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United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th)

United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th 2017) If you were going to grade the 2016/17 season...

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Canada Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (August 8th)

Producing a winning record on the first Monday of a new tournament is always a good thing, but I was kicking myself for backing Lucas Pouille again despite my criticisms of his game. It was a bad mistake and not one I am planning to repeat any time soon as he was beaten by Jared Donaldson with yet another really poor returning performance.

In my opinion he has to be one of the weakest players inside the top 20 of the World Rankings, if not the weakest, but I guarantee Pouille will produce his best tennis on the days when I back against him(!)

At least both Daria Gavrilova and Roberto Bautista Agut won their matches relatively comfortably to move through to the Second Round of their respective events in Toronto and Montreal. Tuesday is going to be another really busy day in both events as the remainder of the First Round matches are concluded and the start of the Second Round is also scheduled.

Rain was an issue at both events, as it tends to be at this time of the year, but Tuesday also looks a clearer day which should keep the tournaments on track despite some poor weather to come later in the week.


Ashleigh Barty - 3.5 games v Oceane Dodin: After deciding tennis was not for her, Ashleigh Barty has returned to the Tour in 2017 and looked very comfortable back on the courts. A three year break might just have got the love for the game back into her life and Barty has shown she is more than competitive by working her way back inside the top 100 of the World Rankings.

Winning two Qualifiers to get into the main draw in Toronto will give her World Ranking another boost, especially if she can get the better of Oceane Dodin in the First Round as she is expected to do.

The Australian has a decent all around game which works well on the hard courts, although her serve is always going to be one that is vulnerable. Barty has a really strong 15-1 record on the hard courts when facing opponents Ranked outside the top 50 and the numbers have been very strong in that time which will give her a lot of confidence going into this match.

I do respect the Dodin game as she is a young player who is capable of producing tennis far above her experience would suggest. Dodin has played well enough when facing those players outside the top 50 herself, but 2017 has proved a little more difficult as she has perhaps not had the consistency she would have liked.

I expect Dodin will have her moments in this one, but I feel Barty proves a little too good in both serve and return games which helps her come through 6-4, 6-4 in this one.


Elina Svitolina - 3.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: As much as you have to accept that Elina Svitolina continues to be an improving player on the Tour, asking her to cover any handicap can be a chore with the way her form can fluctuate within the same match. However she has perhaps been at her most consistent on the hard courts and I think Svitolina can get the better of another talented youngster Daria Kasatkina.

It certainly won't be an easy match for Svitolina because I do feel Kasatkina can be the more consistent player over the course of a match. That means she should be able to take advantage when there are dips in the Svitolina form, although the power edge goes to the Ukrainian.

The numbers back up Svitolina in 2017 where she has shown an improvement in both her service and return percentages compared with 2016. Compare that to Kasatkina who has perhaps been a little easier to read on her serves and that has seen players being able to put pressure on her, although the return game continues to be a real strength.

Svitolina's numbers become that little bit stronger when you see how she has performed against players outside the very elite of the WTA Tour. In those matches (versus players outside the top 10 of the World Rankings) Svitolina is winning over 50% of the return points from a sample of twenty matches on the hard courts in 2017 and that is tough to compete with.

I expect Kasatkina to give it a real go, but Svitolina should be able to show her dominance even after the expected dip in form at some point. I will be looking for Svitolina to work her way to a 7-5, 6-3 win in this one.


Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 games v Hyeon Chung: There has been a clear decline in the Feliciano Lopez numbers in 2017, but I am looking for him to get the better of Hyeon Chung in this opening match in Montreal. One concern I do have is that Lopez has not played well in Montreal in the past with his best run at the Canadian Masters coming in Toronto, but his opponent has also had his issues in 2017.

Chung only returned to the Tour in Atlanta after last being out there at the French Open and he has lost both hard court matches he has played against Tommy Paul and Kyle Edmund. While the return game continues to be a strength, Chung's serving has not been up to scratch and that could be a problem against someone like Lopez.

While no one will confuse Lopez with one of the top returners on the Tour, he didn't play badly in Los Cabos last week and the Spaniard's serve is one that can build pressure on opponents. That is going to be the key to the match and it will come down to whether Lopez can impose his serve on Chung, or whether the youngster can continue putting a lot of pressure with that side of his game.

