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Saturday, 3 June 2017

French Open Tennis Day 8 Picks 2017 (June 4th)

With the Champions League Final meaning a night out with a few beers, I am writing the Day 8 Picks before the Day 7 matches have been completed.

However we know the Fourth Round matches that are scheduled to be played on Sunday already in the books, I can write down my thoughts on another day where it feels the favourites are going to have the edge over their opponents.

Milos Raonic - 2.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: This is a very interesting match between a player who has the better all around performances but facing an opponent who will feel more comfortable on the clay. It is part of the reason that the layers make this the closest of the men's Fourth Round matches scheduled for Sunday as top ten player Milos Raonic takes on Pablo Carreno Busta.

This was supposed to be the season in which Carreno Busta really announces himself on the Tour, but he has had mixed results during the European swing on the clay courts. A title has been secured, but losses to players like Yuichi Sugita and Benoit Paire continue to leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Carreno Busta has played well in Paris, although there continue to be some concerns with the serve which is giving players real chances to break through against him. It was some poor play from Grigor Dimitrov at those key moments that prevented him getting into their Third Round match, but someone like Raonic has looked much healthier than last week in Lyon when he had a throat issue.

The big serving Canadian still has the weapon that can set him up on the clay courts, although you can't ignore the way he was beaten by Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Carreno Busta's fellow Spanish clay court specialist, at the French Open last year. That does raise doubts as to how Raonic will deal with Carreno Busta, but he has been playing well over the last couple of months which places my faith with Raonic.

If Carreno Busta continues to serve as he has been, he will give Raonic some chances and I think he will find it tough to get back into sets against this Raonic serve. I did consider having a small interest on Raonic winning this one 3-1 in sets, but I think he will cover this number if he does win the match and it does give me the back up of Raonic winning in three, four or five sets.

I can see Raonic coming through with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 win.

Rafael Nadal - 9.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: This has been a very good clay court season for Rafael Nadal who has looked close to his very best on the surface. In saying that, I will say that I have backed Nadal two or three times and he has yet to cover for me despite winning matches around my selections very, very easily.

I am backing Nadal for the first time in Paris this week in the expected heavier conditions which is going to make it very difficult for Roberto Bautista Agut and his style of play. This is a match that Nadal should feel comfortable in with Bautista Agut arguably stronger on the faster surfaces and I think the 'King of Clay' is going to be far too good.

That doesn't mean he is going to cover what is a huge number for a Fourth Round match at a Grand Slam, but one I can understand after Nadal has dropped fifteen games in nine sets. Those numbers have been skewed by the complete demolition of Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Third Round, but Nadal has covered this number in all three matches played in the French Open.

Fast starts have been common having won the first set 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 in his three matches and I can see Nadal getting on top of Bautista Agut fairly quickly in this one too. His serve is vulnerable at times, but I can see Nadal getting plenty of top spin into the flatter shots of Bautista Agut which can see the latter break down.

The second serve of Bautista Agut is going to be attacked by Nadal and I think the forehand has been working so well that it will be tough for his fellow Spaniard to remain competitive in these conditions. If it does play a little faster, Bautista Agut can be dangerous and has challenged the likes of Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic on the clay courts over the last two months.

However it could be one bad set that costs Bautista Agut the cover and I am looking for Nadal to work his way to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 win.

Dominic Thiem - 8.5 games v Horacio Zeballos: This spread is actually a game more than David Goffin was being asked to cover against Horacio Zeballos which says a lot about how well Dominic Thiem has been playing in Paris. He has had a couple of difficult moments, but Thiem has been able to produce his best tennis at those times to eventually ease away from his opponents.

I do think something similar will happen in this Fourth Round encounter as Thiem is able to get control of the match before Zeballos perhaps struggles to stay mentally focused.

That was what I was anticipating when David Goffin played Zeballos in the Third Round before an ankle injury prematurely ended that match in favour of the Argentinian. This has been already been the best tournament Zeballos has had at the Grand Slam level and he might feel he is playing with 'house money' now that he has got here.

The lefty can be dangerous with a decent first serve and heavy forehand being able to knock the ball around. However he is going to face plenty of aggression on the other side of the court as Thiem will take plenty of heavy swings back towards Zeballos which will put him in a decent position in the rallies from the outset.

It has to be a decent serving day from Thiem to give Zeballos no encouragement with his limited return game. If he can do that, I can see Thiem being able to produce a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win to move past Zeballos into another French Open Quarter Final.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: This is a huge number for Novak Djokovic to cover when you think of the vulnerabilities he has shown throughout the French Open. The last Round saw Djokovic trailing 2-1 in sets before charging through the last two sets to move into the Fourth Round and no one should be underestimating Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The Spaniard was a Quarter Finalist here last year and he is clearly at his best on the clay courts, but the run up to the French Open has not been very good for Ramos-Vinolas. It isn't just the losses that would be a concern, but Ramos-Vinolas was beaten heavily against the likes of John Isner and Andrey Kuznetsov which would be a real concern.

