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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (April 20th)

The Monte Carlo Masters will be putting together some big matches as we approach the business end of the week and the majority of the big names are still involved in the Third Round. A couple of them have had to battle through tougher than expected tests, but the majority of the faces we expect to challenge for the French Open title, sans Roger Federer, are still in the Singles draw.

There are some difficult matches to pick on Thursday as we do get to see a couple of players who are more dangerous on the clay courts than they are for much of the season and those are taking on a couple of the big names on the Tour.

Finding a way around these matches and producing some winners from the Third Round won't be easy, but I do think I have shortlisted the right players to back after a strong few days here already.

Lucas Pouille - 4.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: This should have been a huge match between two top French players when the draw was made, but one of their compatriots decided to upset the applecart. Lucas Pouille has made his way through the draw as expected and has put a couple of solid wins on the board, but he might be surprised to see Adrian Mannarino on the other side of the net rather than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Mannarino has won a couple of Qualifiers to get into the main draw, but coming from a set down and beating Tsonga convincingly was an impressive performance. That was the second time in a row that Mannarino has been able to come back from a set down to win the match but he has rarely produced this level on the clay courts in the past.

This is going to be a considerable challenge for Mannarino after seeng Lucas Pouille win his two matches with some comfort and the latter has also been the better clay courter of the two playing in this one. Pouille can still be someone who plays one too many loose games which will give Mannarino a chance of another upset, but I think the latter will have some difficulty in looking after his own serve through the course of the match.

It is a lot of games for Pouille to cover, but he has managed to do that in his two previous wins here this week and looks to be producing some solid tennis. Having the superior clay court background has to help him, while Mannarino has to produce another big effort after upsetting Tsonga in the Second Round.

I do think there will be a couple of tough moments for Pouille to overcome if he is going to make it through to the Quarter Final, but ultimately I believe he can do that. I am looking for Pouille to see off Mannarino with a 7-5, 6-3 win to move forward in the draw.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: The clay season should be a part of the year that Pablo Cuevas is able to enjoy and this is clearly the surface he favours more than the others. However it might be something of a surprise to note that Cuevas has not produced too many wins between April and the French Open on the European circuit.

I am not sure I can put my finger on exactly why Cuevas can have some difficulties at this time except for the fact that the draws for these events are usually deeper and loaded with some of the top players on the ATP Tour. While he is a solid clay courter, Cuevas doesn't really have anything outstanding to fall back upon and that can see him struggle when facing the top names.

He has to deal with one of those on Thursday when taking on Stan Wawrinka in the Third Round and Cuevas will know he has to step up his game in this one. Wawrinka is a former winner in Monte Carlo and is also a former French Open Champion while this is the kind of surface on which he gets time to put his big swings together and batter opponents into submission.

Wawrinka has not been at his best in Monte Carlo since winning the title and he has not had too many solid runs in the Masters events on the clay courts since that win in 2014. While that may be the case, Wawrinka has won the French Open and reached the Semi Final at Roland Garros over the last two years and I think he can have the power to overcome what is a stiff test on paper.

I just have a little more belief in the Wawrinka game compared with Cuevas', while the strong win over Jiri Vesely was better than a three set victory may suggest. As long as Wawrinka can remain as focused as he was in his Second Round win after hitting a bit of bad fortune, I think he will be too good and can come through with a tough 7-6, 6-4 win.

Alexander Zverev + 3.5 games v Rafael Nadal: Any time you oppose Rafael Nadal on a clay court you know it is a potential pick that is going to run away from you very easily. That could happen on Thursday in the Third Round after Nadal managed to dodge a potential upset against Kyle Edmund in the Second Round, although I am backing Alexander Zverev to keep this one close.

I am certainly not opposing Nadal because he wasn't at his best on Wednesday, because the defending Monte Carlo Champion has to feel a lot better with his first clay court match under his feet. I am expecting Nadal to be much better when he takes on Zverev, but I have a lot of time for the young German and do think this is a player that is going to be amongst the elite in the years to come.

Zverev has won his two matches here this week impressively and he shouldn't feel overawed taking on Nadal having faced him twice before and pushed him all the way in both matches. Of course playing Nadal on clay is a completely different test to facing him on the hard courts as Zverev has previously, but the youngster is also comfortable on this surface.

He hits the ball hard and will attack the Nadal serve which should mean Zverev has half a chance of stealing a set in this match. The question for Zverev is whether he can stay mentally invested for long enough to stay close with Nadal having dropped a couple of sets to the Spaniard very easily as mental and physical fatigue has worn him down.

This is a huge mental challenge for Zverev, but I do think he has produced the kind of tennis that will give him a shot in this one. Having the games in the pocket is appealing at odds against and I will back the German to at least keep this one close even if ultimately falls short against Nadal again.

MY PICKS: Lucas Pouille - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev + 3.5 Games @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 11-2, + 16.36 Units (26 Units Staked, + 62.92% Yield)

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