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Friday, 12 August 2016

Olympic Games Tennis Picks 2016 (August 12th)

There was no need for a new post for the Olympic Games tennis picks on Thursday as the entire Wednesday schedule had been rained out but things are back on track going into the final three days of the tournament here.

The Tour will then move on to Cincinnati where the final Masters ahead of the US Open is to take place, although it was announced that Novak Djokovic would miss that event. The World Number 1 is apparently suffering with a wrist issue and Cincinnati has never gelled well with Djokovic as the faster surfaces have seen players able to hit through him.

It might also make Andy Murray the favourite to win the US Open and the British Number 1 is definitely favourite to win the Olympic Gold Medal for the second time in his career after coming through a scare against Fabio Fognini. The latter had been up a break in the final set but lost five games in a row to see Murray move into the Quarter Finals although the conditions in Rio have been difficult with plenty of wind affecting the timing of the ball.

Hopefully the conditions will settle down in the last three days so we can see some top tennis and on Friday it is all about the men's Quarter Finals and women's Semi Finals.

It looks like being another strong week for the tennis picks after the matches saw a 5-2 record come out of Thursday and it would have been even better if Rafael Nadal had served out the match in the second set when he was broken by Gilles Simon. I won't be greedy though as I look to put another serious dent into the season totals and I have set myself an ambition of getting back into the positive before the US Open begins at the end of the month.

That is a challenge and will need a lot of winning picks to get back into the black, but it has been a very strong seven weeks since the beginning of Wimbledon when I was certain it was going to be a disappointing back to back losing seasons.

I just have to keep focused and make sure I can continue reading matches as well as I have and also receive the bit of luck that everyone making picks will be looking for.

I will have the Friday picks up in a few hours once the full markets are available.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Monica Puig: There can't be too many players in better form than Monica Puig at the moment who has breezed through the Olympic draw to ensure she will be competing for a Medal on Saturday. Whether that is the Gold or the Bronze is yet to be determined, but Puig has made it clear how much she is thriving playing for her country this week.

It follows a run to the Semi Final in Florianopolis last week and my concern for Puig is at what point does all of the tennis begin to affect her game? I think she has been helped by breezing through the draw in the manner she has and Puig is yet to drop a set and only fourteen games in her four matches so far this week. Back to back 6-1, 6-1 wins in the Third Round and Quarter Final will only increase the confidence she is clearly feeling.

And it is not as though Puig has faced poor players with wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and the complete wipeout of Garbine Muguruza the stand out results. However she is going to be facing a very dangerous Petra Kvitova in the Semi Final who has only dropped a single set herself and one who dropped just two games to Serena Williams' conquerer Elina Svitolina in the Quarter Final.

This is only the second Semi Final that Kvitova will be playing this season which might play a part in the match, but she has looked confident in her matches this week too. Kvitova can be erratic and hard to judge on a day by day basis, but I am giving her the edge with Grand Slam titles under her belt compared with Monica Puig who is playing her biggest match of her career.

Puig doesn't have the best record against top 20 opponents and I will look for Kvitova to use all of her experience to battle through to the Gold Medal match behind a 76, 64 win.

Angelique Kerber - 2.5 games v Madison Keys: It has already been a memorable 2016 season for Angelique Kerber but I don't think that means she is going to be satisfied with what she has achieved so far. Winning the Australian Open Final and reaching the Wimbledon Final has given Kerber a new found confidence and she will believe she can go on and win the Gold Medal here in Rio.

Her Semi Final is going to be far from straight-forward against Madison Keys who is beginning to reach the business end of tournaments more regularly. A lot of hype has surrounded Keys with her impressive serve and big hitting off the ground, but there is still room for improvement from the young American and some of her vulnerabilities can be attacked by Kerber.

I am still not convinced Keys has the consistency to beat someone as defensively strong as Kerber, a player that can also quickly turn the tables on opponents. A 'better version' of Keys in Serena Williams has struggled in her matches with the German who can get enough serves back in play and deep enough to prevent the quick strike tennis that both Serena and Keys will look to play.

This could easily be a breakthrough tournament for Keys if she can get past Kerber, but it has been a more difficult route through to the Semi Final for the American. Having to play one more ball than she is accustomed to will also likely see Keys going for the lines a little more and that in turn leads to more unforced errors, while Kerber is good enough to go for plenty of winners of her own.

Kerber has a strong 4-1 head to head advantage over Keys which includes a straight sets win over her in Miami back in March. The conditions might make it difficult for Keys to hit through Kerber consistently and I think the Aussie Open Champion will be playing in the Gold Medal game on Saturday behind a 64, 64 win.

