I do have to say that Switzerland had Poland on the back foot for the second half and extra time and I am wondering if this team might have left something out on the field in that game. They might create some problems for Portugal, but I also expect the latter to be a lot better than they were for much of the game against Croatia.

Portugal have been a hard team to really get a feel for- they have looked very good at times and created chances that have been wasted, while also being a little hit and miss when it comes to the defensive shape they produce. Against Croatia they looked very solid, but this is a team that somehow conceded three times against Hungary even if those goals conceded were all a touch fortuitous.

The teams have had ample time to rest since their Saturday Second Round clashes which should help restore some energy, but both also had to be at their best mentally which can take its toll. I have a feeling we will see goals in this game as both defences have shown strength but also have allowed chances to be created and both have an attacking figure in Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo who have proven they can score goals at every level.

Out of the two teams, I do think Portugal are the slightly stronger even if they have yet to show that in this tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of the Quarter Finals that does produce a few goals, but my gut feeling is that Poland might not have the same energy levels that Portugal could potentially call upon going into this Quarter Final. Portugal also have the better tournament experience and that can't be underestimated at this stage of an event and I will back Cristiano Ronaldo's nation to get through in ninety minutes.

Friday 1st July
Wales v Belgium PickThe familiarity that Chris Coleman and his Wales team have with a talented Belgium team would have given them an edge in knowing what to expect in this Quarter Final regardless. But the fact that Wales took four points out of six and kept two clean sheets against Belgium during the Euro 2016 Qualifiers has to only make the Welsh team believe they have every chance of moving into the Semi Final here and becoming the most successful national team in their history.

These teams have met four times in the last couple of Qualifying campaigns and the only times Wales were beaten was when they had James Collins sent off early in a game. That was the first of the four matches and the red card after 26 minutes came with the game poised at 0-0 and it took a late goal from Belgium to really wrap up the 0-2 win on that day.

Draws in back to back games before a Gareth Bale goal helped Wales beat Belgium in their home Qualifier should mean Wales go into this Quarter Final without any intimidation factor of a 'golden generation' for Belgium.

That despite Belgium producing a really strong performance in their 4-0 win over Hungary in the Second Round. Coming off a 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland and a 1-0 win over Sweden has added to the belief that Belgium can win this tournament and turn potential into actual success.

However they will need to be careful as Belgium missed a few opportunities against Hungary while at 1-0 up and their opponents created a few really good chances to score goals. This time they face a team with Gareth Bale in their starting line up who is unlikely to pass up on the chances that Hungary did and my feeling is that this will be different to when they met in the Qualifiers.

Both of those games were tight affairs but the hard work being put in over the last few weeks has come in a short span of time and we have seen some spaces opening up in defence. Belgium certainly will produce chances, but also look a little suspect at the back, while Wales were not rock solid against Northern Ireland and conceded in their first two games against Slovakia and England.

I do think Chris Coleman will want his team to contain Belgium by making them play in front of the defence, but both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard looked in sparkling form. Wales will offer a threat going forward, but they have to be better than they were in the win over Northern Ireland and I think this is an intriguing Quarter Final that both teams will think they can win.

Picking a winner looks like a far from easy task- I can make a real case for both teams, but my feeling is leaning towards Belgium to finally get the better of Wales after recent failures against them. However I have more of a feeling that we will see goals between these teams considering how well they have performed in attacking spots, but also the chances teams have created against them.

With Bale, Hazard, De Bruyne on the field, I have to think chances will be created and backing at least three goals to be shared out is my overriding feeling.

Saturday 2nd July
Germany v Italy PickAll of the talk prior to this game is whether Germany can break the curse and finally beat Italy in a tournament match. It is a strange statistic considering how successful Germany have been, but Italy seem to hold the mental cards and will know they have won the last two Semi Final matches these nations have competed in in 2006 and 2012.

If you look a little further, Italy also beat Germany (well West Germany) in the 1970 World Cup Semi Final and the 1982 World Cup Final, but these past results are mainly irrelevant.

The 2012 European Championship Semi Final defeat is the bigger mental obstacle for this German team to overcome. Seven of their starting eleven at this tournament also played in that match, while Thomas Muller came on as a substitute and Germany will have a lot of respect for this Italy team who have exceeded expectations significantly to this point.

Even the 4-1 Germany win in March won't have much of a bearing on the Italian team knowing half of their vaunted Juventus defence were missing. It is that Juventus defence which has helped Italy be so successful at this tournament so far, but that would also be harsh on the speed in which they have attacked teams and caused plenty of problems.

Italy will need to bring in a little more composure in front of goal as they allowed Spain to stick around in the Second Round thanks to some decent goalkeeping from David De Gea. It doesn't get easier when you face Manuel Neuer but Italy will feel they can give this Germany defence more problems than most of the teams they have faced so far in Euro 2016.

I also think this is the best attack that the Italians have faced with Joachim Low ditching the 'false nine' system and using Mario Gomez as his number nine. That allows the midfielders to make more runs off a front man, while also giving the Germany attack another avenue in which to try and break down Italy and Gomez has responded with two goals in two games.

I am really looking forward to this match which looks likely to be one of the best in Euro 2016 between two teams in form. Germany's lack of success against Italy when it matters is a concern, but they are the World Champions and I can see an attacking game with both teams having their chances.

Neither has conceded in Euro 2016 but I believe they are facing the best opponents they have to this point and I think there will be chances. In the 2012 Semi Final the same four Juventus players that have formed the impenetrable defence kept Germany out until the 90th minute while defending a 0-2 lead and I think both teams are going to concede their first goal at the tournament here.

