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

Saturday, 31 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2019 (August 31st)

The remainder of the Third Round is going to be completed on Saturday and you can see my selections from those matches below.

I will update the totals from the US Open once the full Friday schedule is completed.

Matteo Berrettini - 1.5 sets v Alexei Popyrin: 2019 has been a memorable year for Matteo Berrettini, but there are still a couple of months to go as the Italian looks to put an exclamation point on the year. He has entered the top 20 of the World Rankings for the first time and also managed to earn a spot in the Fourth Round at Wimbledon back in July, a Round he can match by winning this match at the US Open.

The big improvements made in his game have been clear to see for anyone that has watched Berrettini play over the last several months. While he may be at his most comfortable on the clay courts, Matteo Berrettini has shown he is very good on both the grass and the hard courts and the latter comes with a much bigger sample to make a surer assessment of his capabilities on the surface.

This year there has been an improvement on the serve, but Matteo Berrettini will be the first to admit that he needs to find a little more out of the return game to really make a significant move up the World Rankings. There is no doubt that the serve is going to always lay a decent foundation for success for Berrettini on the faster surfaces, but he will certainly want to improve his break percentage which stands at 16% of return games played on the surface over the last twelve months.

He is going to be facing someone similar in terms of what he wants to do on the court and Alexei Popyrin has also show considerable improvement, albeit at a lower level than where Berrettini has been playing. The step up to trying to play main Tour matches can be difficult for any up and coming player, and that is the reason that Popyrin has slipped out of the top 100 of the World Rankings.

The Australian was Ranked high enough to get into the main draw of the tournament though and he has made full use as he is set to move back inside the top 100 in the next ten days or so. He has only dropped a set so far and Popyrin is someone who can serve well enough to give a returner like Berrettini something to think about, although his own return is not expected to be one that challenges what the Italian has been producing with his serve.

Ultimately I think when two players are similar the slight advantages will make the big differences- in this case I think Matteo Berrettini has the stronger serve by some margin and their returning numbers are similar. It should mean Berrettini is able to win the tight sets and potential tie-breakers and I will back him to win this match in three or four sets.

Gael Monfils v Denis Shapovalov: After just turning 20 years old earlier this year I don't think it is a major surprise that Denis Shapovalov has struggled for consistency in his second full year on the Tour. Two years ago he announced himself on the Tour with a strong run in Montreal followed by reaching the Fourth Round at the US Open, but the Canadian has had a more inconsistent 2019.

In saying that, Shapovalov is still playing his best tennis on the hard courts and his two wins at this year's US Open have come without dropping a set. He had not been in the best form over the last few weeks during the hard court swing, but Shapovalov's comfortable win in the First Round over Felix Auger Aliassime shows this is a player that needs to be respected.

Over the last twelve months Denis Shapovalov has held 83% of his service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 19% of return games played. Those are some good, solid numbers, but just taking in the 2019 matches has seen Shapovalov improve in both aspects although I do think he is now facing one of the players who have really been in fine nick for much of the season.

That means there is going to need to be another step up in terms of level for Shapovalov when he takes on Gael Monfils who has won all six sets played in New York City and who has had a very strong 2019 on the hard courts. The record backs that up and Monfils looks to be playing with real confidence, even if he made some controversial comments that suggested he needed to make the second week of the Grand Slam to ensure he is making some money from playing in the tournament considering all the expenses he has.

It is a comment that fans might not appreciate, but Gael Monfils is still going to receive plenty of support and his return game could be the difference between the two players on Saturday. He has broken in 32% of return games on the hard courts in 2019 prior to the US Open and Monfils has had his eye in on the return at this tournament too.

The layers are not really finding it easy to separate these players, but I do think Gael Monfils is deserving of his place as the favourite. He is at a price which I think is reasonable to back the Frenchman and I think he can get the better of Denis Shapovalov with the superior return proving to be the difference between them.

Alexander Zverev - 5.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: For the second match in a row Alexander Zverev has just about held himself together mentally to come through a five setter and move onto the next Round. Those wins are going to help a player who has lost some confidence in his own abilities, but the other side of the coin is that there are potential fatigue issues to overcome later in the tournament.

At the moment that should not be a concern for the German who will be going into this Third Round match as a pretty big favourite. I can't really argue with the position of the layers considering his opponent has had a couple of tough matches already and has also not been playing at this kind of level on this surface.

Aljaz Bedene frustrated Benoit Paire by coming back from 0-2 down in sets to knock off the Frenchman in five sets in the Second Round. It is a big win for the Slovenian, but Bedene will have put a lot of effort into the match and I do have to wonder how much of a mental and physical toll that has taken on him.

Earlier this month Bedene did win a Challenger event on the hard courts, but this is a completely different level and he also has to ignore the fact that he was beaten convincingly by Alexander Zverev earlier this year at the Australian Open. It was the returning on the day that proved to be a big difference between the players and Zverev has proven to be very comfortable against the Bedene serve in the three previous matches they have had against one another.

There is still some fragility about the Zverev game that is hard to ignore and it certainly makes covering this number a lot tougher than it may look on paper. That has to be factored in to the selection and I do think Alexander Zverev could potentially drop a set if he is not quite able to shake off those moments when he can't seem to do right for doing wrong.

However I do think Zverev has shown enough moments when he is producing his best tennis and being able to pull away within sets and I think that may be the case here. It should mean that even dropping a set does not prevent Zverev from covering this number against an opponent he has enjoyed playing, but we saw in the last Round that even those mental advantages are not guaranteed to be enough.

I have to add in the fact that Aljaz Bedene has struggled on the hard courts at the main Tour level over the last twelve months and that is the reason I am backing the top 10 Ranked player to win and cover.

Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 sets v Tennys Sandgren: Playing in a home Grand Slam has to be a great experience for any player on the Tour and it must be feeling very special for Tennys Sandgren right now. He has needed to play nine sets to earn his place in the Third Round but it is a run that will help push him back up the World Rankings after having a mixed time following his break out on the Tour at the Australian Open in 2018.

The American is a pretty good hard court player, but the step up to the main Tour has been a tough one for him to find the consistency to produce the kind of run he did at the Australian Open. He does have a losing record on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but those are in main Tour matches and Tennys Sandgren is playing opponents of a much higher level in those.

He has held 79% of his service games and Sandgren has broken in 15% of return games which shows that he is going to have a bit of trouble in putting together strong winning runs. It has not prevented Sandgren from coming from two sets down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the First Round and he got the better of Vasek Pospisil in four sets in the Second Round which should mean Sandgren heads into this match with a lot of belief behind him.

On the face of it he must also fancy his chances of beating Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who doesn't look like he should be as effective on the hard courts as he tends to be. The Argentinian has just slipped back from his peak career Ranking earned fifteen months ago, but he was a Quarter Finalist at the US Open in 2017 and it is the Schwartzman return game which should make all the difference in this match.

Over the last twelve months Schwartzman has held 77% of service games played on the hard courts, but he has been impressive on the return with a break in 27% of return games played on the surface. I do think that is going to be a reason he is able to come through this match and earn a path back into the second week at the US Open.

