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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 22nd)

Wednesday was the worst day for the tennis picks for some time and definitely the worst I felt I've had since taking a break between the middle of the Indian Wells tournament and the start of the clay court season.

It can be the way things go on the grass over these best of three set matches as a couple of errors can see sets go by the wayside, while recovering breaks is that much more difficult.

Last week wasn't a bad one though so I am not going to use the grass as an excuse for this week, although I am hoping some of the bigger names can be a little more convincing now they've had at least one match under their feet on the surface.

The four tournaments being played this week will move onto the remaining Second Round matches on Thursday and my picks are below. A heads up though, I am not sure I will have a full thread for Friday's matches but will just place my picks without the breakdown as I am out on Thursday night and may not have the time for the usual breakdown.

The picks will be out for Friday's matches with plenty of time before the first match is due to get underway, although you may want to check in on Friday morning United Kingdom time for those to have been updated.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There is so much to like about Karen Khachanov's game with elements of Marat Safin in the way he approaches his tennis. However, Safin was someone who couldn't really get to grips with the grass until the latter part of his career and I do wonder if Khachanov understands the movement he needs on this surface.

There is only limited data of Khachanov on this surface and I wouldn't read too much into the win over Gilles Simon who looks to be regressing as a top player at a rapid rate.

Facing Kei Nishikori is a big test for Khachanov even if I think the Russian has all of the tools to be successful on this surface. The big first serve and heavy forehand should create easy points for Khachanov, while I think he is capable of getting to the net to force players to make tough passes against him and that all bodes well for him.

Nishikori has had some inconsistent results on the grass, although his game seems to work well on most surfaces. He can get more out of his own serve on this surface and Nishikori has actually produced some solid tennis on the grass with only injuries curtailing runs in different tournaments last year.

I think he will be able to make enough returns to challenge Khachanov in this one and he can use that to break down the youngster who is still finding the consistency to make a really big impact on the Tour. Khachanov is one for the future, but I think he goes down to a 7-6, 6-3 loss in this one.

Florian Mayer + 2.5 games v Lucas Pouille: I have to give Lucas Pouille some credit after winning the title in Stuttgart and fighting back from a set down to beat Jan-Lennard Struff here this week in Halle. The Frenchman has now had five wins on the grass courts in 2017 and four times he has needed to go into a deciding set to get the job done, while Pouille has come from a set down three times.

He is also winning matches when the statistics suggest he should be losing them and I have to credit the heart and determination Pouille is playing with. However, at some point that is going to catch up with him, and I think Florian Mayer can be backed in this one with a feeling he can earn the upset.

The defending Champion has not been in great form though and so it makes more sense backing him with the games on offer in case this is yet another Pouille match that goes the distance. He might have won five matches over the last ten days or so, but Pouille would have only covered this number once and Mayer played well enough against Jeremy Chardy last week to think he can keep this one competitive at the venue where he picked up the title twelve months ago.

Mayer has a very good game for the grass with an under-rated first serve as well as the ability to mix up his shot selection to surprise opponents. His slicing and dicing can be very effective on the grass courts where the ball is kept much lower and Mayer is capable of getting up to the net and put away volleys where necessary.

The lack of wins this season makes it harder to believe in Mayer as a winner in this Second Round match, but I think he is capable of the upset and can certainly make this another competitive three setter for Pouille. At some point all that tennis has to catch up with Pouille too and I will back the home favourite with the games.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Mischa Zverev: It was only in 2013 when Roger Federer handed out a double bagel to Mischa Zverev here in Halle, but the latter has produced some very good tennis throughout 2017 to think that is not going to happen again. To be honest it would be a huge shocker if Zverev doesn't better that performance and I am expecting the German to give Federer some problems.

Anyone who can serve as well as Zverev and can continue to push the serve-volley style throughout the match no matter if you pass him is going to be tough to beat on the grass. The lefty serve means Zverev will naturally be inclined to go into the weaker Roger Federer backhand, although that is an improved shot these days.

