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Under 21 European Championships and Confederations Cup Picks 2017 (June 16-July 2)

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 24th)

I had an extremely late night on Thursday which was always going to make it difficult to research the tennis picks for the Friday Quarter Final matches across the board.

At that point it is better to take a rest day and it came at a decent time with a really strong Thursday turning around what was looking like being a losing week. It had been a poor week up to that point with some struggles over the first three days, but an 7-1 record on Thursday means I am back in a positive position for the week.

There are still two days left for the tournaments being played this week, while the tournaments set to be played next week will begin on Sunday in preparation to finish on Saturday, two days before Wimbledon begins.

The big news for next week is Novak Djokovic's decision to take a Wild Card into Eastbourne- it is a real surprise when you think of how he was sounding at the end of the French Open and the fact he took the Wild Card into a tournament in the week prior to the third Grand Slam of the season.

It says a lot about how Djokovic looks to be feeling ahead of Wimbledon, while I thought it would make more sense to have taken a Wild Card into one of the big tournaments in Queens or Halle this week. The conditions in Eastbourne are notoriously tough too and I think this decision is just another which makes me doubt that Djokovic knows what he needs to do to get back to his best tennis.

On Saturday we are down to the Semi Final matches over the four tournaments being played this week. There are some quality matches coming our way through the day and it should be a decent day for watching tennis.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There is a lot to like about Karen Khachanov and the potential he is showing. A strong French Open has now been followed by a Semi Final run on the grass here in Halle, although I think the young Russian has been fortunate with the way the draw has panned out for him.

Beating an overrated Gilles Simon and narrowly getting past Andrey Rublev surrounded a Kei Nishikori retirement and now you have to say there is a big step up when Khachanov faces Roger Federer.

Federer has had a couple of big wins this week and he looks to have put Stuttgart behind him having been beaten there earlier than expected. Federer should be able to control Khachanov with his serving and I think it will be tough for the latter to really get his teeth into too many of the Federer service games.

As well as Khachanov has played, the grass courts might still be a surface he is getting used to. The first serve makes him dangerous, but I would expect Federer to be able to do some damage when he does see the second serve and he can extract errors from the Khachanov game by using the slice.

Khachanov is confident enough to come to the net and try and put away some volleys to take away the slice and chips from Federer, but I think the latter will get himself into positions to break serve on a few occasions. If he is as strong at those moments as he was against Florian Mayer, Federer can come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win to move into yet another Final in Halle.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: A lot of people had tipped up Alexander Zverev as a dark horse at the French Open after he won the title at the Rome Masters, but the young German had a disappointing early exit at the hands of the dangerous Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Zverev is definitely a threat on the grass courts too and Wimbledon might be a more open tournament where he could make his breakthrough at the Grand Slam level. Winning it won't be easy, but Zverev has shown plenty of strong form over the last couple of weeks and his serving in Halle could see him go a step further than 2016 when he finished Runner Up here.

This is a player who has previously beaten Roger Federer on the grass and the serving he has produced this week has been very strong. It certainly can give Zverev the chance to put pressure on his opponents if he can continue throwing caution to the wind with his strong returning stats also a plus point for him.

Richard Gasquet has had a decent week and is very comfortable on the grass courts, which will always make him a danger on this surface. He was perhaps fortunate to beat Gael Monfils in the First Round, but Gasquet can be a threat when he gets on a roll.

He should be able to have his moments against Zverev, but I think the 'Next Gen' star can ride out the storm. After a tight first set, I will look for Zverev to keep the pressure on with another strong serving display and that can lead to a 7-6, 6-4 win for the German.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: Opposing Gilles Muller on his current run may not be for everyone, but he is going to have to serve at the very top of his game if he is going to beat Marin Cilic. Both players are comfortable on the grass courts and this is not going to be a long match with plenty of big serving dished up by both players.

The Muller serve is so dangerous coming from the lefty and he is very good at hitting his spots and getting a high percentage of first serves in play. Muller backs that up with impressive ability to get to the net and put away volleys which makes it difficult for opponents to really get into their return games.

However Cilic is one of the better returners on the grass courts and he plays with aggression that can force Muller to make difficult volleys. Cilic should be able to get enough balls back in play to be a danger to Muller and I think the Croatian will punish the second serve.

Cilic's experience of beating John Isner this week will stand him in good stead and I have to say his serving has been very impressive too which can keep the pressure on Muller. Of course you can't dismiss a player on a seven match winning run when you think of some of the players Muller has beaten in that time, but I think Cilic's aggressiveness on the return will prove to be a decisive factor.

He should continue to produce the top serving against a limited returner like Muller and I am going to look for Cilic to find a crucial break of serve in a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: The grass court season may not be that long, but there are still some players out there who are very strong on this surface and can be a threat to anyone. Someone like Feliciano Lopez is definitely one of those grass court specialists that can beat anyone they face with a strong lefty serve followed up with strong play at the net.

However I think he may be the second lefty to lose his Semi Final match at Queens on Saturday as I believe Grigor Dimitrov gets the better of Lopez in this match.

He might not have come through the draw as well as Lopez has, but Dimitrov has produced some solid numbers and is perhaps guilty of just lacking focus at a critical time. That has seen DImitrov drop sets in matches that he has been in control of and he can't be as loose against Lopez who has been serving very well this week.

Lopez just hasn't been able to return as effectively as Dimitrov and I think that makes a difference in this Semi Final. I would be surprised if there are a lot of break points in this match, but I think Dimitrov's stronger returning will likely present him with the better chances to find a crucial breakthrough.

