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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Wimbledon Tennis Day 4 Picks 2017 (July 6th)

There are always question marks around the weather in London when we get around to Wimbledon, despite being in the height of the summer months, but the weather issues this year are not the ones we have usually dealt with.

Instead of the rain delays, the sun has been shining the and the temperatures have been soaring which makes this first week of the tournament very important for the contenders. You simply don't want to waste unnecessary energy out on the courts in the early stages of a Slam, but especially not when the heat is as draining as it looks to be for the remaining days this week.

Things should cool down next week, but for now the players have to cope with some difficult conditions out on the courts.


Jack Sock-Sebastian Ofner over 3.5 sets: This is the first appearance on the main Tour for Sebastian Ofner and the young Austrian has to be credited for coming through the Qualifiers and then dismantling clay court specialist Thomaz Bellucci in the First Round. The level of competition for Ofner is taking another couple of steps in a tougher direction when he faces Jack Sock in the Second Round, but there are elements of his game that have to be liked.

To win the match is a big ask for Ofner, but I do think he is capable of giving Sock something to think about despite the clear gap in the experience category. Sock is someone who is hoping to really make a step up in his Singles performances, but this has been an up and down season for him.

His lack of grass court tennis this past month is an obvious concern and he was pushed by another Qualifier in the First Round when Sock overcame Christian Garin narrowly. The serve is going to be a tough one to break but I do think Ofner can create some chances with the way he has been returning in his four grass court matches, albeit against players not quite of this level.

It also should be noted that Sock has rarely won matches at Wimbledon despite his strong serving numbers and that has a lot to do with some tough draws and poor returning numbers. Breaks have not been easy to come by and even in the matches he has won, Sock has a tendency to drop a set with recovery of breaks against him proving to be difficult for him.

Sock has played four Qualifiers at Grand Slams before and he has dropped a set in each of those including in the First Round here. Sebastian Ofner's numbers suggest he can do the same with strong returns likely giving him a few opportunities to break serve, but overall you would think the American will prove too strong. However, backing at least four sets to be contested between these two players looks a decent price and one I will back.


Dudi Sela-John Isner over 3.5 sets: Like for many players lower down the Rankings, this has proved to be a really difficult match up for Dudi Sela when facing the big serving John Isner. Unlike the top players, the ones lower down to tend to have a hard time finding the best way to get the Isner serve back in play and extract mistakes, while their own games are not watertight enough to really stick with him for the long haul.

That is a generalisation of players lower down the World Rankings anyway, but Sela has lost all four matches against Isner and this is a big test for him having needed five sets to come through his First Round match.

At least they were not long five sets and this isn't going to be a match that is gruelling from a physical perspective in the heat of the day. Sela has to take some confidence from the fact he has won a Challenger title on the grass in the warm up for Wimbledon and he reached the Quarter Final of another event, while there have been signs that Isner has perhaps lost a little around the court.

The raw numbers are still very impressive on serve for Isner, which will be the last thing to really deteriorate for the big man, but he is holding slightly less this year than he has been in the last three years. Isner's performances on the grass over the last month have been worrying on serve, while his return has really been impacted too as he may feel under more pressure to push for those breaks.

Sela may not be the man to expose those issues by surprising Isner in this Second Round match as he battles the mental demons of past losses to Isner. However he may be able to take a set off of Isner as he has in half their previous meetings and I'd be stunned if Sela is able to win this one in straight sets even with Isner's slow down in mind so backing at least four sets to be competed looks to be the call from this match too.


Mischa Zverev-Mikhail Kukushkin over 3.5 sets: This is another match where I feel the favourite is likely to progress, but I am not sure they are going to do that in the straight-forward manner that the majority of the layers feel. Mischa Zverev is the favourite, which is understandable considering how he has played on the grass courts, but he is far from a sure thing who is being asked to cover plenty of games in this one.