There have been at least three goals in three of the four games in Bordeaux (two in the other) and both Germany and Italy have shown enough in front of goal to think they can match that. My lean is towards Italy finding another way to get past another one of the favourites for the tournament, but I will simply look for this game to produce the goods and the goals.

Sunday 3rd July
France v Iceland PickHistorically France have been far too strong for Iceland but those holding to history will not be giving the latter the respect they now deserve. Coming out of a weak Group was one thing, but Iceland showed resolve and determination to come from a goal down to beat England in the Second Round, although there is no doubting this is a significant step up.

That is not to say that Iceland won't fancy their chances against a French backline that has looked a little vulnerable at set pieces, an area Iceland will look to exploit with their long throw ins too. Adil Rami is suspended so France are down another centre half which will mean they have to be fully focused if they don't want to be the latest nation to be surprised by 'little' Iceland.

Truth be told, I think anything other than a France win will be a big surprise especially with home advantage and Iceland will look to play their part in this Quarter Final. I would have been interested to see how Iceland would have reacted to going behind as early as they did against England if they hadn't equalised within seconds of the restart, and France look to be rounding into form.

Unlike England, France also have enough creative talent and players capable of producing a moment of magic to turn this game in their favour if they need to unlock this Iceland rearguard. England might not have threatened them, but all three of Iceland's Group opponents created enough chances to win their game against them and France are not likely to be as generous in front of goal as those teams.

You have to respect Iceland for the unity and trust they have in one another and I do think they can create some very awkward moments for France, especially in defence. However I think France will succeed where England failed and set up a huge Semi Final, regardless of who they face, for next Thursday.

After getting in front, I see France perhaps putting this game away late on in a manner they should have done against the Republic of Ireland so I will back them on the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Portugal @ 2.40 Coral (2 Units)
Wales-Belgium Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 William Hill (2 Units)
Germany-Italy Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
France - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

Quarter Final Update: 2-2, + 1.10 Unit
Second Round Final: 3-3-2, + 1.80 Units
Group Stage Final: 16-21, - 5.30 Units

Wimbledon Tennis Day 4 Picks 2016 (June 30th)

The wet and windy conditions expected at Wimbledon did materialise for much of the day on Wednesday and that means there were a number of cancellations of matches that had been scheduled for the day.

The key for the organisers was to make sure they got all the remaining First Round matches through, and to that extent you have to wonder what they were thinking in the Order of Play which was released on Tuesday. Everyone had anticipated a wet Wednesday meaning time was going to be of the essence, but instead of making sure all of the First Round matches were scheduled first up, they made a real of hash of things.

I will never understand why they had First Round matches scheduled back to back on some courts, but they had placed Second Round matches after those First Round matches that had begun but been delayed on Tuesday.

For example why would you not have another First Round match scheduled after Alexander Zverev's match (the German leading by 2-0 in sets and 3-0 in the third set) rather than have a Second Round match after that? Instead you have the likes of Belinda Bencic and Ekaterina Makarova's First Round matches after Mens First Round matches that hadn't begun meaning they really could be in a spot of having to play three times in three days to make it into the Second Week.

That doesn't seem fair to me and the organisers have to be questioned- I get the show courts are the big money courts and so the big names need to be on those, but the outside courts is a different matter yet those seem to have been bodged up too.

Only at the end of the day did the organisers panic and the likes of Bencic and Makarova saw their matches moved so they were 'next on' but why it took those who put the OOP together so long to figure out what was required is beyond me.

All of the rain in the SW19 area means many of the picks didn't even begin on Wednesday, but Thursday looks a clearer day and will be loaded with Second Round matches. There might even be a couple of First Round matches that need to be completed and those players are unfortunate in likely having to play on three straight days. If you want to catch up with my picks from Day 3, you can find them here.

On Thursday it does look a better day for play, although it might be a delayed start to the day despite the organisers pushing forward the outside court start times to 11am. Hopefully from then, or just after, we should get a full day of play to get this tournament back on track although there are bound to be some players who have to play Second Round matches on Friday and their Third Round match on Saturday to ensure 'Magic Monday' is played out as normal.

Anyway, on to the picks from Day 4 at Wimbledon.

Andy Murray - 8.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: Wednesday might have been about a British underdog story, but Centre Court will feel much more like home for Andy Murray who continues his quest to win a second Wimbledon title. A dominant First Round win over Liam Broady has got the tournament off to the exact start that Murray would have wanted, but he will be well aware of the threat posed by Yen-Hsun Lu.

This is a player that has beaten someone like Andy Roddick at Wimbledon during his career and you can't expect anything less than a confident player taking to the court. It might be at a lower level, but Lu has won two Challenger events and reached the Final of another in recent weeks on the grass courts.

His game does work well on the grass with a decent first serve that can set up the points, while Lu has strong movement around the court which can make him hard to break down. However Andy Murray has won their two previous grass court matches and has the kind or return that will force Lu to dig deep to win every point and the question is whether Murray can serve well enough in order to cover what is a big number on paper.

Lu has had some good wins on the grass over the last month but this is a big step up for him. He has given Murray some issues in their past meetings, and that might play out here, except the stats have shown Murray has just missed his chances to break down the Lu game. I expect he will have the majority of break points in this one and taking his chances can make this an easier day in the office than some may think and I like Murray to come through with a 64, 63, 62 win on Centre Court.

