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Thursday, 31 August 2017

US Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2017 (August 31st)

Wednesday was a fantastic day of tennis for the fans who were lucky enough to attend the US Open as 87 Singles matches were completed in the one day to get this tournament back on track.

It was good news for the fans, but perhaps not so much for some of the big names with the headline exits coming in the men's draw as Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev were beaten. Both were amongst the favourites here in New York City, while another in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was beaten later in the evening.

The bottom half of the men's draw looks very, very open now and the positions of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been strengthened. Neither is a sure thing to go all the way with a loaded top half of the draw and that is before we get to any potential first meeting of the two superstars at this Grand Slam event.

The likes of Grigor Dimitrov, who won in Cincinnati, and Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2009 US Open Champion will have something to say about that, but the draw looks lopsided now.

Most of the top ladies have managed to work their way through the women's draw on Wednesday with Maria Sharapova coming from a set down to beat Timea Babos and back up her win over Simona Halep. That gives the Russian two more days at the US Open with a chance to enter the second week, but the big threat in the draw looks to be Garbine Muguruza who is playing with plenty of confidence.

The women's draw still looks exciting though with some top players working their way through the section and there could be some brilliant matches ahead if the best players can get to the business end of the tournament.

After a pretty poor Monday, the picks from the last two days have got things turned around for the US Open Tennis Picks. It definitely gives me some momentum to take into the rest of the week, but things can quickly change and I am not going to be getting too giddy about a couple of solid days.

Tomas Berdych win 3-1 v Alexandr Dolgopolov: There have been plenty of negative headlines created by Alexandr Dolgopolov of late with a suspicious loss in Winston Salem last week the one that has been leading the way. He was clearly upset by the suggestions of match fixing which had been put to him by the media in the wake of his five set win over Jan-Lennard Struff.

Now I don't want to say anything about the allegations except for the fact that it was a very strange pre-match drift on the market. Also add in the fact that Dolgopolov has been pride of place on my 'blacklist' for at least three years and you can read into that for what you will.

The suspicions around Dolgopolov means he is most certainly going to be on his guard at this moment and that means we are unlikely to see the silly mistakes that can blight his game. I expect he is going to play the high percentage shot as much as possible, although that is unlikely to happen consistently enough to beat someone like Tomas Berdych.

Berdych was a comfortable First Round winner over Ryan Harrison and I think he can back that up with a win over an opponent he has beaten four times out of five. The last of those came two years ago in Cincinnati and was actually won by Dolgopolov, but Berdych is the kind of steady player that will eventually be able to wear down this kind of opponent.

I do think Berdych is a player that makes more mistakes these days and perhaps has lost a step around the court which will give Dolgopolov a chance to win a set. But I do think Berdych will eventually have too much as Dolgopolov perhaps loses some heart after a physical and emotional win on Wednesday, and so will have a small interest in Berdych moving through in four sets.

Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 games v Andrey Rublev: After winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP Masters in Cincinnati, Grigor Dimitrov has shown he is continuing to come out of a major slump he suffered in his career twelve months ago. Anyone who wins a Masters event has to be respected, but Dimitrov will have seen what happened to Canadian Masters winner Alexander Zverev who was beaten in the Second Round on Wednesday.

Dimitrov has more experience than Zverev and I expect him to handle the occasion when he faces Andrey Rublev. The talented young Russian is someone who has big things predicted for him, but he has been a little inconsistent on the hard courts and I still think there is plenty for him to learn.

One of the big problems for Rublev has been when he is up against the top 50 Ranked players on this surface. His serve is decent, but it is one that needs a lot of first serves to get into play for Rublev to be really effective and I think his second serve will be challenged by Dimitrov who has been returning effectively in 2017.

The numbers are even more problematic when Rublev has faced top 20 Ranked players and I think he may struggle to stick with Dimitrov in this one. At times he will flash the potential that so many have Rublev in possession of, but Dimitrov should be consistently at a higher level and that can show up here.

Rublev has had some solid runs on the hard courts, but mainly at the Challenger level. He has also yet to really show what he is made of against the top players on the Tour and I think mentally he may struggle if he falls behind and that should help Dimitrov ease to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Adrian Mannarino - 6.5 games v Bjorn Fratangelo: It might not have been too often that Adrian Mannarino is being asked to cover such a wide margin of games, especially because he has a serve which can be vulnerable. He is also not a player blessed with power which means opponents do get time on the ball, but Mannarino is consistent off the ground and can move the ball around the court to put opponents into difficult positions.

Mannarino has been effective on the hard courts in 2017 and he has been very strong when facing opponents who are Ranked outside the top 100. The numbers have looked really good in those matches with Mannarino being able to look after his serve effectively and following that up with very strong return numbers.

All of that makes this a really difficult match for American Bjorn Fratangelo who upset Ivo Karlovic in the First Round. That is an impressive result for a player that has struggled to deal with those Ranked inside the top 100 but this is a much more difficult test for him as Mannarino will look to wear him down with consistency from the ground.

