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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 31st)

The Canadian Masters/Premier Event come to an end on Sunday with the Final in Montreal and Toronto played this evening.

Both look like decent Finals on paper and I think it will be a good end to the tournaments this week.

No matter how it goes today, it will be a winning week, but I would love to get a couple more winners to put on the board and make it a strong end which will put in a serious dent on the season totals.

The picks have been in good shape throughout July, but I do want to put another solid week into the books by taking another chunk out of the season totals before we head to the next set of tournaments and the Olympic Games which are played next week.

Simona Halep - 2.5 games v Madison Keys: This looks to be a Final in Montreal contested by the two players who have been in the best form so far this week and that should make it a cracker. As well as Madison Keys has played and as eye-catching as her game is, I think Simona Halep can get the better of her over the course of the match and wear down the American.

There is plenty of power and big shot making that can sway the thinking which comes out of the Keys racquet- when you watch the American in full flow, it is hard to ignore the potential she has to reach the top of the women's game. However there are still some serious inconsistencies there and a player of Halep's standing can expose those if Keys is not quite at the races.

The serve is a big weapon for Keys and that will give her a few cheap points, but Halep should be able to stay with her in the rallies and we saw at Wimbledon that she can turn things around against his opponent. That came on a surface that should have favoured Keys and she actually went into the match as the favourite, but Halep has had considerably more success on the hard courts over the last few seasons.

It will be a tough match with Keys being able to hit through Halep at times, but I think the latter will eventually be able to force enough mistakes out of her opponent. Even if she drops a set, I think Halep will win the match and likely do it while covering this number in a 57, 64, 63 win.

Kei Nishikori + 4.5 games v Novak Djokovic: The World Number 1 described his Semi Final win over Gael Monfils as his best performance of the week in Toronto and Novak Djokovic might be rounding into form and building momentum going into the Olympic Games. A Gold Medal in the Singles would help Djokovic continue building a CV which could be the 'greatest of all time' by the time he finishes his career and this is his best remaining chance of winning that Gold Medal.

The World Ranking is clearly also important for Djokovic who was looking to bounce back from an upset loss at Wimbledon and adding 1000 points here will help in that regard especially as Andy Murray has skipped Toronto. While Djokovic is a clear favourite in this Final, I do think he will be tested by Kei Nishikori who has made the last two matches very competitive against this opponent.

Nishikori's game does not match up that well against Djokovic's as his serve doesn't offer too many cheap points and the latter is the better player when the rallies develop more often than not. That is shown up in the big moments in a match and it is hard to ignore how easily Djokovic has dismissed the Nishikori challenge when they do meet on the hard courts.

It will need a big serving display from Nishikori, bigger than usual, to give himself a chance, but I also think he might have more joy against the Djokovic serve. Despite the easy win on the scoreboard on Saturday, Gael Monfils created chances against the Djokovic serve and Nishikori will follow suit you would imagine while also having a little longer to get rested for the Final.

I am finding it tough to really believe in Nishikori simply because of the poor recent record against Djokovic on the hard courts. Djokovic has covered this number in five straight wins on the hard courts against Nishikori since his surprising Semi Final loss to him at the US Open, but this might be the most vulnerable Djokovic has looked in those matches. I am hoping Nishikori can take his chances against the Djokovic serve which should give him every chance of covering against Djokovic in this match.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori + 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 21-16, + 4 Units (74 Units Staked, + 5.41% Yield)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 30th)

The Rogers Cup/Coupe Rogers being played in Toronto and Montreal this week are up to the Semi Final matches and then the majority of the players will head off to the Olympic Games.

That tournament begins next Thursday, but we will have some Ranking events also being played next week as other players continue their build up to the US Open in the same way they would in non-Olympic years.

It has been a good week for the picks so far, but I said yesterday that it would depend on the final three days as to whether it is a really good week, or just one that is keeping the positive momentum going. This time last year I had a pretty horrific July, but this year has been filled with winning weeks which is important to turn around what has been a poor season up until now.

Picks from the Semi Final matches will be placed on this thread on Saturday afternoon as I won't be able to do as much research for all the picks until that time. Of course this thread is open for any picks I do have from the Semi Final matches to be played, although at this time the match ups have not been set so I am not sure that there will be any picks at all.

Simona Halep-Angelique Kerber over 21.5 games: The first Semi Final at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal will likely provide the favourite to win the tournament on Sunday. Both Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber have had to fight to get to this Round where they will repeat their Wimbledon Semi Final from earlier this month.

I have some doubts about what kind of fitness levels Kerber has going into the Semi Final even if she looked at her best on Friday in her Quarter Final win. Pulling out last week in Bastad with an elbow issue has perhaps come out this week in her poor serving performances for the most part and it is an area in which Halep will look to expose any vulnerabilities.

However I do think Kerber will also enjoy some success going after the Halep serve and matches between these players have been competitive and featured plenty of break points. Last year in Toronto it was Halep who came through a tight match and their Semi Final at Wimbledon was a close match for long periods too with Halep perhaps throwing away the tie-breaker.

I do believe this match will be a close one and it could easily need a deciding set to figure out who will be playing in the Final tomorrow. While this is plenty of games for the pair to combine and cover, going into a decider will likely mean going over the number as well as the fact their last match at Wimbledon would have been enough games in two sets.

Madison Keys - 5.5 games v Kristina Kucova: There won't have been a more surprising run to a Premier Event Semi Final than the one Kristina Kucova has produced this week. The wins she has put under her belt after coming through the Qualifiers includes beating both Washington and Stanford Champions from last week, but it has also seemingly come out of nowhere.

It was only last week that Kucova was losing to Sabine Lisicki fairly comfortably, but her variation and two handed shots from both wins have baffled players all week. It is the fight she has shown to come from behind in sets which has also been impressive and the win over Johanna Konta in the Quarter Final is as impressive as it looked.

Fatigue has to be a big factor for Kuchova having already played six matches in Montreal and fifteen sets in that time. She is also going to be dealing with tremendous power that comes from the Madison Keys racquet and I do wonder if the Slovakian's run is going to be overpowered by the American.

It is a lot of games being asked to cover because of how well Kucova has played and the fact that players have been bamboozled by her game. That could mean Keys takes a little time to get to grips with the Kucova skills on the court, but you have to think she can hit through some of slicing and dicing Kucova will do in this one and eventually wear down a player that to be feeling the pace of the week in a 64, 62 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Kei Nishikori: This looks a good Semi Final on paper between the Number 2 and Number 3 Seeds in Toronto, but I do favour Stan Wawrinka enough to want to back him to see off Kei Nishikori. Both players had solid Quarter Final wins, but I think Wawrinka looked in a stronger place physically and that can be very important in these big matches.

