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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

US Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2017 (August 30th)

Tuesday was expected to be a wet day in New York City, but it would have been a big disappointment for the fans at the US Open that there was so little tennis played outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The roof came in handy on the main show court in Flushing Meadows, but the hope would have been that there would have been a few hours of clear weather early in the day on Tuesday. Instead there was very little time which means only the five matches on Ashe and another three or four matches on the outside courts were able to be completed and that means there are a lot of First Round matches being carried over until Wednesday.

For the fans heading to the US Open that may be exciting news with plenty of tennis to come as the bottom half of the Second Round is also scheduled to be played on the same day. With the better forecast it means visitors will have a chance to enjoy tennis until late in the evening as the organisers look to get the event back on track ahead of what may be a few rain delays on Thursday too.

One player who did manage to complete their First Round match on Tuesday who perhaps wishes rain could have aided her cause was Angelique Kerber whose miserable 2017 continues. It has been as surprisingly poor as 2016 was surprisingly successful for the German former World Number 1 who is set to fall out of the top ten in the World Rankings.

It's hard to pinpoint what exactly has gone wrong for Kerber except to say that her game is one that had a fine margin between success and failure in a match. While it all came together for her in 2016, previously she had not shown the signs that she could be a multiple Grand Slam Champion and I do think this may just be a setback as she goes back to a more familiar level.

Don't misunderstand me, I do think Kerber should be a top ten player, but I do think she may have just lost some confidence she had built up in 2016 and that has just seen her regress towards the kind of form she has mainly shown in her career.

Kerber's defeat along with Johanna Konta's one on Monday has really opened up the top of the woman's outright winners market. The one who may take most advantage is Maria Sharapova who beat Simona Halep to see three of the top ten Seeds already beaten in the tournament after just two days have been put in the books.

The return of Sharapova is bringing in plenty of headlines but she has to back it up on Wednesday in the Second Round and prove that her injury concerns are behind her. The theory that her return is not good for women's tennis seems a strange one, and the criticism that she has beaten the Number 2 player in the world ignores the fact that Roger Federer came off a long lay off to win the Australian Open earlier this year.

There is a long way to go before we get to a position to decide the women's Champion here and Sharapova will have to dig deep to beat the remaining names in the draw. Even if Sharapova wins the tournament, I don't think it opens up the women's game to the criticism that some will want to level at it as an open field has made things more exciting. The lay off is seen as a detriment to Sharapova, but she is still a very good player and is arguably the freshest player out there which means any run to the Final may not be as out of left field as some are suggesting.

Only a couple of the tennis picks made on Tuesday were able to be completed over the rain delays so that means the majority of the matches have been postponed until Wednesday. Those tennis picks can be read here.

Lucas Pouille-Jared Donaldson over 38.5 games: The inconsistent 2017 for Lucas Pouille continues, but he will be hoping the comfortable First Round win will help him earn some momentum to at least match the Quarter Final run he had at the US Open last year. There have been title wins and strong runs behind Pouille in 2017, but he had suffered losses in his first match at tournaments played in Washington and Montreal in preparation for the US Open.

One of those losses came against Jared Donaldson who faces Pouille in the Second Round at the US Open on Wednesday. There are some decent things expected from the young American going forward and he has shown some positive signs over the last few weeks back on the North American hard courts.

Donaldson has a decent serve and that should see him remain competitive in this one because he is facing someone whose return is far below where you would expect from a player who is inside the top 20 of the World Rankings. Those struggles from Pouille have been evident in the last few months even when he was winning titles and I do think that gives Donaldson some chance of earning the upset.

When they met in Montreal, it was Donaldson's serve that helped him lay the foundations for his win as Pouille was barely able to have any real impact against it. That has to be a big worry for the Frenchman, although his own serve remains a decent enough weapon at this level.

It does feel like we could see a highly competitive match here with not a lot between them. I wouldn't be surprised if the upset is secured by Donaldson but I expect Pouille to have a chance to win a set or two too with tie-breakers also in play. Both players should win enough points behind the serve to make it difficult for the other to break serve and I will look for this match to surpass the total games in this one.

Mischa Zverev-Benoit Paire over 38.5 games: Initially I had Benoit Paire on my shortlist from the First Round matches to be played at the US Open, but I didn't have enough trust in the Frenchman who has not played well on the hard courts in 2017. Even his preparation for the US Open had been largely disappointing, and that also makes it hard to think of backing Paire as a favourite in this Second Round match.

Take away the stunning run at the Australian Open and the hard courts have not been that kind to Mischa Zverev either. The price for this match may have factored that it as well as the long five setter he had to play in the First Round despite the German being a huge favourite to progress.

Tiredness could be a factor, but the rain delay on Tuesday means this match is going to be played late on Wednesday and gives Zverev plenty of recovery time. At this stage of a Slam fatigue should not be a huge issue for Zverev and his serve-volley game will put Paire under pressure even if the latter has been returning fairly effectively for the majority of the season and that includes on this surface.

