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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

NBA Finals 2017- Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers (June 1-18)

NBA Finals 2017
Before the season began, most would have been anticipating a third NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors and that is exactly where we have ended up after a long season.

Both teams have been dominant through the Play Offs with just one Play Off defeat combined, but that hasn't stopped the overriding perception being that the Warriors are a big favourite to win their second Championship in three seasons.

I have to say that I have been leaning the same way, although ruling out LeBron James is never an easy decision. There are some mental scars for the Warriors to try and overcome too after the collapse in the Finals in 2016, but Kevin Durant has fitted in seamlessly and there should be too much shooting in the Golden State rotation at the start of this series.

Thursday 1st June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 1 Pick: The expected NBA Finals of 2017 is going to take place beginning with Game 1 on Thursday 1st June. Most NBA fans might have been disillusioned with the way the Play Offs have gone in general with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors blowing past their opponents for the loss of one game, but that doesn't mean we are all not expecting another fascinating duel between these teams.

It is the third season in a row the Warriors and Cavaliers will be competing for the NBA Championship and it is the series that both teams would have wanted. Anything else and they may have felt their successes could be tarnished, but the two best teams in the NBA are back in the Finals where they belong.

Have no doubt that there are some mental scars for the Warriors from 2016 when they blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals with two of those defeats coming at home. They were reminded of their disastrous collapse everywhere they looked and you can imagine the likes of Draymond Green are desperate to right a perceived wrong.

Bringing in Kevin Durant has been a huge boost for the Warriors and I think he has shown why most experts have him down as a stronger player than Stephen Curry and perhaps the closest player to the talents of LeBron James. That is going to be a fascinating duel between Durant and James who get on off the court, but regularly have feisty affairs against one another on the court.

There are some very similar numbers produced by the teams overall over the course of the season and I think the rebounding battle will be important with both showing energy around the boards. The difference may be the more efficient shooting of the Golden State Warriors who also look to have the stronger Defensive rotations.

I expect that to show up in Game 1 despite the fact both teams are off a long break having completed Conference Finals wins very easily. That might break the rhythm Defensively, but I don't think there will be struggles Offensively and I would give the Warriors the edge in this one and do expect them to cover the number.

The favourite has actually gone 11-1 against the spread in Game 1 of the last twelve NBA Finals. The Warriors have covered in the last two opening NBA Finals games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and while playing on a rest has not been good for Golden State, I expect them to ride the emotion of the Oracle Arena to win this game and cover the spread to open the NBA Finals.

Sunday 4th June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 2 Pick: The NBA Finals got underway a few days ago and the two competing teams will both believe there is work to do from Game 1. That might be a surprise when you consider the blow out win for the Golden State Warriors and the expectation they would want to pick up from where they left off, but this is a team who have high standards of themselves.

Despite all of the positives of their performance, particularly on the Defensive side of the court, the Warriors were not happy with their shooting. They missed a lot of open shots considering they scored 113 points and the feeling was that the Warriors could have made it a much easier day in the office if they had been shooting better.

The lay off between the Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals might have contributed to that, but Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were not affected and both had huge games. Durant in particular showed why the Golden State Warriors signed him last summer with a 38 point effort that came alongside zero turnovers.

While the Golden State Warriors are talking about areas to improve, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot more 'obvious' corrections to make from Game 1. The team really struggled dealing with the Defensive moves the Warriors made which contributed to a really poor percentage from the field, and they didn't get a lot of help for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Another big issue were the number of Offensive rebounds they allowed in Game 1 and Golden State were able to take advantage of the second chance opportunities that broke down the Cleveland Defense. Another problem from the Defensive side of the court was the anticipation to close out shooters which allowed the Warriors to get some really easy baskets in the paint.

Picking a winner on the spread is difficult because Game 2 underdogs have tended to show their teeth, going 7-2 against the spread in the last nine Game 2's in the NBA Finals. With the expected improvement from the Cavaliers, I imagine they will have plenty of backers, but the Warriors are very good at home and I am actually leaning towards them despite having an extra couple of points to cover from Game 1.

I do think Cleveland will be more competitive, but I also think the Warriors will show more efficiency shooting the ball. It was Golden State who covered in Game 2 last season in another rout and the feeling is that the Warriors will show too much at both ends of the court to pull away from the Cavaliers again.

You don't feel good opposing LeBron James, but it's easier to feel comfortable with the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry being backed. I will look for the home team to secure a double digit win for 2-0 in the series.

Wednesday 7th June
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers Game 3 Pick: What can the Cleveland Cavaliers do to turn around what is beginning to look like a really one-sided series? There will be those who will point out that Cleveland were 0-2 down to the Golden State Warriors last season too, as well as the famous recovery from 1-3 down in the NBA Finals, but this feels much different from twelve months ago.

