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Thursday, 31 May 2018

French Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2018 (May 31st)

A couple of holdovers from Tuesday didn't come in as winners, but Wednesday proved to be a very good day at the French Open with the Picks producing a strong winning day.

One match has been delayed until Thursday, but there is some positive momentum behind the Picks as we complete see the Second Round completed. There are plenty of matches on the schedule on Thursday, but the weather forecast looks to have taken a turn for the worse and there are expected to be some delays over the coming days with the potential that at least one day is a complete write off.

It will only increase the pressure on the organisers to bring the French Open up to speed with the other Grand Slams as the last one without any roof- at this time all the other Slams are set to go with two roofed courts at the very least to make sure fans are still able to see action when the weather is not playing ball.

Sometimes Grand Slam events can be a little boring early in the tournament with a number of mismatches in the early Rounds, but that has not been the case at the French Open. I really haven't seen as many of the favourites being pushed this early in a Slam and I mean both in the men's and women's tournaments.

There have been some upsets with the most notable being the exit of defending Champion Jelena Ostapenko from the women's draw, but the majority of the time the favourites have handled the pressurised spots and still managed to come through matches where they have been put under immense pressure.

A couple of those players were in my outright selections but both Simona Halep and Alexander Zverev got through some difficult moments to make their way into the next Round. Halep is back in action on Thursday having had to complete her First Round match on Wednesday, but she will be better for the manner of her recovery against Alison Riske, while Zverev won a match that he has been losing at Grand Slam level which will only increase his confidence in a difficult half of the men's draw.

I have been offering up some analysis of my Tennis Picks so far this week and adding the remaining selections to the 'MY PICKS' part below. That has worked so well and I don't want to change a winning formula so will apply the same on Thursday. As the tournament progresses I will begin to put down my analysis for each Pick going forward once we hit the Third Round on Friday.

Steve Johnson - 1.5 sets v Jan-Lennard Struff: You wouldn't really associate the clay courts as being a surface on which Steve Johnson would enjoy a lot of success but his performances over the last couple of years have been encouraging. The American has also played well enough at the French Open in recent years and has the chance to reach the Third Round for the third time in four seasons including 2017.

This time last year it was the emotions helping Johnson produce some of his best tennis on the clay as he looked to honour the memory of his father who passed away unexpectedly in May. That saw an emotional Johnson playing and winning two matches at the French Open and he clearly feels more at home on the surface now.

Johnson's serve has proved to be a major weapon for him during the clay court swing in 2018 and it was a key to him getting past Adrian Mannarino in the First Round. After saving a number of break points early in the match, Johnson moved forward with confidence and maintained the numbers which have helped him hold over 85% of service games on the surface.

There is more room for improvement on the return of serve but Johnson may have some success against Jan-Lennard Struff who is a comfortable clay courter but who has had a hard time when he steps up his level. His serve is not one that offers up as much in terms of easy points as Johnson's will, although Struff is a competent returner who won't miss the same amount of break points as Mannarino did.

The German dominated Evgeny Donskoy in the First Round but that is surprisingly only his second win at Roland Garros despite the clay court pedigree. That underlines how difficult the step up has been for Struff when facing top 50 Ranked opponents on this surface and I think Johnson is going to be good enough to reach the Third Round here again.

There are likely to be at least one or two key tie-breakers for my selection, but I think Johnson wins this match in three or four sets to move past Struff.

Marton Fucsovics-Kyle Edmund over 35.5 games: The British Number 1 coming into the French Open is Kyle Edmund and it may be argued he is even more comfortable on the clay courts than Andy Murray was in the early years on the Tour. Edmund has had some of his best results on the surface and his numbers back up the comfort he has developed on the clay which makes him a big favourite to make it through to the Third Round.

But don't sleep on Marton Fucsovics who won the title in Geneva last week.

The layers are expecting Edmund to dominate proceedings and he will be tough to beat if he is serving at his very best. However I don't think Edmund will have everything going his way in this one against a player with the confidence of having won a title last week even if some of his performances have been erratic on the clay courts this year.

Fucsovics is clearly comfortable on the surface having dominated Vasek Pospisil in a manner a good clay courter should do. He has also been consistent behind the serve over the last two years and Fucsovics has won 42% of points behind his opponent's serve in each of the last three seasons.

That is the kind of consistency that gives Fucsovics a chance to at least win a set in this one, although actually beating Edmund is going to be very tough. The Edmund serve has been huge for the British player and he holds a large amount of his games and doesn't offer up a lot of chances to break when he is at his best. Edmund has also been returning as well as he ever has on the clay courts and he is definitely a player that could cause problems for higher Seeds later down the line.

I am expecting Edmund to get through this match, but I think we may see at least four sets played between these two in the Second Round and the total games market looks a touch short of games for me.

Pablo Cuevas-Kevin Anderson over 39.5 games: If you like your tennis featuring huge serves and powerful groundstrokes and rallies that don't really extend too far I think this could be the Second Round match for you. Kevin Anderson is a top ten player these days and comes in as the favourite, but he is facing a clay court specialist in Pablo Cuevas who has shown good form in 2018.

It is Cuevas who comes in with the more impressive First Round win having dominated Aljaz Bedene, but Kevin Anderson has a game that can take the racquet out of anyone's hands when at his best.

Anderson also holds two tight wins over Cuevas which may aid him, even though the last of those came in 2014 when the South African was not as strong as he is now. His serve is always going to be very difficult to break, but it is going to be even tougher for Cuevas who has struggled with big servers on the clay courts throughout his career which is underlined by his three set loss to John Isner in Madrid.

That was on a quicker clay court than these two play on in Paris but I think break points will come at a premium for Cuevas.

