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Thursday, 15 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (August 15th)

A solid set of results on Wednesday have turned this Masters tournament back around as far as the Tennis Picks go, but the Third Round is to be played in full on Thursday which means there is still plenty of work to do to earn a profit from the event.

For the most part the Tennis Picks have performed as I would have expected with very few really bad performances, although one of those did come about on Wednesday when Denis Shapovalov was dismissed very easily by Karen Khachanov.

There are sixteen matches scheduled for Thursday, but I have limited my selections from less than half of those matches. You can see those below.

Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Anett Kontaveit: Out of all the first time Grand Slam Winners and newly crowned Number 1's on the WTA Tour I have to say the one I thought would handle the new expectations the best would have been Ashleigh Barty. Since winning the French Open, the Australian has also won a grass court title, but relatively early losses at Wimbledon and in Toronto last week has just had me wondering about whether Barty is also feeling the pressure of the commitments that come with reaching the pinnacle of her sport.

A strong win over Maria Sharapova in the Second Round in Cincinnati shows that Barty has just had a couple of difficult losses, but nothing that should overly concern her supporters with the beginning of the US Open now in sight. She was very unfortunate to lose to Sofia Kenin last week in Toronto and Ashleigh Barty has been one of the best performers on the hard courts over the last twelve months on the WTA Tour.

The foundation for her success comes from a strong serving department and it is going to be key for Barty in this Third Round match. The first serve is a particular weapon for her and it was a key in helping Barty beat Anett Kontaveit when they met on the hard courts in Miami earlier this year, while the World Number 2 has also been finding a little more out of her return game which has seen her produce a strong 21-4 record on the surface in 2019.

Now I don't want to disrespect Anett Kontaveit who has two solid wins already in Cincinnati and who did work her way through to the Semi Final in Miami before finding Ashleigh Barty a little too hot to handle. Over the last twelve months the Estonian has been a solid, if not spectacular, hard court player but she tends to beat those she is expected to and that saw Kontaveit climb to a career best Number 14 in the World Rankings back in April which followed the run in Miami.

Anett Kontaveit does have a couple of top 10 wins under her belt on the hard courts over the last twelve months. That makes her a potential threat to Ashleigh Barty especially if she is serving well, but I do see in her numbers that Kontaveit does struggle with her return in those matches.

I think that may be the case here and it should mean Barty can keep her under some pressure. It might be the reason she is able to wear Kontaveit down as Barty did against Sharapova and I will back the Australian to find a way to cover what looks to be a big number on paper.

Aryna Sabalenka - 2.5 games v Maria Sakkari: I can count on one hand the number of times I have backed Aryna Sabalenka this season as she tended to be vastly overrated during the early part of the year. That isn't a big surprise considering the hot form the Belarusian showed to end 2018, but Sabalenka was going into a couple of portions of the season when it was going to be hard to play her game with the kind of effectiveness she would like.

It tends to be a different story at this time of the year on the North American hard courts which have historically favoured those players who want to play aggressive tennis. After reaching the Final in San Jose, Sabalenka would have been disappointed with her early defeat in Toronto, but the young player looks to be in fine form through her first couple of wins in Cincinnati.

There is still room for Sabalenka to improve if she is going to have a big impact at the final Grand Slam of the season, especially when it comes to the way she is serving. This should be a really big weapon for her, but Sabalenka does not always play the big points behind that shot as effectively as she would like and that is a concern when facing an average Maria Sakkari who seems to be very good at the most pressurised points in matches.

We saw more of the same from her in the Second Round as she recovered from being a break down in the final set against Petra Kvitova to win the match despite looking like the second best player for large portions of the match. No matter what kind of timeframe you judge her on, Sakkari has some very average hard court numbers, although the Greek player has to be given some credit for the way she has performed over the last month.

In a very small sample of matches Sakkari has shown to be very good when it comes to breaking the serve from the limited chances she has compared with her opponent's conversion rate. It says something that Sakkari is 5-2 in the last month on this surface, but she has earned more break points in less than half of those matches.

This is a dangerous player who continues to win matches when she is being outplayed and Sakkari's mental resilience has to be applauded and also respected. Ultimately it is not sustainable and I do think it is a major reason she is just 14-16 on the hard courts over the last twelve months.