The Fratangelo service numbers have not been as impressive as his season totals when he faces those players in the top 100 of the World Rankings and he is also going to have the mental battle of trying to ignore the 6-1, 6-1 loss to this opponent a few weeks ago in Los Cabos.

Over the course of a best of five set match, I would expect Mannarino to get to a similar level of numbers in this match as he did when beating Fratangelo in Los Cabos. While this is a lot of games to cover, I think the Frenchman is capable of winning at least one set with a couple of breaks of serve which can help him do that. I am anticipating Mannarino to work his way to a 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 win in this one to move through to the Third Round.

Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: The benefit of being one of the big names on the tennis circuit is being scheduled to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The roof meant the schedule was completed on that court on Tuesday and also means Roger Federer was able to have a day off to prepare for this match with Mikhail Youzhny whose own First Round win was completed on Wednesday.

Federer took advantage of his day off by heading to practice on the public courts in Central Park and a rare opportunity for fans to have a photo opportunity with one of the greatest players of all time. The day off also meant Federer could rest his body a little bit more with doubts about his physical well being after struggling through the First Round.

That may be a factor later on in this tournament, but for now Federer is fortunate to be playing another veteran in Youzhny. The Russian has never beaten Federer and he has also lost half a step around the court which has been really bad for someone who relies on his movement as much as Youzhny does.

He did well to beat Blaz Kavcic in the First Round, but it has been rare to see Youzhny winning back to back matches in 2017. The serve is one that can be attacked and the slight decline in the movement means he is finding it much harder to protect that side of his game, while Youzhny is going to have a tough task dealing with the Federer serve even if the 'kicker' is limited by the back issues.

This is generally a fairly comfortable match up for Federer and I think he shows that again in the Second Round. The physical problems are a concern, but Federer can speed through this match and I think he can win this match 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Dominic Thiem - 5.5 games v Taylor Fritz: Until something is done by Dominic Thiem about his scheduling issues, I think the young star on the ATP Tour will be a bigger threat earlier in the tennis calendar year rather than towards the end. At this time the fatigue begins to build up for a player that does a lot of travelling and takes in too many tournaments, and I think that has contributed to a poor hard court season for Thiem.

In saying that I still expect Thiem to have a little too much for Taylor Fritz even if the youngster from America is going to receive a lot of home support. Fritz was a solid winner over Marcos Baghdatis in the First Round, but he didn't serve as well as he would have liked and now faces a much better player than Cypriot.

Even in the win on Wednesday, Fritz was perhaps fortunate to get out of the first two sets and a similar level will not be good enough here. Thiem had a much easier day in the office as he concluded his First Round win for the loss of six games and this is a player that will feel confident of getting the better of Fritz as the rallies develop.

You have to respect what Fritz can do behind his serve, but I still think there are some limitations in his game as he continues learning on the professional Tour. Frtiz would like to return better than he has, while he is still throwing in one too many sloppy service games which gives players the chance to move ahead in sets.

That is difficult for Fritz to retrieve and I think Thiem will begin to wear down his opponent the longer the rallies go on. I fully expect to see a tight first set, but Thiem should be good enough to find a way to get in front and then grind down Fritz in a 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

Rafael Nadal - 9.5 games v Taro Daniel: The key in the early Rounds of any Grand Slam event is to make sure you get through with the minimum of fuss and Rafael Nadal certainly did that in the First Round after initially struggling against Dusan Lajovic. Winning the last two sets for the loss of four games will be encouraging, although I am not convinced Nadal can go all the way to the title here.

Bigger tests will come for Nadal who was beaten relatively early in Montreal and Cincinnati, but I am not sure that will come in the Second Round. He faces Taro Daniel who upset Tommy Paul in five sets in the First Round, but Daniel will be the first to admit that this is at least three or four levels higher in terms of opponent.

Daniel didn't need to Qualify for the US Open which shows the improvement he has made, but the successes have mainly come at the Challenger level. His numbers take a significant step backwards when Daniel is playing on the main Tour and now he has to face a player who is going to play every point like his life depends on it.

That is so tough to handle mentally for a player that isn't used to facing the quality that Nadal brings to the court. Add in the mystique of playing the night session on Arthur Ashe and I do think Daniel could have a tough time coping with what is a very difficult occasion.

Nadal has shown he can begin to grind down opponents in these best of five matches and I do think that happens to Daniel too. He may even have a slow start with the occasion getting to him and I think Nadal is able to cover this number of games even if there is little margin for error from the Spaniard.

Elina Svitolina - 6.5 games v Evgeny Rodina: 2017 has already seen Elina Svitolina win the most matches she ever has in a single season on the Tour and this looks the perfect tournament to really announce herself to casual tennis fans. The reason Svitolina may fly under the radar for many is that she has not really turned it on at Grand Slam level yet having failed to reach the Quarter Final in three of the four Slams and that Round being her best result at the French Open (twice).

