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Friday, 2 September 2016

US Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2016 (September 2nd)

The first few days have enjoyed great weather at the US Open, but Thursday saw the use of the roof for the second time on Arthur Ashe, although the first time the tournament has opened with the roof necessary. It looks a great structure, which isn't a surprise from the United States, and it looks like they will be making good use of the new roof in the coming days.

The tournament has headed into the Third Round which will begin on Friday and this is the point in which the matches start becoming much more competitive and intriguing for the fans. There are some stand out matches that have been put together for the Friday schedule and I am looking forward to another strong day of tennis.

Rain has meant matches have been delayed on Thursday so I will update the weekly totals from the US Open at some point on Friday before Day 5 begins at Flushing Meadows.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: The bye through to the Third Round would have done Novak Djokovic a favour as that means he has had more time to work on the injuries that are clearly hampering him at times. At this stage of a Grand Slam it shouldn't be a critical problem for Djokovic who is looking to defend the title he won last year and add to the two Grand Slams he has already won.

The match up with Mikhail Youzhny should result in a fairly comfortable day in the office for Djokovic who will believe he is always in a position to get the better of the veteran. This might have been something of a comeback year for the Russian, but his straight sets win over Guido Pella was much more difficult than the scoreboard reflects.

If he is as loose with some of his service games, Youzhny can't expect to recover 0-40 positions as much as he did in the Second Round against one of the best returners of all time. There are still times when Youzhny is capable of taking it to the very best as he showed against Stan Wawrinka in Toronto (lost 7-6, 7-6), but players who return as well as Djokovic have proven more difficult as shown by Kei Nishikori in Cincinnati (lost 6-3, 6-2).

These players last met in 2013 at the US Open with Djokovic coming through in four sets and Youzhny has slipped a little from the performances he was able to produce back then. This time I think Djokovic can erase some of the doubts about this game by coming through this Third Round match 62, 63, 63 to move into the second week of the tournament.

John Isner - 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: He might have struggled for an impact at the Grand Slam level in his early career, but Kyle Edmund has to be enjoying his first appearance in the main draw of the US Open. For the first time in his career Edmund has made it through to the Third Round of a Slam although I am yet to be truly convinced he is ready for a big breakthrough having been the beneficiary of a decent draw.

For the second time in two weeks, Richard Gasquet could not stand the heat in North America in the First Round, while Edmund's win over Ernesto Escobedo in the Second Round was as a big favourite. In the Third Round he faces the Number 1 American player in John Isner and this is the biggest test Edmund will have faced in the tournament to this point.

I am of the belief that Isner might have peaked in his career now, but he remains the best hope the home fans of seeing a male player win the US Open at this moment in time. The booming serve will always make Isner a danger, but his biggest problem has been getting dragged into long matches early on in Grand Slams which saps the energy from the legs.

The concern for Isner has to be the blisters and knee issue that needed treatment in the Second Round, but his serve will always give him a chance even when not at 100%. I do think the key in this match is Isner taking the chances that will come his way as Edmund is still able to throw in a sloppy game or two behind the serve.

It was only Escobedo's poor 1/8 conversion on break points that allowed Edmund to control the match and there are still times when the groundstrokes are too short which will allow Isner to dictate rallies and attack the net. They met at the French Open when a break in each set was enough for Isner to win in straights and I think he will be able to do something similar in this Third Round as I look for the big man to get through with a 76, 64, 64 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 sets v Kevin Anderson: This is the scene of Kevin Anderson's best performance at a Grand Slam event having reached the Quarter Final in 2015, but he has been struggling for consistency in 2016. The South African has recorded at least 30 wins on the Tour in each of the last five seasons culminating in a career best 46 last year, but Anderson only has 12 in 2016 which includes the two wins here so far this week.

Malek Jaziri, Reilly Opelka and Jiri Vesely have all gotten the better of Anderson in the summer on the hard courts and I am struggling to see how he can turn his form to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in this Third Round encounter.