Tennys Sandgren is unlikely to roll over easily, but I think Diego Sebastian Schwartzman can play the big points well enough to win this one in three or four sets with the superior serve proving to be the difference.

Rafael Nadal - 8.5 games v Hyeon Chung: Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have been having some physical issues and Roger Federer has not been near his peak levels so far in this tournament. All of that means there will be plenty out there backing Rafael Nadal to win his second Grand Slam of the 2019 season as he plays in the weaker bottom half of the draw and looks to be in the best possible shape to compete.

You can't always rely on the fitness of the Spaniard, but Rafael Nadal will be all the better for having moved through to the Third Round after playing just a single match. He is someone who likes to get his rhythm on the court, but Nadal should be able to do that in this kind of match and his dominant win over John Millman in the First Round was mighty impressive.

That has come after winning the title in Montreal and Rafael Nadal has some very impressive numbers on the hard courts over the last twelve months, although he has not played as many matches as you would expect thanks to injuries. The Spaniard has held 92% of the service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 33% of return games which are the kind of numbers that are going to be make it very difficult for Hyeon Chung to push him.

Hyeon Chung has beaten Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam before so there is no doubting the obvious talent he has, but injuries have seen his World Ranking plummet to Number 170. He has been a solid hard court player which furthers his resume to test Nadal, but over the last twelve months he has held 79% of service games played and broken in 25% of return games, although a number of those matches have been on the Challenger circuit.

And it has to be noted that those numbers take a real slump when Hyeon Chung has played top 20 and top 10 Ranked players on the hard courts throughout his career. Against top 10 players Chung is 1-10 and he has held 66% of service games played on the surface, while breaking in 14% of return games.

The two previous head to head matches between Chung and Nadal has seen the latter dominate the stats and I think there is a potential fatigue factor in play here too. In their previous two matches, Nadal has held 86% of his service games against Chung compared with 65% the other way, while Chung has played back to back five setters after coming through the Qualifiers here.

Hyeon Chung saved match points in coming from 0-2 down to beat Fernando Verdasco in the Second Round, but Rafael Nadal is unlikely to take his foot off the peddle in this one. If Rafael Nadal gets in front, I can see him wearing Hyeon Chung and eventually pulling clear for a strong win on the scoreboard that sees him cover this number on the handicap.

Donna Vekic - 3.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: At 23 years old there are clear signs that Donna Vekic is improving as far as being a hard court player goes and she has only recently reached a career best World Ranking. Putting a strong run together at the US Open will see Vekic have every chance of breaking into the top 20 of the women's game and finally begin to get closer to fulfilling the potential so many believed she had.

Her first two Rounds have gone very well and Donna Vekic is going to be a strong favourite to make it through to the second week of the US Open for the first time having done that previously at the French Open and Wimbledon. I am sure the expectations will be much grander than that, but Vekic has to make sure she is not underestimating Yulia Putintseva who has made it a habit to upset players at the biggest tournaments.

She was at it again in the Second Round as Putintseva got the better of Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets and she will head into the match with as much belief in her own game as she has every time she enters the court. Over the last twelve months Yulia Putintseva has been slightly better than average on the hard courts and she has a decent return which can pose problems for everyone she faces.

The long-term issue for Putintseva has been a vulnerable serve which is an area that Donna Vekic will be looking to attack. The Croatian has not had the best returning numbers on the Tour, but her big serve means she can take a few more shots on the return and I expect that to be the case on Saturday too.

A 3-0 head to head lead for Vekic over Yulia Putintseva might have some impact on this match, but they have not played for over twelve months and the last couple of matches have not been on the hard courts. In those matches Yulia Putintseva has struggled to get as much out of the return as her average which underlines the service edge that Donna Vekic has in this match up.

Ultimately it has been the ability of Vekic to attack the Putintseva serve that has proved the difference in those previous matches and I expect to see the same in this Third Round match. There should be enough breaks of serve for Vekic to get into a position to cover the handicap too and I will back her to do that.

MY PICKS: Matteo Berrettini - 1.5 Sets @ 1.66 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils @ 1.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 8.5 Games @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)
Donna Vekic - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bianca Andreescu - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)

US Open Update: 12-10, + 1.12 Units (44 Units Staked, + 2.55% Yield)

Friday, 30 August 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (August 31-September 1)

It feels like the Premier League has only been back five minutes, but the first international break begins at the end of this weekend which has to be a little frustrating for fans.

This has come at the end of a busy wee for supporters, especially for those who support clubs playing European Football, as the draws for the next few months were put together. Even the managers admit that August is a month where the majority of teams are playing a single match per week, but in September through to the end of December games come thick and fast which means managers are under pressure to balance their squads and make the right team selections to get through all of the fixtures that have been scheduled.

I will have further thoughts about the Manchester United draw during the international break when I write my next 'United Corner'. That will follow the closing of the European transfer window and after the game on Saturday which has taken on real importance following the disappointing defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend.

This month has been really inconsistent, but it has been a frustrating one for the Football Picks. Things could easily have gone better than they have, but I do think things will be turned around if the statistics continue to back up the selections. Hopefully that begins this weekend.

Southampton v Manchester United Pick: These two teams come into the final Premier League game before the international break off of contrasting results. Southampton were winners at Brighton last weekend, but they were aided by a very early sending off for the home team, while Manchester United missed another penalty in what was an eventual 1-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.

It is a bad result for Manchester United and has just knocked the brief optimism that came out of the 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season. The home defeat to Crystal Palace really can't be glossed over even if Manchester United were unfortunate to lose on the day, but the squad already looks far too thin to complete the objectives for the season barring having a huge amount of luck on the injury front.

That has not been the case so far with Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial expected to miss out on Saturday and that could mean a start for Mason Greenwood as the 17 year old is asked to pick up the slack. Mason Greenwood is talented, but there is a lot of pressure on a young man and this is an already difficult fixture to negotiate.

Southampton might only have won for the first time last weekend, but they have followed that up with a win at Fulham in the League Cup and actually have had the better of all three League games played so far this season. Losing Nathan Redmond to an injury is a real blow for Ralph Hasenhuttl's team, but they have some momentum to take into this Premier League fixture as they look for a first win over Manchester United at St Mary's since 2003.

Last season they actually scored the first goal in both League games against Manchester United and blew a 2-0 lead at St Mary's in what turned out to be Mark Hughes' last game in charge of the club. There remain some major questions from a defensive point of view that Southampton have yet to answer, but they are a team who can get forward and create chances which suggests they will have plenty to say for themselves in the early kick off.

Manchester United have created chances themselves, but the injury to Anthony Martial is a blow. I still think the Southampton defence is vulnerable enough for the United players to make opportunities in this one though and this might be the third game within the last few months that has produced plenty of goals between these two clubs.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a decent enough price and the best way to approach this fixture.

Chelsea v Sheffield United Pick: It was a very important win for Chelsea last weekend as they held off Norwich City at Carrow Road, but they were deserved winners and the Frank Lampard era will feel like it has gotten underway. Beating another of the newly promoted clubs will give Chelsea some momentum to take into the international break and they are strong favourites to do that this weekend.

