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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (May 12-14)

Follow, follow, follow, cos United are going to Stockholm... Suffice to say it was a nervy night at the very end of the Europa League Semi...

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)

Tennis Picks 2017 (May 22nd)

The final week before any Grand Slam tournament is usually one where the top names decide to skip out and keep the energy fresh for the major event ahead. That is the case for the most part this week with the French Open due to begin next Sunday, although there are still plenty of recognisable names in the events being played across four tournaments this week.

In saying that, it can be the attempt to ride some treacherous seas when negotiating picks through weeks like this and is certainly one of caution for myself.

While I am planning to make picks, I do think there will be the potential for not really seeing anything worth backing with the fact that the French Open is beginning this weekend in my mind. Some of the tournaments have already got into the main draw on Sunday and I didn't have any picks from the events and we will see how it goes over the week.

Oceane Dodin - 1.5 games v Shuai Zhang: It has been a tough battle on the clay courts for Shuai Zhang and confidence is going to have been damaged having lost five in a row on the surface. In general it has been a disappointing season for Zhang so far and this First Round match looks a tough one on paper for her.

Oceane Dodin has yet to really put together the consistency she would like on the WTA Tour but she has improved her World Ranking and looks to be a player capable of fulfilling the potential she clearly has. Playing on the clay courts shouldn't be an issue for a player that has grown up on the surface, although the inconsistency already mentioned makes it tough to really believe in her fully.

However, I do think Dodin has had enough wins over the last few weeks to believe in her game a little more than Zhang does at this moment. It can be argued that Dodin has the more 'respectable' losses on the clay over the last few weeks and I think she can get the better of Zhang even if it takes three sets to get the job done.

Zhang's last eight losses on the clay courts would have failed to see her get within this number and I will look for Dodin to play just big enough to come through with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win.

Alize Cornet v Shuai Peng: This has been set as a pick 'em contest by the layers and I think that says a lot about the inconsistency that Alize Cornet continues to produce on a week by week basis. Her home Grand Slam is coming up next week and Cornet has to show some form to build momentum to take into the French Open, although failing to reach her standards will give Shuai Peng the edge to win the match.

The clay court season has not been one that Cornet has enjoyed so far, although her loss to Elina Svitolina came in two tough sets last week in Rome against the eventual winner of that Premier Event.

Peng is not really on that level, especially not on the clay courts and I think she may be on the wrong end of another narrow loss. Both of her clay court losses in 2017 have come in three sets against very strong opponents, but Peng may not have the same nous on the clay courts as the Frenchwoman she faces in the First Round.

I have little doubt there will be shifts of momentum during the match on the way to a Cornet win, which is never straightforward. However I do think Cornet should have the superior clay court game compared with Peng and she can win here this week in another three set match.

MY PICKS: Oceane Dodin - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alize Cornet @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (May 21st)

The final weekend of the Premier League 2016/17 season is played on Sunday before a few Cup Finals and a round of World Cup Qualifiers completes the campaign.

Only four days after the Scotland v England World Cup Qualifier the fixtures for the 2017/18 Premier League season will be released, although the two months wait for the new season will feel like a long time.

Arsenal v Everton Pick: They might have beaten Watford 1-0 at home last weekend, but Everton have not been at their best in the final weeks of the season as the players have achieved all of their goals for the current campaign. That doesn't mean they are going to roll over for Arsenal in this one, but Everton have looked like they have been struggling for motivation at times.

Everton haven't been that good away from home this season either and the lack of motivation compared with Arsenal might prove to be a difference maker.

Like many times in recent seasons, The Gunners are finishing the season with a flourish, but this time it looks like they are not going to do enough to finish in the top four. Arsene Wenger will urge his team to focus on their own matters and win this game to force Liverpool to do the same when they host Middlesbrough, but an early lead for Liverpool is likely to see the supporters turn on the manager.

The players have at least responded for their manager and I think Arsenal will have the majority of the play as they look to end the season with a fifth consecutive home win. Arsenal still have the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to open the door against a stubborn Everton team who are missing some key defensive faces and I think they can win this game.

Only two teams, Chelsea and Liverpool, have beaten Everton by more than a single goal margin this season, but I will look for Arsenal to do that this weekend against a demotivated opponent.

Burnley v West Ham United Pick: There is no doubt that a number of the players in both squads will be looking forward to the end of the season in which Burnley have overachieved and West Ham United have underachieved. While Sean Dyche is preparing for the new season already, Slaven Bilic is under big pressure as manager of West Ham United with the raised expectations there.

It is important that Bilic sees a reaction from his players after the awful display in the second half of the 0-4 loss to Liverpool. West Ham United looked disorganised and offered very little resistance to the speed and creativity that Liverpool produced on Sunday.

That is not going to be the way that Burnley approach things and so it may be a little easier for West Ham United to defend this weekend. They had been looking solid in the new three at the back system before being ripped apart by Liverpool, and goals may be at a premium when you think how Burnley have just lost their edge down the stretch.

I do think Burnley have the slight edge in terms of motivation playing at home, and a narrow success for the home team would not surprise me here. However I think there could be a real end of season feel to this one and I am backing fewer than three goals to be shared out between Burnley and West Ham United in this one.

Chelsea v Sunderland Pick: There will be another party atmosphere at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea will be given the Premier League trophy at the end of this fixture. However this time the fans will likely be given a chance to thank the majority of players who led the way for the triumph in the League this season and that doesn't bode well for this Sunderland side.

