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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Friday, 31 August 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (September 1-2)

This was always going to be a busy end to the week so I was convinced I would not be able to get as many of the Football Picks analysed as I would usually.

It is just the way it goes though and I will be back to the full Picks when the Football returns in the Premier League after the international break is completed.

Leicester City v Liverpool Pick: There are a lot of Liverpool fans out there who are beginning to feel more and more confident that their club is going to end a 29 year wait to be called English Champions at the end of this season. The three wins to open the Premier League has built confidence while the three clean sheets shows Liverpool can grind out results if they need to.

To bridge the gap to Manchester City from last season, Liverpool will recognise they have to win games they didn't last season when too many draws held them back. You even had people talking about that following the narrow 1-0 win over Brighton at Anfield last Saturday, but the bottom line is Liverpool have won three fixtures they managed to win last season too.

This is another fixture they won last season, but no one will claim it is an easy test to travel to the King Power Stadium against a Leicester City team who can play up to the level of their opponents. Last season they were beaten by 3 of the top 5 clubs, but only Manchester City won by more than a single goal margin and I do think the home team can cause some problems for Liverpool.

The concern for Leicester City is the absence of Jamie Vardy and the fact they have not defended as well as they would have liked in their last couple of games. Against Liverpool that could be a real problem, especially if Leicester City were to concede early, and I do think the first half is key to the outcome of this one.

Liverpool have not been completely convincing in their wins over Crystal Palace and Brighton and a bit more luck for those teams would have seen them earn a result. While they have begun well, Liverpool have seemingly tired and that is where Leicester City have to stay in this match as long as possible and try and hit Liverpool in the second half.

Leicester City have not created a lot in their last couple of games in the Premier League despite the four goals scored and that does worry me. Without Jamie Vardy I do think they could struggle again and my lean is that Liverpool will be going into the international break with a fourth straight win in the Premier League behind them ahead of a very tough month.

Last season Liverpool won 9 away League games and 6 of those were by margins of two or more goals. This season they have already won by a two goal margin at Selhurst Park and I think Leicester City's lack of real bite in front of goal will let them down here.

I will back Liverpool to cover the Asian Handicap in the win at the King Power Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.

Brighton v Fulham Pick: This looks an interesting early test for both Brighton and Fulham who will have looked at a fixture like this one and felt it is one they should be winning if they want to avoid relegation to the Championship.

Both teams have had a high-scoring win at home in the Premier League, but they have also shared some luck in being able to secure their wins over Manchester United and Burnley respectively.

The lack of a consistent goal threat from Brighton is a real concern especially when you think the side only managed 34 League goals in the whole of the 2017/18 season. They created chances against Manchester United, but they were aided by the terrible defending United produced that day and Brighton have not looked nearly as threatening against Watford or Liverpool.

Both of those games were away from home, but Brighton also lost 0-1 at home to Southampton in the League Cup during the week. That again raises red flags, but Chris Hughton made changes and his team have only lost 1 of their last 8 League games at home.

Fulham might also provide a welcome opposition for Brighton as they have not defended as well as they would have liked. They have given up some good chances to opponents in the Premier League, but the attacking style means they can give a vulnerable Brighton defence some real questions to answer too.

Goals were in short supply in Brighton games in general last season, but both teams managed to score in 7 of the 8 home games they played against teams who finished 12th or lower in the League table. With the way both Brighton and Fulham have begun this season, I would not be surprised if both teams score at least once in this one too.

Chelsea v Bournemouth Pick: The impressive wins put on the board by Chelsea has had the layers scrambling to shorten their prices for this home game with Bournemouth, but I have a feeling they have gone too far.

I have been impressed with the attacking football Chelsea are playing under Maurizio Sarri and I do think we will see some strong seasons from the players who will enjoy this style. However there is still work done to make sure there is some balance in the system and Chelsea have looked vulnerable at the back.

The most obvious example was the number of chances Arsenal created at Stamford Bridge in what was an unfortunate 3-2 defeat. Newcastle United barely wanted to get out of their own half last weekend and they also managed to breach the Chelsea back line and this weekend they are facing a Bournemouth team who have been creating chances for fun to open the season.

I do worry about Bournemouth at the back as Eddie Howe's system leaves them vulnerable, but the chances created and the goals being scored makes them a dangerous opponent for Chelsea here. The Cherries have also enjoyed their League visits to Stamford Bridge having won 2 of their 3 games here since being promoted to the Premier League and I think Bournemouth are being underestimated.

I can't argue against Chelsea being the most likely winners, but Bournemouth are receiving a big start on the Asian Handicap which means a return of half of your stake if they lose by a TWO goal margin. Anything better than that would be a full payout and I am not convinced Chelsea will blow Bournemouth away and win by three or more goals so the pick seems fairly obvious for me here.

Bournemouth are playing well enough to score at Stamford Bridge for a third time in four visits in all competitions and doing that should make it very difficult for Chelsea to cover the spread.

Everton v Huddersfield Town Pick: You have to imagine the layers are factoring in the absence of Richarlison into the Everton prices because I can't imagine why they are not a shorter price to win this fixture.

While there is some work to do from a defensive point of view, I do think the chances Everton have allowed to be created is partly influenced by the long stretches of their games where they have played with ten men. Everton have had a man sent off in the first half at both Wolves and Bournemouth, while I think both of those clubs are much better going forward than what appears to be a toothless Huddersfield Town attack.

Last season Huddersfield Town managed just 28 League goals and they don't look like a team that will be surpassing that number by very many, if at all, this season. 3 defeats in 4 games in all competitions to open the 2018/19 season won't have improved the mood of the players, while Huddersfield Town have a solitary goal to look back upon in that run of games.

On the other hand Everton have scored at least twice in every game played this season including in both home games against Southampton and Rotherham United. Last season they scored twice in both League games against Huddersfield Town and there is enough quality in the forward areas to do without Richarlison for this week.

I expect Everton will dominate the play at home and I think they will prove to be too strong for a Huddersfield Town team who have been struggling. It's not an easy task for Everton to cover the Asian Handicap, but they beat Huddersfield Town by two goal margins in both home and away games in the Premier League last season and I will back the home team to reach that margin again in this one.

West Ham United v Wolves Pick: This is a big game for both West Ham United and Wolves as they search for their first Premier League win of the season having beaten lower League opposition in the League Cup during the week.

It does feel there is more pressure on Manuel Pellegrini rather than Nuno Espirito Santo because of the money West Ham United have spent and the really poor start they have made. Wolves may not have won, but the 1-1 draw with Manchester City will show the fans this is a club on the up.

Both teams will feel they have the attacking talent to create problems for the other and I do think this could be an entertaining game on Saturday. I would be very surprised if both teams didn't score considering the chances they have been able to create and now they are facing opponents who have had defensive issues to say the least.