Dominic Thiem - 6.5 games v Jiri Vesely: It might have flown under the radar, but don't underestimate how solid a win Dominic Thiem had over Florian Mayer in the First Round. The latter won the big grass court event in Halle, but Thiem was a straight sets winner over him here at Wimbledon and managed his emotions through the various rain delays.

It is further signs of his maturity in the last couple of years on the Tour and getting into the top 10 of the World Rankings was a big achievement after Roland Garros. Some players might have struggled to build upon that run, but Thiem won the tournament in Stuttgart on grass and then reached the Semi Final in Halle to show the confidence he has.

The match up with Jiri Vesely is a tough one when you think of the big serve that the Czech player has and how that should help him earn some cheap points on the grass. However he has yet to really bring some consistency onto the main Tour since turning professional and he has not had a deep run at Wimbledon.

I do hope Thiem brings his top serving game to the court on Thursday, but doing that should see him have his chances to break serve and win this match with some room to spare. Vesely can serve well enough to take a set to a tie-breaker, but I think Thiem is in such confident form that I am looking for him to come through 76, 64, 62.

Belinda Bencic - 5.5 games v Julia Boserup: Injuries have hurt the Belinda Bencic momentum, but this is a player that has returned to the court after the clay court season and looks to be making some big noise on the grass. For a long time it has been suggested that Bencic would be the kind of player to have a big impact at Wimbledon and her impressive First Round win over Tsvetana Pironkova is a stand out result on a rain filled Wednesday.

Most would have expected Pironkova to test Bencic, but the 19 year old played very well and came through easily enough. My one concern for her on Thursday is playing back to back matches having had a few injury issues over the last three months, but the match up with Julia Boserup should be one that Bencic is winning by a considerable margin.

The American might not be that well known to most fans, but Boserup has to be respected having won four matches to get into this Second Round with the first three coming in the Qualifiers. None of those have come against a player as good as Bencic and Boserup suffered some one sided losses to the likes of Andrea Hlavackova and Kateryna Kozlova in Qualifiers for other grass events over the last month.

Boserup has a solid game, but nothing overly spectacular while I think it will be possible for Bencic to attack her serve. As long as Bencic hasn't suffered any reaction to a late First Round win on Wednesday, I think she will be too good and beat Boserup 64, 62.

Dominika Cibulkova - 4.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: The Eastbourne Champion last week had a tough opening match at Wimbledon but Dominika Cibulkova kept the momentum behind herself with that victory. She will be in a difficult match in the Second Round but I do think Cibulkova might match up well against Daria Gavrilova.

Gavrilova was really taken into the hearts of the Australian people when reaching the Fourth Round in the Australian Open just weeks after being approved as a citizen of that nation. Since then her form has been a little inconsistent but she can string together some very impressive periods of play which makes her a dangerous match for anyone.

She took a set off of Angelique Kerber in Birmingham before losing to the German, but Gavrilova won her first match in the main draw at Wimbledon on Tuesday after coming from a set down. There is no doubting there is a similar style of play to Cibulkova with both players not always possessing the biggest serves, but plenty of power off the ground to rattle their opponents.

I just think Cibulkova is the more comfortable on the grass courts of the two at this moment and I believe she might be the slightly more powerful mover around the court. I do think there will be some breaks of serve for both players in this one, but Cibulkova has momentum behind her and I think she breaks down the Australian in a 64, 63 win.

Andrea Petkovic v Elena Vesnina: I am a little surprised that Andrea Petkovic is the underdog in this match up with Elena Vesnina in the Second Round and I am going to back the German to come through.

After a disappointing couple of seasons, Vesnina has looked a little closer to her best in 2016 and that has seen her move back up to Number 50 in the World Rankings. However Vesnina has struggled at Wimbledon in recent years despite winning the tournament in Eastbourne in 2013 and so I am not sure I need to read too much into her Quarter Final run at Eastbourne last week.

Since 2010, Vesnina has not made it past the Second Round here and she is facing an opponent who has won their last two matches including at the US Open last year. While it hasn't been a great season for Petkovic, this is a player that has all the tools to perform well on any surface with an under-rated serve and decent all around play.

Petkovic has reached the Third Round at Wimbledon in three of her last four appearances here and my only concern is that she has been a little inconsistent with plenty of final set matches in recent weeks. That might give her a little more mental strength though and I think Petkovic can be backed to move into the Third Round at odds against.

Caroline Garcia - 4.5 games v Katerina Siniakova: Many have openly tipped Caroline Garcia as being able to go to the very top of the Women's game, but she has yet to begin to fulfil that potential. There is so much to like about the Garcia game, but I think she should be a lot higher than Number 32 in the World Rankings which highlights some of the inconsistencies that still blight her game.

You would think the grass courts would suit the Frenchwoman with the big first serve Garcia possesses and she is also capable of getting to the net and also dictating from behind the baseline. She did put that all together in winning the title in Mallorca a couple of weeks ago and Garcia had an impressive First Round win which should give her confidence to take into the Second Round.

Katerina Siniakova is outside the top 100 in the World Rankings and she hasn't spent a lot of time in main Tour matches this season. She is a danger to Garcia if she is not on top form as Siniakova has had some solid results on the grass in the last couple of years.

It will need a big serving day from Garcia to make sure she doesn't offer any encouragement to a player she should be beating at this stage of her career. I can see some tough moments for Garcia, but I do think she will see of Siniakova 75, 63 in this one.

