Featured post

FA Cup Final Pick 2017- Arsenal vs Chelsea (May 27th)

The FA Cup Final is played on Saturday 27th May as the English domestic season comes to a close this weekend culminating with the Championsh...

Monday, 29 May 2017

French Open Tennis Day 2 Picks 2017 (May 29th)

The First Round at the French Open is split over three days and the majority of those matches have been scheduled for Monday.

Upsets have already begun at the second Grand Slam of the season with the likes of Angelique Kerber dropping out of the event at the first hurdle- while it was an upset on the day, it wasn't one that will have shocked anyone who has been following the build up to Roland Garros and underlines the feeling that this women's event looks the most open it has been for a Slam in a very long time.

The more positive story was produced early in the day as Petra Kvitova returned to the Tour following the hand injury suffered in an attempted burglary at her house in the Czech Republic during the off-season. Kvitova was a dominant winner in her First Round match, although she is expected to face much bigger challenges in the days ahead.

The Day 1 Picks made a positive start to the tournament as they returned a 4-2 success for the day. This is an important tournament for me after a pretty miserable first three months of the 2017 season, although signs of recovery have been there during the clay court season.

A strong tournament can take me into the grass court season which leads to Wimbledon with some positive momentum and that is what I am looking for here.

Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 games v Francesca Schiavone: A neck injury meant Garbine Muguruza had to withdraw in the Semi Final at the Rome Premier Event and raised doubts about her chances to defend her French Open title. There has been time for the Spaniard to make sure she is ready to go, but this is yet another top Seed who has so many doubts about their ability to go on and win the title at Roland Garros.

Muguruza has been in relatively poor form ever since winning the French Open twelve months ago and I am not sure anyone can back her with confidence. However the Spaniard did have a couple of solid wins in Rome which would have given her some belief in her own game prior to the neck issue and I do think she will be good enough to win this First Round match.

Once upon a time, Francesca Schiavone would have been one of the dark horses to go very deep in the tournament at the French Open. The Italian won the title in 2010 here and reached the Final the following year, but the veteran is not as strong these days and this match is going to be decided on the racquet of Muguruza.

I think she has had the time to be ready to compete over the next fortnight and I think Muguruza will push Schiavone back with some heavy groundstrokes. Her return should put the pressure on Schiavone throughout and a few big serves should put Muguruza in a position to win and cover this number.

This match up is likely more awkward on paper than it will prove to be on the day and I like Muguruza having enough for a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Daria Gavrilova - 4.5 games v Elise Mertens: These two players have already met once during the clay court portion of the 2017 season and it was Daria Gavrilova who got the better of Elise Mertens fairly comfortably.

The last two weeks have been very good for the Australian who reached the Quarter Final in Rome before finishing Runner Up in Strasbourg a few days ago. There hasn't been a lot of time for Gavrilova to rest and recover from that run, but the confidence of winning matches should mean she is in a good place to compete at Roland Garros.

The warm conditions will allow the aggressive play of Gavrilova to be productive and Mertens has not played her best tennis since finishing Runner Up in Istanbul a few weeks ago. The lack of tennis over the last month has to be a concern for Mertens fans and I think she may have a difficult time in keeping Gavrilova from leaping all over her serve in this one.

I do think it will be closer than when they met in Morocco, but Gavrilova is playing some very effective tennis of late. It has to be said that the Australian can be a little inconsistent between sets, but she should have too much in a 6-3, 6-4 kind of win to move through to the Second Round.

Sara Errani - 3.5 games v Misaki Doi: I am opposing one veteran Italian in the French Open First Round on Monday, but I will back another who has come through the Qualifiers. The decline of Sara Errani has been quite alarming for her fans, but she looked strong in winning three Qualifiers to get into the main draw and the clay courts remain her favourite surface.

Being on the clay has not really given Errani the confidence to produce the number of wins expected of her and First Round losses in both Premier Events in Madrid and Rome were really disappointing. In saying that, Errani has lost seven games in three matches so far at Roland Garros and is facing an opponent who may not be at full health.

Misaki Doi had to pull out of the Nuremberg tournament last week with an abdominal injury and she has not had a lot of time to get ready for the French Open. I fully expect the Japanese player to give this a go in a Grand Slam, but if she is not feeling at 100% it is going to be difficult to beat someone who is prepared to stay out on the court as long as Errani is to get the job done.

Unlike Errani, Doi can't fall back upon a strong clay court record over the years and I think she is going to have a difficult time in this one.

After a battle, Errani can come through with a 7-5, 6-4 kind of win and I will look for her to cover this number with the performances she has produced so far in the tournament.

Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 games v Saisai Zheng: There is no doubt that the clay courts are not where we would expect Karolina Pliskova to win her first Grand Slam title, but the French Open is so open that she has to be considered. Her serve is not as effective on the clay courts, but the conditions in Paris at this moment might make it a more dangerous shot along the lines of what it can be on the grass and hard courts.