Picking a winner isn't easy but I would not be surprised to see the game ending 2-1 to either side so the play for me is backing at least three goals to be shared out on Saturday afternoon. Wolves may not have scored against Leicester City, but they had some major chances and were unfortunate in that game, while West Ham United have scored and conceded in 3 straight games in all competitions.

With that in mind I will look for at least three goals to be shared out at the London Stadium in this fixture and that will be my play.

Manchester City v Newcastle United Pick: I think most people will be expecting a reaction from Manchester City after drawing 1-1 at Wolves last Saturday and I would be surprised if Pep Guardiola is not able to get a positive response from his team.

Last season a 1-1 home draw with Everton was followed by a long run of wins which put Manchester City clear of their rivals in the Premier League title race. While it is hard to expect them to do the same this time, I do think Manchester City will bounce back with a positive performance and they should have far too much for Newcastle United.

Rafa Benitez has to be respected as a manager who will organise his team to be hard to beat, but there are some murmurings of discontent at St James' Park with rumours some of the players have turned on their manager. Newcastle United needed a lot of last ditch defending to keep Chelsea from scoring much earlier than they did and playing at Manchester City has been a tough task for them in recent years.

Manchester City have won 9 straight home League games against Newcastle United and the majority of those wins have come by very wide margins. Last season this fixture ended 3-1 to Manchester City and I would be surprised if they didn't reach that margin at least.

If the Newcastle United players have really begun to turn on Benitez it could be even more comfortable for Manchester City and I will look to back the home team to cover the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Brighton-Fulham Both Teams to Score @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Bournemouth + 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United-Wolves Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

August: 15-12, + 3.10 Units (54 Units Staked, + 5.74% Yield)

US Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2018 (August 31st)

Thursday evening proved to be a very busy night for me and that means the Tennis Picks from Day 5 at the US Open will come without any analysis.

Day 4 was the worst day of the week so far, but I'm still in a positive position for the week and will be looking to get back to picking winners on Friday as the Third Round of the tournament begins.

MY PICKS: Sloane Stephens - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Venus Williams + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Guido Pella - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Taylor Fritz + 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

US Open Update: 16-11, + 8.76 Units (54 Units Staked, + 16.22% Yield)

Thursday, 30 August 2018

US Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2018 (August 30th)

The US Open continues on Thursday and I have begun making my Tennis Picks from the remaining Second Round matches to be played.

Wednesday proved to be an up and down day with some successes and some very disappointing losses, but I won't get too down about the start made to this tournament for the Picks as I look to keep the momentum behind me.

I had written the majority of the Tennis Picks out prior to posting on Thursday, but I have also added two Picks that I have appealed. Those two can be seen in the MY PICKS section below.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Benoit Paire: I've not really focused on the very big names in tennis in the early part of the US Open because they tend to be asked to cover some very, very big numbers. So far the top men's players have managed to do that and I think Roger Federer can continue that trend when he takes on Benoit Paire in the Second Round.

These two did play a very close match on the grass in Halle a couple of months as Paire took his first set from Federer and had his opportunities to win the match. That will give the Frenchman some belief he can challenge Federer in this US Open match, although the surface has proven to be a tough one for Paire to master.

Paire had to dig deep to win his First Round match against Dennis Novak and even the four sets win doesn't tell the full story of how close that match was. There is no doubt the Frenchman will have to raise his game at least a couple of notches to make this a contest against Federer, but his numbers suggest it is going to be a very tall task for him.

In 2018 Paire is holding serve at just under 73% of times on the hard courts and his return game has not been effective enough to make up for that number. It did in the First Round against Novak, but now he faces Roger Federer who has produced even better numbers on the hard courts in 2018 than he has in the last couple of years.

Federer is holding serve at 93% which means Paire will not be able to battle back in sets like he did against Novak. The real question mark about Federer and his chance of winning the US Open comes from the return game as he has found issues in breaking serve compared to previous years even though the actual amount of return points won have not really slipped.

Playing the big points better is going to be the key for Federer, but he should be comfortable in a match up like this even though Paire pushed him close a couple of months ago. Covering a number like this one is difficult if Federer is missing out on the break points that come his way, but I do think he has usually been able to deal with the Paire ups and downs and I fancy he will win at least one set with a double break which should mean he can get over the current number.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 5.5 games v Joao Sousa: This tournament may be played on a hard court, but there will be a clay court kind of feel to the match played between Pablo Carreno Busta and Joao Sousa in the Second Round. Both players look to get into the rally and grind down opponents and it should be a fun match for the fans to enjoy.

The two players match up similarly with the serve expected to be something their opponents will look to attack, while both Carreno Busta and Sousa should be very comfortable on the ground.

Surprisingly the two players have some effective hard court numbers behind the serve which has helped them put more wins on the board than you imagine. To be fair to Carreno Busta he has shown he is very comfortable on the hard courts over the last twelve months and that all began by reaching the US Open Semi Final in 2017.

The Spaniard has a strong 17-7 record on the hard courts in 2018 and much of that is down to a very effective 84% hold percentage on the surface. That is a number that is significantly better than what Carreno Busta has been able to produce on the hard courts in previous years and he continues to back that up with a decent return game which has resulted in the wins being strung together.

Sousa has to be very happy with his own 80% hold percentage on the hard courts, while he has really surprised me by winning just over 65% of points played on his serve. It helped him beat veteran Marcel Granollers in the First Round without too many issues, but the one area where Carreno Busta has a big edge over Sousa is the break percentage and I feel that makes the difference between them in this Second Round match.

Carreno Busta's break percentage is up at 26% compared with Sousa's 19% on the hard courts and having the slightly stronger serving numbers too means the Spaniard is the right favourite. The spread is quite close to where I would have had it because Sousa is capable of taking a set at his best, but even with that in mind I can see Carreno Busta winning at least one set with a double break and that 6-1 or 6-2 set being the difference between a cover or not.

David Goffin - 5.5 games v Robin Haase: The shoulder injury suffered by David Goffin in the Cincinnati Semi Final looks to be behind him although one win at the US Open hasn't erased all my doubts about him. The last couple of years has seen Goffin pick up some injuries at really bad times but I still think he is capable of a deep run at the US Open as long as he is not feeling any soreness out of the First Round win.

The win over Federico Gaio was a little more difficult towards the back end than it had begun for Goffin, but ultimately he will be glad to have moved through to the Second Round in straight sets. The Belgian has produced some very good numbers on the hard court in 2018 which makes him a threat here, although the feeling is that Goffin will eventually run into someone who is a little too good for him.