This one could easily need three sets to separate them, but I will be looking for Dimitrov to come through with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 kind of win.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Lucie Safarova: The return from a hand injury that almost cost Petra Kvitova her career as a professional tennis player has been surprisingly good for the two time former Wimbledon Champion. The grass courts have always been a surface she has thrived upon and Kvitova looks like she may go into SW19 as the favourite to win there.

She is certainly increasing her support with a really good tournament in Birmingham where Kvitova has been very strong behind the serve and backing that up by producing plenty of solid return games too.

However this may be the biggest test Kvitova has seen this week when taking on compatriot Lucie Safarova who has racked up the wins in recent days. Safarova might never have beaten Kvitova before, but she has won six of seven matches on the grass and continues to come through difficult spells to work her way back into matches and turn them around.

That has seen six of her seven matches need a deciding set too and Safarova is serving well enough to be considered a danger. Whether she can keep producing those serves when facing the firepower that Kvitova produces on the return is going to be key for Safarova, but all this tennis being played has got be accumulating up on her fitness levels.

There will be times Safarova is able to come through her service games relatively unscathed, but I think the Kvitova serve will keep her under pressure. That should lead to a couple of cracks and I think Kvitova will find her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win to move through to the Final on Sunday.

Caroline Garcia - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: Winning back to back titles in Mallorca will be a big achievement for Caroline Garcia and she will be the favourite to do that having returned to the Semi Final. She had to battle through two wins on Friday but managed to do that and I think she gets the better of Anastasija Sevastova for a second year in a row.

Last year this was the Final here in Mallorca and while Sevastova has improved, I am still not convinced the grass courts suit her. The Latvian has a decent first serve, but that is still an area of her game which can be attacked as we have seen through this week.

Sevastova's strength is in her return games and she has been very strong in that regard, but now faces an opponent whose serve can be the foundation for her success. Garcia gets a nice pop off the serve which can become a real weapon on the grass courts and I think she will be able to earn the short ball throughout much of this match.

Errors can still be a problem for Garcia, but she should have confidence having had a strong French Open before returning to Mallorca to defend the title she won in 2016. Garcia has done enough on the return games to give Sevastova problems, especially as the latter could have some tiredness in the arms and legs having needed three sets to win all of her matches this week.

Sevastova had a difficult Quarter Final win over Ana Konjuh which could have sapped some energy both mentally and physically and I will look for Garcia to expose that. I do think Sevastova will have her successes with the confidence she has built up over the last couple of months, but Garcia can break her down in a 6-4, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-13, + 2.06 Units (56 Units Staked, + 3.68% Yield)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 22nd)

Wednesday was the worst day for the tennis picks for some time and definitely the worst I felt I've had since taking a break between the middle of the Indian Wells tournament and the start of the clay court season.

It can be the way things go on the grass over these best of three set matches as a couple of errors can see sets go by the wayside, while recovering breaks is that much more difficult.

Last week wasn't a bad one though so I am not going to use the grass as an excuse for this week, although I am hoping some of the bigger names can be a little more convincing now they've had at least one match under their feet on the surface.

The four tournaments being played this week will move onto the remaining Second Round matches on Thursday and my picks are below. A heads up though, I am not sure I will have a full thread for Friday's matches but will just place my picks without the breakdown as I am out on Thursday night and may not have the time for the usual breakdown.

The picks will be out for Friday's matches with plenty of time before the first match is due to get underway, although you may want to check in on Friday morning United Kingdom time for those to have been updated.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There is so much to like about Karen Khachanov's game with elements of Marat Safin in the way he approaches his tennis. However, Safin was someone who couldn't really get to grips with the grass until the latter part of his career and I do wonder if Khachanov understands the movement he needs on this surface.

There is only limited data of Khachanov on this surface and I wouldn't read too much into the win over Gilles Simon who looks to be regressing as a top player at a rapid rate.

Facing Kei Nishikori is a big test for Khachanov even if I think the Russian has all of the tools to be successful on this surface. The big first serve and heavy forehand should create easy points for Khachanov, while I think he is capable of getting to the net to force players to make tough passes against him and that all bodes well for him.

Nishikori has had some inconsistent results on the grass, although his game seems to work well on most surfaces. He can get more out of his own serve on this surface and Nishikori has actually produced some solid tennis on the grass with only injuries curtailing runs in different tournaments last year.

I think he will be able to make enough returns to challenge Khachanov in this one and he can use that to break down the youngster who is still finding the consistency to make a really big impact on the Tour. Khachanov is one for the future, but I think he goes down to a 7-6, 6-3 loss in this one.

Florian Mayer + 2.5 games v Lucas Pouille: I have to give Lucas Pouille some credit after winning the title in Stuttgart and fighting back from a set down to beat Jan-Lennard Struff here this week in Halle. The Frenchman has now had five wins on the grass courts in 2017 and four times he has needed to go into a deciding set to get the job done, while Pouille has come from a set down three times.

He is also winning matches when the statistics suggest he should be losing them and I have to credit the heart and determination Pouille is playing with. However, at some point that is going to catch up with him, and I think Florian Mayer can be backed in this one with a feeling he can earn the upset.

The defending Champion has not been in great form though and so it makes more sense backing him with the games on offer in case this is yet another Pouille match that goes the distance. He might have won five matches over the last ten days or so, but Pouille would have only covered this number once and Mayer played well enough against Jeremy Chardy last week to think he can keep this one competitive at the venue where he picked up the title twelve months ago.

Mayer has a very good game for the grass with an under-rated first serve as well as the ability to mix up his shot selection to surprise opponents. His slicing and dicing can be very effective on the grass courts where the ball is kept much lower and Mayer is capable of getting up to the net and put away volleys where necessary.

