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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Wimbledon Tennis Day 6 Picks 2017 (July 8th)

I have to begin this thread by saying I am a little irritated with the lack of luck some of my picks have had in the last couple of days. The numbers have pointed to what should have been successful picks, but players have not been as clinical as their opponents when it has come to the break points.

Marin Cilic's win over Steve Johnson kind of summed things up.

Cilic dominated Johnson, completely outplayed him from start to finish barring two blips on serve which were both gobbled up by the American. Yet Johnson kept saving break point after break point under pressure and somehow only lost by a margin of five games despite constantly being under the cosh.

It happens and the only positive for me is that it was clearly the right selection that needed a sprinkling of luck to come in.

Karen Khachanov needed that same sprinkling of luck when he was cruelly denied a chance to break serve in the third set of his loss to Rafael Nadal. I have to credit the young Russian who is showing all of the signs of being able to become a real force on the Tour. Consistency will come with the more matches he plays, but Khachanov returns very well too and is more than just a big serving baseliner and I am a big fan of his.

The one positive so far is that the outright selections have almost all made it into the second week and look in a decent nick going into that. Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic both play on Saturday, and are favoured to progress, and it would give me a chance to get this Wimbledon tournament back on track for the picks.

Andy Murray did make it harder than it perhaps should have been when getting past Fabio Fognini, but that says more about the kind of enigmatic character Fognini is. Now he has the weekend to rest before an assault on another Wimbledon title which is what every player who is in action on Monday will be thinking to themselves.

Milos Raonic - 6.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: A former Wimbledon Finalist will always be respected when back on the lawns in SW19 and Milos Raonic is quietly going through the draw. He has not been completely convincing, although anyone who has a serve as big as the Canadian is going to be a real threat on this surface.

Facing this serve is going to be a real challenge for Albert Ramos-Vinolas who had to battle through five sets to earn his own place in the Third Round. There is no doubt the Spaniard is not completely comfortable on the grass and he does tend to have issues when facing top ten players who just have a little more in the locker compared with Ramos-Vinolas himself.

Ramos-Vinolas is 1-8 when facing a top ten opponent in Grand Slam events, although that was a win over Raonic in Paris. However beating Raonic on the clay is a completely different task as to facing him on the grass and Ramos-Vinolas is 0-3 when facing a top ten player at Wimbledon where his return issues on this surface are most highlighted.

There is a feeling around that Raonic is not at 100% which does make it dangerous to back him here, and especially when asking him to cover what is a very big amount of games for a returner who does struggle. However he hasn't been returning too badly over the last few weeks on grass and now faces Ramos-Vinolas whose serve can be put under real pressure.

It shouldn't be a factor, but Ramos-Vinolas did spend some time out on court in the heat of Thursday having to come through a five set match. He is a clay courter so has to be used to some long matches, but it can be at the back of the mind if Ramos-Vinolas falls a couple of sets behind which may give Raonic the chance for a double break of serve in the final set.

Raonic's serve should keep him in front for much of the match and I think he can come through this one with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 kind of win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 games v Dudi Sela: This might initially look like a disrespectful amount of games being given to Dudi Sela considering how well he has played on the grass courts over the last few weeks. He has reached the Quarter Final at one Challenger and won another, while the two wins Sela has had here this week might indicate that he is feeling very good about himself.

The way he battled back to beat John Isner was impressive, although Isner is not as strong on the grass as most would think. This time Sela is facing a real grass court player in Grigor Dimitrov who has played some very strong tennis already this week with the serve and return both in good order.

I still don't consider Dimitrov a real contender to win the title at Wimbledon because I would like to see more out of his return game in general. However that hasn't been a problem for him so far this week as he has won at least 46% of the points against the serve and more impressive is the conversion rate of break points that have come his way.

Those wins over Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and Marcos Baghdatis have improved Dimitrov's record to 9-1 at Wimbledon when facing players outside the top 50 in the World Rankings like he will be playing on Saturday. His return numbers are actually much better in those matches than they are in general on the grass and I think Dimitrov will be able to exert some real pressure on Sela.

As much as I respect the wins Sela has had over the last few weeks which is going to improve his confidence, the Israeli has struggled when facing players who are inside the top 20 of the World Rankings. Sela's return game is solid enough to cause some problems if he is able to find the right connections and Dimitrov's serve can sometimes see the Bulgarian break down, but it is the Sela serve which really gets dominated against the best players.

