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Monday, 26 June 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (June 27th)

The tennis Tour has moved across to Great Britain, as well as some other European destinations, over the grass court season in preparation for Wimbledon. We have been fortunate in getting plenty of clear weather to allow these tournaments to get through the matches they have scheduled, but that may not be the case on Tuesday this week.

It looks like the rain in going to arrive in Eastbourne from around 2pm on Tuesday which is likely to cut short the play where there are plenty of Second Round matches scheduled from the WTA event as well as the completion of the First Round from the ATP event in Eastbourne.

Novak Djokovic is likely to have the space to complete his own Second Round match which opens the main court play from 11am, but some of the players later in the day have to prepare themselves for double play on Wednesday when things look a little clearer.

So it sounds like John McEnroe ruffled some feathers with his comments about Serena Williams on Monday, although only those who have offered his comments out of context are getting the silly responses. McEnroe basically told a reporter he did not call Serena Williams the 'best tennis player' in the world instead of his use of 'best female tennis player' because she would not be Ranked in the top 700 of men's tennis.

For some that caused an outrage including calling McEnroe sexist, but only an idiot would disagree with him to put it bluntly. It seems like you can't just call a spade a spade these days.

Serena Williams would not beat anyone in the top 500 of men's tennis on a consistent enough basis to be Ranked much higher than where McEnroe suggested. Only fools who don't understand tennis would disagree with that and this really is a total non-story when you realise his comments have been extracted and then used out of context.

Someone was even dumb enough to suggest Serena would beat Nick Kyrgios, but ultimately looked the bigger fool.

I don't get why people get so upset when people say that the women's players would not be able to compete with the men? It seems to be the only sport where people tend to really get upset about it, but it makes no sense to me at all.

Poor Johnny Mac mustn't know what all the fuss is about, but this kind of story seems to pop up every few months or so.

The tennis picks made a decent start to the week on Monday with a 5-3 finish, but it perhaps should have been a lot better if not for a couple of bad luck moments. That happens and I am looking for the momentum to build on Tuesday even if not all the matches I am picking from can make it through to completion past the expected rain delays.

Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 games v Steve Darcis: Both of these players have shown they can spark on the grass courts at various times throughout their careers, but I am looking to the big hitting that comes from Fernando Verdasco to be too much for Steve Darcis.

The latter has at least won one match here which could make this a closer match than initially anticipated, but Darcis was perhaps a little fortunate to get past Denis Istomin. He doesn't have the big serve to put opponents on the back foot, not even on the grass courts, and someone like Verdasco should have his chance to dictate the tempo of the match.

The lefty Spaniard has a decent first serve which he can use to set up his points, although Verdasco is no longer the player of old and can be very inconsistent. Verdasco has played well on the grass though and his losses have come against some of the better players on the surface which means he is a danger to all in this draw in Antalya this week.

Generally Verdasco won't run into the very top grass players here and I think he can get his week off to a solid start with a win over Darcis. This is a new tournament so it may take Verdasco a little time to find his rhythm here, but the courts are expected to play well having taken advice from Wimbledon as to best prepare them for the event.

It should mean Verdasco can find his feet after a few games and I think that will help him control the match behind his serve and big forehand. I like Verdasco to find his way to a 7-5, 6-4 win in this one.

Mischa Zverev - 3.5 games v Ryan Harrison: The grass courts should be very much what Mischa Zverev is appreciating after a rough time on the clay and he has had some solid results on the surface over the last couple of weeks. A rare serve-volley exponent is tough to break on this surface and I think he can get off to a positive start in Eastbourne on Tuesday.

The conditions are tough for players to try and rally from the back of the court when the wind picks up, but Zverev backs up a strong first serve with nice volleys. For opponents it is a blast from the past that they are not used to seeing and Zverev will look to get to the net as much as possible when he takes on Ryan Harrison in the First Round.

The American is another who will be glad to be off the clay courts, but Harrison's best results tend to come on the hard courts these days. Harrison has actually lost his last eight main draw matches on the grass courts and he hasn't lit things up at the lower levels or Qualifiers either having gone 4-11 on grass since reaching Wimbledon in 2014.

Harrison has had a good season overall as he is set for his most wins on the Tour since 2012 and he has also won titles in 2017. However he still has a tendency to throw in a couple of loose service games and Zverev has been returning well enough over the last two weeks to think he can take advantage of those lapses in concentration.

I think that will lead to Zverev finding a way to come through this match with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Sam Querrey - 2.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: Over the last two years Daniil Medvedev has shown the improvement he has made on the grass courts as his competition have stepped up. Medvedev reached the Quarter Final in Hertogenbosch having come through the Qualifiers and then did the same at a loaded Queens event which shows this young player gets how to play on the green stuff.