The lack of wins this season makes it harder to believe in Mayer as a winner in this Second Round match, but I think he is capable of the upset and can certainly make this another competitive three setter for Pouille. At some point all that tennis has to catch up with Pouille too and I will back the home favourite with the games.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Mischa Zverev: It was only in 2013 when Roger Federer handed out a double bagel to Mischa Zverev here in Halle, but the latter has produced some very good tennis throughout 2017 to think that is not going to happen again. To be honest it would be a huge shocker if Zverev doesn't better that performance and I am expecting the German to give Federer some problems.

Anyone who can serve as well as Zverev and can continue to push the serve-volley style throughout the match no matter if you pass him is going to be tough to beat on the grass. The lefty serve means Zverev will naturally be inclined to go into the weaker Roger Federer backhand, although that is an improved shot these days.

The predictability of what the German wants to do should mean Federer employs plenty of slice and will not be looking to chip the ball back in play. He has already had an experience of seeing Zverev this year back at the Australian Open and I don't think Federer will be getting too upset with himself if a few return games go past him rapidly.

Federer will wait for his moment to come, and he will get his moments when Zverev misses a couple of first serves and is not able to come into the net as rapidly as he would like. At that point Federer should be able to control rallies and I think he will work out Zverev and slowly wear him down.

It should be a strong serving day for Federer against a limited returner like Zverev and that pressure he should be able to produce on the home favourite should see Federer come through with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Stefan Kozlov: An impressive come from behind win over a competent grass court player like Steve Johnson after coming through the Qualifiers will have given Stefan Kozlov plenty of confidence. However these results are not exactly in line with his early losses in Surbiton and Hertogenbosch and I think Kozlov will have to produce one of his best matches of his young career to see off Marin Cilic.

The Croatian is one of the better grass court players out there and may feel Wimbledon is a good chance for him to add to his Grand Slam title won at the US Open. Cilic had an impressive win over John Isner already here in Queens and he has one of the more effective returns on the surface which is going to put some real pressure on Kozlov.

That return game is backed up by strong serving statistics and Cilic's serve really does take hold on the grass courts. Cilic has played four grass court matches this year and he has won at least 75% of points behind serve in each of those and Cilic has very strong numbers on the grass courts in recent seasons.

There have been a number of surprises at Queens already but this would need to a be a big one if Cilic is not able see of Kozlov who was somehow broken three times by Ivo Karlovic last week.

Cilic as the winner is not the question, but I do think he is also capable of covering a big game handicap with his superior serving and returning numbers. It can be difficult to create multiple breaks of serve on the grass courts, but I will look for Cilic to do that in a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 games v Thanasi Kokkinakis: This is the second week in a row that Daniil Medvedev and Thanasi Kokkinakis are going to meet on a grass court on the Tour and I am looking for the Russian to make it two from two over the Australian.

The focus will be on the performance Kokkinakis produced in beating Milos Raonic, but it wasn't as clear a win as the two sets win would have suggested. He didn't earn a single break point, while saving multiple break points, and it was Raonic who dominated the return statistics.

Now Kokkinakis has to try and ride through the storm against another big hitting opponent in Medvedev having struggled to get much of a look in on the return of serve last week. The returning numbers have not been great from Kokkinakis since coming back from his injury issues which have cost him a lot of time on the Tour and there won't be a lot of time to find a rhythm against someone like Medvedev.

The latter can have his issues on serve with the rest of his game erratic to say the least as he tries to find the consistency to start making a significant move upwards in the World Ranking. Medvedev was broken twice by Ivo Karlovic last week which would be a concern for anyone, but he did serve well in his win over Nicolas Mahut.

I think Medvedev does have the better of the returning numbers of these two players and Kokkinakis may struggle to back up an impressive win over Raonic. I am a big fan of Kokkinakis and the potential he clearly has, but he is still finding his feet back on the Tour and I will look for Medvedev to have a similar kind of win as last week when beating the Australian 6-3, 7-6.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: Another rematch from last week comes between Feliciano Lopez and Jeremy Chardy and I am looking for another win for the Spaniard who came through in three sets in Stuttgart. The Lopez serve on the grass is a potent weapon as Stan Wawrinka found out in the First Round in Queens and it gave him the foundation to get past Chardy last week and I expect it can set him up for the win this week too.

The concern about fatigue is a factor as Lopez reached the Final in Stuttgart on Sunday, but having Wednesday off was important for him. You would think he won't mind the heated conditions in London, even if things are going to be slightly cooler on Thursday, and Lopez should get plenty of pop off the first serve.

The same can be said for Chardy who has an underrated serve, but the second serve can sit up and be attacked, while the Frenchman's inconsistency means he is likely to throw in a couple of poor service games. Lopez can certainly force the issue with his chip and charge forcing Chardy to make a number of passes and I do think it will be tough for Chardy to overturn the result last week.

He didn't really get his teeth into the Lopez service games and I think Chardy has made his way through to the Second Round by beating those he would expect to. The win over Jordan Thompson could be overrated after the latter beat Andy Murray in the First Round as the Lucky Loser, but Chardy can't really be relied upon to keep up in a serving match up against Lopez who has been firing.

The Spaniard's last three matches have shown that his serve has been cranking up the pressure on opponents and I think at some stage Chardy will crack in a 7-6, 6-4 win for Lopez.

Camila Giorgi + 3.5 games v Elina Svitolina: It is difficult to trust someone like Camila Giorgi who has struggled for her form in recent months, but who will not take a step back from the big hitting game that she is known for. I'm not sure whether off field issues have affected the Italian from really fulfilling the potential she has, but Giorgi is still a very strong grass court player with the heavy hitting a danger on this surface.

