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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 24th)

I had an extremely late night on Thursday which was always going to make it difficult to research the tennis picks for the Friday Quarter Final matches across the board.

At that point it is better to take a rest day and it came at a decent time with a really strong Thursday turning around what was looking like being a losing week. It had been a poor week up to that point with some struggles over the first three days, but an 7-1 record on Thursday means I am back in a positive position for the week.

There are still two days left for the tournaments being played this week, while the tournaments set to be played next week will begin on Sunday in preparation to finish on Saturday, two days before Wimbledon begins.

The big news for next week is Novak Djokovic's decision to take a Wild Card into Eastbourne- it is a real surprise when you think of how he was sounding at the end of the French Open and the fact he took the Wild Card into a tournament in the week prior to the third Grand Slam of the season.

It says a lot about how Djokovic looks to be feeling ahead of Wimbledon, while I thought it would make more sense to have taken a Wild Card into one of the big tournaments in Queens or Halle this week. The conditions in Eastbourne are notoriously tough too and I think this decision is just another which makes me doubt that Djokovic knows what he needs to do to get back to his best tennis.

On Saturday we are down to the Semi Final matches over the four tournaments being played this week. There are some quality matches coming our way through the day and it should be a decent day for watching tennis.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Karen Khachanov: There is a lot to like about Karen Khachanov and the potential he is showing. A strong French Open has now been followed by a Semi Final run on the grass here in Halle, although I think the young Russian has been fortunate with the way the draw has panned out for him.

Beating an overrated Gilles Simon and narrowly getting past Andrey Rublev surrounded a Kei Nishikori retirement and now you have to say there is a big step up when Khachanov faces Roger Federer.

Federer has had a couple of big wins this week and he looks to have put Stuttgart behind him having been beaten there earlier than expected. Federer should be able to control Khachanov with his serving and I think it will be tough for the latter to really get his teeth into too many of the Federer service games.

As well as Khachanov has played, the grass courts might still be a surface he is getting used to. The first serve makes him dangerous, but I would expect Federer to be able to do some damage when he does see the second serve and he can extract errors from the Khachanov game by using the slice.

Khachanov is confident enough to come to the net and try and put away some volleys to take away the slice and chips from Federer, but I think the latter will get himself into positions to break serve on a few occasions. If he is as strong at those moments as he was against Florian Mayer, Federer can come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win to move into yet another Final in Halle.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: A lot of people had tipped up Alexander Zverev as a dark horse at the French Open after he won the title at the Rome Masters, but the young German had a disappointing early exit at the hands of the dangerous Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Zverev is definitely a threat on the grass courts too and Wimbledon might be a more open tournament where he could make his breakthrough at the Grand Slam level. Winning it won't be easy, but Zverev has shown plenty of strong form over the last couple of weeks and his serving in Halle could see him go a step further than 2016 when he finished Runner Up here.

This is a player who has previously beaten Roger Federer on the grass and the serving he has produced this week has been very strong. It certainly can give Zverev the chance to put pressure on his opponents if he can continue throwing caution to the wind with his strong returning stats also a plus point for him.

Richard Gasquet has had a decent week and is very comfortable on the grass courts, which will always make him a danger on this surface. He was perhaps fortunate to beat Gael Monfils in the First Round, but Gasquet can be a threat when he gets on a roll.

He should be able to have his moments against Zverev, but I think the 'Next Gen' star can ride out the storm. After a tight first set, I will look for Zverev to keep the pressure on with another strong serving display and that can lead to a 7-6, 6-4 win for the German.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: Opposing Gilles Muller on his current run may not be for everyone, but he is going to have to serve at the very top of his game if he is going to beat Marin Cilic. Both players are comfortable on the grass courts and this is not going to be a long match with plenty of big serving dished up by both players.

The Muller serve is so dangerous coming from the lefty and he is very good at hitting his spots and getting a high percentage of first serves in play. Muller backs that up with impressive ability to get to the net and put away volleys which makes it difficult for opponents to really get into their return games.