Physical tiredness can lead to mental tiredness and that will put pressure on Nishikori who has had some struggles on his serve to keep opponents at bay. There is no doubt that Wawrinka will have chances to break serve, but the concern will be that he hasn't really served brilliantly until his win over Kevin Anderson on Friday.

His serve will be attacked by Nishikori who will be looking to get plenty of balls back in play, but there were times when he looked out of sorts physically against Grigor Dimitrov on Friday. That has helped influence my decision to pick Stan Wawrinka to cover this number, while the Swiss player has won three out of four matches against Nishikori and covered this number in each of those wins.

I expect some stunning rallies to come out of this match, but the bigger points will likely be won by Stan Wawrinka which can see him come through 76, 64.

Gael Monfils + 4.5 games v Novak Djokovic: After missing some time on the Tour, including home Grand Slam the French Open, and losing in the First Round at Wimbledon, Gael Monfils has been making hay on the North American hard courts. Winning the title in Washington was a surprise, but his run to the Semi Final in Toronto has been a spectacular way of backing that up.

Monfils beat Milos Raonic in two tough sets on Friday and the biggest concern is whether all this tennis will eventually take its toll on the body. Playing the World Number 1 in the Semi Final having lost eleven straight times to him makes that challenge all the more difficult.

Novak Djokovic hasn't looked at his very best this week, but he is yet to drop a set and did beat Tomas Berdych in the Quarter Final which is still a tough assignment. However I am not sure the serve is working at its best and Monfils is capable of taking advantage of any issues Djokovic is having there, but the eye test does say the World Number 1 is not completely confident in that shot at the moment.

This is a decent number of games for Monfils to be given and he has covered it in three of the last four matches with Djokovic. He can steal a set which makes it more appealing and I will back the Frenchman to keep this one more competitive than the layers tend to think.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep-Angelique Kerber Over 21.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Gael Monfils + 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 19-14, + 4.30 Units (66 Units Staked, + 6.52% Yield)

Friday, 29 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 29th)

We have reached the Quarter Finals in Toronto and Montreal as the Rogers Cup/Coupe Rogers has gotten to the business end of the event.

It hasn't felt like a Masters tournament without the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray involved in the ATP Masters event in Toronto, but I guess we have to get used to that. With Federer already out for the season and Nadal suffering with his wrist issues, Murray might be battling Novak Djokovic the rest of the way in the big events remaining in 2016.

The battle for the Number 1 Ranking is firmly up in the air too, especially if Djokovic is not at his best physically as the rumour mill keeps suggesting and the next few months could be huge for Andy Murray to tick off another achievement in what has been a wonderful career.

The WTA Premier Event in Montreal has seen most of the big names in action, although the absence of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka for differing reasons has taken away some of the names most familiar to casual fans.

It has been a decent week there too, but again it feels like something has been missing with the Olympic Games perhaps taking away some of the motivation in this event.

Thursday was a disappointing day for the picks, but it has still been a half decent week. The last three days will be key to end the tournament on a high and keep the momentum of this month behind the picks going into August where there will be plenty of big events taking place as well as the start of the US Open.

Picks from the Quarter Final matches to be played on Friday will be made once the markets are available.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Kevin Anderson: It has been a strong week for Kevin Anderson who has not been showing a lot of form since coming back to the Tour from an injury. That included early losses in Wimbledon and Washington, but Anderson should have been given plenty of confidence from his come from behind win over Bernard Tomic.

They key was the serving in the second set when facing eight break points early which could have seen the match get away from Anderson. However he saved those and then looked the stronger player against the Australian, but Anderson will need to improve again if he is to beat Stan Wawrinka.

Wawrinka hasn't always been at his best this week, but he is doing just enough to come through his matches, while he win over Jack Sock has to be respected considering how the American has been playing. The Swiss player has gotten used to having a target on his back as one of the top Seeds, and he did snap a four match losing run against Anderson by beating him when they last met at the US Open in 2015.

It is a close match because the Anderson serve can be a frustration for Wawrinka and I think that is why the South African had a strong recent record against him. There is always a chance Wawrinka will have a bad serving day which would cost him against someone who serves as well as Anderson on the hard courts, but I am not completely convinced the latter is at his best form.

A first set tie-breaker could be the key moment of the match- if Wawrinka can take that, I imagine he will have a similar response to what he did against Sock on Thursday and can beat Anderson 76, 64 for a place in the Semi Final.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: After yet another poor display in the First Round, Grigor Dimitrov somehow came through his match against Yuichi Sugita. That was a match he has been losing consistently through 2016, but the win might have sparked something as Dimitrov has not dropped a set since on his way through to the Quarter Final.

However the last two opponents have not been to the standard that Kei Nishikori will bring to the court and I am not convinced Dimitrov has turned a corner in his form.

In this match he will be pressured on his serve thanks to the Nishikori quality when it comes to the return game and that has seen Dimitrov throw away his own serve in recent weeks. Forcing Dimitrov to play a few more balls than he would like will see errors creep into the Bulgarian game and I do think Nishikori can create a few break point chances in this one.

The key for Nishikori will be to serve well and keep the pressure on Dimitrov through this match. You know there will be times when Dimitrov fashions break points too, but Nishikori has looked strong in Toronto and I think he will be the better player consistently when the rallies are developed. That should help Nishikori come through this match with a 64, 64 win and his place in the Semi Final on Saturday.

Novak Djokovic - 4.5 games v Tomas Berdych: I have been an interested spectator when it comes to Novak Djokovic this week after the suggestions he had some sort of physical issue in his defeat to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon. There were then some rumours that he had to end his practice session earlier in the week in Toronto before the scheduled time, but Djokovic has played well in his two wins so far.

This is the biggest test for him when he faces Tomas Berdych who has been serving well, but not exactly been on fire when it comes to his returning game. A match that Djokovic has dominated through his career, it will be interesting to see if there are any mental or physical scars that the World Number 1 is battling through.

So far he has looked in control and Djokovic doesn't mind this match up as he is able to get plenty of the big Berdych serves back in play and he will always feel he can do very well in the rallies against this opponent. It might be tougher if Djokovic is not quite feeling 100%, but Berdych also has to get over the mental hurdle of facing someone who has beaten him eleven times in a row and won the last twelve sets they have played.

Djokovic has looked good enough this week that I don't mind backing him in this Quarter Final against Berdych. While another big serving display from Berdych makes him dangerous through this match, I think Djokovic can negate that weapon and come through with a 75, 63 win.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 4.5 games v Madison Keys: After her success at Wimbledon, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has backed it up at her first tournament on the hard courts with her run to the Quarter Final this week. She had an impressive win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the Third Round which has opened the draw for her, but this is a big match for her against Madison Keys who hammered Venus Williams in the same Round.

Expect plenty of big serving and big shot making in this one as both players look to play first strike tennis and it is going to be an interesting match. I am surprised that Pavlyuchenkova is being given so many games, but I think the layers believe Keys has the securer serve of the two players as well as the superior movement around the court.