There are plenty of fans who suggested Steph Curry was the best player in the world when the Warriors were leading 3-1 last year and looking to be on the road to back to back NBA Championships. However most real NBA fans would have recognised that LeBron James has held that title and he underlined his status by dragging the Cavaliers back for the win.

Most would have also had Kevin Durant very high on any top five list of the best current active players at that time, but Durant's influence on the first two games had Paul Pierce suggesting he is the best player in the world now. Durant is certainly right there behind James for me and his arrival at the Golden State Warriors makes it much harder to see this current rotation of players blowing this lead.

The Cavaliers got a triple double from LeBron James and continue to get points out of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving while also earned a huge number of turnovers in Game 2. However the bottom line is they still lost 19 points and closing that gap looks much more difficult with the addition of Durant to a strong Warriors team.

You can see how irritated the Cavaliers have been with James not happy with questions he has been posed and the frustration that the veterans of the bench have not been able to contribute as Cleveland would have liked. The Cavaliers are trying their best to find the right Defensive formulas to try and limit what the Warriors are doing, but there look to be too many options when it comes to shooting as well as the speed that the older Cleveland players are struggling to stay with.

Being back at home for Game 3 is important for the Cavaliers who responded as a narrow underdog twelve months ago to take this game. The Cavaliers blew out Golden State by 30 points as complacency set in for the road team, but I don't think a team who has won all fourteen Play Off games will do the same having remembered the pain of blowing the NBA Finals in the manner they did in 2016.

Opposing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as a home underdog is tough. Have no doubt the players are likely to be inspired to prove they are still very much alive in the NBA Finals and they will know that most people are ruling them out and suggesting the broomsticks will be needed later this week.

I expect that is going to see the Cavaliers produce an even bigger effort, but I am not sure they have the talent or energy to really stick with Golden State. Ultimately it feels like the Cavaliers need the Warriors to have a bad game to get into this series and Golden State have been playing at a level where they don't look like they are in a mood to drop their standards at all.

The Warriors have covered in all six road games they have played in the NBA Play Offs this season and it is too hard to oppose what is looking like clearly the best team in the whole League. Backing against the Cleveland Cavaliers as an underdog is actually 12-5 against the spread this season and I am looking for the Warriors to move into a 3-0 lead and look to become the first team to potentially win all 16 Play Off games in a single post-season soon afterwards.

Friday 9th June
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers Game 4 Pick: The last two seasons have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers respond with a win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3, but they fell down in the final minutes in 2017 to drop into a 0-3 hole. Now LeBron James is on the brink of being swept in the NBA Finals for the second time in his career and the Golden State Warriors are on the brink of history as they look to sweep the entire Play Offs.

To blame James or to put the sweep on his shoulders is not really apt for this case as Cleveland would be nowhere without his presence. It was another big game from James who was backed up by Kyrie Irving impressively in Game 3, but his minutes have begun to wear down James and that came to fruition at the end of the last game.

Steve Kerr was imploring to his Warriors that the Cavaliers would get tired and his words came true in heartbreaking fashion for the home team. Now they have to try and dig out of a 0-3 hole against a team who will be desperate to sweep away the memories of the collapse in the NBA Finals and the oddsmakers have begun to believe that is going to be the case.

The spread has actually moved up 3 points from Game 3 to Game 4 as there is perhaps a belief that the Cavaliers have suffered an emotional blow that they simply can't pick themselves up from. The tiredness won't be helped by the fact that we have so little time between Game 3 and Game 4 and I actually think the adjustments have now been made by the teams and there won't be much changes in that limited time.

It is actually the lack of time between games that is helping me in deciding how to play Game 4.

As much as it is a danger to go against two of the best shooting teams in the NBA, I think the fatigue in the Cleveland side may mean this is a game that does not surpass the total like the last two have. The referees seemed to be fairly loose with the foul calls they made in Game 3 and that could be a problem if it happens again in Game 4, but I do think Cleveland need to make this a grind it out game if they are going to force a Game 5 at the Oracle Arena.

I do think the Cavaliers will struggle with their shooting under the fatigue they will be feeling despite the fact they will be desperate to avoid the sweep at home. The loss in Game 3 was a real blow to them and the energy levels in the whole Arena may be far below where Cleveland would want them to be and I can see the Golden State Warriors looking to show off their superior Defensive play.

The Warriors three point shooting is a danger to any total when they get going in the way they can, but I am going to back the under in Game 4 and look for a slower game from the Cavaliers to contribute to that.

Monday 12th June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 5 Pick: There will be some painful memories brought up for the Golden State Warriors at the end of Game 4 and they will have had two days to try and put those to the back of the mind. Many NBA fans would have been revisiting the memes that came out of the NBA Finals in 2016 after the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers and they are back in the same position in 2017.

The players are less concerned with the scoreline than the fans may be as they have pointed out that this year the Warriors had a 3-0 lead rather than winning Game 4 like they did in 2016.

