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Friday, 31 May 2019

French Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2019 (May 31st)

Thursday proved to be a really frustrating day and I am looking to bounce back before we get into the second week of the French Open.

On Day 6 the Third Round begins and the tournament is beginning to take shape with the big names battling through to this stage of the Grand Slam. From here on out those players are looking to begin to peak in time for the Finals to be played next week.

Below you can see my Picks from the Third Round matches to be played on Friday and I have also updated the record from the French Open below the 'MY PICKS' section of this thread.


Rafael Nadal - 9.5 games v David Goffin: It is not surprise that Rafael Nadal is being asked to cover some huge numbers in the early Rounds at Roland Garros where he has been a dominant force for the last fifteen years. Playing back to back Qualifiers meant the layers were taking no chances in opposing the Spaniard, but Nadal has been very strong so far with two very comfortable wins put on the board.

The Third Round figures to be a lot tougher for Nadal as he gets set to take on David Goffin who has long been very comfortable on the clay courts. However it has been a difficult 2019 for the Belgian and even his two wins in Paris won't exactly have prepared him for the task of knocking off Nadal on a court where he has had so much success in the past.

To be fair to Goffin, he has been almost as dominant as Nadal in getting through his first two matches in Paris. Like Nadal, Goffin has dropped just 13 games in the first couple of Rounds and he can't be any fresher or more full of belief before taking to the court. However things can change very quickly on the court and the match up with Nadal is not one that Goffin has enjoyed too much in the past.

It is going to be the fourth time these two have met on a clay court and Nadal has won the first three of those by comfortable margins. In those three previous matches, the Spaniard has managed to hold 92% of the service games played compared with Goffin who has done the same in just over 50% of his own service games played. There is little doubt that Nadal is going to be able to exert a lot of pressure on him again when you think Goffin was holding just 68% of the service games he played on the clay courts before facing two overmatched opponents here in Paris.

In the last couple of seasons Nadal has really earned his moniker of being the King of Clay with numbers that are eye popping. In 2019 it has been more difficult for Nadal, but he is still producing some hugely impressive numbers and I think he is going to wear down and break down Goffin in this one too.

Without a doubt this is a huge number of games for Nadal to cover, but I think he will win at least one set by a 6-1 or 6-2 margin which can make a significant dent into the handicap. The past performances against Goffin in mind and the struggles the Belgian has had in holding serve in 2019 on the clay courts suggest Nadal can perhaps even win two sets by a wide margin and that should give him every chance of covering this spread.


Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Laslo Djere: Being Seeded at a Grand Slam is a huge bonus, especially for those Ranked between 17-32 at the tournaments. It means avoiding the big names for at least the first couple of Rounds and Laslo Djere has taken advantage of sneaking into a Seeded position in Paris. He has produced two solid wins to reach the Third Round and add some vital Ranking points to his record, but now the Serbian faces one of the top 10 Ranked players in the draw.

He should still be confident considering the kind of tennis he has been able to play on the clay in 2019, but Djere will also respect the fact that Kei Nishikori has been amongst the second tier of clay courters for some time. There have been times when Nishikori has been able to push the very best on the surface, but for the most part he is in the tier behind the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Confidence should not be an issue for Nishikori who came from a set down to beat home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Second Round having also beaten another Frenchman in the First Round. At least this time Nishikori will be expecting the crowd to be less vocal behind his opponent, but it has not stopped the Japanese star playing some of his best tennis here in Paris this past week.

One of the criticisms Nishikori has to take in 2019 is the relatively underwhelming performances he has produced. There have been times that he has not been as dominant against the players Ranked lower down as he would have liked and I do think Djere will have his chances if Nishikori produces a lacklustre effort in this one.

For the year Djere has been very good on the clay courts, although he had not enjoyed a great two months prior to arriving in Paris where he has yet to drop a single set through the first two Rounds. When the step up has come to face players Ranked in the top 50 of the World Rankings it has been a tougher day for Djere and I do think Nishikori is the kind of player who can wear you down even if he is perhaps not going to win this one in straight sets.

Kei Nishikori is one of the best returners out there and I think that is going to be a factor the longer this match goes on. He has broken in 28% of return games played on the clay courts when facing players Ranked outside the top 20 and this week he has been seeing the ball pretty big on the return. It might not be a big surprise if Laslo Djere is able to win a set, but I think Nishikori will still have every chance of covering this number.


Juan Ignacio Londero - 1.5 sets v Corentin Moutet: At every Grand Slam there is always one or two names that reach the second week that would not have been expected to be there at the beginning of the tournament. This is a big chance to also add some vital Ranking points that will sit on the record for the next twelve months and allow players to earn entry into big tournaments over the next several weeks.

Both Juan Ignacio Londero and Corentin Moutet have to be really believing this is a match they can win to move through to the Fourth Round of the French Open. You can't blame either for feeling that way considering the opponent in front of them and both have earned at least one upset to make their way through this open portion of the draw.

It might not be the greatest reward for the winner to know they are likely going to have to face Rafael Nadal in the Fourth Round on Sunday, but Londero and Moutet can't look past each other.

I really do have to give the edge to Londero who has had a breakthrough year on the Tour and who looks to be playing the superior clay court tennis. In this tournament his serve has been a huge weapon for him in his wins over Nikoloz Basilashvili and Richard Gasquet and I do think there is more improvement needed by Moutet if he is going to edge him out of this Third Round match.

While Londero has kept the pressure on opponents, Moutet has needed to be very strong on the return of serve to keep his last two opponents at bay. He has managed that very effectively which makes him dangerous, and Moutet does have a strong record on the clay in 2019 where he has broken in 39% of return games played.

That number has slipped to 18% when you put together his career record on the clay courts at main ATP level, but this year he is at 26% in his two matches at this level prior to the French Open. With that in mind I am not sure he is going to slip off the performance level, but Moutet is going to be dealing with someone who has looked after his serve very well and especially here in Paris.

Juan Ignacio Londero has also been breaking plenty and I think he may have the edge in this match. If he continues to serve as he has, I would expect Londero to come through in three or four tough sets and I will back him to do that.


Marketa Vondrousova - 3.5 games v Carla Suarez Navarro: Earlier in the French Open I backed against Carla Suarez Navarro, but she barely came through a difficult two sets with Dayana Yestremska before winning in three sets. The Spanish veteran needed three sets to see off Shelby Rogers in the Second Round too and I do think she is going to have to raise her level another notch if she is going to make the second week in Paris.

In the Third Round Suarez Navarro takes on Marketa Vondrousova who has made comfortable progress through the draw. The Czech player is yet to drop a set and she dominated Anastasia Potapova in the Second Round after going down 4-1 in the first set to then win eleven games in a row to move past her young opponent.

There was enough to like about Vondrousova's performances in the build up to the French Open to believe she could have a real impact in the tournament. The losses suffered to Johanna Konta and Petra Martic on the clay courts don't look at all bad when you think of how both of those players have been performing and I do think Vondrousova is playing at a level that can make things very difficult on Suarez Navarro.