Using Giorgi and the games to oppose Elina Svitolina is dangerous, but I am still not convinced the Ukrainian is at her most comfortable on the grass courts. She had a tougher than expected win over Heather Watson in the First Round and Svitolina has regularly been dragged into these difficult matches on the surface.

The ball skids through much quicker than Svitolina can expect, but she has plenty of big hitting behind her too which makes her a dangerous opponent for anyone. If she gets it mentally, Svitolina could be a real danger to anyone on the surface over the next few weeks, but Giorgi should offer stiff resistance too.

The double faults can be a real problem for Giorgi and her lack of recent wins was highlighted in the way she got tight when serving out the match in the First Round. However I think Giorgi loves taking on the big names where the expectation is not very high for the Italian and I think she will play with a freedom that makes her very dangerous.

She can keep this competitive against Svitolina who has struggled for 'easy' wins on the grass courts and I will take the games with Giorgi to keep this one close.

Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 games v Alison Riske: Over the years Garbine Muguruza has struggled for consistency on the grass courts, although she is a former Wimbledon Finalist. This year has been one of inconsistency for her too which means there won't be too many people backing Muguruza to have a successful Wimbledon next month.

She had to come through a difficult First Round match and now faces Alison Riske who has previously enjoyed her time on the grass. Riske is an inconsistent character though and can blow hot and cold on any given day.

Riske won a 50k event on the grass and reached the Final in Nottingham in 2016 but at the same time she lost her first matches in Eastbourne and Wimbledon. The American can be tough to stop when she gets on a roll and she does have an underrated serve when she is feeling her tennis and has to believe her best chance of beating a top ten player like Muguruza is on this surface.

Results for the Spaniard have not been very pleasing for Muguruza when you look outside of a couple of tournaments, but I think that might have been factored in too much into this Second Round match. I would still have had Muguruza a stronger favourite than she is with her serve still a big weapon when it is firing.

That hasn't always been the case this year, but Muguruza should have a number of opportunities to get on top of Riske's delivery. That will give her the edge and I like the Spaniard to find her way past Riske with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win.

Coco Vandeweghe + 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: I can understand why the oddsmakers have set Johanna Konta as the favourite in this Second Round match having see the British Number 1 reach the Final in Nottingham last week. It was a much better week than the one Coco Vandeweghe enjoyed when losing in the First Round at Hertogenbosch, although Vandeweghe was a little unfortunate.

Konta had one of her better tournaments on the grass last week, but I remain unconvinced that she is the strongest of players on this surface. The run was a good one in Nottingham and Konta did have some solid wins behind her, but someone like Vandeweghe can really turn the screw on her with the way she has performed on the grass through her recent career.

The big hitting American has the serve and forehand to be a big danger in the Wimbledon draw next month, but the backhand can be a weakness. The key to the match is whether Konta can get the rallies into the backhand as much as possible, while she will also need to serve and return effectively, but the long week last week could play a factor in this one.

I think Vandeweghe can put the pressure on with her serve and I do think the American can potentially earn the upset in this one.

Konta is a very good player and I am a fan, but I want to oppose her where I can on the grass courts over the next few weeks. This looks a chance to do that with Vandeweghe capable of earning the upset outright, but I will at least look for a competitive match that can make these games count.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Florian Mayer + 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Betway (2 Units)
Camila Giorgi + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-12, - 8.68 Units (40 Units Staked, - 21.70% Yield)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 21st)

There always seem to be a number of big upsets at Queens where the big name players make their competitive bow on the grass courts in preparation for Wimbledon. Over the years the top Seeds have regularly been beaten on a surface where there can be slim pickings when it comes to break points and being able to showcase the extra quality the top players have on a quick surface.

It is especially difficult when trying to find your feet on the surface and it proved costly for Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic with two of those players going out in big upsets.

That has opened the door for someone to make a real run for this ATP 500 crown and the Ranking points it will bring as well as the prestigious roll of honour a player can join. There are still three former Champions in the draw and so there is no guarantee just yet that a new name may join that list of former Winners.

The other tournaments being played this week also move onto the Second Round on Wednesday, although I have no idea what the organisers of Queens have been thinking. While most organisers will play the top/bottom half of their Second Round matches, Queens have decided to play every other Second Round match meaning we won't have any completed Quarter Final matches until the end of Thursday.

It simply doesn't make a lot of sense to me as those Second Round matches to be played on Thursday means the winners could be at a big disadvantage come Friday, especially if they are involved in a long and arduous battle in that Second Round encounter.

I'll say it again, the organisation of the matches at Queens for Wednesday make very little sense to me.

It was a mixed bag for the tennis picks on Tuesday after a strong start to the day was replaced with some disappointing losses. It perhaps should have been a lot better for the picks, but I still have a chance to put together a strong end to the week and ensure another positive move for the season totals.

On Wednesday there are quite a few matches that have interested me, which surprised considering how many fewer matches there are compared with Tuesday. However that is the way it goes sometimes and those picks are below.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: This is something like a changing of the guard for German tennis as the veteran who has been their big hope over the years faces the 'Next Gen' star who looks ready to make a real impact on the Tour. Usually you could suggest that Philipp Kohlschreiber's experience on the grass could still give him an edge, but Alexander Zverev was a Finalist in Halle in 2016 and his game is well suited to the surface.

A heavy serve and some really heavy groundstrokes saw Zverev blitz past Paolo Lorenzi in the First Round and the youngster looked very much over his disappointing last couple of tournaments. The French Open was a real blow having won the Rome Masters just a couple of weeks prior to that, while his loss to Gilles Muller in Hertogenbosch last week was a surprise.