The same can be said for Anderson considering how well Cuevas serves on the clay and he is holding over 80% of his service games in 2018. That number stays steady when facing the big servers too so Cuevas can handle the pressure that comes from the scoreboard ticking over, while Anderson has shown to have some real troubles in the return aspect on the clay.

It does make Cuevas an appealing price as the underdog, but I think a serve dominated match has every chance of going pretty long. I would be surprised if both players are not able to take a set each in this one and it may come down to a point or two here with perhaps even some luck playing a part in determining a winner.

I wouldn't really put anyone off from backing Cuevas to win this one as the underdog, but I am going to play the total games and look for at least four long sets to be needed before someone is able to walk away with the win.

Elise Mertens - 5.5 games v Heather Watson: A long run without a win was ended in Nuremberg last week and Heather Watson was able to back that up with another in the First Round at the French Open. She was perhaps fortunate to be drawn against an opponent who was in even worse form than Watson, but that is not going to happen in the Second Round on Thursday and the British player will have to really perform above expectations to make this a competitive match.

Watson faces Elise Mertens who is one of the stronger clay court players out there and who has two wins over Watson on hard courts in her career including a three set win in Hobart back in January.

This surface should favour Mertens even more and I don't think Watson will be able to produce the tennis she did on the hard courts and have the same success on the clay. Watson's numbers have taken another decline across the board in 2018 compared with last season and her losses on the clay courts have come against players who are not as competent on this surface as the Belgian she faces in the Second Round.

Over the last two seasons Mertens has produced some really strong returning numbers on the clay courts which have helped her record a 17-7 record, while she is 14-1 in 2018 with two titles earned. Mertens has been even better when facing players outside of the top 20 in the World Rankings with all fourteen wins in 2018 coming against those players and Mertens having been 11-3 against them in 2017.

After a tough First Round win, I think it is safe to say Mertens is almost back to full health after a bacterial infection forced her to withdraw from the Rome Premier Event too. I am expecting Mertens to put Watson under real pressure on the return of serve, especially if Watson isn't able to get enough first serves in play and I think that will mentally wear down the British player.

It should be noted that Watson is a decent returner herself and the Mertens serve can be a little weak at times, but the higher Ranked player has been producing stronger numbers all season on the clay and I like her to win this one and clear the handicap.

Simona Halep - 6.5 games v Taylor Townsend: Just for a few minutes it felt like Simona Halep was going to be the victim of the biggest upset of the French Open through the first few days of the tournament. The women's favourite was down a set to Alison Riske and looked a little lost, while it won't have escaped Halep's mind that while she has reached six Quarter Finals in her last eleven Slams she has also had four First Round exits in that time.

There was a Champion quality displayed by Halep to not only turn things around against Riske but to lose just two games in the final two sets shows the confidence she has on the clay courts. That is not a big surprise considering Halep has arguably been the most consistent player on the surface over the last few years and should really have had at least one Grand Slam title here.

Halep's numbers remain very strong on the surface and it is going to take a big effort from someone to stop her in Paris.

I don't think that someone is going to be Taylor Townsend who is yet to really get to grips with clay court tennis or the move from the Junior to the Pro game. The powerful return could be a problem for Halep if she is not getting enough first serves in play, but Halep's return should put the American under significant pressure too and I expect that to aid her breaking down Townsend's game.

Halep has won her last sixteen matches on the clay courts against opponents Ranked outside the top 50 and those have been played over the last three seasons. Her numbers have continued to improve in those matches as her consistent hitting and ability to turn defence into attack very quickly has been tough for those players further down the Rankings to really compete with.

I think that happens in this Second Round match and Halep will be expecting to dominate Townsend in the same fashion she did on the hard courts in Cincinnati in August 2017.

Townsend once upset Alize Cornet at the French Open, but she is 0-3 against top 50 Ranked opponents on the clay since that win in 2014. The American has won 12 games and lost 36 in those next three matches and I think Halep can cover this very big number by picking up where she left off against Alison Riske.

MY PICKS: Steve Johnson - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marton Fucsovics-Kyle Edmund Over 35.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Cuevas-Kevin Anderson Over 39.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Elise Mertens - 5.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Julia Goerges - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Rafael Nadal - 10.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 8.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 20-18, + 3.06 Units (75 Units Staked, + 4.08% Yield)

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

French Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2018 (May 30th)

The French Open is just behind the perfect schedule having seen a number of First Round matches forced to be played on Wednesday thanks to some poor weather affecting the timing of the tournament.

The weather is going to continue posing a problem in the days ahead, but the organisers have scheduled all the remaining First Round matches early on Wednesday with a full day of play expected to get through.

The Second Round gets underway on Wednesday with the bottom half of both the men's and women's tournaments taking the lead. I actually think the bottom half of the men's draw is much more fascinating than the top half, especially at this stage of the tournament, and there are at least two stand out matches that will be great to watch on Wednesday.

The Tennis Picks had a decent Tuesday, but it should have perhaps been even better if Maria Sharapova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had held themselves together at key moments- Sharapova was leading 6-1, 4-3 with a break of serve before losing six games in a row and then winning the last six games to miss the cover by a single game. Pavlyuchenkova had a match point at 5-4 in the second set, but missed the opportunity to close the show and ended up winning in a tie-breaker which meant another match missing the cover by a single game.

That is frustrating to say the least, but generally it has been more positive than not.

One element that has bothered me is the number of big spreads I have taken on which have not come close to being successful- I won't completely rule those handicaps out, but I am keeping a keen eye on whether that improves in the next couple of days and will keep the results in mind before Wimbledon begins in July.

Below I have put out a full analysis of a number of the Tennis Picks from the Second Round and I have added the remaining Picks to the 'MY PICKS' section.

Federico Delbonis-Pablo Carreno Busta over 37.5 games: You would think that Pablo Carreno Busta would be comfortable with the match up with Federico Delbonis but it is the latter who has dominated the head to head. However their one sole meeting at the French Open was won by Carreno Busta in four sets two years ago and it goes to show where the two careers have gone in that time when you remember Carreno Busta was the underdog in that win.

