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Friday, 7 July 2017

Wimbledon Tennis Day 5 Picks 2017 (July 7th)

There won't be any Middle Sunday tennis this year at The Championships thanks to the impressive weather London has been enjoying so the next two days will see which of the players can make it through to the second week of this Grand Slam.

Monday is arguably the best tennis day on the calendar with the entire Fourth Round played on the one day, but this year may feel a little differently. That is because Monday is looking like it could be a wet day which means play could be restricted to Centre Court, giving those an edge over their rivals when it comes to preparing to go on and win the title here.

It will be interesting to see how the organisers handle things if the weather does indeed take a turn for the worse on that day, especially as the first three days of next week are forecasted to be wet which could create a real backlog for Wimbledon.

That is for another day though and Friday looks another lovely day to get out and play some tennis, although perhaps not at the intensity the players have to show. For them the conditions are still tough with plenty of heat and humidity around and it will be a test for all over the next two days, although the Sunday recovery time will likely be welcomed by all.

The tournament has been a mixed one for the picks so far, but the outright selections have at least made it through to the Third Round.

I was very close to a really successful Thursday, but some bad breaks prevented me from doing that although it could have been a lot worse.

What has happened is that the two women's favourites are out of the draw as Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova crashed out on consecutive days. That leaves the outright picks I made at the start of the tournament in good shape with Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams amongst the favourites in what has become a really open tournament.

It is Johanna Konta who is favoured by the layers, but things can clearly play out much differently than they imagine judging by this first week.

That is in complete contrast to the men's tournament where the big four players have all comfortably made it through to the Third Round. Unsurprisingly there hasn't been much change in the markets just yet, but there are some big matches for these players to face going forward and it will be interesting to see how they have performed over the next couple of days.

Andy Murray - 8.5 games v Fabio Fognini: No one is going to doubt the talent that Fabio Fognini undeniably possesses, but you also can't overlook the fact that some of his poorer performances in his career have come on the grass courts. Now he has to take on the two time Wimbledon Champion who is going to be vocally backed by the crowd when facing Andy Murray in the Third Round here.

With the head to head as it is and Fognini's comprehensive win over Murray during the clay court season, I do understand why so many are talking up the chances of the Italian in this one. However two of his three wins against Murray have come on the clay courts and the other win was on a hard court in 2007, but playing Murray on the grass is a big challenge for players.

Murray's health looks good enough over the first two matches which have been routine wins and this is a player who is has been very strong when facing lower Ranked players at Wimbledon. The World Number 1 is 40-0 when facing players Ranked outside the top 21 in the World at Wimbledon and his numbers have been so strong in those matches.

In those matches Murray has been incredibly strong behind the serve and that is going to be an issue for Fognini whose grass court returns have not been as productive as he would like. That should mean Murray is able to focus on attacking the Italian's serve and Murray has some really good return numbers which suggests he will have success in breaking through a few times.

Fognini is someone who will produce some flashy winners off both wings and play some entertaining points, but he is also prone to perhaps falling away when the wheels do come off. He just hasn't been as effective against top ten opponents in his career as he would like and I can see Fognini perhaps losing his way in this one as he goes down to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 defeat.

Benoit Paire v Jerzy Janowicz: There is no way I am going to spend too much of my time watching Benoit Paire and Jerzy Janowicz in the Third Round at Wimbledon because both can be so erratic and frustrating. However the two players have come through the first couple of Rounds here impressively enough although I do think Janowicz is perhaps over-rated on his wins and previous form at Wimbledon.

As a former Semi Finalist on the grass lawns of the All England Club, Janowicz certainly has more pedigree than Paire whose dislike of the grass is clear. In saying that, has enough happened between Stuttgart and Wimbledon to have seen a change in which player is favoured in this one?

In Stuttgart I actually backed Paire to beat Janowicz because I believed he had been returning well enough to do that against what is a limited returner. That hasn't changed going into this Third Round match and so I am a little surprised that the layers have now made Janowicz the favourite having been the underdog three weeks ago.