However, Muller is capable of taking a racquet out of someone's hand when he is serving to the top of his ability and he did go on to win the title in Hertogenbosch. The three wins Zverev has produced on the grass have all come relatively easily, although Kohlschreiber is better than the likes of Adrian Mannarino, Julien Benneteau and Lorenzi who have been seen off by Zverev.

In saying that, Kohlschreiber is most definitely on the slope downwards in his career and he produces more sloppy games more often these days. While he is still very capable on this surface, Kohlschreiber will be put under pressure by Zverev's big hitting and he will need to serve very, very well if he is going to earn the upset.

I am not sure he can produce the required level for long enough to beat Zverev though and I can see the younger man coming through a tight opener before pulling away in the second set for a 7-6, 6-4 win and another Quarter Final here.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Robin Haase: Getting comfortable on the grass courts is still a work in progress for Dominic Thiem but his title win in Stuttgart which was followed by a Semi Final run here shows he is more than capable on the surface. The Austrian himself admits he is getting mentally more prepared for the way to perform to the best of his ability on the grass and there is a lot to like about his game which should transfer onto this surface.

A solid opening Round win will help Thiem and he is playing an opponent who has had plenty of inconsistent results on the grass over the years.

Robin Haase has a big serve which can be dangerous when he is firing, while a heavy forehand can skid through the grass. The Dutchman is a former Semi Finalist at Hertogenbosch too which suggests he should be respected, but overall Haase has not really performed that well on this surface.

Little mistakes can lead to big problems and Haase is never that far away from producing an error filled game that gift away breaks of serve. While that can be retrievable on other surfaces, it is much more difficult on grass, but Haase remains a danger if Thiem is not quite at his best as he can rattle through service games once he builds a rhythm up.

This is a big number of games being asked of Thiem, but Haase had to show a lot of heart in coming back to beat David Ferrer on Tuesday. That could have sapped some energy in the heat of Halle and I will look for Thiem to cool him down in a 6-3, 6-4 win for a place in the Quarter Final for the second year in a row.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 games v Gilles Muller: This surface is one that is very much suited to Gilles Muller's game and he showed that again by winning the title in Hertogenbosch last week. His serve is a potent weapon and it can be a really difficult for a returner of the standard of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to really get to grips with it.

Muller was serving very well in his First Round win on Tuesday, but he has spent a lot of time on the court over the last week and the accumulated fatigue can play a part in this one. While Muller has given Tsonga some really difficult matches in the past, the feeling is the Frenchman has the levers to force Muller to play enough balls to extract a break or two from his game.

That won't be easy, but Muller did spend a lot longer on the court in the heat of London on Tuesday than he would have liked. He lost a tie-breaker 19-17 which would have seen Muller leave the court after a reasonable time and the little rest between winning the tournament in Hertogenbosch and playing here will be a concern.

Even if his serve is slightly below its best, Muller could be put under pressure by Tsonga who won't give away too much with his own serve. It is important for Tsonga to look after the second serve more effectively than he did in the First Round win over Adrian Mannarino, but his first serve should get plenty of joy from a limited returner like Muller.

I will be looking for the fresher Tsonga to have more pop on his serve for longer than Muller and he can use that to a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 games v Julien Benneteau: There are times when you will watch the veteran Julien Benneteau and find him to be irritatingly good on the court. The Frenchman plays with plenty of confidence and belief in his own game and when it is working as well as it can, Benneteau is no easy out for anyone.

He is very comfortable on the grass courts too and Benneteau played well in reaching the Quarter Final last week in Hertogenbosch before coming through the Qualifiers and reaching the Second Round here in Queens. The win over Nicolas Mahut may not be as impressive as it once was and Benneteau won't have faced too many of the standard of Grigor Dimitrov.

Dimitrov may not have reached the levels that some predicted for him, but he is very comfortable on the grass courts and was an unfortunate early loser in Stuttgart last week. He enjoys playing at Queens though and had a very good First Round win, while Dimitrov has been serving and returning effectively in his first two matches back on the grass.

Being a former Champion at Queens will give Dimitrov plenty of belief when playing here, especially with a tournament that looks very open now that some of the top names have exited the event.

I do think Dimitrov will do enough when serving and returning to have the majority of break points in this match and I am expecting him to take the chances when they come his way. Benneteau will offer problems with his slick brand of tennis perfectly suited to the grass, but Dimitrov can work his way to a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Denis Shapovalov: For someone who hasn't had a lot of grass court experience, Denis Shapovalov has produced plenty of wins over the last few weeks. The majority of those have come at the Challenger and Qualifier level, but the confidence has grown to the point that Shapovalov was able to beat Kyle Edmund in the First Round here.

To be honest, Edmund is an overrated grass court player anyway and I am not sure Tomas Berdych is going to allow Shapovalov to be able to control the match behind his own serve as much as the Brit did.

The young man did struggle in the return aspect as he might not understand the timing and style of return needed on a court where the ball can fizz through the lines. Someone like Tomas Berdych can make life all the more difficult for Shapovalov with his own serve, although the veteran is definitely not as strong as he once was.

However, I am looking for Berdych's grass court experience to help him get past an opponent who will have confidence from the win in the First Round. Shapovalov will likely find his second serve under more pressure, while I am expecting Berdych to win around 70% of the points behind serve which will make it very difficult for the Canadian to escape the mental pressure of the match.

Shapovalov is very talented and could be a part of the next generation of stars on the Tour, but I think Berdych proves too good at this moment and comes through 7-5, 6-3.