There is a contrast in the way these players perform- Zverev is a fairly limited returner with a serve that has set him up for the wins he has earned, while Paire is the better returner but also a player that may give up a couple of loose service games.

It does feel that both players will have their moments in this one and this is another match that could need at least four sets to separate them. I don't want to read too much into Zverev's performance in the First Round but I do still give the edge to Paire overall, but this is a player who rarely wins matches comfortably and I can see both players being confident enough to believe they can win this match.

With the number of sets I am expecting and with a couple of tie-breakers likely to be a key in the match, I will look for the total games to be surpassed.

Yen-Hsun Lu - 4.5 games v Radu Albot: This is the kind of match you may be able to see on the Challenger Tour rather than for a place in the Third Round of a Grand Slam, although that is probably a little disrespectful to Yen-Hsun Lu.

Lu has been a player that has beaten Andy Roddick at a Grand Slam in his career but he has yo-yoed between the Challenger and full ATP Tour in recent years. He has looked far too good for those who spend their time at the Challenger level and the numbers have backed him up as well as the titles Lu picks up at that level, but he is perhaps not as strong when it comes to taking the form onto the main ATP Tour.

Injuries haven't helped Lu either but he has looked good in the last few weeks and the win over Karen Khachanov was a very impressive one. Lu will be expecting to build on that against Radu Albot who has come through the Qualifiers and then beating Ernesto Escobedo in the main draw here, that being his first win on the hard courts at the main Tour level in 2017.

Albot has shown in the Qualifiers that he is good enough to beat those players that may be used to playing Challenger level events rather than full ATP events. However now he faces someone who is almost dominant at that level and I think Lu does have an edge when it comes to the returning numbers that will show up in this Second Round match.

The numbers also show that Lu is the better server in the match and it does feel like this is the kind of match that he should be expecting to win. Lu beat Albot 6-2, 6-1 in Chennai back in January and I do think he will be too strong in this one as he works his way to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to take his place in the Third Round.

Marin Cilic - 7.5 games v Florian Mayer: No one will forget the Wimbledon Final in 2017 when watching Marin Cilic lose himself physically and emotionally and it has taken a few weeks for the Croatian to get back on the court. The former US Open Champion made a solid if unspectacular start to the 2017 version of the tournament and this should be another match up that Cilic is comfortable dealing with.

He did drop a set in the First Round, but Florian Mayer will have to dig deep to even earn one of those in this match. As well as Mayer has been able to play on the clay courts and grass courts, he has yet to turn that form into one he can take onto the hard courts and even his First Round win has to be taken with the added factors around it.

Mayer beating an opponent who is at his most comfortable on the clay courts is not the same as taking on Marin Cilic on this surface. In this one the Mayer serve is perhaps going to be tested more than it has by most players on the hard courts in 2017 and I think that will make a difference for Cilic.

That is especially the case when you think of the limited return game Mayer has been able to produce on this surface and the only concern has to be the way their match at Wimbledon went. On that occasion Mayer had the break advantage in each set before being beaten in three sets and doing that here will make it difficult for Cilic to cover this number of games.

Add in the fact that Cilic may not be at 100% and I imagine Mayer will have some backers. However I can't ignore how erratic the veteran German has been on the surface and I think Cilic will be all the better for having a win under his belt, the first win since Wimbledon. As long as Cilic serves well, I do think he will have his chances to break serve at least five times in this match and that can help him come through with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Kyle Edmund v Steve Johnson: There will be a lot of emotion on the line in this late evening Second Round match and I imagine there will be a strong atmosphere around the court too. Steve Johnson's last few months have been a rollercoaster ride as he tries to come to terms with his father's passing, but the emotional battles can wear down anyone and that may be the reason his recent weeks have been troublesome.

The American did win a couple of matches in Winston Salem to give Johnson some momentum to take into his home Grand Slam although it should be noted that he has perhaps underachieved here. This year Johnson has played well at the Grand Slam tournaments he has played in, but he will have to get the better of Kyle Edmund to get into the Third Round for only the second time in his career at Flushing Meadows.

It was Edmund who ended Johnson's run in Winston Salem and the British player was a deserving winner on the day. That helped Edmund reach the Semi Final in Winston Salem as well as Atlanta over these past few weeks, while he has a really good win over Robin Haase from the First Round to increase the confidence he will be playing with.

I have been critical of Edmund in the past as I feel this is a player that can sometimes fail to find the consistency to really make an impact on the Tour. However he looks to be playing with a little more belief at the moment and his losses to Grigor Dimitrov and David Ferrer on the hard courts can be forgiven.

Johnson hasn't suffered any 'bad' losses except perhaps the one to Edmund over the past few weeks himself. My issue with Johnson is he can be a little limited in what he is able to do with the return of serve and the backhand is an obvious weakness that can be exposed by Edmund.

With the superior returning, I am looking for Edmund to thrive in the atmosphere as he has when representing Great Britain in Davis Cup action. It will feel like a Davis Cup game for Edmund here too but he can handle the occasion and I like him to get the better of Johnson in the Second Round.

