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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Cincinnati Tennis Picks 2016 (August 17th)

The rain continues to play havoc with the tournament in Cincinnati and there doesn't look like being much of a reprieve as we get to Wednesday. The entire Second Round of both ATP and WTA events in Cincinnati have been scheduled for Wednesday, while those that were yet to complete First Round matches will have to conclude those and then also play their Second Round matches later in the day.

There is plenty of rain earlier in the day in Mason, but we should get a clear run in the afternoon through to the evening, although I am not sure why the organisers have not ensured they have placed all the First Round matches first on court. Instead they have a number of Second Round matches opening play and those First Round matches left over have to wait before being asked to play for a second time in the day later in the evening.

It was a total mixed bag of results for the picks on Tuesday with just one match left over which couldn't beat the weather. So far it has been a poor week for the picks after a number of successful weeks, but there are still five days to go in Cincinnati and things can be turned around with a little more luck going my way.

Steve Johnson - 3.5 games v Julien Benneteau: If Steve Johnson had taken the chances he had early in the match against Federico Delbonis he would have likely made it a significantly easier day in the office. However he was still a comfortable winner in straight sets and now takes on veteran Julien Benneteau who had an impressive First Round win over David Ferrer a couple of days ago.

I can't help feel that win had more to do with Ferrer's decline than it did with Benneteau suddenly rediscovering his form. While the Frenchman has plenty of experience and is clever around the court, his serve is still vulnerable and it won't be so easy to get into Johnson's service games if the American is serving as well as he did for much of Tuesday.

Serving big will prevent Benneteau being able to use the approach shots to attack the net and force Johnson to make some big passes, while I do think Johnson will get his chances to break in this match through both sets played. Johnson was a little loose with some of the break point opportunities he had on Tuesday, but a little more focus there should give him every chance of breaking through in this match.

I do think Benneteau might be a tad overrated in this one thanks to a win over a player on the slide in what has been a very strong career, and I will back Johnson to come through with a 64, 64 win and a place in the Third Round on Thursday.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: The last month has been so positive for Gael Monfils and he is expected to move through to the Third Round when he faces Marcos Baghdatis on Wednesday. Both players have been on the Tour a long time, but it is strange to think this is only their third ever match against one another and the first since the Australian Open in 2007 when Monfils upset Baghdatis in four sets as the underdog.

Things have changed in the last nine years though as Baghdatis has slipped down the Rankings, although Monfils has struggled to fulfil the potential we all thought he had.

The last month has been more positive for Monfils who has balanced his solid defensive skills with plenty of aggressive tennis and that has led to a lot of wins on the Tour. Confidence is high and it does feel that at 29 years old that Monfils has finally understood what it takes to win matches consistently at the highest level.

You don't want to underestimate Marcos Baghdatis who has plenty of talent coming from his racquet, but I think he doesn't get enough first serves in play for a match like this one. If he is allowing Monfils to get into rallies, Baghdatis might be forced to play closer and closer to the lines to penetrate the defences the Frenchman has, even on the faster courts in Cincinnati, and that might lead to mistakes.

A good serving day from Monfils like he had on Tuesday should help him wear down Baghdatis in a 75, 64 win.

Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: This is one of the better looking Second Round matches as both Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic had impressive wins in the First Round in straight sets. If they can bring those levels into this match, this could be the best match of the day.

There is little doubt that Fernando Verdasco is not the same player he was a few years ago and the consistency is not quite at the level he would like. However Verdasco served really well on Tuesday and backing that up will give him every chance of keeping this match competitive against Marin Cilic.

Cilic has had some mixed results since losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon from two sets up, but there is a lot to like about the former US Open Champion's game. He has the big serve and heavy groundstrokes that should make him a threat on the faster hard courts, while Cilic is very aggressive on the return of serve and that is going to put some pressure on Verdasco in this one.

However I don't think Cilic has been as consistent as he would have liked and Verdasco has the opportunity to steal a set which could make covering this number of games a big challenge. I am a little wary that Verdasco does seem to throw in a lot of sets these days when he takes the double break which might mean needing to win this match to cover, but I think he has a chance to do that outright and I will take the games in this one.

Christine McHale - 2.5 games v Misaki Doi: Having a Lucky Loser path into the draw was a bonus for Misaki Doi, but the fact she replaced Serena Williams meant a path through to the Second Round. While she is set for the most wins on the main Tour in her career, the Japanese player is in for a tough Second Round match against Christine McHale who has consistently got the better of her.

The American is also set for a career best year on the Tour having previously had 21 wins as the most in a single season on the main Tour. This year McHale has already had 19 wins and she had an impressive win in the First Round while also having more than half of her wins in 2016 on the hard courts.

