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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (June 9th)

Wednesday was cut short in Stuttgart by the storms that were in the area, but the tournament has a chance to get back on track on Thursday.

The big news in Stuttgart was the return of Roger Federer and he looked good in the first seven games played against Taylor Fritz although how his body reacts to being back on court is only going to be seen on Thursday. Federer will be second out on court as he concludes his match with Fritz and the organisers will be hoping the rain that affected Wednesday play will have moved on by Thursday morning.

It was a good day for the picks with the completed picks going 3-1 to move this week in a positive direction. That will hopefully be built upon in the next couple of days to keep the trend going and make a good start to the grass court season.

While the tennis was being played away from the casual fans, those same fans would have heard the news about Maria Sharapova who was suspended for two years until January 2018 for failing her drugs test. There will be many arguments between those who believe she made a mistake and those who will say she has been 'doping', but I do fall into the grey area between those two absolutes.

I have little doubt that Sharapova didn't know about the benefits of taking the pill she was and what extra it would give her on the court, but I am also someone who can't accuse someone of 'doping' when a drug wasn't illegal.

Morally she would have to be questioned as to why she was taking a pill if she didn't need it, but you would have to be privy to her medical records to confirm that. I do think this whole episode has destroyed her reputation and I do think a two year ban would effectively see Sharapova retire from the Tour, although I can see a situation where her appeal is heard by the CAS and the suspension reduced to January 2017.

Hopefully tennis will take what they have learned from this situation and continue to improve their own testing methods, while I am sure some of the big names in the sport will be happy to show that no one is above the law. This story is still a long way from being over though and the next stop is the CAS as Sharapova has already indicated.

Gilles Muller - 2.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: Both of these 33 year old players have had very good wins in the First Round here in Hertogenbosch which will have given them confidence to take into this Second Round match. It is Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who has had the better of the previous matches as he leads 4-1 against Gilles Muller, but the most recent match came this year in Bulgaria where Muller broke his duck against the Spaniard.

This won't be the first time they have met on the grass with Garcia-Lopez recording a win over Muller in 2009 at Queens, but Muller reached the Semi Final here last season and clearly enjoys the conditions. His serve is a big weapon on the grass courts and was the reason he was able to pressurise Robin Haase in the First Round and eventually beat the home favourite.

I do think Garcia-Lopez has a decent serve and he will be able to get plenty of cheap points out of that on the grass courts, but the Spaniard is more likely to throw in a poor service game. That can be costly against someone like Muller who can get out of troubling spots with his big lefty serve compared to Garcia-Lopez who may feel the scoreboard pressure when he gets behind on serve.

This match could easily develop into a very similar feel as to when they played in Sofia earlier this season with a tight first set leading to a victory for the player that wins it. Gilles Muller can have the edge on this faster surface and I think he will work his way through to a 76, 64 win.

David Ferrer - 3.5 games v Dudi Sela: David Ferrer had a disappointing loss to Tomas Berdych at the French Open to analyse ahead of this tournament, but the move to grass isn't always a strong point for the Spaniard. However he has won the title here on a couple of occasions and Ferrer will be able to work his way into the tournament when he faces Dudi Sela in the Second Round.

The bottom line is that Sela is not going to blow anyone off court behind serve and being able to build a rhythm on the grass is important preparation for Ferrer. The points will likely be more extended than many others on this surface as both men look to use their movement around the court to work the ball around, especially as Ferrer will get only a little extra out of his own serve.

Long rallies are likely to be the outcome of this match and it will be interesting how long Ferrer needs to get used to the conditions he will be seeing. At least Sela has a match behind him, but that was a tougher than expected win over Dennis Novikov and the Israeli will have to be a lot better to see off Ferrer in this one.

The last three years have seen Ferrer make a slow start to life back on the grass which is a concern. However I think this is a match up that will suit him more than the likes of Marcos Baghdatis and Xavier Malisse who are very good grass players. Once he gets used to his surroundings, I think Ferrer wins the break point battle and comes through this Second Round match with a 64, 64 win.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v John Millman: It is hard to really place Juan Martin Del Potro's win over Grigor Dimitrov in the First Round here as his opponent has been terribly out of form. It was still an impressive performance from a player who missed the Rome Masters and the French Open to get ready for the grass court season and Del Potro looked in good form.

That win over Dimitrov saw Del Potro put in a strong serving match and he will look to do the same to put pressure on John Millman in this one. The Australian is a battler, but he doesn't have the same firepower as Del Potro and Millman will have to work much harder to prevent his serve being broken.

The serve remains a vulnerable shot for Millman and a solid win over Lucas Pouille won't disguise that even if the grass courts will aid that shot a little bit. He isn't playing the best returner on the Tour, but Del Potro will look to feast on the second serve by playing first strike tennis on a surface where it can make all the difference.

Millman has a bit more variation in his game but I think he will be overpowered during the course of the match and I like the former top ten player to come through with a 75, 63 win.

Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 games v Evgeniya Rodina: This has been a poor season for Jelena Jankovic in terms of results and I can't help feel that she is already perhaps thinking about life beyond the Tour. The poor form has seen her slip out of the top 20 in the World Rankings, but Jankovic did have a very good win in the First Round and she is playing an opponent she has dominated.

Evgeniya Rodina has not been in the best form herself and generally plays at a lower level than the main Tour so won't bump into too many players like Jankovic. Her First Round win was an expected one but she has struggled to find the consistency to break through the Jankovic defences in their three previous matches.

Last year at Wimbledon Rodina did take the first set before winning just four games in the next two sets against Jankovic. This is a surface that Jankovic does enjoy and she was a very convincing winner in the First Round which should have given her a little confidence to take into the Second Round.

The serve can be a problem for Jankovic, but she should be winning the extended rallies in this one as she extracts errors from the Rodina game. She should have plenty of chances to break the Rodina serve and I think Jankovic is able to come through with a 64, 62 win.

Johanna Konta - 5.5 games v Saisai Zheng: Last season Johanna Konta made her breakthrough on the main Tour at this time of the year as she reached the Quarter Final here in Nottingham. Konta was earning some Wild Card spots, but the last twelve months have been so impressive that the British player will come in to the events this time around inside the top 20 of the World Rankings.

So not only is Konta earning direct entry into the top tournaments around the world, but Konta is in Nottingham as the Number 2 Seed. She will expect a good run at Wimbledon having been drawn against Maria Sharapova in the First Round there last year (I don't think either player would have expected their careers to have changed so much in a single year from that match).

I am expecting Konta to get the better of Saisai Zheng, a player she has beaten twice before including a fairly straight-forward win over her at the Australian Open. Playing on the grass should give Konta more of an edge in this match and I would expect this match to be decided on her racquet.

Zheng was an easy winner in the First Round here in Nottingham, but she had been 2-9 in her previous eleven matches on the grass. The wins both came against Emily Webley-Smith and eight of those losses would have seen her beaten on this handicap. With Konta's game suited so strongly to the grass courts, I think she can beat Zheng 63, 63 and move into the Quarter Final in Nottingham for the second year in a row.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 Games @ 2.38 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-4, + 4.32 Units (20 Units Staked, + 21.60% Yield)

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