Injuries to the likes of N'Golo Kante and Mason Mount will be problematic, but it does mean Ross Barkley is given an opportunity to impress. The expectation has to be that Chelsea will get the majority of the ball in this one and the two goals scored by Tammy Abraham last weekend is a huge boost for his confidence and also for the team in general.

This is certainly not going to be an easy game for Chelsea though as they face a Sheffield United team that has plenty of energy and who know what the manager wants from each individual on the pitch. Chris Wilder was able to make wholesale changes for the League Cup win over Blackburn Rovers during the week so fatigue is not an issue, while Sheffield United will believe there are vulnerabilities in the Chelsea defence that can be exposed.

The real issue for Sheffield United is going to be whether they have enough goals in the squad to survive in the top flight and even Wilder admitted last weekend they need more than just effort. That may be enough to give Chelsea some issues, but I do think the home team are going to be feeling very good about themselves after the win at Norwich City and they might have a little bit too much about them for their visitors.

Chelsea have not been as clinical in front of goal as they would like either, but they are creating chances and the goals scored by Abraham last weekend might be the confidence boost he needed to start performing at this level. I think he could be influential in helping Chelsea win this game and covering the Asian Handicap on Saturday too.

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa Pick: After beating Manchester United at Old Trafford I am sure there will be plenty out there who really want to get behind Crystal Palace as a home favourite when they take on Aston Villa this weekend. There are some talented players that Roy Hodgson can call upon, but scoring goals remains a big problem for Crystal Palace and it makes them a vulnerable favourite.

They have beaten Aston Villa in 3 of the last 5 at Selhurst Park, but Crystal Palace have a pretty miserable record here over the last couple of seasons as they have become more of a counter attacking team. When teams don't leave spaces or when the onus is on Crystal Palace they do find it more difficult to break down opponents, although it does have to be said that Aston Villa have looked anything but watertight at the back so far this season.

However I do think Aston Villa can score goals and one may be enough to avoid defeat for the underdog on Saturday. They have shown they have quality in the final third to score the goals they need and I do think Aston Villa don't look a bad price to avoid defeat.

It won't be easy but Crystal Palace are not a team I would want to be backing as a favourite too often this season. So far they have not created enough to really believe in them and I do think they are lacking a consistent path to goal outside of the errors made by opponents like Manchester United did for both goals conceded last weekend.

The expectation of being able to back up the win at Old Trafford could also weigh on the mind and Aston Villa should be well rested ahead of this one having played Friday in the Premier League eight days ago. The visitors have created enough in the final third to think they will score a goal here and I think that will be good for at least a point which makes them an appealing back on the Asian Handicap to avoid defeat this weekend.

Leicester City v Bournemouth Pick: I have to admit I am a big fan of some of the football that Leicester City are able to produce, but Brendan Rodgers is still trying to find a little more consistency in the final third. For all of the eye-pleasing football, his team have sometimes struggled to create really good chances despite having some talented youngsters playing behind Jamie Vardy.

The 1-2 win at Sheffield United last weekend will be a boost, but Leicester City didn't create a lot of good chances at Bramall Lane and that has been a feature of their season so far.

Facing Bournemouth is going to help as The Cherries continue to look very light at the back, but this won't be an easy game considering the goals Bournemouth have been scoring. Straight away my feeling is that Leicester City are going to need to score at least twice to win this one, but they did manage a 2-0 victory over their visitors in the corresponding fixture at the end of March and I do think the confidence of their wins over the last seven days gives the home team some momentum.

Bournemouth have been on a fine run of scoring goals in their most recent away games and they managed two more in a win over Aston Villa earlier this month. With Callum Wilson and Joshua King, I do think Bournemouth have to be respected, but my underlying feeling is that defensively it is going to be a tough match up for them with the creative players Leicester City can put on the field.

I would not be surprised if the visitors did score, but Leicester City have shown enough at the back to hold them out just long enough for their strikers to win the game for them. Backing the home team to win a game featuring at least two goals is the play for me here.

Manchester City v Brighton Pick: Like with many Manchester City games, they are going to be big favourites to win against any team they face and that usually means it is difficult to find an angle to go with them.

This is a team who can absolutely blow teams away when at their very best, but Pep Guardiola won't be overly happy with the way they have been defending. I am not convinced Brighton will be able to take advantage of that, but in recent seasons they have proven to be a tough nut for Manchester City to crack.

Graham Potter has a different style to Chris Hughton, but even the former Swansea City manager will understand the need to be pragmatic in order to give Brighton the best chance to secure something from this fixture. He will likely look to what has been a solid defensive partnership between Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk to protect Mat Ryan, but even then it is hard to look past Manchester City.

To say this is a team creating a hatful of chances over the first month of the season is an understatement- it is not just the quantity, but the quality and I am not surprised Manchester City have scored at least twice in each of their Premier League games to open the season.

There are many options for the manager and Raheem Sterling can't miss at the moment which all suggests it could be a very long day in the office for Brighton. The Seagulls had not lost by more than two goals in any of the first 4 fixtures between these teams since being promoted to the Premier League, but on the final day of last season Brighton were beaten 1-4 by Manchester City who actually fell behind that day.

I think we are more likely to see that margin of victory again when you think of the level being produced by Manchester City over the first three League games. Brighton have not been bad defensively which raises some doubts, but I think an early goal for the home team will make it a tough afternoon for the visitors and I think backing Manchester City to win and cover this Asian Handicap mark is the way forward.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: If Watford had shown any kind of form through the first three weeks of the Premier League season I would have really favoured them here at St James' Park. I do think Newcastle United have been over-rated by their win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but Watford are not defending anything near where they should be and that makes it a hard game to call.

I wouldn't be surprised if the points have to be shared, but the pressure is on Javi Gracia to win and I think we are also going to learn plenty about what the players think of the manager.

Watford did win in the League Cup during the week which might be the result they need to begin to turn their season around, but I will look for other options this weekend.

West Ham United v Norwich City Pick: There has to be a lot to admire about the approach that Daniel Farke is taking to the Premier League and I think it would be very harsh to think of him negatively because Norwich City have lost to Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League. I do think they will need to find a better defensive shape at times, but Norwich City showed in the 3-1 win over Newcastle United that they are capable of producing at this level.

Ultimately the manager wants to put faith in the players that helped Norwich City earn promotion and he does trust them to take his instructions on board and then carry them out. They have been unfortunate to have had a very difficult fixture list put in front of them to open the season, but Norwich City look like a team that won't be overawed by any they face.

Heading to the London Stadium on Saturday, I expect Norwich City to want to take the game to West Ham United who have looked a little desperate at the back once again. They struggled in that aspect last season, but The Hammers do have some quality in the final third and those players are going to be looking forward to this fixture just as much as the Norwich City attackers are.

The layers have figured that out with 'over 2.5 goals' priced at a very low mark, but I would be very surprised if we didn't see goals.