It was yet another away loss for Sunderland during the week and they can thank goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for only losing by a couple of goals at Arsenal. The team looks tired and not up to the standard of the Premier League and it feels like it will be a long afternoon for them against a Chelsea team who will want to sign off at Stamford Bridge in style.

The 'win to nil' is not as attractive as it was for Arsenal to beat Sunderland on Tuesday and instead I am looking for Chelsea to win this one by a wide margin.

They did concede some sloppy goals against Watford on Monday, but Chelsea should have the key players back in the defensive unit and Sunderland have simply not shown they can score a lot of goals.

With the attacking players likely to enjoy some spaces, Chelsea can win this one with a slightly easier margin than Arsenal produced on Tuesday.

Hull City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The last couple of weeks have been difficult for Hull City as what looked like being a positive fight against relegation were ended in unceremonious fashion. The 0-2 home loss to Sunderland seems to have deflated all confidence and belief that Marco Silva had built up and following that up with a 4-0 loss at Crystal Palace underlined that.

It will be difficult for the players to go out on a high on Sunday despite their really strong record at home under Silva’s watch. The problem for Hull City is they are facing a Tottenham Hotspur team who have been in rampant form and are making a serious bid to make sure they end this season with positive momentum behind them unlike last season.

On the final day last season Tottenham Hotspur visited the North East against an already relegated opponent and were humbled 5-1 at Newcastle United. That is unlikely to happen again this weekend and it is more likely that Tottenham Hotspur will reverse that scoreline if their 1-6 win at Leicester City on Thursday is anything to go by.

A team playing with the confidence Tottenham Hotspur have is going to be tough to slow down and I am not sure I can see how Hull City will be able to compete with them. While Hull City have had some really good results at home under Silva, including beating Manchester United and Liverpool, confidence has to be shot.

I can only see another strong Tottenham Hotspur win on Sunday to sign off on another season of improvement and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Leicester City v Bournemouth Pick: 10th place looks to be on the line when Leicester City and Bournemouth meet in the final fixture for both clubs on Sunday and that might initially sound like an almost meaningless achievement. However there is no doubt the difference in feeling when ending with a top half finish compared with a bottom half finish and so both Leicester City and Bournemouth should be motivated enough.

Leicester City are coming off a humbling experience from Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday and there has to be some tiredness in the legs. That is an area Bournemouth will look to expose with their passing game keeping the home players on the move and chasing the game.

However The Foxes have been very good at home under Craig Shakespeare and I think Thursday might just be an exception to the rule. Leicester City have scored plenty of goals since Shakespeare took over from Claudio Ranieri, but defensive injuries means there will be chances for Bournemouth too.

It does feel like both clubs will create opportunities for the likes of Jamie Vardy and Josh King and I am going to look for the season to finish with a flourish at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

I backed goals when Leicester City hosted Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday and I think there will be goals in this one as two attacking teams meet.

Liverpool v Middlesbrough Pick: This is a huge game for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool for the development of the club as they are on the brink of getting back into the Champions League. The financial aspect is one element, but being able to offer big name players the chance to compete in the premier European competition is huge for Liverpool as they try and bridge the gap to the teams above them in England.

Failure is simply not an option for Liverpool and the only way they can guarantee their place in the top four of the Premier League is by winning this fixture. The concern for the fans has to be the fact that Liverpool have not won any of their last 3 at Anfield against the likes of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Southampton, and that will open the door for Arsenal.

However, I think facing Middlesbrough or Sunderland would have been the ideal situation for Liverpool and I think an early goal could potentially see Middlesbrough crumble. They have tried to be more positive under Steve Agnew, but that has seen the side concede 11 goals in their last 3 away games and at least three times in each game.

Middlesbrough have looked disinterested and lacking belief in their losses to Chelsea and Southampton over the last two weeks and I am not sure they can pick themselves up to dent the Liverpool bid to make the top four.

The one thing Liverpool can do is score goals and I expect they are going to be able to breach the Middlesbrough defences a few times. It could be nervy if there is a narrow lead being protected by the home team, but I can see Liverpool putting Middlesbrough to the sword early and creating enough chances to win this game by a comfortable margin to ensure Champions League Football is back at Anfield in August.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Pick: This is clearly a game that both Manchester United and Crystal Palace would likely happily set aside and move on to more important matters. After confirming their place in the Premier League last weekend, the Crystal Palace players may easily have booked their holiday plans for the coming couple of weeks before the World Cup Qualifiers for some and the focus and intensity might not be there.

On the other hand, Manchester United are not playing a recognised team in this final game with the Europa League Final just days away and Jose Mourinho has already stated he hoped Crystal Palace will take it easy against his young team.

It does make the prices on a Crystal Palace win attractive to a point, but those have shortened in the last week as Mourinho's intentions have been made clear. Now that Crystal Palace have secured their place, it is also hard to know how much the players will really push forward to win here even if someone like Wilfried Zaha would love to show the Old Trafford crowd what didn't work in his time with Manchester United.

The young Manchester United players will have an education trying to break down a Crystal Palace team organised by Sam Allardyce and this feels like it could have a pre-season kind of feel for both teams.

That usually means limited goals and the fans at Old Trafford may have to sit through another 1-1 scoreline which has been grating on so many over the course of the season. That scoreline is the one that worries me when it comes to opposing both teams scoring here like I did when Manchester United travelled down to St Mary's during the week, but I will look for this game to feature fewer than three goals on Sunday.

