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Friday, 15 July 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (July 15th)

The Davis Cup Quarter Finals begin on Friday and the one that will be of most interest where I am is unsurprisingly the one between Serbia and Great Britain. When that Quarter Final was put together back in March, the feeling was that we might get to see the World Number 1 and 2 facing each other in one of the Rubbers, but both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are not in a position to compete.

With Victor Troicki also out for the home team, Great Britain go into the tie as the favourites to make it through to the Davis Cup Semi Final in an attempt to defend the title they won last season. They are only narrow favourites with all five Rubbers looking very competitive and it should be a fun tie over the next three days.

The other three ties also look competitive with some top matches to be played on Friday in the Singles and I am looking for a fun few days in that competition.

The latter stages of the tournaments that have been in action this week will also be played on Friday with Quarter Finals in many of those events. Organisers in Gstaad are hoping the improved weather forecast for the weekend does come true as that is the only event that is miles behind where they should be with some First Round matches yet to be competed.

You can't really blame the organisers as there really wasn't a lot they could do with the extremely poor weather that has hit the event, but there will be a hope that they can complete the event in the coming days. There would also be a hope that the weather doesn't take a turn for the worse and have the ATP event here next week in a similar predicament with that clay event to start on Monday in the main draw.

It has been a solid week for the picks and it was a decent Thursday too to back up what has been a good week to this point. With just three days to go for the week, I am looking to just kick on a little and give this season a shot in the arm at a time of the season when my 2015 series of picks began to circle the drain.

Pablo Cuevas - 4.5 games v Paul-Henri Mathieu: I still don't know how Paul-Henri Mathieu got out of his Second Round match against Nicolas Almagro facing the pressure he was. The Frenchman has to be happy with the one day of rest he would have had between that match and this Quarter Final, but Pablo Cuevas is very comfortable on the clay courts and has been playing well enough this week to punish Mathieu if his performance levels haven't risen since Wednesday.

It was a long, physical match for Mathieu against Almagro in which he saved eleven of the fourteen break points he earned. The stats show how much pressure the Spaniard had on the Mathieu serve throughout the match and he was just 5-6 on the clay in 2016 before this tournament began. However, Mathieu had three really strong runs in the weeks following Wimbledon last season and for that reason alone he should be respected.

Even with that in mind, it has to be remembered this is the most significant challenge Mathieu would have faced so far this week. Pablo Cuevas has won both matches he has played in Hamburg in straight sets and he has been a title winner on the clay already this season on a couple of different occasions.

Both wins for Cuevas have come behind strong serving displays and doing that here will once again put pressure on Mathieu. Doing that should lead to Cuevas coming through with a 63, 64 win in this one and a place in the Semi Final to be played on Saturday.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - 2.5 games v Stephane Robert: There won't be too many more chances for these veterans to add a title to their career haul, but both Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Stephane Robert will believe they can beat the other for a Semi Final place. Over the course of the season, Garcia-Lopez does usually produce more on a clay court than Robert, but that won't matter too much in this Quarter Final with so much on the line for both players.

Robert did reach the Final of a Challenger event last month but he hasn't taken that kind of form onto the main Tour draws on this surface.

On the other hand Garcia-Lopez has struggled to get over the line when it comes to Quarter Finals and Semi Finals he has played on the clay this season. That can become a mental issue, but the key for the Spaniard might be recalling how he beat Robert earlier this season.

That was a close match with a number of breaks of serve and plenty of other opportunities to do that. It won't take much for Robert to reverse that form, but I think he was pushed a little too much by Inigo Cervantes in the Second Round and Garcia-Lopez is a better clay court player than his compatriot. After a few breaks, and potentially a final set decider, I think Garcia-Lopez moves past the veteran Frenchman 63, 36, 63.

Fernando Verdasco - 4.5 games v Facundo Bagnis: It has been two very good wins for Fernando Verdasco which has taken him through to the Quarter Final in Bastad and he has to be feeling he can add to the title he won in Bucharest earlier this season. The Spaniard has given up just ten games in his two wins this week and Verdasco is in the bottom half of the draw which means avoiding top Seed David Ferrer until the Final.

Solid serving and aggressive returning has helped Verdasco keep the pressure on his opponents in the first two Rounds, although the challenge presented by Facundo Bagnis is likely stronger than any he has faced so far.

Bagnis might be known for giving Rafael Nadal a minor, minor scare when breaking him first when they met at the French Open, while his best results have come on the Challenger circuit on in Qualifiers. He will be very comfortable on the clay courts which makes him a threat and Bagnis did have an impressive win over Marcel Granollers in the Second Round.

