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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Cincinnati Tennis Picks 2016 (August 16th)

There is plenty of rain in the Mason, Ohio area which means we are likely to see a lot of delays through the week at the Cincinnati Masters. That was the case on Sunday and Monday and the forecast for Tuesday isn't exactly appealing as the First Round matches are completed and some of the Second Round matches are set to begin.

The problem that the tournaments in the United States have with rain is that they leave the courts uncovered and then spend an awful long time using towels to dry those courts. Instead of a fairly sharp re-start following any rain delays there are long periods of watching a bunch of people with towels cleaning the court on their hands and knees before getting matches started again.

On days when there could be a number of breaks in the play, those that time being wasted cleaning the courts in that fashion just puts an entire delay on the schedule of the day, but the North American courts refuse to put down covers because they are too 'ugly'.

Over the last few days I have been writing a few times about Juan Martin Del Potro likely getting a Wild Card to enter the US Open as his World Ranking would not be good enough for a place in the main draw. Interestingly it has been suggested by Steve Johnson that the fans would be 'upset' if Del Potro was to receive a Wild Card and then beat a top American player at their home Grand Slam.


That is a pretty pathetic implication from Johnson who can't have missed the fact that Del Potro is a former US Open Champion and clearly would be much higher in the World Rankings if it wasn't for injury issues. His run to the Olympic Final suggests Del Potro has already done enough to 'earn' a Wild Card and surely the whole idea of a Wild Card is there for situations like the former top 4 player is in.

Rather than give it to a no hoper, why not give it to Del Potro who is a potential winner in New York? I think it also says a lot about the belief Johnson has in his own game which also saddens me considering he has been in decent form over the last couple of months but clearly hasn't improved his confidence as much as I thought he would have.

The three picks made yesterday came back with a 1-2 record and is the worst start made to a week for some time... It is only a start though and I am looking to bounce back on Tuesday and get the Cincinnati Masters picks back on track.

Steve Johnson - 4.5 games v Federico Delbonis: I might have been critical of Steve Johnson and his comments about Juan Martin Del Potro, but that doesn't take away from the fact he is in arguably the best form of his career. He is coming in to Cincinnati having admitted he cried after losing to Andy Murray in the Quarter Final of the Olympic Games in a final set tie-breaker, but Johnson has had a few days to get over that defeat.

Over the last couple of months Johnson has won the title in Nottingham, reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon, Semi Final in Washington and Quarter Final in Rio last week. That has helped him move to the brink of entering the top 20 of the World Rankings and Johnson should have too much for Federico Delbonis whose best results have come on the slower surfaces.

Delbonis did reach the Quarter Final in Indian Wells but he has lost his last three hard court matches including a one-sided defeat to Rafael Nadal last week at the Olympic Games. This is just the second time Delbonis has played in Cincinnati which is one of the more different courts you will play on on the Tour as it is usually much quicker than most other hard courts.

While that should aid the Delbonis serve, I also think he is more likely to make the errors in this match than Johnson who has played with a lot of belief behind him over the last couple of months. Six of the last seven losses Delbonis has had on the hard courts would have seen him fail to get within this number and I will back Johnson to come through with a 75, 63 kind of win.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Mischa Zverev: It has been a good summer for Feliciano Lopez who won the title in Gstaad and then reached the Final in Los Cabos last week. I do think he will have been disappointed to have lost the Final to Ivo Karlovic, but Lopez is in a position to match, or even surpass, the 32 Tour wins he achieved last season.

He is favourite to beat Mischa Zverev who has come through the Qualifiers to enter the main draw after reaching the Second Round via the Qualifiers in Los Cabos last week. The two wins Zverev has achieved this week have to be respected against Illya Marchenko and Adrian Mannarino, but Lopez is another step up in terms of quality he is facing.

Both players will feel the quicker court will give them a chance of holding serve against limited returners. However I do think Lopez has the better first serve and that can make the difference between the two players on the day as long as fatigue doesn't set in from a long week in Los Cabos.

Lopez should avoid that by earning plenty of cheap points in this one and I think the Spaniard will hold the edge when it comes to being stronger behind serve for longer than Zverev. That should give him every chance of moving through to the Second Round with a 76, 64 win behind him and I will back him to cover these games.

Gael Monfils - 4.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: There aren't too many players in better form than Gael Monfils who has come back from an injury with a new found aggression on the court. He has looked much more proactive in his matches and that has seen Monfils win the title in Washington and follow that up with a run to the Semi Final in Toronto and Quarter Final in Rio at the Olympic Games.

He will have to get over some disappointment of not being able to convert his match points in the loss to Kei Nishikori last week, but Monfils has to believe he is rounding into the kind of form that could make him a threat at the US Open. The Frenchman has been serving well and we all know he will make plenty of returns with his athleticism also making Monfils one of the better defenders on the Tour.

The defensive skills might not be as useful in the conditions in Cincinnati as they are for much of the rest of the season, but Monfils' aggression will be rewarded here. Monfils will have to be careful when facing Pablo Carreno Busta who reached the Semi Final in Los Cabos last week and can be tough to beat on occasion on the hard courts even if this is not his favoured surface.

The Spaniard's inconsistencies have shown in the results with some battling displays and competitive defeats mixed in with relatively one-sided ones over the last couple of years on this surface. However Carreno Busta has never played at Cincinnati before and I think it might take some time getting to grips with the speed of the court and by that time Monfils might be in complete control as I expect him to move through 63, 64.

Ivo Karlovic - 2.5 games v Juan Monaco: After some really big struggles early in 2016, I did think Ivo Karlovic might be on the decline in his career as he is 37 years old after all. However the last two months have seen a considerable turnaround in the form although matching last season's 38 Tour wins might still be beyond him.

