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I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Friday, 14 April 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (April 14th)

I did have a couple of matches that intrigued me on Thursday, but ultimately I decided to be a little more cautious with my picks as the bigger events are yet to come this month beginning with the Monte Carlo Masters next week.

That is the first of three Masters events to be played on the clay courts prior to the French Open, although Roger Federer has reiterated his decision to rest prior to the second Grand Slam of the season. I can't say I blame Federer who has shown the kind of form in the first three months of the season to suggest he could go very close to adding the Wimbledon and US Open titles to the Australian Open he won back in January.

Federer has suggested he needs to rest after winning the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami and he beat some of the best players on the ATP Tour in those events. However Federer is intelligent enough to know that the clay courts are his weakest event at this stage of his career and being able to be fully locked and loaded for the grass and remaining hard court season makes a lot of sense.

Jiri Vesely - 2.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: This has been a tournament that Jiri Vesely has enjoyed whether it has been played in Marrakech or Casablanca and he is in the midst of another strong run in the event. Two solid wins have taken Vesely through to the Quarter Final and he has beaten Paolo Lorenzi on the two previous occasions they have played one another on the Tour.

Neither of those matches have taken place on the clay courts and this surface is the one that Lorenzi favours the most. The veteran has battled through the first two Rounds in Marrakech but that may have taken something out of the legs of the 35 year old.

As much as Lorenzi does favour the clay courts, he has not produced a lot of strong performances at this time of the season leading up to the French Open. In fact he is just 4-12 between April and May in ATP main draws since 2014 and prior to the two wins he has had in Marrakech this week and I do think Vesely has enough of an edge in the match to come through with a relatively straight-forward win.

There is no doubting that Vesely can be hit and miss and is perhaps underachieving so far in his career, but he does like playing in Morocco. I will look for him to reach his third straight Semi Final in this tournament and will look for him to be too strong for Lorenzi on the handicap.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: This does look like a year in which Philipp Kohlschreiber will take a step backwards from his best tennis, at least on a consistent basis. The German is still capable on his day to produce a big performance as he has shown in 2017 already, but Kohlschreiber can be difficult to trust on a day by day basis.

His win over Jeremy Chardy in the Second Round does look a good one on paper as Chardy has been in decent form in recent weeks. This also doesn't look like a step up in level for Kohlschreiber when he takes on his compatriot Jan-Lennard Struff whose game is suited to the faster surfaces more than the clay courts.

Struff has a couple of solid wins this week to move into a rare Quarter Final on this surface at the ATP level. However he is just 3-13 in main Tour matches on the clay courts with the majority of Struff's successes coming in Qualifiers or Challenger events and I think he can be a little loose with his groundstrokes that can be shown up on the clay where patience and consistency is so important.

That is where Kohlschreiber should be a little stronger over the course of the Quarter Final and even if this match goes into a third set he should have opportunities to cover this handicap number. Struff can sometimes capitulate even behind a decent first serve and Kohlschreiber could force his way into the Semi Final behind a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win.

Benoit Paire - 2.5 games v Tommy Robredo: It is going to take something special for Tommy Robredo to recapture some of his best tennis at 34 years old and having spent a long time off the court with injuries. The Spaniard had only gone 2-4 in matches in 2017 before his two wins in Marrakech but I am anticipating the run to come to an end on Friday.

Robredo will have to be respected for the manner of his fightback against Grigor Dimitrov in the Second Round having dropped the second set 6-1, but he may need to play even better if he is going to beat Benoit Paire.

My feelings about trusting Paire to produce consistent tennis on a daily basis have been clear in the past, but he has had a couple of solid looking wins so far in Marrakech. That comes off the back of reaching the Final of a Challenger event on the clay courts and he also holds a 3-1 head to head advantage over Robredo which suggests he might be a little too good for the Spaniard in this Quarter Final.

The Frenchman would have plenty of experience on the clay courts through his career and his best results have come on this surface. While he is facing a clay court specialist in Robredo, I think Paire won't mind the match up and can outlast Robredo who had that important win over Dimitrov in the Second Round.

All four of Robredo's losses in 2017 would have seen him fail to cover this number and I am looking for Paire to come through with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win in the Quarter Final.

Sam Querrey - 2.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: I have been a little concerned with the travelling the top American players in the Singles draw in Houston have had to do over the last few days. The American Davis Cup team were in action in Australia last weekend and would have been crossing a number of time zones before landing in Houston and having to play in a clay court event, not always the favoured surface for players from this nation.

However it does have to be remembered that Houston tends to be one of the faster clay court surfaces and the American players have had plenty of success here in the past. The likes of Andy Roddick, Ivo Karlovic and John Isner have all won titles here in the past and recent years have seen Sam Querrey play well here too without doing a lot when moving over to the European clay court events prior to the French Open.

There is every chance an American will win the title here on Sunday and Querrey has to be amongst the favourites with a solid Second Round win behind him. On a slower clay court you would expect his opponent Thomaz Bellucci to perhaps be favoured to win the match, but Querrey is a solid favourite having dismissed Horacio Zeballos comfortably enough in the last Round.

His serve should cause Bellucci some problems on what is a faster clay court and Querrey has won his two previous matches against the Brazilian without dropping a set. Bellucci has also been in a bit of a rut and he has been fortunate to get to the Quarter Final having needed deciding sets in the last two Rounds.

Bellucci can serve effectively from the lefty stance too, so a tie-breaker is possible, although I think Querrey will have the break points to win this one with a little more comfort. He should have enough to earn at least two or three breaks of serve and can win this match 6-4, 6-4 as he did in the last Round.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Steve Johnson: If you would want to create a prototypical American tennis player of the last thirty years, you would think of a big serve and a heavy forehand being the keys. Steve Johnson very much has those two components for his game, but his backhand remains erratic and the clay courts are most definitely not his best time of the season.

He has lost all four previous matches against Fernando Verdasco, including twice before on the clay courts of Houston, and he has won just one of the ten sets they have competed. That might be the match up with the lefty Verdasco going to hit heavy shots into the Johnson weaker side and look to follow it up with solid play around the baseline.

Verdasco serves effectively enough to keep Johnson off balance in this one too and the clay courts should be more comfortable for the Spaniard. Even though the Houston clay courts are a little quicker than the European ones, Johnson still has to work out how to arrange his movement around it and that has led to some problems for him.

Unlike some of his compatriots, the quicker surface in Houston hasn't really helped Johnson who is just 9-16 in main Tour clay court matches including his win in the Second Round here. This is a big spread for Verdasco as the veteran has found it a little harder to bring his best to the court for the duration of any match he plays, but I think the match up is one that he will feel comfortable with and that can see him settle into a strong position.

Johnson might earn some break points of his own with Verdasco's aggressive approach bringing up errors at times, but I will look for the Spaniard to come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win to move into the Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Jiri Vesely - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-0, + 4 Units (4 Units Staked, + 100% Yield)

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