I am not sure that will happen on Thursday as Robin Haase was forced to dig deep and come from 2-0 down in sets to win his First Round match. Haase's opponent McKenzie McDonald wilted towards the end of the match in some terrible conditions, but Haase still had to be out there and that would have taken something out of the tank.

It is David Goffin who has the slightly superior numbers when it comes to the serve and return on the hard courts too which only makes it even more difficult to imagine Haase beating him unless Goffin is not at 100%. However Haase could point to the 2-0 lead in sets he had at the French Open earlier in 2018 against Goffin before he completely lost his way in the match and perhaps the Dutchman believes he can hold himself together much better if he gets into that position again.

Ultimately this has proven to be a tough match up for Haase with Goffin able to get plenty of balls back in play and break down his game. There have been some close matches between them including that match at the French Open, but Goffin should have the slight edge in most aspects of this match and also had less time on the court in the heat of Tuesday.

All of those things factoring together makes me believe Goffin has too much for Haase and he should be able to cover this number even if he is forced to go four sets.

Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games v Laslo Djere: After failing to win a match on the hard courts since the very first tournament of 2018, Laslo Djere was the beneficiary of a Leonardo Mayer retirement in the First Round. He was in control of the match when the Argentinian decided to pull out, but I think he will need some more help if he is going to get past Richard Gasquet in the Second Round.

Gasquet is a competent hard court player, but injury issues and scheduling has meant he has only played sixteen matches on the surface in 2018. His 9-7 record is a little disappointing, but Gasquet looked to be in fine form in the First Round as he crushed Yuichi Sugita in straight sets and I do think he can back that up with another strong performance.

One of the disappointments for the Frenchman has to be his sub-80% hold percentage on the hard courts as that really does ramp up the pressure in trying to win matches. The second serve numbers are slightly down on 2017 which has contributed to the hold percentage slipping from 81% to 78% in 2017 to 2018, but Gasquet's hold numbers are still way up on Laslo Djere's and there is a real difference in the return numbers which is likely going to be the difference between the players on the day.

While Djere has struggled with his return game on the hard courts, Gasquet has been pretty effective and it should show up here when you consider the Serb's service numbers are average at best. With Djere having a break percentage of 12% and Gasquet's standing at over double that at 26% I would expect the latter to have the majority of break points and he should be able to secure a set by at least a double break advantage.

That is a key to covering a number as big as this one in this Second Round match and I do think Gasquet can do that. He will need to serve a little better than he has for much of 2018, but the confidence of his performance from the First Round should be able to carry over and lead to a relatively serene progress through to the next Round.

Aryna Sabalenka - 4.5 games v Vera Zvonareva: She may not be flying under the radar as much as she would have been if not for a very strong run on the hard courts over the last month, but Aryna Sabalenka can continue to make an impact on the Tour with a big showing at the US Open.

In the last couple of weeks Sabalenka has reached the Semi Final in Cincinnati and won a title in New Haven which had a decent field attached to it. The run in Cincinnati saw Sabalenka win some tight matches as she played her tennis without any hint of fear, but she was much more dominant in taking the title home in New Haven and I do think she is the big Belarusian threat in the draw.

Over the last month it is the serve which has been a huge weapon for Sabalenka and I expect that to be the case in the Second Round when she plays veteran Vera Zvonareva who is still finding her best tennis after returning from an injury which has bothered her for two or three years.

This year the majority of Zvonareva's time has been spent below the main WTA level but she showed toughness to come through her First Round match. The last two sets were very tight and I do wonder if that is going to have sapped some energy as she heads into a match with a big hitting player who will look to get after Zvonareva wherever she can.

The Zvonareva return game has always been a key part of her successes on the Tour, but she is going to be in for a challenge dealing with the Sabalenka serve. I expect the Russian will have some success, but ultimately I also think she will be under immense pressure whenever she serves considering the Zvonareva struggles behind that shot.

With that in mind I do think Sabalenka will be able to get the better of her in this match and I expect the younger player will produce a good looking win on the scoreboard. She looks fresher, has lots of momentum behind her and Sabalenka has the power to go through Zvonareva and I will back her to cover the number in her win.

Monica Puig + 3.5 games v Caroline Garcia: You have to be impressed with the way Caroline Garcia dismissed the challenge of Johanna Konta in the First Round although I am still of the belief that the British player is not at 100%. This is a different sort of test for Garcia as she faces a player she has never beaten and who got the better of her in New Haven just a few days ago.

Monica Puig won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2016 but she has not been able to find the consistency to become a regular name at the back end of Grand Slam tournaments. She is still only 24 years old and so can fulfil the potential she has, but Puig has to be disappointed she has not made it past the Second Round in any of the last nine Grand Slams she has played.

Last week she did reach the Semi Final in New Haven before having to pull out with an injury and that could have spelt the end of her US Open hopes before they began. However it sounds like the withdrawal was more of a precaution than a real issue and Puig showed no signs of any problems by securing a double bagel in her First Round win.

The head to head with Garcia has to give her real confidence with three wins against her and all of those coming on this surface. However the last two wins have been much closer with a final set needed and Puig may be considered slightly fortunate to have beaten the Frenchwoman last week.

The numbers produced by the two over the course of 2018 on the hard courts suggest this is going to be another very close match and I would not be surprised if we needed a final set decider again. That did tempt me into backing this match to surpass the total games line, but instead I think backing Puig with the start of games looks the right play.

A strong serving day from Puig will give her every chance of earning the upset too, but I will keep the games on my side as they could be a real difference maker in what feels a very close match.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
David Goffin - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Aryna Sabalenka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Monica Puig + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jelena Ostapenko - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ajla Tomljanovic @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

US Open Update: 14-6, + 15.12 Units (40 Units Staked, + 37.80% Yield)

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

US Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2018 (August 29th)

The heat has been playing havoc in New York City the first couple of days at the US Open and it is perhaps no surprise that there were some retirements and withdrawals from the matches in which I had made Tennis Picks.

Three of the ten Picks made on Tuesday did not have completed matches with one of those voided before the match even took to the court after Jiri Vesely pulled out of the tournament.

The US Open has proved to be a test of endurance as well as actual skill for a number of years now and Wednesday looks to be no different with another hot day expected. The rain comes later in the week to cool things down for a couple of days, but ultimately the winner of the tournament is going to know they've been through a tough physical examination over the next couple of weeks.

At least the Tennis Picks that were completed came back with a 6-1 return and I am looking to keep that win-loss record intact throughout the next two weeks. You have to expect some ups and downs and I was slightly fortunate with a couple of the retirements on Tuesday, but the key is to try and manage the Picks as I have done to this point.

On Wednesday we move into the Second Round of the tournament with another busy day at Flushing Meadows and you can read my Picks from the top half of both draws below.

