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Friday, 2 June 2017

French Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2017 (June 2nd)

The first five days at the French Open have produced great conditions for tennis, but it looks like the weather is going to take a turn for the worse on Friday. There are expected to be delays through the course of the day and I won't be surprised at all if there are matches that have to be held over until Saturday as we are left at the only Grand Slam that doesn't have at least one roof to use.

The French Open are falling behind in that regards with Australia moving onto three courts with a roof and Wimbledon going to have two roofs very soon. The US Open will also be debuting their roof on Arthur Ashe this season and the organisers here have to speed up the expected roof for 2020.

It looks like it could be the big discussion over the next few days with a poor weather front expected to this part of Western Europe and there will be plenty of time to talk about it to fill in the gaps between the tennis being played.

I will admit that I am not really someone who likes to show their emotions all the time, but I couldn't help but be moved when seeing Nicolas Almagro sobbing uncontrollably when succumbing to an injury in his Second Round match against Juan Martin Del Potro.

It was the raw passion of what it means to be a professional tennis player, but the reaction of Del Potro just raised the moment even more and will become one of the strongest images we will see on a tennis court this season, and arguably for many years to come.

I have always said what a pleasant guy Del Potro seems to be having met him previously, but the manner in which he was trying to console someone who was heartbroken was just a huge sporting moment. The big man has plenty of supporters already, but his fan base will only increase when these images are beamed around the world by the various media outlets, as well as the videos which showed how concerned Del Potro was for Almagro's well-being.

I love Del Potro and I hope Almagro's reaction does not mean the Spaniard's career has come to an end with another bad injury.

Day 5 proved to be a mixed bag with a couple of late picks missing a couple of break points which would have meant a fifth straight winning day. It's still been a very good tournament so far and I want to move back in a positive direction on Friday as the Third Round commences.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: I had tabbed Pablo Carreno Busta for some big things during the clay court season, but he has perhaps underachieved despite winning a title in Estoril. The losses to Yuichi Sugita and Benoit Paire over the last couple of months have been really disappointing ones for the Spaniard, although I do think he will give Grigor Dimitrov something to think about here.

The clay court specialist is Carreno Busta and Dimitrov has hardly been producing a lot of wins on the clay over the last few weeks. However Dimitrov has produced some solid tennis in the first couple of Rounds here and has been serving well which can give him a chance to win this match.

He has certainly been serving better than Carreno Busta who was a break down in each of the first three sets but used his superior return game to beat Taro Daniel in the Second Round. Giving Dimitrov easy breaks of serve is going to be a tough challenge to overcome for Carreno Busta.

If this match was played at the beginning of the clay court swing, I would have been leaning towards Carreno Busta but he has been inconsistent at best over the last few weeks. Another inconsistent performance is not going to be good enough for Carreno Busta with Dimitrov producing some solid tennis in the last two Rounds.

I think this match is one that will go fairly long with both players capable of producing some solid tennis and putting the pressure on the other. However I think Dimitrov may just show why he is the favourite in the match by working his way to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.

David Goffin - 7.5 games v Horacio Zeballos: This might initially look like a big number for David Goffin to cover against someone who is very comfortable on the clay courts like Horacio Zeballos. I do have a couple of question marks around Goffin when it comes to covering big spreads too, but this one looks like a number he can overcome.

The concerns have to be gotten out of the way- Goffin's serve can be a vulnerability and that can mean he is dropping sets or winning them much tighter than he should. Even when Goffin is dominating the majority of points behind serve, he will offer Zeballos some chances and I also have to respect the latter being a lefty.

Zeballos doesn't have a bad serve when he is feeling his game and his best surface is the clay which will give him the belief to challenge Goffin. However he can get frustrated and produce a lot of errors unexpectedly and that is where he will be punished by an opponent like Goffin who will battle for every point.

There has been some solid wins for Zeballos over the last couple of months that will boost his belief having already won a couple of matches here. I think he will challenge Goffin through the first two sets here, but Zeballos may lose some belief at that moment if the Belgian, who will receive huge crowd support, gets the upper hand in those sets.

Goffin has beaten Zeballos four times in a row and he has won all nine sets competed by these players in that time. I am looking for Goffin to come through with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win in this one to move into the Fourth Round and the second half of the week.

Dominic Thiem win 3-1 v Steve Johnson: You could see the emotion in the face of Steve Johnson when he beat Borna Coric in the Second Round as the American continues to deal with losing his father a couple of weeks ago. He has admitted that it has been difficult emotionally and it is only going to be tougher dealing with the quality that Dominic Thiem will bring to the court.

I am not sure I have enough to convince me Johnson can challenge Thiem for long enough to win the match, but he has been producing some decent tennis as he bids to fight for his father's memory. Johnson has a decent serve and heavy forehand that can cause problems for Thiem who has been comfortable so far in this tournament.