The Third Round has been as good as it gets for Svitolina at the US Open, and she had to really battle to come through her First Round match. That win came against an under-rated Katerina Siniakova, but Svitolina can gain some confidence from coming through a tight match as she looks to add to the Canadian Premier Event title she won earlier this month.

Her opponent should have plenty of confidence having seen off Eugenie Bouchard in the First Round, although that is a win bigger on paper than on the court these days. It was an upset because Evgeny Rodina had not shown any hard court form in the tournaments leading into the US Open while her overall performances on the hard courts have not exactly lit things up.

Rodina does have some decent power off the ground, but I think she is going to be put on the back foot by Svitolina in this one. That is an issue because the movement is perhaps not the best from Rodina and this is a rare occasion when the fluctuating performances of Svitolina should be more secure throughout this match.

That has been a criticism of Svitolina as she can blow hot and cold too quickly, but this is a match up she has enjoyed having dropped seven games to Rodina over two matches. I imagine something similar occurs here and Svitolina is able to cover a big number in this one as she moves into the Third Round.

Karolina Pliskova - 6.5 games v Nicole Gibbs: This is another huge spread in the Second Round matches in the women's draw on Thursday, but I do think Karolina Pliskova can cover against Nicole Gibbs. This does leave very little margin for error, but Pliskova had a very confident First Round win which has backed up two solid tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati and I do think the World Number 1 will go very close to winning the title here.

The power of Pliskova both off the ground and on the serve should mean she is able to look after that side of her game. The return is still something that could improve in my opinion and Pliskova is not the same player on the run, but Nicole Gibbs is going to have to work very hard to expose those weaknesses.

The American has won three Qualifiers and came through a topsy-turvy First Round match as Gibbs has won three matches in a row in a deciding set. She hasn't faced anyone of the level of Pliskova in that time and the blow out loss to Coco Vandeweghe in Stanford is arguably the best match to judge how this one will go.

Gibbs has had success at the ITF level but the step up to the main Tour has been tough for her and she will know that Pliskova is likely to have her under the cosh whenever she steps up to serve. There is no way this match ends up with another double bagel like when they last met in 2015, but Pliskova is an improved player since then and I am not sure Gibbs can say the same about herself.

It feels very much like a 6-3, 6-2 kind of match for Pliskova and I think she will dominate much of this match to move into the Third Round on Saturday.

Lucie Safarova - 5.5 games v Nao Hibino: 2017 has proven to be an up and down year for Lucie Safarova but she has bounced back from a poor 2016 effectively enough. In fact Safarova may feel she is ready to surpass the 36 career best wins in a season having secured 30 already and I do think she will be a difficult test for anyone in this draw.

However I am not sure Safarova has enough to beat the very best players on the Tour as there has been some struggles with the feeling that her movement and serve are not quite to the level they once were. She is capable of getting to the net and shortening points though and that is another avenue Safarova has to employ to just keep opponents off balance later in the draw.

At this stage of the tournament the Safarova game should be strong enough to see off Nao Hibino who upset home favourite Catherine Bellis in the First Round. That three set win was an impressive one considering the limited form Hibino had displayed in the previous few weeks.

She did reach the Final in a poor tournament in Nanchang, but Hibino's losses to Monica Niculescu and Sachia Vickery on the North American hard courts are disappointing. Both of those came against players who are not quite up to the level of Safarova and a strong serving display from the Czech player would give her every chance of producing a routine win on Thursday.

The Safarova serve is still a big enough weapon in a match like this and I think she can set herself up for a 6-4, 6-2 win to move through.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 games v Kurumi Nara: There is another veteran that I want to back in the Second Round and that is despite Svetlana Kuznetsova struggling to come through the First Round on Wednesday. She did save match point to get through, but I think Kuznetsova can have an all around better performance with the better match up against Kurumi Nara in the Second Round.

It hasn't been the summer that Kuznetsova would have expected as she reached just a sole Quarter Final in Cincinnati after an early loss in Toronto. However those losses came against players like Catherine Bellis and Garbine Muguruza and I can say that Nara is not quite up to that standard.

Nara had lost six matches in a row before winning a couple of Qualifiers in New Haven, but once again she was unable to make it into the main draw. That is generally the level in which Nara finds herself, and she is also 0-8 in matches against top ten players in the World Rankings.

The numbers are not that impressive in those matches either as Nara has just struggled to compete with those players. The serve is one that can be attacked by the top players and I would imagine Kuznetsova is going to be able to take advantage of that delivery for much of the match.

Nara's returning numbers have also been significantly poorer when facing the top players and Kuznetsova has a decent delivery of her own. It just feels that this match will be dictated by Kuznetsova and overall that is difficult for Nara to remain competitive in what may end up being a 6-4, 6-2 win for the former US Open Champion.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Adrian Mannarino - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 9.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 15-12, + 3.16 Units (54 Units Staked, + 5.85% Yield)

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