The predictability of what the German wants to do should mean Federer employs plenty of slice and will not be looking to chip the ball back in play. He has already had an experience of seeing Zverev this year back at the Australian Open and I don't think Federer will be getting too upset with himself if a few return games go past him rapidly.

Federer will wait for his moment to come, and he will get his moments when Zverev misses a couple of first serves and is not able to come into the net as rapidly as he would like. At that point Federer should be able to control rallies and I think he will work out Zverev and slowly wear him down.

It should be a strong serving day for Federer against a limited returner like Zverev and that pressure he should be able to produce on the home favourite should see Federer come through with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Stefan Kozlov: An impressive come from behind win over a competent grass court player like Steve Johnson after coming through the Qualifiers will have given Stefan Kozlov plenty of confidence. However these results are not exactly in line with his early losses in Surbiton and Hertogenbosch and I think Kozlov will have to produce one of his best matches of his young career to see off Marin Cilic.

The Croatian is one of the better grass court players out there and may feel Wimbledon is a good chance for him to add to his Grand Slam title won at the US Open. Cilic had an impressive win over John Isner already here in Queens and he has one of the more effective returns on the surface which is going to put some real pressure on Kozlov.

That return game is backed up by strong serving statistics and Cilic's serve really does take hold on the grass courts. Cilic has played four grass court matches this year and he has won at least 75% of points behind serve in each of those and Cilic has very strong numbers on the grass courts in recent seasons.

There have been a number of surprises at Queens already but this would need to a be a big one if Cilic is not able see of Kozlov who was somehow broken three times by Ivo Karlovic last week.

Cilic as the winner is not the question, but I do think he is also capable of covering a big game handicap with his superior serving and returning numbers. It can be difficult to create multiple breaks of serve on the grass courts, but I will look for Cilic to do that in a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 games v Thanasi Kokkinakis: This is the second week in a row that Daniil Medvedev and Thanasi Kokkinakis are going to meet on a grass court on the Tour and I am looking for the Russian to make it two from two over the Australian.

The focus will be on the performance Kokkinakis produced in beating Milos Raonic, but it wasn't as clear a win as the two sets win would have suggested. He didn't earn a single break point, while saving multiple break points, and it was Raonic who dominated the return statistics.

Now Kokkinakis has to try and ride through the storm against another big hitting opponent in Medvedev having struggled to get much of a look in on the return of serve last week. The returning numbers have not been great from Kokkinakis since coming back from his injury issues which have cost him a lot of time on the Tour and there won't be a lot of time to find a rhythm against someone like Medvedev.

The latter can have his issues on serve with the rest of his game erratic to say the least as he tries to find the consistency to start making a significant move upwards in the World Ranking. Medvedev was broken twice by Ivo Karlovic last week which would be a concern for anyone, but he did serve well in his win over Nicolas Mahut.

I think Medvedev does have the better of the returning numbers of these two players and Kokkinakis may struggle to back up an impressive win over Raonic. I am a big fan of Kokkinakis and the potential he clearly has, but he is still finding his feet back on the Tour and I will look for Medvedev to have a similar kind of win as last week when beating the Australian 6-3, 7-6.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: Another rematch from last week comes between Feliciano Lopez and Jeremy Chardy and I am looking for another win for the Spaniard who came through in three sets in Stuttgart. The Lopez serve on the grass is a potent weapon as Stan Wawrinka found out in the First Round in Queens and it gave him the foundation to get past Chardy last week and I expect it can set him up for the win this week too.

The concern about fatigue is a factor as Lopez reached the Final in Stuttgart on Sunday, but having Wednesday off was important for him. You would think he won't mind the heated conditions in London, even if things are going to be slightly cooler on Thursday, and Lopez should get plenty of pop off the first serve.

The same can be said for Chardy who has an underrated serve, but the second serve can sit up and be attacked, while the Frenchman's inconsistency means he is likely to throw in a couple of poor service games. Lopez can certainly force the issue with his chip and charge forcing Chardy to make a number of passes and I do think it will be tough for Chardy to overturn the result last week.