His wins over Denis Shapovalov and Lucas Pouille are decent enough, but both of those players have poor returning stats and that is simply not the case with Paire. I would expect the Frenchman is able to get a few more balls back in play and pressure the Pole a lot more than Shapovalov and Pouille were able to do especially in light of improved performances on the grass courts over the last month.

Paire also has a decent serve that should be able to restrict the damage Janowicz is able to do against him. The concern is that Paire can get down on himself and frustrated with how things are going and Janowicz can mentally wear players down with a bomb of a serve, but I can see the Frenchman finding a way to break serve a couple of times which should set him up for the success.

It was good enough for Paire in Stuttgart and he has shown he can play on this surface as I look for the slight upset in this Third Round match.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v Sam Querrey: When Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Sam Querrey met at Wimbledon in 2014, they needed twenty-six games in a final set decider before the Frenchman was able to move through to the next Round. It seems like Tsonga is always involved in these long matches with the big servers during Wimbledon having also needed five sets to see off John Isner here last year.

That says a lot about where Tsonga's return game has been over the years, but 2017 has seen him producing some of his best numbers in that regards. That is important for him because the Querrey serve is a big one, but Tsonga may feel he can make more plays in this one than he has when he has met the big servers in the past.

If Tsonga can get the returns into the Querrey backhand, he will feel he can find his way into the rallies on the return and he has been playing well enough to win those and put pressure on his opponent. The loss to Gilles Muller at Queens is a concern in the manner in which it had come about, while Tsonga's career numbers on the return when facing the taller players on the Tour have not made for pleasant reading.

His serve will definitely give Querrey a few problems, although the big levers means Querrey should be able to force Tsonga to play a few more balls than his first two opponents have been able to do. However you would expect Tsonga will be able to handle those issues when they come about and I think one of the dark horses for the Wimbledon title may win this match with a little bit more ease than he tends to against the big servers.

Focus is the key for Tsonga who can't afford the sloppy games that allowed Muller an easy path through to the next Round at Queens a couple of weeks ago. With the improved returns that Tsonga has been showing, I think he can make a few awkward balls for Querrey to deal with and I will look for Tsonga to move into the Fourth Round behind a 7-5, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 kind of win.

Karen Khachanov + 7.5 games v Rafael Nadal: Opposing Rafael Nadal on his current form is a daunting decision, but one of the up and coming stars on the Tour will certainly show no fear in this one. I have so much time for Karen Khachanov who has all the tools to reach the very top of the men's game, although expecting him to beat Nadal at this stage of his career is asking for way too much.

However, there has been plenty to like about the way Khachanov has carried himself on the Tour and he has shown some real battling qualities in the manner in which he has won his first two matches at Wimbledon this year. A run to the Fourth Round at Roland Garros will have increased the confidence of a player who has shown solid serve and return numbers in his young career on the main Tour.

Solid is not going to be enough for Khachanov, but he will have gained some confidence from the way he played against Roger Federer in a narrow loss in Halle a couple of weeks ago. A big serve and heavy groundstrokes makes him the kind of player that could pose a threat to the top names, although Khachanov perhaps still needs to do more with the second serve and also cut out some of the errors which can blight his game.

The youngster will need to serve something close to his best because Nadal is returning fiercely and looks more comfortable on the grass courts than he has in recent years when arriving at Wimbledon. Being healthier has helped Nadal and he has spent a lot less time on court than Khachanov who will be playing one of the big Wimbledon show courts for the first time.

He handled that in Roland Garros when taking on Andy Murray though and Khachanov has the return game to keep this one relatively close against the heavy hitting Nadal on Friday. It is a big ask of Khachanov because of how well Nadal is playing, but he has shown a good temperament when facing the best players and his two previous losses to top ten players in the Grand Slams would have seen him cover this number.

Nadal doesn't give away games though so I am looking for Khachanov to be inspired by the occasion and keep his defeat within this number.