However it does make Game 5 a really important one for the Warriors as I really do think the mental stresses on the players will increase tenfold if they have to go back to Cleveland for a Game 6 showdown.

There were some things that happened in Game 4 that Golden State will believe were 'one off' occasions rather than something that is a deeper concern for them. The Cavaliers are a very good shooting team, but the Warriors will believe they won't allow them to get as hot from the three point range as they were in Game 4 and that can be a key reason which helps the home team overcome them in this one.

The Warriors have to be happy with the way they have continued to shoot the ball and they will feel they can bounce back with a much better Defensive effort than they showed in Game 4. Being back at home is a huge for Golden State even if two of their four losses in the NBA Finals in 2016 came at the Oracle Arena, but there is a different feel about this team.

The public looks to be behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game 5, especially when you look at the spread. I am not so sure that this Warriors team is going to fall away in the same manner as they did in 2016 and I am looking for Golden State to have more energy on the Defensive side of the court which will continue to see them open up the shooting lanes on the Offensive side.

It did take a really special three point shooting day from the Cavaliers to see them come through in Game 4, but I am not anticipating them to be able to shoot that efficiently again. The Golden State Warriors have a much better Defensive organisation than they showed in Game 4 and I will look for them to record another big home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers as they secure a second title in three years.

MY NBA FINALS PICKS: 01/06 Golden State Warriors - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
04/06 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 2.00 Betway (1 Unit)
07/06 Golden State Warriors - 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
09/06 Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors Under 228.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
12/06 Golden State Warriors - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

NBA Finals Update: 4-1, + 2.77 Units

French Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2017 (May 31st)

The First Round was completed on Tuesday and the first major shock in the men's tournament came to fruition when Alexander Zverev was beaten by the veteran Fernando Verdasco and admitted he had played 'shit'.

It was the inexperience which cost Zverev and a dark horse for the event has been knocked out to open the door for other players in the section. He seemed to be a trendy pick after winning the title in Rome, but Zverev will have other opportunities going forward in his career.

The exit of Johanna Konta was also a big upset, although her chances of winning the French Open were not as big as Zverev's in the men's draw. Konta should still be winning the kind of First Round match she was given even if she is not as comfortable on the clay courts as she is on other surfaces, but that isn't really an excuse for her.

Day 3 at the French Open was a huge one for the tennis picks with all eight picks made on Tuesday coming back into the winner's enclosure to move this tournament into a very strong position.

It is only a start as far as I am concerned as I look to keep the momentum going now we have moved into the Second Round. The first half of those Second Round matches are scheduled for Wednesday as the Parisian weather continues to shine brightly, although the latter half of this week is expected to be wetter which is going to result in delays of play.

Dominic Thiem - 7.5 games v Simone Bolelli: When these two players met at the Rome Masters in 2015, it was the Italian Simone Bolelli who was favoured to win the match on the clay courts on which he had grown up. It says a lot about where Bolelli and Dominic Thiem have gone in their careers that it is the latter who is a big favourite to win this Second Round match at the French Open and I will back him to cover a big number.

In the two years since they last played, Thiem has gone from strength to strength on the Tour and is pretty effective on all surfaces. His favoured surface is the clay courts and Thiem was a Semi Finalist last season in Roland Garros so he should be very comfortable in the conditions in Paris.

On the other hand, Bolelli has only recently returned from a long injury lay off on the Tour and that has meant he is rebuilding his career from a much lower platform than the one he is dealing with on Wednesday. The majority of Bolelli's matches have bene played at Qualifier or Challenger level, although Bolelli has recorded four solid wins here this past week which will give him plenty of confidence.

However none of those wins have come against someone as strong as Thiem and I think Bolelli will be put under immense pressure from the power and consistency he is facing on the other side of the net. There will be times when Bolelli is causing problems of his own with his experience on the clay courts, but finding the consistency against a player of the quality of Thiem might be too much to expect for someone in the position the Italian is in.

Bolelli suffered a one sided loss at the French Open last year and I think he may have some problems competing for long enough against Thiem. A couple of the sets may be competitive, but Thiem should be able to win one of the sets with a couple of breaks of serve which can lead to a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win for the Austrian.

Tommy Robredo to win a set v Grigor Dimitrov: There is no doubt that Tommy Robredo is a declining force on the ATP Tour and he will need a couple more wins at Roland Garros to improve his World Ranking which will no longer be protected after this tournament. He came through a fairly routine First Round match against Daniel Evans who hates playing on the clay courts, but Robredo will have to raise his game significantly if he is going to compete with Grigor Dimitrov.

The latter made a blistering start to the 2017 season, but Dimitrov has been struggling for consistency over the last couple of months. That has to be a concern for him, and Dimitrov has been inconsistent on the clay courts over the last few weeks.

