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Thursday, 1 June 2017

French Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2017 (June 1st)

The Second Round at the French Open is going to be completed on Thursday and it looks like the poor weather that is due in Paris is going to hold off for at least another day. Next week does not look like one where the players can avoid having delays on the court with no roof in Paris until 2020, but for now players are simply focusing on being in a position to play in the business end of the tournament.

Usually I find it difficult to find picks during the early stages of a Grand Slam as matches tend to want some really big spreads covered, but that hasn't been the case all the time in the event so far. It feels like the favourites are not as convincing as I feel they can be considered and that has led to numbers that I am surprised by on Thursday.

So far the picks have been in terrific form with 67% coming back as winners on Wednesday to keep the profit ticking along from the first week. I really need to avoid having a really poor day to make sure this is going to be an event that really helps the season totals, but Thursday is another day where it feels like a number of appealing options are available.

All four days so far have returned a winning record and I am looking for Day 5 to do the same as I look for a number of favourites to show why they are in that position and earn their stripes going into the Third Round on Saturday.

David Ferrer - 1.5 sets v Feliciano Lopez: Most will have recognised the significant decline David Ferrer has been on since the beginning of the 2016 season and that has seen his World Ranking drop down to Number 32. That is going to continue to slide and the former top ten player is likely to be on the last stretch of his long career.

It also means Ferrer tends to be overrated these days, but this might be a rare occasion in which is underrated.

He takes on a veteran compatriot in Feliciano Lopez who has not had the best record on the clay courts in his career and who was beaten by Ferrer two weeks ago in Rome. Lopez has a decent serve but that can be nullified by the slower clay courts, while he may have lost half a step getting up to the net for the serve-volley game that has been so effective for him throughout his career.

That style of play is suited much more to the faster surfaces and I think Lopez is going to have a tough time against Ferrer. However he will likely have some chances too with Ferrer throwing in some sloppy games these days as his movement has just slowed down a bit and not having an overpowering serve to earn some cheap points.

Ferrer came from behind to beat Lopez in Rome and he was the better player by some distance on the day. He also has wins over Lopez at the French Open in 2013 and 2016 and Ferrer won all six sets played in those two matches, and I think Ferrer will prove too good in this one. I am anticipating he can win this one in three or four sets against Lopez who has had a difficult 2017 too.

John Isner - 1.5 sets v Paolo Lorenzi: This is the kind of match that will likely see the clay court specialist Paolo Lorenzi backed by plenty of people to beat John Isner. However I am not sure the Italian is going to have the mental fortitude to deal with the Isner serve while his own serve is one that the American can take a swing at and produce some chances to break the serve.

It has to be said that the Isner serve is a big weapon, even on the clay courts, and it sets up the rest of his game when he is firing it down. There have been signs that Isner is not quite as good as he once was and he has struggled at critical times in matches throughout 2017 despite possessing a serve like he does.

However he has produced some solid wins over the last few weeks on the clay courts and Isner is much happier on the surface than most American male players tend to be. Isner has regularly stated the extra time off the court helps him with his groundstrokes and a big serving day is going to put Lorenzi under immense pressure.

That may lead to a couple of poor service games from the veteran Lorenzi who has to work much harder for his points. Generally he will feel he can outplay Isner from the back of the court, but dealing with the initial big strikes from Isner is where Lorenzi could be forced into some errors. Also it can be difficult mentally to deal with the big serves flying past you all day and there is some recent history to support that.

Lorenzi was beaten by Kevin Anderson in Geneva last week as he couldn't deal with the big serve he was facing and I think it could be the same on Thursday with Isner winning this one in three or four sets.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Karen Khachanov: We might have seen the best of Tomas Berdych as a force at the very top of the men's game, but he is still capable of producing some solid tennis as he showed in a very good First Round win. There were the signs of decline with Berdych beginning to play some loose tennis in the third and fourth set after dropping two games in two sets.

He did hold himself together for long enough to earn his place in the Second Round and Berdych is a pretty solid favourite to beat Karen Khachanov. You can't argue with that as the young Russian has produced some inconsistent performances of late and is still trying to find his feet on the clay courts.