I have to respect the fact that Suarez Navarro has gotten the better of me once this week, but her numbers on the clay courts have been average and far below what Vondrousova has been able to produce. This is a player who can get on a roll though which makes this spread a dangerous one, but Suarez Navarro is going to be put under pressure from the Vondrousova return and she is going to have to really get her teeth into the Vondrousova service games to stay with her.

That won't be easy for a player who is winning 43% of return points compared with Vondrousova's 48% on the clay courts in the build up to this tournament. Even in the first two Rounds Suarez Navarro has just about edged through as she has been put under pressure and at some point I would expect her to crack.

I would be hoping Vondrousova makes a better start to this match than she did in the Second Round as that would be a long way back against someone who can be strong when getting in front. If she can ride out those moments, I would expect Marketa Vondrousova to win this one most likely in straight sets and with a break of serve more than Suarez Navarro in each of those sets.


Johanna Konta - 2.5 games v Viktoria Kuzmova: Playing at Roland Garros has been a tough task for Johanna Konta in the past, but she has finally won a match at the French Open. After a strong clay court season, Konta has not only won one match, but followed up with a second to move through to the Third Round.

Now she will be chasing a spot in the second week of the second Grand Slam of the season, although the feeling for Konta will be that there is room for improvement on the first couple of performances here. She reached the Final in Rome to show she can compete on the courts in Paris where the conditions are somewhat similar, and there may also be the benefit of playing on a slightly quicker court on Friday when Konta is scheduled to be on the new Simone-Mathieu court.

The suggestion from players is that the court is playing a little faster than the other courts at Roland Garros, but it may also be a benefit for Viktoria Kuzmova who has had a solid clay court campaign compared to previous seasons. She is still not raising too many trees with the level produced in 2019, but Kuzmova has played better than previous years on this surface and should be well rested for this match.

In reality the expectation would have been that Kiki Bertens was in the Third Round to face Konta, but she had to retire through an illness after just four games were played in the Second Round against Kuzmova. The Slovakian came through a First Round against another injury hit player in Alize Cornet, although Kuzmova had to win that match in straight sets.

Those two results don't really change the perception of how well Kuzmova can perform on the clay courts, although I do think she can cause problems for Konta if the latter is not at her best. Their overall numbers on the clay courts look pretty similar, but Kuzmova's level have declined when she has faced players Ranked in the top 50 and I think that is an issue for her to resolve.

In those matches Kuzmova has won 41% of return points and I do think Konta can serve well enough to keep her at bay. There are times when Konta can lose her concentration or perhaps get a little nervy in matches which is a concern, but I think she is the superior player in this one and has played well enough in Paris to think she can win and cover the number.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Juan Ignacio Londero - 1.5 Sets @ 
Marketa Vondrousova - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 2.5 Games @ Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Anastasija Sevastova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kaia Kanepi - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov + 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stefanos Tsitsipas - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

French Open Update: 35-30, + 2.90 Units (130 Units Staked, + 2.23% Yield)

Thursday, 30 May 2019

NBA Finals Picks 2019 (May 30-June 16)

NBA Finals 2019- Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors (May 30-June 16)
While one of the teams competing in the NBA Finals will come as no surprise, the Toronto Raptors are ready to compete in their first Finals of franchise history.

As the image above may indicate, Kawhi Leonard has been a huge part of the successes that the Raptors have been able to put together in 2019, but this could be a one and done deal for him in Toronto. With impending Free Agency due to begin, Toronto could be losing their star player and it could be argued that only a NBA Finals win could potentially change his mind.

Usually I think Kevin Durant would be the man on the other side of the poster, but his injury leaves him a doubt for the early portion of the NBA Finals. Maybe we will finally see a dominant Finals from Steph Curry in a Finals that is more competitive than some may have indicated.

We are going to be opening up with two games in Canada before shifting to California for two games next week. You have to think Toronto need to make a positive start to the Finals with the two games here coming up and I am also hoping for a much better set of Picks for the NBA Finals than I had for the Conference Finals.


Thursday 30th May
Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors Game 1 Pick: Kawhi Leonard has been huge for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA PlayOffs and has taken over from Kevin Durant as the best performer in the post-season. Much is going to depend on Leonard again as Toronto look for their first NBA Championship in franchise history, but standing in front of them is the defending Champions Golden State Warriors who are going for a three-peat as Champions.

The Warriors closed the door on the Portland Trail Blazers in a sweep during the Western Conference Finals and that means they have had a few more days to rest. It hasn't helped enough to get Kevin Durant back who is now going to have missed six games in a row in the PlayOffs as speculation about his future continues to swirl.

Golden State have won all five games they have played without Durant in the starting line up as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have gotten hot from the field. The only concern for the Warriors has to be the big holes they have found themselves in during the last three games against Portland Trail Blazers, even though rallying for wins in each of those will give this veteran group of players plenty of confidence.

However starting slowly is not really a plan for the NBA Finals as Golden State will be looking to show the Raptors what they have learned during their four previous years of reaching the Finals. On the other hand only a couple of the Toronto players have had the experience of reaching the NBA Finals, although in Leonard they have someone who stopped the Miami Heat winning a third straight NBA Championship when finishing as Finals MVP as a San Antonio Spurs player.

Leonard looks like he could be feeling much better after being slowed by a leg injury in the Eastern Conference Finals win over the Milwaukee Bucks. His team-mates also stepped up their play to not only become the first team to beat the Bucks three times in a row this season, but they completed a run of four straight wins over the team with the Number 1 record in the NBA.

Toronto also have the knowledge of beating Golden State twice in the regular season and they are a team that will cause some real problems for the Warriors. The big men should have a real edge over the Warriors and Toronto have been shooting the three ball well enough to believe they can counter anything Curry and Klay Thompson can produce after the Splash Brothers hammered the Trail Blazers in the Conference Finals.

The layers are finding it very difficult to split these teams in Game 1 and the potential of a returning DeMarcus Cousins does give the Warriors the chance to offer a different look to the Raptors. Kevin Durant's continued absence is still hurting the Warriors, but they have shown they can perform very well without him and I think this is going to be a game that goes down to the wire with both teams having a chance to win it.

Being able to back Golden State as the underdog is very tempting as I do think they are going to leave Toronto with a split of the first two games, but I am slightly concerned that there could be rustiness from their long lay off. Toronto have also had a few days to digest what they have accomplished so far this season, but they will need to ensure they are continuing to knock down their three pointers to keep ahead of the Warriors and also make sure they are playing the kind of Defense which stifled the Bucks in the Conference Finals.

The poor record in Game 1s held by the Raptors is troublesome when it comes to the spread, but I am going to look for the two Offenses to perhaps need some time to get going in this Series. If the Raptors are going to win they are going to need to be as active Defensively as they have been in the last couple of Series, while Golden State have also showed they can lock down on that side of the court when they need to.

Games between the Raptors and Warriors have leant towards the high total and this one is not a big one if I am being honest. However I am going to be looking for a game in which the teams don't have a perfect rhythm from an Offensive standpoint and I will look for both Defenses to get the better of things in the opener.

The refs can play a huge part in the totals if they get a little whistle happy, but both teams can be very strong Defensively and my first selection in the NBA Finals will be this game failing to reach the total set.