Timea Babos + 3.5 games v Coco Vandeweghe: Anyone who has read these picks on a regular basis will know I am a fan of Timea Babos and find that she is a little under-rated on a fairly regularly. The 23 year old is a solid Doubles player, but she has begun to turn things on as a Singles player and is likely one or two really big wins away from making a significant climb up the World Rankings.

A big serve is backed up by some heavy groundstrokes, although I would be looking for an improvement on the return of serve to really give Babos a boost. She will need all her weaponry in this Second Round match against Coco Vandeweghe who reached the Quarter Final at Wimbledon last season.

Vandeweghe is a dangerous player on the grass with a huge serve backed up by a big forehand and that allows her to have a 'free shot' at every return game she sees. The backhand remains a weakness, but Vandeweghe can hide that on the grass courts and this is a match in which the first strike is going to be very important for both players.

I can understand why Vandeweghe is the favourite considering her Quarter Final run last year at SW19 and the dominant way she breezed through the draw to win the title in Hertogenbosch earlier this month. She looked strong again in Birmingham, but I expect Babos to test her after pushing Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova in competitive losses.

Both Keys and Kvitova are amongst the favourites to win at Wimbledon with their styles of play and I think Babos will use those experiences to make these games count against Vandeweghe. This will be a big hitting match that the spectators can enjoy and I will look for the underdog to keep it competitive.

Johanna Konta - 2.5 games v Eugenie Bouchard: It is not too often that a former Wimbledon Finalist would be an underdog against a British female player in a Grand Slam tournament, but that is what we see on Thursday. I can't say I blame the layers as Eugenie Bouchard has been inconsistent since her breakthrough year on the Tour in 2014 when she reached that Wimbledon Final.

Full credit needs to be given to Johanna Konta who has had a memorable twelve months and then produced a strong performance to beat Monica Puig in the First Round at Wimbledon. That has broken her duck in the tournament and Konta has played so well at the US Open and the Australian Open in the last twelve months which suggests she can handle the pressure of playing in front of her home crowd.

The way she dealt with Puig has to inspire confidence and Bouchard has had an inconsistent grass court season which suggests she is still trying to find her 'A' game on the court. Her serve will be attacked by Konta and it is hard to ignore the fact that Bouchard is 5-7 in grass court matches since the Wimbledon Final of 2014.

Konta certainly looks to have the stronger serve and I think she has shown more mental strength than Bouchard over the last few months. Even if she goes down a break, Konta won't feel out of the match, while Bouchard could quickly see sets and then the match disappear from her control. Winning back to back matches hasn't been the Bouchard strength this season and I think Konta will show how much she has improved by beating this former Finalist in three sets, 63, 46, 64.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 8.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andrea Petkovic @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Timea Babos + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 10-5, + 9.76 Units (30 Units Staked, + 32.53% Yield)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Wimbledon Tennis Day 3 Picks 2016 (June 29th)

The first two days of Wimbledon have not seen too many of the Seeds being upset but that is always likely to be the case when the First Round of a Grand Slam is played. Unfortunately for the organisers, the rain that affected the French Open and has remained around Europe over the last six weeks returned on Tuesday to disrupt the First Round matches that were due to be completed.

Wednesday doesn't look much better in all honesty with small periods in which play can be arranged early in the morning until around 1pm and then between 3-6pm.

This means there will be a pressure to try and make sure all the First Round matches are completed so that on Thursday it can be a full day of play completing the Second Round. It doesn't make for a great look for the organisers that some players will be in the Third Round and on schedule while others are yet to complete First Round matches, but it isn't a surprise that they won't load Centre Court without the 'big names' of will feel they have earned their places on the main show courts.

I still find it strange that they have scheduled one Ladies First Round match on Centre Court and two Mens Second Round matches on a day when it looks like heavy rain will be spread through the day, but it does come down to balance. People paying for Centre Court tickets want to see the best players but it does seem unfair to others in the draw especially on a day where it looks like rain will dominate proceedings.

It has been a good opening two days for the tennis picks made, but this has been a difficult season which has seen positive openings quickly go the other way. Hopefully that won't be the case for this tournament which is very much in the early stages and I am also hoping the rain clears up as those delays can make it difficult to project how I think matches will go. Momentum is huge in tennis and rain delays breaks momentum which may work for me in some matches, but didn't help at the French Open and I would hope to avoid those situations over the next two weeks.

I don't think I am going to have much luck in that regards with the next few days seemingly going to be affected by the weather, but hopefully I can find myself on the right side of any delays.

David Ferrer - 2.5 games v Nicolas Mahut: The grass court season has proven to be a strong point for Nicolas Mahut again as he has picked up another title in Hertogenbosch in preparation for Wimbledon. Since June 2013, Mahut has won four titles on the grass courts and that has to be respected.

However the grass courts in Wimbledon have proven to be a difficult ground for Mahut to tread and he is just 6-10 here through his career while he has not got past the Second Round since 2006. These courts don't seem to be as fast as traditional grass courts and it has been tough for Mahut to really impose his serve-volley game on opponents here.

Mahut will look to pressure David Ferrer, but the latter had a very impressive First Round performance and he will make enough returns to force his opponent into making difficult volleys. You have to think  that the longer rallies on the ground will be dominated by Ferrer although Mahut should have some success on the return against what is not the best serve on the Tour.

The Spaniard was beaten by a big-serving Gilles Muller in Hertogenbosch, but I think he will find a little more time in this one off the court. That should help Ferrer prove too good for Mahut and I like him to come through with a 76, 64, 67, 63 win.

