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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (June 7th)

It was a mixed opening day of the grass court season as Nicolas Mahut comfortably won his match but Sam Querrey couldn't find a break of serve in his straight sets win over Benjamin Becker meaning he missed the cover by a single game.

On Tuesday a whole host of First Round matches are being played through the three tournaments that are being played this week although the top Seeds have been given 'byes' in some of the events.

That does mean we will be waiting for the return of Roger Federer to the Tour having missed the French Open as he gets set to get his preparations down for Wimbledon. The last few months of the season is when I feel Federer is at his most dangerous with the conditions more to his liking, but the key is to make sure he is fully healthy if he has real ambitions of challenging the dominance of Novak Djokovic.

Gilles Muller - 2.5 games v Robin Haase: The grass courts have not really been to the liking of Robin Haase through his career but he did make something of a breakthrough at his home tournament in 2015. Last season Haase reached the Semi Final in Hertogenbosch and pushed Nicolas Mahut the distance before coming up short and that might be the kind of memory he needs for a big week again.

The clay courts are supposed to be Haase's favourite surface, but he struggled as his form has dipped over the last few months. The Dutchman does have a solid serve which can produce cheap points on this surface and he is facing an opponent that isn't known for a tremendous return, but Gilles Muller looks the more adept on grass.

His lefty serve has pace, but Muller's strength is being able to hit his spots in the service box which leads to him being able to get forward and put away volleys and the short balls. Muller reached a Semi Final here and also the Quarter Final in Queens and he has won a title at the Challenger level on this surface.

If Muller is serving well he should keep Haase under pressure and I think Muller will have his chances to break serve. The key here is taking his chances when they do come along on the grass courts but I think Muller looks the happier on the grass courts and I will look for him to come through 75, 76.

Radek Stepanek - 2.5 games v Denis Istomin: It has been a very difficult twelve months for Denis Istomin, but one of the rare highlights in that time was winning a title on the grass courts in Nottingham. He might defend that title the week before Wimbledon, but it has been a tough season for Istomin and he will be hoping that the grass courts can turn around his form.

Istomin does have some very good results on grass in the past which will make him dangerous in Stuttgart, but I think he has drawn the short straw when it comes to the Qualifiers he could have faced. Radek Stepanek had a memorable showing at the French Open when he almost beat Andy Murray in the First Round, while he had two impressive wins in the Qualifiers which should see him come in with some confidence.

He might be 37 years old now, but Stepanek is still trying to make his way back up the World Rankings and clearly loves the game. Stepanek was beaten in his two grass court matches last season, but his game does translate onto this surface very well with an ability to get to the net and decent movement around the court.

This is going to be a tough match for Stepanek, especially if Istomin rediscovers the form that has deserted him in recent weeks, but I do think the Czech player can come through 64, 75.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: Two veteran players meet each other in the First Round in Stuttgart and both Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez are very comfortable on the grass courts. However it is Lopez who has been the more consistent at the main ATP level in the last couple of years and I think that can play a part in this match as he looks to improve his 6-2 head to head against the Russian.

You can see why Lopez is very comfortable on the grass courts- he has a big lefty serve that can earn him plenty of cheap points and a sliced backhand that stays low on the grass courts and puts opponents under pressure. The Spaniard is very happy up at the net where he can play his volleys and I don't think anyone is surprised by the strong record Lopez has on the surface.

These days the best we see of Youzhny comes in matches that are not played at the main ATP level and I think there is a clear difference in the levels in which these two players operate.

I do have to respect Youzhny because it is only three years ago that he reached the Final in Halle and the Fourth Round at Wimbledon where it took Roger Federer and Andy Murray to end his runs respectively. He is a very capable player on the grass courts but I think Youzhny doesn't have the same pop on the serve that Lopez will bring to the court and that should lead to the latter coming through with a 64, 64 win.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: An unfortunate draw meant Philipp Kohlschreiber didn't have a very long run at Wimbledon last year when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the First Round. In Halle it was Roger Federer who was his First Round opponent, but Kohlschreiber did have a run to the Quarter Final in Stuttgart.

He is a better grass court players than the results indicate from 2015 because of those two players he was unfortunate to run into. Kohlschreiber didn't have a great French Open but he did have a decent clay court season and while I think he might have lost a step around the court, the faster surfaces should still be one which Kohlschreiber can use to his advantage.

The same can be said for Pierre-Hugues Herbert who has a solid first serve which should work well on the grass courts. He has begun to win matches on the surface in the Qualifier stages having done that twice in a row for Wimbledon. A tough loss to Bernard Tomic last season at Wimbledon shows that Herbert is more than capable of giving players a difficult match on this surface when he is serving well.

I just think Kohlschreiber is going to be a little stronger off the ground in this one and will feel most comfortable on the grass of the two players. If the German can take the chances that will come his way, I will look for him to move into the Second Round behind a 76, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Radek Stepanek - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.18 Units (4 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)

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