One concern has to be the shoulder issue which was bothering Medvedev at the end of his run in Queens and I think that may give Sam Querrey enough of an edge to come through with a win and a cover of this number.

The American was also a Quarter Finalist in Queens last week and Querrey has shown his game works well on the grass with a big serve and heavy forehand combination the key to his success. He had a mixed preparation for Wimbledon last year, but Querrey was a Quarter Finalist in SW19 where he famously beat Novak Djokovic.

Querrey has regularly made the Quarter Final or later in this preparation events on the grass, although his return of serve remains sketchy to say the least. He is also a former winner at Queens back in 2010, but Querrey's biggest strength in this match up may be his steadiness behind the serve which can lead to errors from his opponents.

With the shoulder potentially bothering him, Medvedev is capable of throwing in a poor service game which gives Querrey the chance to pounce. That is what I am expecting as the pressure on the scoreboard increases and I can see Querrey coming through with a 7-6, 6-4 win in this one.

Jeremy Chardy - 4.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: On a grass court this number of games can be tough to cover simply because of the limited chances that some players will get to break serve. However Jeremy Chardy has been returning well enough over the last couple of weeks to think he can beat a disinterested Dusan Lajovic who could be said to 'hate' the grass court season.

While most players will consider this the time of the season to build up some grass court preparation, Lajovic has played a couple of clay court Challengers since the French Open. He didn't play badly having reached the Semi Final in Todi last week, and I can't say I blame Lajovic who has a 1-13 record on the grass courts in his career.

The Lajovic serve isn't that bad, but he clearly can't find his rhythm on the surface and it isn't a serve that will earn enough cheap points to get through games. With Chardy returning as he has been, I would expect him to put the Serbian under pressure while Chardy has been serving big enough to be effective in a match like this one.

Chardy has played some solid grass court players over the last couple of weeks and it has taken Feliciano Lopez to stop runs in Stuttgart and Queens. Those losses don't look bad since Lopez won the title in Queens, especially as Chardy took a set off of him back in Stuttgart.

I would expect Chardy to have the majority of the better tennis played in this one and I would think he can earn the break points to put together a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games v Frances Tiafoe: There may be some big things tipped for Frances Tiafoe, but he is yet to really discover the best way to approach grass court tennis. Facing one of the better grass court players out there will make it very difficult for Tiafoe and I think Richard Gasquet will eventually make that tell on the scoreboard.

The question of motivation for Gasquet may come up as the week goes on after a strong run in Halle was ended in the Semi Final at the hands of Alexander Zverev. With Wimbledon around the corner, it will be interesting to see how much Gasquet wants another long run in an event considering some of the injuries he had, although he wouldn't have entered this event unless he wants to put some wins together.

He should have every chance to get the first of those on Tuesday in the First Round as Tiafoe looks to improve his 3-4 record on the surface. None of those matches have come against someone who is as effective on the grass as Gasquet and you can't ignore the fact that Tiafoe has been beaten comfortably in the four losses he has taken on the surface.

Protecting the second serve has proved a problem in his matches on the grass and I think that may be an issue for him in this one too. The young American is likely to face being given a lesson from the quality of tennis that Gasquet brings and I am expecting the latter to produce a solid win on the day.

Gasquet can serve well enough to keep the pressure on Tiafoe and I think he can come through with a 6-3, 6-3 win on the day.

Donald Young - 2.5 games v Jared Donaldson: It seemed like most people on Twitter on Monday morning had backed Donald Young to get past Kyle Edmund and they were rewarded when the American won the final four games of the match. It wasn't an easy winner after Young actually lost more points and didn't return as well as he would have liked, but he can ride the momentum of that win with another in the Second Round.

This time he faces compatriot Jared Donaldson who has employed two former American stars in Jan-Michael Gambill and Mardy Fish to aid him going forward. Donaldson had a real battle on his hands to get through his First Round match against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman where, like Young, he actually lost more points but won the match.

It was a rare positive result on the grass courts for Donaldson and I am not sure he is going to be able to back that up against Young. These two met on the grass courts of Newport last year in what was a comfortable win for Young in straight sets and the latter has shown more appetite for this surface than his younger compatriot.

The Donaldson serve has not been as effective as he would have liked on this surface and I think Young is able to capitalise on that. Of course you have to say that Young's serve is far from secure in what are likely to be difficult conditions, but I would look for him to back it up a little more effectively of the two players.

It could go three sets, but Young's better returning stats should show up in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win for the older American.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Lauren Davis: There was some relief for Agnieszka Radwanska when the clay court was officially over and she is back on a much more favoured surface now. The foot injury she has had has bothered her in 2017 and seen some poor results being produced, but Radwanska is more comfortable on the grass courts than many players on the Tour.