If the Argentinian serves well, he could give Verdasco more problems than anyone else has so far this week. Bagnis will know that Verdasco does throw in a sloppy service game or two in any set, but I do think the latter is playing very aggressively in a draw that isn't exactly that deep when it comes to talent levels.

After a couple of scares, I expect Verdasco to eventually start wearing down Bagnis with his weight of shot and win this one 64, 63.

David Ferrer - 4.5 games v Dustin Brown: It is hard to imagine that David Ferrer has hit 34 years of age and I do think his style of tennis is beginning to wear him down. No longer can he simply look to out-rally opponents on the court and grind them down as Ferrer makes too many errors these days and his serve has not looked as vulnerable as it has this season.

The Number 1 Seed in Bastad had to come from a set down and then a break down in the deciding set to see off Calvin Hemery who came through the Qualifiers. Ferrer will know he has to be stronger when facing the dangerous Dustin Brown, even if the clay courts take something away from the German's game.

Even on this surface, Brown will look to get to the net and pressure opponents, but the extra time on the clay means opponents have more success with the pass than on a grass court. Brown did come through Qualifiers and reached the Second Round at the French Open which shows he can perform on the clay courts, but Ferrer should feel he can get the better of the majority of the rallies against someone who will look to hit winners from some ridiculous positions on the court.

If Brown is on his game, he could be very dangerous even against someone like Ferrer on this surface. However I feel the more likely scenario is that Ferrer will get enough returns back in play to earn a fair few break point chances and that should help the Spaniard work his way to a 75, 63 win.

Joao Sousa - 2.5 games v Gastao Elias: These two are Portuguese Davis Cup team-mates, but it is Joao Sousa who has managed to produce consistent enough results to play in plenty more main Tour matches than his compatriot Gastao Elias. Sousa has actually played consistently enough to get into a position to be Seeded at Grand Slam events, but he has lost the last three times he has played Elias although the last of those came back in 2012.

Both men had to win their Second Round matches on Thursday, but it was Sousa who spent a lot less physically and emotionally in his win. That came against a youngster who would have been supported by the home crowd, but Elias had to dig deep and ride his luck to see off Taro Daniel.

It was Daniel who created the break point opportunities, but eventually the Elias aggression proved to be a little too much for Daniel to deal with. He will look to be aggressive in this one too, but Sousa should be prepared to deal with that having faced many players like that at a higher level than Elias.

Mentally he does have to get over the fact he has lost three in a row to Elias, but Sousa is a a much improved player from 2012. Neither player possesses the best serve so expect plenty of rallies and break point chances for both players, but I will look for Sousa to snap his losing run to his fellow Portuguese player and come through 75, 46, 63.

Laura Siegemund - 3.5 games v Polona Hercog: You can see from the rise of Johanna Konta that a successful few months on the WTA Tour can quickly improve a World Ranking for any player. Laura Siegemund is another who has been improving over 2016 and another strong showing on the clay courts could see her get close to being Seeded by the time the US Open rolls around.

The last couple of years has seen Siegemund earn her best results on the clay courts and this season she has been a Quarter Finalist in Charleston and Finalist in Stuttgart on the surface. The latter of those tournaments saw Siegemund beat the likes of Simona Halep, Roberta Vinci and Agnieszka Radwanska without dropping a set and even her very early defeat at the French Open can be forgiven when noting she was drawn against Eugenie Bouchard.

Siegemund is playing Polona Hercog who has struggled for consistency on the clay courts in 2016 and would have had a losing record on the surface prior to her two wins in Bucharest. You have to give Hercog some respect having reached the Semi Final here last season before losing to the eventual winner, but her current form makes it tough to think she can reverse the loss to Siegemund in Stuttgart.

It was Siegemund who got the better of the break point opportunities on that occasion and I think she is more likely to have that success again. It won't always be straight-forward, but Siegemund has shown enough form to think she comes through 75, 64 in this one.

Sara Errani - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: I was a little fortunate to come out of my Sara Errani pick on Thursday unscathed after she was blown out in the first set against Francesca Schiavone. Unfortunately the latter had to retire after dropping the second set and that allowed last season's Bucharest Finalist to move through to the Quarter Final.

I can see Errani taking advantage of her good fortune in what has been a disappointing clay court season for her by her own high standards. A long losing run on the clay courts can't be simply tossed aside, but Errani has to feel she has lost to better players than Anastasija Sevastova in that time.

Sevastova has reached the Final of a tournament below the main Tour level on the clay, but she would have been 3-4 in main Tour events on this surface prior to the start of this tournament. While those two wins will have given her confidence, Sevastova is going to be playing someone who can frustrate some of the best players on the Tour especially when on the clay courts.