Southampton v Stoke City Pick: With the season ending on Sunday, it is hard to know what the future holds for Southampton and Stoke City who have both struggled down the stretch which won't have pleased the fans. It would be a huge surprise if Stoke City didn't give Mark Hughes another transfer window to bring in the players he wants to improve this squad, but Southampton are almost certainly going to be looking for someone to replace Claude Puel.

A lack of goals has been the complaint for both Southampton and Stoke City and all the signs are pointing to another game which will send the fans to sleep at St Mary's. There is a lot of endeavour in the Southampton side, but they can lack a cutting edge, while Stoke City's flair players just simply don't play as well away from the Bet365 Stadium.

There are many an occasion at the end of season when teams loosen up and produce fireworks and that could happen here if an early goal is scored by either. However it feels much more likely that the teams could sleepwalk through the ninety minutes with limited chances at both ends and so I will go back to the same pick I had when Southampton hosted Manchester United on Wednesday.

Southampton have failed to scored in 5 of their last 6 home League games, but they have also had 3 goalless draws in that time including on Wednesday. Stoke City had failed to score in 6 straight away games before the 2-2 draw at Bournemouth last time out and I will back one, if not both, team to fail to score on Sunday.

Swansea City v West Brom Pick: Instead of the tension filled final day of the season that Paul Clement and the Swansea City supporters must have been expecting, this game at the Liberty Stadium is a chance for the fans to show their appreciation of their club which has avoided relegation to the Championship.

The hard work will begin on Monday for Clement, but for now he will send the players out to enjoy their relative successes. It should mean Swansea City can play with some freedom and enjoyment in front of their fans where they have won 5 of their last 7 Premier League games.

That has been vital to their achievement of escaping the bottom three and another win looks to be on the cards on Sunday against a West Brom team who have been demotivated since March. The lack of intensity has seen West Brom lose 6 of their last 7 Premier League games and the players may struggle to match Swansea City in this final game.

It is what I am expecting on Sunday and I can see Swansea City winning another home game under Paul Clement which will give them plenty of belief going into the new season. Home form is likely going to be important for them again in the 2017/18 campaign and I will back The Swans at odds against to earn the three points on offer on Sunday.

Watford v Manchester City Pick: The decision to announce Walter Mazzarri's sacking days before the end of the season is an interesting one from Watford and I am not sure he is going to get the reaction from the players he would want. There have been suggestions that the players and the manager have not seen eye to eye for some time and now he is going, the current team may decide they can perhaps ease off.

That would be a huge danger against this Manchester City team who have looked rampant at times over the last few games of the season. They can score plenty of goals and being away from home has suited Manchester City with the expectation that opponents will come onto them at some stage and leave spaces open.

Watford will feel they can create chances against this defence, but the lack of motivation could be a real problem for them.

On the other hand, Manchester City will be searching for the three points that will take them into the Champions League Group Stage next season and I expect they will earn those. Manchester City have won 11 times away from home in the Premier League, which only trails Chelsea's 13 away wins, and 8 of those have come by at least two goals.

The majority of those have come against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table and I can only see one winner this weekend when these teams conclude their campaigns.

I just don't think the Watford players will be able to match the intensity that Manchester City will come in with, nor deal with the pace and creativity in the final third considering all the defensive absences in the home team's squad. I will look for Manchester City to conclude the season with a bang and cover the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Burnley-West Ham United Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-Bournemouth Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Liverpool - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United-Crystal Palace Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Southampton-Stoke City Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Swansea City @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (May 20th)

The rain finally arrived in a big way in Rome on Friday evening and the forecast is not that great on Saturday either, although we have got three of the four Semi Finals already in place.

I am not sure if all the matches will be completed on Saturday and I am mainly taking a watching brief anyway with the two WTA Premier Event Semi Finals close to call. However I am going to have a pick from the sole ATP Masters Semi Final which has been set that you can read below.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v John Isner: There is a difference in the height from which the John Isner serve comes down from compared with the Milos Raonic one, but Alexander Zverev will have gotten some idea of what he is going to face in the Semi Final. The young German was a strong winner in the Quarter Final against Raonic and Zverev has two wins over John Isner on the hard courts in his career.

The clay courts should favour Zverev even more and I think he can complete the job that Marin Cilic should really have done on Friday. Cilic had the better of the last two sets against Isner, but the big serve bailed out the American and that is the weapon that can be a threat on any surface.

However Zverev is in fine form and, like Cilic, he has the long levers to get enough of the serves back in play and force Isner to win the point in the rallies. Isner has been playing well enough to do that in this match, but I think Zverev's experience of playing Raonic will mean he is focused and ready to win this match and move into a Masters Final.

Zverev looked after his serve well enough in the Quarter Final win over Raonic to think he won't give too much away to Isner and I will be looking for him to win a tie-breaker before finding the breaks of serve to come through the match. I am expecting Zverev to earn his way to a 7-6, 6-4 win and cover this number that Cilic barely missed out on on Friday.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)

Rome Update: 16-10, + 9.34 Units (52 Units Staked, + 17.96% Yield)

Friday, 19 May 2017

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (May 19th)

We have reached the Quarter Finals at the Rome Masters/Premier Event taking place this week and familiar names have once again gotten to the business end of a clay court tournament.

It has become clear who should be leading the way as the top contenders at the French Open in both the men's and women's events to be played there, although the question marks about the mental strength and the composure for a couple of the players in the women's draw are going to be much harder to determine.

The draw takes place in a week on Friday and that is going to be a key as to which players could be backed for a long bid to win a Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. That is a matter for another day and I am focusing on the eight matches that are due to be played in Rome on Friday.

