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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Tennis Picks 2019 (July 30th)

There are plenty of matches scheduled for Tuesday at the various tournaments being played and you can read my selections from the First Round below.

I have noted that the ATP Washington event will move onto the Second Round on Tuesday too, but those markets have yet to be formulated and any Picks from those matches scheduled for the day will be added to this thread on the day around lunchtime.

At that point I will also update the weekly totals after a mixed start to the week with two of the three underdogs I picked outright losing in the final set. Hopefully Tuesday will prove to be a much more productive day and get this week moved back into the black.


Cori Gauff - 2.5 games v Zarina Diyas: A huge spotlight shone on Cori Gauff at Wimbledon earlier this month as the 15 year old Qualified for the main draw and then reached the second week of the third Grand Slam of the 2019 season. The potential the young American has shown seemed to come to fruition in SW19, but the new expectations and exposure Gauff had means expectations have been raised and her own fanbase has also increased tremendously.

Cori Gauff is still at an age where she is not allowed to join the Tour full time unlike in past years and that means she has to pick and choose her events. It also means it is difficult for Gauff to improve her immediate World Ranking to ensure automatic entry into some of the tournaments to be played this summer, but Gauff was high enough to enter the Washington Qualifiers and made light work of her two opponents to reach the main draw.

Her peak World Ranking came at the end of Wimbledon, but Cori Gauff is almost certainly going to move above that mark as long as she can win at least one match in the main draw in the nation's capital. She is favoured to see off Zarina Diyas, but the veteran is someone that has to be respected in this First Round match.

There have been some solid numbers produced by Diyas on the hard courts in the last couple of years, but she has not been as strong on the surface at the main WTA level in 2019. Zarina Diyas has played well in a couple of ITF events which have seen her reach 17 hard court wins for the season, but only 6 of those have come at this level as the Kazakhstan player has seen her numbers drop on both the serve and the return compared with 2018.

This is only the second top 100 Ranked player that Gauff would have played on the hard courts in 2019 and she was comfortably beaten by Daria Kasatkina in the Second Round in Miami back in March. It has to be a concern when backing her as the favourite as there is limited numbers that we can look at considering the lack of main Tour tennis the young American has played.

We do know that Cori Gauff has a very good serve that should be very effective on the hard courts if Zarina Diyas is not quite up to her best level on the return. The latter has also been beaten by a couple of young, up and coming opponents already on this surface in 2019 although Diyas has only lost one match out of six played against someone Ranked outside the top 100.

I do think Gauff is going to be over-rated by the layers on the form she showed at Wimbledon, but I think this is a good chance for her to come through the First Round in Washington. The veteran won't roll over easily, but Zarina Diyas has lost to some of the younger players on the Tour who are looking to make their step up onto the main Tour level and I think Gauff can add to that list against her.


Monica Puig - 3.5 games v Allie Kiick: There are some really talented players coming through the ranks in American tennis, but Allie Kiick has been given a Wild Card into the Washington main draw despite not really being amongst the players with big expectations on their shoulders. She is Ranked at Number 130, although Kiick would likely surpass her career best mark of Number 126 if she can win this First Round match.

It won't be easy for the American considering the lack of tennis she has played at this level. Allie Kiick was beaten in the opening Qualifying Rounds in Brisbane, Indian Wells and Miami and also failed to get through the Qualifiers to reach the Australian Open main draw.

A couple of solid runs at the level below the main WTA Tour would have given Kiick some belief, but now she faces a quality operator in Monica Puig in the First Round in Washington.

To be honest this has not been a great season for Puig who won the Olympic Gold Medal on a hard court in 2016. In each of the last three seasons Puig has produced at least 22 wins on the hard courts, but she is 4-7 in 2019 and her service numbers are considerably down on the standards she has set between 2016 and 2018.

Even the return of serve is slightly down on her numbers, but Puig has felt the pressure of not being to get through her service games as effectively as she has previously. It does make her a vulnerable player to back, especially as she has not played any competitive tennis since going out in the Second Round at Wimbledon, but the Puerto Rican should be happy with the match up here.

The Allie Kiick return could be a big weapon for her if the upset is going to be secured, but I also expect her own serve to be challenged by Monica Puig. The key for the latter is to not give her opponent too much confidence by making a slow start in this match and as long as she can avoid doing that, I think Puig can win and cover in this one.


