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Saturday, 3 September 2016

US Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2016 (September 3rd)

We are almost into the second week of the final Grand Slam of 2016 which is just highlighting how quickly this year is moving on. It has been a big year for me on a personal level, but so far I have to say I have been nothing but disappointed with the season totals. I wasn't helped much by missing a number of tournaments during the clay court season, which has always been my favoured time for making picks, but there is still time to turn this one around.

The US Open has been an interesting tournament to this point, although it has once again been hit with far too many retirements in matches. That is partly the heat, but a lot to do with a long season on the Tour, although I do have to say that you don't see the same situations in the final two months of the season which is a little strange.

There have been some really interesting matches filled with drama, but I think we are still waiting for the tournament to catch fire and that may happen in the coming days with most of the big names ready to face one another in both men's and women's draw.


Dominic Thiem win 3-1 v Pablo Carreno Busta: At some point you have to think the last two weeks is going to catch up with Pablo Carreno Busta having won the title in Winston Salem just a couple of days before the US Open began. He had to come back from 2-0 down in sets in the Second Round win over Janko Tipsarevic, although the conditions were much cooler, and now he faces a player who is having a career best year.

There is every chance Dominic Thiem is going to be able to take part in the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November if he can put together a couple of more really solid runs. This hasn't been the most productive summer for Thiem, but his all court game makes him a threat in the coming years when it comes to dishing out Grand Slam titles.

I still think there is an improvement in the Thiem game to be found, even if he is much improved over the last twelve months. I believe he needs to get a little more out of his serve as there are times when Thiem is perhaps too sloppy behind that which is going to cause him issues at the business end of tournaments, but his groundstrokes are very effective and I like his returning stats.

He should be too good for Carreno Busta but matches between these players have always been competitive. All four previous matches have gone the distance, while Carreno Busta has plenty of confidence propelling him this week having won a title on the hard courts last week. I do think the Spaniard will be able to put his game together to win a set, but Thiem is likely to be stronger physically in this one and I will back the Austrian to move through in four competitive sets.


Juan Martin Del Potro - 5.5 games v David Ferrer: If you wanted to see if David Ferrer has slipped from the heights of his career, just watch his Second Round win over Fabio Fognini. Mistakes that you would not be accustomed to seeing from the Spaniard were flowing in the middle of the match and I think the consistency levels that took him to the Semi Finals of every Grand Slam is no longer something he can rely upon.

The serve has always been the weakest shot, but Ferrer's consistency meant it was still difficult to break him down in rallies. With that consistency on the wane, break points are coming at a far more frequent rate and someone like Juan Martin Del Potro has every chance of blowing past what looks a difficult match in name alone.

The layers haven't backed away from Del Potro either as he is being asked to cover quite a few games, but the Argentinian is serving well and is hitting the forehand as big as you like. Even the backhand wing has been protected and Del Potro is hitting over the ball a little more on that side, although the power he used to possess from that wing is not at the level of when he won the 2009 US Open.

However, I think it has made Del Potro smarter in the way he wants to construct points, while Ferrer's own backhand is not a shot that will hurt him consistently. When it comes to the forehand battles, Del Potro is not likely to be beaten by too many players on the Tour and I think he is going to be dictating the way this match goes.

Del Potro's serve will limit the chances that Ferrer gets, but I can see the 'Tower of Tandil' getting into almost every Ferrer service game. That pressure will build and build and eventually I expect Ferrer's consistency to break down and Del Potro to move on behind a 63, 46, 64, 63 win.


Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 sets v Jared Donaldson: This is a fascinating Third Round match between one player coming to the end of his career, Ivo Karlovic, against one who is hoping to have plenty of successful years to come, Jared Donaldson. The run Donaldson has had through the Qualifiers and then upsetting both David Goffin and Victor Troicki in the main draw will give him every chance of entering the top 100 in the World Rankings.

He won't be satisfied yet as he takes on the big serving Karlovic, but this might be too much of a challenge for him to overcome just yet. Karlovic needed five sets to win in the First Round, but he was a much clearer winner in the Second Round against Donald Young which will have given him a little more time to recover physically in a summer where he has won a lot of tennis matches.