The lefty serve is a dangerous weapon on the grass and Zverev is backing it up with solid volleying at the net. While he did have a strong win in the First Round over Bernard Tomic, the body language and subsequent interview with the Australian highlighted how little interest Tomic seemed to have in the match.

Zverev is still a player who has had limited success at Wimbledon in the past and there are still some real questions about his return game on this surface. Tie-breakers could be in play considering he has been serving well enough, but Mikhail Kukushkin is a talented player who can perform pretty well on the faster surfaces.

He can be hard to trust considering Kukushkin has fallen off the main Tour for the most part, but he had a solid win in the First Round here. His returning in that match was solid enough although this is a much different test returning the Zverev serve.

The courts do seem to be playing a little slower which means Kukushkin should be able to take some swings back at Zverev and test out his volleying, but a decent serving display will give him a chance to steal a set at least. It could be a match where a few solid returns sees Kukushkin break through Zverev in this one, although the German should still have too much and earn the win.


Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: After moving through to the Second Round thanks to Alexandr Dolgopolov's retirement, Roger Federer will be hoping to complete this match on Centre Court on Thursday. This looks another match that will be controlled by Federer as he looks to join the likes of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal in easing through to the Third Round here at Wimbledon.

This has been a stunning year for Federer who continues as the favourite to win the title at Wimbledon and he looks to have a clear advantage over Dusan Lajovic. While Federer is in love with the grass, Lajovic is a player who will be looking forward to the European clay court tournaments which will be played later this month.

No one is suggesting Lajovic won't give this a full effort as he tries to upset the Federer bandwagon, but the numbers suggest he will struggle to stay with the former World Number 1. Lajovic hasn't played badly on the grass this past couple of weeks, but he has yet to face someone as strong as Federer and his returning numbers have been relatively poor and slightly down on his career numbers on the grass.

The serve isn't a bad shot, but Federer will feel he can blunt the first serve and then out-rally Lajovic for much of the match and I do like him covering this number of games, despite the little room for error he has. The Serb has been beaten really comfortably when previously playing against top five opponents and one of the big issues has been the lack of protection of his own serve.

I am not anticipating Lajovic to have a host of chances to break the Federer serve, but I can see the latter being in position to do so plenty of times during this match. He can win a couple of sets with a couple of breaks of serve which should be enough to see him cover this number in a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.


Dominic Thiem - 5.5 games v Gilles Simon: If you look at the Seedings at Wimbledon you would think Dominic Thiem is potentially a threat to win the title, but the Austrian has still not quite got to grips with how to perform on the grass courts. Poor performances in the last month won't have improved the confidence, although Thiem's win over Vasek Pospisil in the First Round was a much more positive performance.

It has been the return where Thiem has really struggled on the grass with his big swings perhaps finding the timing much harder to come by on a surface where the ball can skid. Bad bounces and getting low is tough when winding up as much as Thiem does, but he really got a hold of the Pospisil serve for a very positive win.

In this match you would think Thiem can get more of a rhythm on the return against a Gilles Simon serve which isn't going to whizz past anyone on any court. The Frenchman definitely feels like a fading force on the Tour with the percentage of holds falling in each of the past three seasons.

The bigger worry has to be the reduced break points being converted and the percentage of returning points decreasing as that has been a strength for Simon over the years and a key to his successes. Now he is finding it harder to recover breaks of serve and that has seen him lose plenty of matches and Simon's numbers on the grass have to be a real worry for him.

Simon did have a solid First Round win against an overmatched opponent, but this is a huge increase in level for him to face. Thiem has dominated their head to head and I think he will put plenty of pressure on Simon with his own serve and work his way to enough break points to produce a solid 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 kind of win as he covers this number of games.


David Ferrer - 4.5 games v Steve Darcis: When you speak about former top ten players who are fading away from the limelight, David Ferrer has to be right up there amongst the names at the top of the list. However he turned back the clock with an impressive First Round win over Richard Gasquet and I think that could spark one more decent run in the Grand Slams for the veteran Spaniard.