This time he comes in as the strong favourite to progress to the Third Round and Carreno Busta has played some of his best tennis in the Grand Slams over the last twelve months. That is a big reason his World Ranking is as strong as it is, but Carreno Busta has not been at his very best during the clay court season.

Even in the First Round Carreno Busta dropped a set and his inconsistent play has seen him being forced into longer matches than he would like over the last couple of months. The serve is a vulnerability and that will also make Carreno Busta a player who can drop sets unexpectedly, while Federico Delbonis can definitely take advantage of any of those issues.

The lefty serve is awkward for players to deal with and Delbonis is very comfortable on the clay courts with some strong results in recent weeks.

He played well in the First Round and will certainly have his chances to break the Carreno Busta serve and this match has all the makings of one that could go four and potentially even five sets. I think both players will have their moments and picking a winner is not as straight-forward as the odds may suggest.

Instead of that, I am looking for Carreno Busta and Delbonis to combine for enough games to surpass the total games line.

Marco Cecchinato - 1.5 sets v Marco Trungelliti: The story of Marco Trungelliti being given a late call to return to the French Open as a Lucky Loser and having to undertake a nine hour journey from Barcelona back to Paris would have been memorable regardless of the result in the First Round. The fact that Trungelliti made it through past Bernard Tomic has only increased the 'fairytale' nature of the story and the Argentinian will feel this is a winnable match for him.

He takes on Italian Marco Cecchinato who had to come back from 0-2 down in sets to beat Marius Copil in the First Round. That will have given him confidence, but you don't want to be forced into those tough spots too often as they take away both mental and physical energy which is so important to players in Grand Slam events.

Last season these players would have been playing at a similar level on the Challenger Tour, but Cecchinato has been able to take his game onto the main Tour. Winning a maiden ATP title in Bucharest was an impressive performance from Cecchinato, while the numbers have remained strong on the clay courts.

Cecchinato has held at 80% on the clay courts and he is returning well enough to think he can challenge the Trungelliti serve. It also has to be noted that the latter has simply not played too many players of the quality of Cecchinato and Trungelliti has dropped to 0-6 when facing top 100 Ranked opponents over the last two seasons on the clay courts.

His win over Bernard Tomic did come against a player not at his best on the surface and one who has been out of form. This isn't the case for Trungelliti when he faces Cecchinato and I think the Italian is going to be a little too good over a couple of hours on the court.

I will be looking for Cecchinato to win this one in three or four sets as the emotions of the last few days get the better of Trungelliti who has also not been as effective against those players Ranked in the top 100.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Jaume Munar: It might not have been a perfect performance from Novak Djokovic in the First Round, but he was a dominant winner and perhaps a little unfortunate not to have won by a much larger margin than he did.

The serve wasn't working too badly, but Djokovic can struggle to get out of those games when his opponents do fashion break point chances and that has to be a concern the deeper he goes into the French Open. In general winning 69% of points behind serve should mean it is going to be difficult to break Djokovic, but that may be tested by youngster Jaume Munar.

However Munar is coming off a hugely emotional First Round win having come from 0-2 down in sets to beat David Ferrer who might have been a player that Munar looked up to growing up. While it is true Ferrer is on the slide in his career, it was still a huge achievement for Munar to win that match and he has to find a way to get himself ready to go in this one.

Faving the former World Number 1 should help Munar focus, but he will have to protect serve a lot better than he did against Ferrer. Novak Djokovic has been retuning well enough on the clay courts over the last couple of months and won 49% of the return points in the First Round which suggests he will put Munar under some pressure.

Generally Djokovic has dominated players Ranked outside the top 50 on the clay courts over the last couple of years. He has a far superior break percentage compared to his overall numbers when facing those opponents and I think Djokovic should be capable of making this a slightly more comfortable day in the office.

Munar has been returning effectively on the clay courts, but facing the very best players is not something he is yet used to and I think Djokovic can cover this number with a little more focus expected when the big points are played.

Fernando Verdasco v Guido Andreozzi: The layers have set this Second Round match as a pick 'em contest after both Fernando Verdasco and Guido Andreozzi had to come through five set matches in the First Round. I do think the layers have been influenced by the fact that Verdasco's match was much tougher having spent almost an hour longer on the court, but the Spaniard is vastly experienced and can recover to win this match.

The price could also be influenced by what has been an under-par clay court season for Verdasco who has taken a couple of really poor losses in that time. The overall numbers have not been too bad, but Verdasco is much more erratic these days than when he hit his peak a number of years ago.

You could see that in his performance in the First Round as he dominated a couple of sets, but struggled behind the serve to really influence matters in the other three sets. Verdasco did hold himself together for long enough to win the match though and I think he will be feeling good about himself for managing to do that in the fifth set after dropping a fourth set breaker.

Guido Andreozzi has to show he can handle the emotion of a five set win and his limited experiences at this level have to be taken into consideration. Andreozzi spends the majority of his time on the Challenger circuit and while he builds up his wins at that level, he is just 3-3 in main Tour matches on the clay in his career.

You have to respect the way Andreozzi has been playing on the clay courts this season and he has decent serve and return numbers which make him dangerous. However he has yet to show he can do that consistently at the same level whenever he has moved up to the main ATP level and I think it is a tough match up for him against an enigmatic player like Verdasco.

I won't be surprised if this is a match that goes the distance with the way Verdasco seems to be involved in rollercoaster matches of late, but I think the veteran Spaniard gets the better of Andreozzi and I will back him to win this match.

Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 games v Jared Donaldson: I was very tempted to oppose Grigor Dimitrov in the First Round when it looked like he was supposed to be facing Victor Troicki, but that opportunity may come later in this tournament. There is no doubt that Dimitrov is going to be overrated on the clay courts because of the general improvement of his play which has yet to have the same increase in successes on this surface as it has on others.