The young American has played well this summer too though with defeats to Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka unsurprising. However Donaldson too has won a fair few matches, albeit at a lower level than Karlovic, and the question for him will be how he deals with the Karlovic serve which has been firing very well in the first week on the tournament.

I am not sure Donaldson will be able to cope with the scoreboard pressure that will bring, while Karlovic has been returning better than expected since Wimbledon. He will look to rush the net on the second serve return and Donaldson might find himself pushing too much at times as he mentally tries to stay with an opponent who will hit a number of aces at big moments to frustrate opponents.

The Karlovic serve is not as potent as it once was, but it is still big enough and I think he will earn his way to a three or four set win to take him through to the Fourth Round.


Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v Joao Sousa: The signs that Grigor Dimitrov is ready to rediscover his best tennis have been there for a few weeks now and I think the win over Jeremy Chardy in the Second Round highlighted that. Going down 2-1 in sets in a match he was seemingly in control of would have seen Dimitrov lose the majority of time over the last twelve months, but he bounced back to move into the Third Round in a five set win.

That is a confidence boosting victory for him and I think he will be too good for Joao Sousa in this Third Round encounter. As well as Sousa has done to reach the Third Round, he was definitely rocking in the Second Round against Feliciano Lopez who has to feel he threw the match away even though he was 2-0 down in sets.

Sousa has had a difficult 2016 already and this has been a surprising run when you think of the poor form he has been showing on the hard courts in the past few weeks. One sided losses to Yen-Hsun Lu and Bernard Tomic have to be a concern, while the Sousa serve is far from the biggest weapon on the Tour.

It should mean Dimitrov is able to get involved in many of the returning games, although I am sure Sousa will have some of his own break point chances. The Dimitrov serve is not always at its best, but ultimately I think the Bulgarian will have more of the opportunities as is likely to secure a set with a double break at some point. Even a four set win should see Dimitrov cover this number and I will back him to do so.


Andy Murray - 10.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: This is a huge number for a player to cover in the Third Round of a Grand Slam, but Andy Murray should have far too much for Paolo Lorenzi. These two players actually met in the US Open Qualifiers back in 2005, but Andy Murray has gone from strength to strength since then and is arguably the favourite to win this Grand Slam title for the second time.

The first two Rounds have been comfortable for Murray despite playing opponents who can be dangerous when they find their 'A' game. Murray is clearly a fan of the conditions in New York City and some of the sloppy early matches that he produces in Grand Slams have not been on display in the last two Slams as his focus is very much on the prize.

Physically Murray will feel he can compete with anyone on the Tour and he is facing an opponent who might be a little wounded having needed five sets to beat Gilles Simon in the Second Round. Anyone who knows anything about Simon will know that Lorenzi would have had to work for so many of the points in what are likely to have been long rallies.

That will have taken something away from the Italian who will give every ounce of effort in this one, but who might not have a lot left in the tank. The Lorenzi serve should be under pressure almost every time he steps up to the line and Murray has been serving well enough to only be broken once in two matches and I think he will break down Lorenzi in a 63, 62, 62 win.


Shuai Zhang v Yaroslava Shvedova: I was surprised by Shuai Zhang's impressive win over friends and Doubles partner Samantha Stosur in the Second Round, but I was expecting her to go into this Third Round match as the favourite. That isn't disrespecting Yaroslava Shvedova, who has been a solid Slam performer in the past, but I think she has come through a much more comfortable portion of the draw.

Prior to the US Open, Shvedova had been beaten in two hard court matches after an injury forced her out of the Bastad tournament after Wimbledon. Even with the two wins recorded here this week, Shvedova is only 6-6 on the hard courts in 2016 and some of her losses have been disappointing to say the least.

Four defeats as the favourite is a blow to the confidence and I would have favoured Zhang going into this match having played well at the Grand Slam events in 2016. This is a far cry from the days when Zhang was regularly beaten in the First Round and the Chinese player has at least had a few wins on the hard courts during this summer swing, even if the majority of those have come below the main Tour draws.

The layers think this is a pick 'em contest, but I was leaning towards Zhang before seeing the market. While I expect to see this one go the distance, I think ultimately Zhang will use the wins she has had in the last six weeks to good effect and come through with the win.