Sunday 2nd June
Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors Game 2 Pick: At the end of the first quarter it looked like the rustiness of the two teams was going to produce a low scoring game as I had predicted in Game 1. However there was some frustration that the teams decided to fall in love with the three ball and also manage to grab a whistle happy crew to see the teams go into overdrive in the middle two quarters either side of half time.

Frustration aside, it was a big game for the Toronto Raptors who held off any rally the Golden State Warriors were able to make and extend their streak to five straight wins in the PlayOffs. Canada is expectant and there is a real belief that the Raptors are ready to bring home the NBA Championship.

But hold your horses.

This is the defending NBA Champions looking for a three-peat and I am expecting a big response from the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant continues to sit out, but I know this Warriors team are better than what they showed in Game 1 when Toronto were able to do what they wanted from the field and Pascal Siakam was able to dominate the third quarter.

Some soul searching would have been done the last couple of days but the Warriors won't have been panicking even if they have lost three straight games to Toronto in the 2018/19 season. Adjustments will be made by a team who have been as successful as Golden State have been in the post-season and I do think they can show considerable fight in Game 2.

Before the Series began I felt the Warriors would be returning home with a 1-1 scoreline and Golden State are 11-2 following a straight up loss since the All Star Game. They have also gone 3-1 after a defeat in the PlayOffs and I do think there is going to be a game soon where the Toronto role players are simply not making the shots they have been over the last two weeks.

The Raptors are being favoured again at home, but I like the underdogs to show why they have been the team to beat in the NBA. By the time the Series shifts back to the Oracle Arena we could see Kevin Durant ready to go and I think the Warriors can begin to shift the momentum back towards them with a vital road win in a pivotal Game 2.


Wednesday 5th June
Toronto Raptors @ Golden State Warriors Game 3 Pick: It needed the Toronto Raptors to go cold out of half time to allow the Golden State Warriors to recover and steal Game 2 from the Eastern Conference Champions. Even then it went right down to the wire and the Raptors will be kicking themselves for some of the wide open misses they were guilty of throughout the second half.

Now the NBA Finals shift to the Oracle Arena for two games and the Golden State Warriors are favoured by a much healthier margin than the Toronto Raptors were for either game they hosted. On the face of things you can understand that, but I am finding it much more difficult to be confident in the Warriors when you think of the injuries they are dealing with.

Klay Thompson will suit up by all accounts, but he is not going to be anywhere near 100%, while Kevin Durant remains sidelined. Kevon Looney has been ruled out and is unlikely to return before the end of this season and all in all you have to figure the Raptors are not going to have a better chance to win a road game in this passionate Arena as what they have in Game 3.

They will have to weather a storm at some point and Toronto have not been as good on the road as they have been in front of their own rabid fanbase. Kawhi Leonard is clearly not at 100% himself, but he remains strong enough from the field to keep providing space for the role players and this is really going to come down to which of those players step up the best for either team.

The underdog has now covered in five of the last six games and the Warriors are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven at home. I have no doubt that Toronto have not been as strong on the road as they have at home which is a concern, but I don't expect the Raptors to be as loose with their open shots as they were in Game 2 and that should allow them to keep this competitive and I do think they have every chance to stealing home court back from the Warriors.

We have seen teams rally together when they are facing the kind of adversity that the Warriors are dealing with from an injury front so I would not be surprised if Golden State did find a way to win this. But a blow out of the Raptors would be unexpected and might be the start of a very short Series if that happens with Golden State looking like they could be much healthier by the time Game 4 swings around.


Friday 7th June
Toronto Raptors @ Golden State Warriors Game 4 Pick: There are going to be a lot of questions for Steve Kerr to answer if the Golden State Warriors lose the NBA Finals because of the decisions made for Game 3. Klay Thompson was kept out of Game 3 to avoid aggravating the hamstring injury he picked up in Game 2, but the Golden State Warriors dropped the game and have given back home court.

To be fair to the Toronto Raptors they took the opportunity to win the game with a heavy dose of three pointers and making sure they answered every time the Warriors rallied. Ultimately the Warriors didn't have enough at either end of the court and they are now in a 'desperate' position to win Game 4 and at least head to Toronto avoiding facing an elimination game.

The Raptors have to keep going as they are with the role players stepping up. Barring a terrible third quarter in Game 2, Toronto could have found themselves 3-0 up in the NBA Finals and they are getting plenty out of players other than Kawhi Leonard which is keeping the Warriors off balance.

Thompson's return will give Golden State an Offensive boost to go with Steph Curry, but it is the impact he can have on the Defensive side of the court which may be most important. The hope for the Warriors is that the two days between Game 3 and Game 4 will have really helped get Klay Thompson close to 100% for this one, especially with Kevin Durant seemingly ruled out for another game.

We see the spread at the same mark as it was in Game 3 and that was one that was led by the Raptors from wire to wire. I will make the same point that the Raptors are a little erratic on the road and this time the presence of Klay Thompson will have me going the other way and looking for the Warriors to win and cover.

Other players have to step up, but having Thompson out there does provide another scorer outside of Curry. The pressure is on the Warriors, but they have a lot of experience of being up and down in the NBA Finals and I think that will keep them focused on the task at hand.

Golden State have been a miserable team to back on the spread all season as they tend to be overrated by the layers who know they will be backed. However the Warriors are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven off a loss and if the Raptors are slightly off with their shooting for any stretch of time like they were in Game 2 then I do think the Warriors can pull away for the win before the Finals shift back to Canada.

It might look a poor pick deep into this game, but I do expect to see a reaction from the Warriors and they can play with the urgency and experience of Champions to edge out the Raptors as they pull away in the fourth quarter.


Monday 10th June
Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors Game 5 Pick: In the last couple of years we have heard the Golden State Warriors being compared to the great Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls team and a number of other teams that have become dynasties in the NBA. Winning a third NBA Championship in a row would have backed up those who put the Golden State Warriors up alongside the very best teams in NBA history, but a 3-2 record in the NBA Finals doesn't look nearly as good.

The Warriors would have won four in a row heading into the 2018/19 season if it wasn't for a collapse against the Cleveland Cavaliers when leading the 2016 NBA Finals 3-1. They became the first NBA team to blow that lead in a best of seven game Finals, but now the Warriors are hoping for some redemption after dropping both games at home in the NBA Finals.

Being 3-1 down and with all the momentum going to the Toronto Raptors looks to be a long path back for Golden State. Injuries have hurt them at the wrong time, but both Kevan Looney and Klay Thompson played on Friday and have had a couple of days to rest and get ready for this one.

The biggest news could be the impending return of Kevin Durant whose stock has risen significantly during the NBA Finals without taking to the court for one game. Durant practiced on Sunday and the feeling is that he will be suited up for Game 5, although how much anyone can impact a game when coming back after almost a month on the sidelines is up in the air.

At the very least Durant will perhaps open things up for the Warriors Offensively having seen the team struggle outside of the Splash Brothers for scoring. Steph Curry and Thompson will need to be efficient from the field and hope someone else can step up for them, especially if Toronto continue to find and knock down the open shots as they have been doing.

Toronto have loved playing at home and I think they are going to be very confident they can close out this Finals even if Durant is available to play. Kawhi Leonard is almost certainly finishing as MVP, but he has been well supported through the likes of Danny Green, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet who are playing at a high level Offensively and Defensively.

