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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

US Open Tennis Day 2 Picks 2017 (August 29th)

The US Open may be missing some of the bigger names in both the men's and women's draws, but the fans won't be worrying too much on Tuesday with both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in action on Arthur Ashe.

The organisers have to be hoping both of those players find a way to stick around until the end of the tournament though as the men's draw needs some of the bigger and more familiar names to stick around until deep into the second week.

At the time I am writing this, most of the Seeded players have moved through to the Second Round that began their tournament on Monday. However the biggest casualty came in the women's draw as Johanna Konta was surprisingly beaten in the First Round in an event where I really thought she had a very strong chance of going all the way.

It was a disappointing end to what has been a disappointing hard court summer for Konta and she will have to return home and try and get herself back on track during the Asian swing and make sure she is playing in the WTA Finals in October.

Konta was just one of the players who seriously let me down on Monday in what was a desperately poor start to the US Open Tennis Picks. I simply could not catch a break with some really poor performances from the players I picked as well as slow starts really putting me on the back foot with the picks before the match really had gotten underway.

Nothing makes me feel worse than a poor start to any week, but I have to pick myself up quickly on Tuesday and try and put some positive momentum together. 2017 has simply been a season where I have been playing catch up way more than I would have liked, but I have to stick to the angles and believe that is going to get things turned back around.

It's a frustrating time, but things can quickly change in the Slams with plenty more opportunities to come in the days ahead. On Tuesday I would settle for a winning record to at least make me feel more positive than Monday.

Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: While so many others on the ATP Tour have called it a day for the 2017 season, Richard Gasquet has come back from a back complaint although I am not convinced he is at 100%.  That is the only real concern for me in this match as he faces Leonardo Mayer who has benefited from a 'Lucky Loser' spot in the main draw at the US Open.

Two Qualifier wins will give Mayer confidence and the last time he was a 'Lucky Loser' entrant into the main draw of a tournament saw him leave with the title in Hamburg in July. That clearly means this is a player who will take a second chance to shine in a tournament and that may make Mayer more dangerous than he should be considering the limited hard court tennis he has played in 2017.

Mayer was also something of an unfortunate loser in the final round of Qualifiers as he had his chances to win that match and earn his place in the main draw. The serve can be very effective on this surface which will make Mayer dangerous too especially if Gasquet is not quite up to the level he would require.

However overall you would have to think that the Frenchman is going to be able to create enough against the second serve to get into a position to break the Mayer serve. That won't always come easy, but Gasquet will feel he is the superior player on the court once the rallies develop, while his own serve is one that should be able to keep control of Mayer and limit the damage that he can do against him.

Gasquet does throw in some sloppy games which makes covering this number a little more difficult, but I do think he can work his way to a four set win where he has every chance of getting over the number. I could see Gasquet dropping a tie-breaker at some point, but eventually being able to have enough to come through with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Donald Young - 1.5 sets v Maximilian Marterer: There have been some solid moments for Donald Young through the course of 2017, but the last few weeks could have been a lot better for the American. Young has had some incredibly disappointing early losses in tournaments on the hard courts since Wimbledon, and the most disappointing aspect will be that all four of his losses this summer have been as the favourite.

That alone makes him hard to trust in this First Round match against Maximilian Marterer who has come through three Qualifying Rounds to take his place in the main draw. Marterer also had a couple of wins in the Qualifiers in Cincinnati which can add together to give him some belief to take into this match.

However there is a different feel when playing at a Grand Slam and in the main draw and this is the first time Marterer will have experienced that. The youngster is yet to win a main draw match at the ATP level too so both of these factors contribute to what could be a tough match for Marterer in the First Round.

Add in the fact that Donald Young has played his best Grand Slam tennis at Flushing Meadows and I can see why he is the favourite to win the match. The losses recently would be a worry as Young has really let himself down at key moments in some of those matches and doing the same here would be gifting Marterer a chance to get into the match.

Young has managed to win at least one match at the US Open in each of the last two seasons and I will be backing him to do that here. Marterer has struggled with his return when playing main Tour matches and he did have some troubles with that aspect of his game in his Qualifier wins in Cincinnati and here at the US Open. Young has to take advantage of that himself by not giving too much away and doing that should lead to a three or four set win.

Marcos Baghdatis v Taylor Fritz: If you're at the US Open on Tuesday and looking for what may be the match with the best atmosphere, this feels like this could be the match to look out for. Taylor Fritz is one of a number of young American players with a bright future on the Tour, so will receive plenty of home support, and he faces Marcos Baghdatis who is beloved wherever he plays.

I have to say I was a little surprised to see Baghdatis as the underdog even if he is not the player he once was. He didn't play in Montreal or Cincinnati, but Baghdatis had some solid wins in Washington and Winston Salem and I do think he is still a real challenge for players lower down the World Rankings like Fritz.

As much as Fritz may be a player that could achieve some very strong things on the Tour in the coming years, he has had an inconsistent 2017 so far. While he has beaten a former US Open Champion in Marin Cilic, defeats to the likes of Liam Broady and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe on the hard courts are not so impressive.