Daria Gavrilova - 1.5 games v Katerina Siniakova: Neither one of these players has a very strong record on the grass courts although I do think Daria Gavrilova has the kind of aggressive game that can be a success on the surface. She had a solid First Round win this week in Birmingham and I am looking for the Australian to have too much for Katerina Siniakova.

The latter has had some success on the surface, but mainly in winning Qualifiers to make the main draw of events, although Siniakova did reach the Third Round at Wimbledon last year.

It has been the toughness of the draws that Gavrilova had in 2016 which prevented her picking up the wins during the grass court season. She was beaten as expected by the likes of Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Dominika Cibulkova, but Gavrilova has won the last four matches she has played as the favourite on the grass.

Gavrilova has covered this number three times in those four matches and I think she will have the aggressiveness to keep Siniakova under pressure. I fully expect a number of breaks of serve, but I will look for Gavrilova to win a high percentage of points being played behind Siniakova's second serve and I will look for her to progress in three sets while covering this number.

Lucie Safarova - 2.5 games v Naomi Osaka: There is a lot expected of Naomi Osaka but that can take a toll on a young player and she has struggled for consistency in 2017. She had a very big win in the First Round over Lauren Davis, but the grass courts have not been her favourite surface so far and she has a big challenge in front of her when facing Lucie Safarova.

You have to factor in the fact that Safarova had a really long and gruelling win over Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday. It was a tough match that went very long and in the heat of the Birmingham day and that has to play a part in this one.

Safarova did also have a strong run to the Semi Final in Nottingham last week, although she had to battle through three sets in her three wins as well as the loss to Donna Vekic. Needing three sets again will have provided some fatigue for Safarova to deal with, but her opponent here only just snapped a long losing run which will have affected the confidence.

Osaka was just 1-3 on the grass before the win over Lauren Davis, who has struggled on the grass herself, and I do think she has to get over her issues on this surface.

Safarova has not won matches easily of late, but I think she will need to get this done in two sets to prevent any tiredness being an issue. She is good enough to do that if she can serve just a little bit more effectively and I like the experience edge she has over Osaka which can help the Czech player move through 6-4, 6-4.

Catherine Bellis - 2.5 games v Mona Barthel: One of the names on the WTA Tour that is going to make a big impact in the years to come is Catherine Bellis barring any unfortunate set of circumstances against her. Her lack of playing time on the grass courts didn't seem to affect the young American when beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the First Round in Mallorca.

Backing that up won't be easy unless Bellis can improve the serve which was broken four times, but there is a reason she is coming in as the favourite against Mona Barthel.

Barthel had a solid win in the First Round herself and is coming off a strong showing during the clay court season, but playing on the grass has been an issue for her. The German simply hasn't had a lot of success on the surface in recent years and was beaten as the favourite last week in Nottingham.

As well as she did in the First Round, Barthel has usually had some issues when it comes to the return of serve on the grass. That might be a problem for her again if Bellis is able to produce the strong returning stats that she is capable of and I am looking for the American to back up a strong win.

I imagine there will be some twists and turns in this one, but I will look for Bellis to come out with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to move into her first Quarter Final on the grass courts.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 games v Julia Goerges: This feels like a good looking match on paper and I am expecting plenty of big hitting when both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Julia Goerges take to the court. The latter had the more impressive First Round win, but Pavlyuchenkova has the stronger grass court pedigree.

I do think that makes a difference in this match with Pavlyuchenkova a Quarter Finalist at Wimbledon last year.

I will admit that I am surprised that Goerges has not had much success on the grass courts when you think of the power and strength she has. The serve isn't bad and I would think the German would be able to impose her game on opponents, although I think the speed in which the ball comes back across the net puts Goerges' timing out of sync.

Goerges had lost seven straight times on the grass before her win over Lara Arruabarrena who has to be considered a clay court specialist. While she had some nice returning stats in the win in the First Round, Goerges has really struggled with that aspect of her game during her run of losses and Pavlyuchenkova has plenty of power to force her backwards in this one too.

The Russian can struggle with her movement, but I think the grass will allow her to avoid getting involved in too many long rallies and ultimately she will prevail in this match. I will be looking for Pavlyuchenkova to come through 6-3, 7-6.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Daria Gavrilova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Catherine Bellis - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-6, - 1.78 Units (22 Units Staked, - 8.09% Yield)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 20th)

This is always considered the busiest week when it comes to the grass court tournaments in preparation for Wimbledon.

Tuesday looks to be one of the busiest days of any week outside of a Grand Slam tournament with the four events being played this week putting all of their remaining First Round matches on the schedule.

Today I will just have the picks from the Tuesday matches below and a full thread will be out for the Wednesday matches.

It was a disappointing Monday with a couple of players coming close to a cover but ultimately failing to do that to wrap up a winning day. Hopefully I cam get the picks back on track on Tuesday in what is going to be a busy week.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Cameron Norrie + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Camila Giorgi - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Shuai Zhang - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-3, - 1.60 Units (10 Units Staked, - 16% Yield)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 19th)

When you consider the preparation for Wimbledon, this always feels like the big week for players as the top names on both Tours tend to come out for the events in London, Halle, Birmingham and Mallorca.

Most will then take the week prior to Wimbledon as one where they can play some exhibition events on the grass, but the competitive action is left to those lower down the World Rankings.

Wimbledon is not too far away now and there has to be some concerns for Angelique Kerber fans that the German will not be able to be passed fit in time to take part. Kerber has pulled out of Birmingham this week with the hamstring issue that has been bothering her for a number of weeks and her participation at SW19 has to be called into doubt.