Denis Istomin - 4.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: Over the last few years, Denis Istomin has put together a very strong record against Nicolas Almagro and he is a healthy favourite to improve those numbers. This has been a really disappointing season for Istomin who has slipped outside of the top 100 in the World Rankings after his Nottingham title winning points came off his record last week.

That makes this a big tournament for Istomin and coming back from 2-0 down in sets to beat Kevin Anderson might have inspired some confidence in his play. The grass should suit him as Istomin showed when winning the title in Nottingham last year and he has a big serve and a heavy forehand which makes him a dangerous player.

Istomin is not a bad returner, but he has struggled to take the chances when they have come his way and he will regret missing those against someone like Nicolas Almagro. The latter also had to come through a five set match, but that was a surprise as he was expected win much easier than he did having blown a 2-0 lead in sets before rallying in the final set.

At first glance I thought this was a big number for Istomin to cover considering how out of form he has been in through 2016. However it has to be said that Almagro has disappointed in recent years on the grass and Istomin had a really impressive comeback win over Anderson that has to have given him the confidence to take into this one. His dominance of Almagro on the head to head will aid that belief and I like Istomin in this Second Round match to come through with an impressive win.

Kei Nishikori - 7.5 games v Julien Benneteau: He might not have the biggest serve on the Tour, which has always made him a little vulnerable, but Julien Benneteau has been highly competitive through his career. No one should forget his performance when leading Roger Federer by two sets to nil on Centre Court back in 2012, but injuries have seen him drop out of the top 500 in the World Rankings.

 A win in the First Round will have given him a boost in both Ranking and confidence, but the last two years have seen Benneteau go 2-12 in main Tour matches. Suffice to say that Benneteau is facing a really difficult test in this one as he faces Kei Nishikori in the Second Round and I think the Number 5 Seed will be happier with the rhythm he will see in this match.

In the First Round he faced the huge serving Sam Groth who won't give you a lot of rhythm on the return of serve, but Nishikori should enjoy more rallies in this one and I think he will dominate more and more the longer it goes.

One concern has to be the rib injury that needed treatment in the match with Groth, but I think the Nishikori return of serve gives him a real edge in this one. Julien Benneteau is simply not at the level where he was pushing the likes of Federer on the grass courts and I think Nishikori will work his way to a 63, 63, 64 win in this one.

Marin Cilic-Sergiy Stakhovsky over 3.5 sets: This has the makings of a classic grass court contest in the Second Round between Marin Cilic and Sergiy Stakhovsky. The latter is most known for beating Roger Federer in the past at Wimbledon, but he has a decent serve and is capable of getting to the net and putting away volleys which can pressurise his opponents on the grass.

Stakhovsky was upset in the First Round at Wimbledon last season and he didn't have too many strong results on the surface over the past month, but he can be inspired in these big matches. His game does seem to match up with Marin Cilic having won a set against him in each of their last three matches, although it is the Croatian who has won all of those.

He will need to be better than he was against Brian Baker against whom Cilic seemed to have a difficult time putting away. On another day he would have needed more than straight sets to come through to the Second Round as his opponent missed some big chances in the second set, and Stakhovsky is capable of taking those if they come his way.

For all the big serving and heavy forehands Cilic produces, he can quickly come off the boil and present his opponent chances to win sets and I do think this will be more competitive than his First Round win over Brian Baker. Backing at least four sets to be needed looks to be the call in this one as I look for Stakhovsky to win at least one set on a surface he is very comfortable performing on.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Misaki Doi: The chances are that Karolina Pliskova and Misaki Doi won't be able to get on the court on Wednesday barring a really big turn in the weather forecast. That might aid Pliskova even more as she looks to back up her First Round win over Yanina Wickmayer which took fourteen games in the third set to separate those players.

You would think the Pliskova serve is going to be a big difference maker in the Second Round match against an opponent she has beaten four times in a row. It has proven to be a big weapon in those wins over Doi having been broken just once in each of the last two matches and that includes a crushing win over her in Eastbourne last week.

One element that can't be known is how Pliskova is handling Grand Slam pressure having struggled through her career in the Majors. The way she battled past Wickmayer has given me some confidence that Pliskova is ready for a big tournament having won in Nottingham and reached the Final in Eastbourne and the extra rest might make this is an even bigger test for Doi.

Doi has had some competitive losses at Wimbledon which suggests she can cause problems for Pliskova. However she has failed to cover this number of games in her two losses to Pliskova on the grass and I like the latter to have a little too much in a 64, 63 win.

Jelena Jankovic - 3.5 games v Marina Erakovic: She might be Ranked 120 places ahead of her opponent, but it isn't easy to trust Jelena Jankovic these days to win matches in the fashion she might have done in the past. The Serbian former World Number 1 has turned 31 years old and I think that has seen her lose half a step in her movement which makes her much more vulnerable than she was when heading to the top of the Rankings.

Defence was the key for Jankovic in her career, but losing that half step makes it much harder to do on a consistent, week by week basis. Only once in the last eleven seasons has Jankovic failed to win at least 35 matches in a season, but she is well behind that number in 2016 where she is 11-12.

That number was improved thanks to a run to the Semi Final in Mallorca and Jankovic had an impressive win in the First Round. However she hasn't really had a strong run at Wimbledon in recent years before reaching the Fourth Round last season having gone 1-5 in matches played at Wimbledon (and the Olympics) prior to 2015.