It might be seen as a risky call to back a player like Ferrer who has shown regression in both the service and return departments in 2017 and who hasn't won back to back matches in an event more than a handful of times this season. You can't argue that is the case, but Ferrer returned effectively in the First Round and I do think the opponent is important in this case.

Steve Darcis has stunned Rafael Nadal here at Wimbledon before so he clearly is someone who can win on the grass. This is another veteran whose numbers over the last month have not been as effective as they have been in the past on this surface and the serve is not one that will overawe Ferrer.

With his own issues on the return, the match up feels like a good one for Ferrer compared to the kind of matches he could have faced. The two wins Darcis has had on the grass courts have been very tight ones which could have easily gone the other way and I think Ferrer will enjoy this match and still has enough in the tank to win.

I would imagine there are quite a few breaks in this match, but I would think Ferrer can win the majority of those in a competitive match. That could see him come through with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win and I will look for him to cover this number.


Tomas Berdych - 6.5 games v Ryan Harrison: One of the reasons that Tomas Berdych is not performing to the same standard as in the past is the regression he has made when it comes to the return of serve. That has continued to be a problem for him during the last month on the grass courts and there wasn't a lot of improvement in the numbers when it came to the First Round win over Jeremy Chardy.

The Berdych serve does continue to put him in a position to win matches though and I think the match up is a decent one for the Czech player. The overall return numbers for Ryan Harrison haven't been bad in a 2017 season where the American has made improvements in leaps and bounds, but he has struggled with it on the grass courts and the Berdych serve should make sure the higher Ranked player doesn't give too much away.

Like many Americans, Harrison has a big first serve that he loves to back up with a powerful forehand and that has been a good play for him on the hard courts. However the skid of the grass courts means he isn't always in position to hit the one-two punch on the grass and I think that is a reason his hold numbers are considerably weaker on this surface.

Those numbers look less impressive when seeing how Harrison has performed on the main Tour grass court matches and even less so when taking on a top 20 player. The head to head with Berdych has seen Harrison lose twice against him over the last twelve months including a straight sets loss at the Australian Open back in January.

With a number of games like this one, you have to be concerned with the Berdych return numbers, but I think Harrison will offer up some chances as he is frustrated in finding the timing disrupted by the grass. As long as Berdych can just play those situations with enough solid tennis, I think he can come through this match 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.


Gael Monfils - 5.5 games v Kyle Edmund: While the likes of Andy Murray and Johanna Konta are carrying the weight of a nation on their shoulders, Kyle Edmund will still be feeling some pressure to perform in front of the home fans at Wimbledon. He secured his first win in the main draw in SW19 in the First Round against a fellow Brit, but Edmund has a big challenge in front of him when he faces Gael Monfils in the Second Round.

In saying that, Monfils has yet to really produce the consistency on the grass that you would imagine he could. This is a player with a very effective serve and Monfils has very good movement around the court and a solid return of serve, although the criticism is that he will allow others to dictate play which is never a good idea on the grass.

The last month has seen Monfils play some solid tennis on the grass courts including reaching a Final in Eastbourne, and he perhaps comes into Wimbledon healthier than he has been in years. Over the last month Monfils has shown a little more behind the serve and has been more effective on the return which makes him a very dangerous opponent on for Edmund on Thursday.

Edmund's preparation for Wimbledon wasn't the best with two losses at Queens and in Eastbourne, but he produced some solid numbers in those defeats. The return continues to be a weakness for the British player, but he was serving well which could mean he can give Monfils some problems, although Edmund's struggles at Wimbledon and his performances against top 20 players are negatives for him going into this match.

There is also a concern about his mental strength when things start to turn against him and I think those factors add up to a tough match for him. Monfils might not be at his best on the grass, but he has produced four solid wins over the last two weeks and I think the Frenchman can come through a tough match with a 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 kind of win.


