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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (May 16th)

The Rome Masters continues on Tuesday with some of the big names on both Tours in action as the Second Round begins in the last big event before the French Open.

The big news from the tennis world actually came away from Rome on Monday when it was announced by Roger Federer that he won't be playing at the French Open this season. It won't come as a big surprise when he opted out of all clay court events in preparation for the second Grand Slam of the season, but it is still a big story considering how well Federer has played in 2017 when he has been on the court.

Titles at the Australian Open and both Indian Wells and Miami Masters has shown Federer is close to his best, but that also meant the focus for him has been the grass court and remaining hard court season. It also puts to bed the rumours that Federer will retire at the end of the 2017 season as he suggested he would be back at the French Open next season and this decision is designed to give him the best possible chance of success for a number of years on the Tour.

Roger Federer will arguably be the favourite to win at Wimbledon so it didn't make a lot of sense for Federer to play one clay court event rather than focusing on the tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle in June which will be played in preparation for SW19.

On Tuesday we are also expected to find out whether Maria Sharapova will be given a Wild Card into the French Open either at the main draw or Qualifying stages. She confirmed a place in the Wimbledon Qualifiers on Monday in Rome, but Sharapova may still be expecting to receive a Wild Card into the main draw there too, although I have a feeling the French Open will give her a spot in the Qualifiers and Wimbledon will allow Sharapova to play the Qualifiers and earn her right back into the main draw.

The Sharapova issue remains a controversial one, but she can move on from that with a good run in Rome to rebuild her Ranking into a position where Wild Cards are not required for the big events later in the season as well as at the US Open.

Johanna Konta - 3.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: The clay court swing is not going to be the most productive time of the season for Johanna Konta especially with the British player still trying to work out exactly how to be effective on the surface. The movement is an issue for Konta and the patience to build the points is different to how she can play on the hard and grass courts.

I am not expecting big runs for Konta either here in Rome or at the French Open unless she can mentally prepare for the clay better than she has done. In saying that, I do think Konta can get the better of Yulia Putintseva who has a solid win over Monica Puig in the First Round, but who has not been in great form over the last six weeks in the move to the clay courts.

I think Putintseva will have the edge when it comes to the movement around the court, but Konta should be able to have a slight edge when it comes to the power off the ground. The serve is definitely stronger from Konta who can then set up short balls to put the pressure on Putintseva and I do think the higher Ranked player will earn the majority of break points.

It hasn't been a fun experience on the clay courts for Konta since winning the Miami Premier Event, but the two losses she has suffered have come against solid clay courters. I am not so sure Putintseva is of the same level as the likes of Anastasija Sevastova or Laura Siegemund and so I am looking for Konta to have the power edge in the match to break down Putintseva.

I can see both sets being tough battles for the players with a number of breaks of serve, but ultimately I am looking for Konta to get the better of both and come through 7-5, 6-4.

Maria Sharapova - 4.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: This is the second time in as many weeks that Maria Sharapova and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni are meeting on the Tour and I am looking for Sharapova to make it two wins from two.

Last week they did play a competitive match in Madrid which looks more comfortable in terms of games won than it was at times. Sharapova really struggled to get her serve going in that match until the final set, and the Russian did have some problems holding on against Christina McHale in the First Round here.

Sharapova knows she will have to be better against Lucic-Baroni, although I am anticipating she will have a number of chances to break the serve of the veteran too. Last week Sharapova created 19 break points in the three sets they competed against one another and Lucic-Baroni did have a tough First Round match to get through on Monday.

The Lucic-Baroni serve is likely to be attacked with some real success from Sharapova, but she is playing well enough to cause some problems of her own. I can see that creating another really competitive first set, but this time I expect Sharapova to get on top of her opponent a little quicker and being able to overpower Lucic-Baroni in a big hitting match.

I will be looking for Sharapova to come through with a 6-4, 6-3 kind of win this week.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 games v Gilles Simon: If this match was played twelve months ago, I would suggest that Gilles Simon would have been the favourite but the two players have moved in different directions since then. In fact they played twice on the clay courts during the 2016 European swing and both times Simon was the favourite to beat Pablo Carreno Busta, although the two matches were split with a win apiece.

Pablo Carreno Busta may have had a disappointing early exit in Madrid last week, but he has been a player who has significantly improved over the last few months. He is very comfortable on the clay courts, although you have to respect that Simon is still a player who can wear down opponents mentally and physically with his style.

However I do think the Frenchman has lost half a step around the court and Carreno Busta is a strong clay court player who can take advantage of that. I anticipate there will be a few breaks points for both players too and there will be swings in momentum, but it is the Spaniard who I believe will come out on top.

Simon has had some really disappointing one sided losses in 2017 and I am going to put down Carreno Busta's poor result in Madrid to be down to him winning the title in Estoril days earlier. There are no such excuses this week in Rome and I am going to look for Carreno Busta to work his way to a 7-5, 6-3 kind of win in this First Round match.

John Isner - 2.5 games v Florian Mayer: Both John Isner and Florian Mayer have had solid First Round wins in Rome behind them this week, but it is the big American who I am backing to progress to the Third Round. The clay courts might not be the favoured domain of those coming across from North America, but Isner is comfortable on the surface and actually appreciates the time he usually gets.

The courts in Rome should be good for Isner who has a very good win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas behind him in the draw. The Isner serve is still a huge weapon on the surface and the added time to get his forehand into play certainly suits Isner.

His opponent Florian Mayer has to be respected and has the kind of game that can bamboozle opponents. The serve can be under-rated when the German is feeling his game and the slicing and dicing employed off the ground is alien to so many opponents that Mayer can frustrate and confuse them.

However the veteran is not at his peak these days and a sloppy service game or two is not really that far away from him at this stage of his career. Mayer hasn't had a lot of wins this season which is going to put him at a mental disadvantage in this match and I can see Isner finding a way through the Mayer serve at least twice during the course of the match.

After a tight first set, I will be looking for Isner to find his way to a 7-6, 6-3 win in this one.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Ryan Harrison: Ryan Harrison came back from a set and a break down to beat Jared Donaldson in the First Round here, but the challenge increases significantly in the Second Round when he faces Istanbul Champion Marin Cilic.

Cilic is off a disappointing early exit to Alexander Zverev at the Madrid Masters, but the young German has a decent head to head against Cilic and is also comfortable on the clay courts. The same can't be said for Ryan Harrison who is happy for the points earned from coming through the First Round but is likely to be much happier once the clay court season is behind us.

There are some problems for Cilic to resolve in this one as Harrison has a decent serve and will play aggressively to try and put his opponent under pressure. Unfortunately for Harrison, I am not sure he will have the patience on the clay courts to really build the points and that is where Cilic has to feel the longer a rally goes, the more chance he has to win the point.

The Croatian has a big serve of his own to set up the points and I think Cilic can take advantage of the Harrison second serve to move into a position to win this match and cover this number. I expect a better week here in Rome for Cilic than he had in Madrid and he can begin his run with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Harrison.

MY PICKS: Johanna Konta - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
John Isner - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

Rome Update: 3-1, + 3.30 Units (8 Units Staked, + 41.25% Yield)

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