Since the news of Durant broke the spread is almost dropping to a pick 'em line and my lean is perhaps with the Raptors after winning both games at the Oracle Arena. It is definitely hard to oppose them, but I have to think Golden State bounce back from a sub-par Offensive showing and that could help Game 5 of the NBA Finals surpass the total points line set for the game.

The 'over' has a strong trend when you see the Warriors playing on the road and the two days of rest between games should help them on that side of the court too. Even a rusty Durant will help open things up as the Raptors will have to respect the shooting of the best player in the NBA and that should also help the Warriors in finding some success.

It has also been the play in recent Toronto games and I don't think this team is going to suddenly move off the three point line which has been a key weapon for them in the PlayOffs. Relying on the three ball can be difficult for teams when the rhythm is slightly off, but I think Toronto are in form and they can contribute to what should be a high-scoring Game 5 with so much on the line for both teams and their potential futures.


Thursday 13th June
Toronto Raptors @ Golden State Warriors Game 6 Pick: Where else can you possibly start than with Kevin Durant? It was awful seeing him going down with what was a ruptured Achilles tendon that leaves his availability for the 2019/20 season up in the air.

Seeing one of the best players in the world go down and look like he is going to miss a prime year of his career is hard and I agreed with Jalen Rose and his assessment of things. In fact I had said the same things to friends in the aftermath of Game 5 in that Durant was in a lose-lose situation and he should never have risked his own health for the benefit of those who have wanted to write negative stories about him ever since he signed with the Golden State Warriors.

If he hadn't played we would have heard more reports from sources that Durant is being questioned by team-mates, as we did after Game 4, and if he had scored 50 points and lasted through Game 5 I am sure there would have been articles questioning why he didn't come back sooner.

For the narrative the injury was perhaps the best thing that happened, but you would have to be one cold hearted piece of work to think this is best for Durant. In a year when he was the Number 1 Free Agent heading to the market, this is a tragedy not just for those fanbases who though they could entice Durant to their teams, but for the whole NBA and anyone who enjoys watching the best play the best.

The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors have no choice but to head to Game 6 and let the Durant issue move to the back of the mind. Golden State barely were able to do that in Game 5 as they won for the second time on the road in the Finals, although it does mean only Game 1 has been won by the hosts.

Now we are back at the Oracle Arena for the last time no matter what happens and the Warriors have to use the emotion of the scenario to help them find a way to force a Game 7. Once again the issue is whether they have enough scoring avenues to overcome the loss of Durant and the slow down in Game 5 suggests it is not going to be easy for them.

There is some pressure on the Raptors too who will feel they have done enough to win the Finals already, yet here they are facing a Game 6 in a hostile environment. Toronto have won twice here already in the Finals and once in the regular season so I do think they are capable of getting things done on Thursday, but the pressure of expectation could be having an impact on them.

Three point shooting is obviously very important for the Warriors, but they have to find a way to make things easier for themselves by attacking the rim too. Getting into the bonus has been something the Raptors have been able to do with consistency success, but the Warriors need to find all avenues of scoring if they are going to force a Game 7 back on the road.

The Raptors have been able to produce some consistency Offensively and they should have their own successes here. There is more depth to their rotation and the Raptors will know how to win here which makes them very dangerous and closing out the Series and the Finals would not be a huge surprise.

I don't think the Warriors will go away quietly even being short-handed and I am still a little irritated Game 5 ended up with an 'under' considering where the game was at half time. It is a concern that the home team don't have enough to break down the Raptors in this one, but I am going to make the same play and look for the teams to actually foul down the stretch to give themselves a chance to help climb over the total points line set.

MY PICKS: 30/05 Toronto Raptors-Golden State Warriors Under 214 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
02/06 Golden State Warriors @ 2.20 Bet365 (1 Unit)
05/06 Toronto Raptors + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
07/06 Golden State Warriors - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
10/06 Toronto Raptors-Golden State Warriors Over 214 Points @ 1.91 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
13/06 Golden State Warriors-Toronto Raptors Over 211.5 Points @ 1.91 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)

NBA Finals: 2-3, - 0.89 Units (5 Units Staked, - 17.80% Yield)

Conference Finals: 4-6, - 2.36 Units (10 Units Staked, - 23.60% Yield)
Second Round: 12-11, - 0.04 Units (23 Units Staked, - 0% Yield)
First Round: 23-17, + 4.02 (40 Units Staked, + 10.05% Yield)

French Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2019 (May 30th)

I may have finished with a winning Day 4 at the French Open, but I am still frustrated that I didn't have a better day than I did. The main culprit for that is Benoit Paire who managed to get himself broken when serving for the third and the fourth set and also missed a match point in the fourth set to fail to win and cover the set handicap as I imagined.

It would have made a big difference to the totals and I do feel it was a match that was capped perfectly.

Ultimately it hasn't been a good enough first week at the French Open as we see the Second Round completed on Thursday. I might be up, but I hate feeling I've left some positivity out there, although being able to add a profit is still where I want to be.

The French Open has plenty of days left to get through so there are chances for a strong tournament, but it would be nice to have a bit more fortune going into the remainder of the event.


I have had a busy day today and so I am only going to write an analysis of a few of the selections and then adding the remainder to the 'MY PICKS' section below. I have also updated the totals for the week.


Pablo Cuevas - 1.5 sets v Kyle Edmund: All credit has to be given to Kyle Edmund for completing a five set win in the First Round in a match that needed to take place over a couple of days. A really poor clay court campaign has sapped the confidence from Edmund who has dropped down to World Number 30, but the win over Jeremy Chardy could help him recover mentally.

He had to knuckle down and battle through to the Second Round, but the step up in competition is going to be a challenge for him. Kyle Edmund won just a single point more than Jeremy Chardy over five sets and he did not serve or return as well as he would have liked and now has to face Pablo Cuevas who is very, very comfortable on the clay courts.

The Uruguayan won easily in the First Round and only a couple of sloppy service games prevented Cuevas from winning by a greater margin than he did. A straight sets win means he should be well rested and ready to go and Cuevas is coming in off another very good clay court showing over the last few months.

Pablo Cuevas has held 81% of the service games played on the clay courts in main ATP Tour matches and he has broken in 28% of the return games which shows how strong he can be on the surface. In the twenty-three matches played on clay on the main ATP circuit in 2019, Cuevas has won 52% of the points being that he has competed in and I think he is going to be very difficult to beat.

In recent years Kyle Edmund has shown he can be very good on the clay courts and that has to be respected. However he has held just 68% of the service games played in 2019 and the struggles behind that shot in the First Round suggests it is an issue that has yet to truly go away.

The Brit will look for the heavy forehand to dictate the way this match is played, but Cuevas has plenty of know how on the clay and he is playing with a lot more confidence than Edmund. I think it should lead to a win in three or four sets in one of the opening matches on Thursday as Edmund is forced to go back to the drawing board and move onto the grass courts.


Fernando Verdasco - 7.5 games v Antonie Hoang: Two players at opposite ends of their careers meet in the Second Round of the French Open as veteran Fernando Verdasco takes on young Frenchman Antonie Hoang. This is the first tournament in which Hoang has played in a main Tour event and he could not have asked for much more than playing in a Grand Slam in his home country.