One of those is Lauren Davis who has benefited from being a 'Lucky Loser' back into the draw this week in Eastbourne. She took advantage to move into the Second Round but the American has not enjoyed her time on the grass courts.

You can see the problem for Davis whose serve can be attacked with real gusto on this surface as opponents are able to power through the court. Radwanska may not have the power to do that, but she can put the ball into difficult spots which can allow her to get up to the net and also use the drop shot to bring players less comfortable at the net further forward in the court.

The Davis return game is solid enough and she should have some joy against Radwanska's serve, especially as the Pole has been out of a competitive match since the end of May. However the overall grass court stats don't make for good reading for Davis either in 2017 or overall in her career.

After a few games to get back her edge, Radwanska can fight her way to a 7-5, 6-3 win.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: There was some bad blood between Romania and Great Britain in a Fed Cup tie earlier this year with the main issues coming during and after a match between Sorana Cirstea and Johanna Konta. I don't think there will be too many in the Eastbourne stands ready to remind Cirstea of some of the negative comments she made about Konta in a press conference after the match, but I am sure Konta hasn't forgotten them.

Now they meet on a grass court in Konta's home town where she has produced her best tennis on this surface. A decent showing over the last couple of weeks would have given Konta some confidence, but Cirstea is back in the draw as a 'Lucky Loser' and is capable of producing some top grass court tennis.

She was a Quarter Finalist in Mallorca in 2016 but generally her time on the grass has seen her come up short against opponents. When Cirstea builds momentum she can be difficult to stop, but Konta should be able to return effectively enough to put the pressure on her opponent in this one.

Konta has some decent returning numbers over the last couple of weeks and Cirstea is someone who can make a number of errors behind her serve which should give the British Number 1 every chance of winning this match. The Konta serve has also been in pretty good shape in her matches in Nottingham and Birmingham and overall she should have enough of an edge to beat Cirstea by a wide enough margin to cover this number of games.

Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 games v Barbora Strycova: The grass has proved to be a difficult surface for Garbine Muguruza in general, but she had a good run in Birmingham last week and is a former Finalist at Wimbledon. A poor 2017 has dented some of the confidence, but I think Muguruza does get the better of Barbora Strycova in the Second Round here in Eastbourne.

There is room for improvement behind the serve from the limited stats we have in 2017 on this surface, but Muguruza does have a first serve that will give Strycova some real problems to deal with. The Spaniard has returned effectively enough too and I do think that sets her up for success in this one.

As well as I believe Strycova can play on the grass courts, she has been a little erratic with her play and the serve is not working as effectively as it might. That is so important to the outcome of this match as Strycova cannot really rely on breaking Muguruza consistently and allowing her last two opponents to win 41% or better of the points behind her own serve is not going to cut it.

Strycova does play well on the surface which means she will create chances against the Muguruza serve if the latter is not quite at her best. The second serve is where Strycova will look to get her points, but Muguruza's ability to produce the big serve could prove to be a difference maker overall.

I would expect the bigger hitting players to cause problems for Strycova and I am looking for Muguruza to be able to do the same. The Spaniard should have enough power to edge her way through with a 7-6, 6-3 win in this one.

Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 games v Naomi Osaka: I backed Lucie Safarova to beat Naomi Osaka last week but this is a different kind of match for the latter. There is still learning being done by Osaka on the grass courts and facing someone like Caroline Wozniacki who has earned her wins on the surface could be a step too far in Eastbourne this week.

Osaka has some factors that work for her with the most notable being the fact that Wozniacki is playing her first grass court match of the week. However the conditions in Eastbourne tend to be difficult and I think Wozniacki will be able to play her way in as she looks to extract errors from the Osaka game.

The power will come from Osaka as she displayed when brutally moving past Risa Ozaki in the First Round, but I would expect the counter punching of Wozniacki to leave Osaka in some awkward spots around the court. The returning stats have not been that impressive from Osaka either and Wozniacki can get some pop out of her serve on this surface which should mean she has enough of an edge in both serve and return games.

Big hitting players have given Wozniacki some real problems on the grass in the past as her losses have highlighted. While Osaka is in that mould, her confidence with her movement on the surface is perhaps not where it needs to be to cause an upset and I think the frustration of trying to penetrate the Wozniacki defences consistently may lead to more and more mistakes.

After a tight opener where Wozniacki rediscovers her movement on the grass, I can see the former World Number 1 running away with the match in a 7-6, 6-2 win.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Mischa Zverev - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Donald Young - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-3, + 3.22 Units (16 Units Staked, + 20.13% Yield)

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