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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (August 13th)

This is going to be a busy week at the Cincinnati Masters with the tournament getting straight into the meat of the event on Tuesday.

We have a number of Second Round matches already scheduled to be played alongside the remainder of the First Round and the weather looks pretty good for the rest of the week to ensure the tournament stays on the right path. It is a big chance for some to lay down a marker for the US Open and on Tuesday we have Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Serena Williams all set to play on the main show court in Cincinnati.

Monday saw just one pick made and Guido Pella managed to overcome Casper Ruud although he did have some fortune on his side in what was a very close match.

We also saw the return of Andy Murray to the Singles court and I always had faith that the Australian Open's 'goodbye' message was going to be premature. You could see from Murray's face that day that he was far from convinced he had played his last match and eight months later he is back on the courts as a Singles player.

No one will be that surprised that Murray was beaten as it is going to take some time to get back to full match fitness no matter how many Doubles matches he gets under his belt. The former World Number 1 is considering taking a Wild Card into an event in Winston Salem next week and he has already added a couple of events on the Asian swing to his schedule after the US Open is completed.

However it feels like the US Open is going to come too soon for Murray who is not ready to play best of five set matches, but there are plenty of positive noises coming from the Brit. He has mentioned being close to full strength in the next three months which means Murray could be ready to make a big impact at the Australian Open, although we have seen a number of players struggle when trying to make their way back onto the Tour considering it becomes a case of 'luck of the draw' in the early tournaments in which they return.

A good start to the week with the Pella pick is positive news, but Tuesday looks to be a busier day with the number of matches scheduled. There look to be a few more options for sure and I you can read my selections below.

Roger Federer - 5.5 games v Juan Ignacio Londero: I know I have made a point of not wishing to back Roger Federer when it comes to the large handicap marks when playing a best of three set match. A declining return of serve means it is becoming more and more difficult to expect the Swiss superstar to break multiple times that it takes to cover these sorts of numbers, but I do think he is someone I can look to in the Second Round in Cincinnati.

This has long been one of the favourite tournaments Federer plays and he has won seven titles here while reaching the Final twelve months ago before falling short to Novak Djokovic. In his last three appearances in Cincinnati Roger Federer has reached the Final every time and it was only the defeat to Djokovic last year that prevented him from securing the title in each of those runs.

All that means is that it would be a huge upset for Federer to lose this match, but I do think the prolonged break since reaching the Wimbledon Final will have done him some good. There is no doubt that Federer has to be seen as one of the favourites to win the US Open that begins later this month and his serve continues to be a deadly weapon on the hard courts having won 74% of points played behind that shot on this surface. Unsurprisingly he is very difficult to break.

A question remains about his capability to break serve with only 23% of return games played on the hard courts resulting in a break for Federer over a twelve month period. Those numbers don't even markedly improve when Federer faces players outside the top 50 in the World Rankings, but I do think he should have a considerable edge over Juan Ignacio Londero who doesn't have a deep hard court pedigree.

2019 has been a stunning year for Londero who is up at a career high Number 55 in the World Rankings, but the foundation for that improvement has been laid in the performances on the clay courts. The Argentinian played his first hard court match of the year in Los Cabos a couple of weeks ago and Londero didn't play one match on the surface in 2018 and I include the Challenger and Qualifying events in that too.

His numbers have been decent from the very small sample we can see and Londero did earn a good looking win over Matteo Berrettini in the First Round. However this is a big step up against a confident hard court player and I do think the Londero serve will be put under pressure by the scoreboard pressure Roger Federer should be able to build up with his own serve throughout this match.

Juan Ignacio Londero has only played two top 10 Ranked opponents in his career and both on his favoured clay courts. He managed to hold onto just 50% of his service games played against Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev and he struggled to make an impact on the return of serve.

While I expect the faster surface to aid Londero, I do think Federer will be able to get his teeth into the return games and much will depend on how efficient he is at the big moments. At odds against I will back Federer to find the breaks of serve he needs and to cover this mark.

Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 games v Joao Sousa: From the moment Fabio Fognini ended his match with Rafael Nadal at the Canadian Masters last week it was clear that his participation in Cincinnati would be doubtful to say the least. He was entered into the draw for the final Masters event before the US Open, but the Italian unsurprisingly withdrew and that has given Joao Sousa a lifeline as he enters the main draw as a Lucky Loser.

Joao Sousa was beaten in the Qualifiers by Yoshihito Nishioka, but the latter has already won his First Round match here which shows he is in decent form. It was also the first hard court action for Sousa of the summer in the Qualifying tournament here and the move from the European clay courts onto the US hard courts can be difficult with the speed and conditions much different to face.

2019 has been a tough year on the hard courts for Sousa who has regularly had a miserable time on the US hard court swing following Wimbledon. He did reach the Fourth Round of the US Open in 2018, but Sousa has had a limited impact on the two Masters events played in August and he has struggled with his return of serve on the surface all year.

The Portuguese Number 1 has broken in just 14% of return games on the hard courts in 2019 and it is only the improvement in his hold numbers that have helped Sousa produce a 6-7 record. He may need to have a big serving day to keep Denis Shapovalov under pressure, although the Canadian is still capable of playing his best tennis on this surface.

Overall it has been a difficult year for the youngster as Shapovalov has slipped back down to Number 34 in the World Rankings. The serve continues to be a big weapon for Shapovalov with 85% of his service games played on the hard courts resulting in a hold, but he has made minimal improvement on the return and that is going to be a key to whether he can push back up the World Rankings.

In saying that, Shapovalov is breaking in 20% of return games which is a significantly better number than Sousa. Denis Shapovalov has also had a couple of very solid runs on the hard courts in Rotterdam and Miami in 2019 and I do think he can earn a measure of revenge for a three set defeat to Sousa back in early January in Auckland.

Conditions on the North American hard courts should be much more to Shapovalov's liking compared with those in Australia and New Zealand and I do think he can edge out Joao Sousa here. The latter can be a dangerous opponent when at his best, but he is only 4-6 in Cincinnati in the past before this tournament and I think Shapovalov can be backed to win and cover.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Maria Sakkari: A lingering forearm issue is preventing Petra Kvitova from playing as much tennis as she would have liked over the last three months. It was an injury that forced her out of the French Open and also meant she missed the majority of the grass court season before reaching the Fourth Round at Wimbledon.

Since then Kvitova has forced to take another withdrawal in Toronto last week, but the Czech left-hander has arrived in Cincinnati and has been on the site for a few days. Being given a bye through to the Second Round means Kvitova has had plenty of days to test the forearm to see how she feels and it does look like she will be ready to go.

She showed at Wimbledon that she can get right to things even off a relatively long lay off and Kvitova has been very strong on the hard courts throughout 2019. If she was fully healthy Kvitova would be one of the strong favourites at the US Open coming up, but the forearm problems do present one or two doubts both for her backers and for Petra Kvitova herself.

Over the last twelve months Kvitova has continued to build her platform for success on the hard courts behind a strong serve. Her return numbers have been relatively consistent with 43% of points won against the opponent's serve both in the longer twelve month look and in just the 2019 matches played.

Petra Kvitova will need to serve well against the still very average Maria Sakkari who continues to produce results that exceed her numbers. The Greek player is improved on the clay courts, but her hard court numbers remain average.

At her best Maria Sakkari can be capable of taking it to the very best players on the Tour with an aggressive game backed up by good movement. However Sakkari had a losing record on the hard courts in 2018 and she is just 9-9 on the surface in 2019 having comfortably beaten Camila Giorgi in the First Round.

Over the last twelve months Sakkari has continued to produce a decent serve and has won 44% of points on the return of serve on this surface. Those numbers take a sharp dip when considering how Sakkari has done against top 20 Ranked opponents in the same time period and I do think Petra Kvitova holds the mental edge having beaten the Greek player for the loss of five games in Miami earlier this year.

As long as Petra Kvitova is feeling reasonably comfortable taking to the court, I will back her to beat Maria Sakkari and cover this number.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Ekaterina Alexandrova - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 1-0, + 1.82 Units (2 Units Staked, + 91% Yield)

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