However I don't think either is a great defender so Pavlyuchenkova can dictate rallies if she does get the first big strike in which makes her a dangerous opponent in this Quarter Final. Keys can be a very strong player on the hard courts and can dismiss opponents with little effort behind her big game, but someone like Pavlyuchenkova is playing with enough confidence to win a set and keep this match competitive.

That is what makes me feel this is too many games being given to the Russian even if she can sometimes be loose behind her serve. She has been firing in the last couple of Rounds and I think her power can give Keys some issues to contend with in what looks a close match. Taking this many games looks like the right call and I will back Pavlyuchenkova to get within the number even in a losing effort.

Johanna Konta - 5.5 games v Kristina Kucova: After winning in Stanford, Johanna Konta could have been forgiven for not being at her best in Montreal. However the British Number 1 has looked dominant so far this week and a look through the draw should have Konta believing she can add an even bigger prize to her trophy cabinet than the one she won last week.

It has been a really dominant week from Konta as she has barely dropped games on her way through the draw. In what should have been a big Quarter Final against home favourite Eugenie Bouchard, Konta will believe she has been given a good draw against Kristina Kucova who has played more tennis this week than she is perhaps used to.

You have to respect anyone who has come through the Qualifiers as Kucova has, especially when they have backed that up with three wins in the main draw. However she has been forced to come from behind in every win in the main draw against Yanina Wickmayer, the Washington Champion last week, Carla Suarez Navarro and Bouchard.

That won't be as easy against a front runner like Konta who has gotten stronger in the second set in each of her three wins this week. She has been serving so well that Kucova will be under pressure throughout this match and Konta has been returning well enough to break serve 12/26 times she has had those opportunities.

The Kucova serve has been broken twelve times in three main draw matches this week and Konta has only faced six break points. That can be the difference maker as Konta creates all the chances and wears down her opponent physically and mentally for a 63, 63 win and a place in the next Round.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 16-12, + 3.56 Units (56 Units Staked, + 6.36% Yield)

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 28th)

A couple of Second Round matches had been completed by Tuesday, but there were plenty of matches to get through on Wednesday in both Montreal and Toronto which has set up the Third Round to be played on Thursday.

It feels like the Canadian Masters is playing second fiddle to the Olympic Games this season as there are a number of big names missing in both draws this week, while the run up to the US Open feels like it won't really begin until August. Usually that is when the Canadian Masters is played, but the Olympic Games have changed that schedule this season which has had an affect on the tournament in Canada.

For some players this is the first of a number of Ranking tournaments they will take in ahead of the US Open, but for many others it is the week before they travel to Rio de Janeiro to win a Gold Medal.

On Thursday it is the time for the Third Round matches to be played and I am hoping to get back to winning ways with the picks which went 3-3 on Wednesday. I will add the picks once the markets have been placed, most likely in the next twelve hours when I find some time to put my thoughts down on those matches which have the best angles on Thursday.

That is the way it goes with the North American picks over the next few weeks as matches are set one day and played the next before the US Open which also means waiting for the markets to be released.

Bernard Tomic - 1.5 games v Kevin Anderson: You never know what side of bed Bernard Tomic is going to get out of on any given day and that makes him a difficult player to back to win any match. However I tend to find Tomic is much harder to trust as a big favourite when he is as inconsistent as he is, but this is a number he should be able to control against Kevin Anderson.

It is Bernard Tomic who has won the majority of matches when facing Kevin Anderson and he has won four in a row agains the South African including in Queens last month.

The hard courts do suit both players, but Anderson has struggled for consistency coming off an injury and that has seen him suffer some disappointing losses. A win over Victor Troicki and Dominic Thiem's retirement does not prove Anderson is back to his best and the next few weeks will be tough for his World Ranking due to the huge amount of points he needs to defend.

Anderson's serve is still a big weapon and he is pretty effective from the back of the court too. However I think Tomic will thrive in trying to take Anderson into the long rallies with his variation and the Australian will have the edge if he is serving as well as he can. As much as I do say he is difficult to trust at times, this is a match up Tomic has enjoyed and he has pulled out of the Olympic Games in a bid to improve his World Ranking so motivation should be high enough to see him come through 46, 63, 75.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Rajeev Ram: One of the reasons that I struggle to see Kei Nishikori win a Grand Slam is the physical issues he has had throughout his career. This week he is returning to the court after pulling out of his Wimbledon Fourth Round match against Marin Cilic, but he played well enough in the Second Round win over Dennis Novikov.

Another problem for Nishikori is the vulnerable serve he possesses which puts additional pressure on him to make sure he is returning serve to the best of his ability. There are times when Nishikori can run through service games, but many times he is being forced to win the points in long rallies which can lead to mistakes and offering up break point chances for his opponents.

Nishikori was broken three times in his win over Novikov, but he is facing a limited returner in Rajeev Ram in the Third Round. The American is a threat having come through two Rounds as the underdog, but Ram doesn't have the strongest record on the hard courts and his serve can be attacked by someone as strong in the return department as Nishikori.

Over the last twelve months, Nishikori has been favoured by this price or lower five times on the hard courts and he has covered this number four times in those matches. His inability to hold serve consistently is a concern, but I think Nishikori will fashion enough break point chances to come through with a 64, 63 win.

Gael Monfils - 1.5 games v David Goffin: After avoiding backing Gael Monfils last week in Washington until he reached the Semi Final, I have backed him twice this week in Toronto and he has come through for me both times. Now I am looking for him to complete the hat-trick as I look for him to get past the dangerous David Goffin in this Third Round encounter.

The concern continues to be how much energy Monfils has left in the tank after winning the title in Washington and having a single day of rest before playing on back to back days to get into the Third Round. Now he is playing for a third straight day against someone who is capable of extending rallies and wearing down opponents.

David Goffin should be physically ready to compete having been the beneficiary of a retirement in the Second Round, but he might not be fully match sharp having not played since Wimbledon before that. The Belgian is very comfortable on the hard courts and he is a steady character who won't give too much away.

One issue Goffin is yet to resolve is getting more out of the serve, but that might be something that is a blight on him through his career. On that front, Monfils should get plenty more free points and that can ease the pressure in what is a close match on paper thanks to the physical concerns the Frenchman has to have.

It might need three sets to separate these players, but I like Monfils to come through with a 63, 36, 64 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Jack Sock: This looks a really good Third Round match between a two time Grand Slam winner and an in-form North American player who will favour the hard courts. Both Stan Wawrinka and Jack Sock will be feeling good going into this part of the season in the lead up to the US Open, while both will also be playing in the Olympic Games next week.

I have to like the way Sock has been going about his business since Wimbledon with the stand out result being the come from behind win over Marin Cilic in the Davis Cup. His later defeat to Borna Coric which cost the United States their place in the Davis Cup Semi Final might have had a negative impact on many, but Sock has played very well in Washington and here in Toronto.

