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Saturday, 17 August 2019

Cincinnati Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (August 17th)

One winner and one loser was the outcome of the Quarter Final selections made as a third match that I had picked did not take to the court on Friday.

Now we are down to the final four in both the ATP and WTA event being played in Cincinnati with all roads directing towards the US Open which is now only days away.

That is not so good news for Naomi Osaka who had to withdraw from her Quarter Final in the final set against Sofia Kenin. An awkward landing on a serve jarred her knee and the defending US Open Champion has admitted she is concerned about how well she can perform in New York City even though she will do all she can to be ready for the tournament.

It is part of a pretty disappointing last few months on the Tour as Osaka has struggled with the expectations and headlines that come with being a World Number 1 and two time Grand Slam Champion. Some even suggested she could run the table in the Slams after winning the Australian Open, but Osaka herself has kind of falling out of love with tennis and perhaps a break will just reignite the spark she had.


I am almost sure I am in for a third straight losing week on the Tour which has been unheard of in 2019 and even over the last twelve months I can't find too many examples of this happening. As I said yesterday, a part of the issue was my own poor selections despite being quite hard about the criteria that I am looking for, but those early bits of poor fortune have also hurt on the North American hard courts over the last month.

There may be a few picks from Winston Salem and the Bronx tournaments being played next week, but the main focus is going to be on the US Open which begins in the final week of August. I am going to have daily Picks throughout that tournament with the first of those likely to be out by Sunday evening.

Before I get to that, there are some Picks from the Cincinnati Semi Final matches that you can read below.


Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: This week I have been close to picking Svetlana Kuznetsova on at least two occasions, but have not quite been satisfied with her marks on the handicap to actually go through with putting her down on my daily Tennis Picks threads. Ultimately the veteran has proven me wrong, although she has needed to show some tremendous resiliency to come through some of her matches including breaking the Karolina Pliskova serve down 6-3, 5-4 in the Quarter Final on Friday.

It has been a difficult twelve months for Kuznetsova who has only played twenty-two matches in total in that time as injuries have held her back. To underline the lack of tennis, her opponent in this Semi Final has WON twenty-three hard court matches in 2019 alone, but Kuznetsova has been able to dig deep and turn back the clock.

The Russian has always been a solid hard court player and she has won the US Open before as well as reaching the Final there so has to be respected. However I have to wonder how much energy Kuznetsova has left having needed over two hours to win three of her four matches in Cincinnati this week and also being forced to play in the heat of the day yesterday.

Svetlana Kuznetsova has been on the brink of exiting the tournament twice already and I do think she could be perhaps lacking something in the early match scheduled on Saturday. The return has been a big weapon for her, but now she has to face Ashleigh Barty who can get plenty out of her serve and who will be happy to drag Kuznetsova into long rallies to sap anything she does have left in the gas tank.

It has not been the best few weeks on the Tour for Barty, but the former World Number 1 has already shown she is ready to retake her spot at the top of the WTA Tour. Resiliency has been evident as she has come from a set down to win her last two matches, and Barty will feel she is returning just well enough to keep Kuznetsova under pressure in this one.

If this match was being played earlier in the tournament I would consider moving past it considering the form of the underdog, but Kuznetsova just has to be feeling the tennis. Svetlana Kuznetsova has spent almost three hours longer on court this week and her match was affected by the heat rule on Friday which tells you all you need to know about the kind of taxing conditions she also had to deal with.

I like and respect Kuznetsova a lot, but Ashleigh Barty might be picking the bones here and has been performing at a consistently higher level than her opponent. Even this week her numbers have a slight edge over Kuznetsova in terms of the serve and I think Barty will get her teeth into enough return games to cover a big mark.


Madison Keys v Sofia Kenin: There are a couple of players on the WTA Tour that seem to find a few more wins than their raw numbers would suggest. One is Maria Sakkari and the other one I am picking up on is Sofia Kenin.