However that opportunity should not be here in the Second Round as Dimitrov faces American Jared Donaldson who was a fortunate winner in the First Round against Nicolas Jarry.

The latter is going to be kicking himself for not taking the chances he had to knock off Donaldson who made the use of almost all the break points that came his way. However Donaldson continued to struggle with the consistency on the return of serve and I think that is going to aid Dimitrov who does have some strong numbers when serving on the clay against players outside of the top 20 of the World Rankings.

One of the major reasons Dimitrov has not been able to put a strong run of wins together on the clay courts is that he has not returned as well as he should have on the surface. He was good in the First Round against an overmatched opponent and I think Dimitrov will have success against Donaldson who had been winning less than 60% of his service points on this surface over the last couple of months.

Donaldson did serve much better against Jarry, but Dimitrov is a better returner than the South American and I think he will be able to break down the American's game. As long as Dimitrov maintains the focus I would think he is good enough to win and win well on the day.

I expect his opponent will have set or a set and a half being very competitive, but I think Dimitrov will work his way to at least one set where he wins with a double break of serve. That should set him on his way to a win and a cover on Wednesday despite the big number in front of him.

MY PICKS: Federico Delbonis-Pablo Carreno Busta Over 37.5 Games @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Marco Cecchinato - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori  - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
David Goffin - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Stefanos Tsitsipas + 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Anett Kontaveit - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 13-13, + 0.32 Units (52 Units Staked, + 1% Yield)

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

French Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2018 (May 29th)

The remainder of the First Round matches are going to be completed at the French Open on Tuesday and the Seeds have to be a little wary after seeing so many of their fellow professionals exiting the tournament over the last couple of days in both the men's and women's events.

Upsets in the Grand Slams always occur and the majority of the leading contenders have managed to work their way through to the Second Round.

Monday was unfortunately a more difficult day for the Tennis Picks with some of the bigger names struggling to dismiss challengers in ruthless fashion. There have been some missed opportunities, but it is too early to dismiss the selection choices as we move into the final set of First Round matches.

The majority of my Tennis Picks on Tuesday come from the men's draw after my research was concluded, but I don't care where the winners come from as long as they do come.

With the First Round concluding on Tuesday, I will place a link to my outright preview and picks for the last time here.

Bank Holiday Monday means time spent with the family and that also means I have to offer up a full analysis for around five Tennis Picks and the rest will be added to the 'MY PICKS' section below. With the long weekend over, I should have full analysis for the Tennis Picks going forward through the rest of the tournament, but I have done the same level of research for every Pick made.

Pablo Cuevas - 1.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: Both Pablo Cuevas and Aljaz Bedene would have hoped they could have been given the kind of draw that would see them pick up some big Ranking points from the second Grand Slam of the season. Both have impressed on the clay courts, but this looks like being a very close match with little between them.

In saying that I do favour Pablo Cuevas who might have been he slightly stronger of the two players, but tight matches means it is going to come down who plays the big points better on the day.

Cuevas and Bedene are both very effective servers on the clay courts which gives them the platform to put the wins together on this surface. It is Cuevas who has the narrow advantage on the serve having held 85% of games compared with Bedene's 77% and I do think that slight difference is going to prove the difference even if there is every chance both players win at least one set in this one.

Neither player has been as effective on the return of serve as they would have liked, although I do think the competition faced has something to do with that for Cuevas. When Cuevas has faced players Ranked outside the top 50 on the clay his service numbers have been steady, but he is winning a slightly higher percentage of return points compared with his overall numbers and that leads to more break opportunities and around a 30% break percentage.

Bedene has strong numbers against players Ranked outside the top 50 too, but his are slightly inferior to Cuevas' and I think the South American can win this in four sets which should give him every chance of covering this game handicap.

This is the first match between the two and it should be an intriguing watch, but I like Cuevas to just get out of a couple more jams on serve and find the breaks to win this match.

Marin Cilic - 9.5 games v James Duckworth: The really big numbers have not been very kind to me so far at the French Open with a number of players failing to cover after slow starts to matches. That could be a potential problem for Marin Cilic who gets his French Open campaign underway on Tuesday, but the match up looks a very good one for the former US Open Champion and I think he should be too good for James Duckworth.

Much of that is down to the fact that injuries and loss of form means Duckworth has not played on the clay courts since losing in the First Round at the French Open in 2016. In fact Duckworth has suffered so many injuries that he has played just four matches since January 2017 and the Australian has not taken to the court since the Australian Open back in January this year when losing in the Qualifiers.

The Duckworth career numbers on the clay courts have not been bad, but a lack of familiarity is one issue and the other is facing a top player like Cilic who is comfortable on the surface.

Over the last two seasons Cilic has really shown some strong form on the clay courts and his numbers have actually improved in 2018 compared with a strong 2017. However that is really in the total points percentage won, which is clearly a big indicator, and Cilic himself will feel that he is returning well enough to improve his 29% break percentage to get closer to the 37% percentage he held in 2017.

Playing at the level he does, Cilic doesn't really face too many players Ranked outside the top 100, but he is 6-0 in that spot on the clay courts in the last two seasons. His return numbers are very strong in those matches and I think he will put Duckworth under some real pressure once he gets to grips with the Australian's game after a set is played.

Cilic has dominated players Ranked outside the top 50 on the clay too and those numbers can be replicated in this match as he covers a big number.

Denis Shapovalov - 1.5 sets v John Millman: One of the players who is likely to make a big impact on the Tennis Tour in the years ahead is Denis Shapovalov who has a flashy game that will draw a lot of fans behind him.

Playing on the clay courts are still not something Shapovalov is at his most comfortable though and I think the young Canadian could be an overrated player in the French Open with the layers pricing him up on potential and form on the other surfaces.