The concern with backing Errani will always be the poor serve which has been attacked much better by opponents this season than previously. The Italian will give up chances to break serve, but I think she can extract errors from the Sevastova game too and Errani can win this match 76, 63.

Gilles Muller - 1.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: Both of these players had to play their Second Round matches on Thursday and both Gilles Muller and Adrian Mannarino had to come through some difficult moments before recording straight sets victories.

Muller had a break advantage twice in the first set, missed a number of set points and then needed to battle through a tie-breaker to get his nose in front against Victor Estrella Burgos. Adrian Mannarino came back from 5-1 down in the first set against Sam Groth before winning that in a tie-breaker and then only losing one point on serve in the second set.

It should mean both players are confident going into this Quarter Final, but I had given Muller a significant edge in the contest before looking at the prices. It seems the layers are less convinced by Muller's advantages over Mannarino and that might be because the lefty serve is not as dominant against another southpaw.

However, I believe Muller will earn more cheap points in this one and I can't ignore the fact Mannarino dropped serve twice to Groth who is a more limited returner than Muller. Mannarino was also beaten 63, 64 by Ivo Karlovic last month on the grass and Muller is a better gras court player than the Frenchman which makes me believe he can cover a small number and ensure he has one of the four Semi Final places on offer.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Juan Monaco: Juan Monaco has admitted that any friendship has to be put on the back burner when he represents Argentina in Rubber 2 of the Davis Cup Quarter Final against Italy. He will take on Fabio Fognini in that Rubber and Monaco has admitted that some sort of revenge is on his mind as the second Singles player for Argentina.

Revenge because Monaco was actually beaten by Fognini the last time he represented Argentina in the Davis Cup in 2014. That loss came in Argentina so he has a chance for the ultimate revenge by beating Fognini in Italy, but the straight sets loss will have had an affect on his mindset for this match.

Prior to that, Monaco had won three in a row against Fognini, but it is the latter who saves some of his best tennis for when he is representing Italy. He has gone 16-6 in Singles matches in the Davis Cup while Fognini is a very impressive 12-1 on the clay courts, although the one concern has to be the poor recent form he has produced.

Some of those losses have been very poor for Fognini, but I think he will have refocused for this one now he is playing in the Davis Cup. I expect Fognini and Monaco will both offer up plenty of break points and this is bound to be a match with a lot of long rallies, but I think Fognini can use the home crowd to come through 63, 26, 64, 64.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 games v Lukas Rosol: He will forever be remembered for his stunning performance in beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, but Lukas Rosol has struggled to reach those standards consistently. Rosol has been sliding down the World Rankings and he will be opening this Davis Cup Quarter Final for the Czech Republic on the hard courts where he is 5-6 in Davis Cup Rubbers.

He takes on the top French selection in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who crushed Rosol in straight sets for his nation in the Davis Cup in 2014. That match did come on the clay courts and Rosol did beat Tsonga on an indoor hard court at the back end of last season, but Tsonga is someone who has enjoyed playing Davis Cup tennis and showed considerable form at Wimbledon.

While the move in surface can be a concern, Tsonga's performance suggests he can win this opening Rubber as long as he continues to serve as big as he did. Tsonga has struggled with his own consistency through 2016 and injuries have also been an issue for him, but the Frenchman is 11-3 in indoors Davis Cup Rubbers and 6-2 on hard courts.

If Tsonga is serving big, he will give Rosol some problems as a limited returner. Tsonga's own return isn't the best, but Rosol can be very loose with the errors he produces which could give Tsonga a way into the Rosol service games. On an indoor hard court, it won't be as simple as when Tsonga beat Rosol at home two years ago, but I do think the extravagant performer can win this one 75, 67, 75, 63.

Jiri Vesely - 1.5 sets v Lucas Pouille: Both Jiri Vesely and Lucas Pouille will remember Wimbledon 2016 and they will be hoping to look back on that as being a turning point for their careers. Now they both represent their nations in an important Rubber 2 and I think Jiri Vesely can use home advantage to make sure the Czech Republic are not behind after one day of play.

This might only be the eighth Davis Cup match Vesely has played and only the fourth that will be considered a live Singles Rubber, but that is still much more experience than Pouille who makes his debut for France. The latter showed he can thrive under new conditions when reaching the Wimbledon Quarter Final, but Pouille is still to show the consistency on a week by week basis.

He has lost his two previous matches against Vesely and I think the Czech player has also made a big breakthrough in reaching the Fourth Round at Wimbledon. His previous experiences of Davis Cup plus being at home are all advantages over Pouille and a strong serving display from Vesely will make it tough to beat him.