They have similarities with both being fiery competitors on the court and I do think Sakkari and Kenin have the same type of mental resolve to play the big points about as effectively as any player out on the Tour. It is the only way that slightly better than average numbers can see Kenin produce a 34-17 record on the hard courts over the last twelve months and has seen the young American reach back to back Semi Finals in Toronto and Cincinnati.

Even this week I look at the Kenin performances and she has won three tight matches, although was aided by Naomi Osaka's injury in the Quarter Final when things looked to be going against her. One strong win over Zarina Diyas has given Kenin's numbers a boot, but they remain fairly unimpressive for the most part, although the number she will be concerned about most is 4-0 so far this week in terms of wins-losses.

Sofia Kenin can get some pop out of the serve, but she has been producing an average return and that is going to be tested by Madison Keys. It was Kenin who won when these two players met on the clay in Rome, but the North American hard courts is when Keys has proven to be at her best and she is having a very good week so far.

A crushing win over Venus Williams in the Quarter Final has moved Keys into this match and she has stronger numbers than Kenin both in terms of the serve and the return. Much is going to depend on the Keys racquet as her highly aggressive game is well suited to the conditions in Cincinnati and I do think she should perhaps be a stronger favourite than she is in this match.

The last twelve months on the hard courts have not been that impressive from Keys considering the standards she has previously set on the surface, and that may be part of the reason she is not a bigger favourite in this one. However I do think her levels in Cincinnati have been a step above what Sofia Kenin has produced so far and I think Madison Keys will have enough of an edge to be worth a back here.


Novak Djokovic - 3.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: This is a big test for Daniil Medvedev to really see how much he has improved as well as whether he can cope with the mental pressure of taking on the very top players on the Tour. Last week a strong run in Montreal came to an end in a comprehensive defeat to Rafael Nadal while has also suffered relatively straight-forward losses to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the hard courts in 2019.

Take nothing away from the young Russian though as he has fully deserved his spot in the top 10 of the World Rankings and looks to be a player that will be able to have big impacts at the Grand Slams in the years ahead. He is talented, but I also think Daniil Medvedev perhaps has a bit more resiliency than some of his peers and that should hold him in good stead, even if the very top players have perhaps been a step too far up to now.

Daniil Medvedev's numbers over the last twelve months on the hard courts have been eye-catching and there is no doubt this is a player improving. This week in Cincinnati he is perhaps playing at elite level to dismiss opponents while barely being threatened and any player holding 88% of his own service games while breaking in 48% of return games is going to be very, very difficult to get close to let alone beat.

Novak Djokovic is an elite player though and the World Number 1 has been playing at a top level over the last twelve months which has led to the US Open and Australian Open added to an overflowing collection of trophies. In Australia he beat Medvedev on his way to the title and Djokovic has held 96% of service games played this week while breaking in 32% of return games which continues his level on the surface.

On the bare face of things Medvedev has the superior numbers, but I have mentioned his issues when facing the very best players on the Tour on the hard courts. Over the last twelve months he is 2-7 in hard court matches against top 10 Ranked opponents and 1-5 when you only consider the top 5.

His numbers have taken a serious dent on both the serve and return in the matches against the top players and I do think it is going to be an issue for Medvedev in this Semi Final. A win would really give the young Russian confidence to take into the US Open where his compatriot Marat Safin made his name just under twenty years ago, but it is hard to ignore that Medvedev only holds 68% of service games played on the hard courts against the top 5 Ranked opponents he has met over the last twelve months and he has broken in just 13% of return games.

I would be disappointed if Medvedev is not more competitive than he was in a defeat to Nadal last week, but I do think this is a big challenge for him and I give Novak Djokovic a real edge. I was anticipating the layers going at least one game higher than they have so I am willing to back the World Number 1 to continue to remind the rest of the Tour that he is the player to beat at Flushing Meadows over the next three weeks.

MY PICKS: Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Madison Keys @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 10-12, - 5.46 Units (44 Units Staked, - 12.41% Yield)

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