His wins have been relatively easy and his one loss to Ivo Karlovic came in two tie-breakers despite Sock winning more points in the match. Sock has been serving well and following that up with a heavy forehand, although he is going to be given the toughest test since the Davis Cup when coming up against Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss player has heavy groundstrokes of his own, but he will need to serve well to keep Sock from picking up momentum. I do think Wawrinka is the stronger player off the ground, especially when we get into backhand to backhand rallies, and I think this handicap is slightly lower than I expected. A strong serving display could see Wawrinka build up enough pressure to eventually see off Sock 76, 64 in this Third Round match.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Ryan Harrison: It has already been a strong week for Ryan Harrison having won four matches in Toronto to reach the Third Round and these Ranking points will be really important for him. The American is trying to get back inside the top 100 in the World Rankings so a decent run at Masters level can be a huge help, although his win over John Isner could have been reversed if his opponent had taken the break points that came his way.

Now Harrison will be facing an opponent in Tomas Berdych that can match the Isner firepower, but is also a much more effective returner and more consistent when it comes to maintaining rallies. Berdych was an impressive Second Round winner over Borna Coric having dropped the first set and he will be confident in winning this match up.

As well as Harrison has played this week, he will give chances up to break his serve as he perhaps pushes a little too much off the ground. Where Isner failed to take advantage I think Berdych will have more success and the latter is capable of producing at least a couple of breaks of serve in this one.

The hard courts clearly suit the Berdych game and he is a player that has been successful covering this number on this surface when favoured by this price or lower. Berdych is capable of throwing in a stinker from time to time, but that is usually in his first match in a tournament rather than after putting at least one win on the board and I think he will break down Harrison in a 75, 63 win.

Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 games v Roberta Vinci: When these two players met in Doha earlier this season, Daria Kasatkina was left rueing the break point chances she missed as she fell to Roberta Vinci in a third set tie-breaker. It was a close match that was decided by just four points, but Kasatkina had been 5/15 on break points converted compared with Vinci's 4/6 conversion.

It was a failure to take her break point chances that forced Kasatkina to go the distance to beat Misaki Doi in the First Round here in Toronto, but her win over Samantha Stosur was impressive. Roberta Vinci was no less impressive in her come from behind win over Camila Giorgi and this looks to be a really good Third Round match in the making.

I am giving the edge to Kasatkina who I think is an improving presence on the WTA Tour and who should have the majority of break points again in this one. She is still a little inconsistent within matches though which is shown as one of the leading players on the WTA Tour who has had to play three setters and I am not too worried about her poor conversion rate in two WTA matches I have spoken about when looking at her overall success on that front during the course of 2016.

You have to give Vinci plenty of respect as a tough veteran who will believe in this time of the year having reached the US Open Final in 2015. However I also think that run makes the Italian a little over-rated on the surface and she hasn't had a lot of success on the hard courts in 2016 and I will back Kasatkina to find her way to a 63, 46, 64 win.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: 2016 has been a difficult season for Petra Kvitova and could be one where she has her fewest wins on the Tour since 2010. Inconsistency has been a feature of Kvitova's career even as a two time Wimbledon Champion, and a poor grass court season would not have helped her confidence.

However Kvitova has won back to back matches this week in Montreal which is only the fifth time in fourteen tournaments she has managed that in 2016. Only twice before has Kvitova gone on to win a third consecutive match though and she is going to be tested to the fullest by Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The former US Open Champion was a dominant winner in her Second Round match and Kuznetsova also reached the Final at the Miami Masters earlier this year. Kuznetsova has had a very strong season in terms of wins and has won a title this year in Sydney, while she is in line for her most wins in a single season since 2009.

While she has played very well in recent weeks, Kuznetsova is perhaps overmatched when it comes to the power being produced in this match. Considering that is where the Russian has thrived in her career, it can be tough for her to stay with Kvitova when the latter is in form and her two wins this week suggests she is ready for a deep run in Montreal.

Kvitova has gotten the better of Kuznetsova more often than not when they have faced each other, although this might be the most confident the latter has been going into the match. I just feel Kvitova can earn the cheaper points behind the serve which can make all the difference in a close match and I believe she has been serving well enough in Montreal to keep the pressure on Kuznetsova and eventually break her down in a 63, 46, 64 win.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Elina Svitolina: Reaching two Grand Slam Finals has made 2016 a special year for Angelique Kerber and she is certainly getting comfortable as a Grand Slam winner. An elbow injury did force her to exit the Bastad tournament earlier than she would have liked last week, but Kerber looked better in her win in the Second Round here in Montreal.

It is a concern that she is carrying an injury considering the importance of the Olympic Games for many of the players that will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro. That might be playing on the mind a little for Kerber, but the World Number 1 Ranking is also within reach which makes these Premier Events very important, especially with Serena Williams deciding to skip the Montreal tournament.

Kerber does have a difficult Third Round match against Elina Svitolina on Thursday, but the latter is still trying to find her consistency on the Tour. There are times when Svitolina looks very strong, but she can struggle to protect the serve and that is going to be an issue against a returner and strong mover like Kerber.

There has been a title win for Svitolina on the hard courts and also reached the Semi Final of another event, but she is still only 14-6 on the surface in 2016 thanks to a number of early losses too. Svitolina has failed to get within this number in all 6 defeats on the hard courts this season and going back to last season shows she was 4-14 when getting within this number in a hard court loss.

It is Kerber who has won four of six against Svitolina too and covered this number in each of those wins and I am backing the German to keep her run going this week.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: I have to say I have been impressed with the way Johanna Konta has put aside the emotions of winning her first WTA event in Stanford last week. She has won both her matches in Montreal impressively after a difficult first set and Konta is a strong favourite to beat Varvara Lepchenko who is in the draw as a Lucky Loser.

There have been question marks surrounding Lepchenko all season having missed a portion of it with suggestions she served a ban for failing a drugs test. While she hasn't responded to those allegations, Lepchenko has struggled for consistency back on the Tour and has already been beaten in the Qualifiers before being handed a reprieve thanks to Serena Williams' late decision to miss this event.

Lepchenko certainly has a dangerous game with her lefty serve a weapon on the hard courts and Konta will have to be aware of that. However there is no doubting the confidence with which Konta is playing and she has a pretty solid game of her own which can expose the lack of consistency her opponent has.

Like the first two matches this week, I think Konta will have to battle through a first set before pulling away in the second. There has been plenty of tennis played by Konta over the last two weeks which might eventually catch up with her, but mentally she is strong and looks like someone who is confident she can back up that success in Stanford and I will back her to come through with a 75, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Bernard Tomic - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 12-7, + 6.94 Units (38 Units Staked, + 18.26% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 27th)

The Rogers Cup (or Coupe Rogers if you're from Quebec) is clearly one of the big Masters/Premier Events on the Tour, but the action on Tuesday was overshadowed by a simple statement by a player many consider to be the greatest of all time.