A Wild Card allowed Hoang into the draw and he took advantage by beating Damir Dzumhur in the First Round. It might have been a four set win for the Frenchman, but he only won 5 more points than Dzumhur and I think Hoang is going to need to be much improved if he is going to upset a second opponent in a row.

It is a big ask for Hoang who was not exactly pulling up trees in his clay court matches in preparation for the French Open. He lost in the Qualifiers for Barcelona and Lyon as he tried to get into the main draw and Hoang was only holding 71% of his service games at a lower level than the one he is facing on Thursday.

In the First Round Hoang was broken seven times by Dzumhur and I do think even an erratic Fernando Verdasco can get the better of him. The Spaniard beat Daniel Evans in the First Round, but he had to ride out a sticky patch in the middle of a four set win before being able to pull away and his unfamiliarity with Hoang may see something similar occur in this one.

Fernando Verdasco has produced similar numbers to Hoang, but his have come on the main Tour and I think that difference in level will eventually tell in this one. I would hope Verdasco is not waiting too long to get to grips with the tennis he is seeing from the other side of the net because this not a very forgiving spread if he starts too slowly.

I think the first set will be tight, but Verdasco should begin to exert his quality over Hoang the longer the match goes. At some point I would expect him to put a lot of pressure on the Hoang serve and begin to break him often enough to produce a win and a cover of this spread total.


Borna Coric - 7.5 games v Lloyd Harris: The results might not have been as the performances for Borna Coric, but he has been playing some very good tennis on the clay courts. He continued the roll with a strong First Round win over Aljaz Bedene and he is being asked to cover one game more in the handicaps compared to that win in the First Round.

You can understand why as he gets set to face Lloyd Harris who has yet to have a really big impact on the main Tour. The South African did finally win his first clay court match in a main Tour event when seeing off Lukas Rosol in five sets in the First Round, but the challenge in front of him looks much more difficult in this match.

Lloyd Harris has played a couple of matches on the clay in Budapest and Lyon, but he lost both on the main Tour. In those matches Harris held serve in just 61% of the service games played and I would expect Coric to be able to put him under significant pressure in this one having broken in 24% of return games played on the clay courts in the lead up to this Grand Slam.

In the First Round I do think there was room for improvement for Coric who won 34% of the return points against Bedene and broke serve five times in four sets. Those numbers are not as impressive as I would expect from Coric who has won 40% of return points played on the clay courts in 2019, but this match should give him a chance to get back to his usual levels.

It is a big spread so Coric won't be able to make too slow a start, but I would anticipate him needing a bit of time to really understand the opponent in front of him. This is certainly something that can be an issue in the early Rounds of the Grand Slams as the bigger names face opponents they don't see around the Tour too often, but like Verdasco I would imagine Coric will eventually be able to exert his quality and he can win a set with a 6-1 or a 6-2 scoreline which can set him up for a cover.


Sam Stosur - 1.5 games v Ekaterina Alexandrova: No one here is going to tell you that Sam Stosur is not at the very back end of her career with declining numbers and results for the former Grand Slam Champion. The Australian is on the brink of falling out of the top 100 of the World Rankings after peaking as World Number 4 back in 2011, and failing to win this Second Round match would likely mean she is going to be out of an automatic position to Qualify for Grand Slam events.

She had been struggling going into this tournament, but Stosur was a solid First Round winner over Barbora Strycova. The 45% of return points won coupled with a decent serving day took Stosur through to the Second Round and she is still playing some of her better tennis on this surface.

The second serve is very vulnerable which has to be a concern for Stosur going through the draw, but she has won 44% of return points played on the clay courts in preparation for the French Open. With the performance in the First Round Stosur could be good enough to take advantage of what has become an open part of the draw for her.

Petra Kvitova withdraw from the French Open on the eve of the tournament which removed the biggest threat in this mini section, while Ekaterina Alexandrova's upset of Mihaela Buzarnescu in the First Round means this should be a more winnable match for Stosur.

Ekaterina Alexandrova was just 6-20 on the main WTA Tour on the clay courts before her win over Buzarnescu, whose season has been disappointing to say the least. In the lead up to the French Open Alexandrova was just 1-6 on the clay court and like Stosur her second serve is a shot that can be attacked by opponents.

The difference between the two players is the return of serve where Stosur looks to have an edge over Alexandrova. In general those numbers have also been produced against better level of opponents than Alexandrova has faced and I am looking for the veteran to get the better of her opponent in this one.

The layers are anticipating a close match, but I like Stosur to show she is still a decent enough clay courter to win matches like this one. I will also look for her to cover the number in the win.

MY PICKS: Pablo Cuevas - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Jan-Lennard Struff - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini-Federico Delbonis Over 37.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Amanda Anisimova @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Maria Sakkari - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Iga Swiatek - 1.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Danielle Collins + 5.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 29-22, + 8.02 Units (102 Units Staked, + 7.86% Yield)

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

French Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2019 (May 29th)

The first three days at the French Open have been a mixed bag for the Tennis Picks, but at least there has been a winning start made to the tournament.

I've had a couple of below par days though and I am looking for much better as we move into the Second Round of the event. A couple of the selections have been poorly made if I am being honest with myself, but a positive return is still something to be pleased with after the First Round was completed.

You can read my Picks from Day 4 below and I have also updated the French Open totals.


Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Oscar Otte: In most Grand Slam events players would expect the challenges to only get tougher in each passing Round of those tournaments. On this occasion Roger Federer looks to be facing an opponent that is not quite as good as the one he beat in the First Round and I think that will also lead to the former World Number 1 covering what has to be seen as a very big number regardless of level of opponent.

Gone are the days when Federer would blitz through those standing on the other side of the net and the decline in the returning numbers mean he is a player that I don't want to be backing on a 4.5 spread line in a best of three set match. However those numbers are also evident on faster surfaces than the clay courts we see in Paris and I do think that is a factor that can't be ignored, especially when you think of how well Federer played in the First Round win over Lorenzo Sonego.

Roger Federer managed five breaks of serve and won 45% of the return points against an opponent who serve had been very effective on the clay courts in the lead up to this event. Lorenzo Sonego has also been playing at a higher level than Lucky Loser Oscar Otte whose main experiences have been on the Challenger circuit save for a fairly straight-forward defeat in the French Open in 2018.

The German has made full use of his reprieve to get into the main draw as he saw off Malek Jaziri in the First Round, but suffice to say this is the toughest match Otte will have played in his career. In the last couple of years Otte hasn't exactly prospered on the clay courts at the lower level and I do think it is going to be very difficult for him in this match if Federer is even 85% focused on the task at hand.

Oscar Otte has held 75% of the service games played on the clay courts in 2019 and broken in 25% of the return games played. He did dominate the Jaziri serve in the First Round, but Roger Federer faced just four break points in the First Round and has a very strong hold number on the clay courts in the lead up to Paris and he should be too good all around.

This is a massive experience for Otte to be able to face Roger Federer in a Grand Slam, but the 25 year old will have to play the match of his life to even make this competitive. It would be a monumental upset if Federer is not able to make it through in straight sets and I think he will find the breaks of serve he needs to produce a wide victory in this Second Round match.