The power is also not an issue for Pliskova, but I think the movement is something that can be exposed over the course of a tournament on this surface. That is more likely to be an issue beyond the First Round when Pliskova is expected to see off Saisai Zheng relatively comfortably.

Zheng can't be dismissed easily considering she holds a win over Elina Svitolina on the clay courts of Madrid, but she is going to have to defend really well and hope Pliskova is not at her best to be perfectly honest. Some of her results on the clay courts have really been an exception to the general rule about Zheng's ability at this level on this surface too.

The serve is not one that is going to offer a lot of free points and I will look for Pliskova to penetrate the court with her groundstrokes and keep her opponent on the back foot. There will be times when Zheng can frustrate Pliskova, but more often than not I would expect the latter to have too much power for Zheng in this one.

After a close first set, I am looking for Pliskova to dominate the second in a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Jack Sock - 1.5 sets v Jiri Vesely: One thing I would say about Jack Sock is he can produce a sloppy set or two when he is playing and that is a reason he is yet to really kick on with his career. There are elements of his game which are really impressive, but the lack of concentration can be a problem at times.

That was part of the reason Sock was not able to beat Jiri Vesely as well as he should have when they played on the clay courts a few weeks ago. The American had the majority of the play, but he can be a little loose with his return games which means Sock has to serve very well to make sure he is not making this match more difficult than it should be.

The American is comfortable on the clay courts with his heavy top spin forehand a potentially huge weapon, although the backhand will be attacked by the lefty Vesely. However Sock is the more consistent player from the back of the court and I think that is likely to show up in this one.

Vesely's own serve can be attacked and Sock should have a number of chances to break the serve and the key to this match may be a vital tie-breaker in the middle of the match. That could see Sock push the momentum forward in his direction if he can take that and I would imagine it leads to a win by three or four sets as he serves more effectively and earns more break points over the course of the match.

It is hot in Paris and these kinds of conditions have sapped Sock of his strength in previous years which is a concern. However I don't think it will be an issue if he can take his chances and make sure he is not dragged into a long match and I will back the American to cover the set handicap.

Victor Troicki - 6.5 games v Evgeny Donskoy: One of the players I try to avoid as much as possible is Victor Troicki who can be so inconsistent that it is frustrating to watch and back. There is enough about his game which should make him an effective player on all surfaces, but Troicki can mentally fall apart in sets which makes covering this game not an easy task.

However he is facing Evgeny Donskoy who has been struggling on the clay courts in 2017 and generally hasn't been able to produce the tennis needed to compete at this level. This season Donskoy is best known for being the only player to beat Roger Federer, but that was on a hard court and I am not sure he feels so good on the clay.

He has already taken a heavy loss at the hands of Troicki this season on this surface having won just three games in that match. I do think Troicki is able to work his way to a couple of breaks of serve during the course of at least one of the sets and that should give him a chance to cover this number of games even if he was to drop a set.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Troicki was to drop a set with the way he can lose concentration at times, but I am not sure Donskoy is going to ever be in a position where he is holding serve consistently without being put under immense pressure.

We should see Troicki come through this match with a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 kind of win.

Novak Djokovic - 9.5 games v Marcel Granollers: This is a big spread for Novak Djokovic to cover when you think of some of the struggles he has had over the course of the last twelve months since winning the French Open title. The defending Champion has turned to Andre Agassi to help him through some of the mental difficulties he has had, and I can see Djokovic showing that he might be ready to defend his title.

That has a lot to do with the match up in front of Djokovic having dominated Marcel Granollers in their three previous matches. The Spaniard might be expected to favour the clay courts but Granollers' has regularly produced his best tennis on the faster surfaces and he has been dominated by Djokovic in those.

2017 has been a tough year for Granollers as a Singles player and I am not sure there is going to be a lot of belief that he can challenge Djokovic. Of course the former World Number 1 has been far from clinical in his matches over the last several months, but I am not sure Granollers has the tennis to really go after Djokovic here.

Granollers has a serve that can be attacked by someone who returns as well as Djokovic still can and I am not sure there will be a lot of resistance if the Serb gets in front in this one. There were positive signs from Djokovic in Rome and I do think he will be too good for Granollers in this First Round match.

Ultimately I think Djokovic is able to win a couple of sets with a couple of breaks of serve and can move through to the next Round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 behind him.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 sets v Bjorn Fratangelo: This has been a difficult 2017 for Feliciano Lopez who may be keeping his best tennis for the Doubles Tour these days, while the clay courts are not exactly going to favour his serve-volley game. However the conditions in Paris may make his serve fly faster than usual and I still would think Lopez is going to be too good for Bjorn Fratangelo.