Yuichi Sugita - 1.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: Over the years Adrian Mannarino has been an under-rated performer on the grass courts, but I think the layers have got it right putting him down as the underdog in this Second Round match. That has much to do with the fact that Yuichi Sugita is arguably playing the best tennis of his career at this level.

Winning the Surbiton Challenger on the grass would have been impressive enough, but Sugita has backed that by winning the tournament in Antalya prior to Wimbledon. He was in fantastic form in Turkey where the courts are similar to the ones he will see at Wimbledon, and Sugita actually beat Mannarino in the Final to take the title home.

A solid First Round win here and the fact he has beaten Mannarino twice on the grass should give Sugita real confidence for this match. The serve has been working really well and Sugita is also making use of his returning numbers to earn breaks of serve on the grass and I think he should perhaps be a slightly bigger favourite.

His opponent hasn't got bad numbers, and Mannarino is certainly someone who does enjoy playing on this surface. Mannarino has plenty of wins over the last month which will give him a lot of confidence too, but the Final in Antalya gives a pretty good indication of how this match will go.

I think there will be breaks of serve for both players, but I think Sugita has been showing a little more in both her service and return games. That could be the difference in a tight match against Mannarino and I will look for Sugita to cover this number.


Angelique Kerber - 4.5 games v Kirsten Flipkens: The narrative from Angelique Kerber's First Round win over Irina Falconi was that the World Number 1 came through narrowly. However the raw numbers don't say the same thing and I think the German can back up a decent enough performance with another in the Second Round when facing Kirsten Flipkens.

This is far from an easy match for Kerber though as Flipkens is someone who is very comfortable on the grass courts and who has played really well at Wimbledon before. Flipkens has played well on the grass courts over the last month and she certainly returns well enough to give Kerber a few questions to answer during the course of this match.

However this is a big step up for Flipkens compared with the majority of players she has been facing on the grass courts in 2017. Playing top ten Ranked players has been a tough task for Flipkens whose own serve is one that can be attacked and she has lost her last six matches against those players and all by a margin of at least six games.

Kerber is arguably not playing up to the level of a top ten player, but she has had a couple of morale boosting wins in Eastbourne last week and played well enough in the First Round here when nerves would have played a part. The slight dip in the numbers has been a problem for Kerber in 2017 as she has been playing with little room for a slip in her standards, but she continues to hold a solid return which should be able to get after the Flipkens service games.

It is a big number of games being asked to cover, but Kerber has played well enough over the last two weeks to beat a player who has struggled to match the intensity of the top ten players she has been playing.


Lucie Safarova - 4.5 games v Shelby Rogers: I wanted to see how Lucie Safarova responded to her injury issue in Birmingham which forced her out of her Semi Final with Petra Kvitova. The Czech left hander had been playing well on the grass and producing the wins prior to that and her First Round win over Oceane Dodin was very impressive.

Taking part in the Doubles as well as the Singles suggests Safarova is feeling confident that the injury is behind her and this is a player who can be very dangerous on the grass courts. The serve proves to be a huge weapon for her and it should certainly be important for Safarova against Shelby Rogers who has not been able to get her return game going on the grass courts over the last few weeks.

No one will criticise Rogers for losses to Donna Vekic and Sabine Lisicki, but I do think the American will struggle against Safarova who can build pressure with her serve to take into the return games. However I can't ignore the way Rogers has been able to serve on this surface with a heavy shot able to set up short balls which are much easier to put away than trying to find the depth off returns.

The second serve can be attacked though and that is where I think Safarova will be able to make hay in this Second Round match.

Rogers does have a good record against left-handed players which makes her dangerous, but I think she may struggle to get into the Safarova service games. Safarova has been returning well enough to get some joy from the Rogers serve and I think she will work her way to a 6-4, 6-3 win in this one.


Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Christina McHale: There are questions for both Agnieszka Radwanska and Christina McHale to answer ahead of this Second Round match with both having some difficult times on the grass over the last month. Both have had solid results in the past on this surface and showed they can produce their best tennis on the grass, but injuries and a loss of form have hurt them.

