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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)

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