Even with all that in mind, I think Jankovic will have too much for Marina Erakovic who has had to come through Qualifying and then a really tough First Round match. A strong run in Marrakech looks good, but this is a player that had been beaten in the First Round at Wimbledon in each of the last two seasons before this one and has struggled to Qualify for main Tour events.

I can see this being a tight match for a time, but Jankovic can make the big plays, or extract the errors, at key times to win it. Erakovic can be very good when on her 'A' game, but you have to feel Jankovic is good enough to come away with a 75, 64 win.

Alize Cornet - 2.5 games v Sara Errani: The head to head might read 4-1 in favour of Sara Errani and the Italian might have won the last four of those matches, but I think Alize Cornet can snap that run at Wimbledon. Both players were easy First Round winners on Monday but I think Cornet is the more comfortable on the grass courts.

Cornet might only be 2-4 since reaching the Fourth Round at Wimbledon in 2014 but that has been the rare bit of success she has had on the grass courts consistently. That record might not be that impressive and perhaps Cornet is rated higher having beaten Serena Williams on the surface in 2014, but Errani's record is even poorer recently as she has gone just 3-7 since reaching the Third Round at Wimbledon in 2012.

Many of those matches have seen Errani outplayed considerably, but she does like the match up with Cornet and that is my one big concern in this one. There will be many breaks in the match, but Cornet is not exactly the most unemotional player and I do worry about the mental aspect of this match up for her.

However I do think she is the stronger grass court player and Errani has shown little form in recent weeks having lost six in a row prior to Wimbledon. Only three times this season Errani has won back to back matches in the same tournament and I think Cornet will get the better of this one in a 63, 46, 64 win.

Simona Halep - 5.5 games v Francesca Schiavone: The first and only time Simona Halep and Francesca Schiavone met on the Tour, it was the veteran Italian who won convincingly. That match occurred over three years ago and things have changed significantly for both players since then that I am expecting a reversal of fortunes for them.

At 36 years old, Schiavone is now outside the top 100 in the World Rankings and she is just 3-7 on the main Tour if you take out a title win in Rio de Janeiro. The grass has not agreed with the Italian either and she was 1-9 in main Tour matches on the surface before her tough win in the First Round.

It has to be said that Simona Halep had a shock defeat here at Wimbledon twelve months ago, but she should have the consistency to move Schiavone around the court at this moment of their careers. That can only see her wear down her opponent in this one and Halep was an impressive winner in the First Round as she looks to make her way through the draw a little under the radar compared with recent Grand Slam events.

The Halep serve can be vulnerable, but I think there can be enough consistency in her game to come through with a 64, 62 win in this one.

Garbine Muguruza - 5.5 games v Jana Cepelova: Any player that has come through Qualifying in the impressive fashion that Jana Cepelova has will be respected in the draw. Cepelova lost just thirteen games in three wins in the Qualifiers and continued her run of straight sets wins in the First Round.

And Cepelova has previous that should worry the Number 2 Seed Garbine Muguruza- last season Cepelova beat Simona Halep in the First Round. That was a rare success on the grass courts in recent years for Cepelova and she is going to be tested to the fullest by last season's Finalist.

I have to credit Muguruza for the way she handled Camila Giorgi in the last couple of sets of their First Round match. The French Open Champion has shown she is capable of dealing with the mental pressure of becoming a Grand Slam Champion and the new levels of expectation that brings with the performance in the First Round, but Muguruza has to continue to back that up.

Her game looks perfectly suited to the grass even if Muguruza hadn't had a lot of success on the surface prior to her run to the Final here last season. The big serve and huge groundstrokes will be tough for Cepelova to deal with and I can see some big returns helping the Number 2 Seed to come through with a 62, 64 win.

Sabine Lisicki - 2.5 games v Samantha Stosur: If you were judging solely by the results earned in 2016 or their World Rankings, most would have Samantha Stosur as a strong favourite to beat Sabine Lisicki. That would be ignoring the surface on which they are playing and it can't be ignored how well Lisicki plays on the grass compared with Stosur who has regularly flattered to deceive.

I can't understand why Stosur has such a poor record on the grass when you see the huge serve and the heavy forehand, plus a pretty good net game. Despite that, Stosur has never been beyond the Third Round at Wimbledon which is a strange outcome for a player that has all the tools to be so effective on the surface and who has won Grand Slam titles.

Stosur did reach the Third Round here last season before losing to Coco Vandeweghe 62, 60, but getting back to that Round will be a big task against Lisicki. It has been a poor season for the German who has slipped outside the top 80 in the World Rankings, but she does tend to come alive during the limited grass court season.

Like Stosur, Lisicki has a huge serve that works very well on the grass courts and she seems very happy on the surface. Last season saw her surprisingly beaten in the Third Round, but Lisicki has reached three Quarter Finals, one Semi Final and one Final at Wimbledon since 2009.

A crushing win over Shelby Rogers will have boosted confidence, but this will be a tough match for both players. Ultimately I think the Lisicki comfort on the grass will see her have the edge over Stosur and I like her moving through to the Third Round 63, 36, 63.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic-Sergiy Stakhovsky Over 3.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alize Cornet - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 10-3, + 13.76 Units (26 Units Staked, + 52.92% Yield)

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Wimbledon Tennis Day 2 Picks 2016 (June 28th)

Ivan Dodig to win a set v Tomas Berdych: This is an interesting First Round match between a player like Ivan Dodig who has the potential to be a dangerous opponent for any Seeded player against Tomas Berdych who is looking to back up a decent showing at Roland Garros.