Simona Halep - 4.5 games v Anett Kontaveit: The clay court season has been a memorable one for Anett Kontaveit who has beaten some of the big names on the WTA Tour in the last few weeks. Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber are the biggest names Kontaveit has beaten, but facing off against Simona Halep may be the ultimate test for her at this moment.

It looks like Halep will head into the French Open as the favourite to win the women's title there having come close to Grand Slam success in the past. She has furthered her claims by winning the title in Madrid last week and the two wins Halep has produced this week, especially in the manner she has won those matches, will only have more and more people expecting the Romanian to win her maiden Grand Slam title.

This is not going to be an easy Quarter Final with the way Kontaveit has been playing and fatigue won't be an excuse for either player with the amount of tennis both have played. There is plenty of power that comes off the Kontaveit racquet, but Halep has the better movement and I do think she is the superior clay court player which should see her find her way into strong positions throughout this match.

The heavy win Halep had over Kontaveit in Miami a couple of months ago might also play a part when the pressurised moments arrive and I think Halep is going to be too strong on the day. It will be closer than their match in Miami was, but I would expect Halep to have enough in her game to come back with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Kiki Bertens - 2.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: It was another impressive fightback from Daria Gavrilova to come through her Third Round match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, but there has to be some fatigue in play when you get to this Quarter Final. She has battled her way through the draw, but I am still not completely convinced about her comfort on the clay and there were some special shots needed to turn this match in her favour in the third set.

There are only so many times you can go to the well and Gavrilova is likely going to need to that again on Friday when taking on Kiki Bertens who has been very comfortable back on the clay courts.

The Dutchwoman has perhaps not been as strong as she would have liked, but Bertens is showing plenty of consistency over the last couple of weeks as she backs up a strong run in Madrid with another Quarter Final showing in Rome. Bertens has played well in the last couple of Rounds and she has the power to really push Gavrilova back in this one, although the feisty Australian is never going to be a pushover.

I am expecting there will be some tight moments between these two as both are able to earn the break points to put themselves in a strong position in the match. It would be a bigger surprise to me if we didn't see a number of breaks of serve, but I do think Bertens is the superior server and that can give her the edge in the match, even if it needs three sets to separate them.

After a tough match, I will be backing Bertens to come through with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 kind of win.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v John Isner: There is no doubt that we are going to see a lot of big serving whenever Marin Cilic and John Isner meet, but the Croatian has generally found a way to get enough balls back in play to crack Isner's game. Cilic is big enough to get to more balls than many others on the Tour and he will always feel he can get the better of the rallies once they develop.

It is a big reason Cilic is 6-1 up in the head to head between these two players, although it should be noted that the most recent match ended with Isner snapping his run of losses against the Croatian. That came on the fast indoor courts at the Paris Masters, but the conditions won't be anything near that quick in Rome on the clay courts.

The heat that has been around in Rome will mean the Isner serve still travels through the court and the big American has a couple of solid wins so far including beating Stan Wawrinka. However I have to say that Cilic is showing a lot more form than Wawrinka at this moment and I don't think he will be as loose with his game as Wawrinka was.

Cilic has also found a way to get into break point positions against the Isner serve and has the patience to wait for his moment and I think that is important for him in this Quarter Final. While there will be moments when Isner is throwing down unplayable bombs, Cilic will have his moments making enough returns to get some mistakes from the Isner game and I think that is where he will take control of the match.

The Istanbul Champion has looked good so far this week and I think he can get the better of Isner with a 7-6, 6-4 kind of win to help him through to the Semi Final.

Alexander Zverev v Milos Raonic: This has been set as a pick 'em contest, but I am really surprised that Alexander Zverev has been set as the underdog between these two players. He has been playing with some consistency on the clay courts and Milos Raonic does prefer the faster surfaces despite his solid run in the draw in Rome.

Raonic has reached the Semi Final in Rome before, but that is an outlier to his usual performances here and this season is actually his second best run. The conditions simply do not favour Raonic whose serve can be nullified by players while the patience you need to really perform on the clay courts is not the game that the Canadian wants to bring to the court.

He did reach the Final in Istanbul during the clay court swing, but there haven't been a lot of stand out wins for Raonic. His losses to Marin Cilic and David Goffin are against players who are around the same level as Zverev on the clay courts and I think the young German can continue what has been a fine 2017 so far.

Only one of the losses on the clay have been disappointing for Zverev with the others having real reasons behind them. He is playing with the confidence which saw him dominate Fabio Fognini in the Third Round and the key for the youngster is not allowing emotion to overcome him if Raonic does hit a few big serves which is what you have to expect from him.

Zverev has won a title on the clay courts already this season and he looks like someone who is getting more comfortable on the surface. This is unlikely to ever be Raonic's favourite surface and I think the underdog can find a way to win this one and move into the Semi Final.

Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Dominic Thiem: This is the third tournament in a row on the clay courts that Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal will play one another, although the last two matches have both been in the Final in Barcelona and Madrid. This time it is a Quarter Final match and we will get to see what Thiem has learned from his last two experiences against the 'King of Clay'.

The first meeting in Barcelona ended in one sided fashion for Nadal, but the Final in Madrid was much more competitive. However that might have something to do with the faster clay court conditions that don't suit Nadal as much as they will in Rome and I think the Spaniard will be able to win this by a couple of games clearer than he did in Madrid.