Gilles Muller win 3-1 v Aljaz Bedene: Both Gilles Muller and Aljaz Bedene have already gone into 'overtime' for a five set win in this tournament, but both remain alive and have a chance of reaching the second week of a Grand Slam. This would be a big achievement for both players, although Muller may have been expecting a decent run at Wimbledon having put together a strong set of grass court results over the last few weeks.

There are other similarities between Muller and Bedene in that neither has really performed that well at Wimbledon in the past. Both have considerably poorer service and return numbers when playing at Wimbledon compared to their overall success on the grass, although Muller and Bedene have performed decently in their opening two Rounds in 2017.

Fatigue could affect Muller a little more having had to play in the heat of Wednesday compared with Bedene whose own five setter came when it was slightly cooler. However I am not putting too much stock into those matches as both were not the gruelling five setters you can see at Slams with the serve being the big weapon in those matches that shortened points.

Bedene does have some impressive numbers in his grass court matches over the last month but his sole loss did come at the hands of Muller when they played in Hertogenbosch, a tournament the left hander ended up winning. On that day Muller was slightly superior in both the serve and return department, but Bedene's returning stats does suggest he can at least push the higher Ranked player in this match too.

He did take a set in the loss to Muller in Holland and I think Bedene is good enough to do that again in this one. There could be some tiredness in the Muller arm which perhaps allows Bedene to get involved in more service games, but I think ultimately the former has been producing enough quality on the return to get the better of Bedene in this one.

Muller's returns are not his strength, but the pressure produced by the serve means he has mentally worn down opponents who can be rushed into mistakes. As well as Bedene has served so far on the grass, I can see Muller making enough awkward returns to eventually prevail in four tough sets in this one as he ends one home hopes chances in SW19.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: There have been a few players like him in the past, those who seem to beat those they are supposed to and lose to those they are supposed to and Roberto Bautista Agut certainly feels like he fits that billing. The Spaniard is a top 20 player in the World Rankings, but he has found the step up to the top ten a little too much and that has borne out in the results he tends to have against them.

His lifetime record against the top ten is 6-35 and that becomes 2-19 when Bautista Agut himself has been Ranked in the top 20. That is an incredibly poor record as he has struggled to return effectively enough which is a key part of his game. While the serve can be strong enough when facing the players below him on the Tour, Bautista Agut's confidence clearly gets eroded against the better players and that has shown up in the numbers which considerably drop.

He might feel he has more chances against the Kei Nishikori type of player who is happy to get involved in the longer rallies without the strong serve to set up easy points. However Bautista Agut is 0-4 against Nishikori and he has failed to win a set against him in the last two matches between them.

Nishikori has been serving well in his first two matches here at Wimbledon and looks to be over the issue that forced him out in Halle. His own numbers against the top 20 in Grand Slams is not that impressive, but those have generally come against the very best names on the ATP Tour and so I wouldn't read too much into those.

This is also not his best surface for those who are potentially looking at the upset, but Nishikori is looking after his serve and that is going to give him chances to attack Bautista Agut with a strong return game he possesses. That return game is not as strong on the grass courts, but it should be good enough for him against this opponent and I think Nishikori may move through with a routine 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win.

Marin Cilic - 5.5 games v Steve Johnson: You have to credit Marin Cilic for the way he turned around a couple of sets in his straight sets win over Florian Mayer, but it wasn't as easy as the scoreline would have suggested. Mayer served for the first set and was a break up in the third set, but couldn't hold his nerve to take at least a set off of the aggressive returning Croatian.

It bodes well for Cilic in this tournament with the conditions suiting his big hitting game, but the tests keep coming for him. After facing Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer, Cilic has to face another player very comfortable on the grass courts in Steve Johnson and this is a player Cilic won't want to fall behind to too many times.

The key for Johnson will always be how well he serves because there are some limitations in his return game. It is a reason he is 2-19 when facing top ten players in his career because those players tend to return well enough to prevent the American having the kind of holds he enjoys when facing players outside of the elite. That then highlights the troubles on the return and it could be a real issue for Johnson in this one too.