He didn't really get his teeth into the Lopez service games and I think Chardy has made his way through to the Second Round by beating those he would expect to. The win over Jordan Thompson could be overrated after the latter beat Andy Murray in the First Round as the Lucky Loser, but Chardy can't really be relied upon to keep up in a serving match up against Lopez who has been firing.

The Spaniard's last three matches have shown that his serve has been cranking up the pressure on opponents and I think at some stage Chardy will crack in a 7-6, 6-4 win for Lopez.

Camila Giorgi + 3.5 games v Elina Svitolina: It is difficult to trust someone like Camila Giorgi who has struggled for her form in recent months, but who will not take a step back from the big hitting game that she is known for. I'm not sure whether off field issues have affected the Italian from really fulfilling the potential she has, but Giorgi is still a very strong grass court player with the heavy hitting a danger on this surface.

Using Giorgi and the games to oppose Elina Svitolina is dangerous, but I am still not convinced the Ukrainian is at her most comfortable on the grass courts. She had a tougher than expected win over Heather Watson in the First Round and Svitolina has regularly been dragged into these difficult matches on the surface.

The ball skids through much quicker than Svitolina can expect, but she has plenty of big hitting behind her too which makes her a dangerous opponent for anyone. If she gets it mentally, Svitolina could be a real danger to anyone on the surface over the next few weeks, but Giorgi should offer stiff resistance too.

The double faults can be a real problem for Giorgi and her lack of recent wins was highlighted in the way she got tight when serving out the match in the First Round. However I think Giorgi loves taking on the big names where the expectation is not very high for the Italian and I think she will play with a freedom that makes her very dangerous.

She can keep this competitive against Svitolina who has struggled for 'easy' wins on the grass courts and I will take the games with Giorgi to keep this one close.

Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 games v Alison Riske: Over the years Garbine Muguruza has struggled for consistency on the grass courts, although she is a former Wimbledon Finalist. This year has been one of inconsistency for her too which means there won't be too many people backing Muguruza to have a successful Wimbledon next month.

She had to come through a difficult First Round match and now faces Alison Riske who has previously enjoyed her time on the grass. Riske is an inconsistent character though and can blow hot and cold on any given day.

Riske won a 50k event on the grass and reached the Final in Nottingham in 2016 but at the same time she lost her first matches in Eastbourne and Wimbledon. The American can be tough to stop when she gets on a roll and she does have an underrated serve when she is feeling her tennis and has to believe her best chance of beating a top ten player like Muguruza is on this surface.

Results for the Spaniard have not been very pleasing for Muguruza when you look outside of a couple of tournaments, but I think that might have been factored in too much into this Second Round match. I would still have had Muguruza a stronger favourite than she is with her serve still a big weapon when it is firing.

That hasn't always been the case this year, but Muguruza should have a number of opportunities to get on top of Riske's delivery. That will give her the edge and I like the Spaniard to find her way past Riske with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win.

Coco Vandeweghe + 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: I can understand why the oddsmakers have set Johanna Konta as the favourite in this Second Round match having see the British Number 1 reach the Final in Nottingham last week. It was a much better week than the one Coco Vandeweghe enjoyed when losing in the First Round at Hertogenbosch, although Vandeweghe was a little unfortunate.

Konta had one of her better tournaments on the grass last week, but I remain unconvinced that she is the strongest of players on this surface. The run was a good one in Nottingham and Konta did have some solid wins behind her, but someone like Vandeweghe can really turn the screw on her with the way she has performed on the grass through her recent career.

The big hitting American has the serve and forehand to be a big danger in the Wimbledon draw next month, but the backhand can be a weakness. The key to the match is whether Konta can get the rallies into the backhand as much as possible, while she will also need to serve and return effectively, but the long week last week could play a factor in this one.

I think Vandeweghe can put the pressure on with her serve and I do think the American can potentially earn the upset in this one.

Konta is a very good player and I am a fan, but I want to oppose her where I can on the grass courts over the next few weeks. This looks a chance to do that with Vandeweghe capable of earning the upset outright, but I will at least look for a competitive match that can make these games count.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Florian Mayer + 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Betway (2 Units)
Camila Giorgi + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-12, - 8.68 Units (40 Units Staked, - 21.70% Yield)

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