This might be the only Grand Slam in which Berdych has competed in the Final, but he has only managed one Quarter Final appearance in the five years since 2010. If you look at the Berdych results in that time, he has had a lot more success at the other Grand Slam events and an early loss in Halle might be a worry when heading onto the grass courts in SW19.

Berdych is going to be tested by Dodig who has a decent serve and will be willing to get to the net and put away volleys. He is one of the best Doubles players on the Tour and so Dodig will feel confident he can pressure Berdych in this First Round match, although he hasn't shown a lot of form on the Singles Tour in the last couple of years.

Even with that in mind, I think Dodig is able to sneak a set out of Berdych whose last eight wins at Wimbledon have only once seen him come through in straight sets. Dodig is the kind of player who might fall apart as the match goes on, but he can get through the first couple of sets by showing off his quality at the net and perhaps sneak a tie-breaker to take a set.

At odds against, Dodig has to be backed to at least win a single set in this one.

Taylor Fritz to win a set v Stan Wawrinka: One of the promising young players on the Tour has made a remarkable rise up the World Rankings and might soon be feeling the pressure of being the face of a nation in the coming years. Taylor Fritz is the next big hope of American men's tennis and his performance in a three set defeat to Roger Federer in Halle shows the talent he has.

Of course he is young and that comes with the inconsistency of results at this stage of his career which has been highlighted in the fact that Fritz has lost both matches played since the defeat to his idol Federer. The manner of those defeats would be a concern for Fritz, but he might be able to surprise Federer's compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the First Round.

Fritz has the typical American game- he has a huge serve which he will look to set up his groundstrokes and Fritz could frustrate Wawrinka. I am a big fan of 'Stanimal' but the grass has not always been his favourite surface and someone like Fritz may have enough to frustrate him at times of this match.

There always seems to be a let down in the Stan Wawrinka game and that can especially be true early in a Grand Slam tournament. This match looks like one that could be a tight one and I think Fritz is more than capable of stealing a set off of him like he did against Federer as his youthful exuberance gives Wawrinka moments of annoyance.

This is another match where I think the underdog is capable of taking a set as the underdog and I will back that to happen at odds against.

John Isner - 1.5 sets v Marcos Baghdatis: While John Isner's serve is a huge weapon on the grass courts, the fact is that the American is a limited returner and that means he is relying on tie-breakers to win sets. That also leads to there being a high chance that he is involved in some really long matches early in the tournament which saps his energy and eventually costs him his place in the draw.

He would have been hoping for an easier First Round match than facing Marcos Baghdatis who has plenty of solid grass court experience. Baghdatis has played well in the warm up events for Wimbledon, but he has previously struggled against John Isner who has won all six of their previous matches.

All of those matches have come on the hard courts in North America so Baghdatis will be hoping the grass gives him more of a chance against Isner. It is hard to know if that will be the case as Isner's serve will still be a potent weapon on the surface and it will be up to Baghdatis to try and contain the frustration which he will surely suffer through the match.

Isner has won 13 of 16 sets these two have competed against one another and I think he will see plenty more second serves in this match which can give him a chance to pressurise Baghdatis. Even though Baghdatis has had the more impressive wins preparing for Wimbledon, I think Isner can get the better of him again and I like him to win in either three or four sets in this one.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 5.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: It has only been twelve months since Vasek Pospisil battled his way through to the Quarter Final at Wimbledon. Things have been much tougher for him since then and the Canadian could have a significant drop in his World Ranking at the end of this tournament.

Pospisil has had some success on his return to the grass courts, but his overall form in 2016 has been very poor which makes him look a vulnerable favourite in this First Round match.

The match does look a good one for Pospisil as Albert Ramos-Vinolas hasn't had any really impactful wins on the grass. A really solid performance in Roland Garros and a surprise Quarter Final berth in that tournament might inspire some confidence that the Spaniard can take into this one, while his lefty serve should be a dangerous weapon.

I do think Ramos-Vinolas can take a set in this one which should give him every chance of covering this number of games. His serve can be a big weapon for him when he is hitting his spots, but Ramos-Vinolas has to make sure he tries to dominate on Pospisil's second serve if he is going to earn the upset.

Even with Ramos-Vinolas' poor grass form in mind, Pospisil has struggled for confidence on the Singles Tour and I will take the games in this one.

Nick Kyrgios-Radek Stepanek Over 3.5 sets: One of the dark horses for the Wimbledon men's title has to be Nick Kyrgios who has the game that is perfectly suited to the grass. An early loss at Queens might have dented some confidence, but Kyrgios doesn't strike me as someone who will hold onto early defeats for too long and a potential Fourth Round clash with Andy Murray is a salivating thought.

Before that though, the Australian will do well to take the threat of Radek Stepanek very seriously as the veteran has shown some good form over the last couple of months. He hasn't quite cracked a return into the top 100 of the World Rankings but reached a Quarter Final in his sole grass court event this past month and no one will forget the way he took Andy Murray to five sets at the French Open after Qualifying for the main draw.

Stepanek also has a very good game for the grass as he is comfortable getting forward to the net and employs plenty of variation in his game. While he was beaten in an upset in the First Round at Wimbledon last year, it has taken the likes of Novak Djokovic (twice), Fernando Verdasco, Lleyton Hewitt and Mikhail Youzhny to end other runs in this event.

He has taken a set off of each of those opponents mentioned in matches since 2009 and Stepanek will believe he can find a way to irritate Kyrgios in this First Round encounter. Their sole previous match saw Kyrgios beat Stepanek in straight sets at the French Open, but it took a tie-breaker in each set and I think this one will be closer.

