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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)

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