You have to respect the American for coming through three Qualifiers to take his place in the main draw, but this is someone who has generally been playing at the lower Challenger level. Fratangelo does have some solid wins on the clay courts over the last few weeks, but he was beaten by Lopez when these two met in Houston and dealing with the Spaniard's serve is a big task.

The Lopez return is not his strongest part of his game, but he can make enough balls back in play to see Fratangelo make the errors to give him chances to break. The slice will still be a shot that can cause problems as it means Fratangelo is trying to generate his own pace off the ground and that can see the American push a little too hard.

I am anticipating the majority of break point chances will be created by Lopez and, even though he has not been producing a lot of wins of late, I think that will lead to him winning this one in three or four sets.

Alexander Zverev - 6.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: After beating Novak Djokovic to take home the Rome Masters title, Alexander Zverev is not coming into the French Open under the radar. The young German looks very much like someone who is going to fulfil the immense potential he has, although dealing with that pressure in a Grand Slam event can be difficult.

He could have hoped for a much better First Round match than against the dangerous veteran Fernando Verdasco, even if the Spaniard has been in disappointing form over the last few weeks. Verdasco will be keen to show there is still something left in the tank and will be playing with the added motivation of trying to earn revenge for a loss to Zverev at the Madrid Masters.

We have all seen Verdasco produce some of his best tennis in the best of five setting and he is very comfortable with the added time to turn around matches in the Slams. However it will need a big turnaround in results and performances to get the better of Zverev who will be playing with a huge amount of confidence behind him.

Zverev has been serving very well, but more importantly has been finding a real rhythm on the return of serve and I think it will cause problems for Verdasco. The lefty serve is not at the level it once was and I can see Zverev creating plenty of break point chances throughout this contest.

As long as he doesn't lose focus, I think Zverev will work his way to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win which will underline his potential to be a threat to win the French Open title over the next couple of weeks.

MY PICKS: Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Daria Gavrilova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sara Errani - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 1.5 Sets @ 1.73 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Victor Troicki - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 9.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 4-2, + 3.38 Units (12 Units Staked, + 28.17% Yield)

Sunday, 28 May 2017

French Open Tennis Day 1 Picks 2017 (May 28th)

The second Grand Slam of the 2017 season begins on a Sunday, the only Grand Slam to do that, and that can be an issue with the timing of the matches released for the opening day.

The rest of the tournament will have full picks from the French Open matches, but on this Sunday I will just put up my picks in the section below.

MY PICKS: Timea Bacsinszky - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Julia Goerges - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Gilles Muller - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Thomaz Bellucci - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Boxing Picks 2017- Kell Brook vs Errol Spence Jr (May 27th)

2017 has been a wonderful year for Boxing with the big names getting together to produce the big fights in every Division.

There are still more to come with the Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin fight the highlight of the second half of the year, but don't sleep on the likes of Anthony Dirrell vs Callum Smith and a likely rematch between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko after the fireworks they produced at Wembley Stadium at the end of April.

Out of all the fights that had been signed in the first half of the year, this one between Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr may have been the best of the bunch for the hardcore Boxing fraternity. Other fights might have captured the imagination of the casual fans and even those who have previously shown little interest in the sport, but this one feels like it is coming between two of the very best in a loaded Welterweight division and with a world title and huge unification events for the winner to take part in.

The undercard isn't a bad one at Bramall Lane either and I have three picks overall from the overall card which you can see below.

David Allen vs Lenroy Thomas
If World Titles were given to people with charisma and character, David Allen would be close to the front of the queue and he has built up a cult following with his antics in press conferences and the willingness to fight whoever has been put up in front of him.

Do I think this is a World Champion in the making? Probably not, but we have seen the likes of Charles Martin pick up a portion of the title when mandatories and bigger opportunities are presented to the real leaders of the Division and opens up World Title shots to those who perhaps don't deserve it.

However, David Allen is being built up under the watch of Eddie Hearn and he is definitely on a path that will either make him a viable contender to fight Anthony Joshua at some point or perhaps have a World Title fight against another opponent who is of a similar ilk.

That can only continue if he sees off Lenroy Thomas when they meet for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Title on Saturday and I fully expect Allen to do the job. He is a bit crude, but Allen can punch a bit and he would have learned plenty from his losses to Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz.

Those two fights alone are much more daunting than anyone Thomas has fought, even though Thomas has been in the ring with Dominic Breazeale, and I don't really believe Thomas has come here with a lot of belief. It is his first fight outside the United States and he has lost three of his last seven with all of those coming by stoppage in the first half of the fight.

I think Allen is likely to want to get the jump on Thomas early as possible in this one and he has the punching power to force his opponent to really think about whether he 'wants' this as much as the 'White Rhino'. I am not sure Thomas has the best whiskers and I can see Allen taking him out fairly early in this one and will back him to win this in the within the first six Rounds on Saturday.