Karlovic has 22 wins so far in 2016 on the main Tour, but 14 of those wins have come after Wimbledon as he has picked up titles in Newport and Los Cabos while also reaching the Final in Washington. The serve is still a big weapon for Karlovic, but I have been impressed with the way he has managed to get into opponent's service games over the last two months and that was highlighted again on Sunday when breaking Feliciano Lopez' serve twice.

He will be putting the pressure on Juan Monaco who has not played a lot of tennis in recent weeks. The courts in Cincinnati should make the Karlovic serve even more dangerous than usual, while I can see a situation where he gets into a few of the Monaco service games that don't provide as many cheap points as the big man gets from his.

You would expect Monaco to be better from the back of the court, but Karlovic will look to get to the net as much as possible and force his opponent to make a number of passes through the match. It has been a couple of years since Monaco has played in Cincinnati, but he doesn't have a lot of success on these courts to fall back upon and I expect Karlovic to come through with a 76, 64 win.

Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: When these players met in the Bastad Final last month, Fernando Verdasco went in as favourite but it was Albert Ramos-Vinolas who dominated proceedings. The latter was a deserved winner, but the faster courts in Cincinnati might give Verdasco more of an edge and I am looking for the veteran Spaniard to come through in this battle between compatriots.

The inconsistencies in the Verdasco game are more prominent these days and his defeat to Marcel Granollers last week in Los Cabos was a big disappointment. However Verdasco has shown some decent form this summer and might have had more time to get used to the conditions here in Cincinnati than Albert Ramos-Vinolas has had.

However Ramos-Vinolas should be preparing to deal with the faster courts compared with what he would have seen at the Olympic Games last week. It has clearly been a factor that has seen Ramos-Vinolas play here just two times in the past and he has been beaten in both previous times he has made it to Cincinnati.

If Ramos-Vinolas is returning as well as he was in Bastad he will give Verdasco problems, but I think the latter will get a little more pop out of the serve on these courts. That should help him find a way to get the better of his compatriot this time around and I think Verdasco can come through with a 63, 76 win.

Daria Kasatkina - 3.5 games v Tsvetana Pironkova: The last couple of tournaments have highlighted the potential Daria Kasatkina has on the WTA Tour, but also the fact that there is still some room for improvement in her game. She reached the Quarter Final in Montreal and the Olympic Games, but Kasatkina will have to make her adjustments on the faster hard courts.

That is something that Tsvetana Pironkova has to try and take advantage of especially as she has already played two matches in Cincinnati this week. However one of those matches ended in defeat and Pironkova has struggled for consistency all through the 2016 season.

Pironkova does have a big game which should work well on the courts here, but she can go through too many periods of unforced error after unforced error. I do think the Kasatkina serve is still vulnerable so I will expect Pironkova to have her chances, but the better consistency should come from the younger player which should mean retrieving those breaks.

Over the course of 2016, Kasatkina has fifteen wins on the hard courts and she has gone 12-3 when it comes to covering this number of games. I do think she is going to win this one and I will be looking for her to cover against the up and down Pironkova who would be 4-6 when trying to cover this number in losing efforts on the hard courts.

Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 games v Barbora Strycova: The last couple of years have been difficult for Eugenie Bouchard on the Tour but 2016 has shown signs of a turnaround in her fortunes. While I think she overachieved in 2014 when reaching the Semi Final or Final of three of the four Grand Slams, Bouchard certainly underachieved last year and it has been a difficult road back.

The Canadian is still Number 40 in the World Rankings and she had to play the Qualifiers this week, but that should have Bouchard accustomed to the conditions compared with Barbora Strycova who is back from the Olympic Games. However Bouchard has lost the last two matches against Strycova and has to get over the mental hurdle of having won one game in a one-sided loss in Rome earlier this year.

That did come on the clay courts and the faster surface in Cincinnati might be better for Bouchard's game in this First Round match. However Strycova needs to be given respect having reached the Final in Dubai on what are the most similar courts to Cincinnati in terms of speed on the Tour.

The run to the Final in Dubai has given Strycova a decent looking hard court record, but it would not be as impressive without those four wins in Dubai. Recent form has been a lot more inconsistent and I think Bouchard's two wins this week might give her the edge in this match. Bouchard has won the two previous hard court matches between these players and I think she will battle past Strycova in a 76, 64 win.

Daria Gavrilova + 2.5 games v Elina Svitolina: The stand out result at the Olympic Games was Elina Svitolina stunning Serena Williams, although the young player couldn't back that up as she was beaten 6-2, 6-0 in the next Round by Petra Kvitova. Now she moves on to Cincinnati where Svitolina is the favourite to win this Second Round match, but I think Daria Gavrilova has shown she can be a real danger to her.

The Australian has won three matches already in Cincinnati and I think the faster surface will suit her game as Gavrilova goes for her shots and should be able to see them penetrate through the court. Her wins this week over Mona Barthel, Naomi Osaka and Caroline Garcia have all come in straight sets and I think the confidence is flowing through Gavrilova even if she is a little inconsistent.

The same inconsistency charge can be used against Svitolina who has had a couple of solid tournaments behind her. However the serve can go haywire at times and that is where Gavrilova can take advantage as well as use her knowledge of the current conditions.

Their previous two matches have been split 1-1 and both have been competitive which makes Svitolina an awkward favourite in my eyes. I will take the games being offered here and look for the Australian to keep it close if not pull the upset outright.

MY PICKS: Steve Johnson - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daria Gavrilova + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 1-2, - 2.54 Units (6 Units Staked, - 42.33% Yield)

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