In saying that I am going to back Shapovalov to win his First Round match against John Millman who has had a stellar season on the clay courts which have come as a surprise. The Australian had not won a clay court match in the last couple of seasons before somehow putting it all together and reaching the Final in Bucharest at the Tour level before winning a Challenger in preparation for the French Open.

The return of serve has been huge for Millman in his successes this season on the surface, but getting that kind of joy against Shapovalov will not come easy. Shapovalov has held serve 81% of the time in 2018 and he is a tough player to break down considering how well be backs up a big serve.

Where Shapovalov has had his issues is on the return of serve, but Millman does not have the biggest serve and his own numbers are around 10% down on Shapovalov when it comes to the hold of serve. There will be times when Millman is able to make a few big returns to give himself a chance of the upset, but I think the majority of the break points will be earned by Shapovalov even in what have to be tough conditions for the Canadian.

He may drop a set and may be someone to oppose in the Rounds ahead, but I like Shapovalov to progress in three or four sets in the First Round.

Steve Johnson - 1.5 sets v Adrian Mannarino: The clay courts have always been a problem for players from American to solve, and that has especially been the case in recent years on the men's side of the draw. There are a number of American players in the draw, but they have a similar style with the big serve backed up by powerful forehands which seem to be most effective on the faster surfaces.

However John Isner has shown that the extra time you get to wind up the groundstrokes on the clay courts can be beneficial for the game and Steve Johnson looks to have taken that on board with some successes on the clay even after moving to Europe.

Johnson won the title in Houston, but that clay court seems to play much quicker than most and it is the run to the Semi Final in Geneva that will have impressed a little more. He has been very good behind serve with the 85% hold percentage an increase from the 80% number of 2017.

The key for Johnson is always going to be how effective he is at returning on any given day and that remains a real weak part of his game. He may be aided in this First Round match by Adrian Mannarino who has struggled on the clay courts yet again in 2018 and whose serve remains very vulnerable on this surface with a sub 70% hold percentage in each of the last three seasons.

The Frenchman will have the home crowd support but he has not returned as well either which has caused problems for him during the clay court swing. When you are having issues holding serve and also retrieving breaks of serve then it is going to be a long day in the office for any player.

As long as Johnson remains engaged and keeps the rhythm going on the serve, I think the American wins this in three or four sets and moves through to the Second Round at the expense of the home player.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 sets v Jeremy Chardy: There have been clear signs that Tomas Berdych is on the decline as a player for some time now and his best days are clearly behind him. It has been a tough twelve months for Berdych who is slipping down the World Rankings and he heads into the French Open still searching for his first clay win in 2018.

The numbers are significantly down for Berdych in 2018 compared to previous years with his hold percentage down to 72% compared with 80% a year ago, while the problems on the return that Berdych has experienced in the last couple of years have been highlighted during his three game losing run on the clay.

It should be noted that Berdych has not benefited from a kind draw in any of the tournaments he has entered though with losses to Kei Nishikori and Richard Gasquet before a narrow defeat to Denis Shapovalov. Berdych was the better player in the Shapovalov loss but a loss of form means the confidence has been affected.

I do think the Czech player can get back on track by at least winning his First Round match in Paris against home player Jeremy Chardy. The Frenchman has also seen his service numbers decline this year compared to those from previous seasons on the clay, although Chardy has been returning better than you may expect from him.

Those numbers have been much more to what you would expect when you see how Chardy has performed against top 50 Ranked opponents on the clay courts and I still think he has some improvement to make to win a match like this one. He is dangerous with a big serve that can produce some cheap points, but the overall numbers have taken a step back in each of the last four years when facing the better players on the Tour on the clay.

Both players will have to deal with the nerves that come with a loss of form, but I like Berdych to get the better of Chardy here. I have a feeling he may get it done in four sets, but I will back Berdych to win in either three or four sets as he looks for another strong run in the Grand Slam events.

MY PICKS: Pablo Cuevas - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 9.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Steve Johnson - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jan-Lennard Struff Win 3-1 @ 4.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Leonardo Mayer - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

French Open Update: 8-8, + 0.80 Units (32 Units Staked, + 2.50% Yield)

Sunday, 27 May 2018

French Open Tennis Day 2 Picks 2018 (May 28th)

The majority of the matches scheduled for Sunday managed to get through on Day 1 at the French Open despite some sketchy weather reports in Paris. The first few days of the tournament do look like they will be affected by the weather, but the split of the First Round across three days should ensure the tournament remains on track.

Sunday looked to have started serenely with the top names all managing to get through without any scares, but then we have Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko both beaten in the First Round.

Williams' defeat is perhaps less of a surprise considering she has not had a lot of clay court success, but Ostapenko going out in the First Round as the defending Champion was a real upset and opens up the Third Quarter of the women's draw.

Later on David Goffin had to dig deep to come from 0-2 down in sets to beat Robin Haase in five sets- while it is always a positive to get through in the Grand Slams, Goffin may feel he should not have had to come from such a deficit having made some key mistakes at critical times in the first two sets.

On Monday there are a huge amount of First Round matches scheduled with some of the leading contenders all set to get their Grand Slam underway. With more matches come more picks after a winning start to the tournament on Sunday thanks to Goffin's fightback against Haase.

A little more consistency with the Picks is the demand I have for myself though and those from Monday can be found below. I am putting out my analysis for the men's First Round matches to be played and I will add the women's matches to the 'MY PICKS' section for this day.

You can also read my outright preview and picks from the tournament here.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez v Stan Wawrinka: In a normal situation Stan Wawrinka would be going into this First Round match as a big favourite, but injury has held him back over the last several months and there are signs he has not fully recovered. At least Wawrinka has been able to take his place in the main draw of the last couple of events, but a 1-2 record on the clay courts aren't great reading for him.