However this is easily the biggest challenge he has faced and Thiem is likely to still throw in a sloppy service game or two which Johnson can capitalise on. Energy levels might have sapped for the American so the first two sets are going to be important and Johnson will need a split of those to have a chance to earn the upset.

I think Johnson can do that with Thiem perhaps gifting away a set or maybe Johnson will be able to produce a set of lights out serving to give himself a chance. Ultimately I think it will be difficult for Johnson to take more than a set as fatigue and emotions wear him down, but I do think he can take a set.

That might be surprising when you think Thiem has only lost fifteen games in six sets at Roland Garros so far. However he did offer a couple of half chances to Simone Bolelli in the Second Round and I think Johnson can go a bit further by capitalising on one of those, although I will have a small interest in the Austrian moving on in four sets.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas v Lucas Pouille: This is a virtual pick 'em in the Third Round and it is a match that is likely to go deep into a fourth or potentially fifth set before we get a chance to see who is moving through to the Fourth Round. Both Lucas Pouille and Albert Ramos-Vinolas will have a lot of belief in their own game and both made big breakthroughs at the Grand Slam level in 2016 which will aid their confidence.

They met at the Monte Carlo Masters in the Semi Final and it was Ramos-Vinolas who got the better of Pouille, but since then the Spaniard has underachieved on the clay courts. He had lost three straight matches on the clay courts before the French Open, although Ramos-Vinolas is clearly in good nick having won six straight sets here since dropping the first one.

All of those sets have been won in dominant form and Ramos-Vinolas was a Quarter Finalist at this Slam in 2016 so is clearly well accustomed to the conditions. Dealing with the crowd won't be easy, but Ramos-Vinolas clearly has the game to win this kind of match.

Lucas Pouille came from 2-1 down in sets in the First Round to overcome veteran Julien Benneteau before a more routine win in the Second Round. He won the title in Budapest and was a Wimbledon Quarter Finalist last season, but like Ramos-Vinolas, Pouille had lost a couple of matches in a row on the clay courts prior to the French Open.

Both players should have some problems holding onto serve and I think that will make it a fascinating match. However I think Ramos-Vinolas has the slightly stronger clay court pedigree and he can overcome Pouille in a tough and tight battle as the slight underdog.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: There are still some vulnerabilities around the Novak Djokovic game which have yet to be fully exposed after two relatively comfortable wins in the defence of his French Open crown. Bigger obstacles than Marcel Granollers and Joao Sousa are still to come for Djokovic, but I am not sure that will be faced in the Third Round.

Novak Djokovic goes up against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who is very comfortable on the clay courts but will play with a rhythm similar to Sousa. While the Argentinian can produce some special shots around the court, his serve is going to be vulnerable to a returner as good as Djokovic, while there are also concerns about some sort of injury that he is carrying.

He has already had to dig deep to come through the First Round and Schwartzman is likely to be playing from tough spots off the serve. The Djokovic serve may have some vulnerabilities that Schwartzman is able to exploit, and the latter has also given some top names a challenge during the clay court season.

It may mean that Djokovic has to overcome the frustration of dropping serve a couple of times, but I think he is going to bring up a host of break points during the course of this match. Like the Sousa match, I think Djokovic is going to feel very much in control of the match and he should prove to be too strong over the course of a couple of hours against an opponent who may not feel at 100% and will have some fatigue in the legs.

Like in the Sousa match, I expect Djokovic to win a set with a couple of breaks of serve and he can come through this Third Round match with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win in his pocket and cover this number.

Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: If there was any loss of belief or confidence in the Garbine Muguruza mind, we would have seen that a couple of days ago. After what has been a miserable 2017 so far, and arguably a miserable time since winning the French Open, Muguruza could easily have folded under the heavy hitting and constant pressure Anett Kontaveit provided on Wednesday.

Instead Muguruza weathered the storm and finished very strongly which will give her the confidence to think she can defend the title she won in 2016. To be perfectly honest, Muguruza has played as well as anyone out there in the women's draw, although this is going to be a different kind of match than she has faced so far.

After facing the power hitting of Kontaveit, Muguruza is now going to play a solid defender in Yulia Putintseva that looks to wear down opponents by making plenty of balls. There is more to Putintseva's game than simply that as she has the aggressive counter punching skills which will put Muguruza in awkward positions at times, although I do think the vulnerable serve may be attacked.

It is a key area for Muguruza who has to make sure she gets on the front foot in rallies as soon as possible. That means serving well and making sure the first strike on the return of serve is hitting the marks and doing that should put the Spaniard in a very strong position to win this match and cover this number.

Putintseva can get frustrated when things are not going her way and I think Muguruza is going to have too much for her in a 7-5, 6-2 win.

Jelena Ostapenko - 3.5 games v Lesia Tsurenko: The first quarter of the women's draw has seen a number of the big names exit which could leave the way open for a more unfamiliar name to reach the Quarter Finals. One name that will become much more familiar in the future is Jelena Ostapenko and I am going to back her to get the better of Lesia Tsurenko in the Third Round match on Friday.