That might not be an opinion that I share myself, but I have huge amounts of admiration and respect for Roger Federer. Out of all the players on the Tour, no one comes to close to inspiring tennis Roger Federer can produce when he is on top form and I can easily say the top five performances I have ever seen live will have at least three Federer performances in there.

He is a majestic player to watch on any surface so I've always wanted him to end his career on his own terms, but this year has been a difficult one for him with back and knee issues affecting him. It still came as a surprise that Federer has made the decision to withdraw through the remainder of 2016 to make sure he can get his health up to full fitness in time for 2017.

It will raise questions as to whether retirement is an option for Federer, but my personal opinion is that he will be back on the Tour. 2017 could be a very difficult season for him though with the expected drop in the World Rankings meaning plenty of tough draws in a portion of the season that is perhaps not to Federer's complete liking in Australia through to the clay courts in Roland Garros.

While he won't have a lot of points to defend so can make significant improvements through that time, it can be a long road back up the World Rankings especially for a player that is going to be turning 36 years old in 2017.

I would love to see Federer back and looking to win one more Grand Slam, but that looks like a door that might be closed to him now and you have to question what the motivation will be. The statement makes it clear that Federer will be back, but he is now going to have five months enjoying seeing his family on a daily basis while being able to do whatever he likes and that life can be a lot more appealing than the grind of the ATP Tour at his age.

That may especially be the case for Federer when he takes a look at the World Rankings at the end of 2016 and suddenly realises he could potentially have to play the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic as early as the Fourth Round of Grand Slam events.

Even so, I can't imagine Federer will want to end his career with an injury so I wouldn't be surprised if he battles through at least another year and then calls it a day. The Olympic Games were a huge goal for Federer and missing that is going to hurt massively and I don't think he will want to be a player hanging around at Grand Slam tournaments to be beaten in Fourth Round or Quarter Final matches.

So while I do think he will be back in 2017, I would recommend everyone to try and take their chance to see Federer during the course of the year that could easily be his last as a professional.

The tournaments in Toronto and Montreal will begin heating up as we reach the middle of the week and seeing the likes of Novak Djokovic out there. The Second Round matches will be completed on Wednesday after a couple of them started on Tuesday and the first Masters of the North American summer swing will roll on.

With the full Second Round to be played in Toronto and Montreal, it is no surprise that there is plenty of tennis to get through on Wednesday.

John Isner - 3.5 games v Ryan Harrison: John Isner had to battle back from a set down to beat Dudi Sela in the First Round, but he has had a day off rest between that match and this Second Round match. The big American should be very comfortable at this time of the season on the North American hard courts but it hasn't been the best year for Isner on the hard courts in 2016.

Since 2009, Isner has had at least 25 wins on the hard court in each season, but he is just 9-5 so far this season and will be looking for some big runs over the next month to put a lot of wins down. He played well in Washington before blowing his match with Steve Johnson, and Isner will be confident he can down Ryan Harrison and move through to the Third Round here in Toronto.

Harrison is still outside the top 100 in the World Rankings but he has won three matches in Toronto, while his serve and heavy groundstrokes do make him a threat. The only issue Harrison has yet to resolve is his consistency inside matches and not throwing away a poor service game or two throughout the time he spends on court.

That cost Harrison last week against Steve Johnson as two poor service games led to a 64, 64 loss. He will be under immense pressure from the Isner serve if that is working as effectively as it can on the hard courts and I think that might lead to a couple of mental mistakes which can see Isner come through and cover this number of games.

David Goffin - 2.5 games v Sam Querrey: This is very much looking like being a career best year for David Goffin who might feel there is room for a place in the World Tour Finals up for grabs with a strong end to the season. I would very much expect a top 10 finish in the World Rankings, but my one concern for Goffin is how he will respond to losing his match at Wimbledon from two sets up against eventual Finalist Milos Raonic.

He has gotten over tough losses in the past, but having almost a month off from the Tour can be difficult, especially when facing a player like Sam Querrey who won't give you a lot of rhythm during a match. Querrey has also been in action in Washington last week where he reached the Quarter Final and he came through a difficult First Round match against Frank Dancevic already in Toronto.

This is very much a match up between a big server and someone who will feel he can win the rallies once they get past a four shots. The American will look to punish Goffin with his serve, but I do think the latter is going to be able to get enough balls back in play to at least force Querrey to hit big groundstrokes to win the point.

A key for Goffin is to make sure he gets enough balls back towards the Querrey backhand and deep enough to prevent him from running around for a forehand shot. The Goffin serve can be a liability at times when he is not feeling it off his racquet, but he did beat Querrey last year in Montreal in a decent run there and I will be looking for him to come through a tough first set and then earn a break more to take the second in a 76, 64 win.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Jared Donaldson: A new haircut might produce a new attitude for Fabio Fognini, but that could be pushing things a little too far. After winning the title in Umag, Fognini came over to Toronto and beat an in-form Steve Johnson in straight sets and this could be a turning point in a difficult season for him.

It was an impressive win for Fognini over Johnson as the underdog, but he will now be favoured to beat Jared Donaldson who has come through the Qualifiers. Donaldson has won all of his matches fairly comfortably this week, but this is the biggest test he will have faced when he meets the Italian in the Second Round.

Donaldson is still young and learning his game on the main Tour, while his losses on the hard courts won't exactly inspire people who will be backing him for the upset. Someone like Fognini will believe he will get the better of the majority of the rallies and there is some momentum behind him having won the tournament last week in Umag.

The Fognini serve is always a concern as is his temperament, but I think this is a good chance for him to pick up some more Ranking points and he looked plenty motivated on Tuesday. You don't always know what you're going to get out of Fognini on a day by day basis, but I think he will be stronger than Donaldson at the key moments and can win this one 64, 64 and move onto the Third Round.

Jack Sock - 3.5 games v Donald Young: Stan Wawrinka will be awaiting the winner of this Second Round match in the next Round and I think Jack Sock can get the better of his compatriot Donald Young on current form.

Both men had impressive wins in the First Round, but I like the way Sock played in the Davis Cup for the United States as well as the run in Washington last week. Sock was unfortunate in losing to Ivo Karlovic in straight sets last week having won more points in that match, and he has bounced back from his Davis Cup loss in the final Rubber.

Sock has been serving well and that will put some pressure on Donald Young who still shows too much inconsistency on the Tour. There is no doubt the potential will not be fulfilled, but Young can be dangerous when bringing his very best to the court, while the lefty serve will always give him half a chance for an upset.