The lack of wins and competitive tennis of late has to be a factor going against Chung though and the losses to Paul and Edmund came in relatively straight-forward fashion. It has been a tough year for Lopez, who is 3-7 in hard court matches, but he will feel he will be given a chance by Chung and I think that is going to be the difference on the day.

It will be anything but an easy match for Lopez, but I do like the chances of the Spaniard coming through with a 7-6, 7-5 win.


David Goffin - 3.5 games v Yuichi Sugita: David Goffin made his return to the Tour over the last month after what looked like a really serious injury at the French Open. It forced him out of the grass court season, and Goffin has yet to really perform to the level we have come to expect from him as he suffered early losses in Umag and Gstaad to players he was a favourite to beat.

Moving back onto the hard courts could be a challenge if Goffin is still not feeling his movement is back to the level it was prior to the ridiculous injury he had at Roland Garros. If that is the case this could be yet another tough match for him as he faces Yuichi Sugita.

However this is the first appearance back on the Tour for Sugita since Wimbledon and he is another player who may need some time to get back into the groove. This is the first match Sugita will be playing on the hard courts on the main Tour in 2017 and he has had his struggles to really get into the return games while also protecting his own vulnerable serve in previous years.

One of the strengths of the Goffin game is his ability on the return and that has been a steady number for him on the hard courts over the last three seasons. What has sparked the improving win percentage is the fact that Goffin has been able to serve a little better and those small details can lead to big things.

The poor results since the return from injury is a clear concern, but Goffin has strong numbers when facing opponents outside the top 20 in the World Rankings on the hard courts. I will be looking for him to find a way to a 6-4, 6-4 win in this one with a number of breaks potentially shared out.


Benoit Paire - 1.5 games v Jared Donaldson: Maybe I am a sucker for punishment, but I am going to be backing Benoit Paire the day after picking Lucas Pouille to win a match. Neither of those Frenchmen are really reliable players, but I think Paire could be underrated to beat Jared Donaldson in this Second Round match.

All credit has to be given to Donaldson for the way he stuck with his task in his win over Pouille on Monday. He served well and didn't go away even when going down a break in the second set, but Donaldson was aided by Pouille's poor return game. That is not likely to be the case on Tuesday with Paire producing some solid numbers on the return, especially when facing players Ranked outside the top 50 on the hard courts.

That is going to be important for Paire who has a decent serve, but can play some really loose shots behind it which give players the chance to break him. His service numbers could be better on the hard courts, but he breaks at a good enough clip to think he can get the better of Donaldson.

As much as I respect the win over Pouille, Donaldson still needs to improve his return game against the better players on the Tour. His break percentage could improve and that almost cost him the second set against Pouille on Monday- doing the same against Paire may not be good enough to escape trouble in this one.

It is the breaks that Paire is putting together which makes me believe he is capable of winning this match and also covering the number. It may go three sets, but Paire should be able to find his way to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win.


Jack Sock - 3.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Any time a player has to win two Qualifying matches to get into a main draw means they should be respected as someone who understands the conditions in play. Pierre-Hugues Herbert might still be better known for his Doubles success, but this is a player that can produce some big time serving when he is feeling at his best and that has to be a worry for Sock.

Sock is coming off an impressive run in Washington, although he may be disappointed he could not get past Kevin Anderson in the Semi Final. He was also a Quarter Finalist in Atlanta and this has to be considered his most productive part of the year as we head towards the US Open.

While the results have been coming for Sock, there is still some real room for improvement, particularly on the return game which is not really up to the standard he would want. Sock is 15-1 when facing a player Ranked outside the top 50 on the hard courts in 2017, but this handicap is all about whether you have the faith in the American to break serve at least twice to have a chance to cover it.

He has gone 4-1 in his last five matches against players outside the top 50 on the hard courts when it comes to covering this number. However I do respect the numbers that Herbert is capable of producing on his serve which can make it difficult to find the right plays to break him down.

Herbert will look to get to the net, but his return game is perhaps not up to the level needed to stay with Sock if the latter is serving as well as he can. That pressure could help lead to a couple of loose games from Herbert and I am looking for Sock to find a way to a 7-6, 6-3 win in this match.

MY PICKS: Ashleigh Barty - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)

Canadian Masters Update: 2-1, + 1.48 Units (6 Units Staked, + 24.67% Yield)

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