Borna Coric - 7.5 games v Roberto Carballes Baena: Both of these players needed four sets to get through their opening match at the US Open but there is little doubt that the more decisive winner of their First Round match was Borna Coric rather than Roberto Carballes Baena. While Coric was unlucky to be dragged into a fourth set, Carballes Baena played all the big points a little better than his opponent and that saw him edge to the victory.

Without a doubt the Spaniard is going to need to pick up his game to another level on a surface on which he is not at his most comfortable. The majority of his matches on the hard courts in his career have been played at a lower level than the main ATP Tour, but Carballes Baena did win a couple of matches in Winston Salem last week to build some confidence.

Two strong wins against predominantly clay court players on the hard courts is not the ideal preparation for facing someone like Coric, although Carballes Baena will point to the tight defeat to Kyle Edmund as proof he can perform. Much will depend on how well the Spaniard can serve in this one, but he is in for a challenge against the improved Coric who has shown a significant spike in his return game on the hard courts in 2018.

Coric reached at least the Quarter Final in both the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events earlier this year so there will be some disappointment in the relatively early defeats in Toronto and Cincinnati. However he was an unfortunate loser against the likes of Marin Cilic and Nick Kyrgios and the Coric serve should be a big enough weapon to keep Carballes Baena facing scoreboard pressure in this one.

No one can deny this is a big number for Coric to cover if Carballes Baena is anything near his very best behind his serve. However I think the rhythm of the match is one that Coric will enjoy and ultimately I think he is the far superior player of the two and can grind down this opponent in a strong win.

He will need at least one set with a double break of serve to get a chance of covering the number being asked of him, but Coric is playing with enough confidence to think he can do that. I imagine the match will start off very tight but once Coric gets in front I do think he will be able to pull away for a very good looking win on the day.

Daniil Medvedev v Stefanos Tsitsipas: This is the second time Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are meeting in their pro careers and the second time they face one another on the United States hard courts in 2018. The last match between the two almost ended in a fight in Miami (check it out on YouTube) and so I am expecting some tension between two of the players that could be amongst the very best on the ATP Tour in the years ahead.

That last match is going to provide plenty of motivation for both players who cruised through their First Round matches in straight sets on Monday. Neither player was taxed too much which is critical in the tough conditions in New York City and this looks like one of the better Second Round matches scheduled to be played on Wednesday.

It looks to be a tight match to be truthful and I can't help feel Stefanos Tsitsipas is only the favourite due to the more eye-catching run on the hard courts over the last month. He reached the Semi Final in Toronto, but the numbers suggest the youngster was a little fortunate to win at least two of the matches he did on his way through the draw.

On the other hand Daniil Medvedev has done a lot of winning in Qualifiers and the early Rounds of the Masters events and the confidence was clear to see when the Russian won the Winston Salem title last week. There is a fear he could have played too much tennis while his opponent in the Second Round took a week to rest the body, but I do think Medvedev has been the slightly stronger hard court player and can be backed as the underdog.

Even in their match in Miami it was a very tight one and Medvedev barely deserved to edge it and I feel this one will be very similar. I can see the losing player going back to the locker room and kicking themselves for not taking their chances, but that is where I think Medvedev will create a few more break points with his superior return game.

Medvedev's return numbers are markedly better than the ones Tsitsipas has been able to produce, while their serving stats are very similar. The Greek does have a slight edge there, but the courts in New York are not the fastest hard courts out there and I think Medvedev gets enough returns in play to edge this match.

Expect a close one, but I think this should be closer to a pick 'em match or even Medvedev slightly favoured so I will back him as the underdog to move into the Third Round.

Andy Murray - 1.5 sets v Fernando Verdasco: It would be foolish to read into the head to head between Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco because there is little doubt that Murray is not playing at the level that he has previously set for himself. He may have dominated Verdasco in their previous matches, but this one is bound to be a lot closer even if the Spaniard is not the player he once was either.

I think both players will be surprised by the way they dominated their First Round opponents with the Verdasco straight sets win over Feliciano Lopez particularly impressive. Both Verdasco and Murray served very well in the opening Round and I am not sure Murray will be too disappointed to have had a little more tennis put into the legs after needing four sets to win his match.

Both deserved their wins and will recognise the quality of opponent standing in front of them in the Second Round. The layers have also identified this as a potentially very close match and it is a little more difficult to pick a winner when you factor in a few things.

For Murray the obvious concern is how the body will hold up after the first best of five set match he has played in over twelve months. He isn't up to the level that took him to the title at the US Open nor is Murray at 100% but he looked good in the First Round and now plays an opponent who has had an erratic month on the hard courts.

Verdasco was completely on top of compatriot Lopez and he played a close match in a defeat to Grigor Dimitrov, but he has also been hammered by Jeremy Chardy. The veteran is hard to predict these days and his numbers have been steady on the hard courts despite the 8-8 record on the surface and that does make him dangerous.

However Verdasco is capable of throwing in a real stinker these days and I think Murray could edge him out in three or four tight sets. I would fear for Murray if he has to win this in five, but I do think he is capable of winning this on the form he displayed in the First Round. Of course Verdasco is a big step up from James Duckworth, but the key will be if Murray is able to serve anything like as well as he did in the First Round as Verdasco will give up break point chances on his own serve.

It looks a very good match on paper with the two closely matched, but I do think Murray's mental strength will see him come through some tight moments and get this done without the need for a final set.

Karen Khachanov - 7.5 games v Lorenzo Sonego: The Lucky Loser Lorenzo Sonego has taken full advantage of his reprieve at the US Open by beating Gilles Muller in five sets to move through to the Second Round. This all means some vital Ranking points will be earned by the Italian who could move into the top 100 in the weeks ahead, but backing up the win over Muller is going to be a huge challenge for him.

Sonego will play one of the stronger up and coming stars on the ATP Tour in Karen Khachanov who destroyed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets on Monday. After a strong showing in Toronto and Cincinnati, Khachanov has come into the US Open with some real confidence and he has the game to cause problems for most on this surface.

The serve is a huge weapon for Khachanov who is holding at 87% on the hard courts in 2018 and he didn't even face a break point in the First Round. That puts some real scoreboard pressure on opponents throughout sets and matches, although Khachanov has to understand how to get more out of his return game if he is really to fulfil the obvious potential he has.

Over the course of 2018 there has been little real improvement on the return side of things which is a concern in the development of any player. Khachanov has had his moments over the last month and has produced some strong matches, but the consistency on the return is lacking and that also makes it hard to pick him to cover such a big number as the one in front of him.