Khachanov has produced some solid wins on the clay over the last few weeks, but he has found the step up in level tough at times. His losses to the likes of Victor Troicki, David Goffin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have highlighted that Khachanov is still looking for a stand out win to build some confidence for him.

While there have been some bad losses for Berdych, his wins have been coming regularly over the last few weeks too and those have tended to come with some room to spare.

I think that will be the case in the Second Round as Berdych is able to show off enough of his better side to win this one 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 to move through to the Third Round.

Andy Murray - 7.5 games v Martin Klizan: Anyone who has seen Martin Klizan play in the past will know that he is capable of pushing the top players when he is feeling things. It all depends on which side of the bed he gets out of as Klizan is just as likely to produce a shocking display full of errors.

He will not be able to get away with a sub-par effort on Thursday when facing Andy Murray even though the World Number 1 is far from his fluent best. The crowd are unlikely to be behind the underdog in this one either after Klizan was involved with a tete-a-tete with a French player in the First Round that saw the players miss the handshake at the end of the match.

There were signs that Klizan was carrying some sort of injury in the First Round which restricted his movement at times and Murray is more than capable of exposing that. Murray has room for improvement too despite a solid win in the First Round as he only took control of the match in the third and fourth set after two tough opening sets.

Murray is not playing as aggressive as many would like to see and he has had his own illness and injury issues through the season. I do think he will encourage Klizan to get on the attack in this one with the way Murray has been playing, but mentally Murray is much stronger and I am anticipating Klizan will fall away in this one if he falls behind.

After a couple of tight sets, I can see Murray taking control of another match with the belief sapped away from Klizan. It could mean a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 kind of win is produced by the World Number 1 and getting closer to the second week of the Grand Slam.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: Over the last three years, I have noted that Stan Wawrinka is not really the kind of player you want to back to cover these big numbers. His aggressive style of play is one that can lead to mistakes and dropping silly games and sets which makes it tough to overcome big spreads, but I am going to back the 2015 French Open Champion to do that in the Second Round.

Much of that is down to the fact that Wawrinka is taking on someone who is just as likely to gift away a break of serve or a set and Alexandr Dolgopolov is also trying to prove his fitness. Dolgopolov did win impressively in the First Round against Carlos Berlocq, but it is another couple of levels he will have to raise his game to beat Wawrinka.

Dolgopolov had some poor losses in the weeks leading up to the French Open after returning from his latest injury and I do think he will be under pressure in this one. There will be some flashy tennis from the Ukrainian and I expect to see some big time winners, but Wawrinka is ultimately likely to be given a few unforced errors which can lead to break points.

The problem for Dolgopolov is that he doesn't always pick the best shot, but the one that will entertain the crowd the most and that is not the way you beat a former Grand Slam Champion. I think the injury is probably still hindering Dolgopolov's play and that may all come to roost in this one as long as Wawrinka plays a relatively steady match.

If he can do that, Wawrinka should find a way to come through with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 win.

Nicolas Almagro-Juan Martin Del Potro Over 34.5 total games: This has all the makings of one of the better matches in the Second Round at the French Open as a clay court specialist Nicolas Almagro takes on the big hitting Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro.

It is Del Potro who has won the last three matches between these two players including their sole meeting in 2016, but they have also only met once on the clay courts which was won by Almagro. The latter looks to be passed a knee injury that saw him leave the Rome Masters mid-match against Rafael Nadal, although a win over Marcos Baghdatis would have been expected.

On the other hand, Del Potro produced a really special performance to beat Guido Pella which is part of the reason he is favoured to win this match. I think it is fairly disrespectful to dismiss Almagro considering how effectively he should be able to get into the weak backhand of Del Potro, although I can also understand that Almagro can struggle mentally at times.

This match feels like it is all about the Almagro mindset- if he is feeling confident, I think Almagro has every chance of earning the upset on his favourite surface, but that is the million dollar question. It would be a bigger surprise if both players are unable to take at least a set in this one and the serving on display should mean we are going deep into the sets in play.

That leads me to taking the match to surpass the total games line which I think are around four games too short. I am expecting at least one tie-breaker and this match going into four or five sets should see the games covered behind two solid servers.

