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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (August 14th)

I have to say the last couple of weeks have been treacherous as far as the Tennis Picks have gone and at times I do feel like I am being teased by the Gods.

Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer both got to match points in their matches on Tuesday and converting those points would have meant a cover of the handicap mark that was set out. Both were unable to do that and the fine margins of tennis seem to be going against me at the moment which is frustrating. Added to that was Petra Kvitova taking a break lead in the final set, one she just had to win to cover the mark, yet lost the last four games to fail to do that too.

I would much rather say that players have been unable to get into a position to cover and thus make the adjustments for the Picks, but when they get as close to covering without doing it I do think it is much more difficult to take. The season has been a good one so clearly the right plays have been made more often than not, but it has been a difficult month since Wimbledon and I was looking for better momentum to take into the US Open.

On Wednesday we move deeper into the Cincinnati Masters with the remainder of the Second Round to be completed in both the ATP and WTA events being played. There are a few matches that have fit into the criteria which has paid off very well this season, but I am hoping I am going to have slightly better luck than I have been experiencing of late.

In a sport where very little can decide the outcome of full matches, I have to accept I was always going to have a difficult run at some point, but I have managed to limit those moments so far over the course of 2019. Last week was the first time I had suffered back to back negative returning weeks, but I don't want that trend to move through to a third week in a row so this could be an important day to try and right a ship that has turned in a wrong direction of late.

Elina Svitolina - 2.5 games v Elise Mertens: Both of these players reached the Quarter Final in Cincinnati last season, but I have to give Elina Svitolina the edge to see off Elise Mertens and move a step closer to that Round in 2019.

This has been a difficult season for Svitolina in terms of where her expectations would have been coming into 2019. She won the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of 2018 and the Ukrainian has been in and around the top of the women's game for a number of years without having the kind of impact at a Grand Slam she would have liked.

You would have expected the confidence to be flowing after winning the WTA Finals, but instead Svitolina has taken a backwards step although she is still a top 10 player. The numbers on the hard courts compared with the last two seasons are indicative of the lack of success Svitolina has had compared to those years, although there are signs she is returning to her best form with a Quarter Final run in San Jose and Toronto behind her.

There has been a decline across her numbers, but Elina Svitolina has shown some life in her return of serve over the last month which should give her every chance of winning a match against an opponent she has beaten in two of their three previous matches. And she is facing Elise Mertens who has been very inconsistent on the hard courts in 2019.

Last year at the Australian Open Elise Mertens crushed Elina Svitolina, but she hasn't really kicked on as she would have liked on the hard courts over the last eighteen months. A strong win in the First Round will have given Mertens some confidence but the Belgian is just 13-10 on the hard courts this season and has had early losses in San Jose and Toronto.

Like Elina Svitolina, Mertens have seen her service numbers decline behind first and second serve, and her return has actually proven to be not as effective as what Svitolina can produce. With the slightly superior serve, Svitolina is able to come through a couple more difficult moments than Mertens and that could prove to be the key again.

Her record against top 20 Ranked opponents in 2019 is 4-6 and Mertens has seen her numbers take a significant decline in those matches. She is a talented player, but Mertens is someone that can be vulnerable against the very best players on the Tour and I think Elina Svitolina still earns a place amongst them.

Twelve months ago Svitolina beat Mertens in straight sets in Montreal and I think she is going to have too much for her here in Cincinnati too. I do think Elina Svitolina is going to have to improve tremendously to have an impact at the US Open, but she can build confidence here with a good looking win in the Second Round.

Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 2.5 games v Radu Albot: There is no doubt that at almost 30 years old Radu Albot is playing the best tennis of his career and that has seen him reach a peak career Ranking of Number 39 in the World. What that means is that Albot is able to take his place in the Masters events without having to go through the Qualifiers and a strong end to the 2019 season will mean he has every chance of being Seeded when the draw for the Australian Open is made in early January 2020.

All credit has to be given to Albot who tends to play his best tennis on the hard courts and the evidence of his improvement is in the numbers as he has begun to play at a higher level than he is used to. Twelve months ago he didn't play at either of the August Masters events and Albot was also still playing Challenger events at the end of the season, but he is set for a strong finish if he can maintain his form.

The Moldovan had won just 9 matches on the hard courts at the main ATP level in 2017 and 2018 combined, but this year he is 19-9 and won a title in Delray Beach. Radu Albot is vastly improved when it comes to the serve and the return in the main Tour matches and that has let to the strong record that he arrives in Cincinnati with, while his form has shown little sign of dipping having overcome Marin Cilic in the First Round.

It has been a solid few weeks on the hard courts for Albot who reached the Semi Final in Los Cabos and his return figures have been impressive. In the nine matches played on this surface since Wimbledon, Albot has won 40% of points against the opponent's serve and broken in 31% of return games played which makes him a real live underdog in this Second Round match.