Johnson has not returned as well as he would have liked in his first two matches here against players far below what he will be facing on Friday. At some point I expect Cilic to really start cranking up the pressure on Johnson but the Croatian had lost five straight tie-breakers on the grass before winning one against Florian Mayer and I can see Johnson perhaps stealing a set in this one.

The most likely way that happens is if Cilic drops a tie-breaker though and I think the pressure from the aggressive return will break down the Johnson attack. Even dropping the set I am perhaps expecting, Cilic should still have the chance to overturn this game handicap against a player who hasn't been able to stay with the top players, especially when you see how well Cilic has played against players outside of the top 20 in the World Rankings on a grass court.

At some point the numbers will be too strong in his favour and perhaps lead to a 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 kind of win.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Naomi Osaka: There have been signs that Naomi Osaka is beginning to find her feet on the grass courts having begun poorly but showing more and more confidence in each passing match. She has challenged the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Lucie Safarova on this surface, but the win over Barbora Strycova in the Second Round at Wimbledon was a mighty impressive one against a player who is very good on the grass.

Now it is almost the ultimate test of Osaka's credentials on this surface when taking on Venus Williams who had to battle through a couple of tougher than expected matches. However she has been playing well enough with decent serve and return numbers, although this is a different kind of match for Venus to deal with as there is going to be plenty of power coming back at her.

This has been a tough year for Osaka though who is perhaps struggling under the expectation so many have for her. She is playing well enough, but perhaps not kicked on as expected even though you have to give her time with Osaka yet to hit her 20th birthday.

The problem Osaka has really had on the grass is her return and timing that with the aggression she likes to play. It won't be much easier to pick up the Venus Williams serve, while Osaka's return numbers are not that strong when facing top 20 opposition as she continues to learn her trade on the Tour.

While the Osaka serve can be very powerful, she could find the return of serve back on her very quickly which can be an issue in this match. Venus Williams does return very well when playing those further down the World Rankings and she will feel she can take some swings back at Osaka in this one which can just snap the resistance of the youngster.

I will look for Venus Williams to win and cover this number.

Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Carina Witthoeft: The top Seeds in the women's draw looked vulnerable for different reasons going into Wimbledon this last week, but one I would have been hoping to fade at some point is Elina Svitolina. I've not found the reasons to do that in her first two matches in the draw and Svitolina has actually impressed although she is still learning her trade on the grass courts in what has been a strong season for her.

For some this might not feel an ideal time to back Svitolina when she faces Carina Witthoeft who has been producing some solid numbers over the course of 2017. The serve can be a big weapon for Witthoeft, but the German player has had two tough Rounds at Wimbledon and I worry about her return game on the grass.

Witthoeft has also struggled when playing a top ten opponent where she is 0-7 in her career and the last six of those have come in Grand Slam events. As well as she has played in 2017, I would worry that Witthoeft's losses at the Grand Slam events have both come against top ten players and she has really had a hard time earning enough points behind her serve to hide some of the return issues.

The returning on the grass has not been completely up to scratch either and I think Svitolina is going to be able to attack with some real success. The Ukrainian can be a little up and down with her consistency during the course of the match which will give Witthoeft some chances, but Svitolina's return game should make all the difference over the course of the match.

The defeats Witthoeft has suffered to the top ten players have all come by a margin of at least six games. Svitolina has been protecting the serve well enough to challenge the relatively poor returning stats of Witthoeft, and a potentially fatigued player may fall away with in a 7-5, 6-2 loss.

Caroline Garcia - 4.5 games v Madison Brengle: It can be tough for any player to back up what is considered an emotional upset like the one Madison Brengle had in the Second Round when beating Petra Kvitova two days ago. However I would think it is especially difficult for a player of the ability of Brengle to do that and I can see Caroline Garcia putting together enough solid tennis to overcome her in this one.

The problem for Brengle is that she has to refocus after such a big win and she is relying on being able to outwork opponents. Coming off the high of an upset over the Wimbledon favourite means her emotional energy could have been used up and eventually that does take a toll on the physical energy to keep finding a way to get balls back in play.