Gael Monfils - 7.5 games v Thiago Monteiro: Gael Monfils came into his home Grand Slam with some question marks about his fitness but he looked good in his First Round win here. He was also involved in a spot of break-dancing ahead of the tournament and I do think Monfils is feeling good about himself, while he should also appreciate the Second Round match he is facing.

The clay courts are where Thiago Monteiro plays his best tennis, but the 23 year old is someone who has found his form inconsistent at the main Tour level. That is a reason he is still down in the Number 80 spot in the World Rankings and Monteiro was fortunate his young opponent in the First Round didn't have the stamina to hold onto his 2-1 lead in sets.

That is not going to be an issue for Monfils who should have all the movement and shots in the locker to grind down Monteiro both physically and mentally. Monteiro does have some talent and will give the Frenchman some problems to work out if Monfils is playing too passively, but the Brazilian is also likely to hand out plenty of unforced errors.

Those unforced errors may come a bit quicker if Monteiro is being frustrated by the defensive work Monfils is able to produce which will see the lower Ranked player trying to hit closer and closer to the lines. While he can stay mentally involved in the match early on, I am looking for Monfils to begin to pull away in the second set in this one.

At that point Monteiro may hand out a couple of breaks of serve to go down to a 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat and give Monfils the chance to cover for a second match in a row.

Pablo Cuevas - 8.5 games v Nicolas Kicker: Playing in the Grand Slams have not been a pleasant experience for Pablo Cuevas in his career and he has won just a third of his matches at this level. He did produce a straight-forward win in the First Round and the draw looks to be kind to Cuevas in the Second Round as I look for him to cover a big number.

The fact that Cuevas struggles for wins at this level will mean it is perhaps not ideal to be backing him to cover spreads of the size of this one. However I think he is capable of really putting Nicolas Kicker under some immense pressure in this one and I think Cuevas will have enough break point chances to have a chance to cover.

His opponent is one who came through in four sets in the First Round in a pick 'em contest and Kicker also reached the Quarter Final in Lyon last week. Like a lot of South American players, Kicker spends the majority of his time on the clay courts so will be a test for Cuevas, although there have been a few matches that have gotten away from Kicker.

Expect plenty of rallies and some grind it out points from two players who are very comfortable on this surface but Cuevas should be the stronger player with the more consistent serve. That is important on the clay courts and Cuevas can record a win similar to the one he had in the First Round as he wears down Kicker over a couple of hours.

The third set is likely to be key in a straight sets win for Cuevas- at that point I am looking for Kicker to perhaps lose some heart as he goes down 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games v Victor Estrella Burgos: The big question mark around Richard Gasquet coming into the French Open is how much he has recovered from the injuries that have affected him throughout 2017. He didn't get to play a lot of tennis in preparation for Roland Garros but Gasquet was a comfortable winner in the First Round and I am expecting him to back that up in the Second Round too.

He faces Victor Estrella Burgos who seems to play his very best tennis in Quito and then struggles through the rest of the year. Estrella Burgos won the title in Quito again but he then showed plenty of heart in the First Round here to come back from 2-0 down in sets to win just his second match here in his career.

Estrella Burgos had lost five matches in a row before a win in the First Round, while he has suffered some one sided losses in Roland Garros and looked to be on the way to another before coming back against Teymuraz Gabashvili. There have also been some heavy losses for Estrella Burgos when playing at the Grand Slam level and his serve is one that Gasquet should be able to attack with confidence and with success.

I think it does make a difference with the chances of Gasquet winning sets with double breaks of serve highly likely in this one. The lack of tennis does mean Gasquet could be vulnerable if the sets are close, but I think the Frenchman can use the emotion of the home crowd to help him through some difficult moments.

After some tough moments, I think Gasquet will take control of the match and come away with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win.

Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: One of the biggest upsets in the French Open so far has to be the Fernando Verdasco win over Alexander Zverev in the First Round. Backing that up is going to be a test for Verdasco emotionally, although he does have a decent draw against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

There will be plenty of support for Herbert but it does feel that his game is much better suited to the faster surfaces than the clay courts. The conditions in Paris will help Herbert, but his success at Roland Garros is likely to come on the Doubles court rather than on the Singles one.