One of the losses also came against a common opponent in Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and Ramos-Vinolas is someone who could be put under severe pressure by Djokovic's return. That has not been as effective as Djokovic in his peak, but the Ramos-Vinolas serve can be a real weakness at times and he was broken a number of times by Lucas Pouille in the Third Round.

Ramos-Vinolas did give Andy Murray some huge problems early in the clay court season with a win over the World Number 1 and a narrow loss to him before his run of losses. He reached the Final of the Monte Carlo Masters too so there has to be respect for his game, but I think he is likely to be under plenty of pressure on his service games and may just not have enough to stay with Djokovic.

If he serves at the very best of his ability, Ramos-Vinolas will be a threat, but I think it will be difficult to keep hitting his marks. It should mean he is worn down by Djokovic who can come through with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 win.

Sam Stosur - 1.5 games v Jelena Ostapenko: This has been a really good tournament for Jelena Ostapenko and the layers are expecting the youngster to give Sam Stosur a really difficult test in the Fourth Round. The dominant wins in the last two Rounds will have given Ostapenko plenty of confidence, but she is playing a veteran who has performed well on the clay courts to be a former Finalist here.

The Australian also picked up a title in Strasbourg last week and Stosur has been playing much better tennis in recent weeks than she had been for a number of months. The serve could be a real weapon for Stosur in the match as she will feel it can help her set up her points much better than for Ostapenko, although I would expect the latter to win the majority of the longer rallies.

Stosur has won eight matches in a row on the clay courts and she has dropped just a single set in that time while winning all three in Paris without dropping a set. There have been some tough moments for Stosur in her wins, but she has been able to take control of matches and I think she can use all of her experience to just put the younger player in some tough spots.

There is a lot to like about the Ostapenko game and she has been protecting her serve well enough. She will likely attacking the Stosur backhand to open up the rest of the court and I can see Ostapenko having her moments during the course of the match having produced some solid tennis over the last two months.

However Stosur could have enough of an edge with her serve to just come out of the difficult moments in the match and I think that may see her edge this one out in three sets with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win for the former Grand Slam Champion.

Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 games v Kristina Mladenovic: If this was a First Round match in Paris, I think Kristina Mladenovic would have gone into it as the favourite against the defending Champion Garbine Muguruza. However the first week of the tournament is in the books and there are enough factors that may give the edge to the Champion to move into another Quarter Final here.

After a really difficult twelve months, Muguruza has looked much more convincing since returning to Paris where her best moment of her career occurred in June 2016. Her wins this week has seen Muguruza deal with different styles of players, but it is the one over Anett Kontaveit that may be the one that encourages her the most going into this match.

The big hitting Estonian put Muguruza under immense pressure in the first two sets, but the Spaniard responded very well and the confidence has to be growing in her.

On the other hand Kristina Mladenovic has made hard work of her draw so far and one of the pre-tournament favourites has played a lot of tennis this week. She has needed to go at least fourteen games in the third set of two of her three matches and at some point that is going to come back to haunt her.

She has plenty of power to bother Muguruza, but the latter is going to hit very heavily into Mladenovic too and I think the home favourite could be forced onto the back foot in this one. I can't ignore the two matches that have gone beyond the distance for Mladenovic and I think she may struggle to just find the energy to win this one.

After a battle, I am looking for Muguruza to pull away in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win.

Timea Bacsinszky - 1.5 games v Venus Williams: This is an interesting clash of styles between Timea Bacsinszky and Venus Williams in the Fourth Round and I do think the heavier conditions will bother the latter more than the former. The clay courts should really be a surface in which Bacsinszky should feel she can best someone like Venus Williams more often than not anyway, despite how well the American has been playing.

Three solid wins will give Williams confidence she can perhaps add the French Open to her Grand Slam haul, but I've always felt the second half of the week would be much more difficult for her.

Williams does not play a lot of clay court tennis these days and I think some of her losses on the surface in recent years shows that she will struggle when playing someone who is much more adept on the surface. One of those players does seem to be Bacsinszky who has won plenty of matches on the clay courts over the last two months and who has had some of her most memorable wins on the surface during her career.

There is a sense of deja vu about this match too as it is the second time in a row Venus Williams and Bacsinszky have met in the Fourth Round at Roland Garros. Last year it was a fairly comfortable day in the office for Bacsinszky who will feel she can defend well enough to extract errors from the Venus Williams game.

The Bacsinszky serve can be attacked and I think Venus will have some success going against that shot. However, it can be tough for Williams to keep the serve-volley aggressiveness through the course of the match and the backhand wing is one that Bacsinszky will attack and look for the errors.

Last year Bacsinszky was a slightly warmer favourite against Venus Williams, but I think the latter might be slight over-rated on wins over opponents she was expected to beat. It might be closer than 2016, but I think Bacsinszky can work to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Milos Raonic - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 8.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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