Fritz does have a decent serve which can see him run through games against a returner like Baghdatis who has struggled with that aspect of his game. However the Cypriot is someone who can produce some flashy returns which may give him a chance to put pressure on Fritz as long as he is serving up to the standard he can produce.

Both players will feel this is a good opportunity to progress, but I still give Baghdatis the narrow edge at the moment so will back him as the underdog in the match.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 sets v Andrey Kuznetsov: There has been a noticeable decline in the Feliciano Lopez numbers on the hard courts as the veteran begins to reach the back end of his career. While the Doubles performances have remained steady, the Singles performances on the hard courts have made Lopez a little more vulnerable these days.

Even a slight decline in the service numbers can hurt someone like Lopez who has a fairly limited return game and won't recover breaks of serve as effectively as so many others on the Tour. It has put more pressure on the Spaniard to make sure the serve is working as well it should and that has led to a losing record on the hard courts.

However I still think Lopez has every chance of beating someone like Andrey Kuznetsov whose best performances have come on the slower surfaces. The Kuznetsov return game is also one with plenty of room for improvement and the one fear for the Russian is that he is someone who will throw in a poor service game or two in a set.

That would be hugely costly against someone like Lopez especially if Kuznetsov is not able to get his teeth into the return games as his numbers suggest he will find difficult to do so. Kuznetsov has not played well on the hard courts so far in 2017 and matching the Third Round run at the US Open in 2016 is going to be very difficult for him.

His opponent hasn't exactly been pulling up too many trees on the surface in 2017 himself, but I do think Lopez has the steadier serve which can see him move through to the next Round in three or four sets.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 5.5 games v Tim Smyczek: After winning the title in Kitzbuhel, Philipp Kohlschreiber has taken some time off from the Tour and that has meant missing the hard court swing over the last month. The question is whether that is going to play a factor in this First Round match as the veteran takes on Tim Smyczek who has already won three Qualifiers to get into the main draw.

This is the third tournament this summer that Smyczek has Qualified for on the main Tour and the confidence from winning matches has to be helping him prepare for this challenge. Those wins have mainly come against opponents who are not of the level of Kohlschreiber and I also think it is important to note that Smyczek has yet to win a match on the main Tour over the last few weeks despite those Qualifier wins.

It is a big ask to beat Kohlschreiber despite the German only being 10-6 on the hard courts in 2017. However his numbers on serve have remained steady over the last three years with the improvement made by Kohlschreiber coming in the returning side of things which has helped him produce a solid winning record on the surface.

The numbers just haven't been as strong for Smyczek which is perhaps not a great surprise considering he is Ranked almost outside of the top 200. The Smyczek serve can begin to get a little predictable while he does tend to struggle when facing top 50 Ranked opponents.

One concern for Kohlschreiber will be trying to avoid the complacency that can filter into his game at times when matched with those players he is expected to beat. I am hoping the crowd will play a part in creating an atmosphere which makes this the competitive environment in which Kohlschreiber won't lose focus. If that is the case I would expect Kohlschreiber to find his way to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Ryan Harrison: There have been some positive moments for Tomas Berdych in 2017, but there have also been plenty of signs that this is a player on the back end of his career. The return game has been lacking enough times to put Berdych in an almost impossible position to win matches and the lack of tennis between Wimbledon and the US Open has to be a concern.

He will be facing Ryan Harrison and a pro-Harrison crowd in the First Round at the US Open, but this has previously been a match up that Berdych has enjoyed. He has won all three previous matches against Harrison which includes a four set win over the American at Wimbledon a couple of months ago.

On that day only a sloppy performance in the third set gave Harrison any chance after Berdych dominated much of the match. Harrison has a fairly limited return game and that is going to make it tough to get into the Berdych service games which in turn puts plenty of pressure on Harrison's own serve.

While that is a decent weapon for Harrison, he does throw in a sloppy game or two per set and that is the reason he has struggled to really put the consistent wins together. 2017 has been a better season in general for Harrison, and he did reach the Final in Atlanta last month, although Harrison has since gone 1-3 in his next three hard court tournaments.

Berdych also beat Harrison at the Australian Open back in January and it was only that poor third set at Wimbledon where the latter has been given a chance to win a set. Overall the match has been on the Berdych racquet and I am looking for the former top ten player to work his way to a 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 win to move through to the Second Round on Thursday.

Barbora Strycova - 4.5 games v Misaki Doi: There are a number of matches on the women's side of the draw where the initial feeling is that there will be a number of breaks of serve. This First Round match between Barbora Strycova and Misaki Doi does feel like one of those matches and that will make it a little dangerous to ask one of the players to cover as many games as in this one.

However I do think Strycova has enough of an edge to get the better of Doi for long enough to get the job done and that is why I am looking to keep her on my side on Tuesday. While the Strycova serve can be a little inconsistent, in general it is a decent weapon for the Czech player and she is facing an opponent who has not always produced the kind of returning that would be required in a match like this.