Much will depend on the racquet of Sabalenka in this match despite the superior movement that Sakkari can offer. If Sabalenka is hitting her marks it will be very difficult for Sakkari to stop her and I think the Belarusian is playing the better tennis of the two which all leads to me backing her to win and cover in this Third Round match.

Simona Halep - 2.5 games v Madison Keys: It would be foolish for people to completely ignore the head to head between these players, but I also would not put a lot of stock into those matches considering the last was almost three years ago. I do think Simona Halep would have been less bothered if she had the losing record though and Madison Keys has proven to be someone who can sometimes struggle with the mental aspect of a tennis match and a pressurised situation.

Last week Simona Halep did withdraw mid-match at the tournament in Toronto, but the fact she has taken to the court here should mean she is good to go. In recent years the Romanian has really enjoyed the Cincinnati event and she has reached the Final in three of her last four appearances here although is yet to take the title home.

As a multiple Grand Slam Champion following her success at Wimbledon last month, Simona Halep has to be feeling very confident about her chances of adding to her major titles. The tendon issue has to be a concern when you get into the long, drawn out Grand Slam events, but it is something that Halep has managed before and I think her withdrawal last week was a precaution.

It is unlikely that her tendons will be pushed for too long in this match considering the aggressive approach Madison Keys has. With that in mind I am anticipating short rallies with Keys taking a win or bust attitude that has sometimes seen her fall away in matches.

The American had a good looking win on Wednesday over Daria Kasatkina, but she has been having a poor year on the hard courts which will come as a surprise to most. Her numbers remain solid, but the slip in the points won behind the potent first serve has to be a real worry for Keys who won't want to see Simona Halep find her rhythm on the return and have to beat her on the ground over multiple shots per rally.

We have seen that the Romanian is at her most vulnerable on the hard courts, but she gets enough out of her serve to at least test the Keys return game which can be erratic to say the least. Simona Halep is a quality returner and I think that is going to be a difference maker for her in this Third Round match at a tournament she enjoys.

In their past meetings on the hard courts, Simona Halep has really limited the kind of damage Madison Keys has been able to do behind her serve. If she can get her teeth into the return games here, I would make Halep a slightly more convincing favourite here.

David Goffin - 3.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: It hasn't been that long since David Goffin was actually more than a decent hard court player, but the last twelve months have been difficult for the Belgian. He is just 10-10 on this surface in 2019 and his numbers have been fairly unimpressive from the kind of standards he had set for himself in 2017 and 2018.

Even a deeper look at the last twelve months have shown a player who has moved from a strong hard court player to a fairly average one and it is going to be tough for Goffin to reverse those trends if he can't find some confidence from somewhere. Maybe being back in Cincinnati will help as Goffin reached the Semi Final here in 2018, but an exit before that Round leaves him vulnerable to slipping out of the top 20 of the World Rankings.

The Belgian had lost early in Washington and Montreal prior to the tournament in Cincinnati and Goffin is finding himself under more pressure thanks to a slip in his serving numbers. At least on Thursday he is facing an opponent he has largely gotten the better of and David Goffin has held 86% of his service games played on the hard courts in four previous matches against Adrian Mannarino.

The veteran Frenchman is having a relatively good month on the Tour having won a few matches in Washington, Montreal and now in Cincinnati to rebuild some of the lost confidence he has to have had. A poor season has seen Mannarino slip down to Number 59 in the World Rankings, while he is just 14-20 on the hard courts over the last twelve months.

Like Goffin, Mannarino has a vulnerable serve but an effective return game which makes him dangerous for opponents. It also suggests we could see a few twists and turns in this Third Round match, although Mannarino has struggled to deal with the Goffin serve in their hard court meetings.

That has not been the case the other way around with Mannarino only holding in 64% of his own service games in those matches. He might have a little more success in this one with the confidence that would have come from a few wins on the Tour, but my edge has to be with Goffin even if he is a player I have rarely wanted to back as one that is still a little overrated with the layers.

There is no doubt that this is a big number for him to cover considering the form he has displayed over a number of months, but I expect Goffin to get the better of the serving day and that can lead to a win here.

MY PICKS: Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aryna Sabalenka - 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 8-7, + 0.72 Units (30 Units Staked, + 2.40% Yield)

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