Fatigue has to be an issue for Thiem who had to go deep into a third set to beat Sam Querrey on Thursday and had a tight two set win over Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday. While both reached the same stage in Madrid last week, Nadal has been able to basically have a walkover in one Round and was a much more comfortable winner over Jack Sock in the Third Round.

I've got so much time for Dominic Thiem and I really do enjoy the way he plays, but I can't escape the fact that he has to be feeling all the tennis he has played. Someone like Rafael Nadal is going to play every point with the intention of wearing down his opponent and I think he will ultimately be able to do that against the young and upcoming star of the ATP Tour.

I do think this one might go in the direction of their meeting in Barcelona rather than the one in Madrid. That means the first set could be very competitive but that is when Thiem may begin to feel the fatigue build up and Nadal can come away with a 6-4, 6-3 win and move into yet another Semi Final on the clay courts and further strengthen his position as favourite to win the French Open.

Novak Djokovic win 2-1 v Juan Martin Del Potro: Over the years matches between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro have been incredibly tight and competitive affairs. That was even happening off Del Potro's return to the Tour during the peak Djokovic years and I simply think this is a match up that will always give the Serb problems.

As well as Djokovic may return, Del Potro possesses a serve that can bring up short balls and he has the power and consistency to penetrate the famed Djokovic defences. Not many players can replicate that from Del Potro over the course of two hours like the Argentinian can and that is enough to make him very tough for Djokovic to handle.

The clay courts arguably favour Djokovic enough to help him have the edge in this match, but he has not played with the confidence of twelve months ago. It should mean Del Potro is able to get a foot hold in the match too and push this match the distance which has not been uncommon when these players have met.

Twice already in 2017 Djokovic has been able to see off Del Potro but both times he has needed to go the distance to do that. Five of their last six matches in a best of three environment have gone the distance and all of those have been won by Djokovic with the exception being won by Del Potro at the Olympic Games last summer.

I think this is another that will enter the third set and both players will have their chances to win in that decider. However I think Djokovic will just show a little more at the key moments in that set and I will have a small interest in him winning this in three sets.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic Win 2-1 in Sets @ 3.75 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Rome Update: 13-8, + 7.92 Units (42 Units Staked, + 18.86% Yield)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (May 18th)

Yesterday turned out to be a mixed bag for the tennis picks in the Second Round at the Rome Masters/Premier Event being played, but it could have been a lot worse than it ended up.

I had a solid start to the day which was then backed up by some poor results before Garbine Muguruza came from a set down to win her match and ensure a split of the results. On Thursday we move onto the Third Round and there are a host of matches to come which are going to be important for players to try and earn the mental edge over others to take into the French Open which is under two weeks away from beginning.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: I am not really sure where I stand with my thoughts on Daria Gavrilova as there are times I watch her and think she has a fair bit of talent, and others when I don't think the Australian is going to be a mainstay in the top 20 of the World Rankings.

Of course that doesn't mean she isn't good enough to put together her tennis to have deep runs in tournaments, but she may not have the consistency to do it on a regular basis. Gavrilova is having one of those strong weeks in Rome this week having won four matches already to reach the Third Round, but the match up with Svetlana Kuznetsova has not been one that she has enjoyed.

The veteran Russian is having another strong season and is very comfortable playing on the clay courts while Kuznetsova has beaten Gavrilova in all four previous matches against one another. Kuznetsova has only lost the single set in that time and she has been playing some solid tennis on the clay courts which saw her reach the Semi Final last week in Madrid.

That may have led to some fatigue in the Kuznetsova legs, but Gavrilova has played plenty of tennis over the last few days to balance that out. The latter has needed a third set to win three of her four matches and this looks another step up from the quality Gavrilova has faced so far this week.

I think both players will have their break point opportunities in this one, but Kuznetsova does look to match up well with an opponent who will make quite a few unforced errors during the course of the match. It should mean exchanges of breaks of serve, but Kuznetsova may just be solid enough to come through 7-5, 6-4.

Johanna Konta - 1.5 games v Venus Williams: Neither Johanna Konta nor Venus Williams will ever really point to the clay courts as being their favoured surface, but both will look at this match as the chance to reach a Quarter Final here in Rome.

Both players look like the kind of favourites that could be opposed at the French Open when running into the clay court specialists you can find in that tournament. That is something to keep in the back pocket for that tournament and possibly later on in Rome, and both Konta and Venus Williams will be looking forward to the grass court events coming up next month.

Neither looks at their most comfortable on the surface, but the wins they have earned in the Second Round in Rome shows that they can produce the goods. The feeling is that Konta's style is at least more easily transferable onto the clay courts compared with Venus Williams' who likes to get forward to the net even on a slower surface.

I expect that will give Konta the edge in this one as well as the fact that she has gotten the better of the older Williams sister in their last three matches including at the Miami Masters in March. Konta might not be completely sure of her footing on the clay, but she should be able to get enough balls back in play to force errors out of the Venus Williams game.

Venus Williams will have her chances too and she could force a third set shoot out between these two players. However I think Konta can continue franking her form over Venus Williams with a slightly steadier game and she can win this match 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

Kiki Bertens - 3.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: Last season Kiki Bertens had a huge run at the French Open which means her current World Ranking is going to be under pressure barring putting wins up over the next month. It has been a tough 2017 for the Dutchwoman, but the return to the clay courts has helped her cause with a couple of Quarter Final runs already including in Madrid last week.