George Groves vs Fedor Chudinov
There are some who will like the way George Groves carried himself before his two fights with Carl Froch and others who may never like him, but no one can say he doesn't deserve the chance to become a World Champion. He has been beaten in three World Title fights, but two of those were fairly controversial and Groves is looking to prove he belongs in the elite which will open up the opportunities for some huge fights ahead.

The most immediate thought will turn to the rematch with James DeGale, although Groves can't overlook Fedor Chudinov in this main supporting fight to the main event at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

However it has been over a year since Chudinov was last seen being outpointed in a Split Decision loss to Felix Sturm whose best days look long behind him. Simply put, Chudinov has not been in the ring with anything like the quality George Groves has and I think that is going to be highlighted when you see these two in the ring with one another on Saturday.

Groves has rebuilt his career with four successive wins after the Split Decision loss to Badou Jack in a fight he recovered really well after being put on the floor in the First Round. I actually thought he might have done enough that day to overturn the Knock Down, but he has since tried to shown an improved stamina in his last few fights.

One of the big knocks on Groves was he seemed to lose some energy in the Championship Rounds in the past, but I think he is trying to put together his boxing in a way to make sure there are reserves in the tank. That means I don't think Groves will push for a stoppage in this one and instead is going to coast towards a fairly comfortable win on the scorecards and I will back him to win by a points call.

Kell Brook vs Errol Spence Jr
The first thing I want to say is I don't mind being wrong in this prediction one bit if it means Kell Brook is still the World Champion come Sunday morning.

However, history of Boxing suggests it is almost impossible to move up and down the weight classes in the manner Brook has and even having the ten months between fights may not be enough to really feel comfortable at the Welterweight limit.

Brook didn't move up one Division to face the power punching Gennady Golovkin, but he moved up two Divisions and we have seen throughout history that fighters almost always come unstuck when moving back down that kind of weight.

Take nothing away from 'The Special One', he looks in fantastic shape and is saying all of the right things- I do think Brook truly believes he is going to win this fight, but the acid test is how the body will react to the sharp shooting skills of Errol Spence Jr and how much will be in the tank if this goes into the latter stages of the fight.

I fully expect Spence to target the body early and often to sap the energy and Brook is the kind of warrior who will be willing to go out on his shield if he is going to give up his prized possession of the IBF Welterweight Title.

He clearly is proud of being a World Champion- most advised Brook to skip this mandatory and move up in weight or simply to 'duck' Spence, but the reason I have a lot of time for the Sheffield star is because that is the furthest thing from his mind.

This is a dangerous unbeaten American prospect coming to town and I call Spence a prospect because he is stepping up to the World level for the first time. His wins over Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu have to be respected as Spence became the first man to stop either (Algeiri had lost on points to Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, while Bundu had lost on points to Thurman).

Neither is on the level of Kell Brook though who will bring his 'chocolate brownie' to the party and so there are some questions about Spence, who also looks big at this weight, and whether Spence is ready to take this step. He is saying all the right things and I don't think he is another Jeff Lacy and I can understand why the American is the favourite.

Regardless of whether Spence feels truly comfortable at the weight is less of an issue when he hasn't made the same decision as Kell Brook to move up to Middleweight before coming back down for this fight. Spence's body should be much more accustomed to being boiled down to the Welterweight limit and I really think that will end up making the difference in the fight.

Spence has power in both hands and I think he is going to be able to take Brook into the second half of the fight and then take over with some sharp shooting. The fact Brook is willing to go to the very limits in this one makes him very dangerous, but I think the weight drop will be an issue at the end of this one and I can see Brook walking into something big late in the fight.

Like I said at the opening, I would love to be wrong and Brook pulls this out of the fire.

But putting my heart aside and what I want, the head is saying, and has been saying since the fight was announced, that Spence will force the stoppage late in a barnstormer.

MY PICKS: David Allen Win Between 1-6 @ 2.25 Bet Fred (2 Units)
George Groves by Decision or Technical Decision @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Errol Spence Jr Win Between 7-12 @ 4.33 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Friday, 26 May 2017

FA Cup Final Pick 2017- Arsenal vs Chelsea (May 27th)

The FA Cup Final is played on Saturday 27th May as the English domestic season comes to a close this weekend culminating with the Championship Play Off Final on Monday 29th May.

The season has certainly felt a really good one after coming back from Stockholm and Manchester United having a place in the Champions League secured for the 2017/18 campaign.

I'll have some pictures from my time in Stockholm and a short piece about the 2016/17 Manchester United season in the days following the World Cup Qualifiers in June.

I have been saying for a few weeks that I am not expecting an announcement from Arsene Wenger regarding his future until the season is over. That would mean three months of avoiding the demonstrations we have seen over the last few weeks of the season and I am pretty convinced that he will stay on as manager despite Arsenal missing out on a top four finish for the first time in twenty years.