Being back at the French Open may be a good time to turn things around for Wawrinka who has reached the latter stages of this tournament a number of times including the Final in 2017. As a former winner he knows how to get it done at the French Open, but the last time he was beaten in the First Round here happened to be at the hands of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who opposes him on Monday.

There are clear signs that Garcia-Lopez' game is on the decline which has to be considered, but he played well enough to push Dominic Thiem all the way in Lyon last week. That should have given the Spaniard confidence even if he has struggled against the very best players throughout his career on the clay courts.

Wawrinka has been going through some timing issues which is an issue for his style when coming off a long lay off and I do think it will be tough for him here. Garcia-Lopez has been serving well enough to put the pressure on Wawrinka who has struggled with his return in his three matches on the clay courts this season.

Perhaps the best of five set format will give Wawrinka a chance to work his way into this match, but I think it might come a little too soon for him. While Garcia-Lopez is not exactly one of the top clay courters in the world, he plays solid enough tennis to give himself a chance of upsetting Wawrinka at Roland Garros in the First Round for the second time in his career.

The Spaniard as the underdog has to be worth chancing in this one.

Stefanos Tsitsipas - 7.5 games v Carlos Taberner: This looks a really big mismatch as far as I can tell, although you have to take down some of the enthusiasm when backing a young player in a Grand Slam like I am going to do with Stefanos Tsitsipas. He doesn't have the same kind of experience as Alexander Zverev, but we have seen how the young German has had his issues in making a breakthrough at the Slam level and Tsitsipas is not near the level Zverev has produced all year around.

Even with that in mind, I think Tsitsipas has produced some high quality tennis on the clay courts in 2018 and he is clearly one to take note of for the future on this surface. That level is far above what Carlos Taberner has produced, although you have to respect the Spaniard for coming through three Qualifying Rounds to make the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

That is important for me as I think there will be just as many nerves in the Taberner game as there is in the Tsitsipas game- while Taberner is not used to playing at this level, Tsitsipas is dealing with the new expectation around him which can play on a young players mind.

The Tsitsipas raw numbers are very encouraging though with a big serve being backed up by some strong returning and Taberner will have to have a career best performance by a huge margin to remain competitive. His serve is likely to be put under pressure by Tsitsipas and the latter has also managed himself well in matches against those players Ranked outside the top 100 with a solid 3-0 record against them on this surface in 2018.

Taberner is 0-3 when facing top 100 opponents in his career and I expect that to drop to 0-4 at the end of Monday. While he can make a set competitive, I think Tsitsipas' pressure will see Taberner wear down here over the course of a couple of hours and the 'Next Gen' star can work his way to a convincing win.

While a big number, Tsitsipas should have every chance of covering in the First Round thanks to a superior all around game than Taberner as long as he holds the nerves together.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Rogerio Dutra Silva: The general feeling is that Novak Djokovic is still some way short of his best tennis, but there are definite signs he is getting back to his very best which were on display in the clay court season. While it would be a stunning win if he takes the title home in Paris, I do think Djokovic could be a real threat at the US Open later this season if he manages his improvement as he has been.

It is correct to assert that Djokovic has not reached the level that he was producing when he was the World Number 1 or when he won his French Open title, but the improvements being made are clear to see.

Djokovic was holding at 80% during the clay court swing and he is breaking at 31% which are down on his stellar 2015 numbers, but still very good compared to so many on the Tour. The display in losing to Rafael Nadal in Rome would have increased the optimism around Djokovic and those kinds of numbers should be good enough to beat Qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva.

All credit to the Brazilian for making his way back into the main draw, but he hasn't had much success at Grand Slam level and his general numbers are influenced by a lot of success against players not of the quality that Djokovic will bring. Dutra Silva has been a challenge for the top 50 Ranked players he has faced this season by taking a set each time, but he is 0-3 in those matches and both his hold and break percentages drop significantly compared to the rest of his clay court numbers.

The Brazilian has a poor record against top 20 Ranked players on the clay, and I think it is a big ask for him to match last season by taking a set off a top player like Milos Raonic on the clay courts. Novak Djokovic is a much different challenge than Raonic and the strong wins he has put together on the clay courts in 2018 against the lesser lights highlights the challenge in front of Dutra Silva.

Once Djokovic gets into a rhythm, I expect a strong win to show up on the scoreboard in this match.

Dusan Lajovic - 4.5 games v Jiri Vesely: A first look at the number being set for the handicap of this match does make for interesting reading, but I think the match is on the racquet of Dusan Lajovic. He has been in very good form on the clay courts in 2018 and comes into this with real confidence, although Jiri Vesely has shown he is very adept at playing on this surface himself.

The problem for Vesely has been injuries and a loss of form have seen him slip down to playing Challenger events at the same time Lajovic has found a successful formula for playing on the main Tour. While Vesely would have been the favourite even two years ago, the layers have this right by flipping those odds.

Generally the numbers have been strong from Vesely on the clay courts in 2018 despite his 7-6 record which suggests there are still some confidence issues to overcome. Also it can't be forgotten that I've stated the majority of his time has been spent off the main Tour and Vesely is now 0-4 on the clay courts against top 100 Ranked players this season.

Losing to a player Ranked almost down at 500 in the World in the Heilbronn Challenger won't have given Vesely a lot to believe in and now he faces Lajovic coming in off another strong week on the Tour. There is room for improvement on the return of serve, but Lajovic's 83% holding percentage on the clay courts could set him up to put Vesely under some real pressure in this First Round match.

Lajovic has also been more successful when being drawn to players Ranked outside the top 50 when his hold percentage improves to 86% and his break percentage improves to over 36% in producing an 11-2 record.

It is Vesely who won their two previous matches, but both came back in 2013 and I think an improved Lajovic can get the better of the Czech player in three or four sets which will give him the chance to cover this handicap.

