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United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th)

United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th 2017) If you were going to grade the 2016/17 season...

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)

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