Khachanov was very good at tackling the Ramos-Vinolas serve in the First Round, but Sonego's is a little stronger than the Spaniard's delivery. There is a very small sample of how Sonego has performed on the main ATP Tour with this being just his fourth match on the hard courts at this kind of level, but there has been a big drop off in these matches compared to Sonego's numbers overall on the hard courts in 2018.

Even a very limited returner like Gilles Muller was able to break the Sonego serve three times in the First Round and I do think Khachanov will prove to be too strong. The young Russian has to stay focused throughout if we are to get the cover of the number too, but I think the conditions will mean most players want to get through matches with as little fuss as possible and so I would expect his team to drill in the need for focus.

I imagine there will be one or two tight sets, but I am also looking for Khachanov to show significant superiority in at least one set and that could be enough to see him get over this number.

Jack Sock - 1.5 sets v Nicoloz Basilashvili: After a shocking 2018 it might have been a surprise to see I was backing Jack Sock to win his First Round match with some comfort. The American took full advantage of the kind draw to progress with the minimum of fuss and I think Sock can be backed again in what looks another very winnable match for him.

There is always a concern about the physical well being of Sock who has retired in matches at the US Open before, but this one is scheduled for an evening start when the temperatures should be more bearable. That can only aid a player who is set to have a real slump in the World Rankings if he can't turn his form over the next couple of months, while the Second Round match against Nikoloz Basilashvili is very much one he should be expected to win.

Sock is only 4-8 on the hard courts in 2018 and his numbers are someway down on both the serve and returning side of his game. However he showed real promise in both aspects of his game in his First Round win, albeit against weak opposition, and now should have the physical edge over Basilashvili who needed five sets to get through his own match.

And you can't ignore the fact that Basilashvili is only 5-8 on the hard courts in 2018 and with numbers that are slightly worse than what Sock has been able to produce. The serve has been a real problem for the Georgian who has held at under 70% which means he is constantly under pressure to try and force his way back into matches.

That 69% mark is just slightly down on the last couple of years which shows Basilashvili is not the most convincing of servers on the hard courts and that can only mean good news for Sock. Basilashvili struggled on the serve in the First Round, but his return numbers are superior to Sock's which means this match is at least likely to be a little close and competitive.

Ultimately I do think Sock is going to have a little too much for an opponent who has to be feeling the physical effects of a tough First Round match. Sock is producing much better numbers on the serve than Basilashvili and I think that is where he is going to be able to escape a couple of precarious positions on the serve compared with his opponent who may offer up more break point chances to the American.

There were some signs in Sock's early losses in Toronto and Cincinnati that he is not far away from a decent run, and I think he gets the better of Basilashvili in three or four tight sets in this Second Round match.

Elina Svitolina - 5.5 games v Tatjana Maria: There is every chance that half hour into this match I could be regretting the selection I have made, but Elina Svitolina has the added motivation of wanting to earn revenge over her Wimbledon defeat to Tatjana Maria to keep her focused in this one.

Straight away you have to say this is a big number for Elina Svitolina to cover when you think of how she has performed on the hard courts in 2018. The numbers have remained strong, but Svitolina is a player that can be hard to back with these big numbers as she is liable to throw in a poor service game or two or even a poor set which makes it very difficult to cover.

Svitolina won five matches in Montreal and Cincinnati on the hard courts over the last month, but she would not have covered this number in any of those. Granted she faced players of a real superiority compared to who she faces in the Second Round, but Svitolina struggled in the First Round here to win in three sets having dropped the middle one 1-6 to Sachia Vickery.

That makes it hard to trust this top ten player to cover the bigger numbers, but she now faces an opponent in Tatjana Maria who has a poor hard court record and some very poor numbers on this surface. The second serve and return of serve have been a real weak point for Maria and I would fully expect Svitolina to take advantage of both of those areas which should put her in a very strong position to win this match with some degree of comfort.

Tatjana Maria did have a very good First Round win over Agnieszka Radwanska that has to be respected, but she has taken plenty of one-sided defeats on the hard courts in 2018. The numbers in main WTA tournament matches are someway down on where they were in 2017 and the added revenge factor for Svitolina makes me believe she can cover the big number in a strong win in the Second Round.

Julia Goerges - 2.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: Last week in New Haven Julia Goerges beat Ekaterina Makarova in two very straight-forward sets and I think the German can frank that form with another over this opponent in the Second Round of the US Open.

Both Goerges and Makarova needed three sets to see off their First Round opponents, but Goerges was the more dominant player on the day and will be kicking herself she didn't get it done in straight sets. Her numbers on the hard courts in 2018 have been impressive and some margin stronger than Makarova's so I was a bit surprised Goerges has not been set as an even stronger favourite.

That may have something to do with the fact the match between these players in New Haven was almost a pick 'em and the layers don't want to have a big overreaction to that one win for Goerges. However she looks to be significantly stronger behind her serve than Makarova and that could prove to be a real difference maker in hot conditions when you want to try and get through games with the least amount of fuss possible.

Where Makarova fans could have some confidence is from the fact that Goerges is not the greatest returner out there. That means a strong serving day from Makarova, which can be possible from the left hander on her best day, could put Goerges under pressure and make this a very awkward match for her.

However there haven't been a lot of signs Makarova is going to be capable of doing that in the last month on the hard courts and I do think this is a very tough test for her. Makarova did not get a good read out of the Goerges serve last week which means her superior returning numbers on this surface could be largely irrelevant especially if Goerges can win 50% of the points behind the Makarova serve as she did in New Haven.

I do think the match will be closer than the one they played in New Haven which ended in a routine 6-4, 6-2 win for Goerges, but I also think the German franks that win with another and a cover in this Second Round match at the US Open.

MY PICKS: Borna Coric - 7.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Julia Goerges - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

US Open Update: 10-3, + 13.26 Units (26 Units Staked, + 51% Yield)

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

US Open Tennis Day 2 Picks 2018 (August 28th)

It was a solid if not spectacular start to the US Open for the Tennis Picks, but it was also a day which underlined why I did not make any Outright Picks from this event.

The fourth Grand Slam of the season always seems to bring a real physical challenge to the players with the conditions in New York forcing players to pull out of matches and also struggle during the course of matches.

That is something to consider and I am not getting involved in too many of the early matches in the women's draw simply because there are some serious doubts about the fitness of some of the top names. Simona Halep exited the event on Monday and a number of other big name players will take to the court with some fitness doubts on Tuesday and so I am only picking one match from the women's event being run in New York and the conclusion of the First Round on Tuesday.

I have a number of Picks on Tuesday, but I will only have the full analysis for a number of them. You can read all of the First Round Picks from Tuesday below.