It was a solid, if not spectacular, week for the tennis picks last week, but a decent enough opening for the grass court events.

There will be plenty of big matches this week through the four events and hopefully another solid week to keep the momentum going towards Wimbledon.

First Round matches start at the four events on Monday.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 4.5 games v Joao Sousa: One of those players that has definitely regressed on the Tour but who perhaps is not always priced up as such is Philipp Kohlschreiber. That is the case for the veteran German on most surfaces, but he remains one of the better grass court players out there and this surface continues to bamboozle many on the Tour who would love to skip through this month of the Tour.

While Joao Sousa may not dislike the green stuff as some out there, he is clearly not at his best on a surface where his defensive skills are much harder to control. As someone who has grown up on the clay, Sousa doesn't get the slide nor the lower bouncing ball that can be elements of playing on a grass court.

Sousa is also just 3-9 over his last twelve matches since reaching the Semi Final in Sao Paulo which includes a poorer than expected clay court season, and that is going to have dented some confidence.

There have been a couple of solid grass court runs which means Sousa should be afforded some respect, but there have been a lot more early exits than strong runs over the last couple of years. Since reaching the Semi Final in Hertogenbosch, Sousa is just 4-8 on the grass courts and three of those wins came at Wimbledon last year.

Kohlschreiber played well enough last week in Stuttgart and tends to do the same in Halle at this time of the season. I do think Sousa can serve better than expected at times and he does have a 2-0 lead over the German on the head to head, but I think Kohlschreiber can get the better of him on this surface. I will look for Kohlschreiber to find a break more in each set to earn his 6-3, 6-4 win in this First Round match.

Gael Monfils - 1.5 games v Richard Gasquet: Injuries have curtailed the amount of tennis that Gael Monfils has been able to play on the grass courts in recent seasons. Monfils will return to Halle having been forced to miss the warm up events for Wimbledon last season and Monfils has had just one grass court match since Wimbledon 2015.

Usually you could perhaps argue that the superior player on this surface is Richard Gasquet, but I am not sure the Frenchman is feeling up to full health. The faster surface should mean Gasquet is able to look after his back problem a little more than the clay, but someone like Monfils is capable of forcing his compatriot to play plenty of low balls which has to be a concern for Gasquet.

Another would be the early exits Gasquet has suffered at Queens in the last couple of appearances here. A change in venue for his warm up to Wimbledon may help, but I do think Gasquet could potentially need some time to find his feet on the grass despite being a former Wimbledon Semi Finalist.

He doesn't have a great recent record in his first match on the grass in recent years and I think Monfils can serve big enough on the surface to put himself in a strong position. It will be an interesting First Round match as we get a chance to see how both players are feeling in an injury hit 2017, but I do give Monfils enough of an edge to wish to back him to win and cover what looks a small enough number on the handicap.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: No one will be more disappointed with their French Open than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but he is coming into what should be a month where he is at his most dangerous. Tsonga's game has always been ideal for the grass and he has proved that with some big runs at Wimbledon and big wins there over the years.

It does feel that Tsonga has not come into this time of the season at full health for some time and a deeper look at his results shows this is the first pre-Wimbledon tournament he has taken in on the grass since visiting Queens in 2014. Over the years Tsonga has had some good results here, but also some very surprising early exits and this First Round match is a potentially dangerous one.

I said last week that Adrian Mannarino is better on the grass courts than you would think despite what looks like a below average serve. Coming from the lefty, Mannarino is able to back it up and he will give Tsonga some problems if the latter is not fully at the races.

However you would think the Tsonga serve is going to be the potent weapon on the court and that should give him every chance to take a few swings against the Mannarino one. If he can see a few second serves, Tsonga is capable of putting the pressure on his compatriot and trying to break down his game as Alexander Zverev did last week in Hertogenbosch.

Mannarino did beat Tsonga on the clay earlier this season, but I will look for the latter to make enough quality returns to come away with a 6-3, 7-6 win in this First Round match.

Barbora Strycova - 4.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: There is always going to be limited data from the grass court tournaments compared with the hard court and clay court events which are played throughout the year.

Barbora Strycova had a mainly forgettable clay court season, but she has played well on the grass courts in her career. That is especially the case here in Birmingham where Strycova has a 11-3 record in her last three appearances and was the Finalist last season.

In saying that, this is still a lot of games to cover for a player who has the tendency to produce some sloppy service games which can give opponents a chance to steal sets and games. That could be a real problem against a player like Yulia Putintseva who does a lot of defensive work around the court and looks to extract errors from others.

However Putintseva has had very limited success on the grass courts and I think she finds it much harder to keep defending on the low bouncing courts with too many of those shots heading upwards and being able to be put away and penetrate her defences. She has lost her first match on the grass by comfortable margins in each of the last three years that she has played on the surface (2013, 2015, 2016).

There will be breaks of serve and there will be some swings in the momentum just simply because of the way Strycova and Putintseva play. However I am looking for the superior grass court experience to show up at a tournament where Strycova has had success in the past and I will look for the Czech player to progress with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Heather Watson + 4.5 games v Elina Svitolina: I have mentioned a few times over the years that Heather Watson has to be one of the most overrated players in the United Kingdom simply because she is British and talked up too much. That has quietened since the emergence of Johanna Konta who is a genuine contender at big events these days while Watson has slipped outside the top 100 of the World Rankings.

I have nothing against Watson personally, because she comes across as a really nice person, but generally she is overrated and that is especially the case around the grass court season. That might not be the case in the opening Round in Birmingham though.