Bertens is certainly much happier on the clay courts than Ekaterina Makarova despite the fact the latter came from a set down to beat Dominika Cibulkova in the Second Round. The two wins this week have been solid for Makarova, but she may have to raise her game again if she is going to beat Bertens.

That is partly down to the fact that Bertens has looked the superior clay court player and who has won all three previous matches against Makarova. That includes a solid win over Makarova last week in Madrid and, although the conditions in Rome will be much different, it is arguable that Bertens will feel much more comfortable here.

Both players can go through service games with some ease, but I do think Bertens is the better mover and Makarova still hasn't completely figured out how best to utilise her game on the clay. The Russian has not really had that many strong runs on the clay courts through her career and I think Bertens can battle her way to a 6-3, 6-4 win in this one.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5 games v Fabio Fognini: The next few days are going to see Fabio Fognini become a father for the first time and he has the added emotion of expectation on the tennis court after beating Andy Murray in the Second Round. That does mean it could be difficult for the Italian to be fully focused on this Third Round match, even though the home crowd are going to be behind Fognini all the way.

The added difficulty comes with facing Alexander Zverev who has been winning a lot of matches on the clay courts over the last few weeks. The German won the title in Munich and reached the Quarter Final in Madrid last week while only one of his three losses have been a poor loss.

One issue with Zverev is the youngster can lose concentration at time and let his frustration get the better of him which means he drops silly games behind serve. That can also cost him the set and he will need to be better in this one to prevent the crowd from really becoming a part of the match against an opponent who is very happy on the clay courts.

However Zverev has shown he has enough about his game on the clay over the last twelve months and I do feel there is every chance a distracted and emotionally spent Fognini comes to the court. He has had a day to rest since the win over Andy Murray, but Fognini has other things on his mind too with his partner due to give birth imminently and I will look for Zverev to take advantage.

It may need three sets to separate them here, but Zverev is capable of coming through with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 kind of win and a place in another Quarter Final on the clay.

Juan Martin Del Potro v Kei Nishikori: A number of the Third Round matches to be played in the ATP Masters event in Rome look highly competitive and that means I would prefer to have a watching brief and taking some notes for the French Open. One match where I am going to take the side of the one of the pick 'em contests is the one between Juan Martin Del Potro and Kei Nishikori.

The slight favourite going into the match is Nishikori, but I am not convinced he is feeling at 100% and his serve is one that can be attacked on this surface. Del Potro won't need telling twice when it comes to playing aggressive tennis and he has matched up well with a healthy Nishikori in the past let alone one who is dealing with a wrist issue that has been bothering him.

The heavier shots and serve will come from Del Potro who has shown strong ability on the clay courts in the past and has a couple of solid wins here after returning to the Tour following the passing of his grandfather. However there will be times when there isn't the penetration through the court that Del Potro would like and that is where Nishikori can wear down the big man and start extracting some errors from his game.

It does make for a fascinating match with the contrasting styles going against each other, but Del Potro has found his power has given him the edge previously. If Nishikori is just having some doubts about his wrist as I think he is, I can see that playing a part mentally the longer the match goes on, while the serve is one that is tough for the Japanese player to protect.

This could be another match that goes three sets, but I am going to pick the slight underdog Del Potro to continue his strong run in Rome and move into the Quarter Final after a tough battle.

MY PICKS: Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)

Rome Update: 10-6, + 5.92 Units (32 Units Staked, + 18.50% Yield)

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (May 17th)

It has to be considered a surprise after all the rumours in the last couple of weeks, but Maria Sharapova was not awarded a Wild Card into the French Open this season.

That's not just for the main draw, but shockingly the organisers decided that they had to make a stand for any Wild Card and that means Sharapova is not even going to be in a position to play the Qualifiers. No one really expected the French Open to do that and now the pressure is on Wimbledon to follow suit and force Sharapova to come through the Qualifiers with her World Ranking being in a position to compete days before the main draw.

I have to think Wimbledon will do that, although a bad day for Maria Sharapova didn't get any better when having to withdraw from the Rome Premier Event with left thigh injury. That means we are not going to see Sharapova back on the court until the grass court season and there will be plenty who will respect the decision the French Open organisers made to avoid handing out a Wild Card.

Maria Sharapova is a huge name and will draw the headlines, but I think there is some irony that Frenchman Constant Lestienne was given a Wild Card into the Qualifiers despite previously serving a suspension from the Tour of his own. That was down to betting on tennis matches, although not his own, but I think you can't take a moral stance on one issue and not another, although Lestienne's participation is hardly going to see the world's media descend on the Qualifiers days ahead of the main tournament beginning at Roland Garros.

Ultimately I do agree with the decision made by the French Open organisers as I don't think a player should be welcomed back with open arms by the big Grand Slam events who won't lose too much revenue by the absence of one player. The decision is obviously much bigger for the French Open when you think of the other names who have already declared their absence from the tournament including Roger Federer just yesterday, but I think they have made the right call.

It will hurt Sharapova, but I think she can be in a position to play the last two Grand Slams of the 2017 season on merit as long as her injury is not too severe. The Russian doesn't strike me as someone who is going to allow this to bother her, but instead I think the decision will motivate Sharapova to find her way back to the top of the WTA Tour where a vacuum has been left by the absences of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova.

None of the leading contenders on the WTA Tour have been playing well enough to think they can be backed with complete faith to win the French Open. This means the second Grand Slam of the season looks like being one that many will believe offers them the best chance to win a title of this magnitude which is going to bring a pressure of its own and that will also mean the potential of finding a big priced winner.

