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Monday, 5 June 2017

French Open Tennis Day 9 Picks 2017 (June 5th)

By the end of Day 9 at the French Open, we are going to have our Quarter Final line up for this year's tournament in both men's and women's draws.

The stories look to be developing nicely at the second Grand Slam of the 2017 season although it still feels very unclear as to which player will win the women's title in five days time. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal continues to produce dominant win after dominant win and is now a clear favourite to add to his Grand Slam haul at the end of the week.

It has been a very good tournament already, but now the big time tennis is ahead of us with some big matches to be played in the coming days.

The picks have had a solid tournament too with Sunday being better than Saturday in what was an up and down weekend. They are still in a very good position after eight days but hopefully the second half of the week will be as positive as the first.

Andy Murray - 6.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There are a lot of people who are tipping Karen Khachanov to be a leading part of the ATP Tour in the years to come and this is a breakthrough tournament for him. The young man could really make a big statement if he is able to beat the World Number 1 who was the Runner Up in Roland Garros twelve months ago.

A big game makes Khachanov dangerous with a big serve followed by heavy groundstrokes, but this is a different kind of test for him. He won't have faced anyone with the return capabilities of Andy Murray who will be able to blunt the first serve effectively enough and force Khachanov to hit closer and closer to the lines.

Murray might not have had the 2017 season as he would have liked to the halfway mark, but he has looked in pretty good nick here in Paris after coming through some sticky moments. I absolutely think Khachanov is going to create some of those moments for Murray too with his style of play likely to penetrate the defences at times, although I am looking for the World Number 1 to wear down his young opponent.

While I do respect the run Khachanov has had here, I think you have to accept he has beaten a Tomas Berdych who suggested he is carrying an injury and a John Isner who is a limited returner. Andy Murray looks strong enough to compete and is going to be able to rally with Khachanov and try and break down his game.

Khachanov does have a win over David Goffin on the clay this year, but his losses have come against Horacio Zeballos, Victor Troicki, David Goffin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and three of those have come by at least a five game margin. I will look for Murray to win a tight first set before slowly taking control of the match as he has in all three Rounds played in Paris.

That can help Murray come through with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 win to move through to another French Open Quarter Final.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: Questions about the wrist existed prior to the French Open for Kei Nishikori, but he has looked pretty good in this tournament. Nishikori came through an epic Third Round match against Hyeon Chung when he blew a 2-0 lead in sets and there will be further questions about the physical wellbeing of the top ten player.

He certainly won't be expecting to have an easy ride against the veteran Fernando Verdasco who seems to still have one or two big Grand Slam runs in him. Once Verdasco gets on a roll, he can be very difficult to stop and the Spaniard is comfortable on the clay courts where he has time to use his big forehand.

There is no doubt that Verdasco is not the player he used to be, but he is still very capable on his day as he has shown in this tournament when beating Alexander Zverev and also upsetting Pablo Cuevas in the Third Round. Verdasco had not really shown this level of tennis in any of the warm up events on the clay which is what makes his run more surprising and I do think he has to be respected.

The match up with Nishikori is not one that really should be a good one for Verdasco as you would expect the Japanese player to win the longer rallies and also provide the better returns. However I think Verdasco is more than capable of bringing up break points of his own with the Nishikori serve being vulnerable, but the latter is very good on the clay courts and looks to be in good shape.

Nishikori has won the last three matches against Verdasco including their sole match in 2017 in Miami. He also beat Verdasco in five sets here last year having had a 2-0 lead in sets before recovering in the fifth and I think Nishikori is able to get this done in four sets.

I can see this ending with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win for Nishikori and I will look for him to cover the game handicap.

Marin Cilic win 3-1 v Kevin Anderson: The clay courts might not be the favoured surface for either Marin Ciic or Kevin Anderson, and so both will look at this as a real chance to get to the French Open Quarter Final. I don't think either player will be lacking belief with the match up in front of them, although I do give the edge to Cilic thanks to his superior return game.

Both players have reached the Fourth Round at the French Open before, but neither has managed to get beyond this stage so this is a big match for both. Kevin Anderson has only played in one previous Grand Slam Quarter Final compared with Marin Cilic who is going for his ninth appearance at that stage of a Slam.

I do think Cilic will have the superior return game which is going to give him one edge, while another may be the limited time he has spent on the court thanks to three straight sets wins. Cilic has lost nine games, seven games and seven games in the last three Rounds played, but I think Anderson has played well enough to at least take a set in this one.