Carla Suarez Navarro - 3.5 games v Elena Vesnina: I backed Carla Suarez Navarro to have too much for Jelena Jankovic in the Second Round and I think the Spaniard can move into the second week of the US Open. That will mean the Spaniard has done that in every Grand Slam this season and it will give her a good chance to get back into the top 10 of the World Rankings.

However she can't expect to have the same successes against Elena Vesnina as she did against Jankovic. This is a different match up for Suarez Navarro to deal with as Vesnina does possess more power than Jankovic, although her defensive skills won't be as good.

The Russian will also try and get to the net and use all of her Doubles skills to put away volleys and Vesnina is coming in off her best Grand Slam Singles performance at Wimbledon. Vesnina has come through two Rounds easily enough this week and it has taken the best players on the WTA Tour to stop her strong runs at Wimbledon and New Haven last week.

I can't ignore the fact that Suarez Navarro can be incredibly inconsistent with the results she earns when she is not hitting her marks, but she is a competitive player and has given the likes of Madison Keys and Angelique Kerber scares on the hard courts this summer. It was a break-fest when these players met in Dubai earlier this season and I think we will see a few in this one too but Suarez Navarro will just be a little too consistent with her groundstrokes and get Vesnina moving side to side in a 75, 64 win.


Caroline Garcia + 4.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: Some of the commentators you hear on the television seem to be really high on Agnieszka Radwanska, but I am simply not a fan of the Polish player. I don't think her game is ever going to lead to Grand Slam success and I find her a pretty boring player to watch while you don't know how the serve is going to be working from day to day.

The defensive side of the game is clearly the strength for Radwanska and it clearly is effective enough for the player who has been a feature of the top 10 of the World Rankings in recent years. However you always get the feeling with Radwanska that someone out there is going to be able to hit through her at the business end of these Grand Slam events and that has proven correct more often than not.

I like the chances of Caroline Garcia to make this a competitive match having come through two tough Rounds where she has been a set down each time. The battling back will build character and I think Garcia has the power and the serve to be able to get Radwanska moving around the court. A slow start did cost Garcia when these players met at the French Open in May, but the faster US Open courts might allow the Frenchwoman to make this one a lot closer.

They have met twice on the hard courts and both have gone the distance with each player winning once. The key for Garcia will be to balance the aggressive play while restricting the unforced errors, which isn't easy against Radwanska, and also to serve big and try to earn the short ball as soon as possible. Garcia shouldn't be overawed by the serve coming at her and she has to try and take Radwanska into deep waters after the Pole won the title in New Haven last week.

This does look a lot of games to give Garcia considering Radwanska had not been in the best form prior to winning in New Haven. While that gives Radwanska the confidence to win this match in tight moments, I think Garcia takes a set and makes these games count.


Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: There can't be that many players who have got up to Number 11 in the World Rankings with the shocking Grand Slam record Karolina Pliskova has? I said prior to the tournament that her win at Cincinnati might have flicked the 'on' switch in her play, and Pliskova is in a position to reach the Fourth Round at a Grand Slam for the FIRST time ever.

That is a stunning statistic and I don't think Pliskova could have picked a better opponent if I am being honest. She has beaten Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in all three previous matches and has won every set they have competed while not losing more than four games in any of those sets.

The head to head alone would give Pliskova confidence, but Pavlyuchenkova might have left something on the court after a long three set win over Kristina Mladenovic in the Second Round. While she has a day to recover, those matches will have irreversibly sapped some energy for the remainder of the US Open and I think the Russian will have to serve a lot better if she is going to upset Pliskova.

We know Pliskova has the big serve and heavy forehand to be a threat as she showed by winning Cincinnati, but even this ice cool character will have some nerves as she looks for her first big breakthrough at Grand Slam level. If Pliskova can control those nerves and loosen up her arm, I do think she is the superior player in this Third Round match and I would expect her to beat what must be a tired opponent 64, 63.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 10.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Shuai Zhang @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia + 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kristina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)

US Open Update: 22-23, + 3.56 Units (85 Units Staked, + 4.19% Yield)

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