That means Arsenal will be playing in the Europa League next season and failing to win the FA Cup would underline what a poor season it has been for the club. The Gunners have been hit and miss away from home where they have a 9-3-7 record in the Premier League, although they did have some solid wins on the road in the FA Cup. An extra time win over Manchester City helped Arsenal reach the FA Cup Final, while they also won at Preston North End, Southampton, Sutton United before a home win over Lincoln City.

Arsenal have lost 1 of their last 9 games in all competitions and have bounced back from the 2-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur by winning 5 in a row in the Premier League, although they still came up short for a top four finish. The side have won 3 of their last 5 games away from the Emirates Stadium and only the loss at White Hart Lane provides a black mark in that run.

Laurent Koscielny is suspended and Gabriel hurt himself and is set to miss out on the Cup Final.

Arsenal Expected Starting Line Up: Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.

Winning the Premier League title is a huge achievement for Antonio Conte in his first season as manager of Chelsea, but the Italian strikes me as someone who won't be patting himself on the back. Instead I think Conte would have turned his focus to the FA Cup Final and securing a debut season Double with Chelsea before preparation begins for the 2017/18 season.

The Blues finished the season with a points total which is the second highest in the Premier League era and they also had the best away record in the Division as they ended the season with a 13-3-3 record. An impressive 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur helped Chelsea move into the FA Cup Final while they have also seen off Peterborough United, Brentford, Wolves and Manchester United in the competition this season.

Chelsea ended the season with 6 straight wins in all competitions following the 2-0 loss at Manchester United and they scored plenty of goals in that run. In 5 of the 6 wins, Chelsea scored at least three times with the exception being a 0-1 win at West Brom. The side have won 7 of their last 8 games away from Stamford Bridge.

There don't look to be any injury concerns for Chelsea ahead of the FA Cup Final.

Chelsea Expected Starting Line Up: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Alonso, Kante, Matic, Pedro, Hazard, Costa.

Head to Head
Both Arsenal and Chelsea recorded a heavy win over the other in the Premier League- Arsenal won 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium and Chelsea won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal have won just 2 of 14 games against Chelsea with The Blues winning 9 of those games.

However one of the Arsenal wins came in a 1-0 victory in the Community Shield at the start of the 2015/16 season which was played at Wembley Stadium.

Prediction and Pick
The FA Cup Final is unlikely to be the last time we see Arsene Wenger managing Arsenal, although a defeat is going to ramp up the pressure to unprecedented levels on the manager. Finishing outside of the top four of the Premier League and thus missing out on the Champions League is a huge blow for Arsenal, while the defensive crisis is coming at just the wrong time.

Questions about the future commitments of the manager, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will be both in the lead up and the immediate aftermath of this FA Cup Final and it does make it tough preparation for the Arsenal players.

They did end the season in strong form, but they won't find a demotivated opponent in this one as they did in some of their fixtures following the 2-0 loss in the North London derby. That will make the upheaval tough to overcome as they take on the Premier League Champions Chelsea who want to add another piece of silverware to what has already been a successful season for the club.

Antonio Conte doesn't have any real issues when it comes to team selection and the Chelsea players have been producing some top performances down the stretch. Goals have been flowing and a team playing with the confidence they are is tough to oppose in the FA Cup Final.

Chelsea blew Arsenal away when they played at Stamford Bridge back in February and I think they are going to be too strong in the FA Cup Final too. There is quality in the Arsenal ranks through Sanchez and Ozil that can cause problems for Chelsea, but the defensive problems for Wenger's team will likely be exposed by a Chelsea team who have scored 24 goals in their last 7 since the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.

It would be a real surprise to me if Chelsea are not the winners of this Cup Final and I will back them to do that inside ninety minutes.

MY PICKS: Chelsea to Win @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Tennis Picks 2017 (May 26th)

I arrived back in London late on Thursday night and was understandably exhausted so there were no tennis picks written out on Friday.

I did research the Semi Final matches being played in the four tournaments this week and I am going to just place them in the 'MY PICKS' section below.

Friday is also the day the French Open draw will come out and that is going to be interesting to breakdown, especially the women's draw which looks absolutely wide open.

MY PICKS: Milos Raonic - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia @ 2.15 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (May 24th)

There won't be any tennis picks on Thursday as I will be away for the Europa League Final until late Thursday evening, but I will look through the schedule for Friday and see if anything stands out.

So far this week there haven't been too many picks as I have not seen a lot of options, but Wednesday looks to be a busier day with the majority of tournaments looking to get their Second Round matches completed so the events can be concluded on Saturday.

The draw for the French Open main draw will also be made on Friday and we should have the schedule of play for Sunday released on Saturday when the outright picks and Day 1 Picks should be ready to go.

