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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)

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