Anderson did have to come back from 2-1 down in sets in the Third Round win over Kyle Edmund and also from a set down to beat Nick Kyrgios in the Second Round so I expect he is battle hardened. The big South African has a strong serve that can still be effective on the clay courts and Anderson has taken sets in losses to the likes of Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori during this clay court season.

If Cilic is serving as he was against Feliciano Lopez in the Third Round, it might be difficult for the Croatian to avoid dropping at least one set. Overall I think he will turn out to be too good for Anderson with aggressive returns setting him up for a couple of breaks of serve, and I am going to have a small interest in Cilic winning this in four sets.

Stan Wawrinka win 3-1 v Gael Monfils: There is only one Frenchman left in the French Open draw and Gael Monfils is going to supported very loudly by the crowd on Monday. However this is a very tough test for Monfils in the Fourth Round as he takes on 2015 French Open Champion Stan Wawrinka who might be rounding into the form to take him to another Grand Slam title.

I have to say I am really surprised that Wawrinka and Monfils have not met on the Tour since the Australian Open in 2011. That match was won by Wawrinka in straight sets, but he is an improved player in that time and is yet to drop a set in Paris this week.

However that was down to Fabio Fognini not taking his chances in the first set in their Third Round match and he is playing an opponent in Monfils who is very confident on the clay courts. Monfils also benefited from an early end to his Third Round match against Richard Gasquet and hasn't been taxed physically which should give him a chance to compete.

The problem for Monfils has always been the lack of aggression he plays with- at key moments he is likely going to give Wawrinka the chance to dictate rallies and the Swiss star is more than capable of hitting his winners when he gets on a roll.

I do think that style will give Monfils his chances too as there is no doubting the athleticism and defensive work the home favourite can do around the court. With that in mind, I think Monfils will be able to take a set off of Wawrinka, but the latter can just have the edge in the match thanks to being able to control the rallies at key times.

A four set win looks to be on the cards for Wawrinka here as he ends the French hopes for a first men's winner at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah in 1983.

Carla Suarez Navarro + 4.5 games v Simona Halep: The favourite for the women's French Open title remains Simona Halep, although there will be a nagging doubt about a player who has capitulated in the business end of previous Slams when looking like a potential winner. While Halep has looked strong throughout the first week having given up just five games in each match she has played, this Fourth Round match looks a very tough examination for Halep.

Facing a clay court specialist in Carla Suarez Navarro is a real test for Halep and one she has struggled with in the past. These players are meeting for the twelfth time on the Tour with Halep leading the head to head 6-5, but four of the five Suarez Navarro wins have come on the clay courts.

In fact all four previous clay court matches between the players have been won by Suarez Navarro and that is something that will likely be on Halep's mind. It has been a couple of years since they last played one another on clay, but this does feel the kind of match where Halep could be put under severe pressure by a player who has had a strong first week in Paris too.

This hasn't been a really strong clay court season for Suarez Navarro who has had some injuries affecting her 2017 year to date. However this is the kind of match up that won't be one where she is overpowered and will give her a chance of rallying with Halep whose serve can be attacked.

The head to head on clay has to be a real issue for Halep despite the strong performances over the last two months and I do think it makes this number of games being given to Suarez Navarro look appealing. I have to respect the fact that Halep has had a knack of covering this number of games in her wins on the clay, but Suarez Navarro is capable of taking a set which will put her in a very good position to cover.

It should be a really good Fourth Round match on Monday but I will take the games with the underdog to keep this one competitive.

Petra Martic + 5.5 games v Elina Svitolina: Winning the Premier Event in Rome meant Elina Svitolina came into the French Open as one of the leading contenders to win the women's title. Svitolina also won the title in Istanbul on the clay courts and she has won eight matches in a row which will give her plenty of confidence.

However she is facing an opponent who has been in impressive form in Paris this week as the Qualifier Petra Martic has added six more wins to her return from injury. Martic has won a title and reached two Semi Finals at the lower levels on the Tour, but her performances in the last two Rounds here at Roland Garros will give the player an immense amount of belief.

The destruction of an in form Anastasija Sevastova was very impressive as Martic lost just two games and she is serving well and hitting her marks off the ground. The big hitting will give her every chance of surprising Svitolina if Martic is feeling her tennis as well as she has in the last two Rounds.