Donna Vekic - 4.5 games v Misaki Doi: At 23 years old it may be something of a surprise to read that I think Donna Vekic needs to start making serious inroads with her career if she is going to fulfil the potential so many believed she had. It does feel like Vekic has been on the Tour forever, but there might not be a big window for her to develop into a top 10 player with a new crop of talented youngsters making the headlines in 2019.

The Croatian is playing arguably her best tennis on the hard courts in her career and she did reach a peak Ranking last month, although the Donna Vekic fans will be disappointed that their player has not been able to crack the top 20 yet.

There has been a clear improvement in the level of performance produced by Vekic in each of the last four years. Her serve has been one that has produced a higher percentage of points on both the first and second serve in each of the past four seasons and Vekic has also improved the percentage of points won against the opponent's serve in each of those years too.

Donna Vekic is winning 46% of return points on the hard courts in 2019 and that is the kind of returning which should put plenty of pressure on Misaki Doi. The Japanese left hander has been pretty average on the hard courts in 2019 and was hammered by Vekic when these players met in Acapulco earlier this year.

A lot of the positives have come against players much lower down the Rankings, but Misaki Doi is only 2-6 on the hard courts against top 100 Ranked opponents in 2019. The serve is not as effective in those matches, but the real slippage comes on the return of serve and I do think Donna Vekic is going to be someone that should be able to run through the majority of her service games without being under immense pressure.

It happened when they met in Acapulco where Vekic did not face a break point in her dominant win over Doi. On that day the Croatian also won 53% of return points played and I think she will have the edge in this one on both sides of the court which should give Donna Vekic a chance to win and cover in this First Round match.

I would be surprised if Vekic only loses three games again, but I think she will still do enough to cover the mark set by the layers.


Miomir Kecmanovic - 1.5 games v Alexei Popyrin: These two players both turn 20 years old in the next month and both have entered the top 100 of the World Rankings thanks to some positive performances in 2019. Both Miomir Kecmanovic and Alexei Popyrin have played plenty of tennis on the hard courts on the main ATP Tour, but it is the Serbian who has perhaps been the more consistent.

I backed Kecmanovic a couple of times with success last week and I do believe he is rightly favoured in this First Round match. That isn't a disrespect to Popyrin who reached the Quarter Final in Atlanta last week along with Kecmanovic, but it is Kecmanovic who has been the more consistent player of the two.

Both have played a fair few matches off the main Tour, but there is enough data to take away from their performances in hard court matches at the highest level. The serve has been key for both Kecmanovic and Popyrin and I expect it is going to be an important part of their success or failure on Tuesday too.

Miomir Kecmanovic has held 85% of his service games played on the hard courts in main Tour events, while Alexei Popyrin is at 83%. The narrow edge also belongs to Kecmanovic as far as service points are concerned having won 67% of the points played behind his serve compared with 66% for Popyrin.

Where the match could be won and lost is the success the two players can have on the return of serve with break point chances expected to be few and far between in hot conditions in Washington. This is an area where Kecmanovic has had a significant edge over Popyrin having broken in 21% of return games on the surface compared with the Australian's number of 15%.

You can't always factor in how a player will perform on the break points, especially when there are not expected to be a host of them either way, but the slightly more productive return of Kecmanovic could be the key to the outcome of this match. It will likely be close and I would not be that surprised if three sets are needed, but I will back the slight favourite to cover in this one.


Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Steve Johnson: On the face of things it is quite stunning to see Grigor Dimitrov outside of the top 50 of the World Rankings, but it says a lot about how his last eighteen months have gone. Another upset last week saw Dimitrov beaten in the First Round in Atlanta, and he really has become a player that I will not back too often as he is over-rated by the layers.

In saying that I do think he could be potentially under-rated in this First Round match against Steve Johnson. The two players have met six times on the Tour and it is Grigor Dimitrov who has won four of those matches, which also includes winning their last three matches on the hard courts.

The last of those was in 2017 and things are much different for Dimitrov these days, although his numbers on the hard courts in 2019 suggests he should have had better than a 6-4 record that he holds. In 2018 the Bulgarian won 16 matches on the hard courts, but he won a fewer percentage of points played behind both serve and return than Dimitrov has in 2018. That suggests he is not playing the big points as well as he should be when seeing he is holding 81% of his service games compared with 83% last year, but he has been much more successful when it comes to breaking an opponent's serve.