That is for another day with the draw set to take place in ten days time for a tournament which begins in under two weeks and instead I will focus on the wide range of matches to be played in Rome on Wednesday.

While the first couple of days have not offered a lot of options, Wednesday looks like a number of potential players can be backed to come through their matches and you can find the picks below.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: After coming from a set down to beat Grigor Dimitrov in the First Round, Juan Martin Del Potro is a pretty big favourite to see off Kyle Edmund in the Second Round. Edmund also had a decent First Round win behind him, but this is a step up in class for him and I think he is still lacking the consistency to really beat a player of this quality.

I do think Edmund will have his moments at times in the match as he can put together some solid points and has shown that against players of the quality of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem on the clay courts this past six weeks. However to do that for long enough to win the match has been an issue for Edmund and he is going to be dealing with some tremendous power coming back at him from the other side of the court.

Edmund has not really been returning that well and it is going to be difficult for him to really get his teeth into the Del Potro service games if the latter is anything close to the level he showed against Dimitrov. Del Potro will also take big swings at the Edmund serve to force his opponent behind the baseline and I think he will be too strong over the course of the match.

I think Edmund may have some success, but he is going to be under pressure to protect his serve and I think Del Potro will earn the breaks of serve to get into a position to win this match 6-3, 6-4.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v David Ferrer: Kei Nishikori withdrew from the Madrid Masters last week just hours before facing Novak Djokovic in the Quarter Final as he was suffering pain in the wrist which has bothered him for the last couple of months. I am leaning on the side of Nishikori withdrawing as a precaution with the French Open fast approaching and the Japanese star taking his place in the draw in Rome has to be a sign he is ready to compete.

There is a chance he wakes up on Wednesday and decides he will pull out, but I think Nishikori will feel good to go if he does head out to the court.

He should have too much for the veteran David Ferrer who came from a set down to beat Feliciano Lopez on Tuesday, but the Spaniard is far from his top level now. Nishikori was a comfortable winner over Ferrer last week in Madrid and he has dominated the recent head to head between these players and Ferrer has significantly slipped since the majority of their matches two years ago.

Ferrer loses a lot more matches that he would have dominated in the past and I don't think he has the level to compete with the best players on the Tour. Barring Nishikori having a setback in his wrist issue, in which case I am not sure he risks staying out on the court, I am expecting the higher Ranked player to record another comfortable win over the vet.

Last week it ended 6-3, 6-4 in favour of Nishikori and I would expect a similar margin this time around.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: Some of the tennis that Nicolas Almagro has produced in the last couple of weeks has been very good, but he will have to raise his performances even more if he is going to challenge the 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal. Pushing Novak Djokovic all the way in a tough three setter in Madrid was impressive, but Nadal is playing a couple of levels higher than the Serb.

Winning titles on clay at the rate Nadal has been makes him a big favourite to win yet another French Open title and I don't think many will oppose him. The court speed in Rome will be much more to the liking of the Madrid Champion and I expect Nadal to once again go deep into the draw and possibly set up another Semi Final clash with Djokovic.

There is plenty of respect Nadal has for Almagro which goes back to their younger days when Almagro was considered the more talented player. That means they have had some very close matches on the clay, but there have been plenty of times when Nadal has dominated proceedings and he does hold a dominant head to head with Almagro.

Almagro has won three matches in Rome to feel good in the conditions, but I do think he is not able to play his best tennis for consistent enough in this one. While I expect Almagro to make one of the sets very competitive, I can see Nadal dominating the other as he wears down his opponent mentally and physically and that can be reflected in the score.

It does feel Nadal will come away with a 6-4, 6-2 kind of win to move through to the Third Round and make it sixteen straight wins on the clay courts over the last six weeks.

Jack Sock - 2.5 games v Jiri Vesely: It was a really tough First Round match for Jack Sock, but he did show character to come through and I expect him to be too good for Jiri Vesely in the Second Round. While most American players on the ATP side of the Tour will not feel at their very best on the clay, Sock has the kind of game that works very effectively on this surface especially when he is playing with some confidence.

Sock has had some solid runs at the French Open and the biggest concern has to be that Vesely is well rested having played his First Round match a few days ago. Vesely beat Daniel Evans in expected fashion, but he has yet to really worked in the consistency that many would have tipped for him once making his breakthrough on the Tour.

The results in recent weeks have been very mixed for Vesely, but he has to be respected on what is his favoured surface. However, the Czech player was beaten early in the Rome Challenger last week and there are so many ups and downs with the Vesely serve and the way it is functioning that it has been difficult for him to really play with the confidence you need in these big tournaments.

It was Sock who got the better of their match at the Miami Masters in March and I think he is adept enough to play on this surface to get the better of Vesely again. I think Sock is capable of getting enough balls back in play on the return to find his forehand going into the Vesely backhand to do some real damage and I can see that helping him edge past this opponent.

A 7-6, 6-4 kind of win for Sock looks to be the outcome of this match.

Dominic Thiem - 3.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: These two players met in the Semi Final of the Madrid Masters and I thought Pablo Cuevas would be able to at least keep things competitive. I was wrong with Dominic Thiem proving to be much stronger on the return of serve and I think the Austrian can frank that win with another by a similar margin on Wednesday in Rome.

Both Thiem and Cuevas have has a lot of success on the clay courts over the last few weeks which isn't a big surprise when you think how both favour the surface. However it is Thiem who has shown a little more consistency to the point of being a genuine dark horse at the French Open and he dealt with the Cuevas game effectively enough last week.