Benoit Paire - 1.5 sets v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: One of the upsets in the French Open First Round came from Pierre-Hugues Herbert as he recovered from 0-2 down to beat the talented Russian Daniil Medvedev. There were some physical issues for Medvedev to deal with in that defeat, but it is no real excuse for him and Herbert will be looking forward to playing in front of the home fans again.

He may not receive quite the same level of support as he did in the First Round as he faces popular compatriot Benoit Paire who was a strong winner to move into this Second Round match. Some of the Champions from the final build up tournaments to the French Open have struggled since making it to Paris, but Paire has followed up his title win in Lyon with a strong four set win and his confidence has to be about as high as it ever has been on a clay court.

If Paire is honest, I think he would be the first to tell you that he has largely disappointed in previous French Open appearances. However this year he has been playing well on the clay courts and he looks like someone who is seeing the ball pretty big with a 31% break number from return games played on the surface.

There is no doubt he will need to see the ball well if he is going to beat Herbert. The serve is a big weapon for Herbert on any surface, but he has been effective on the clay courts too with an 82% hold number on this surface in 2019. In the last Round Herbert did have his issues against the strong Medvedev return though and I do think Paire is capable of exerting some pressure of his own.

The Benoit Paire serve can be erratic as someone who is perhaps not always making the right decision from a shot selection point of view. It should give Herbert a chance to get his teeth into the match, but the fatigue from the last Round is a worry as is the heavy defeat he suffered to Paire in Marrakech back in April.

On that occasion Paire was able to break in 34% of return games played and didn't lose serve once and it does give the higher Ranked Frenchman the edge in this one. Pierre-Hugues Herbert did lose three of four clay court matches before coming back from 0-2 down to knock off Medvedev and I think it is going to be difficult for him to pick himself up emotionally as I look for Paire to come through in three or four sets.


Pablo Carreno Busta - 1.5 sets v Alex De Minaur: There was literally no real form from Pablo Carreno Busta going into the First Round of the French Open having lost all four clay court matches played over the last two months. He looked a very vulnerable player especially after a draw that saw pitted with Joao Sousa, but the Spaniard dominated the match and made a mockery of the odds.

I have to admit I was very surprised he was not only able to win, but to win in such a dominant fashion. Injuries have contributed to Carreno Busta dropping down to World Number 57, but the lack of form and the 8% break number was not exactly pointing to him producing a win in which he broke the Sousa serve six times, won 50% of the return points played and faced just two break points throughout the match.

Pablo Carreno Busta is a much stronger favourite in the Second Round when he faces Alex De Minaur who had also lost all of the clay court matches he had played in preparation for the French Open. The Australian is likely to be much more productive when the Tour moves onto the grass and the hard courts following the end of the tournament, but De Minaur was also a strong winner in the First Round.

His win was less impressive than Carreno Busta's because of the level of opponent he was facing and De Minaur is going to need to be a lot better if he is able to win a match like this one. It is a big ask of a player who had been 1-8 in main ATP matches on clay before his win over Bradley Klahn in the First Round here and the De Minaur numbers are pretty poor both on the serve and the return.

The Aussie is only holding 61% of service games played on the clay courts in 2019 before the First Round win here. Alex De Minaur was not broken in the mach against Bradley Klahn, but I would expect Carreno Busta to exert a lot more pressure on the serve if he is anywhere near the level he produced in the last Round. And that also puts pressure on De Minaur to at least respond by chasing breaks of serve back if he is struggling to hold, but he has only broken in 17% of return games on the clay in 2019 and is at 19% for his career in main ATP Tour matches prior to the French Open.

The long-term injury issues have to be a concern, but I also think it will keep Carreno Busta focused and he won't want to extend his time on the court. If the Spaniard was fully fit I would have expected him to be much, much shorter in the market so injury concerns have been factored in and I think Carreno Busta can get into a position to move through in three or four sets.


Stefanos Tsitsipas - 7.5 games v Hugo Dellien: If you take away the top two players in the world and asked people to pick a favourite to win the men's Singles title in Paris over the next couple of weeks, I would imagine Stefanos Tsitsipas is going to be a popular name.

He already owns a win over Rafael Nadal on the clay courts in 2019 and Tsitsipas also made a big impact at the Australian Open when reaching the Semi Final back in January. The Greek youngster looks like he can play some of his better tennis on the clay courts too and I do think he is going to be a factor in the second week of this tournament.

Stefanos Tsitsipas comes into this Second Round match as a big favourite when he faces Bolivian Hugo Dellien. Both players made comfortable progress through the First Round without dropping a set, but Tsitsipas is playing at a different level than Dellien and I am not expecting the latter to be able to stick with him in this match.

Hugo Dellien did push Alexander Zverev to three sets in Geneva last week, but overall he has not really been able to push on when playing in main ATP Tour matches. Overall Dellien is someone who can play well on the clay courts, but his hold number slips to 70% when serving on the main ATP level and his percentage of breaks drops down to 26% in those matches too.

The return could cause one or two problems for some opponents, but Dellien isn't playing just anyone. Now he has to deal with Tsitsipas who has held 80% of service games played on the clay courts in 2019 and someone who has been very strong when facing players outside of the top 10 on the surface.

In those matches Tsitsipas has broken in 33% of the return games he has played on the clay courts and four more breaks of serve were added in the First Round win over Maximilian Marterer. I do think there is room for improvement for Tsitsipas on the return if he is going to step forward and start winning Grand Slam tournaments, but he is definitely on the up.

There is enough to like from his return to believe Tsitsipas can keep Dellien under pressure and begin to wear him down after coming through a couple of battling sets. This is a big number, but Tsitsipas has every chance of earning a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 kind of win and I think he is capable of doing that against a player lower down the World Rankings where the Greek player has been particularly dominant.


Marketa Vondrousova - 4.5 games v Anastasia Potapova: One name who is going to be a popular dark horse in the women's tournament is Marketa Vondrousova after some very strong performances on the clay courts in 2019. This surface is her favourite domain and Vondrousova is a big favourite to see off Anastasia Potapova who stunned Angelique Kerber in the First Round on Sunday.

Despite the injury concerns going into the tournament, Kerber had been a big favourite to beat Potapova who has not really been as effective on the clay courts as she would have liked.

The Russian was 2-4 on the clay courts before her win in the First Round here and Potapova had not exactly been given the toughest of draws in those losses which is a concern for her. I still think there should be some respect for Potapova who has raised her game when she has faced the better names from the Tour and that is underlined by a win over Anastasija Sevastova on the clay to go along with the win over Kerber.

She will need to pick up her level again when she faces Vondrousova who has improved to 10-2 on the clay in 2019. Losses to Petra Martic and Johanna Konta can be forgiven considering the type of form those two players have produced on the clay this season, but Potapova is not playing up to that standard and I do think Vondrousova can do enough to edge her out in both sets of a straight sets victory.

It will be the stronger returning being produced by Vondrousova that can provide the difference in this match. Her opponent has to deal with the emotions of the upset in the First Round and hope to keep her level high enough to stay with Vondrousova and that is always difficult for players that have not been used to winning the kind of match Potapova did.