I expect Dimitrov will be able to get into a few of the Sela service games and it will take something special from the latter to improve his 1-15 record against top 20 opponents in Grand Slam matches. It will be tough for Sela to keep holding serve in this one and I think Dimitrov will work his way through to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win to move into the second week.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Mischa Zverev: It seems unlikely that Mischa Zverev is coming into this Third Round match at full health having really been struggling two days ago in his five set win over Mikhail Kukushkin. He needed to see the trainer that day and Zverev was on the brink of being beaten from 2-0 up in sets, and now the challenge in front of him is arguably as difficult as it can get when he faces Roger Federer.

These two played out a close match in Halle a couple of weeks ago, although that was mainly because Zverev was able to serve his way out of trouble on a couple of occasions. That is also a potential with the German who will serve and volley all day, but Federer will know exactly what is coming and he has played well against left-handers in 2017 which should mean he is able to move through relatively easily.

The question is whether Federer can do enough to break down the Zverev game and cover what is a big number. He managed to do that in Melbourne at the Australian Open as he crushed Zverev for the loss of just eight games, and Federer has been serving so well that it is hard to imagine him being broken more than a couple of times over a three set win.

Federer has some really impressive numbers when facing opponents who are Ranked outside the top 20 and it is in these matches that Federer really does return effectively enough to earn his breaks. He will know what Zverev is going to do and Federer should be able to make things awkward enough for the German to find a way to get into rallies and create the angles to pass him at the net.

It has been tough for Zverev to match the very best players and his record against top 5 players shows that with his serve being not as impactful as he would like. That may happen in this one too and I am not sure he is going to see too many chances on the Federer serve to escape a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 kind of loss.

Dominic Thiem - 6.5 games v Jared Donaldson: The grass courts are proving to be a puzzle that Dominic Thiem has yet to really solve, but he has shown that he can still produce a heavy hitting game on the surface. His two wins here at Wimbledon have come against players that many would consider solid grass court opponents, and Thiem has come through with relative comfort in those matches.

Thiem has been returning well and the only negative for him in the first week here is that he has not converted the break points at an efficient rate as he would have liked.

If Thiem does make it through to the second week in London, there are going to be some big tests ahead for him, but Jared Donaldson may not be as tough as some players could be once you reach the Third Round of a Slam. Donaldson's performances of the grass still need work too, and a real issue has been that he does not get enough from the serve to put pressure on opponents.

That should mean Thiem, who has been returning well enough, should once again be in a position to earn the majority of break points in this match. His serve still gets some pop off the surface, but the Austrian tries to be a little too aggressive which means he may give Donaldson some chances too, although the American's returning numbers on grass have generally not been that strong.

Donaldson might be more of a challenge for players over the coming weeks when the Tour moves to the United States hard courts, but this might not be the surface for him where he struggles for his rhythm. It was Thiem who beat Donaldson fairly comfortably on the clay courts of Madrid a couple of months ago, and Donaldson is yet to really compete with opponents in the top ten of the World Rankings.

This is the weakest of the surfaces for Thiem, but Donaldson is only in the Third Round thanks to a very kind draw and I think the Austrian wins this one 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Tomas Berdych - 6.5 games v David Ferrer: The poor returning at the big moments were once again on display from Tomas Berdych who had to expend more energy on the court on Thursday than he needed to. That was all because he dropped the third set against Ryan Harrison despite serving for the match, but Berdych has still made his way through to the Third Round on Saturday.

It is clear to most that Berdych is simply not returning as well as he once did and that is likely to be a real factor once we get into the second week and the big opponents stand in front of him. It will be an issue in matches over the next few months too and is something to keep in mind when Berdych is being asked to cover some big numbers against better players than the ones he has faced this week.

In this Third Round match he faces a fellow veteran in David Ferrer who has significantly gone backwards in both his return and service games. The Spaniard doesn't hold serve easily at all these days and Berdych will feel he still possesses the power on the serve to put Ferrer under all kinds of pressure in this one.

Berdych has got the better of recent matches between these two and I do think a strong serving day, which Berdych does still produce for the most part, will set him up for what could be a relatively straight-forward win. You can see the steady decline in the Ferrer number over the last twelve months and I think he has had his moment at Wimbledon when surprising Richard Gasquet in the First Round.