2017 has been a really rough season for Radwanska with injury and poor performances coupled together for some poor results. The move to the grass was expected to help, but she was beaten by Lauren Davis in Eastbourne, while her win in the First Round came against fellow veteran Jelena Jankovic who is on the slide in her own career.

The numbers were decent from Radwanska and she is facing an opponent in McHale who was almost upset by a British Wild Card in the First Round. The American had to pull out of Eastbourne with an injury and she has seen her numbers slip from last season.

The same can be said for Radwanska though and I think those two factors together should mean Radwanska is still a little too good defensively for the McHale game. That has happened in the past as the Pole has won all five previous matches between these two and has won all ten sets played.

Only once has McHale won more than three games in a set, although that happened in their sole match in 2017. Even then she was beaten by Radwanska by a margin of six games and that has been the case in all five previous matches between these players. McHale has lost seven in a row against top ten players and I think Radwanska may just be able to battle through with a 6-3, 6-3 win in this one.


Kristina Mladenovic - 3.5 games v Alison Riske: When this match was put together, I thought Kristina Mladenovic was the more likely winner but I was expecting her to be asked to cover around 4.5 games which would have been a little tough to back. Instead I was surprised to see her being asked to cover a game fewer and this looks like a number she can manage against Alison Riske who is someone who can play wonderfully on the grass.

Both players came through with an impressive win in the First Round but against overmatched opponents who were not really in the form to challenge them. That won't be the case on Thursday with both Mladenovic and Riske playing some good tennis over the last month.

You have to give the Frenchwoman the edge straight away holding the mental advantage of winning all four previous matches against Riske including on the grass in 2015. The latter has also suffered a couple of comfortable losses to some big hitting opponents on the grass already in 2017 and I think Mladenovic is playing well enough to do something similar.

While both players have produced solid serving numbers on this surface, the key difference may be the little more consistent Mladenovic is behind her serve. I can't ignore how Riske had some difficulties against the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova over the last month and Mladenovic is similar in her ability to put together a number of strong serving games.

Riske is also likely to throw in a couple of poor service games and Mladenovic can capitalise with the way she has been returning over the last few weeks. It will be tough at times because Riske is very comfortable on the grass courts, but I think Mladenovic will prove a little too good over the course of this match as she wins this one 6-3, 6-4.


Caroline Wozniacki - 3.5 games v Tsvetana Pironkova: The grass courts have proven to be the best surface for Tsvetana Pironkova who helped me with a winner in the First Round. I do think the layers are factoring in how well Pironkova has played on the grass courts in the past, as well as how well she has played over the last few weeks on this surface, but they may have gone too far here.

That is because Caroline Wozniacki has been playing really well on the grass too and only a moody performance saw her being pushed to a third set in a First Round win. The Dane didn't seem that happy with things until finally cracking Timea Babos in the third set and she has played well enough after reaching the Final in Eastbourne last week.

The return game of both Wozniacki and Pironkova have been a strength for them over the last few weeks on this surface, but I think the Wozniacki serve is a touch under-rated. Both players will have their issues when it comes to protecting the serve considering how aggressively they have been returning, but Wozniacki has been able to defend well enough to turn things around when needing to.

It is that defensive aspect of her game that may just blunt Pironkova's aggression for long enough to turn points around and I think Wozniacki will come through this tough test. She has dominated Pironkova in the past, although the last of their head to head matches was five years ago, while Pironkova has struggled to stay with the top ten players she has played in recent matches against those top names.

That may happen here as she is worn down in a three set match and I will look for Wozniacki to just pull away at the end to cover this number.

MY PICKS: Jack Sock-Sebastian Ofner Over 3.5 Sets @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dudi Sela-John Isner Over 3.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Mischa Zverev-Mikhail Kukushkin Over 3.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Yuichi Sugita - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Woznaicki - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 17-19-3, - 1.72 Units (66 Units Staked, - 2.61% Yield)

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