McHale has enjoyed the match up against Doi having won all five previous matches including both played in 2016 and she has the power to hit through her opponent. Consistency is always a concern for McHale, but she should have plenty of chances to break serve against this limited Doi serve.

I do have to respect the fact that Doi has had a couple of very strong runs on the hard courts this season, but many of her other tournaments on this surface have ended in early defeats. I wouldn't be surprised if she is able to take a set off of McHale, but the American is more likely to win a set with a couple of breaks of serve behind her and I think she will progress with a 46, 63, 63 win.

Alize Cornet + 3.5 games v Carla Suarez Navarro: Both Alize Cornet and Carla Suarez Navarro took part in the Olympic Games last week, but the focus has moved back to the main Tour and preparing for the US Open. Getting used to the different conditions in Cincinnati compared with how the courts played in Rio is going to test players this week, but Cornet might have the edge in that department.

While Suarez Navarro received a bye into the Second Round, Cornet had to play the Qualifiers this week and she has also beaten Kiki Bertens in the First Round. There is a lack of consistency in the Cornet game which saw her pushed to three sets in both of her Qualifiers, but she was a little more solid in the First Round win over Bertens and her experience of the conditions could see her give Suarez Navarro something to think about.

It hasn't been the best 2016 for Cornet, but her best results have come on the hard courts so she has to believe she can win this match. For Suarez Navarro the results have been stronger, but the Spaniard also has been a little up and down. Her hard court results show a run to the Third Round in the Olympics and winning the title in Doha, but Suarez Navarro has also lost her first match in three tournaments around those two mentioned.

Cornet has won four of their last five matches, three out of four on the hard courts, and she will likely have a better rhythm on the court, at least early in this one. The Frenchwoman isn't always someone you can trust to be at her very best, but she must enjoy the match up with Suarez Navarro who is not going to power her way through opponents and I think these games could be telling.

Samantha Stosur + 2.5 games v Barbora Strycova: There isn't much between Samantha Stosur and Barbora Strycova in the World Rankings (just four places), but those proved enough to see Stosur receive a bye through to the Second Round while Strycova had to overcome Eugenie Bouchard in the First Round. The Czech player was impressive in disposing of Bouchard in straight sets, but I think Stosur is a lot savvier than Bouchard and poses a much bigger problem to solve on the court.

Unlike Bouchard, Stosur will get forward and put away volleys and she also has a huge serve that can give her the short ball to put away. Stosur's issue has always been to protect the backhand and that is the wing that Strycova will look to attack when possible to dictate how the rallies will go.

The recent Stosur form hasn't been the best, but Strycova hasn't exactly been pulling up trees herself so I am surprised the Australian has been given as many games as this. It is her first match in Cincinnati this season coming off a much slower court which can cause problems, but I can see that aiding the Stosur serve and I expect a very competitive Second Round match.

In a strange turn of events, their two previous matches have taken place in Australia and the Czech Republic and the 'away' player has won. They have been close enough to think getting these games on Stosur is too much to ignore.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 games v Alison Riske: She is back in the top 10 in the World Rankings, but Svetlana Kuznetsova is coming in off a really disappointing defeat to Johanna Konta at the Olympic Games. The Russian had her chances to win that match, but she has to move past the disappointment and try to get her final preparations for the US Open in order.

The match up with Alison Riske has proved a good one for Kuznetsova in the past with wins in all three previous matches played and having won all six sets played. In fact Riske has not won more than three games in a set against Kuznetsova and while two of those matches came early in her career, the last was in 2015 in Miami and resulted in another straight-forward win for Kuznetsova.

The key for Kuznetsova in all of those matches is how well she has returned and she has won at least 53% of the points off the Riske serve in each of their three previous matches! That is going to win her a lot of matches, but the one concern I have for Kuznetsova is that this is her first match in Cincinnati where the speed of the courts are usually quicker than most hard courts the players see around the world.

Riske has battled through three matches here already so the conditions won't surprise her, and she also reached the Semi Final in Stanford last month. That should mean the American is feeling good about her game, but the closest level of opponent she has faced to Kuznetsova is Venus Williams and resulted in a 6-1, 7-6 win for the veteran American.

I can see the first set being tight and Riske perhaps even winning her first ever set against Kuznetsova as the latter gets her timing right. From there I expect the Russian to come through with two fairly comfortable sets to win this one 57, 63, 62.

MY PICKS: Steve Johnson - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Christine McHale - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alize Cornet + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sam Stosur + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 4-5, - 3.26 Units (18 Units Staked, - 18.11% Yield)

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