Watson is rightly the underdog against the Number 2 Seeded Elina Svitolina who is having the kind of consistent season which will see her contend for the World Number 1 position on the WTA Tour thanks to the likes of Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber having their own issues to deal with.

However Svitolina has had her troubles on the grass court and I am going to look for Watson to try and expose those. Svitolina is just 4-10 as a pro on the grass and one of those losses did come against Watson, although I am not expecting the latter to be able to replicate that.

Instead I am looking for Watson to just force a competitive match out of Svitolina and perhaps even steal a set which gives her every chance to cover with this number. In all of Svitolina's previous experience on the grass, she has only covered this number twice and and five of the ten losses have come when favoured.

Watson was demolished by Alison Riske last week in Nottingham, but I will look for her to have enough to challenge Svitolina who hasn't quite got to grips with this surface.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 1.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Barbora Strycova - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Heather Watson + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Season 2017- 15.04 Units (1104 Units Staked, - 1.36% Yield)
Season 2016- 5.64 Units (2013 Units Staked, - 0.00% Yield)
Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Boxing Picks 2017- Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev (June 17th)

In a week when the 'super-fight' between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was announced, the hardcore boxing fan will know a true 'super-fight' is being displayed this weekend as we get to see Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev go at it for a second time.

The controversy from the ending of the first fight which saw Ward pick himself off the canvas to secure a Unanimous Decision has bothered Kovalev ever since the scores were announced. After threatening to retire, Ward did eventually come to the right decision to offer the former unbeaten Champion a chance for revenge and this should be another barnstormer.

I mentioned Mayweather vs McGregor which has been scheduled for Saturday 26th August and I can understand the anger from some in the boxing fraternity. If you love boxing you know this is nothing like the competitive fight that some are suggesting and Mayweather should win easily, likely by stoppage as McGregor tires and is outboxed.

While this isn't the big fight like we have seen throughout 2017, it is a huge event which is likely to put together a decent undercard for the fans to enjoy.

The main event is just that... An event.

And I won't say 'I refuse to watch this circus show' which has been a line I have seen repeated over the last few days. Instead I will watch for the event that it is, and just accept that the two participants have got together to make a lot of money and I can't criticise them for that. Enough people still believe McGregor is going to 'shake up the world', but this would be the biggest upset in any sport if an amateur is able to beat Mayweather despite the two year absence from the ring the 40 year old has had.

First things first, let's get on with the picks from the really competitive fights where two pros are taking on one another.

Tyron Zeuge vs Paul Smith
I like Paul Smith and it would be nice to see him fulfil his dream of being called a World Champion.

However I do think Smith's best days are behind him and I would not be surprised if he was to call it a day at the end of this latest effort to win a World Title.

This is the third time Smith has been given an opportunity to win a World Title, but he has been picked by Tyron Zeuge who is the WBA 'regular' Champion after stopping Giovanni De Carolis and defending the belt once already. Zeuge's team have picked Smith as the chance to show their man is ready to really compete with the very best Super-Middleweight fighters out there and the fact that he is taking on a British fighter may make it easier to create a fight with the likes of James DeGale, George Groves and Callum Smith, Paul's brother who has his own World Title shot in September.

Groves is the 'Super' Champion of the WBA strap and is promoted by the same Sauerland brothers that the 'Super' Champion is which makes that a potentially easy fight to arrange.

For Zeuge to be mentioned alongside those bigger names in the Division, he will have to match the stoppages DeGale, Groves and Andre Ward have had against Smith. There is no doubting the toughness of Smith, but Joe Gallagher protects his fighters and I would not be surprised to see a situation where he prevents Paul Smith from taking too much punishment later in the fight.

I think that is going to be the outcome and a late stoppage for the home fighter to announce himself on this stage. Paul Smith has been stopped when stepped up a level and while I am not sure Zeuge is quite there, I think he will force the stoppage at some point either via referee or corner.

Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev
Anyone who is serious about boxing and looking to the big fights of 2017 will have had this one right at the top of the list for some time. Ever since it was announced that Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev would be doing it all again after their controversial first fight I have been looking forward to this one.

I had the first fight down as a draw when I scored it on the night so I am not surprised that whoever lost would have been unhappy with how things had played out. It was a really tight fight but I think the knock down Kovalev scored in the Second Round should have been enough for him to avoid a loss, but the Russian just didn't step on the gas in the second half of the fight as he should have done.

The feeling from the majority of fight fans is Ward will make this one a little more certain in his favour as he wins by a wider margin on the scorecard.

However it does feel like those people believe Kovalev has lost his mind and is fuming and ready to go all in at Ward. Doing that will lead to inevitable mistakes, but I don't think Kovalev will make those mistakes as he is an established boxer who is blessed with power.

Kovalev is a better boxer than people think because of that power and I don't think he will be worried about the refs if he can impose himself a little more. It did feel like Kovalev lost the first fight more than Ward won it, although he could have easily been on the right side of the decision, and I think Kovalev will want to push Ward backwards more than he did in the second half of the fight.

Some think he needs the Knock Out against an opponent who will make some fine adjustments which makes him such a quality fighter. Ward will like to mix in the rough stuff with the boxing and I am not buying that he is really looking to KO the bigger and stronger man.

I picked Kovalev to win the first time these two met and I think he will be able to channel his frustration from the way the first fight into a positive. I'll look for Kovalev to just do a little more in the second half of the fight than he did in November and I will look for the Russian to set up the possibility of a rubber match by earning the nod from the three American judges this time around.

MY PICKS: Tyron Zeuge by KO, TKO or Disqualification @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sergey Kovalev by Decision or Technical Decision @ 4.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)