However Cilic is one of the better returners on the grass courts and he plays with aggression that can force Muller to make difficult volleys. Cilic should be able to get enough balls back in play to be a danger to Muller and I think the Croatian will punish the second serve.

Cilic's experience of beating John Isner this week will stand him in good stead and I have to say his serving has been very impressive too which can keep the pressure on Muller. Of course you can't dismiss a player on a seven match winning run when you think of some of the players Muller has beaten in that time, but I think Cilic's aggressiveness on the return will prove to be a decisive factor.

He should continue to produce the top serving against a limited returner like Muller and I am going to look for Cilic to find a crucial break of serve in a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: The grass court season may not be that long, but there are still some players out there who are very strong on this surface and can be a threat to anyone. Someone like Feliciano Lopez is definitely one of those grass court specialists that can beat anyone they face with a strong lefty serve followed up with strong play at the net.

However I think he may be the second lefty to lose his Semi Final match at Queens on Saturday as I believe Grigor Dimitrov gets the better of Lopez in this match.

He might not have come through the draw as well as Lopez has, but Dimitrov has produced some solid numbers and is perhaps guilty of just lacking focus at a critical time. That has seen DImitrov drop sets in matches that he has been in control of and he can't be as loose against Lopez who has been serving very well this week.

Lopez just hasn't been able to return as effectively as Dimitrov and I think that makes a difference in this Semi Final. I would be surprised if there are a lot of break points in this match, but I think Dimitrov's stronger returning will likely present him with the better chances to find a crucial breakthrough.

This one could easily need three sets to separate them, but I will be looking for Dimitrov to come through with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 kind of win.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Lucie Safarova: The return from a hand injury that almost cost Petra Kvitova her career as a professional tennis player has been surprisingly good for the two time former Wimbledon Champion. The grass courts have always been a surface she has thrived upon and Kvitova looks like she may go into SW19 as the favourite to win there.

She is certainly increasing her support with a really good tournament in Birmingham where Kvitova has been very strong behind the serve and backing that up by producing plenty of solid return games too.

However this may be the biggest test Kvitova has seen this week when taking on compatriot Lucie Safarova who has racked up the wins in recent days. Safarova might never have beaten Kvitova before, but she has won six of seven matches on the grass and continues to come through difficult spells to work her way back into matches and turn them around.

That has seen six of her seven matches need a deciding set too and Safarova is serving well enough to be considered a danger. Whether she can keep producing those serves when facing the firepower that Kvitova produces on the return is going to be key for Safarova, but all this tennis being played has got be accumulating up on her fitness levels.

There will be times Safarova is able to come through her service games relatively unscathed, but I think the Kvitova serve will keep her under pressure. That should lead to a couple of cracks and I think Kvitova will find her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win to move through to the Final on Sunday.

Caroline Garcia - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: Winning back to back titles in Mallorca will be a big achievement for Caroline Garcia and she will be the favourite to do that having returned to the Semi Final. She had to battle through two wins on Friday but managed to do that and I think she gets the better of Anastasija Sevastova for a second year in a row.

Last year this was the Final here in Mallorca and while Sevastova has improved, I am still not convinced the grass courts suit her. The Latvian has a decent first serve, but that is still an area of her game which can be attacked as we have seen through this week.

Sevastova's strength is in her return games and she has been very strong in that regard, but now faces an opponent whose serve can be the foundation for her success. Garcia gets a nice pop off the serve which can become a real weapon on the grass courts and I think she will be able to earn the short ball throughout much of this match.

Errors can still be a problem for Garcia, but she should have confidence having had a strong French Open before returning to Mallorca to defend the title she won in 2016. Garcia has done enough on the return games to give Sevastova problems, especially as the latter could have some tiredness in the arms and legs having needed three sets to win all of her matches this week.

Sevastova had a difficult Quarter Final win over Ana Konjuh which could have sapped some energy both mentally and physically and I will look for Garcia to expose that. I do think Sevastova will have her successes with the confidence she has built up over the last couple of months, but Garcia can break her down in a 6-4, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-13, + 2.06 Units (56 Units Staked, + 3.68% Yield)

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