The Brengle serve is not going to offer up too many cheap points even if Garcia's returning numbers are not quite to the level it should be. However the Frenchwoman is capable of hitting the ball very hard around the court and she should have a chance to get into rallies on the Brengle serve which gives Garcia the chance to break serve.

Brengle didn't return badly against Kvitova, but it was not as impressive as you would think when Kvitova was showing she didn't have a lot left to give in the match. The American has some poor return numbers against the top players on the Tour and Garcia is almost amongst those when it comes to how well she can serve.

On her day Garcia can put plenty of pressure on opponents with her serve which does work very well on the grass courts. Unlike Kvitova, Garcia has a winning record against Brengle so clearly will feel she can continue to hit close to the lines to penetrate the Brengle defences during the course of this match.

Both of Garcia's wins over Brengle have come by a margin of at least five games, and I think she can serve well enough to put the American under pressure and eventually crack her with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Victoria Azarenka - 3.5 games v Heather Watson: You have to admit when you have read a match wrong and I did read Heather Watson's match with Anastasija Sevastova in the Second Round completely wrong. The British player has reached the Third Round at Wimbledon again, but once again she comes up against a big name in Victoria Azarenka who has been in stunning form at Wimbledon.

After giving birth to her first child, Azarenka made her return to the Tour after an absence of over twelve months when she played in Mallorca. There was some rustiness in her performances there, but Azarenka has been a really strong winner against Catherine Bellis and Elena Vesnina and she has to be feeling really good about her chances to reach the second week of this Grand Slam.

The service numbers have been really impressive from Azarenka who has been getting some pop out of the first serve, but it is the way she has backed up her serve off the ground. That has been particularly noticeable in her return games as Azarenka has taken the game to both Bellis and Vesnina and won at least 46% of the return points in both matches.

I have to give Watson credit for the way she has been playing over the last two weeks and she also played well in a loss to Elina Svitolina earlier on the grass courts. She has looked very comfortable on the grass courts over the last month and Watson has been winning plenty of points against the serve which will make her a threat in this one.

However I do think the Watson serve can be attacked and Azarenka is playing well enough to do that in this Third Round match. They haven't played one another for three years, but Azarenka had dominated the head to head with Watson and I think she will enjoy being back on one of the show courts at Wimbledon where Azarenka can progress to the second week behind a 6-3, 7-5 win.

Simona Halep - 3.5 games v Shuai Peng: Over the years Shuai Peng has produced some very strong results at Wimbledon and it has been her best Grand Slam in terms of number of wins she has produced. Another two can be added to the list after solid wins in the first two Rounds this year, but now Peng has to pick up her play when she takes on Simona Halep who has been in fine form.

Some thought the defeat in the Roland Garros Final would have left Halep in a really negative state of mind, but she looks to be playing with the freedom that comes with being under the radar at Wimbledon. No one expects Halep to win this tournament with the grass perhaps not the best surface for her, but the Romanian has been incredibly strong in her first two matches here.

That comes after a strong showing in Eastbourne and Halep has put together some strong numbers here. The serve is still something of a weakness, but Halep is able to defend the initial attacks against her and turn the points around in her favour, although she will be tested by Peng who will take some big swings against her.

In saying that, Peng has just struggled with her return against top ten players in Grand Slam events and she may feel under pressure in this one if Halep continues powering back her own returns as she has been. Halep has won at least 49% of the returning points in each of her two wins at Wimbledon so far this week and that comes after returning with strong numbers in Eastbourne last week.

I will say that the Peng serve can be a big weapon for her, but Halep should challenge her all the way and I think she can just have the edge in both sets competed in. After a battle with a few breaks of serve, I can see Halep coming through with a 7-5, 6-4 win in this Third Round match.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 8.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Benoit Paire @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov + 7.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Gilles Muller Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 23-26-4, - 4.58 Units (92 Units Staked, - 4.98% Yield)

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