This has hardly been a great summer for Tsonga either, and he did make hard work of James Duckworth in the last Round. However he has a big serve and I think he is the superior player in this one when it does get into the rallies while Tsonga can shorten points by attacking the net and looking to put away volleys.

Tsonga has won the two previous matches between these players and this could be the Frenchman's best season since 2013 in terms of wins on the main Tour. I think he is in a better place mentally than Anderson and I can see Tsonga winning a key tie-breaker or two which helps him come through in three or four sets in this Third Round encounter.

Marin Cilic win 3-1 v Jack Sock: It has only been two years since Marin Cilic won the title against all the odds at Flushing Meadows and he has quietly made it through to the Third Round without dropping a set. He won't be able to fly under the radar in this one as he faces one of the big home hopes in Jack Sock who was a dominant winner in the Second Round.

Sock didn't expend a lot of effort in beating Mischa Zverev and he would have welcomed that with physical issues hampering him in the last two US Open tournaments. It would have been especially pleasing when noting that Sock had to come through five sets to beat Taylor Fritz in the First Round and the cooler temperatures will also be important for the American.

There is a positive mental vibe for Sock to bring into the match having come from 0-2 down in sets to beat Marin Cilic in a Davis Cup tie in July and that will give him confidence to take into the match. That is the standout result for Sock this summer, but he was facing Cilic coming in off a disappointing Wimbledon defeat where he had dropped a 2-0 lead in sets to Roger Federer in the Quarter Final.

Cilic might be feeling better having won the Cincinnati Masters, the second biggest event of his career behind the US Open, and the confidence that will give him in conditions he has thrived in in the past. Both players will feel they have the heavy game to dictate things in this one and I do think it will be a competitive match with little to separate them in each set.

I do think Cilic has the edge on the backhand wing and the superior serve and return which should see him past Sock. However I do believe the home player is going to receive plenty of support from the stands which will help him take a set in this one, but ultimately I am looking for Cilic to win key points to take this one home in four sets.

Gael Monfils - 6.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: This has been a strong summer for Gael Monfils and he has to be one of the names outside of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray that people talk about when discussing potential winners here. The only thing that has to be holding people back when pulling the trigger on actually picking and backing Monfils has to be his issues through his career of being a little too passive at the big moments.

Monfils can't be accused of doing that this summer though as he won the title in Washington and then put together solid runs in Toronto and at the Olympic Games. His withdrawal from Cincinnati was a concern going into the US Open, but the Frenchman has had two solid wins and is a big favourite to beat Nicolas Almagro in the Third Round.

It has been a solid run for Almagro who will make an improvement in his Number 48 World Ranking, but the best results for the Spaniard are on the clay courts these days. Almagro is just 7-9 on the hard courts since the beginning of the 2013 season partly down to injury and partly down to his movement perhaps slowing down around the court.

That hasn't been an issue for Monfils who will force Almagro to play plenty of balls while the added aggression means the Frenchman can penetrate the defences. The Almagro first serve can still be a big weapon, but his losses on the hard courts have come in surprisingly straight-forward fashion against players far inferior than Monfils. After a tough couple of sets, I can see Monfils pulling away in the third set for a statement 64, 64, 62 win.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 games v Ryan Harrison: It will be all eyes on Ryan Harrison on Friday as he returns to the court having beaten Milos Raonic in the Second Round. There could be a special atmosphere out on the court agains the ever popular Marcos Baghdatis and both players have to be looking at this as being a match they would have taken for a place in the Fourth Round.

This section of the draw has opened up and there are some big Ranking points on offer for the winner. Ryan Harrison might be back inside the top 100 at the end of the US Open, but there is a feeling he has been underachieving despite having a decent looking game when he is putting it together.

He will need to do that again on Friday in this match with Marcos Baghdatis who should be well rested for this match. 2016 looks set to be the best year Baghdatis has had on the main Tour since 2012 although it is Harrison who has had plenty more wins in the summer on the hard courts.