Before that I will have a thread for the FA Cup Final and the big boxing night at Bramall Lane where Kell Brook defends his World Welterweight Title against Errol Spence Jr in what looks a cracking fight.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 1.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: Going into the clay court season, Albert Ramos-Vinolas may have been one of those players people would have picked for a really strong showing. He did reach the Final at the Monte Carlo Masters, but there have been some disappointing early losses too and the Spaniard is going to have to defend a lot of points in Paris next week.

Back to back losses to Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and John Isner would have been matches that Ramos-Vinolas may have expected to win. That has got to have knocked some confidence and there is no doubting the danger that Andrey Kuznetsov brings to the court in this one.

The Russian has talent and has previously enjoyed his time in Geneva with some solid wins behind him. Kuznetsov came from a set down to beat Thomaz Bellucci in the First Round although he has been inconsistent on the clay courts at this level in his career.

There are times Kuznetsov is picking all the right shots and he can be very tough to break with the way he approaches the match. That will give Ramos-Vinolas something to think about, but I do think the Spaniard is the better clay court player and I would expect him to showcase that over the course of the match.

It might need three sets to determine the winner, but I am looking for Ramos-Vinolas to come through with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 kind of win in a topsy-turvy Second Round encounter.

Qiang Wang - 1.5 games v Shelby Rogers: There might be something that I don't know about how Qiang Wang is feeling, but I would have her as a much bigger favourite to win this match than the layers have in this Second Round encounter. Wang has been playing really well over the last few weeks and I think Shelby Rogers might be over-rated for a win over Caroline Wozniacki who had to retire in the second set of their match.

Rogers did play well at the French Open last season but she hasn't had a lot of matches under belt thanks to injury and early losses in a number of tournaments in preparation for Roland Garros this year.

The American is capable on the clay courts with the added time allowing her to power past opponents but I think she is not playing with the consistency or had enough matches for the rhythm that will be needed to beat Wang.

Wang is 9-3 on the clay courts this year, although a few of those have been on the Qualifiers, and that comes at the end of a title win in Zhengzhou on the hard courts which have clearly given her more belief. I think that carries over here and she can beat Rogers in two tight sets which will be enough to cover this number.

Oceane Dodin - 2.5 games v Misaki Doi: There is a lot to like about Oceane Dodin's game and the young Frenchwoman has the chance to put together a strong week in Nuremberg in preparation for the French Open next week. Some inconsistencies still come through, but Dodin is able to hit the ball very hard through the clay courts and can have the patience to win this match.

She will need to be patient against Misaki Doi who is a solid enough defensive player that will look for the mistakes to be made against her. However her lack of real punch off the ground does mean that opponents are able to get the upper hand in rallies and staying in the match from a mental point of view is the key for Dodin in this one.

If she starts getting frustrated with the Doi defences, it is going to lead to more and more unforced errors and that is a surefire way to lose a match. However, Dodin will have the edge in the rallies with the chances she will have the first strike more often than not and her confidence can improve if she is able to restrict those mistakes and ultimately win the points.

It is a match up of contrasting styles, but one where I think the power and aggression of Dodin can see her get the better of Doi in the Second Round. Dodin should be able to get her teeth into the Doi service games and that can lead to a 6-4, 6-4 kind of win for the younger player and a place in the Quarter Final on Thursday.

Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games v Hyeon Chung: There is no doubting that Tomas Berdych is not the player he once was, but he is still a solid enough clay court player to win matches like this. When Berdych has been beaten, he has tended to be beaten fairly comfortably over the last few weeks on the clay courts, but he does have a 6-3 record on the surface.

Only one of his losses might be looked at as one he shouldn't have taken and Berdych would have covered this number of games in all six wins on the clay since April.

Hyeon Chung has to be respected as he has won three matches here in Lyon and this is the first match that Berdych will be playing. The win over Alexander Zverev in Barcelona looks a very good one for the youngster who has yet to really find the consistency to be playing in the biggest events on the Tour having missed out in Madrid and Rome.

Chung also had a strong run in Munich in his last tournament so you can see why the layers don't want to give too much away on the handicap in this one. The wins have been solid enough over the last couple of months, but I think Berdych has been beating those players he should be some comfort and I can see him doing the same on Wednesday.

It won't be easy for Berdych who has to play close to his best level to see off Chung in the Second Round. However I think he can do that in a 7-6, 6-4 win here in Lyon and I will back him to cover the games.

MY PICKS: Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Qiang Wang - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Oceane Dodin - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, - 0.36 Units (8 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Europa League Final Pick 2017- Ajax vs Manchester United (May 24th)

It has been a difficult twenty-four hours in Manchester after the latest act of terror in Western Europe and some of the images have been heartbreaking.

The fact that so many kids were actively targeted is sickening and there are going to be a lot of questions to answer in the coming weeks and months as the authorities get to work in figuring out whether this was a 'lone wolf' issue or something deeper and more threatening.

