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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)

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