Rafael Nadal - 11.5 games v Simone Bolelli: This is a huge number for any professional tennis player to clear against another but just goes to show how strongly the layers feel Rafael Nadal is playing on the clay courts. Facing a competent clay courter like Simone Bolelli doesn't matter for the layers, and I tend to agree with them that the World Number 1 can produce a big performance to send out a marker to the rest of the field.

His Italian opponent is coming in as a Lucky Loser, although I am not sure how lucky Bolelli feels right now with the prospect of facing Nadal. This isn't the first time these players have met at Roland Garros with Nadal destroying Bolelli for the loss of five games a few years ago.

Something similar may happen if Bolelli struggles as he did in his final Qualifier when beaten 6-0, 6-2 by Santiago Giraldo who is nowhere near the level Nadal produces on this surface. While Bolelli's general clay court numbers will be strong, he is just 3-7 against top 100 Ranked opponents on this surface over the last three years and he is going to be heavily reliant on the serve working to full power to have any chance in this one.

Realistically Bolelli isn't going to beat Nadal but the question is whether he can make this competitive enough to take advantage of the huge start he is getting. Rafael Nadal has been dominating opponents on the clay in 2018, but his service numbers are ever so slightly down on 2017 which could make it a tougher prospect of covering a huge number like he was used to doing in Paris last year on the way to a tenth French Open title.

He did cover this number in four of his six completed matches in Paris last season and Bolelli has to be a little fearful of a player who has seen his break percentage improve all the way up to 48% in 2017. Bolelli might be 0-6 against top 5 Ranked players in Grand Slam matches and half of those defeats have come by margins of eleven or more games.

Nadal in the current form is capable of handing out a heavy loss to anyone and I think he can cover this mark at odds against.

MY PICKS: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Stefanos Tsitsipas - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Dusan Lajovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Rafael Nadal - 11.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Naomi Osaka - 5.5 Games @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Su-Wei Hsieh @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Anastsija Sevastova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 4-3, + 2.16 Units (14 Units Staked, + 15.43% Yield)

French Open Tennis Day 1 Picks 2018 (May 27th)

The French Open, the second Grand Slam of the season, gets underway on Sunday with a number of First Round matches scheduled.

This is the only Slam on the Tennis calendar which begins on a Sunday and that means the First Round is spread over three days rather than the traditional Monday/Tuesday you will see at the other Grand Slams.

I've put together an outright preview of the French Open with my outright picks which can be read here.

The Day 1 Picks follow.

Nicolas Jarry - 1.5 sets v Jared Donaldson: It has been a breakthrough season for Nicolas Jarry on the main Tour and his best results have unsurprisingly come on the clay courts. That is part of the reason he is favoured to beat Jared Donaldson in the First Round on Sunday and I do think Jarry will get the better of his American opponent who has struggled on this surface all season.

It won't be straight forward for Jarry because of the lack of real experience at this kind of level, but a lot of factors have pointed him out as the right player to back here.

While Jarry has had some strong runs in clay court events in South America and Europe in 2018, his opponent Donaldson's most memorable moment may have been the argument he got into with an umpire over a mark on the surface. That's not a particularly good thing for Donaldson who has struggled in a lot of aspects of his game on the clay.

Life will be that much tougher for Donaldson playing against an opponent who has carried his tremendous serving numbers onto the main Tour events in 2018. The serve is key for Jarry because it gives him some freedom to attack on the return of serve although Jarry will know he has to be better at creating break point opportunities and subsequently taking those.

Donaldson's struggles on the serve may help and I think Jarry is going to come through this in three or four sets with his own ability to hold serve in cleaner fashion the key to the outcome. It should be a big hitting match between these two and the break point chances may not come that often, but Jarry has looked the more comfortable on the clay and can use that to a strong First Round win.

Lucas Pouille - 5.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: There isn't as much hope around a home winner at the French Open as there has been in recent times in Paris, but Lucas Pouille could be the most likely to at least offer a French presence in the men's draw into the second week.

It may be something of a surprise to read that when you consider how rough this clay court season has been for Pouille, but I really do think he has been unfortunate at times. Pouille has played some very good tennis, but his consistency has not been at the level he would like and the Frenchman has also been a little unfortunate in close matches.

This First Round match should be a good one for Pouille against the talented Russian Daniil Medvedev who has had a really tough time on the clay over the last couple of years. There have been moments it looks like Medvedev has gotten to grips with the surface, but he has fallen away in matches when things have begun to go wrong for him and Pouille is capable of pulling away if Medvedev loses belief.

Neither player returns as well as they would hope on the clay which should mean this is a serve dominated match, but that is where Pouille has an edge. He wins around 75% of his service games over the last four years on the clay, but compared to Medvedev those numbers are very strong.

In 2017 Medvedev held around 60% and he has only improved that to 66% in 2018, and that only underlines the problems he has on the return of serve which could show up in this match.

Pouille is not easy to trust with the big number, but I can see him covering even if he drops a set because of some of the collapses Medvedev has had on the surface.

Federico Delbonis - 1.5 sets v Thomaz Bellucci: Any time a player comes through three Qualifying Rounds to enter the main draw of a Grand Slam there has to be some respect for them. Thomaz Bellucci has done that in Paris this week and he is facing an opponent he is very familiar with and certainly will feel he can win this type of match.

The Brazilian has really fallen down the World Rankings as loss of form coupled with injury has affected his ability to win the number of matches he needed to stay in the top 100. At one point Bellucci would have been considered a really tough opponent on the clay, and he has beaten Novak Djokovic on the surface during the Serb's run to the top of the men's game, but these days he spends his time on the Challenger circuit.

Putting some wins together at that level will at least have given Bellucci some confidence to take into this First Round match against Federico Delbonis.