You've got to feel for the families who have lost loved ones.

Football does take a back seat when things like this happen, but this is part of our lives and we should not allow any set of idiots to dictate the way we should enjoy our lives.

Manchester will be united and will remain strong in the face of what has happened.

This is my thread for the Europa League Final Pick as Ajax get set to take on Manchester United in Stockholm on Wednesday 24th May. I will be in Stockholm and so this will be the featured post until I return on Thursday evening.

Ajax vs Manchester United Europa League Final 2017

A young Ajax team have guided their club to the first European Final since playing in the Champions League Final in 1996 and they will believe they have nothing to lose in the Europa League Final. They have fallen short in the Dutch top flight by missing out on the title to Feyenoord, but Ajax have had a whole week to get that disappointment out of the system which should be easy enough when you think of what is coming up for them.

A four time European Cup winning club should not be considered a dark horse for a competition they enter, but things have changed for Ajax with the majority of young Dutch talent moving into the bigger Leagues much earlier than in the past. That made this run to the Europa League Final unexpected and Ajax were considered underdogs in the Quarter Final win over Schalke and in the Semi Final win over Lyon.

Ajax have won 3 of their last 4 games in all competitions, although looking a little further shows they have lost half of their last 6. All of those defeats have come away from the Amsterdam Arena and Ajax have not won any of their last 6 away Europa League games, while they have lost their last 3 in the Knock Out Rounds at Copenhagen, Schalke and Lyon.

Nick Viergever is suspended having been sent off at Lyon in the Semi Final Second Leg.

Expected Ajax Starting Line Up: Onana, Veltman, Sanchez, de Ligt, Riedewald, Schone, Ziyech, Klaassen, Younes, Traore, Dolberg.

Manchester United
At the moment you would probably look at this season and consider it a decent one for Manchester United, but the overall grade is going to depend on whether they can win the Europa League or not. Win the competition and you would consider two trophies and a place back in the Champions League a success, but lose and the English League Cup Final success won't be enough for people to accept the 6th place finish in the Premier League.

Some of the better performances for Manchester United have come in the Europa League this season, but there have been some nerves in the narrow wins over Anderlecht and Celta Vigo in the last two Rounds. Ever since this competition began, Manchester United have been considered the favourites to win it, although that means nothing ahead of the Final in Stockholm.

Manchester United had won none of their 4 games in all competitions since beating Celta Vigo 0-1 in the Europa League Semi Final First Leg, but they did beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to sign off in the Premier League on Sunday. They have only won 1 of their last 5 away games in all competitions, but Manchester United have won 3 of their last 5 on their travels in the Europa League.

Eric Bailly is suspended after being sent off in the Europa League Semi Final Second Leg, while the likes of Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are long-term absentees.

ExpectedManchester United Starting Line Up: Romero, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford.

Ajax vs Manchester United Head to Head
Manchester United and Ajax met in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup and the 2011/12 Europa League and on both occasions Manchester United won the tie on aggregate.

However, the 4 previous matches have been split with both teams winning twice each.

The Europa League Final comes from Stockholm on Wednesday and both Ajax and Manchester United have a chance to add silverware to their season as well as earning a spot in the Champions League Group Stage for the 2017/18 season.

It is a match up of the experience of Manchester United against a youthful Ajax side who have played with exuberance and the freedom of inexperience to help them through to the Final. While Manchester United have been winning ties 'professionally', Ajax have looked to push forward and score goals which has left them vulnerable at times.

The Dutch side have also been much stronger at the Amsterdam Arena than they have been on their travels in the Europa League and that could potentially be in play here. While this isn't an official away game, the fact is that Ajax have really enjoyed themselves in their own surroundings and have lost their last 3 Knock Out ties away from home at Copenhagen, Schalke and Lyon.

The inexperience which has seen Ajax play with an attacking verve akin to what Monaco have produced in the Champions League has almost caught them out in the last two Rounds of the Europa League. They were fortunate to beat Schalke in extra time in the Quarter Final and Lyon almost came all the way back from 5-1 down on aggregate in falling short 4-5 in their Semi Final.

Monaco ended up finding the defensive shape and strength of Juventus too much in their Champions League Semi Final and I can see Manchester United and Jose Mourinho try to do the same to Ajax in the Final of the Europa League. The defensive shape from Manchester United has been decent for the most part this season and Mourinho will most certainly feel Manchester United will create chances with the quality they do bring in the final third.

They have played really well away from Old Trafford in the last couple of Europa League ties, far better than they have in Manchester in those Rounds. With the quality and pace Manchester United can provide in this one in the final third, I do think they can create chances against an Ajax defence that has been vulnerable away from the Amsterdam Arena.