The last couple of years on the clay courts have been difficult for Dimitrov and the Bulgarian is just 3-7 on this surface since reaching the Final in Istanbul in 2016. The win in the First Round here was against another veteran, but Dimitrov will know he is going to be challenged a lot more by Robredo who beat him when they met on the clay a few weeks ago.

I think it is a big ask for Robredo to win this in a best of five set situation when you think of the clear decline he has had as a player. However he has shown he can still produce his best tennis for short bursts and I think that will be enough to see him take at least one set against an opponent who is not the strongest on the surface.

Dimitrov is someone who can lose his focus at times and I think he is a player who could hit a rough patch in this one. I am surprised the layers believe he is a good thing to win this one without dropping a set, but I am going to oppose that and I will back the Spanish veteran to take a set in this one.

Novak Djokovic - 9.5 games v Joao Sousa: I was let down by Novak Djokovic in the First Round as he missed a cover by a single game thanks to some poor serving. His return game was working effectively enough and Djokovic showed glimpses of his best and I am going to get back behind him to cover the number he missed in the First Round by beating Joao Sousa in the Second Round.

As I said a couple of days ago, this is a big spread for someone to cover when they are feeling at their best let alone when a player is playing with a slight loss of confidence. However the match up is once again a good one for Novak Djokovic who will get plenty of time to read what Sousa is bringing to the court.

More importantly, Sousa plays with a more standard rhythm than Marcel Granollers who was willing to come to the net and play with a lot of drop shots and slices to bamboozle Djokovic. Granollers also rode his luck at times and was clinical at the break point chances that came his way and Sousa will have to do the same if he is going to stay with Djokovic in this one.

However the rhythm will mean Djokovic is likely to feel even more comfortable in this match than he did in the First Round as he faces another out of form opponent. Sousa had lost six matches in a row before coming from a set down to beat Janko Tipsarevic in the First Round, and none of those losses came against a player that can produce the level Djokovic can.

Djokovic has won all three previous matches against Sousa and all of those wins have come relatively easily. As long as he isn't producing as sloppy tennis as he did behind his serve on Monday, I think Djokovic is able to come through with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win in this one.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - 1.5 sets v Marco Trungelliti: 2017 has proved to be a very difficult year for the veteran Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, but he can reverse his slip down the World Rankings with a strong run at the French Open. A win over Gilles Muller in the First Round is a solid one to snap a four match losing run and Garcia-Lopez looks to have been given a decent draw in the Second Round.

He will be facing Marco Trungelliti from Argentina who is Ranked lower than Garcia-Lopez and who has had to win four matches to reach the Second Round after beginning life in the Qualifiers. Those wins give players confidence and make Trungelliti dangerous, especially as he came back from the brink in the First Round by overturning a 2-0 sets deficit to beat Quentin Halys.

Trungelliti has been winning more matches than Garcia-Lopez, although those have mainly taken place at the Challenger level rather than the one the Spaniard has been competing in. You can't ignore some of the really poor losses Garcia-Lopez has had in recent weeks with the likes of Ryan Harrison and Marius Copil beating him on the clay courts, but Trungelliti has generally found himself coming up short when reaching the main Tour level.

Another reason you can respect Trungelliti is because he beat Marin Cilic at the French Open last year, but I do think Garcia-Lopez can get the better of him. Unlike other Spanish players, Garcia-Lopez might not be at his very best on the clay, but he played well in the First Round and I think he will be able to build upon that.

There has to be some fatigue in the Trungelliti legs and I think Garcia-Lopez can expose that by winning this match over three or four sets.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 7.5 games v Taro Daniel: These two players are very familiar with one another in their careers with this being the eighth time Pablo Carreno Busta and Taro Daniel have met one another. However it is Carreno Busta who has won all seven previous matches and he is 12-2 in those sets and I expect he is going to be far too good for his opponent on Wednesday in the Second Round.

The Spaniard is very comfortable on the clay courts and won the title in Estoril, although it should be said that Carreno Busta has still arguably underachieved in this clay court swing. The last two tournaments have been particularly disappointing, but Carreno Busta was a very strong winner in the First Round and can back that up here.

It has been a good tournament for Daniel who has come through the Qualifiers before winning the First Round match against Jerzy Janowicz. However that was a win against an opponent who has been battling injury for a long time now and Daniel hasn't really competed against the stronger players he has met over the last few weeks.

None of those names are comparable to Carreno Busta either and it is difficult to have faith in Daniel who has found the step up to this level generally too much to deal with. His serve is one that Carreno Busta should have success in attacking, although this number of games will only be covered if the Spaniard is able to produce some of his better serving.

Carreno Busta will be broken at times, but he can still do enough to cover this number by coming through with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win as he wears down Daniel over a couple of hours.