I think West Ham United might be the team to edge a high-scoring game though with the home advantage likely going to be key to the outcome. I think Norwich City will offer the home team chances and, while they will be threatening, I also think The Hammers might be slightly more settled at the back which should help them.

Backing the home team to win a game which features at least two goals at odds against can't really be argued against and I will look to take that on.

Burnley v Liverpool Pick: The last game in the Premier League in August comes from Turf Moor as a fast starting Burnley team host an even faster starting Liverpool ahead of the first international break of the season.

Burnley have picked up 4 points already this season and that is despite what has been a difficult looking fixture list. In Ashley Barnes they have a striker in form and they have given Liverpool plenty to think about in the last couple of seasons to believe this is going to be anything but an easy game for the Premier League leaders.

In fact in both League games last season Burnley scored first before falling away and they have certainly shown enough attacking threat to pose problems on Saturday. They are going to be helped by the fact that Liverpool have been looking rocky defensively in their opening games and having a back up goalkeeper playing is perhaps making it more tense at the back than it would have been if Alisson had been in the line up.

I expect Burnley to test all aspects of Adrian's game, but keeping Liverpool out at the other end won't be easy. They have conceded at least twice in each of the last 3 League games against Liverpool and it is understandable why the visitors are such favourites to secure the three points on Saturday.

That is certainly the most likely occurrence in this fixture, but I would not be surprised if Liverpool are still waiting for a clean sheet at the end of the game. Teams have created chances against Liverpool and Burnley have shown they know a way to goal against them with a big threat coming from set pieces and the direct play to the forwards like Chris Wood and Barnes who can look after themselves and make it a nuisance for defenders dealing with them.

Burnley have created good chances against Arsenal and Wolves in their last two League games and they have scored in 6 straight against Liverpool. The layers are not really being as respectful of the chances of the home team playing a part in this fixture as they should be and there is some value at taking both teams to score at odds against when I think it should be closer to the price it was when Southampton hosted Liverpool two weeks ago.

Everton v Wolves Pick: I really could make a case for any of the three potential results in the first live game on Sunday and that makes it a game to have a watching brief.

Everton did have a poor Premier League result last time out, but they have been very strong at home over the last few months. On the other hand Wolves have tended to play up to the level of competition they face although the Europa League exploits could be taking a toll on them even at this early stage of the season.

Wolves did win here last season, but Everton have been stronger defensively in more recent months and I am just going to see how the game develops and add that to the sample we have of the way teams are performing this season.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The North London derby is the final game of the Premier League before a two week break and the television cameras will be looking forward to broadcasting what has been a pretty eventful game down the years.

On current form I would expect more of the same with both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur looking much more capable going forward than they do at the back.

Tottenham Hotspur are dealing with defensive injuries having also sold Kieran Trippier, but the continued dispute between Mauricio Pochettino and Jan Vertonghen is not helping anyone. Davinson Sanchez has looked very vulnerable in a two man centre defence and I would not be surprised to see the veteran brought back in to try and shore things up.

Christian Eriksen is another who has perhaps not been as focused on his football as much as any potential transfer to a European team and that has meant Tottenham Hotspur have been short of ideas. They were still unfortunate to lose to Newcastle United having been denied a stonewall penalty, but Spurs fans will be looking for a much improved performance on Sunday.

Anything less and I will struggle to see how Tottenham Hotspur can produce a positive result here- Arsenal remain a real liability at the back, but they have looked impressive going forward and gave Liverpool plenty to think about last week. With Nicolas Pepe having another week to integrate with his new team-mates, I think Unai Emery will continue trying to use attack as the best form of defence and I think The Gunners are right to be favoured to beat Tottenham Hotspur for a third League game in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

I know Tottenham Hotspur won a League Cup Quarter Final here to snap a long wait for a victory away from home over Arsenal, but they look less sure of themselves going into this fixture. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the motivation of a derby sees the form book thrown out of the window, but I still think it is a big ask for Tottenham Hotspur to win here.

Arsenal have created enough chances to hurt the Tottenham Hotspur backline which is missing key players and I think backing the home team on the Asian Handicap is the way forward. That will at least return the stake in the event of a draw, but my feeling is that The Gunners will have too much firepower on the day and they can return to winning ways this weekend against a Tottenham Hotspur team who have lost 6 of their last 7 away Premier League games before somehow avoiding a loss at Manchester City two weeks ago.

MY PICKS: Southampton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.10 Coral (2 Units)
Burnley-Liverpool Both Teams to Score @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Season 2019/20: 11-13-1, - 6.58 Units (48 Units Staked, - 13.71% Yield)

Fantasy Football (GameWeek 4)
I've had a very good first two weeks of the Fantasy Football season, but things could not have gone much worse in GW3.

I'm the clever sod who decided to remove Tyrone Mings and Mohamed Salah in favour of Harry Maguire and Sadio Mane and that was a huge difference between the week I had and the one I could of had. To say I was disappointed is an understatement and I am looking for much better this week.

There has also seemingly been a chance in the way the price adjustments are made and it is not a good thing- at the moment it seems it doesn't take too many people selling an individual for them to lose value, yet the rubbish system of only earning 100K for every 200K your player increases in value means it doesn't seem as fair as it used to be.

Some players have increased significantly, but I am surprised by the fall in price in others and it is something to think about going forward.

After a week like the one I've had, it could be easy to think about making vast changes to the squad, but I am mainly sticking with what I have, although I think I will be using one transfer to make up for the likely absence of Anthony Martial.

My concern from the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer press conference is that Martial is going to miss more than this one game and Manchester United have a difficult fixture list in front of them. At this point it feels like I may be selling him high and that is always a positive in the game if you can get in front of players hitting their highs and lows.

Usually I would use this spot for identifying some players for future reference, but with the international break coming up I think it is a moot point until I see how injuries shape up in the next two weeks.

Instead I have gone straight into placing the starting eleven I am going to use this weekend.

GameWeek 4 Team
It was a miserable GW3 for my Fantasy Team which returned just 33 points and I was wrong with my Captain for the third week from three.

My transfers taking out Mings and Salah for Maguire and Salah really did not work out anything like I wanted, but these were long-term decisions and I have to be happy with them. Yes, it didn't work out last week, but GW4 could be a different story as I look for a much better return.

My team for GW4 is shown below- I have used my one transfer that was available by taking out Anthony Martial for Manuel Lanzini as I am not entirely convinced the Frenchman will be back in GW5, while he might not be holding his value through the international break at its current height.

Ederson- it has been three weeks since Manchester City have kept a clean sheet, but facing Brighton at home gives them a good chance to change that statistic.

Virgil Van Dijk- Liverpool have not had a clean sheet so far this season but I do think it is still worth keeping hold of their defenders. You would think it is a matter of time before Liverpool get back to basics, but it might not be this weekend.

Andrew Robertson- has lost some value in the last week, but Andrew Robertson is always in the mix for an assist. Liverpool play Newcastle United next in the Premier League so I wanted to keep both defenders seeing as I have been with them all season.