Don't be surprised at all to see goals in this one as Ajax won't be afraid to send a lot of men forward even if they are chasing the game. The youngsters will have plenty of pace and energy themselves to give Manchester United some problems too, especially with the defensive injuries they are dealing with, and Ajax will create their own chances.

I do think there will be goals and Manchester United might be very dangerous on the counter attack as long as they can show some of the clinical finishing that has been lacking at times. Ajax won't ever give this one up, but I think they could be undone one more time late in the game as Manchester United kill them off and win the one trophy that has been missing off their 'Roll of Honour'.

I will look for Manchester United to win this game and I will also have a separate pick on there being at least three goals shared out between these clubs in what could be a very entertaining Europa League Final.

MY PICKS: Manchester United @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ajax-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (May 23rd)

The four tournaments being played this week move into the Second Round in a few cases as they want to make sure they are completed before the French Open begins on Sunday.

The First Round at Roland Garros is played over the first three days of that event which is the only Grand Slam to begin on a Sunday. That means the pressure is on the events this week to make sure they can complete the tournaments on a Saturday so avoiding poor weather is the key.

It does feel like a very good week for tennis in Europe though which is extending into next week in Paris where the Qualifiers are being played at the moment.

Eugenie Bouchard - 1.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: The tournament in Madrid was an important one for Eugenie Bouchard who has had a couple of really average years on the WTA Tour. I was never as high on the Canadian as some people when she did produce some of her best tennis in the Grand Slams, but that was now back in 2014 and it is not a stretch to say that Bouchard has been nothing better than average in that time.

Her wins in Madrid may give her some confidence in what has been another poor five months on the Tour compared to the press time Bouchard is afforded. Bouchard is just 8-10 on the clay courts since reaching the Semi Final at Roland Garros and I don't think many will be backing her to have a strong run at the French Open next week.

In saying all that, I do think Bouchard can get the better of Yulia Putintseva in this First Round match in Nuremberg, a player who has been underachieving on the clay courts this past six weeks. She has had success in the past, but Putintseva is generally outgunned at this level and it is hard to win matches when fighting so hard to hold onto your own service games.

Someone like Bouchard will throw in some sloppy games of her own though which makes this a tight match and I do think it will likely go into a third set to decide the winner.

However I do think Bouchard can just get the better of Putintseva behind the heavier groundstrokes and with the added confidence of a decent run in Madrid. It could end up with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 kind of win for the Canadian to move through to the Second Round.

Samantha Stosur - 3.5 games v Madison Brengle: It hasn't been a vintage season for Samantha Stosur who simply isn't the player she was a few years ago, but I would still heavily favour her to get the better of Madison Brengle on the clay courts.

It was a decent win for Brengle in the First Round after winning a couple of Qualifiers to get into the main draw in Strasbourg, but she is just 5-11 in main draw clay court matches. Her style of play should not really be one that transfers onto the clay courts that well as she will use a lot of defensive shots that simply sit up on the surface and allow opponents to dominate.

I am not that surprised that she is beaten quite comfortably when she does get beaten on the surface, but Brengle will likely extract some errors from the Stosur game especially when she can force her into backhand to backhand rallies.

The difference here is Stosur's serve should set her up much more effectively than it does for Brengle and I do think that is going to decide the course of the match. While Brengle is likely going to have to dig deep in the majority of her service games to hold, the Stosur serve can set up short returns for the Australian to dominate the rally and effectively hold with much more 'ease' than her opponent.

That should see Stosur have enough to earn a break more in each set of a straights set win and I will back her to cover this number.

Kyle Edmund - 3.5 games v Thiago Monteiro: Late decisions to enter tournaments can sometimes mean a lower Ranked player enters a main draw when the higher Ranked player had come through the Qualifiers. That is the case in Lyon where Kyle Edmund had to win a couple of Qualifiers before entering the main draw where he will be favoured to beat Thiago Monteiro.

I don't think Edmund will mind having to play a couple of Qualifiers just for the additional clay court matches to put under his belt in what has been a mixed portion of the season for him. There have been signs that Edmund can very much produce his best tennis on the clay courts, but he is still very inconsistent with his results which can make it difficult to trust him.

However it should be said that Monteiro does tend to play his best tennis in South America rather than on the European clay courts and he has not exactly been producing the results to build the confidence. The Brazilian has been able to push a couple of opponents, but he didn't play well in a loss to Daniel Evans and will have to be significantly better to beat Edmund.

Even if an inconsistent Edmund shows up, I think he will likely win a close one. However Edmund is 5-4 during this clay court swing heading into the French Open and would have covered this number in all five wins he has had.

I think he can put enough pressure on the Monteiro game to come through with a relatively straight-forward 6-3, 6-4 kind of win in this one and I will back the British player here.

MY PICKS: Eugenie Bouchard - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Samantha Stosur - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kyle Edmund - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.18 Units (4 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)