Johanna Larsson v Yulia Putintseva: This has been set as a pick 'em contest between Johanna Larsson and Yulia Putintseva, but I do think the clay courts favour the former more than the latter. I actually thought Larsson would be the favourite in the match but she has been set as the very slight underdog in a few places and I want to back her to move through to the Third Round.

Putintseva has to be respected as a French Open Quarter Finalist in 2016, but she does have some erratic results on the clay courts and there was a slight injury concern last week in Nuremberg. That hasn't been a problem for her in the First Round, but it raises some doubts about her game and Putintseva could have a really tough time dealing with the Larsson serve if the latter is in form.

The kick Larsson gets off the second delivery is going to be tough for Putintseva to return effectively, although she can show off her superior movement to give Larsson something to think about. The aggression off the ground could make Putintseva a real danger to Larrson if she is not serving as well as she can, but her own First Round win was impressive.

I can see this one going the distance with both players having their moments in the first two sets. That is where the Larsson serve could prove to be a difference maker at key moments in the third set and I think she can find her way through to the Third Round against the inconsistent performances Putintseva can produce.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Bethanie Mattek-Sands: I think most people were really interested to see how Petra Kvitova would react on her return to the Tour following the home invasion attack which threatened her career in the off-season. Injuries to her hand meant Kvitova has been recovering through the first five months of the 2017 season, but her unexpected return at the French Open saw her destroy Julia Boserup in the First Round.

That was a match up that suited Kvitova with the poor performances Boserup has produced on the clay courts and perhaps not so much can be read into the result. However the serving was far better than most would have expected and the big hitting lefty should have a little too much in the locker for Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the Second Round.

The American came through the Qualifiers in some style and rode the momentum to a solid First Round win which will give her confidence despite being known for her Doubles success more than her Singles runs. Mattek-Sands will have to raise her game again to challenge Kvitova in the Second Round though, especially as she has taken some one sided losses to Lucie Safarova, Shelby Rogers and Daria Gavrilova on the clay courts in the weeks prior to this one.

Mattek-Sands has a decent serve and can produce some quality tennis when she is feeling the ball coming off the court and she is a threat. However I am not sure she is at her most comfortable on the clay and I can see Kvitova just being able to produce the heavy hitting tennis to penetrate the Mattek-Sands defences during the course of the match.

I do think Kvitova will be tested a little more than in the First Round, but the Czech player can keep her feel good story moving for another Round with a 6-4, 7-5 win.

Jelena Ostapenko - 2.5 games v Monica Puig: The First Round win Monica Puig has put in the books was an impressive one over Roberta Vinci, but I still think it has perhaps made her a little over-rated for the Second Round. Puig was a slight favourite to beat Vinci, but she is going to be under much more significant pressure when taking on Jelena Ostapenko who is an improving player compared with Vinci who is on the slide.

Vinci doesn't have the deepest clay court pedigree with the majority of her better performances coming on faster surfaces. The same can be said for Puig who had lost four of six clay court matches before the First Round win here and the losses have come against players who would likely be underdogs if facing Ostapenko.

Ostapenko is a player who has produced a lot of wins on the clay courts over the last few weeks and she will likely be playing with more confidence. My concern in backing her to cover this number, even though it is not the biggest, is that Ostapenko can throw in some really sloppy sets and struggle to protect the serve at times.

Dropping a set wouldn't be fatal to her chances of covering, but losing a set with a double break of serve would be much tougher to overcome and there is a chance that could happen. When Puig is on the top of her form, she can hit through any court and penetrate the defences of the best players on the Tour.

However that is a big ask with Puig not producing a lot of solid successes on the clay courts through her career. The recent form Ostapenko has shown on the clay suggests she will be too good and she did crush Puig for the loss of two games when they met in Rome last year. This one is likely to be tighter, but I think Ostapenko can come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win this time and I will back her to cover the number.

Kiki Bertens - 5.5 games v Catherine Bellis: If you were looking through the draw and trying to find a dark horse to win the French Open title in the women's event, Kiki Bertens might be high on that list. The Dutchwoman reached the Semi Final at the French Open in 2016 and she can go further this time in an open draw which has seen some top names already exit this half of the draw.

Winning the title in Nuremberg means Bertens comes in with a lot of confidence, but playing tennis right up until the day before a Grand Slam begins is not always ideal preparation. Fatigue is a real possibility, but Bertens will not really be feeling the accumulation of matches at this point of the French Open, or at least I don't think she will.

The serve gives Bertens every chance of dominating the rallies and she hits with aggression off the ground which puts her on the front foot in return games. That is the kind of tactics Cathrine Bellis will be trying to fight against as the young prospect from the United States bids for the upset.

Bellis is someone who has huge expectations on her shoulders, although it is expected that her best surface will be the hard courts that North American players grow up on. The clay events have seen Bellis produce some solid wins too, but she has found herself on the wrong side of some one sided losses in the last few weeks too.