This is a big number for Svitolina to cover when you think how often she can blow hot and cold on a tennis court. Her high level is very impressive, but Martic should be able to put pressure on Svitolina's serve to see her just drop that level which could lead to maybe even dropping a set.

In her eight match winning run, Svitolina has won seven without a retirement, but she would have covered this margin of games just once. She has yet to do that here in Paris and this is arguably the toughest match Svitolina has faced.

I have a gut feeling that Martic may even win this one outright as the big underdog, but I have to respect the winning run Svitolina is enjoying, especially at the level those wins have come. Even with that in mind, I still think Martic covers with this number of games behind her and I will look for the underdog to keep this match very competitive.

Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 games v Veronica Cepede Royg: Not many would have tipped a player outside of the top 100 in the World Rankings to reach the Fourth Round at the French Open this year. While I am looking for Petra Martic to be competitive despite the World Ranking, I think Veronica Cepede Royg may just see her run come to an end with a slightly more straight forward defeat.

That is said with absolutely no disrespect to a player who has beaten the likes of Lucie Safarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Paris already, and who pushed an in form Marketa Vondrousova in a tight loss before the tournament began. Cepede Royg also had a couple of other battling losses to solid clay court players like Shelby Rogers and Johanna Larsson, but facing the big hitting Karolina Pliskova might be a different challenge all together.

Cepede Royg is clearly very happy on the clay courts and the wins will have given her confidence, but the numbers suggest she has been fortunate. She has actually lost her serve more times than she has broken in each of the last two Rounds and lost more points against Pavlyuchenkova in the Second Round.

This time Cepede Royg goes up against Pliskova who has played well through the first week on her least favoured surface. She is serving pretty effectively which has seen Pliskova broken just seven times in her three matches here, the same amount of times Cepede Royg was broken in her Third Round match alone.

I am expecting Pliskova's heavy groundstrokes to pull up plenty of break points in this one too and she has been very clinical when those chances have come up. Unlike the last couple of Rounds, I think Pliskova will be tough to hold onto if Cepede Royg is going to keep this competitive.

Four of the last five wins Pliskova has had on the clay courts has seen her cover this big number and she only just missed out on the exception when missing a match point in the Second Round here. I think she will earn a couple of breaks of serve in one of the sets these two players compete to earn the cover as I look for Pliskova to move into the Quarter Final behind a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Caroline Garcia v Alize Cornet: One of the criticisms that tennis receives as a sport is that there are too many 'friendly' rivalries at the top of the game. A lot of people will look back with nostalgia at the late 70's through to the late 90's when the top players really did seem like they didn't get along with one another and it might be the reason that this Fourth Round match is going to be 'must watch' television for fans.

Both Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia may be overshadowed by the run Kristina Mladenovic is having at the French Open, but getting a second home Quarter Finalist is not going to be ignored. The interesting factor will be watching what side the fans fall on after a huge falling out between Garcia and the likes of Cornet and Mladenovic a couple of months ago.

Garcia and Mladenovic had already seen their successful Doubles partnership dissolved before the former pulled out of a Fed Cup tie with an injury which was mocked by the other top French female players including Cornet. There is clearly still a real issue there judging by the press conferences of both Garcia and Cornet and that is going to make this a fascinating match.

There will be plenty of emotion and tension out on the court and I can see a lot of that coming out with the way winners will be celebrated. Cornet is not someone who will hold back and Garcia will be desperate to make a point.

Putting the emotion to one side, I am leaning towards the underdog in another of the Fourth Round women's matches scheduled for Monday. I am surprised to see Garcia as the underdog considering she has looked a little better on the clay courts over the last few weeks and I think too much is being read into the long Third Round match Garcia had to come through.

Cornet has been playing really well this week, but she had been 1-4 on the clay courts prior to the French Open. I think Garcia does have the edge when it comes to the serve although she can sometimes struggle to back it up as effectively as she would like. However I can see Garcia just having the chance to play rallies on her terms with the serve, while Cornet is likely going to have to work much harder to hold serve.

The two wins Cornet has had in a row have been impressive, but I am going to look for Garcia to earn a measure of revenge over her compatriot and win this one as the underdog.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marin Cilic Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Stan Wawrinka Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Carla Suarez Navarro + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Martic + 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)

French Open Update: 48-31, + 27.40 Units (158 Units Staked, + 17.34% Yield)

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