The difference between the players is I feel Sock is capable of a little more behind the serve and is forehand is the biggest weapon on the court. He will need to protect the backhand against the Young forehand, but I think Sock will be able to go on the offensive enough in this one to break down his compatriot in a 75, 63 win.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: There was some tiredness in the Gael Monfils performance on Tuesday which has to be a concern when picking him to beat Vasek Pospisil in this Second Round match. However it has to be said that the Canadian has been going through a really difficult year and the mental belief is going to be on Monfils' side in this one which can see him battle through.

I would be hoping for a better serving display from Monfils than the one he had against Joao Sousa, but he has shown he is capable of extracting enough errors from opponents over the last ten days. In that time he has won the title in Washington and there hasn't been a lot of rest for the Frenchman and that is a nagging doubt in the back of my mind when it comes to this pick.

The reason I am sticking with Monfils is that Pospisil has won just 6 main Tour matches this season as he has dropped outside the top 100 in the World Rankings. Last season was a huge year for Pospisil who reached the Wimbledon Quarter Final, but he makes far too many mistakes off the ground when his decent first serve is sent back into play.

That is where Monfils should have success as he should get plenty of balls back in play and look for those mistakes to come out. It has also been a year where Pospisil has fallen away in matches when things have gone wrong and mentally he has plenty of obstacles to overcome to win a match like this and I am looking for Monfils to find a 76, 63 win.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 games v Monica Niculescu: If you like your tennis played with a lot of variation and slice rather than pure power, this is the kind of match that should be right up your street. Both Agnieszka Radwanska and Monica Niculescu will try and work the other around the court behind slices and drop shots and look to keep their opponent off balance.

The problem for Niculescu is that she is not quite as good as Radwanska at doing that and I am not surprised that the latter has eventually won three of the four matches with room to spare. That includes coming through two matches in 2016 where Radwanska has won a competitive first set before moving away from Niculescu in the next three sets they have competed in.

Those three sets has seen Radwanska give up just four games against Niculescu, although this match should be tougher considering it is her first appearance since Wimbledon. The hard courts are her favoured surface as she can use the pace she is given to push the ball around, but that won't be the case in this match as Radwanska will need to be a little more proactive.

However I think she will have the mental belief against an opponent she has dominated this year already. Niculescu might already have had a couple of matches on the hard courts to become accustomed of the change in courts, but I think Radwanska will wear her down in a 64, 62 win in this one.

Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Sara Errani: I think my biggest criticism of Karolina Pliskova is the lack of real tactics when things start going wrong for her. She has a big serve and a heavy forehand, while Pliskova can get to the net, but I think she struggles to change up things when struggling in a match and mentally she finds it tough to handle the big tournaments.

Her Grand Slam record testifies to that, while a player like Sara Errani can expose the mental frailties by making sure she gets plenty of balls back in play.

The Italian has not been in great form in 2016 though and her serve is a real weakness which can be exposed by her opponents. I also think Errani might have lost half a step around the court which means she can't just hope to wear down opponents over the long haul and it is a surprise that she has more wins on the hard courts than she has on the clay courts through 2016.

That hard court record has been boosted by her surprising win in Dubai, and Errani would be 5-8 on the hard courts this year without that title win. Of those eight losses, Errani has failed to get within this number seven times and I think Pliskova has enough power to blow her off the court over the course of this match. At the end of last season, Pliskova beat Errani very easily on a hard court and I think she can take this match 64, 64.

Madison Keys - 5.5 games v Madison Brengle: On first glance I thought this might be a lot of games for the inconsistent Madison Keys to overcome, but she has been far stronger than Madison Brengle in their head to heads and I think that will continue. Keys has won all three previous matches while covering this number of games although this is the first time they have played in 2016.

Keys has had some strong runs on the hard courts, but she is yet to really make a breakthrough despite being up to Number 12 in the World Rankings. There is so much potential in the Keys game, but the expectation is there that she can finally win a really big tournament to show she is ready to fulfil that potential.

She is going to have the power over Brengle, but the issue for Keys is going to be consistently hitting her marks to keep her compatriot under pressure.

Brengle has taken some overpowering losses on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but she has also shown she can get the better of opponents who might not be in top form. However I liked how Keys played in the First Round and I think she will have the majority of the break points through this match which should give her every chance to come through 75, 62 and move into the Third Round.

MY PICKS: John Isner - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Goffin - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-4, + 7.86 Units (26 Units Staked, + 30.23% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 26th)

The Canadian Masters in Toronto and the Premier Event in Montreal both got underway on Monday, but it looks like the rain which has been affecting European tournaments since the French Open has followed the Tour across the pond.

It was Montreal which suffered the most on Monday with long rain delays throughout the course of the day, but at least the rest of the week looks better from a weather point of view. Unfortunately for fans of the ATP Tour, the Toronto tournament could see rain affect both Friday and Saturday which would not be good news for the organisers with the Rio Olympics due to begin next week.

Hopefully that won't be an issue and we do get to see plenty of good tennis this week, even if the sight of using towels to clean courts at these big events is still baffling to me. There has to be a better way of getting the courts cleaned quicker than a ballboy with a towel can do, but I also do think that these organisers and the USTA would have checked for other options (the Grand Slam in New York is almost laughable seeing people with towels trying to clean down courts).

On Tuesday some of the top Seeds will be in action as the tournaments move onto the Second Round while also completing the remaining First Round matches.

Gael Monfils - 4.5 games v Joao Sousa: Backing up title wins is tough for any player on the Tour but it might be even more difficult for Gael Monfils who returned in Washington to some kind of form after injury. The Frenchman played very well last week and deserved his title win over the course of the week, although Monfils had to pull out the win over Ivo Karlovic from a really tough position.

Now Monfils moves on to Canada and I do have to say I like his chances of winning the First Round match against Joao Sousa. The latter has not had a lot of positive results on the hard courts and he has been spending his time in Europe on the clay courts ahead of this match which can't be the best preparation to take on an in-form opponent.

This is simply not Sousa's favourite time of the year and it might be even more difficult than normal considering his recent form. Defeats in Bastad and Umag came in disappointing fashion and that is going to have dented confidence before he heads onto the hard courts on which Sousa has struggled.

The matches under Monfils' belt last week have to be a concern in terms of tiredness, particularly when you consider the energy he put into the Final on Sunday. However, I am going to back the Frenchman to continue his strong form from Washington and have enough for a 63, 64 win.

Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 games v Taylor Fritz: Like Gael Monfils, Ivo Karlovic was involved in a long, draining Final on Sunday and one of the oldest players on the Tour is beginning a third full week on the Tour. After winning the title in Newport and reaching the Final in Washington, Karlovic has played a lot of tennis of late and I do wonder if that will take its toll on him.

The Karlovic game isn't one that is too taxing on him, but he has to be mentally drained from the long matches he has played and the way he lost the Final to Monfils. However I think his serve remains a big weapon and Karlovic will be looking to use that to keep the pressure on youngster Taylor Fritz.