However I can't ignore defeats to the likes of Steve Johnson and John Millman that Harrison has had over the last six weeks. I also think backing up a big win like he had against Raonic is going to be difficult having already come through the Qualifiers and the physical and mental toll might see him pay a price in this one. I do think Harrison will have some chances against the Baghdatis serve, where the Cypriot has too low a first serve percentage for the most part, but eventually I think Baghdatis wears down Harrison in a 63, 36, 75, 46, 64 win.

Caroline Wozniacki - 3.5 games v Monica Niculescu: After the first fifteen minutes of the Second Round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova it looked like Caroline Wozniacki was going to struggle to win a game. However she bounced back spectacularly to win in straight sets and I wonder if that has restored some confidence which would have been lost with a slip in the World Rankings.

That slip has been down to injuries, and that has seen Wozniacki struggle on the Tour on the hard courts this past summer. However her two wins this week at the US Open has gotten Wozniacki moving in the right direction and she has a very impressive record against Monica Niculescu.

The Romanian player has lost all six previous matches against Wozniacki and she has lost all twelve sets they have competed. None of those matches has seen Niculescu win more than four games in a single set and this is a match up that should appeal to Wozniacki as it is more about the skill the players possess rather than any of these two overpowering the other.

The Niculescu game can be a little difficult to read at times, but Wozniacki has plenty of past experiences to call upon. Some were wondering if Wozniacki was close to announcing a retirement, but she can keep those questions at bay by winning this one 64, 63 and moving into the Fourth Round.

Belinda Bencic + 3.5 games v Johanna Konta: There was some controversy as to the manner in which Johanna Konta beat Tsvetana Pironkova in the Second Round and I have to say I can understand where the negative comments are coming from. A medical time out followed by a lengthy toilet break seemed to be excessive and certainly helped Konta make sure she recovered from dropping the second set to win in three.

There should be no lingering effects from the essential 'panic attack' that Konta suffered on the court, but I am interested to hear what kind of reaction she gets from the fans. It might be all the tougher knowing she is playing Belinda Bencic who is going to be a popular player, although the new Swiss Miss is not in the best of form after coming back from injury.

Since reaching the Semi Final in Hertogenbosch, Bencic was 1-5 in main Tour matches before winning the last two matches here in Flushing Meadows, The win over Andrea Petkovic was impressive, but this is the most difficult challenge Bencic would have faced so far this week especially in the solid form that Konta has been producing for the last fifteen months.

A title win in Stanford following by back to back Quarter Final runs has seen Konta come close to cracking the top 10 in the World Rankings. She might be able to do that this week if she can get into the second week and go deep in the draw, The edge will be given to Konta considering form and physical well-being but I think Bencic is capable of winning a set which will give her every chance of covering this with this number behind her.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Elina Svitolina: This is a very good Third Round match that should produce some fireworks as Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina meet. I expect it to be much closer than when the players met at the Olympic Games when Svitolina was off an upset over Serena Williams, but I still think Kvitova can prove too good for her.

With the injury doubts around Williams, players like Kvitova have to believe they have a big chance to add to their previous Grand Slam titles. There are still some inconsistencies in her game which has to frustrate her fans, but Kvitova has won two matches very effectively so far this week and has to be confident.

I also believe Svitolina has to raise her level significantly from her first two matches in Flushing Meadows. This has been a strong summer for the Ukrainian, but she was a fortunate winner over Lauren Davis in the Second Round having lost all momentum in the second set and being 3-0 down in the third.

As much as there is to like about the Svitolina game, I do feel her serve is vulnerable and she does mentally lose her focus in matches. If Kvitova is playing as she can. she will be pushing Svitolina around the court and I think she will break down the defences on the other side of the court. There will be moments that Svitolina has the edge, but I think Kvitova is playing the better tennis and can come through 46, 64, 62.

MY PICKS: Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
John Isner - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Gael Monfils - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 17-20, - 0.32 Units (68 Units Staked, - 0% Yield)

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