Herbert will play a lot of serve-volley tennis and he can be dangerous when he is hitting his marks, but I expect the veteran Spaniard to make enough balls back in play to put Herbert under pressure. My bigger concern is Verdasco producing a poor serving display which will give Herbert a chance to steal a set or two, although I do think Herbert is a fairly limited returner all around.

Those limitations should mean Verdasco is able to put the pressure on Herbert with his return game and I think the power off the ground will give the Spaniard the edge in the match.

This is a big number of games if Verdasco is not producing anything close to his best tennis. However I think he has the experience to back up a big win and can win this one 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 to move past Herbert and into the Third Round.

Marketa Vondrousova - 2.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: For those who saw Daria Kasatkina's ankle injury at the Rome Premier Event it is must be a shock to not only see her take her place in the draw, but actually come through the First Round. Kasatkina was a solid favourite in the First Round though and this is a much bigger test for her.

Over the last few weeks Kasatkina had struggled under the expectation that came with a title win in Charleston and that saw her lose matches to Elena Vesnina and Roberta Vinci prior to the ankle injury forced her out in Rome. Confidence has to be an issue for Kasatkina whose serve is vulnerable and now she is facing Marketa Vondrousova who has been crushing opponents over the last few weeks.

Vondrousova had to win three Qualifiers to reach the main draw, but she has given up just eight games in four matches so far in Roland Garros. That comes after winning an ITF 100K event on the clay courts and the Czech player will believe she has the power to punish Kasatkina if the latter is not feeling at 100%.

There was also a title win in Biel after coming through the Qualifiers for Vondrousova and she is playing so well on both sides of the court that she is going to be a tough out for anyone this week.

I think that will be the case for Kasatkina who can struggle behind her serve and who might feel under pressure even as the underdog. The power of Vondrousova is likely to be too much although I expect Kasatkina to win more games than the rest of the opponents Vondrousova has played combined. However, it will still lead to a likely 7-6, 6-4 win for Vondrousova and a place in the next Round as she announces herself to the casual fans tuning into the French Open.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Alison Van Uytvanck: It has been a couple of years since Alison Van Uytvanck had a surprising run to the Quarter Finals here in Paris, but she has been unable to back that up. That means her World Ranking remains outside the top 100, although Van Uytvanck will be playing with the confidence that comes from four straight wins in straight sets.

The challenge increases again against a returning Agnieszka Radwanska who has been absent for a few weeks with a foot injury. The Pole was an easy winner in the First Round, but that came against an overmatched opponent and Radwanska understands that playing and getting used to the clay will take some time.

She will need to quickly adjust against a heavy hitting opponent like Van Uytvanck, although the variation in the Radwanska game is likely to extract a number of unforced errors from her opponent. Those will be needed to help Radwanska along as Van Uytvanck attacks the vulnerable second serves she sees and the match up of style should be one viewers enjoy.

I just simply don't think Van Uytvanck can produce the tennis she needs consistently enough to win this match and ultimately will make too many unforced errors. Those will give Radwanska a chance to cover this number and all of the losses Van Uytvanck has suffered in 2017 has seen her fail to get within this number.

This has been a difficult year for Radwanska to this point too, but I think she can add another win to 2017 with a 6-4, 6-3 success on Thursday.

Elena Vesnina - 2.5 games v Varvara Lepchenko: In 2016 Elena Vesnina had some solid runs on the clay courts, but 2017 has proved to be much different. She had lost four in a row on the clay courts prior to her win in the First Round, although that was a solid enough performance to give Vesnina some confidence.

She is facing Varvara Lepchenko who has not had a strong history of success on the clay courts herself. The American has a heavy game, but the aggression can lead to plenty of mistakes at times, especially on a surface like this where patience is the key.

Vesnina is no less aggressive and I think both players will have their moments, while also going through tough periods where mistakes will be coming thick and fast. Lepchenko did reach the Semi Final in Marrakech and she has produced a few more wins than Vesnina over the last few weeks which will give her some confidence.

However that run in Marrakech was a surprising one and Lepchenko simply hasn't produced the strong results on the clay courts to think she can earn the upset here. As poorly as Vesnina has played at times over the clay court season the Russian is someone who has shown more comfort and ability on this surface through her career than Lepchenko has.