The return game is going to be tested by American Steve Johnson who has surprisingly chosen to play in Los Cabos rather than Washington this week. Johnson is playing his first hard court match since the Miami Masters in March and he is just 4-7 on the surface this year, although Johnson has not been playing as poorly as that losing record would suggest.

The American has held 83% of his return games, but Johnson's struggles on the return of serve continues to blight him. Steve Johnson has won 33% of return points played and he has broken in just 15% of return games played compared with Grigor Dimitrov who is at 39% and 25% in those categories respectively.

It is that edge on the return which makes me favour Dimitrov in this match and in their past meetings on the hard courts we have seen the Bulgarian hold 89% of his service games compared with Johnson at 75%. That might not seem a huge difference, but it is significant enough to give Grigor Dimitrov the edge in this one.

He is a vulnerable favourite when you consider the inconsistent results Dimitrov has earned all season, but I think he can edge out Steve Johnson here. I will look for him to cover in very hot conditions in Los Cabos on Tuesday in this First Round match.


Kyle Edmund - 3.5 games v Lloyd Harris: Injuries have been blighting Kyle Edmund's season and it was a factor in his defeat at Wimbledon to Fernando Verdasco when blowing a 2-0 lead in sets. He has had a few weeks to recover and get ready for the hard court season as Edmund looks to reverse his slip down the World Rankings and receiving a bye into the Second Round at Washington means he has had a few more days to get used to the hot conditions at this event.

Having a bye does mean that Edmund is facing an opponent who has the confidence of winning a First Round match and Lloyd Harris will be looking to take advantage of the British player if he is not at 100%.

Kyle Edmund has been able to play some strong hard court tennis in 2019, although his best result has been winning a Challenger event played at Indian Wells at the end of February. When he has played at the main Tour level Edmund has pretty consistent kind of results on the surface with a strong hold percentage but perhaps not being as strong on the return of serve as he would like.

However he should have the edge over Lloyd Harris who has not had as strong a year on the surface as he may have expected, especially as much of his time is still spent below the main Tour level. The South African came from a set behind to beat Ricardas Berankis in the First Round to improve to 2-4 in hard court matches on the ATP Tour, but Harris has only been holding in 63% of service games played and that number is not that much better at 78% overall in 2019.

Like Edmund, Harris is not the best returner on the surface and I do think the British player's superior serve can be the difference on the day. These two players met earlier in the season and it was Edmund who dominated the match despite needing three sets to beat Harris. The difference in serve proved to be the big factor on the day and I think the same may happen in Washington on Tuesday.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Karen Khachanov: At 34 years old you would have to guess that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's best days are now behind him, but he should be able to vastly improve his current World Ranking in the weeks and months ahead. There are very few points for Tsonga to defend from 2018 and he is playing well enough to at least make an impact at the next few events to push up the Rankings from his Number 70 spot.

He was a solid First Round winner on Monday and Tsonga is back in action on Tuesday as a slight underdog in a virtual pick 'em Second Round match against Karen Khachanov. These two players have met twice before, but not since 2017, and Tsonga will be looking for a third win over the young, improving Russian.

Karen Khachanov has seen his numbers drop significantly from the level produced on the hard courts in 2018 compared with 2019. He is just 7-7 in matches on the surface, while Khachanov has seen his percentage of games held behind serve drop from 88% to 83%. The Russian has also seen the return of serve decline with breaks earned in 22% of return games in 2018 dropping to 17% in 2019.

Now he has to face an opponent in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who has been able to produce some big serving and who can expose some of the limitations Khachanov has had on the return of serve. The Frenchman is also a fairly limited returner, but he may have the edge on the serve which can be the difference when it comes to what looks like being a close match.

It can't be ignored that Tsonga is 0-3 on the hard courts against top 20 Ranked opponents in 2019, although he has only faced Daniil Medvedev (twice) and Novak Djokovic. Both of those players are significantly better returners than Khachanov though and I think Tsonga will enjoy this kind of match up a bit more with the aggression coming from the other side of the net meaning points are going to be relatively short.

This Second Round match going the distance would not be a surprise, but I think Tsonga may have the edge with the match under his belt in these conditions. In each of the last two seasons, Karen Khachanov has lost his first hard court match played between Wimbledon and the US Open and a strong serving day from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will give him a chance to add to that run here.

MY PICKS: Cori Gauff - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Donna Vekic - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Miomir Kecmanovic - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kyle Edmund - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-3, - 3.60 Units (8 Units Staked, - 45% Yield)

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