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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)

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