The first set is likely to be very, very tight, but Vesnina can get herself into a 7-6, 6-4 kind of win and I will back her to cover these games.

Anastasija Sevastova - 3.5 games v Eugenie Bouchard: For the casual fan, the Seeded player they would have expected in this Second Round match is likely to have been Eugenie Bouchard. However that would be ignoring the strong form that Anastasija Sevastova has been showing in the last couple of months and she is right to be favoured in this one.

While Bouchard was coming through a difficult First Round match from a set behind, Sevastova was putting up another dominant win. Sevastova has got two Quarter Final runs and one Semi Final run under her belt on the clay courts over the last couple of months and she has tended to win her matches comfortably in that time.

That includes her win over Annika Beck here and Sevastova is producing some quality serving as well as plenty of controlled aggression on the return of serve. If Bouchard is not at her best, or close to it, the Canadian is going to be put under constant pressure from Sevastova and I think she is likely to crack under the examination she is getting.

These players met on the grass last year which ended in a routine win for Sevastova, but I think the clay courts favour her even more. We haven't seen a lot of Bouchard since her win over Maria Sharapova that garnered so much attention, while she has a pretty poor record on the clay courts over the last two years.

Bouchard got away with that in the First Round, but Sevastova is not likely to let her off the hook like Risa Ozaki did and I will look for the Latvian to find her way to a 6-3, 6-4 success.

Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 games v Ekaterina Alexandrova: Playing on the clay courts is not exactly something Karolina Pliskova has enjoyed doing in her career, but she has a big enough game to win the early Rounds at Roland Garros. Her Grand Slam record is not the best which makes it harder to trust Pliskova, but the power she possesses and the serve should mean she is too good for the young Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Alexandrova will be respected for a very good First Round win, but the opponent in this one is another step up from the usual level she is playing against. The step up in level has proven to be difficult for Alexandrova who lost by wide margins to Jelena Jankovic, Sara Errani and Pauline Parmentier on the clay over the last couple of months.

She would not have been able to cover this number in any of those losses and it can be argued that Pliskova is better than those three players even on the clay courts. Pliskova has a big serve that can put any opponent under pressure, while she will take big swings off the ground to make sure she is not having to rely on her movement.

I am not sure Pliskova feels confident underfoot on the clay, but that might be an issue for another day. The Czech Number 2 Seed has won three of her last four matches on this surface and she would have covered this number of games each time including in the First Round here.

I will look for Pliskova to use the serve to set her up in the rallies and put the pressure on Alexandrova with the heaviness of the shots off the ground. Like in the First Round, I will look for Pliskova to win a competitive first set before pulling away in the second for a 7-5, 6-2 win.

Madison Keys - 4.5 games v Petra Martic: Injuries have meant a delayed start to the 2017 season for Madison Keys and a poor run on the clay courts won't have improved the confidence. However she did win comfortably in the First Round against Ashleigh Barty in what was supposed to be a real test for Keys and I think the American can back that up with a win over Petra Martic.

Martic has also been on a long lay-off with injuries meaning she was out of action between Wimbledon and a couple of months ago. A title win on the clay courts at a lower level as well as coming through the Qualifiers here will have given Martic some real momentum, but playing a top ten Ranked player is a huge step up for her.

The key for Keys is going to be how well she serves as that set her up for her win over Barty. There is enough to believe in Keys to keep the run going as she has previously been able to put the wins together on the clay courts and has a serve that can set up plenty of easy points on this surface like it does on the others around the Tour.

I am not sure Martic will be able to get the same amount of joy out of her own serve if Keys is playing as well as she was a couple of days ago. Even the losses suffered by Keys over the last few weeks have been a little unfortunate and I think she will have used the Barty win to really get herself feeling good about her game.

The power Keys possesses should see her create the majority of break point chances in this one and I like the American to win this match 6-4, 6-2.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
John Isner - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro-Juan Martin Del Potro Over 34.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Cuevas - 8.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Marketa Vondrousova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Elena Vesnina - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Anastasija Sevastova - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)

French Open Update: 25-10, + 26.08 Units (70 Units Staked, + 37.26% Yield)

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