While I am expecting Kyrgios to eventually be too strong, I do think Stepanek can play his part and backing this match to go at least four sets is the call.

Bernard Tomic - 3.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: This looks like one of the best matches in the First Round at Wimbledon, but I did think Bernard Tomic would be a slightly stronger favourite to beat Fernando Verdasco. That is no disrespect to the latter who is the kind of dangerous player that most Seeds would want to avoid early in the draw when he is physically at his best, while Verdasco has performed well on the grass before.

The lefty serve is dangerous on all surfaces, but particularly on grass where it can slide away from opponents and the slice will stay low on the surface. Verdasco also has plenty of power off the ground with which he can hit through opponents and Tomic will need to be wise to those threats.

However Tomic was a three set winner over Verdasco when they met at Queens earlier in the month and he also has a strong 4-1 record against him on the head to head. That includes coming from 2-0 down to beat Verdasco at the Australian Open in 2012 and Tomic will use plenty of variation to try and frustrate the Spaniard, although Tomic's movement can be a hindrance.

The best performances from Tomic in Grand Slams has come at Wimbledon where his sole Quarter Final was achieved and he does love the grass. It will need a good serving day from Tomic to make sure he doesn't offer Verdasco too much encouragement and I think the Australian is able to overcome a stubborn First Round opponent with a 76, 46, 63, 64 win.

Tara Moore + 3.5 games v Alison Van Uytvanck: If you have ever heard of Tara Moore before it might have been down to a controversial tweet she sent out criticising Serena Williams for essentially 'faking' during her French Open Semi Final in 2015. That earned her a vitriolic response from many others as Moore has not really achieved too much on a tennis court to have been taken shots at one of the best female players of all time, but now the British player has a chance to make a better name for herself.

Her performances on the grass courts over the past month might have inspired some confidence in Moore as she looks for her first win in the Wimbledon main draw at her third attempt. Both of her losses have been very competitive and her recent results on grass suggests she can upset Alison Van Uytvanck in the First Round.

Van Uytvanck had a memorable run at the French Open last season reaching the Quarter Final but she has a poor 2-10 record on the main Tour this season. That has dented confidence as well as her World Ranking which has slipped back outside the top 100 while the Belgian player doesn't have the best record on the grass courts.

This is going to be a competitive match as both players will look at the other as someone they should be beating and I think Moore might be under-rated. Her two previous appearances at Wimbledon in the main draw has seen her lose in the third set each time in competitive matches, but she hasn't faced someone like Alison Van Uytvanck with both losses coming against stronger players.

Getting 3.5 games looks a lot for Moore and I like her to at least stay within this number.

Monica Puig + 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: This time last year, Johanna Konta would have simply been happy to be playing in the main draw at Wimbledon but a meteoric rise up the Rankings has followed. Now she comes in as one of the top 16 Seeds and would have expected a kinder draw than she has been given in the First Round.

Last year it was Maria Sharapova and while Monica Puig is not at that level, she has shown she is very dangerous on the grass courts over the last month. Two Semi Final appearances in Nottingham and Eastbourne would have boosted Puig's belief on this surface and she has had enough time to recover physically from her exploits in Eastbourne last week.

Puig looks to be having a career year although she hasn't performed well at Wimbledon since her first appearance here in 2013 that resulted in a Fourth Round finish. Subsequent First Round losses are a disappointment, but Puig has the serve and heavy groundstrokes to make Konta battle very hard in this one.

We have heard Konta say she is not feeling the pressure of expectation, but she hasn't performed as well on the grass courts this past month as she may have wanted. Another strong run in Eastbourne might have boosted her confidence, but Konta has never won a main draw match at Wimbledon which is going to be another mental obstacle to overcome as well as the dangerous player on the other side of the court.

This looks highly competitive and I can't allow my belief in Konta to waver from what looks the obvious pick. Monica Puig can spring an outright surprise in this one but I will take the games and hope Konta wins a tight one.

Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: It has been a long time since Caroline Wozniacki went into a Grand Slam event as one of the non-Seeded players and it is Svetlana Kuznetsova who has drawn the short straw in facing her first. Wozniacki has had injury issues which has seen her drop down the World Rankings, but there have been a couple of positive signs over the last month as she got some grass court tennis under her feet.

The same can not be said for Kuznetsova who might not agree with the grass these days as she has lost three of her last four matches at Wimbledon. Early on in her career there were some Quarter Final efforts from her time at Wimbledon, but Kuznetsova hasn't really hit those heights in recent years and this is a difficult match for her.

The Russian has won three of the last four on the head to head, but the exception came on the grass courts in Eastbourne last season. That also means Wozniacki has won both previous matches between these players on the grass and I think the Dane has a little more feel on the surface than Kuznetsova at this stage of their careers.

It will be a battle at times and Wozniacki can be hard to trust behind that weak serve, but she has done a lot more winning than Kuznetsova at Wimbledon recently and I think she has the edge. I can see this taking three sets to separate them but I like Wozniacki coming through 46, 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Ivan Dodig to Win a Set @ 2.20 William Hill (2 Units)
Taylor Fritz to Win a Set @ 2.38 William Hill (2 Units)
John Isner - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Nick Kyrgios-Radek Stepanek Over 3.5 Sets @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Tara Moore + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Monica Puig + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 5-2, + 5.28 Units (14 Units Staked, + 37.71% Yield)