It will be a huge surprise if he can win this one too and I think Berdych gets the better of an opponent who is 2-9 when facing top 20 Ranked players since the beginning of the 2016 season. Once upon a time Ferrer would be a real challenge for any player on the Tour but he breaks considerably less than he did and finds it much more difficult to hold onto his serve against the top players.

I think Berdych can return just well enough to crack the Ferrer serve a few times on his way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win and a place in the second week at Wimbledon yet again. You can get the 5.5 handicap, but I think the numbers point to a slightly easier day for Berdych and I will back the odds against quotes that he covers an additional game.

Gael Monfils - 5.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: I love hearing tennis players speak with a little more honesty than the cliched responses they generally give out so it was refreshing to hear Gael Monfils say he is still not quite understanding how to perform his best on the grass. You might not have guessed that after seeing Monfils reach the Final in Eastbourne last week before two solid wins in the main draw at Wimbledon, but there is a lack of belief in his game on this surface.

Usually I would think someone like Adrian Mannarino could be under-rated against Monfils, but the number of games being given to him don't seem to be enough. Mannarino is a very solid grass court player, but Monfils has dismissed his challenge at Wimbledon in the past and Mannarino has some real questions to answer about how his hip is feeling as well as trying to pick himself up from a five set win over Yuichi Sugita.

The physical and emotional effort put into that match is likely to have an effect on his performance in the Third Round as the heat keeps sweltering in London. And it has to be noted that as well as Mannarino has played on the grass, he has yet to really bridge the gap to the opponents he has played who have been in the top 20 of the World Rankings.

Mannarino is 1-8 in those matches on the grass, including losing to Alexander Zverev and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Hertogenbosch and Queens respectively in June. He has struggled to make the returns to get into a position to break serve as well as he can do on the grass and Mannarino isn't going to win too many matches with less than 70% service holds and under 59% of the points won behind serve on any grass court.

Now he has to face Monfils who has at least produced slightly better numbers on the grass over the last month than his career in general on this surface. Even if he doesn't say it himself, Monfils has to be playing with more confidence, while the Frenchman is also 10-1 in Grand Slam matches against left-handed players not called Rafael Nadal.

In 9/10 of those wins Monfils has covered this number of games and that includes a win over Mannarino here two years ago. While the latter has had some results on the grass, I am looking for Monfils to continue into the second week with a 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 win.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v Ernests Gulbis: It feels like a lifetime ago that Ernests Gulbis was amongst the elite of the ATP Tour, but injuries and a loss of form have seen him slip way down the World Rankings. The two wins this week are going to be very important for Gulbis as he bids to move back up the Rankings, but it is a surprise to see Gulbis performing as well as he has on the grass courts.

The win over Juan Martin Del Potro was very impressive especially in coming in straight sets and Gulbis' serve has to be respected even against the best returners on the Tour. If he is hitting his marks, Gulbis is very hard to contain on his own serve, but actually winning this match means producing the kind of returns that he is not really known for on the grass.

The return numbers have steadily declined since 2013 across the board, but Gulbis never really had a lot of success on the grass courts. Novak Djokovic will be confident having won the title in Eastbourne last week and producing a really good performance in the Second Round and he has been looking after his serve well enough to think he can keep Gulbis from getting too much from the returns.

No one will doubt the confidence Gulbis has in his own game, but I think it is still a big ask to produce the tennis he needs to make this a really competitive match. The serve is the key for him and Djokovic's returning numbers in 2017 and their decline has been a strong part of the reason that he has not performed as well as in previous years.

However Djokovic has shown he might be getting somewhere close to his best over the last couple of weeks and I do think the former World Number 1 will be a little too good for a player who hasn't had a lot of wins in recent months. Gulbis has taken some one-sided losses in that time and I think Djokovic may just wear him down as he bids for his place in the Fourth Round on Monday.

After a couple of tight sets, I will look for Djokovic to pull away in a 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: This match would be a really difficult one for Sorana Cirstea in normal circumstances, but she might also be dealing with the emotions of seeing what happened to Bethanie Mattek-Sands at first hand. Cirstea and Mattek-Sands are friends off the court and that would have an affect on anyone if they would see their friend lying in complete and utter pain.