One of those came at the hands of Bertens as Bellis was unable to deal with the Dutchwoman's serve in Rome. The conditions should see Bertens' serve fly with a little more pace here and I think she is going to be too good for Bellis on the clay again. Even though Bellis could take a couple more games than when they met in Rome, it still won't be enough to cover this number of games and I will back Bertens to come through with a wide enough margin to make this a relatively stress-free win.

Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 games v Anett Kontaveit: Winning the French Open in 2016 was the high point in Garbine Muguruza's career but she has failed to reach the same heights over the last twelve months. There have been some signs Muguruza is rounding back into form at the right time to at least attempt to defend her title from last year, but the Spaniard would have been hoping for a much simpler Second Round match.

Muguruza had an impressive win in the First Round against Francesca Schiavone, but she will have to raise her level again when taking on Anett Kontaveit who already has a win over Muguruza on the clay courts this year.

That was a tight match in Stuttgart which turned on their second set tie-breaker which was won by Kontaveit and Muguruza is playing with more confidence now. That confidence could see Muguruza produce some of her better tennis at the key moments and turn a tie-breaker in her favour.

Kontaveit reached the Quarter Final in Stuttgart after going through the Qualifiers and she did the same at the Rome Premier Event which shows this is a player very capable on the clay courts. She has some power which can punish the second serves Muguruza will show her and Kontaveit is also possessing a decent serve of her own to earn some cheap points.

This is going to be a fascinating match to watch, but I can see Muguruza getting the edge this time around. The Spaniard can give herself a huge boost in confidence by winning this match with a 7-5, 6-4 result and show that Muguruza is ready to reach the business end of the tournament over the next few days.

Timea Bacsinszky - 5.5 games v Madison Brengle: It was a really poor effort from Julia Goerges in the second set that cost her her match against Madison Brengle in the First Round earlier this week. The chances were created by Goerges and she even served for the match, but came up short thanks to a host of errors off the moonball tactics employed by the American.

Playing the same way against Timea Bacsinszky is not going to be good enough for Brengle in the Second Round as the former is not likely to offer up the same amount of mistakes as Goerges did. Instead Bacsinszky will be happy to play a game filled with variation in the belief that she is the better player than Brengle and I think she can cover a big number.

The clay courts have seen Bacsinszky produce some of her better tennis in her career and she is another former Semi Finalist at the French Open whose run was cut short by Serena Williams. Serena isn't around this year and Bacsinszky may be a dark horse to go all the way even if the results have not been the most consistent this year.

When Bacsinszky has won, she has tended to win with some comfort in recent weeks with her five wins on the clay courts all coming by a margin of at least six games. Brengle did play well in Strasbourg last week, but that was a rare exception on the clay for a player who doesn't have a lot of penetration on her groundstrokes and whose serve can be attacked.

The added fatigue from the long match with Goerges won't help the Brengle cause and I think Bacsinszky proves herself too good in a 7-5, 6-2 win.

Kristina Mladenovic - 3.5 games v Sara Errani: Kristina Mladenovic was not feeling very well in her First Round win over Jennifer Brady, but she showed fighting spirit to come from a set behind and win the match. The Frenchwoman has plenty of backers when it comes to winning the title in her home Grand Slam after reaching the Final in Stuttgart and Madrid in preparation for this tournament.

The serve is a big weapon and Mladenovic has all the shots to be really effective on the clay courts although it her consistency through the course of a match has been a problem for her. There are times when I will watch Mladenovic and wonder what is going through her head when it comes to shot selection and the unforced errors, but other times Mladenovic looks a real world beater.

The home favourite will have to bring the good side of her tennis to the court when taking on the veteran Sara Errani who is a former Finalist at Roland Garros and whose best Singles Grand Slam results have been here. Errani has struggled for form over the last twelve months which meant she had to play the Qualifiers this year, but she may just have played herself into form.

Errani's performances over the last few weeks have not been the best and early losses in Madrid and Rome would have dented confidence. However Errani has dropped just fourteen games in eight sets so far in Paris although none of those matches have come against someone with the power and talent Mladenovic possesses.

It is Mladenovic who has won the majority of their head to head matches and I expect her power to show up here. She may drop a set, but I think Mladenovic will be able to win at least one of the sets with a double break as she keeps Errani under pressure on her serve and I will be looking for Mladenovic to cover the number in this one.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem - 7.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo to Win a Set @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 9.5 Games @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Johanna Larsson @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Jelena Ostapenko - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)

French Open Update: 17-6, + 19.16 Units (46 Units Staked, + 41.65% Yield)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

French Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2017 (May 30th)

The remaining First Round matches are going to be completed at Roland Garros on Tuesday as the second Grand Slam of the season sees all the players in the draw get their initial forays into the draw under their belt.