The American has a pretty big serve himself, but Fritz might just have hit a wall on what is a long Tour for a young player to become accustomed to. The hard courts might be his favourite time of the season, but a lot of losses in recent weeks means he might not be playing the big points as effectively as he would like and that is an issue against an opponent who won't offer up a lot of chances.

Another strong serving display from Karlovic will put a lot of pressure on Fritz not to make any mistakes on his own serve and that can be tough to deal with. If the veteran is over the disappointment of losing in the Final on Sunday, I think Karlovic might have enough still in the tank to come through and win this match 76, 64.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Borna Coric: A First Round come from behind win over Ivan Dodig has set Borna Coric up with a big Second Round match against Tomas Berdych. He has been beaten twice by Berdych over the last thirteen months, and Coric will have to be an improved player in this one compared to what he has produced in recent weeks if he is going to challenge the Wimbledon Semi Finalist.

I do think Berdych is on the slide in his own career too and has missed the boat when it comes to winning a Grand Slam title. Berdych still has a pretty big game, but the serve can be vulnerable as he doesn't back it up as well as he has in the past and that will encourage Coric.

However Berdych is also a decent enough returner to get joy out of the Coric serve which had been put under pressure by Dodig in the First Round. It has been an inconsistent season for the young Croatian and the hard courts can see him put under pressure when not serving as well as he can, while Coric has also had the tendency to be broken a couple of times in a set on this surface.

Take away the run to the Final in Chennai to open the season and Coric is just 5-6 on the hard courts while he would have gone 1-5 in those losses when it comes to covering this number of games. It has only been two occasions on the hard courts that Coric has been an underdog of at least 4.00 this season and both times he has been beaten by at least a five game margin and I am backing Berdych to cover this number too.

Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: There have been three previous matches between Mikhail Youzhny and Stan Wawrinka on the hard courts and it is Youzhny who has won all three matches. All of those have come on the North American hard courts, but the last of those was at the US Open in 2010 and it isn't an underestimation to say that both players have moved in different directions since then.

For starters Wawrinka is now a two time Grand Slam Champion and he will be the favourite to win this match- the other three meetings on the hard courts all saw Youzhny go in as the favourite.

The veteran Russian has also slipped down the World Rankings and he hasn't had too much hard court tennis under his belt at this level through 2016. The last few weeks have seen Youzhny rather take in the clay courts in Europe before heading to Toronto, although he did come through his First Round match fairly comfortably.

It can be hard to trust Wawrinka when it comes to these big numbers as he can go off the boil very quickly, but the Swiss player has been strong on the hard courts. He has two titles on the hard courts already and I think he will have the majority of break point chances. As long as Wawrinka can take care in the big points, I think he will be strong enough to come through with a 63, 64 win against an opponent who has slipped and will give up chances on the serve.

Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 games v Misaki Doi: There might only be two places between these players in the World Rankings, but for me there are chasms in terms of the potential Daria Kasatkina has compared with Misaki Doi. The latter is a solid enough player on the Tour, but not someone who will be expected win a Grand Slam title, while Kasatkina has plenty of people believing she could be one of the leading lights once Serena Williams calls it a day.

This is the first time Doi and Kasatkina will be meeting on the Tour and I can see a match that has a number of extended rallies. Neither player can really look for their serve to help them to many cheap points and both players should have their chances to break throughout the match.

Both players have had some good results on the hard courts in 2016, but it is Doi who has won a title and then reached the Final of another tournament. However she has not had a lot of success in other tournaments and I think Kasatkina is the better player in the contest and will show that even if Doi has had a hard court tournament under her belt since Wimbledon.

12 of Doi's 17 defeats on the hard courts over the last twelve months have come in straight sets and my belief that Kasatkina will win this one means I will back her to cover this number.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 1.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: 2016 has not been a strong year for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and she looks on course for her fewest wins on the main Tour since 2012. However he run to the Quarter Final at Wimbledon must have given her confidence and she will need that to maintain her World Ranking with a lot of points to defend over the next few months.

After Wimbledon last year, Pavlyuchenkova reached two Quarter Finals, one Semi Final, two Finals and won a title which is keeping her Number 19 World Ranking in place. The pressure is on for her to match those kind of results or face a significant drop in her World Ranking despite that performance at Wimbledon and Pavlyuchenkova comes into this match trying to snap a four match losing run on the hard courts.

Yulia Putintseva is an improving player on the Tour and this is already a career best year as she looks to keep the World Ranking moving upwards. A run to the Semi Final in Washington last week would give her confidence and Putintseva will believe she can get Pavlyuchenkova moving on the court with her defensive skills which can extract mistakes from the Russian's game.

However the faster surfaces should suit Pavlyuchenkova to puncture the Putintseva defences and that is where I believe she will have an edge. A further edge comes from the serve which is a strength for Pavlyuchenkova and I think she can battle past a player that has played a lot of tennis in the last week with a 64, 46, 64 win.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Shelby Rogers: Johanna Konta won her first WTA title last week at the Premier Event in Stanford and that has seen her rise to Number 14 in the World Rankings. It has been a remarkable year for Konta and she looks very comfortable playing at the biggest tournaments, while another strong run in Montreal will see her come close to cracking the top 10.

It can be difficult backing up big weeks like the one Konta has just had and she is facing an awkward opponent in Shelby Rogers. The American had a great run at the French Open, but it was a surprising one on the clay courts, while Rogers' hard court form has not been the most inspiring.

Since reaching the Third Round in Montreal two years ago, Rogers is 9-16 on the hard courts in main level Tour events, including Qualifiers in those events. However that number has been improved by five wins at the US Open in 2015 and Rogers has struggled with her movement on the faster surface which takes away the time players have in striking the ball.

If Konta is serving well that will only up the pressure on Rogers even more in this one, although I am not always keen on backing title winners in their first match the following week. There hasn't been a lot of time for Konta to digest her win in Stanford, but I think she has the mental strength to look for another big run and I will back her to beat Rogers by at least a five game margin.

Simona Halep - 4.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: There will be a little bit of revenge at play after Daria Gavrilova surprised Simona Halep in a three set win in Rome earlier this year. This is the first match back on the hard courts for Halep after taking in her home tournament in Bucharest since her Semi Final defeat at Wimbledon and it has been an inconsistent season for her to this point.

After a poor start in 2016, Halep did reach a couple of Quarter Finals on the hard courts in Indian Wells and Miami. Halep also has a lot of points to defend in the coming weeks having reached the Final in Canada and Cincinnati last year while also reaching the Semi Final at the US Open.

A run to the Fourth Round in her new home tournament at the Australian Open is the highlight of Gavrilova's year, but she hasn't had a lot of success on the hard courts since then. The disappointment for Gavrilova has to be the fact she has lost her last three hard court matches as the favourite and I do wonder if the Australian is perhaps still being a little over-rated on this surface thanks to that performance in Melbourne.