Marketa Vondrousova is also just getting a little more out of the first serve than Anastasia Potapova and crushed her on the hard courts of Budapest earlier this season. On her favourite surface I am looking for the Czech player to get the better of Potapova and cover this line too.


Belinda Bencic - 4.5 games v Laura Siegemund: It is great to see Belinda Bencic playing some of her best tennis again, but she can't afford to allow her standards to slip when she faces Laura Siegemund in the Second Round.

In past years Siegemund has tended to reserve her best tennis for the clay courts, but the German has struggled on her return from injury. These days Siegemund is barely inside the top 100 of the World Rankings and she has struggled to put the wins together even on her favourite surface.

Laura Siegemund has not been past the Second Round of any tournament on the main Tour played on the clay in 2019 and she has had a tough time dealing with players Ranked in the top 100. In those matches the serve has been a vulnerable shot for Siegemund and means she is under pressure to respond with the return having won 43% of the points against the serve.

Now she has to face a Belinda Bencic who could start making a fast move up the World Rankings from her current spot of Number 15. Any further advance in the French Open draw will mean improving her points and Bencic doesn't have much to defend before Wimbledon.

Belinda Bencic looks to have the far superior serve in this match, although there are times when she can get a little flustered and throw away some of the service games she plays. It has been a particularly strong weapon for the Swiss star when she has faced opponents Ranked outside the top 20.

In those matches we have also seen Bencic win 47% of the return points played and I do think she can find the breaks of serve to win and cover this number. She was dominant in the First Round and Belinda Bencic should be capable of getting past an opponent that can be a tough out on a clay court.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stefanos Tsitsipas - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marketa Vondrousova - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Guido Pella - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
David Goffin - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 6.5 Games @ 1.72 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Polona Hercog - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Anastasija Sevastova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

French Open Update: 22-16, + 7.46 Units (76 Units Staked, + 9.82% Yield)

Monday, 27 May 2019

French Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2019 (May 28th)

We are going to get into a more familiar pattern of the Grand Slam format from Wednesday onwards when the beginning of the Second Round matches are scheduled to be played.

Before that the final First Round matches have to be completed on Day 3 at the French Open and there are still one or two big names that have to get their tournaments underway.

I've mentioned the French Open is unique in terms of having a Sunday start at a Grand Slam and playing the First Round across three days, but there is another uniqueness to the event which is going to be less popular for the fans. In the coming years it will be changing, but the French Open is the only Grand Slam without a roof for the Tennis and the weather expected on Tuesday and Wednesday has to be a concern for the organisers.

The other three Grand Slams don't just have a roof on the main court, but have additional roofed courts now with Court 1 at Wimbledon ready for an adverse conditions too. Soon the French Open will be joining the ranks as Chatrier is expected to have a roof in time for the 2020 tournament, but for now it could be a couple of days of frustrations for the viewers and the fans.


Alexander Zverev - 6.5 games v John Millman: We have seen a couple of players who went deep into events that finished on Saturday already exit the French Open in the First Round and that may be a concern in backing Alexander Zverev here. A relatively poor clay court campaign saw the German decide to take a Wild Card into the event in Geneva to build some confidence and he managed to see off Nicolas Jarry in three sets in a rain affected Final on Saturday.

With the way the French Open First Round is split over three days, Zverev has been in the right half of the draw and also received a Tuesday start. It should mean he is fully recovered from his title exploits in Geneva, although the exits of Nikoloz Basilashvili and Dayana Yastremska does show how difficult it can be for players to perform in the week before a Grand Slam is set to begin.

While the Zverev numbers have remained pretty good for the most part, they are down on 2018 and it has led to one or two defeats that you may not have expected. I still think there is real room for improvement behind the serve considering how big Zverev's shot is, but the bigger factor in 2019 on the clay courts has been the fewer return points being won which has led to fewer breaks of serve naturally.

There is some pressure on the German to defend his Quarter Final points from last season if he is going to prevent a slip down the World Rankings. The French Open remains the only Grand Slam in which Zverev has managed to reach the last eight and that is another disappointment for a player who has performed so well at Masters level and below.

The opening match here is far from an easy one for Zverev when he faces battling Aussie John Millman who has performed decent enough on the clay in the last couple of years. However a deeper look at the opponent level shows Millman has yet to win a match at the French Open, while he is also 0-4 when facing opponents Ranked in the top 50 on this surface in 2019 and 1-2 in 2018.

Combining 2018 and 2019 numbers we can see that Millman has held 65% of the service games played on the clay courts against top 50 Ranked opponents and I would expect Alexander Zverev to make hay against that number considering he has broken in 30% of return games played on the surface.

I think Millman could also aid Zverev in getting settled into this tournament considering he has only broken in 15% of return games against the top 50 Ranked players he has faced on the clay courts in the last fourteen months. The slight lack of confidence in Zverev's game is an issue when it comes to covering this amount of games, but he should have the chances to do that as long as there isn't too much lingering fatigue from his Geneva title win.


Fernando Verdasco - 6.5 games v Daniel Evans: A year ban for taking cocaine came at the wrong time for Daniel Evans who had been playing some of his best tennis in his career at that point. The British Tennis Association did not really offer any support to Evans who had to take responsibility for his own mistakes and, unlike Maria Sharapova, Evans has had to claw his way back up the World Rankings without a host of Wild Cards into bigger events to leap forward.

Daniel Evens himself won't complain about where his career has ended up and there have been signs that he is returning to some of his more effective tennis that took him up to World Number 41 at the peak of his powers. He is now back in a position to earn his spot in the main draw of Grand Slams, and the next couple of months are very important to Evans with the grass court season coming up to really put some strong Ranking points on the board.

That doesn't mean he is heading to Paris with little ambition as he gets set to take on veteran Fernando Verdasco in the First Round. It has not been a great clay court season for Verdasco, but he looked to be getting better after overcoming an injury and also spending time away after the birth of his child just prior to the clay court campaign beginning.

One of the main areas of concern for Verdasco has been the return of serve which has seen him break in 22% of return games in 2019 compared with 28% in 2018 on this surface. He might find room to have more success against the Evans serve which is not that strong on any surface, but that is particularly highlighted on the slower clay courts.

I think we will see service games in which Verdasco struggles too, but Evans could be under immense pressure to take his chances when they come about. At some stage I think that will tell as Verdasco is able to pull away for a solid win against an opponent who is making only his second appearance at the French Open having been worn down by Tommy Robredo in 2017.

Something similar can happen here for Verdasco who has played some solid opponents on the clay courts that have affected his numbers. The veteran is someone that can be difficult to trust and he can be vulnerable in the early Rounds of Slams, but I think Verdasco is comfortably the stronger clay court player and looks like he will have more success on the return of serve than Evans in this one.

Even in a four set win I think Verdasco could find the breaks of serve that can lead to him covering this number.


Stefano Travaglia - 1.5 sets v Adrian Mannarino: When you come through the Qualifiers the chances are you are not going to receive the most favourable of draws in the First Round of a Grand Slam. In all honesty Stefano Travaglia has to be very happy with the one that has been presented to him and the Italian could soon hit the top 100 of the World Rankings for the first time in his career.