A lot of the leading contenders in the men's and women's draws have already made their appearance in Paris, but Tuesday will see a few more get their title challenge underway.

The one thing that has stood out so far is that the men's tournament does look like it will be mostly about Rafael Nadal who looks the best player in the draw. There are some younger players who may feel they have 'nothing to lose' and could challenge the 'King of Clay' but it will be a big task for anyone in a best of five setting.

Novak Djokovic did ease through, but his vulnerabilities still look like they are there and he will need to improve massively to win the title here and we won't see the best of his partnership with Andre Agassi unless they move it beyond the time in Paris.

On the other hand, the women's draw looks very, very open as most have suggested prior to the tournament beginning. It does feel a 'surprise' name could go on and win the title here although there are plenty of big names in the draw who will believe things could open up for them over the next few days.

Nick Kyrgios - 1.5 sets v Philipp Kohlschreiber: Backing Nick Kyrgios is never an easy option, despite the clear talent I think the man possesses, because you are not always sure where his priorities are lying. At the moment tennis has taken a back seat to his family issues with the passing of his grandfather, and I do wonder if he is fully ready to compete at the French Open.

A poor loss in Lyon in a match Kyrgios would have been favoured to win has raised further doubts, but I think the Australian can win a tough looking First Round match.

In previous years facing Philipp Kohlschreiber would have been a short straw prize for a Seeded player in a Grand Slam, but the veteran is not up to the level he has shown previously. He did reach the Final in Marrakech but Kohlschreiber has lost a lot of matches in recent weeks and the wins have simply not been coming which should knock some of the confidence from his play.

This match will be won or lost on the racquet of Kyrgios as far as I am concerned. The serve is a monster weapon and can make life very difficult for Kohlschreiber to get his teeth into this match and Kyrgios is going to provide the heavier groundstrokes which should see him move into a position to win the match.

The question is how Kyrgios is feeling, but I think he is going to be good enough in the First Round to win this one and I think he does that in three or four sets.

Andy Murray - 6.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: If you didn't know how difficult 2017 has been for Andy Murray, this kind of spread underlines the point for you. Usually Murray would be a very, very big favourite to win a First Round match at the Grand Slams, but his own recent performances have been poor by the standard he has set through his career and Murray faces a dangerous opponent in the First Round.

Only last week saw Andrey Kuznetsov reach the Semi Final in Geneva before coming unstuck against Stan Wawrinka and the Russian is a player who has plenty of talent coming off the racquet. He is happy on the clay courts and will have some special moments on the court, but Andy Murray at his best wins this match.

Now I know Murray has been far from his best in recent weeks and has admitted the toll of trying to reach the World Number 1 spot has hurt him. He has been struggling to get back to his best tennis, but Kuznetsov will give Murray a rhythm to play with and is also aggressive enough to make mistakes on which the World Number 1 can thrive.

I also think it has to be noted that Murray has lost to some solid clay courters over the last few weeks and I am not sure I put Kuznetsov in that bracket. While Kuznetsov did well to reach the Semi Final in Geneva, he has not really beaten someone of the quality of Murray and I think those factors come into play on Tuesday.

There will be moments for Kuznetsov as I said, but Murray can come through with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 kind of win to move clear of this handicap.

Jeremy Chardy - 6.5 games v Radu Albot: There have been serious signs of decline from Jeremy Chardy and the majority of his time over the last few weeks have been on the Challenger circuit. His World Ranking has dropped to a point where he would have had to Qualify for the two Masters events in Madrid and Rome and Chardy did quite a bit of winning back at the Challenger level.

The draw does look a good one for Chardy who is facing an opponent who is also more comfortable at the Challenger level than the main Tour. Radu Albot's step up to the main Tour level has resulted in four straight losses on the clay courts and Albot is now just 2-7 on the main Tour on this surface.

This time last year Albot pushed another Frenchman to five sets when ultimately falling short against Benoit Paire. It means Albot will understand the atmosphere and the fans being against him, but I think Chardy is arguably a more consistent player than Paire with the latter's form fluctuating between sets.

Paire is clearly a better player than Chardy with his high surpassing the latter's ceiling, but I think Chardy's steadiness will give him a chance to win this match against Albot with relative comfort. The Chardy serve can be broken, but he will be able to roll through enough service games to put the pressure on Albot who is going to need to work much harder to hold onto his service games.

It could end up with Chardy coming through with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win and a place in the Second Round on Thursday.

Tomas Berdych - 6.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: There are a few veterans on the Tour who are not at the level they were producing eighteen months ago and Tomas Berdych is one of those names. He is still showing enough on the clay courts to have a decent run at the French Open, although I think the days people suggested he was a dark horse to win a Slam are now behind him.

I will give Berdych some credit and say he has been producing some solid wins on the clay courts over the last few weeks and I do think he will be too good for Jan-Lennard Struff.

