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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (June 21st)

All roads lead to Wimbledon and we are into the final two grass court tournaments before the third Grand Slam of the season gets underway in less than a week's time. The ATP event in Nottingham doesn't feature too many of the big names as most of those will spend their time playing exhibition matches and getting themselves mentally ready for a tough two week event.

The WTA event in Eastbourne does see more of the top names taking part as they put their final preparations for Wimbledon together and both events have plenty of tennis matches to get through on Tuesday as they look to make sure those events are concluded by Saturday.

The weather might play havoc on both tournaments through the week, but Tuesday looks a great day for tennis.

Fernando Verdasco - 4.5 games v Victor Estrella Burgos: A solid win over Rajeev Ram in the First Round will have given Victor Estrella Burgos a boost in confidence on a surface on which he has struggled. That win means Estrella Burgos has improved to 3-6 in main Tour grass matches and the veteran player is going to be challenged by Fernando Verdasco who has had some big results on the surface in the past.

When the draw is made for Wimbledon, Verdasco looks like one of those dangerous First Round opponents that every Seed in the draw will want to avoid. I even include the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in that statement because Verdasco can still produce some sublime tennis when he brings his 'A' game to the court.

The Spaniard showed that in beating Stan Wawrinka at Queens last week, although he couldn't back up that victory in the next Round when going down to Bernard Tomic. This match should be a little more comfortable for Verdasco as his own experiences on grass courts should give him an edge over a player that is perhaps not at his best on the surface.

This does look a big number to cover, but I think Verdasco can do the job and come through with a 63, 64 win.

Steve Johnson - 2.5 games v John Millman: It was a solid week in Queens for Steve Johnson who perhaps feels he should have beaten Marin Cilic in his Quarter Final defeat to the eventual Finalist. 2016 has been a difficult season for Johnson so far and the American has not had the most success on the grass courts, but his game should work well on the grass courts.

Johnson has a big serve and a heavy forehand, but I think his return game can let him down sometimes. However I expect Johnson to be comfortable facing John Millman who he has beaten twice already this season and who possesses a serve that is unlikely to push players backwards.

Most of the Australian contingent would be very comfortable on the grass and Millman had some very good results on the surface last season. He hasn't really backed that up so far in 2016 and I think Johnson will have more success on the return of serve than Millman will in this Second Round match.

I can't imagine any Johnson match is ever straight forward as he can go on some really cool patches with his play at any time. However I do think he will be a little too good in this one and will come through 76, 64.

Monica Puig - 2.5 games v Ana Konjuh: Both players have come through the Qualifiers to take their place in the Second Round in Eastbourne and that should mean two confident players take to the court. Monica Puig already has one Semi Final appearance on a grass court this season, but she is taking on a player in Ana Konjuh of whom big things are expected in her future.

It hasn't been the best 2016 for Konjuh so far as perhaps some of the expectations on her shoulders has had an effect on her tennis. It does have to be remembered that the Croatian player did win the title in Nottingham last season so is clearly very happy on a grass court, but she is going to need to be at her best against Puig who has a big game that should be suited to this surface too.

Puig didn't have a great grass court season last year, but she has previously reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon so can play on this surface. She is also in the midst of what looks to be a career year for Puig and that confidence might prove to be the key difference in this match between these players.

I can see this one going three sets, but that is where a confident Puig should be too good for Konjuh who is perhaps not feeling her best tennis. I like Puig to come through 63, 46, 64 in this one.

Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 games v Roberta Vinci: It hasn't been a great first few months of the 2016 season for Ekaterina Makarova but it is still a surprise to see her dropped to Number 39 in the World Rankings. The Russian had to battle harder than expected to beat Tara Moore in the First Round, but Makarova has performed very strongly in Eastbourne in the past and does enjoy the grass.

The same might not be said for the Number 2 Seed Roberta Vinci who is coming in off a disappointing clay court campaign. This is her first grass court match of the year and it can't be ignored that the Italian has lost all five matches played on the surface since reaching the Fourth Round at Wimbledon in 2013. Vinci has won just two sets in those five matches and now faces someone who has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes.

Makarova has regularly reached the Quarter Final in Eastbourne and is a former winner here, although she will have to contain the unforced errors to keep Vinci at bay. She didn't serve well enough when losing to Vinci in Stuttgart on a clay court earlier this season, while they are 2-2 on the head to head when playing on a hard court.

The grass courts should give Makarova more of an edge though and I think Vinci's recent poor performances on the surface as well as recent poor form has to be considered. As long as Makarova keeps her emotions in check, I think she is good enough to find a 64, 64 win.

Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 games v Sam Stosur: Not many would predict that Sam Stosur would have such a poor record on the grass courts when you look at the way she approaches her tennis. Her serve, especially the kicker, and her ability off the forehand and playing the net should mean Stosur is a very strong grass court player, but it simply hasn't happened for her at Wimbledon.

Even recent form at any grass court tournament has not been very good from Stosur and the Australian is 2-5 in her last seven matches on the grass. The worry for Stosur fans has to be that all five of those losses came as the favourite and mainly as a strong favourite too.

Being a favourite isn't a problem in this match as she takes on Caroline Wozniacki in the Second Round. It had been some time since we saw the former World Number 1 on the court having missed the entire clay court season, and Wozniacki has struggled for consistency which happens off a long lay off. However her win over Alize Cornet in the First Round was impressive and her added feel for the surface should give her an edge in this Second Round match.

Matches between these two players have been close through their career and the Wozniacki 5-4 lead on the head to head shows that. The Dane has won the last two matches on grass though, both in Eastbourne, and I think she is going to have a bit too much again in this one. If Stosur serves well she should be able to take a set, but I think Wozniacki comes through 46, 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Steve Johnson - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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