There is a lot to like about the Ostapenko game on the court and she has had some impressive showings on the clay court over the last couple of months. Her win over Monica Puig in the Second Round was very impressive and she has already got the better of Tsurenko once on this surface already in 2017.

On that day it was Ostapenko's serve which was working slightly better than Tsurenko's which proved to be the difference maker. She also has the confidence of a number of wins on the clay courts over the last few weeks compared with Tsurenko who was just 1-6 prior to the French Open.

The two wins for Tsurenko here in Paris have been very impressive as she has dropped just eight games to get through to the Third Round. That means she is going to be playing with confidence in her own game, which can be very big when Tsurenko is at her best.

However I think Ostapenko is the better clay court player and she is a player improving all the time. It feels like we may see a similar kind of result as when they played in Prague and I will look for the young Latvian to cover this number in a winning effort.

Sam Stosur - 4.5 games v Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It was a big upset from Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the Second Round as she beat Petra Kvitova but the lack of match play affected the latter at critical moments in the match. There were some impressive moments for Mattek-Sands too, but the Qualifier was boosted by the mistakes made by Kvitova.

She is unlikely to receive as much help from the steady Australian Sam Stosur who has won seven matches in a row and won't be feeling rusty like Kvitova was. The title success in Strasbourg and an open top half of the draw might see Stosur have another strong run here in Paris where she clearly enjoys playing.

The Stosur serve is a big weapon for her and she has to use that to full effect to try and put Mattek-Sands on the back foot and not allow the latter to make her way forward to the net. On the other hand, Mattek-Sands will likely try and approach to the weaker Stosur backhand and see if there is enough composure to make enough passes.

Mattek-Sands also has a decent serve of her own, but she has played a lot of tennis here already and is carrying a couple of injuries which may just have loosened her resolve. Backing up a big win like she had will also be tough for the American and I think it is going to be Sam Stosur who will have a little too much all around game for Mattek-Sands.

The first set could be very tight before Stosur is able to pull away for a 7-6, 6-2 win against a player who may just hit the wall with all the tennis she has played to get into the Third Round.

Timea Bacsinszky - 5.5 games v Ons Jabeur: I backed Timea Bacsinszky in the Second Round to cover this same number of games and I will look for the Swiss player to do that again in the Third Round. Her return game is very strong on the clay courts, although the key for Bacsinszky covering this number is making sure she serves just well enough at key moments.

You don't want to run a line through Ons Jabeur who has won two matches in the main draw as a Lucky Loser entry into the tournament. The win over Dominika Cibulkova is very impressive on paper, although Jabeur hadn't really shown a lot in 2017 to suggest this type of run was in her.

She has been competitive during the clay court swing, but the events she has entered have not been the most taxing, although Jabeur's narrow loss to Anastasija Sevastova looks better and better in each passing week. There just hasn't been a lot of success at the main Tour level for Jabeur to think she can back up what was an impressive win over Cibulkova.

Bacsinszky is going to test Jabeur by giving nothing away and making sure she gets plenty of balls back in play throughout this one. Some of the variation from Bacsinszky can bamboozle opponents and she has been covering this big number in her wins.

The Swiss player has now got six clay court wins under her belt in 2017 and she would have covered this number of games each time. Bacsinszky has dropped just five games here and a deeper look at her wins on clay shows she has won fourteen of her last sixteen matches on clay by a margin of six or more games. I am expecting Bacsinszky to win and will look for her to cover here too.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Elise Mertens: Not many would have tipped up Venus Williams as a potential winner here at the French Open despite the open nature of the draw. She has never really had a lot of success on the clay courts and her style of play doesn't transfer onto the surface as effectively as the hard and grass courts, but Venus Williams will be looking to fly under the radar into the second week of the tournament.

This is a difficult match for Venus Williams when she takes on the youngster Elise Mertens who is comfortable on the clay and has won two solid matches here already. However it is a different feel for opponents to face one of the Williams sisters in a Grand Slam and I do wonder how Mertens will cope with that.

Mertens has played well over the last couple of months and reached the Final in Istanbul before finding Elina Svitolina too good on the day. However none of her wins have really come against someone that would have you stop in your tracks and it might be a step too far to beat Williams at this moment in her career.

It won't be an easy match for Williams who will likely have to ride out some tough moments, but I do think she can earn at least a break more in each set. I thought Mertens struggled at times with the aggressive play of Daria Gavrilova in the First Round and someone like Venus Williams is going to be able to do much more you would think.

I can see this leading to a fairly routine 6-4, 6-3 win for Venus Williams and quietly see her move into the Fourth Round.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Goffin - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem Win 3-1 in Sets @ 3.75 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Jelena Ostapenko - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)

French Open Update: 33-18, + 22.18 Units (100 Units Staked, + 22.18% Yield)

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