The German played well in a couple of tournaments earlier in the change of surface which suggested Struff was getting to terms with the clay courts and how to play on them. However his best results remain off the main Tour and Struff has been playing back down to the more usual level than the one he showed at Monte Carlo.

Struff has a decent serve, but the slower surface means he needs to have some patience to his play and I am not sure he can produce enough quality to avoid the unforced errors that comes with his style. He will also be facing plenty of firepower from the Berdych side of the court and I can see the Berdych serve being a difference maker at key times in this match.

The big serve was too much for Struff to deal with in a recent loss to Sam Querrey and I think Tomas Berdych will be a little too good in the three sets they compete in. It should mean Berdych is able to work his way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win on his way through to the Second Round.

Sorana Cirstea v Shuai Peng: My initial starting point with this pick is I actually had Sorana Cirstea going into this First Round match as the favourite to beat Shuai Peng. That automatically got me interested in backing the Romanian even if she is not exactly the most convincing player on the Tour to back.

However Cirstea has put plenty of wins on the board during the clay court swing and she is very comfortable on the surface. That can't be said for Peng despite her run to the Semi Final in Strasbourg last week as that is an exception to the general rule for her on this surface.

I do think both players will have their chances to break serve and that there will be swings of momentum through the course of the match.

However I do think Cirstea is the more productive player on the clay and can battle her way to the win. I wouldn't at all be surprised if we see three sets in this one, but I will edge towards Cirstea as the underdog.

Caroline Garcia - 5.5 games v Nao Hibino: Injuries and personal issues have been affecting the Caroline Garcia performances over the last few weeks, but she did have a decent run in Strasbourg last season. This also looks a decent First Round match against Nao Hibino who has lost five of her six matches on the clay courts this season.

Hibino has not played a lot of clay court tennis throughout her career and she was beaten heavily at the hands of Simona Halep when playing at the French Open for the first time last season. This time she will be facing a quality opponent and also one who will be backed by the partisan Parisian crowd on Tuesday.

There was enough solid tennis from Garcia last week which will give her some confidence to take into this home Grand Slam. There has to be some concern with the lack of matches of late and the fact that Garcia is not someone who has won too many matches in dominant fashion.

However I think Garcia has the better serve and should be clinical enough on the Hibino service games to give herself every chance to cover this number of games. The last couple of losses taken by Hibino have come in straight-forward fashion and she has not been able to cover this number in either.

As long as Garcia punishes Hibino when the break point chances come her way, I think she will be good enough to earn a 6-3, 6-3 win in front of her own fans.

Tatjana Maria - 4.5 games v Ying-Ying Duan: This is Grand Slam is played on the clay courts and that is not a surface Ying-Ying Duan has enjoyed at any point in her career. Duan was battered by Sam Stosur in one of two losses on the surface in 2017 and I think the lower Ranked Tatjana Maria will be too good for her.

Maria saves her best tennis for the clay courts and she has had a few wins on the surface over the last few weeks, although no one will confuse her for a potential Grand Slam winner.

Duan has lost all four matches she has played on the clay courts and she would not have got within this number in any of those. This is arguably as winnable a match as she could play, but Maria has won enough matches to think she will be too good in this one.

I don't think it will be completely one-sided because Maria is a player that will give Duan some chances, but I like her to win this one 6-4, 6-3 as her superior clay court nous and experience shows up.

Anastasija Sevastova - 4.5 games v Annika Beck: This has not been a good match up for Aanstasija Sevastova in the past as she has been beaten in her two previous matches against Annika Beck and she has won just six games in that time. Both matches were played on the clay courts with the last one coming in the middle of the 2016 season and that has to be a concern when you think I am backing Sevastova to cover a big number.

That is mainly because Sevastova has shown some solid clay court tennis in the last few weeks and has the confidence of a number of wins behind her. Reaching the Quarter Final in Charleston and Stuttgart and following that with a Semi Final run in Madrid means Sevastova has got plenty of wins to lean back upon.

It is much better than the form Beck has shown who has won two of six matches on the clay courts and one of those came thanks to an opponent retiring from the match. Beck has been competitive in a couple of losses and she is a player that can defend effectively and shift the pressure onto Sevastova who can push too hard and produce plenty of errors.

Sevastova will have to be careful, but she has a decent first serve which can set up points for her against an opponent who has very good movement and is effective defensively. However Beck will allow Sevastova to dictate the points and the performances of the last couple of months has to set up the Latvian to produce a big effort here.

Beck's serve is one that can be attacked by Sevastova and I think she will be able to produce the break points. Things won't be comfortable with some long rallies to be played by both of them, but I like Sevastova to come through with a 7-5, 6-3 win.

MY PICKS: Nick Kyrgios - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Sorana Cirstea @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tatjana Maria - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Anastasija Sevastova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 9-5, + 6.44 Units (28 Units Staked, + 23% Yield)

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)