It is Pouille who is higher Ranked going into the match, but I think Vesely can use his additional experience to good effect in this one. His serve looks big enough to cause Pouille problems and I do think the home crowd can affect the young Frenchman even if there will be an easing of that pressure if Tsonga wins Rubber 1.

Vesely's poor form on the hard courts has to be a concern, but I believe he can win this one in three or four sets.

Janko Tipsarevic + 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray sitting out, the layers feel this Davis Cup Quarter Final is finely balanced between Serbia and Great Britain. While Great Britain have the edge in terms of World Rankings, Serbia may feel they can get the better of them if Janko Tipsarevic can lean on all the experience he has had in his career.

Tipsarevic opens for Serbia against Kyle Edmund who has lost his one previous Davis Cup Singles match, although that defeat came in the Davis Cup Final against David Goffin from a position of being up two sets. Playing away from home would have given Edmund plenty of experience, but this is going to be a lot more raucous than playing in Belgium and that is going to be difficult to deal with.

It has been three years since Tipsarevic represented Serbia, but he has gone 16-5 in clay court matches for his nation and 12-3 in matches played outdoors. Serbia will be hoping Tipsarevic can use all of those experiences to rattle Edmund, but he hasn't played a lot of tennis this year and is 0-2 in clay court matches in 2016.

Edmund's record isn't much better at 3-4, but he has won a Challenger on the surface and this is all about how he handles the Serbian crowd which can be intimidating. My feeling is that Tipsarevic is perhaps finding some of his best tennis again, although not as consistently as when he was a feature of the top ten in the World Rankings. In saying that, I think he is being given plenty of games that can be crucial in a match that might go the distance and I will back Tipsarevic to cover.

Dusan Lajovic - 5.5 games v James Ward: There is a lot of pressure on Dusan Lajovic as the highest Ranked Serbian player in this Davis Cup Quarter Final. Usually he would be behind both Novak Djokovic and Victor Troicki, but the pressure will be on Lajovic to find a couple of wins over the next three days to give Serbia a chance to progress to the Semi Final.

He is a big favourite to beat James Ward in Rubber 2 on Friday and you can't argue with that when you consider he is a much better clay court player than Ward. This is also one of the better live Rubbers that Lajovic has been given with the majority of his Davis Cup defeats coming against some of the better players on the Tour like Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.

Lajovic should absolutely respect Ward who stunned John Isner by taking a Rubber win over him last season to help Great Britain on their way to the Davis Cup victory they had in 2015. Ward also stunned Sam Querrey in a live Rubber on the clay a couple of years ago, but he has lost his only other two clay matches and recent form doesn't inspire much confidence.

Ward is now Ranked outside the top 200 in the World Rankings and he is 2-5 on the clay courts in 2016 with none of those matches coming in main Tour draws. The British player simply hasn't been winning a lot of matches recently which has to have a mental effect going into this Davis Cup Quarter Final in which Ward would not have been involved if Andy Murray and Dan Evans were available for selection.

I just don't think Ward has the game to really stay with Lajovic in the likely atmosphere he will face and I think the home favourite will come through 46, 64, 64, 62.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Jack Sock: Marin Cilic won the US Open just two years ago and he hasn't just enjoyed playing in the United States but he has also enjoyed playing against opponents from this nation. That will be music to the ears of the Croatian Davis Cup team as Cilic looks to improve his 32-5 record against American players and win two Rubbers to give his team a chance to move through to the Davis Cup Semi Final.

This is the first time Cilic will have played Jack Sock though and the latter is playing in just his fourth Singles Rubber in the Davis Cup. There is no doubting the improvements that Sock has made on the Tour in the last couple of years and he can be a dangerous opponent, but Davis Cup can be a different kettle of fish altogether than playing regular Tour matches.

I don't think Sock will be fazed, especially as he is benefiting from playing at home, but he doesn't have the strongest set of results on the North American hard courts. The heat has beaten him in the last two US Open events, but Sock should not be too worried about that this time, although results at Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati are not that inspiring either.

Cilic has to show he has moved on from blowing his Wimbledon Quarter Final against Roger Federer which he should have won in three or four sets. That would have been a big mental blow considering the tennis Cilic produced in that match, but I think he will relish playing for his country as he has throughout his career. A good serving day from the Croatian should see him hold the edge in the contest and I expect Cilic to win this one 75, 63, 46, 64.

MY PICKS: Pablo Cuevas - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Joao Sousa - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Laura Siegemund - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sara Errani - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Gilles Muller - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jiri Vesely - 1.5 Sets @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Janko Tipsarevic + 3.5 Games @ 1.87 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dusan Lajovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 14-4, + 17.52 Units (36 Units Staked, + 48.67% Yield)

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