The faster surfaces can give Doi trouble on the return and that is where Strycova has to feel she can at least double the breaks of serve that her opponent is able to put together. Strycova also has a serve that can be strong on her day, whereas Doi is less likely to keep the pressure off of her serve and that can help contribute to this number of games being covered.

Strycova has won both previous matches against Doi including coming back from a set behind to lose just two more games on her way to a win in Wuhan in 2016.

Neither player has been in great form on the hard courts this past few weeks but Strycova looks to be the stronger player all around on this surface. After a few battles in games, I think Strycova will begin to win the bigger points and she can come through with a 6-4, 6-3 win to move past this test.

Coco Vandeweghe - 4.5 games v Alison Riske: Two American players meet in the First Round of the wide open women's draw at the US Open, but if any of these two are being tipped up for glory in New York City, it has to be Coco Vandeweghe. Reaching the Final in Stanford will have given Vandeweghe encouragement, although her results since then have been difficult with two losses to Madison Keys and one to Agnieszka Radwanska.

To be fair to Vandeweghe, she is not facing someone of that level when taking on Alison Riske in the First Round here. Vandeweghe crushed Riske when they met at Wimbledon a couple of months ago and the recent form by the latter is not exactly inspiring ahead of this match.

Riske has lost her last three matches on the hard courts and she has won just twelve games in that time. Her serve is one that can be attacked and even a returner like Vandeweghe, who has struggled on that side of her game, can get enough looks to play first strike tennis against a weak delivery and put Riske on the back foot.

The Vandeweghe serve is a big weapon, but she can be guilty of failing to back that up with some poor groundstrokes, although I do think this is perhaps a match up that she can enjoy. Riske can defend well and that can extract errors from Vandeweghe, although it is tough to do that continuously on the faster hard courts.

There will be moments when Riske is able to put Vandeweghe on the run and earn the errors, but I think there will be plenty more chances for Vandeweghe to hit through the ball and put Riske on the back foot. After a while that power should prove to be the difference maker for the higher Ranked American and Vandeweghe can move through with a 7-5, 6-2 kind of win for a place in the Second Round.

Kirsten Flipkens - 3.5 games v Madison Brengle: There are a lot of similarities with the way Madison Brengle and Kirsten Flipkens approach their tennis on the court and I imagine there are going to be some rallies between them. The difference may be the slightly superior serving that Flipkens is able to produce, while another key to the match may be her ability to get up to the net and shorten the points.

The latter aspect of the Flipkens game could be a huge advantage against Brengle who employs a lot of looping balls when trying to stick in rallies while on the run. That defensive work can be solid enough against those who are wanting to stick to the baseline, but someone like Flipkens can sneak in and put away volleys to just force Brengle to change her own game plan.

Flipkens should also be confident with a 9-3 record on the hard courts over the last few weeks which included a run to the New Haven Quarter Final a few days ago. That has given her enough time to recover physically from the five matches won there and also means Flipkens should be feeling very good about where her game is.

The hard courts have been a surface on which Brengle has been able to produce some solid results even if she has not been able to play a lot of tennis since Wimbledon. That does make her someone that Flipkens will need to respect, although the Belgian player has beaten her twice in the two previous matches and that includes a crushing win over her on the grass in Hertogenbosch in June.

The serving has been working, Flipkens has continued to return effectively and has the head to head to all lead to me picking her to get past Brengle and cover this number of games.

Madison Keys - 4.5 games v Elise Mertens: You have to give Elise Mertens a lot of respect for getting as much out of her game as she has been in 2017 and she can be a tough customer to get past. Even with that in mind, Madison Keys is entering the US Open as one of the leading home contenders to win the title and has been playing well enough over the last few weeks to feel she can go far.

Keys won the title in Stanford and was only narrowly beaten by the in-form Garbine Muguruza in Cincinnati which is good form to take into the US Open. Last year Keys reached the Fourth Round at the US Open, but the big hitter looks to be rounding into form at the right time.

She can't overlook this First Round opponent after seeing Elise Mertens reach the Semi Final in New Haven last week. Mertens was able to get the better of some solid hard court opponents in that run before Dominika Cibulkova was too strong for her, but she will feel she can get the better of those rallies that last more than five or six shots.

Getting to that stage will be difficult as Mertens will have to deal with the Keys power and also find a way to get some effective returns from the first serve. If she can do that the upset could be on, but Mertens could find it difficult to keep Keys from attacking her own serve which makes it tough to see that happening consistently enough.

Last year Mertens was able to win a set from Muguruza when they played in the First Round here, but I think Keys may prove to be a little more solid in this one. There will be some tough moments to ride out, but Keys can come through with a 7-5, 6-3 win to give the night crowd on Arthu Ashe something to celebrate before Roger Federer begins his own US Open journey.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Donald Young - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Marcos Baghdatis @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Barbora Strycova - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Kirsten Flipkens - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

US Open Update: 3-6, - 6.68 Units (18 Units Staked, - 37.11% Yield)

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