It was last month when Travaglia reached a new career best Ranking of Number 108, but winning three matches to reach the First Round of the French Open helps his cause to move back towards that mark.

Anyone who has not reached the top 100 of the World Rankings at age 27 can't really be considered as a threat to go deep into the tournament, but Travaglia has received a kind draw. Take away the fact that the home crowd will get behind Adrian Mannarino and I am struggling to think of too many better opponents for someone who is looking to win just his third ever Grand Slam match.

The Italian only dropped one set on his way through the tough Qualifiers, but the general tournaments we tend to find Travaglia is on the Challenger circuit. He has had limited experience of clay court matches at the main ATP level, although Travaglia played three such matches in 2018 and managed to hold 82% of his service games. His main issue was converting return games into breaks of serve and that could still be his Achilles Heel in this match.

However he is facing Adrian Mannarino who has never found his best tennis on the clay courts. This year he is only holding 63% of his service games played on the clay courts, although the Frenchman has been returning about as well as he can on the surface which does make him a threat in this match.

Even playing in front of his home supporters may not matter to Mannarino who is 2-10 at the French Open and has held just 61% of service games played in the tournament. Looking through some of the players that have beaten Mannarino in Paris does not inspire a lot of confidence in a player who may be looking forward to moving back onto the grass where he has tended to play much better tennis.

It can be difficult backing someone as inexperienced as Travaglia to be able to exert enough pressure to win a Grand Slam match, but he should have the superior service numbers on the day. As long as the confidence of coming through the Qualifiers has not been lost in the last few days, I think the Italian will win this one in three or four sets against an opponent who has regularly struggled on this surface.


Fabio Fognini - 6.5 games v Andreas Seppi: The Monte Carlo Masters Champion may be considered a dark horse to win the French Open, but much depends on which side of bed Fabio Fognini gets out of before each match he plays. A player who is capable of beating Rafael Nadal on the clay courts is never too far away from a mental meltdown on the court and Fognini is going to need to keep his energy in check if he is going to go deep into the tournament in Paris.

Even though Fognini won the title in Monte Carlo, his general clay court numbers are far from overwhelming. The serve has always been one of the weaknesses of the Fognini game and he is holding just 72% of the service games he has played on the clay courts in 2019 which always makes Fognini vulnerable.

Fognini has always been an effective returner on the clay though and that is a key reason I think he can get the better of compatriot Andreas Seppi who has really had a difficult time on the clay courts this season.

Andreas Seppi has lost all six clay court matches played in 2019 and the real worry for him has to be the fact that some of those defeats have come to players Ranked towards the bottom of the top 100. He has really been struggling to look after his serve, but unlike Fognini we have seen Seppi break in just 10% of the return games played which has led to some heavy losses.

After losing the first five matches to Seppi on the Tour, Fognini has won the last five between these compatriots. The last of those came here at the French Open two years ago and Fognini was able to win in straight sets and by a margin of seven games on the day.

While I am not that keen to get behind Fognini too often, this looks a good chance to do that. He will have games that he throws away behind serve, but I think Fognini's return game is in a healthy state and that should see him put a lot of pressure on Seppi and what has been a struggling serve.


Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 games v Jelena Ostapenko: If you were going to name one of the more surprising Grand Slam Champions of recent years on either the men's or women's events then I would imagine Jelena Ostapenko's name would be close to the top of the list. It has only been two years since the Latvian blitzed her way through the French Open draw to take the title home, but Ostapenko has struggled to maintain that kind of standard and has slipped down to Number 39 in the World Ranking.

Being Unseeded at a Grand Slam does mean the draw can be unkind, especially if you end up facing one of the top ten Ranked players in the tournament. While Ostapenko has avoided that fate, she has been paired with the ever improving Victoria Azarenka who is close to moving past her in the World Rankings.

Azarenka is also Unseeded here as she has struggled at key moments in matches to really put a strong together a strong run up the World Rankings. The Belarusian reached a couple of Quarter Final matches on the clay courts over the last couple of months and Azarenka has played some decent tennis on the red dirt even if it is perhaps not her favourite surface.

Much stronger performances behind the serve have really helped Azarenka compared with 2018 when she was just 1-3 on the clay courts. There has also been an improvement on the return of serve and Azarenka is someone who will believe she can cause one or two problems whilst building on her First Round exit from twelve months ago to improve her World Ranking approaching a better time of the season for her.

Jelena Ostapenko had a memorable two weeks in Paris two years ago, but her performances in 2019 on the clay courts have not been for the scrapbook. An injury in Rome meant she could not complete her match with Mihaela Buzarnescu and that has to be another concern for a player who has suffered First Round exits in Paris either side of the title win in 2017.

Over the last fourteen months Ostapenko is just 4-7 in matches against top 50 Ranked opponents on the clay courts. That number is 1-4 in 2019 and there has been a real decline in her service and return numbers which could see Azarenka really dominate this match.

I have to respect the fact that Ostapenko is capable of taking the racquet out of any opponent's hands when she is hot, but Azarenka is a big hitting player herself and should be playing with a lot more confidence. Covering this number won't be easy, but I think Azarenka can do that against the former French Open Champion.


Monica Puig - 4.5 games v Kirsten Flipkens: I've mentioned Jelena Ostapenko as one of the more surprising Grand Slam Champions out there, but Monica Puig's Olympic Gold Medal success in Rio de Janeiro really came out of left field too. While a talented player, Puig has struggled to put the run of performances together to really be challenge much higher up the World Rankings than her current Ranking of Number 59.

Even Puig's peak Ranking is 'only' Number 27 and she is a player that can be as wonderful to watch as she can be frustrating when not playing at her best.

The run to the Strasbourg Quarter Final last week has at least kept Puig playing with some confidence to go into the French Open. In something of a down year in terms of her serving on the clay courts, Puig has shown improvement behind that weapon on both the first and second serves in 2019 and maintained decent returning numbers to help put the wins together.

Last year Puig also beat Kirsten Flipkens for the first time in four professional matches between the players and I can understand why the Puerto Rican is such a favourite to win this match too. Kirsten Flipkens has long played her best tennis away from the red dirt and the Belgian has lost all four clay court matches in 2019.

I would imagine Flipkens is going to be keen to get the grass court season going and she has won just two of her last seven matches at the French Open. It is going to be difficult for her to improve that record if the second serve continues to be as vulnerable as it has been for Flipkens who is then under pressure to do better on the return of serve than she has been able to do.

On her day Flipkens can frustrate opponents and really make them work hard to break her down and that is a potential worry in opposing her. Someone like Monica Puig can also be guilty of having a run of unforced errors which adds to the concern, but Puig has been playing with a lot more confidence than Flipkens at the moment and I think that will lead to a good looking win on the scoreboard in this First Round match.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stefano Travaglia - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Nicolas Jarry-Juan Martin Del Potro Over 35.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Yoshihito Nishioka - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Mikael Ymer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Irina-Camelia Begu - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Priscilla Hon + 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Chloe Paquet @ 2.30 Bet365 (2 Units)
Saisai Zheng + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 15-8, + 10.78 Units (46 Units Staked, + 23.43% Yield)