We will never know who would have won the match if Mattek-Sands never suffered what looked like a brutal injury, but the numbers suggested the American was on top. The grass courts are simply not the surface that Cirstea has enjoyed and now she takes on a former Wimbledon Finalist in Garbine Muguruza who has impressed with her two wins this week.

Muguruza has struggled with her game since winning the French Open title in June 2016 and her numbers have just declined across the board compared to her overall performances in 2015 and 2016. While she has had two wins of quality this week, the Spaniard has really been up and down from day to day that you can wonder which Garbine Muguruza will take to the court on a given day.

She hasn't always performed at her best on the grass, but Muguruza has tended to produce her best at Wimbledon compared with Cirstea whose numbers have just declined slightly in matches played at Wimbledon compared with her overall grass numbers. The Romanian has really had a hard time when facing top 20 opponents on the grass as she has seen her serve being attacked and her own return game not getting the kind of traction she would want in those matches.

In Melbourne Muguruza proved she was far too good for Cirstea and I think she will frank that result. On that day the return was devastating and the serve worked wonderfully, and Muguruza may feel she can get something similar going on the grass courts although perhaps the margin is a little tighter than at the Australian Open as I expect the Spaniard to win this one 6-3, 6-4.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 games v Polona Hercog: The grass courts have never been the favourite surface of veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova and I am not sure she really believes in her ability to win the title at Wimbledon despite the open nature of the women's draw. However she will continue to take it a match at a time as she quietly makes her way through a section of the draw that has lost some big names already.

There are still enough names that I would favour over Kuznetsova, but one of those is not Polona Hercog who has made her way through the Qualifiers and into the Third Round. You have to respect the fact she has won five straight matches on the grass, but she has not faced someone as strong as Kuznetsova who tends to be too good for the lower Ranked players in these Grand Slam events.

Hercog might be better than the Ranking suggests, but she is on her way back from injury and this is not someone who has thrived on the grass in the past either. Before this tournament, Hercog didn't have great numbers on the grass at Wimbledon and Kuznetsova has shown some really solid returning so far at this event and in general on the grass to think she can keep her opponent under pressure.

The Russian has been particularly strong when she has faced players from outside the top 100 in the World Rankings at Grand Slam events and I think Kuznetsova will be in a strong position in a number of return games. It would be nice if she can have one of her better serving days in a bid to cover this number, but it could happen against a relatively poor returner in Hercog who has beaten players she perhaps would have expected to.

When Hercog has stepped up to play top 10 Ranked players, she has a 1-17 record and has struggled in both serve and return departments. 10 of those 17 losses have come by a margin of at least six games and I think Kuznetsova can do enough in a 7-5, 6-2 win.

Alison Riske-Coco Vandeweghe three sets: Two American grass court specialists play one another for a place in the second week at Wimbledon and both Alison Riske and Coco Vandeweghe may feel this is as good a chance as they will have to win a Grand Slam Singles title.

The more likely winner of the match is Vandeweghe, but I can't shift the fact that Riske has won the last three matches and also holds a win over her on the grass courts. Riske is playing some inspired tennis of late with an under-rated serve being backed up by some impressive returning.

Playing aggressively off the ground has proved to be the winning formula for Riske, although now she faces one of the better female servers on the Tour. Vandeweghe's easy action penetrates the courts here and she will feel she can put Riske under enough pressure to see her snap in her own service games.

The numbers over the last month certainly favour Vandeweghe and Riske has been overpowered by the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova on this surface. That has to be a concern for Riske fans, but her head to head to with Vandeweghe will give her confidence and Riske has played well at Wimbledon in her career.

Riske has played seven top 30 Ranked players at Wimbledon and while she is 2-5 in those matches, all but one has gone the distance. The Vandeweghe numbers are really impressive on the grass courts, and I do think she will ultimately win this one but may have to go the distance to do so.

Usually the power hitting game of Vandeweghe doesn't produce too many deciders on the grass as she will either blitz through an opponent or make too many errors to reverse a match back in her favour. However she has won and lost a set twice over the last month on the grass and this feels like a match that may need to go all the way before we find our winner who is moving into the Fourth Round.

MY PICKS: Milos Raonic - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alison Riske-Coco Vandeweghe Three Sets @ 2.50 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Wimbledon Update: 28-32-4, - 5.52 Units (113 Units Staked, - 4.88% Yield)

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