Gavrilova also went 3-6 on the hard courts following Wimbledon last year and through to the US Open. While she has the groundstrokes to hurt Halep, I think the latter will be more consistent and that can help her through to a 64, 63 win in this Second Round match.

MY PICKS: Gael Monfils - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-2, + 1.42 Units (10 Units Staked, + 14.20% Yield)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Canadian Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (July 25th)

With the Olympic Games putting an additional tournament into the Tennis calendar and many of the top players keen to win the Gold Medal, the Canadian Masters have been moved forward from its usual position on the Tour.

This year it is being played at the end of July rather than in August and a number of the top players have decided they won't take part. That list includes Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, but it should still be a big week of tennis with the two events in Montreal and Toronto taking centre stage.

On Monday we begin the First Round matches in what is a draw that takes place over seven days.

It is still a big field that has made it into the draw and there are some big Ranking points to be earned which is more important than a Gold Medal for many players on the Tour. Next week we do have some Ranking tournaments taking place alongside the Olympic Games and so the field will again be spread out over a number of venues even if the biggest names will be taking part in Rio de Janeiro.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Yuichi Sugita: It is very difficult to trust Grigor Dimitrov to perform as you would expect when you see the form he has produced over the last two years. His straight sets loss to Daniel Evans last week in Washington was yet another shot to the confidence which has already been severely dented over the last few months.

Despite the disappointing manner of that loss, Dimitrov has played his best tennis on the hard courts and this is a First Round match I fully expect him to win.

Yuichi Sugita is still outside the top 100 in the World Rankings and he is a player that spends almost his entire year off the main Tour. He has only reached a couple of Quarter Finals on the hard courts at the Challenger level and his defeats tend to be a little one sided as he is not blessed with the biggest serve and is forced to work hard for every point he earns in a match.

That can be difficult on the faster surfaces where it can be tough to recover breaks of serve that the Sugita game has to expect to face. I do think Sugita might find himself having some chances to break too with the way Dimitrov's confidence has been reduced, but I have to think the latter is still good enough to win a match like this with room to spare.

I believe Dimitrov can come through a couple of awkward moments to win this match 63, 64 and move into the Second Round in Toronto.

John Isner - 4.5 games v Dudi Sela: The manner in which John Isner was beaten last week in Washington will bother the American who was looking to win the title there as the Number 1 Seed. He will be looking to bounce back in Toronto with a strong run on another North American hard court as he faces Dudi Sela in the First Round.

On first glance this looks a big number for Isner to cover considering his limited return game, especially if Sela is mentally focused when the scoreboard pressure is on him. The one issue for Sela is that his serve can be a weakness and Isner is going to be aggressive and look to swing out on the return of serve, especially on any second serves he sees.

The Isner serve is always going to be a big weapon on the faster surfaces and he has changed his tact by throwing in a serve and volley to disrupt opponents returns. It is a good idea as Isner's volleying isn't too bad and I can see him use a chip and charge on the return to put more pressure on Sela to find the passing shots consistently.

Sela has not been able to take his form on the hard courts at Challenger level onto the main Tour and I am backing Isner to cover this number in a 63, 64 win in the First Round.

Jack Sock - 4.5 games v Denis Kudla: This might be the seventh meeting between two Americans Jack Sock and Denis Kudla, but the former is certainly looking like a player that is moving in a positive direction in the World Rankings. Jack Sock was an unfortunate Quarter Final loser in Washington last week, but he looked much better than Denis Kudla who was beaten by John Millman 75, 60.

Last year Sock and Kudla did split two matches, but I think the confidence levels are much different going into this match. Kudla has failed to win any of his last five matches and he is just 5-9 on the hard courts over 2016 in both main Tour and Challenger events.

Kudla does have a half decent game behind him, but it is one that can quickly fall apart if he is not feeling the ball as well as he can. His serve will give Sock something to work out, but you have to believe the latter is going to be the better player in the rallies and has the forehand to really hurt Kudla.

It has to be a strong serving day from Sock to keep the pressure on Kudla, but he was serving very well in Washington last week and I expect that to continue. The hard courts should be the perfect surface for Sock who can beat his compatriot 64, 63 to move through to the Second Round.

Samantha Stosur - 2.5 games v Heather Watson: This will be the first appearance on the Tour for Heather Watson since she won the Mixed Doubles title at Wimbledon, but it is on the Singles Tour she really wishes to make her mark. Going 1-4 on the grass courts was a really big disappointment for Watson who is significantly behind Johanna Konta in the World Rankings representing Great Britain.

Her World Ranking has dropped to Number 67, but Watson may feel the return to the hard courts will suit her as her best results have come on this surface. She actually has won a title on the hard courts this season and reached the Fourth Round in Miami and the next few weeks could see a significant improvement in her Ranking as Watson has very few points to defend through to the US Open.

Watson may have been hoping for a better draw than facing Samantha Stosur in the First Round in Montreal, a player who reached the Quarter Final in Washington last week before a disappointing loss. However it has to be noted that Stosur has not had the best season on the hard courts and was beaten in her first match in Canada and Cincinnati last year.

She is a former US Open winner though and Stosur's game should be very strong on the hard courts even if her backhand has been a particular weakness. If she can serve well, the Australian will believe she can create chances against the Watson serve which is erratic to say the least. After a tough three sets, I think Stosur can fight back and win this one 46, 63, 64 and move into the next Round.

Monica Puig - 4.5 games v Naomi Broady: There are three British players in the Montreal draw this week after Naomi Broady came through two tough Qualifiers to enter the main draw. Her World Ranking is inside the top 100 now which means she is likely to have an automatic place in the US Open draw next month, but Broady has struggled for consistent results over the last few months.

Braody made a really positive start to the year having reached the Quarter Final in Auckland and later reaching the Semi Final in Kuala Lumper. However she is just 7-12 in matches sine that Semi Final which included Broady going 0-4 on the grass courts last month. Her wins in the Qualifiers will have boosted confidence and Broady can put together some really strong serving which makes her dangerous, but she faces a very tough First Round encounter here against Monica Puig.

There is no doubting that Puig would have been disappointed in her Second Round loss in Washington last week and it has to be said that her game will produce some erratic performances. Puig will look to be very aggressive behind a decent first serve, but that can also mean a lot of unforced errors if she is not quite feeling her 'A' game.

Puig hasn't always produced her best results on the hard courts, but I think her two wins over Broady this year will boost her belief in winning this match. It is a big number if Broady is playing her best, but I think Puig will prove too strong in a 63, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
John Isner - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Samantha Stosur - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Season 2016- 25.60 Units (1203 Units Staked, - 2.13% Yield)
Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

Season 2011+ 82.02 Units