Leonardo Mayer - 6.5 games v Laslo Djere: Some of the handicaps at these Grand Slam events look very wide and so it can be a challenge in determining where they should land. This one looks right on the money as far as I am concerned, but I still give Leonardo Mayer enough of an edge to work his way into a position to cover what is a big spread even in a best of five set match.

There isn't much in the way of recent form that would offer a lot of encouragement in backing Mayer in this First Round match, but he has proven to be significantly better on the hard courts than Laslo Djere. You could almost put this pick down to wanting to oppose Djere rather than having a lot of faith in Mayer, but the latter has been good enough to expect him to cover this number.

Mayer has strong holding numbers which should keep the pressure on Djere who has really struggled with his return game on the hard courts. The Serb is 1-6 in main ATP matches on the hard courts in 2018 and he has a very low 10% break percentage which is going to make it tough to break the Mayer serve even if the latter can be someone who can go walkabout mentally within a match.

Djere has shown to be at his most comfortable on the clay courts and his service numbers on the hard courts have not been the most impressive. He has won just under 62% of points behind his serve on this surface and you would have to think Mayer will have his opportunities to break this serve and really take control of this match.

As long as Mayer is able to stay in this match mentally I do think he will win fairly comfortably. The Djere results on the hard courts have shown a player who does suffer multiple breaks of serve on this surface and even if one of the sets go to a tie-breaker I still believe Mayer is superior to Djere on the hard courts and he can show that by producing a fairly routine win in the First Round.

Marin Cilic-Marius Copil over 32.5 games: Marin Cilic is a former US Open Champion and he will be a dark horse to win the title in New York having already reached the Final at the Australian Open back in January. He had a surprisingly poor Wimbledon, but Cilic has looked very comfortable on the hard courts over the last month with a Quarter Final run in Toronto ended by Rafael Nadal and a Semi Final run in Cincinnati ended by Novak Djokovic.

Both of those players went on to win the titles at those tournaments so Cilic is clearly in good nick and even more so when you consider the defeats came in three sets. The one concern for Cilic going forward is whether he will have the mental strength to win those tough matches if he faces them at the US Open, but the Croatian looks like he could be a threat here in New York.

One area in which Cilic will want to improve is his return of serve and winning the big points on that side of his game. While he is winning more points percentage wise on the return, the break percentage is some way down on 2017 and Cilic is going to be tested by his opponent Marius Copil who has played well on the hard courts.

Copil has a very big serve and he has used that to very good effect on the hard courts with 70% of points won behind that shot. That has meant a lot of holds of serve, but I do worry that the conditions may not be ideal for the Romanian in this match with the courts playing a little slower than some of the other hard courts you will see on the Tour.

He hasn't played badly over the last month on the hard courts as he has pushed both Andy Murray and Marin Cilic to deciding sets. If Copil serves well he could at least give Cilic something to think about in this First Round match, especially if Cilic continues to have some issues with converting his returns into breaks of serve.

The layers do think Cilic wins this one a little more comfortably than I believe he will. While I do think Cilic is very likely to move through to the Second Round, I would not be surprised if we need to see a couple of tie-breakers in this one, while Copil has actually returned with a little more success than you would think which will give him a chance to steal a set.

In either of those cases this may look a total games line which is on the short side and I will back the two players to surpass that number.

Alexander Zverev - 7.5 games v Peter Polansky: Novak Djokovic made a bit of tennis history by becoming the first player to win every Masters event that is played when taking the title home in Cincinnati. Peter Polansky has had his name written in the history books for a different 'success' when he was given a Lucky Loser spot into the main draw of the US Open and becoming the first player to receive such a spot in every Grand Slam that is played.

While the Canadian was happy to joke about his 'achievement', Polansky won't enter this match expecting to lose but instead play with a 'nothing to lose' attitude which could make him a danger. Ultimately he should be familiar with the conditions in New York having played three Qualifiers ahead of the start of the main draw and that has to be factored into the match.

Alexander Zverev looked to be in good form in Washington having won the title there again, but the young German will be disappointed by his Toronto and Cincinnati showing. His overall record in Grand Slams is also very disappointing for a player who is Ranked as highly as Zverev and considering the clear potential he has to become one of the leading names on the ATP Tour in the years ahead.

It would still be a huge surprise if Zverev is beaten by Polansky in this First Round match though and the numbers back that up. Zverev has been very impressive behind serve and on the return on the hard courts in 2018 and his game on this surface has taken a huge step up from 2017 too.

The general Polansky numbers on the hard courts have been good to read too, but you can't ignore the majority of his matches are not played on the main ATP Tour. When you consider those numbers alone there is a significant step back from the Canadian and the return of serve has really suffered which puts a lot of pressure on Polansky to find his best serving days.

Polansky's serve is one that has to be respected though and it is on rare occasions he is embarrassed on a tennis court. He was beaten comfortably by Novak Djokovic in Toronto but even then it was Polansky's serve that kept him in touch with the former World Number 1 in his 6-3, 6-4 defeat. I wouldn't be surprised if Zverev takes the first couple of sets by the same margin, but I think the pressure of his return of serve tells in this match and he can pull away and cover this big number in a likely straight sets win.

Jiri Vesely - 1.5 sets v Corentin Moutet: This is a First Round match that both Jiri Vesely and Corentin Moutet have to be very contented with as they will feel it represents a very strong chance to pick up some vital Ranking points. Neither player has really made a decision to take in some hard court matches to build the confidence ahead of the US Open with just a single match between them being played on this surface over the last month.

Neither player has played more than ten matches on the hard courts in 2018 and both Vesely and Moutet have a losing record on the surface.

However it can't be ignored that the majority of Vesely's matches have come in main ATP Tour events compared with his opponent who has spent more time in Challenger and Qualifying events. With that in mind you would expect Moutet has the stronger hard court numbers having competed at a lower level than Vesely, but surprisingly that has not been the case and so I do like the Czech player to progress.

This is only the second time Moutet will have played a match at ATP main Tour level on the hard courts and so seeing his 68% hold percentage on the hard courts looks a very disappointing number. That could give a limited returner like Vesely a chance to have more success on that side of his game than he usually enjoys and it should make a big difference for a player who has a very strong 85% hold percentage on the hard courts in 2018.

Confidence is something that is hard to really pick in this match with neither player at their very best on the hard courts and potentially not enjoying the surface as much as others. That is arguably the biggest threat to Vesely's chances of making it through to the Second Round in this tournament, but I think he is the better player on the hard courts and can show that.

If Vesely serves as he can, I think Moutet will be put under immense pressure on the scoreboard and I like the Czech player to get this done in three or four sets.

Alex De Minaur - 1.5 sets v Taro Daniel: This is another First Round match in which both players competing have to have a full belief in their ability to move through to the Second Round. Both Alex De Minaur and Taro Daniel have had strong runs on the hard courts over the last month, but also struggled to keep the consistency at a level where they can produce those runs at a number of different tournaments.

