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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)

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