I have a lot of respect for the tennis Albot is playing, but Diego Sebastian Schwartzman is a confident hard court player too despite his diminutive size and it certainly makes him a book you shouldn't judge by the cover. The Argentinian was a strong winner in the First Round and I do think he will match up well with Albot and I am expecting to see plenty of drawn out rallies between the players.

Diego Sebastian Schwartzman does not have as many main Tour wins as Albot on the hard courts in 2019, but they have similar service numbers with the main difference being that the higher Ranked player has shown the superior serve. His numbers have even been slightly better than Albot's over the last month since Wimbledon came to an end and it was Schwartzman who took the title home when both appeared in Los Cabos.

I do expect to see a few breaks of serve and I would not be surprised if this match goes the full three sets. As I have said, I have to respect the performances Radu Albot has put together in 2019, but Diego Sebastian Schwartzman is potentially a bad match up for him and I will look for the favourite to cover the mark in this one.

Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 games v Lucas Pouille: A come from behind win over Joao Sousa will have done Denis Shapovalov plenty of good in the First Round and the fact he was getting stronger and stronger during the match gives him some momentum to take into the Second Round. He is favoured to win this match against Lucas Pouille too, although Shapovalov has to show his confidence is in a better place having had a difficult season for the most part.

To be fair to the young Canadian, Lucas Pouille can't exactly have a spring in his step having been beaten in the First Round in Montreal last week which actually means he had lost six straight hard court matches beginning with the Australian Open Semi Final against Novak Djokovic. The run was snapped in the First Round in Cincinnati, but the Frenchman has always been a pretty average hard court player.

That doesn't mean Pouille has not had some very strong runs in tournaments, but his margin for error is very small thanks to a relatively weak return. Over the last twelve months on the hard courts, Lucas Pouille has won just 34% of return points and broken in 16% of return games which keeps his own serve under immense pressure with a feeling that a single break could cost him a set.

Lucas Pouille does have a decent serve, but he is holding 81% of games played behind that shot over the last twelve months on this surface. He seems to be a player that can struggle when the pressurised points come up like the break points and I do think it will be difficult for him to win this match barring a performance close to the best tennis Pouille can play.

No one will ever suggest Denis Shapovalov is a big time returner, at least not at this stage of his career. However his numbers are slightly better in terms of break percentage and points won against serve percentage than his opponent in this match and the Canadian has added a few points to his service numbers in 2019 compared with 2018.

I do think this is a match that potentially comes down to one or two key points in deciding the outcome and it may literally be who is the more efficient on the break points if both players are going to have very few chances to do that. My feeling is that Denis Shapovalov is the better server of the two and his slightly superior returning numbers should add to his advantage, while the Canadian at least has a few wins on the hard courts in recent months compared with Lucas Pouille who just snapped a six match losing run on the surface.

The Frenchman has had a day of rest between his First Round and this Second Round match, but I won't give that too much of a factor. In my opinion the favourite is worth backing to cover the handicap mark set for this match.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Frances Tiafoe: This has been the best year of Roberto Bautista Agut's career and he is on the brink of cracking the top 10 of the World Rankings for the first time. Another decent run on the hard courts last week saw Bautista Agut reach the Quarter Final in Montreal and he will be looking for another that could see him make the move into the top 10 at the end of this week.

He has always been very comfortable on the hard courts and his run to the Quarter Final at the Australian Open has kick started the 2019 season. The Spaniard followed up with a Semi Final run at Wimbledon for his best ever Grand Slam performance, although Bautista Agut has had little success at the Cincinnati Masters in the past.

I do think Bautista Agut can begin to change that having won his First Round match here impressively. That has helped him improve to 18-5 on the hard courts in 2019 and Bautista Agut is getting plenty out of his serve while remaining an effective returner.

Roberto Bautista Agut has reached the Quarter Final in all but one of the hard court events he has played this year, but he will also have to deal with the crowd on Wednesday who should be firmly behind Frances Tiafoe. The young American has just slipped down the World Rankings in recent months as he has struggled for the consistency needed on the main Tour though and I think Tiafoe is going to have to dig very deep to win this match considering he has largely unimpressive numbers.

Frances Tiafoe is at his best on the hard courts, but he has won less than 50% of the total points played on the surface which has contributed to a 10-9 record for the year. The serve can be effective, but Tiafoe has been holding 80% of service games played on the hard courts and his sub 20% break percentage in return games does not cover that.

I do have to respect the fact that Tiafoe surprisingly has a winning record against top 20 Ranked opponents on the hard courts in 2019. He beat Gael Monfils in the First Round in Cincinnati to boost the confidence, but I also think Tiafoe will be well aware that he needs a poor performance from Bautista Agut to get into a position to win this match.

In general the Frances Tiafoe serve and return is not as effective against the top 20 Ranked players as his overall numbers and I think that shows up here. It is a big number for Bautista Agut to cover if Tiafoe is energised by the crowd, but I think the Spaniard is in good form and he can find a way to earn the cover in a victory to move into the Third Round on Thursday.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 3-5, - 4.52 Units (16 Units Staked, - 28.25% Yield)

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