There isn't a lot of difference between the numbers that both players have produced on this surface, although De Minaur's are slightly superior to Daniel's.

While I am favouring De Minaur will have enough to win this match it also feels there are going to be some twists and turns in the match. Both De Minaur and Daniel have very similar numbers when it comes to the return of serve both in terms of percentage of points won and also break percentages and that suggests there will be a number of breaks of serve in this one.

That feeling is only backed up by the fact that both players are not the most dominant behind serve although that is where De Minaur holds a significant advantage over Daniel as far as I am concerned. The Australian has held serve at close to 80% of the time on the hard courts compared with Daniel who is below 74% and that is where the slight margins in this match can be made.

Daniel has had some big wins on the hard courts and he did reach the Semi Final in Winston Salem last week which will have given him some confidence. Even with that in mind I can see Daniel has slightly weaker numbers in terms of percentage of service points and return points won in 2018 compared with 2017 and I believe De Minaur will work his way to a three or four set win.

Caroline Garcia v Johanna Konta: It hasn't been that long since both Caroline Garcia and Johanna Konta were top 20 Ranked players, but the British player has had a difficult 2018. That has seen her slip down the World Rankings to a point where she has not been Seeded at the US Open and thus been given a tough First Round assignment that neither player would have wanted.

It is quite easily the best looking match in the First Round of the women's draw and I think the layers are finding it difficult to split the players because of the erratic nature of both.

On the face of things I would have given the edge to Johanna Konta who has some decent hard court numbers but who has suffered some unfortunate losses. However there is a real feeling that Konta may not be completely healthy going into the tournament in New York and that is where Garcia could edge out an opponent who has proved to be very closely matched to the Frenchwoman from their previous meetings.

The health issues could be the factor that swings things towards Garcia even though she has not been at her best in the last couple of weeks on the hard courts. A decent run in Montreal has been followed by disappointing ones in Cincinnati and New Haven, but Garcia has a serve that can match Konta's and I do think her overall form over the last month looks superior to the British player's form.

Konta has proved to be a decent returner on the hard courts, but her service numbers are slightly down on 2017 and I do think Garcia can get the better of her. I have been a critic of Garcia's return game as that is the main reason she has not been able to make a big impact at Grand Slams in the past, but she did beat Konta on the hard courts in 2017 when the latter was playing at a higher level than she is producing at the moment.

Don't be surprised if a deciding set is required, but the conditions in New York are very tough if someone is not feeling at 100% and I think that factors into the Johanna Konta defeat in the First Round.

MY PICKS: Leonardo Mayer - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic-Marius Copil Over 32.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Jiri Vesely - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Goffin - 8.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 4-2, + 3.28 Units (12 Units Staked, + 27.33% Yield)

Monday, 27 August 2018

US Open Tennis Day 1 Picks 2018 (August 27th)

The final Grand Slam of the season gets underway on Monday with half of the First Round matches scheduled to be played.

The top half of both the men's and women's tournaments are played on Monday and I am hoping to build on the slightly profitable last week.

During the early part of the US Open my plan is to write out the analysis for a number of matches and then add any remaining Picks as I am in the midst of a busy week which coincides with the first week at the Slam in New York.

Regardless I will only place my Picks on any match I feel I have being able to research to the same level as usual and if they fit into my parameters.

One aspect I have changed is when I am going to make my Outright Picks, if any, in this tournament. I really think it is a tough event to read, especially from the women's side of things, and so a watching brief early in the event and then making a selection or two looks the best way to approach things.

Rafael Nadal is the only player that appealed from the men's draw and he is the second favourite here, but I will focus on the daily picks from the tournament.

Jack Sock - 4.5 games v Guido Andreozzi: 2018 has been an incredibly poor year for Jack Sock and the loss of form is a real surprise when you think the American won the Paris Masters and reached the Semi Final of the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of 2017. A 5-16 record in 2018 does not inspire any sort of confidence in Jack Sock so it may be a big surprise to read that I will not only be backing him to win in the First Round at the US Open, but also win by a large enough margin to cover this number.

Sock has never been a dominant player on the hard courts despite the feeling that he should be at his most happiest on this surface. He might have been 50-30 on the surface in 2016 and 2017 combined, but Sock has been winning with some tight numbers and the slight decline on serve and return on the hard courts in 2018 has seen Sock drop into a losing record.

He has only reached one Fourth Round at the US Open in the last three seasons and a couple of early losses makes him look a vulnerable Seed in this tournament. Sock is about to take a significant fall in the World Rankings in the months ahead if he can't put some wins together and confidence has looked short which makes it a bit of a surprise I am willing to back him, but the First Round draw looks about as good as Sock could have asked for.

There have been a couple of disappointing losses for Sock on the hard courts in 2018, but he won't have played someone like Guido Andreozzi who has played just eighteen hard court matches since the beginning of 2016. Andreozzi did reach the Third Round in Winston Salem last week having come through the Qualifiers and that may give him some belief to take into New York, but he has a vulnerable serve on the hard courts and that is where Sock has to take advantage.

The Argentinian has not won enough points behind serve to take advantage of what has been a decent return game. I do think Andreozzi can cause problems for Sock who simply has not played with any real confidence for some time but the latter should still have enough to win this in four sets which should also be good enough for him to cover this number.

Grigor Dimitrov v Stan Wawrinka: There is no doubt this is the best looking match in the men's First Round at the US Open and the layers are finding it tough to decide who will win when Grigor Dimitrov takes on Stan Wawrinka. There are some serious doubts about both of these players with neither showing strong form and it makes picking a winner slightly more awkward.

It is Dimitrov who has the better of the head to head, but their two previous matches at Grand Slam level have both been won by Stan Wawrinka. The last of those came at the last Grand Slam at Wimbledon where Dimitrov was knocked out by Wawrinka in the First Round but that was a very close match and the Bulgarian has to be kicking himself that he was not able to secure the win.

In general his performances on the hard courts have been disappointing too in 2018 and Dimitrov's numbers have really slipped off his recent standards. The real decline has come on the return of serve which was going to make him an over-rated favourite as far as I was concerned, but the draw means Dimitrov is actually the underdog in this match and I like his position there.

While Dimitrov's serve and return numbers are down, he is still winning very slightly more points in matches on the hard courts. That could be significant in this match because Stan Wawrinka has been struggling for consistency and has won less points than his opponents on this surface in 2018.

Wawrinka is having more issues on the return of serve than Dimitrov when it comes to hard court matches and that is where the narrow underdog in this match could be the right play. Both players have had some decent wins in Toronto and Cincinnati over the last month, but Wawrinka has had to dig deep to win a couple of his matches and the limited return game has been a factor as to why he has yet to reach the heights he can following injury.