Sloane Stephens - 1.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: The women's draw at the US Open has already seen some fabulous matches taking place with titanic battles and some real upsets scattered throughout the first two days at Flushing Meadows. On Wednesday the Second Round begins and there is yet another match that looks like it may take away all the headlines on the day.

Sloane Stephens has made a remarkable recovery over the last few weeks after returning to the Tour from an injury. Strong runs in both Toronto and Cincinnati will have given the American a lot of confidence that she can have perhaps her best ever result at the US Open.

This is a player that won three Slams as a Junior and who has reached the Fourth Round at every Slam on the professional Tour and that has to be respected. However she has now played six Slams without getting to the Fourth Round although Stephens keeps talking about playing without the pressure having just recently returned to the Tour.

Reaching the Semi Final in Toronto and Cincinnati may have just changed the expectations for Stephens and this is as difficult a test anyone can have when coming up against Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovakian 'pocket rocket' is not going to give anyone an easy ride and Cibulkova may have some renewed confidence after reaching the Final in New Haven last week.

After the successes in 2016, 2017 has proven to be a difficult season for Cibulkova who may not have been at 100% at all times. The numbers have remained steady on the hard courts though and that makes Cibulkova a real threat to Stephens especially if she is able to play at a more consistent level than the American who has been up and down over the last few weeks despite battling through for wins.

However the hard courts in New York have not been kind to Cibulkova who has once surpassed the Third Round and whose 'worst' Grand Slam results have come here. I think Stephens will be able to take advantage of that at some stage and I am looking for her to come through with a three set win as well as the cover of this number of games in what could be the match of the day.

Aleksandra Krunic - 2.5 games v Ajla Tomljanovic: Whenever a player wins a match of the magnitude that Aleksandra Krunic did on Monday after seeing off Johanna Konta, I do wonder if there will be a letdown performance from a player who isn't experienced with the big wins.

Krunic has beaten a top ten player before and that was also at the US Open, although on that occasion she was not able to back up the win over Petra Kvitova. However the defeat to Victoria Azarenka was against another big name and it was only a narrow loss for Krunic, and this time around she is facing an opponent in Ajla Tomljanovic who has been blighted by injuries to knock her outside the top 350 in the World Rankings.

The Tomljanovic win over Johanna Larsson in the First Round was a good one, but she is now playing someone who has had a couple of big wins on the hard courts over the last few weeks. Tomljanovic has produced wins at the lower ITF level, but her last two matches before the US Open saw the Australian pull out with injury and you just never know when that is going to reoccur.

A less than 100% Tomljanovic will have some difficulty against Krunic who has beaten Konta here and also Jelena Ostapenko on the hard courts over the last month. Overall she does not have the best results on the hard courts at the main WTA Tour level, but Krunic has to have plenty of confidence in showing her heart to fight back from a set down to beat Konta in the First Round.

The Krunic numbers on the hard courts have also been steadily stronger than Tomljanovic over the last few years and even during the latter's injury freer years. While you don't know how young players react to big wins, I think Krunic is fortunate to not have beaten a former Slam Champion or one of the leading American players which means she may have a chance to avoid the huge media commitments and give her the focus to see off Tomljanovic with a 7-5, 6-4 win.

Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: You could see in the First Round why it can be such a chore backing Carla Suarez Navarro to cover these kinds of spreads as she is always going to throw in a couple of cheap service breaks. That means any missed opportunity on the return of serve could be costly, but I am going to back the Spaniard in the Second Round too when she faces an out of form Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

The Australian Open seems a long time ago now for Lucic-Baroni and a lot of her better form has been in the first half of the season. I do wonder if the veteran is perhaps feeling all the tennis she had earlier in the 2017 year, especially as she is 4-9 since reaching the Semi Final in Charleston.

Lucic-Baroni did beat Monica Puig in the First Round here, but that was a tight, tough battle which went deep into a third set and I do wonder if she has left something on the court. In Cincinnati she was beaten by Carla Suarez Navarro for her third defeat to the Spaniard and I think the latter can frank that form.

It has been a tough 2017 for Suarez Navarro too and this looks like being the third straight year that she will have won fewer matches than the year before. Her hard court form has been disappointing in all honesty and there has been a noticeable decline in the serving numbers behind both first and second serves.

However Suarez Navarro has continued to return well enough to put pressure on Lucic-Baroni and she did reach the Fourth Round here last year. Her serve, particularly the second serve, will likely be attacked by Lucic-Baroni, but the latter's own numbers have a weakness which can be exploited by Suarez Navarro.

The recent confidence is with the Spaniard too and I think she can match the win in Cincinnati and cover this number of games in this Second Round encounter.

MY PICKS: Lucas Pouille-Jared Donaldson Over 38.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Mischa Zverev-Benoit Paire Over 38.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor(2 Units)
Yen-Hsun Lu - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kyle Edmund @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Aleksandra Krunic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

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