Harry Maguire- Manchester United will do very well to keep a clean sheet this weekend, but I am keeping Maguire as a starter as a threat from set pieces. Clea sheets were a struggle last season for United and the early signs are not good for that to change this time around.

Caglar Soyuncu- the youngster has been impressive in his early starts in place of Harry Maguire and Leicester City might just be able to earn a clean sheet this weekend if they continue playing the way they have been.

Sadio Mane (VC)- Liverpool have a tough game at Burnley, but they have created a lot of chances and Sadio Mane had a relatively quiet game last week.

Bernardo Silva- it has been a quiet start to the season for Bernardo Silva in terms of fantasy statistics, but he hasn't been playing badly. Has lost some value, but I expect things to start picking up for him sooner rather than later.

Raheem Sterling (C)- goals have been flowing for Raheem Sterling this whole month and I have yet to have thought about using him as my Captain. That changes this week and I will look for him to be my highest scorer this week.

Youri Tielemans- it has not been the start of the season for Youri Tielemans that I would have expected. He has been operating in an attacking position, but Leicester City have scored just three League goals, although things could change with a home game against Bournemouth to come.

Manuel Lanzini- this is the transfer I made this week as I move out Anthony Martial and bring in the West Ham United midfielder. It is a shame he is travelling for Argentina international games, but Lanzini has been playing well for West Ham United who have a good set of fixtures coming up. Being able to save 1.1 Million for future transfers can't be ignored and I will look for Lanzini to have a positive impact in games over the next few weeks.

Che Adams- the chances continue to come for Che Adams and I do think the first League goal is not far away. It would be typical for it to come against Manchester United this weekend.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Joshua King (should have some chances against Leicester City, but I think the home team are tough to break down. Bournemouth have favourable fixtures coming up so I want to keep King for now), John Lundstram (a tough away game at Chelsea), Xande Silva (I considered bringing in Mason Greenwood of Manchester United, but I want to see how he will be used before I make that decision, one that would have been a short-term choice too).

US Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2019 (August 30th)

The rain that basically wiped out the entire day's play on Wednesday meant the majority of the Second Round had to be completed on Thursday.

It is not ideal for the players, but it is not ideal for the Tennis Picks either with the markets for the Third Round only coming out during the evening. I have been able to find some selections I feel are worth backing on Friday and those you can read below.

This has not been the best of starts to the Grand Slam with a relatively poor record from the first couple of days of making Picks, but I am looking to begin to get things turned around on Friday. I should have the Saturday selections out later this evening and hopefully the tournament being back on schedule will help in putting those Picks out with ample time for those who want to read and perhaps follow.

You can read my Third Round selections from Friday below as well as the updated US Open totals.

Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 sets v Dominik Koepfer: It has already been a long tournament for Dominik Koepfer and he is certainly about to reach a new World Ranking having upset Reilly Opelka in the Second Round. He had only been 1-11 against top 100 Ranked opponents on the hard courts throughout his career, but Koepfer has turned that form around at the US Open with wins over Opelka and Jaume Munar to get through to the Third Round.

On Friday he is taking on the highest Ranked opponent he has ever faced when going up against Nikoloz Basilashvili and I do think the underdog will have his chances for the upset. I have to say I believe Basilashvili is one of the poorest top 20 Ranked players I have seen for a number of years, but he is still playing at a significantly higher level than Koepfer and I expect that kind of experience to help him even if Basilashvili is as inconsistent performer I have watched.

A 22-14 record is a good return on the hard courts, but Basilashvili rarely does anything easily and he has needed nine sets to get through the first two Rounds. The numbers over the last twelve months have been average at best but there is hasn't been a lot in what Dominik Koepfer has produced to think he is going to be able to maintain what have obviously been stand out results in his run at the US Open.

My concern whenever I back Nikoloz Basilashvili is that he is an erratic player who loves throwing sets away. That is partly down to a very aggressive type of tennis which means going for his shots and the low margin for error can lead to a host of mistakes.

He was a little fortunate not to find himself 0-2 down in sets in the Second Round and there is the chance of an upset here, but my feeling is that Basilashvili has proven to be the slightly better player at a higher level. At some point that is going to show up in a Dominik Koepfer match and I think this Third Round encounter will be the time.

The German has won plenty of sets against top 100 Ranked opponents in this tournament, but prior to the US Open he had only had a 3-23 record in sets played against those opponents on a hard court. I wouldn't be surprised if Nikoloz Basilashvili dropped a set considering his own kind of performances, but I do think the Georgian should have too much and I will look to back him at odds against to cover the set handicap.

Daniil Medvedev - 1.5 sets v Feliciano Lopez: Grand Slam tournaments can see players make surprising runs and one of those in the first week at the US Open has been Feliciano Lopez'. The veteran has not really shown a lot of form on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but he will be looking to drag Daniil Medvedev into a long match and test the fitness of the youngster.

One of the main reasons for that will be the problems Medvedev has had in this tournament so far and he was cramping very hard in the Second Round. In most cases he would have gotten a day between matches to rest when playing at a Grand Slam, but Daniil Medvedev had to play his Second Round match on Thursday with the rain delays in New York City and that could be costly.

It has been an incredible month for Medvedev who was heading into the final Grand Slam tournament as a real dark horse, especially when you think that Novak Djokovic is perhaps not at full strength. However Medvedev is going to need to find a way to avoid cramping and having thigh issues if he is earning his spot in the second week.

On the pure face of things Daniil Medvedev has the edge in almost every department in this match and I would expect him to win on most occasions. The only previous match between the Russian and Lopez came over two years ago, but in that time Medvedev has improved markedly and he would usually be a much bigger favourite if not for the injury issues that are surrounding him.

The one saving grace for Medvedev is that he should be dragged into long rallies to worsen the injury and he can look to play some aggressive tennis to break down the Lopez game. Feliciano Lopez is also playing with confidence having dropped the first set in the opening two Rounds before coming back and winning those matches in four sets, and I do think he could be a dangerous opponent, but he struggles on the return.

Daniil Medvedev is one of the better returners on the Tour so should be able to pressure Feliciano Lopez and I think he will have to win this one in three or four sets if he is going to make it through to the Fourth Round.

Roger Federer 3-0 v Daniel Evans: There has been something not quite right with Roger Federer over the last three weeks and I do wonder if the defeat in the Wimbledon Final has affected him much more than previous Grand Slam defeats. At 38 years old Federer must know he won't have too many better chances to win another Grand Slam, but it could be argued that a big door has opened for him at the US Open.

This is a tournament that most expect Roger Federer to perform well in, but in recent years he has struggled to find his best form in New York City with a number of surprising defeats before the business end of the week. In both of his matches in 2019 Federer has dropped the first set before recovering to win in four sets and I think that has something to do with the price.

However it has to be said that where Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have had obvious injury issues at the US Open, Roger Federer has not been making any excuses for his level. Those two players were expected to be his main rivals in the top half of the draw, but I think it could be argued that the Swiss player is the one to beat considering those injuries and possible fatigue issues compared with Roger Federer who might just be struggling for a bit of confidence.