The conditions are different in Rome compared with the speedy Madrid courts, but Thiem has played well here in the past. On the other hand, Cuevas has not enjoyed much success in the Rome Masters and was beaten by Nicolas Mahut last season and had some difficulties in seeing off Adrian Mannarino in the First Round.

That match might have indicated that Cuevas is dealing with some tiredness and he could be put under pressure by Thiem especially if the Austrian is serving as well as he did in their Semi Final in Madrid. While I find it hard to think Thiem can serve as strongly as last week, I do think he will once again have the majority of the break point chances and a more clinical performance at those big moments could see this being another similar kind of margin as the victory last week.

Jan-Lennard Struff - 1.5 games v Sam Querrey: There hasn't been a lot of success for Jan-Lennard Struff on the clay courts at the main Tour level prior to this season, but 2017 might be a turning point for him. The German has won plenty of matches at the Challenger and Qualifier level on the surface, but this year he has a couple of Quarter Final runs and a Third Round appearance at the Monte Carlo Masters behind him.

Winning matches gives any player confidence and Struff has been winning plenty of matches which includes a couple of Qualifier wins here in Rome before beating Bernard Tomic in the First Round. He has a decent serve and Struff is clearly hitting the ball well enough off the ground to think he can give Sam Querrey something to figure out here.

To say the clay court season is not that important to Querrey is an understatement with the grass much more to his liking which comes on the heels of the French Open. Querrey has a solid win over Lucas Pouille to come through the First Round here, and that was a win which snapped a run of four consecutive losses on the European clay courts from 2016.

He also hadn't won a main Tour match in the Rome Masters since 2012 and had three consecutive losses here with the conditions not really favouring the big serve followed by big forehand approach. Here Querrey has to hit more shots and that sees the consistency, or lack thereof, being exposed.

We will likely have to see at least one tie-breaker in this one, but I think Struff can get the better of that with the way he has been playing and that can set him up for a 7-6, 6-4 win over Querrey.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Benoit Paire: This is one of a number of matches that took place in Madrid last week, but this one where I am expecting a change in the result. Last week Benoit Paire was able to get the better of Stan Wawrinka, but the conditions in Rome should be much more to the latter's liking than we saw in Madrid.

More points should develop into the longer rallies and Wawrinka's heavy shots as well as the usually stronger consistency than Paire might come out to show. Last week Wawrinka struggled when it came to the break points he created, but I can't expect Paire to be as strong in the pressurised moments as he did show in Madrid.

Wawrinka has had a disappointing clay court season so far which makes it harder to trust him here, but I do think he will enjoy the way the court plays in Rome. He has to serve better than he did in their last meeting and Wawrinka has to put more pressure on Paire by looking after the unforced errors which allows the Frenchman to build confidence.

As well as Paire played in the win over Wawrinka, it should not be ignored of the up and down nature of his performances through his career. He wasn't as good in the First Round win over Nicolas Mahut and Paire has suffered some one-sided losses over the last couple of months which suggests last week was just an exception to the normal rule.

This time I expect Wawrinka to have a little too much all around game for Paire as he wins the match 6-4, 6-4.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: Both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anastasija Sevastova have had some real success on the clay courts this season and that should mean two confident players are meeting in the Second Round in Rome.

The reason I am favouring Pavlyuchenkova is that I do think she is a little better when it comes to the serving department and that can make the difference in what is a close match. When Pavlyuchenkova is serving well, her return game can be very heavy and I am expecting the Russian to be able to tee off against the Sevastova serve when she begins to get a read of that delivery.

Sevastova can protect the serve with her movement and ability to play solid defence and then being able to turn the rally in her favour. She does have the edge when it comes to her ability to get around the court compared with Pavlyuchenkova, although the heavier shots will come from the Russian.

First strike tennis is going to be important for these players as it will allow that player to take control of the rally, but I am favouring Pavlyuchenkova to get the better of the rallies more often than not. Her 4-0 head to head record against Sevastova will also give Pavlyuchenkova the mental edge in the match and ultimately will be part of the reason the Russian moves through to the Third Round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win behind her.

Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 games v Jelena Ostapenko: The last twelve months have been difficult for Garbine Muguruza since winning the French Open as she has failed to live up to the kind of potential so many believed she had. An injury hasn't helped her cause over the last month as Muguruza has lost her first match on the clay courts in the two tournaments she has entered.

Confidence is low and Muguruza is not going to have a lot of people backing her to defend the French Open title she won last year. Things have changed so much for her as well as opponent Jelena Ostapenko in the last twelve months that this Second Round match is almost set as a pick 'em contest compared to 2016 in Rome when Muguruza was a big favourite to win.

The Spaniard backed up those odds by crushing Ostapenko, but now Muguruza is out of form and Ostapenko has won a lot of matches on the clay courts over the last six weeks to build up her own belief. However I don't think Ostapenko has too many really big wins and so there is going to be a pressure on her to show she can compete with someone who can be as good as Muguruza can be on her day.

The first serve is going to be key for Muguruza with that setting up the rest of her game. If she can get that going from the start of this match, Muguruza can get the better of Ostapenko although we may need three sets to determine who is moving through to the Third Round.

I am looking for Muguruza to put her first win on the clay on the board here in conditions that should suit her game. Ostapenko will make life difficult, but Muguruza can hit through her opponent and produce a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Jan-Lennard Struff - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Rome Update: 6-2, + 6.42 Units (16 Units Staked, + 40.13% Yield)