Their match at Wimbledon was incredibly close and it won't take a lot to turn that around in favour of Dimitrov here. I am anticipating a very close match, but Dimitrov has the ever so slightly better percentage when it comes to the hold of serve and break of serve. That is enough to have me backing him as the underdog in this quality looking First Round match that could potentially go all the way to five sets on Monday.

Denis Kudla v Matteo Berrettini: This has the potential of being a very close First Round match when Matteo Berrettini and Denis Kudla meet at the US Open on Monday. These two players have already met twice on the hard courts in 2018 and both Berrettini and Kudla have won one match each with the Italian winning the most recent of those at the Indian Wells Masters tournament in March.

The first match was won by Kudla in the Australian Open Qualifiers but they have been closely matched and the feeling is that there won't be a lot between them when they meet in the First Round.

However I have to give the very slight edge to Kudla who should be more at home on the North American hard courts even though he did lose the match with Berrettini in Indian Wells. The Kudla numbers on the hard courts have been the slightly superior of the two and the gap is only increased when you take into consideration full ATP matches alone.

Both players have had a solid run on the hard courts over the last month with Kudla reaching the Washington Quarter Final and Berrettini making the Winston Salem Third Round last week. However Berrettini is holding at less than 80% in main Tour matches on the hard courts and he has really struggled when it comes to the break of serve and those numbers have taken a significant drop off when compared to the Italian's overall hard court numbers.

Kudla's numbers have not dropped at the same level when considering his main Tour matches on the hard courts alone. The American has held 85% of his service games in these matches on this surface and while he does not have the best returning stats, Kudla does have superior numbers to Berrettini which could make all the difference in a close First Round match.

With that in mind it also feels wrong to see Kudla down as the underdog in this match and I will back him to win and move through to the Second Round.

Vasek Pospisil v Lukas Lacko: When you look at the participants in this First Round match you could easily place this kind of match at a Challenger level tournament rather than at the final Grand Slam of the season. Both Vasek Pospisil and Lukas Lacko have struggled to take their game to the main ATP level in the last couple of years, but I expect both to be very happy with the draw in the First Round and the possibility to earning some big Ranking points.

The numbers of both players take a serious dent when you look at how they have performed on the main ATP level, but that shouldn't be a big concern in this match up.

Vasek Pospisil has had the more consistent success at the Challenger level on the hard courts compared with Lukas Lacko, but the latter has also reached the Final at that level. That is important to note, but I don't think you can ignore the fact that Pospisil has won titles on the Challenger circuit and reached a number of other Finals.

I have noticed that Lacko's numbers have not taken a serious decline in main Tour matches compared with the overall numbers in the same manner as Pospisil's have. However it is the Canadian who has produced much better numbers overall in 2018 and I do think this is the kind of match up in which he can thrive even if Pospisil has not really reached the same heights he did a couple of years ago.

The serve is all important for Pospisil and he is facing an opponent who is breaking opponents at less than 20% of the time in 2018. Add in how much better Pospisil has been able to return when facing the lower Ranked players compared to those he sees on the main Tour and I do think Pospisil can edge out Lacko in this First Round encounter.

Anything other than a close match would be a real surprise to me, but I do give Pospisil enough of an edge to want to back him at the prices in this one.

Heather Watson + 3.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: It has been a long time since I have backed Heather Watson with a start on the Handicap simply because the British player tends to be very over-rated. 2018 has been a real struggle for Watson and she hasn't won a lot of matches which makes it hard to really trust her, but winning three Qualifiers has to stand her in good stead in the First Round.

The three wins came in dominant fashion which bodes well for Watson, but this is a big step up in class for her. Watson's drop down the World Rankings means she has not been able to play in either of the Premier Events in Canada or Cincinnati which were run over the last three weeks, but reaching a Final in an ITF tournament on the hard courts will certainly help the confidence of the player.

Watson is not as good as Ekaterina Makarova, but the Russian has yet to really put together some consistent performances after returning from an injury. She has been able to produce decent first serves and her return game is superior to the one that Watson will bring into the match, but the second serve is where Watson has to make some hay if she is going to produce the upset.

Makarova has played well in her last couple of tournaments in Cincinnati and New Haven, but the courts play much quicker in Cincinnati than they do in New York. That may mean Watson's decent defensive skills can help her cause some problems for Makarova as long as the British player is able to at least put some solid service games on the board.

I really feel that is a key for this entire match- Watson is not a great server, but her first serve can put her on the front foot and she has to make sure she gets enough of those in to keep Makarova under pressure. Doing that could give Watson the chance to at least steal a set and that may be enough for her to get within this number.

Watson will have her chances to win this match if she is able to get the better of the Makarova second serve, but I am simply looking for her to keep this competitive and ride the momentum of her Qualifier wins into the main draw.

Anastasija Sevastova - 2.5 games v Donna Vekic: On first glance I expected to see Anastasija Sevastova an even stronger favourite to win this First Round match against Donna Vekic than she is at the layers. After researching into this one nothing has changed and I do expect the Seeded player to move through to the Second Round after a strong performance at the US Open in 2017.

It has been a mixed month on the hard courts for Sevastova who reached the Quarter Final in Montreal and was then beaten very early in Cincinnati. However the conditions in New York are probably closer to Montreal than Cincinnati so I am not too concerned by the early defeat in the second of the Premier Events that were played on the hard courts this month.

Sevastova has produced some decent numbers on both the serve and return on the hard courts, but I do think she is a player that struggles to really break through against the top names. The second serve needs some work as it does for many players on the WTA Tour, but Sevastova has a decent first serve and backs that up with a strong return game which is expected to give her opponent some troubles.

Donna Vekic had a mixed few weeks on the hard courts too having reached the Final in Washington and coming within a point of winning the title but then failing to Qualify for the Cincinnati main draw. The 11-10 record on the hard courts may not show it, but the 22 year old has made some slight improvements in her overall numbers on the surface in 2018 compared with 2017 but I am not convinced that is enough to challenge Sevastova.

The numbers are stronger against top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts in 2018 compared with 2017, but they are still not convincing numbers and I do think Sevastova can continue her dominance of this match up. Sevastova has beaten Vekic in all three previous matches which have all been played on the hard courts, while the Latvian's last two wins have come at the US Open in 2017 and Doha in 2018 in straight sets.

It feels that is the most likely outcome of this one too and I will back Sevastova to cover the number in a win.

MY PICKS: Jack Sock - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Denis Kudla @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Vasek Pospisil @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Heather Watson + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Anastasija Sevastova - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)