I expect him to turn things around sooner rather than later and Federer has also benefited from playing on Wednesday as one of the few players scheduled for a court that has a roof. That means he is well rested compared with Daniel Evans who had to play his Second Round match on Thursday, although the British player looks to be in decent nick having recently made the decision to go in a new direction from a coaching point of view.

Daniel Evans needed four sets to come through his Second Round match and it was a much warmer day in New York City on Thursday which may have sapped some energy. He has to be respected as a decent hard court player, but Evans has struggled when stepping up to the top players and I think that is down to a vulnerable serve.

He did push Rafael Nadal in Montreal earlier this month, and he has given some top players challenges on the hard courts in the past. However he only holds 76% of service games played in those matches against top 10 Ranked opponents and that number drops to 74% from his previous two matches against Roger Federer which have both come at Grand Slam level.

One of those was on the hard courts of Melbourne back in January and Daniel Evans was anything but overawed as he lost two tie-breakers in the opening two sets against the former World Number 1. The lack of chances to break the Roger Federer serve could be an issue though as well as the short turnaround that is going to favour one of the top Seeds and I think Roger Federer can have his most straight-forward win of the tournament.

Alex De Minaur + 1.5 sets v Kei Nishikori: There are 31 places between these two in the World Rankings so some might be surprised that the layers are struggling to separate the two players. However I do think Alex De Minaur is a much improved hard court player over the last twelve months and there have been some signs that Kei Nishikori is perhaps not as strong as he once was and I do think the underdog is a live one to say the least.

When you look at the pure numbers over the twelve months there really isn't much between them on the hard courts, but just accounting for 2019 matches and it is Alex De Minaur who is arguably playing the better tennis.

The Australian has got through his first two matches at the US Open without too many concerns and he had a good hard court swing ahead of the final Grand Slam beginning too. Alex De Minaur won the title in Atlanta and reached the Fourth Round in Cincinnati and I do think the match up is one that he will appreciate as long as he serves well.

Over the last twelve months De Minuar has held 85% of his service games played on the hard courts which is a few percentage points above Kei Nishikori's numbers. In the shorter look at 2019 alone, that gap is even bigger and I certainly think it gives the youngster a chance of earning the upset over the former US Open Finalist.

Kei Nishikori has yet to be tested at the US Open in 2019, but the win in the First Round ended a run of four defeats in a row on the hard courts. His numbers are also given a boost by the early season form on the hard courts when Nishikori won a title and also had a strong run at the Australian Open, but the Japanese star is only 7-6 on the hard courts since then and all of his defeats have come against players Ranked outside the top 36 in the World Rankings.

He has previously had some very strong runs at the US Open which means you have to respect Nishikori, but I really do believe Alex De Minaur has every chance of earning the upset. With that in mind, having the chance to back the underdog with a start on the Set Handicap is hard to pass up meaning he needs to win just two sets to produce a winner on the day.

I do think De Minaur will be playing with enough confidence to push Nishikori all the way in this one and I will look for him to make it a very competitive match, if not win outright.

Madison Keys - 3.5 games v Sofia Kenin: This was an exact line I took three weeks ago when Madison Keys beat Sofia Kenin in Cincinnati and I think the former US Open Finalist can be backed to cover the same number again.

The match earlier this month was a close one, but Madison Keys was clearly the stronger player on the day and I do think she has the edge when it comes to hard court tennis. One of the reasons the match was perhaps a little closer than it should have been was the problems Keys had in protecting her second serve, but I think the experience of the win in Cincinnati will help and she was certainly deserving having won 52% of the points played that day and being a slightly more positive player when it came to the big break points.

Sofia Kenin can't be disregarded easily because she is a fierce competitor who plays with plenty of fire in the belly. That has perhaps seen her win matches that she hasn't always looked like being able to and the self-belief is very high in the player which means she is able to push through matches that are not going her way.

It has led to a number of close wins and I do think Kenin is someone who will have learned plenty from the loss to Madison Keys earlier this month. I just don't believe there is enough time for her to really make the adjustments when dealing with the huge Keys first serve, while the latter also looks like a player who is peaking at the right time having won the title in Cincinnati too.

Neither player has really been pushed in the opening two matches at the US Open, but Madison Keys has been the more dominant winner. The eight wins in a row on the hard courts is going to be huge for a player who can struggle with her belief on the court when things are going badly, but I think Keys also benefits from having played on Wednesday in cooler conditions than Sofia Kenin who had to win her Second Round match on Thursday as the temperature rose in New York City.

In terms of the handicap I do think this will be close, especially if Sofia Kenin plays the big points a little better than she did in Cincinnati, but I also think Keys will have plenty of success on the return to find those opportunities again. My edge has to go with the player in the better form and I just think she will be able to get through the difficult moments to win and cover this number too.

Qiang Wang - 4.5 games v Fiona Ferro: These two players met in the final tournament before the US Open began and it was Qiang Wang who produced another strong win over Fiona Ferro to move to 3-1 in the head to head between these two players. I am expecting her to record another victory on Friday in the Third Round at the US Open as Wang books her place in the second week of the tournament and I think there is every chance of this match being as comfortable as it was in New Haven.

Qiang Wang will have respect for the fact that Fiona Ferro has earned a win over her on the clay courts earlier this season, but their three hard court matches have all been relatively comfortable wins for the higher Ranked player. There is no doubt that Wang feels much more comfortable on this surface than she does on the clay and I expect that will increase her confidence going into the match too.

Both players have had differing runs to the Third Round too as Wang won her two matches in straight sets as expected. On the other hand Fiona Ferro needed three sets in the heat of Thursday to come through her match and she had to dig deep to upset compatriot Kristina Mladenovic, a win that might have taken something away emotionally which is only going to make it that much more difficult to back up in the Third Round.

Over the last twelve months Ferro has shown she is a decent hard court player at best and the step up to face someone like Wang looks a big step to take. The serve is average and one that Wang will look to attack, while Ferro will be under pressure to find a way to recover breaks against someone who can be effective behind her own serve.

That serve of Wang has restricted Ferro to winning 33% of return points in their three previous hard court matches and two of those have been played this year. The Frenchwoman did break the Wang serve for the first time last week in New Haven, but Wang has created at least eight break points in each of those matches on the hard courts against each other and she has broken the Ferro serve at least three times in each match too.

It might need one or two more breaks of serve in this one to cover the number being asked of her, but I think Wang is more than capable of doing that. I expect her to be the dominant player and Fiona Ferro may just struggle to cope with the emotional comedown of beating Kristina Mladenovic as the underdog on Thursday and then facing someone who has had the better of her more often than not over the last twelve months.

Qiang Wang isn't someone I look at as taking things for granted, so I expect a strong effort from the Chinese player and a solid win to boot.

Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Maria Sakkari: I think most will know my thoughts about Maria Sakkari and the level she is operating at compared with the true level I believe she has, but once thing I will never dispute is the clear heart she plays with. It is one that means the Greek player never really knows when she is beaten, but I do think she is going to need more to overcome Ashleigh Barty even though the latter has been in mixed form.

