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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

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)

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