Roberto Bautista Agut + 2.5 games v Juan Martin Del Potro: This was the one Quarter Final I was really interested to see how the layers priced up as I thought Roberto Bautista Agut deserved to go in as the favourite. The bigger name is clearly Juan Martin Del Potro who has won the US Open and also had the stand out result in the men's draw when beating Novak Djokovic in the First Round earlier in the week.

The wins over Joao Sousa and Taro Daniel came with some effort from Del Potro and he now faces a player in Bautista Agut who can be very good defensively and eased past big serving Gilles Muller on Thursday.

A key for the Spaniard is going to be getting into rallies with Del Potro, who I am very glad to see producing big results again. The backhand wing still remains an issue for Del Potro and while the forehand is a cannon, getting Del Potro moving on the run to that side will give Bautista Agut a chance of extracting mistakes.

My fear for Bautista Agut is that the serve can be a bit of a let down for him and this isn't a lot of games to receive, but I do think he is good enough to take a set. In fact I think he is playing well enough to think he can win the match outright and even this small number of games can be telling if the Spaniard is playing to the level he can. He has to try and wear the big man down in this one and try not to give too much away, but Bautista Agut can do that and I will take the games being offered to him.

Gael Monfils + 2.5 games v Kei Nishikori: One of the best looking Quarter Finals in the men's draw has to be Gael Monfils taking on Kei Nishikori as both have been in some stunning form over the last few weeks. Monfils won the title in Washington before reaching the Semi Final of the Canadian Masters, while Nishikori managed to reach the Canadian Masters Final.

Their two previous matches have also been highly competitive as they have needed to go the distance each time, but there is more on the line this time with a chance to move into the Medal matches for the winner.

Picking a winner is difficult as there are strengths and weaknesses for both players that do seem to match up well against each other. It is Monfils who has the edge in serve and athleticism around the court, but Nishikori can sometimes be the more aggressive player off the ground meaning he can push and pull the Frenchman around the court and dictate the play.

Monfils did need three sets to beat Marin Cilic on Thursday so tiredness is a factor, although he showed in Washington and Toronto that he can handle a lot of tennis in a short period of time. I can see both players producing a lot of flashy tennis in this one and it should be the most enjoyable match to watch, but I have leaned towards Monfils with this number of games on the board.

When they met in Miami it was missed opportunities to break serve which cost Monfils, but he looks to be returning even better at the moment. The Nishikori serve will give him chances and I think Monfils is at the height of his confidence and can certainly keep this one competitive throughout. It looks like it could go right down to the wire as their match in Miami did and I will take the games and look for Monfils to perhaps even pull the 'upset' as the underdog.

Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: One poor service game cost Rafael Nadal the cover on Thursday, but the Spaniard won't care about that as he still moved through to the Quarter Final. A former Olympic Gold Medal winner, Rafael Nadal has to be the favourite to get to the Gold Medal match from the top half of the draw, although he is going to be in a rare position of not being the crowd favourite in this Quarter Final.

In the past Nadal has received huge support from the Brazilian crowd and all week he has received massive support, but taking on home favourite Thomaz Bellucci in a Davis Cup kind of atmosphere is going to see that support shift to Bellucci. I don't think Nadal will be overly concerned about that and might even thrive in what will be a tremendous atmosphere on Friday.

It has already been a strong week for Bellucci but getting to play for a Medal at his home Olympics is only going to be motivating him even more. He rode his luck at times to win the first set against David Goffin in the Third Round to pull the upset, while Bellucci was the beneficiary of Dustin Brown's unfortunate injury in the First Round.

The confidence has to be improving, but I can't help feel that things have gone Bellucci's way so far and playing Rafael Nadal is an altogether different test. The lefty advantage is gone and Nadal has beaten Bellucci all five previous times they have met and the Spaniard would have covered this number in the first two sets of all of those wins (four of five been played at Grand Slam level, Nadal won 14/14 previous sets).

I don't know if Nadal is ready to beat the best players on the Tour, but he has played well this week and a slightly better serving display than yesterday should give him a serious edge in this match. Bellucci had lost eight of nine matches on the hard courts before his wins in the Olympic Games and he would be 2-5 in covering this number over two sets with another loss coming via retirement.

I will be looking for Nadal to be a little better when the break points come his way and just play a little more solid behind his serve to help him to a 75, 63 win in this Quarter Final.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut + 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils + 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)

Olympic Tennis Update: 23-12, + 14.96 Units (70 Units Staked, + 21.37% Yield)

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