Most first time Grand Slam winners have had issues backing up the new found sense of expectation that surrounds them and that has particularly been the case for the recent women who have picked up Majors. Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka are the exceptions, but the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens have not really dealt with things as well as they might have liked.

Ashleigh Barty is somewhere in between those contrasting ways of dealing with the new pressure on the shoulders- she has had some good runs in tournaments and even won a title since winning the French Open in June, but an underwhelming Wimbledon was a disappointment.

The Australian did reach the Semi Final in Cincinnati earlier this month, but she never really convinced to the full at the tournament and Barty also dropped her first set at the US Open by a 1-6 set scoreline. It just makes me wonder if she is fully engaged on the court at the moment and whether Barty is overdoing things to try and manage the pressure, something that could cost her in this tournament which looks very open.

Her numbers have stayed relatively decent, but Barty won't want to give Maria Sakkari momentum especially as she has won two matches fairly impressively. The last two months have also seen Sakkari playing at a level she has rarely been able to maintain for as long as she has been and that makes her a threat, although the head to head might wear heavy on her mind.

Maria Sakkari has lost both hard court matches against Ashleigh Barty in 2019 and she has not really been very competitive even though she did take a set off of her in Cincinnati. The numbers show that Sakkari does not really have an effective answer to the Ashleigh Barty serve and that the latter has been very comfortable when she is on the return and for most that is a recipe for disaster and it is no different for Sakkari.

The heart and the belief to the very end of matches makes Maria Sakkari someone who can play better than the raw data may suggest, but this has not been a good match up for her. While Ashleigh Barty is clearly not playing as consistently as she would expect of herself, I do think she holds the mental edge and her serve should be the more effective of the two on the day.

With that in mind I do think the former World Number 1 can move into the second week of this Grand Slam with a strong win under her belt.

MY PICKS: Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 Sets @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer to Win 3-0 @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur + 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Qiang Wang - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

US Open Update: 7-8, - 4.12 Units (30 Units Staked, - 13.73% Yield)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2019 (August 29th)

With the format of the US Open and the time needed to put my thoughts down, I am going to make updates after the initial thread is posted.

For example in this case any update for the tournament will be placed on Thursday morning, although this thread is going to be posted with the Tennis Picks from the Second Round matches on Wednesday evening.

Hopefully the first day will get this tournament off on a good footing, but I will update my thoughts on how it went in the Friday Third Round thread.

Andrey Rublev - 4.5 games v Gilles Simon: Both Andrey Rublev and Gilles Simon came through very difficult First Round matches and the two players have to be hoping the one day between those and this Second Round match is enough for them to recover mentally and physically. The only positive is that it has not been as hot in New York City as it can be during the last Grand Slam of the season, but you can't ignore the fact that Rublev needed almost four hours to win his First Round match and Simon went over four hours to secure his own win.

One difference between the players is that Simon won a match he would have been expected to win, while Rublev also has to deal with all of the headlines that come with beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the First Round. You do have to put some stock into that result as it can be difficult to back up upsets for those players further down the World Rankings, but Andrey Rublev might also be playing with a lot of belief.

Earlier this month Rublev beat Roger Federer at the Cincinnati Masters before falling to compatriot Daniil Medvedev and he also managed to reach the Quarter Final in Winston Salem in the week before the US Open began. The youngster also reached the Quarter Final at the US Open two years ago and I do think he will believe in his ability to win this match, although I am not always a big fan of opposing someone like Gilles Simon that can frustrate opponents who are not always aware of facing players like him.

Out of the two players Rublev does have a slight advantage over Simon in terms of the numbers produced on both the serve and return. In the last twelve months, Rublev has held 80% of service games played on the hard courts compared with Simon's 79%, while the Russian has broken in 25% of return games compared with Simon's 23%.

Those are fairly close, but in 2019 we have seen the improvements made by Rublev and a slight decline in the Simon numbers. It has also been a much better six weeks on the Tour for Rublev compared with the Frenchman who had been beaten in his first match in both Montreal and Cincinnati before overcoming Bjorn Fratangelo in the First Round at Flushing Meadows.

Only the win over Tsitsipas and having to deal with the expectation that comes with a big win is preventing me from being a little firmer in my belief that Andrey Rublev wins this match and covers the number. I can see there being some swings in momentum so I would be surprised if this is a straight sets win, but I would expect Rublev to create enough break point chances to cover the number even in a four set win.

Gilles Simon is a solid veteran, but I will look for Andrey Rublev to cover.

Nick Kyrgios - 6.5 games v Antonie Hoang: You can literally count on one hand the amount of times I have backed Nick Kyrgios over the last twelve months- I love watching this player and he is one of the few tennis players I actually follow on social media, but I have little doubt that you don't always know what you're going to get from him from match to match.

Winning the title in Washington was followed by two early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati and Nick Kyrgios is someone who isn't going to devote the time to the sport as others who have reached the very top of the game. He is talented and there is a potential Slam Champion in there, but Kyrgios has admitted himself he is not as professional as he should be and I don't think I being critical in saying that is a major reason I tend to avoid his matches.

At the end of the day Kyrgios isn't playing for everyone else so if you back him you have to take a personal responsibility in making that call. This Second Round match feels a good chance to do that when the Australian takes on Antonie Hoang, a player who has a peak Ranking of Number 98 in the World, although it came about at a time when it earned him a spot in the main draw of this Grand Slam.

Antonie Hoang has shown very little on the main Tour and his service numbers take a big dip in the matches that have taken place in main Tour matches on the hard courts. The return of serve is a decent weapon for the Frenchman, but it is going to be difficult to get a lot of joy out of the Nick Kyrgios serve if the latter is bringing his very best form to the court.

Over the last twelve months Nick Kyrgios has held 89% of service games played on the hard courts and he wins 69% of points played behind that shot. It certainly means chances are likely going to be limited for Antonie Hoang, but one of the main criticisms of the Kyrgios game has to be the limited success he has had when it comes to the return of serve.

In the same time period described above, Nick Kyrgios has only broken in 12% of return games which makes it difficult to believe he is capable of covering this number. However, he is facing an opponent who has held just 68% of service games played on the hard courts in main Tour matches so there may be more opportunities for him, while those break percentages improved markedly when the Australian has played opponents Ranked outside the top 50 (17% of return games resulting in a break in last twelve months) and those outside the top 100 (20% of return games resulting in a break).

Those numbers are a little more productive and I think Nick Kyrgios can get the better of this opponent. I imagine there will be a set where he is able to pull away for a strong scoreline that opens up the chance to cover the number and I will make a rare decision to back Nick Kyrgios to cover this mark.

Gael Monfils - 6.5 games v Marius Copil: The French Open has been the best of the Grand Slams for Gael Monfils as far as consistent results go, but he has matched the Semi Final run he had at his home Grand Slam by doing the same previously at the US Open.