Delbonis is also very comfortable on the clay courts and he has been producing some solid tennis in the build up to the French Open as he made his own return from injury.

The two players have some very similar numbers on the clay in 2018, but you have to factor in Delbonis has been playing at a higher level than Bellucci. The latter's numbers take a significant impact when he has played against top 100 Ranked players and that is what Bellucci will be facing on Sunday and I think Delbonis is going to get the better of him.

It may need four sets to separate them, but I think Delbonis able to win this in three or four sets and I will back him to cover the set handicap.

David Goffin - 6.5 games v Robin Haase: One of the more steady players on the clay courts in recent seasons is David Goffin and it is no surprise that one of his two career Slam Quarter Finals has come at Roland Garros. That run came in 2016 and Goffin will be hoping that his play can help produce another chance at the business end of a Grand Slam.

Being steady means Goffin can wear down some of the lesser lights on the Tour, but he has yet to really make the leap to beat the better players on the clay courts. In the First Round the Belgian faces a dangerous Robin Haase whose best results have been on this surface and who crushed Goffin in Gstaad last season.

They have since met at the Madrid Masters which ended in a very easy win for Goffin and I think that is the more likely outcome of this match.

As dangerous as Haase can be on the clay when he is serving at his best, it has to be noted that he is winning under 60% of points behind serve in 2018. Against someone who can be as effective returning the ball as Goffin that is not going to be good enough and proved to be Haase's downfall when these players met at the Madrid Masters.

Goffin's serve has been stronger than Haase's so far in 2018 and the Dutchman's limited return is unlikely to be good enough for him in this First Round match.

It could be a dangerous match for Goffin, but I think his style will help him work through to a comfortable win and a cover of a very big number.

Anett Kontaveit - 5.5 games v Madison Brengle: One of the potential dark horses in the women's French Open draw is Anett Kontaveit who has some strong numbers on the clay courts which highlight the danger she could pose in the draw.

Twelve months ago not many would have picked Jelena Ostapenko as a potential winner in Paris which shows it can be done, although Kontaveit has to find a little more consistency if she really wants to win seven matches in a row over the next two weeks. Two runs to the Semi Finals in a couple of big tournaments will give Kontaveit some belief though and I like her to get the better of Madison Brengle in the First Round.

There isn't a lot to like about the Brengle game, but she puts in plenty of hard work on and off the court and the American will be hoping to extract errors from the Kontaveit game with her ability to play very strong defensive tennis. Forcing her opponent to hit one more ball has been the way Brengle has looked to work her way to winning positions in points, but she will need Kontaveit off her game.

Her return game has been a very strong part of her performances on the clay courts in 2018 and Brengle will look to get enough Kontaveit serves back in play. However it is going to be tough to get into a strong position in rallies if Kontaveit can get enough first serves in play which is a shot on which she can lay the foundation for success.

The return game is strong enough to get the better of Brengle who has really had a tough time serving on the clay courts and I think it is Kontaveit who is going to find her way to the win. The First Round match looks like one in which Kontaveit will be able to pull away with at least one set where she produces a couple of breaks of serve more than Brengle and that should be good enough to cover this number.

Elina Svitolina - 6.5 games v Alja Tomljanovic: One of the leading contenders to win the French Open in the women's draw is Elina Svitolina and she gets her title bid underway on Sunday in the First Round. It may have been easier for Svitolina, but she has to be confident she can see off Alja Tomljanovic.

There are no doubting some of the strong numbers Svitolina has produced on the clay courts over the last few seasons and retaining the title in Rome will give her a huge boost of confidence to take into the second Major of the season.

We have previously seen Svitolina come up short in the highly pressurised situation of playing deep into the second week of a Grand Slam, but the Ukrainian is still young and will believe there is room to improvement.

The serve in general has improved and Svitolina continues to put up solid returning numbers which makes her a threat to Tomljanovic despite a couple of very strong tournaments on the clay in 2018. The Australian has reached the Final in Marrakech and also the Third Round in Rome, but this is a step up and Tomljanovic has not played well when facing the top players on the clay.

It is clear the numbers take a serious decline when Tomljanovic faces top 50 Ranked players on the clay where her serve becomes a real vulnerability and it has been that much more pressurised on the return of serve. While I think Tomljanovic can get into some of the Svitolina service games, I think she will be put under constant pressure on her own serve and even this big number of games can be covered by the higher Ranked player.

Tomljanovic has taken some heavy losses to Daria Kasatkina, Donna Vekic and Elise Mertens on the clay courts in 2018 and I think Svitolina wins with a statement result that has her competitors sit up and take notice.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: Johanna Konta has really struggled to find her form on the clay courts, but confidence is not in short supply as she told a national media outlet that she is a danger at the French Open to win it all. That looks a long shot, but she can beat Yulia Putintseva in the First Round and I think Konta will be able to do that despite a poor history here.

Konta may only be 3-3 on the clay courts this season, but the numbers in general have been decent enough and certainly good enough to win this kind of match.

The serve remains a huge weapon for Konta and she has been returning well enough which have aided her confidence even if she is just 3-3 on the clay this season.

You have to give Putintseva some respect too having had some decent performance on the clay courts in 2018 despite a poor 2017. There has been some joy from the first serve which is going to be a key to the outcome of this match as Putintseva can stun Konta if she is working well behind the first serve.

However that is asking for a lot from the smaller player who doesn't generate the same type of power from the serve as her opponent. Putintseva can improve her game when she is facing the best players on the Tour, but Konta should have the edge behind the serve and she is returning well enough to cause problems for her opponent.

Consistency has been a problem at times for Putintseva, but I still think she will have her moments in this one. However I do think Konta will prevail and win a rare match at the French Open while covering this number.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Jarry - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Lucas Pouille - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Goffin - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Anett Kontaveit - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Sporting Bet (2 Units)