Another win on Thursday would mean Monfils actually has won the second most Grand Slam matches at the US Open within in his own career and the Frenchman has been in good form on the hard courts throughout 2019. He already has the most wins in a single season on the hard courts since 2016 and Monfils has been producing some solid numbers after recording a comfortable straight sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the First Round.

Over the last twelve months Gael Monfils has held 85% of service games played on the hard courts, but the more impressive number is the 30% of return games ending in breaks of serve. That is going to make Monfils very dangerous, although I do think this is a player who might not have the mental strength to beat the very best players on the Tour.

Marius Copil is not one of those and I make Monfils a strong favourite to win this match. Over the last six weeks the Romanian is just 2-5 on the hard courts in the build up to the US Open and he needed five sets to knock off Ugo Humbert in the First Round with the current opponent a significant step up from his last one.

One of the main reasons Copil has been struggling for form on the hard courts has to be the decline in the levels he has produced behind the serve. Marius Copil has held 78% of service games played on the hard courts and that has put more pressure on what is a pretty limited return game.

He has also struggled when playing top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts over the last twelve months and I think Gael Monfils will have every chance of pulling away and covering this number. It is a big mark, but the best of five format should give Gael Monfils a chance to find a couple of breaks of serve within a set that should offer him an opportunity to move into the Third Round with a strong looking win on the day.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5 sets v Frances Tiafoe: 2019 has been a difficult year for Alexander Zverev and he is a player that is not someone that I particularly wanted to back too often. His numbers have not been too bad, but Zverev is lacking something mentally which is preventing him from winning matches in the fashion that may be expected.

It was more of the same in the First Round as he lost a 2-0 lead in sets in his eventual five set win over Radu Albot. The latter has not been playing badly on the hard courts, but Alexander Zverev is a top 10 Ranked player who would have been expected to put his foot down once getting into a commanding position, but instead has underlined some of the vulnerability around him at this moment in time.

A lot of the issues could be the lack of success at the very biggest moments in matches that have seen things slip through his fingers- Alexander Zverev has won 66% of points behind serve in 2019, but the German has 'only' held 80% of service games played and that has offered opponents the chance to become confident and earn an upset over him.

Overall Alexander Zverev is still playing pretty well and this is the kind of match he would be expecting to win as long as he can just clean up his play slightly. The fans will be behind Frances Tiafoe, but the young American has been average at best on the hard courts despite the obvious talent he possesses.

Over the last twelve months, Tiafoe has held 80% of service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 19% of return games. Those numbers take a further dip when only considering matches against top 20 Ranked opponents and Tiafoe also is 1-3 in his head to head with Zverev, although they have only played once in two years.

In their head to head, Frances Tiafoe seems to find a way to have more success on the return than he enjoys overall, but his own serve has been attacked with confidence by Alexander Zverev. The American is only holding 68% of his service games against Zverev in their three hard court matches compared with the higher Ranked player being at 79% and I expect the difference in return of serve to be the difference on the day.

It is something of a risk expecting Alexander Zverev to win any match in a relatively straight-forward fashion when you think of his current form and vulnerabilities. However, I also think Frances Tiafoe is not as effective on the hard courts as some may believe and I will look for the top 10 player to come through in three or four sets.

Benoit Paire - 1.5 sets v Aljaz Bedene: There were some major things expected from Benoit Paire when he first burst onto the ATP Tour, but he has never really made the kind of impact people would have noted at the Grand Slam level. The Frenchman has yet to make the Quarter Final of any Slam, but he did reach the Fourth Round at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the last two Slams played in 2019 and Paire may be ready to take the next step in his career.

He is certainly a big enough favourite to win this Second Round match when taking on Aljaz Bedene who has not played much hard court tennis to prepare for the US Open. That did not stop Bedene from beating Jozef Kovalik in the First Round, but that was also only the fourth match played on the hard courts in 2019 at the main Tour level and Bedene had lost the previous three.

In the last twelve months Aljaz Bedene has only played seven matches at the main Tour level on the hard courts and he has held 72% of service games played and found a break in just under 16% of return games played. He is going to have to find a significant improvement in this Second Round match if he is going to earn the upset, but this has not been a good match up for Aljaz Bedene.

The Slovenian has a 3-4 record against Benoit Paire and both previous matches on the hard courts have been settled in favour of the latter. In those two hard court matches, Benoit Paire has held 86% of his service games played compared with Aljaz Bedene's 68% and that should give the favourite a mental advantage to take into the match.

Benoit Paire is a pretty average hard court player who perhaps does not make the most of his attributes on the surface and that does temper some enthusiasm to back him in this match. The numbers underline the fact that Paire is not as strong on the hard courts as he may be perceived to be and the 74% of service games being held on the surface over the last twelve months is a pretty disappointing number.

Where I expect Paire to have the edge is the fact that he has broken in 23% of return games which is significantly better than what Aljaz Bedene has been able to produce in the same time period. In their head to head it is the Paire return that has proven to be pivotal on the hard courts and I think he is going to be capable of moving through relatively comfortably in this Second Round match on Thursday.

John Isner-Jan-Lennard Struff over 43.5 games: The layers could set an over/under line of 4.5 breaks of serve in this Second Round match and I think plenty would be rushing out there to back the under in that spot. That is even when accounting for the fact that John Isner won his First Round match with breaks in each of the three sets played, and the fact that Jan-Lennard Struff managed plenty himself in his own straight sets win.

Those wins came against players who are perhaps not the best servers out there, but both Isner and Struff have to believe they have the serve to make it very difficult for the other to break them. There has been a significant improvement in the level of performances that Jan-Lennard Struff has produced and over the last twelve months he has held 85% of the service games played on this surface, while John Isner won't surprise anyone with his 92% number over the same time period.

Out of the two players it is Struff who has the superior returning numbers and that may give him a chance in any tie-breaker we get into, but Isner holds a mental edge with a 3-0 head to head record and I would be disappointed if we didn't see at least four sets played in this one.

If we do start getting to that stage, I would imagine at least two tie-breakers will be needed in this match and that would put the match in a very strong position to cover this number of games. Much is going to depend on the German as Jan-Lennard Struff will have to deal with the mental pressure of having to keep holding serve, something that John Isner has been used to throughout his career having always had a limited return game at best.

In their previous matches, which have all come on the hard courts, John Isner has yet to be broken by Jan-Lennard Struff. The latter has held 84% of his own service games, but he is 2-1 in the three tie-breakers played so my feeling is that this is a match that can be extended in four and possibly five sets.

With the way both of these players can serve, I would be stunned if sets are concluded with two or more breaks of serve to produce 6-0, 6-1, or 6-2 scores. It is going to be a warmer day on Thursday in New York City, but I don't believe either player is going to be dragged into long rallies which will physically tire them out, although the biggest fear is that the heat perhaps sees someone lose heart if they fall 2-0 behind in sets.

However if the first two sets are split like I would hope, I would be very surprised if we don't get into a position where the total games line is not surpassed in this one.

MY PICKS: Andrey Rublev - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nick Kyrgios - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
John Isner-Jan-Lennard Struff Over 43.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Cori Gauff - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)