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Tuesday, 27 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2019 (August 28th)

The first couple of days at the US Open have been used as a watching brief for myself after what had been a difficult month of Tennis Picks.

Even taking a step back at the start of a Grand Slam is not a bad decision to just make sure things are aligned as I would like and so it is important to be able to do that. It remains a very strong season for the Tennis Picks, but I do want to make sure this final Grand Slam of 2019 produces the results to get things ticking back in a positive direction.

The main contenders are all in New York City and I am going to sound like a broken record player by repeating that the men's event looks like it will be dominated by the top three players in the world and the women's is going to be very open.

In saying that, the US Open has been the tournament with the more varied Slam Champions in the men's game for a number of years now and so perhaps it will be the moment for Daniil Medvedev to back up what has been a very successful month to this point. In the last ten years Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic have won their only Grand Slam here in New York City, but Medvedev looks like someone who will be able to win multiple Slams as long as he stays healthy, while a run to the final eight would be seen as a successful tournament and keep the development going in the right direction.

As with any of the recent Grand Slams, I can make a case for a number of women to win the tournament, but perhaps Serena Williams will be the one to make ultimate redemption having been involved in the controversial Final of twelve months ago. She will need to try and get through the early Rounds without being pushed too hard, and Williams has lost some of the aura that has surrounded her, but it will be difficult to beat her as it has proven to be in recent Slams even though she has not gone on to equal Margaret Court's record just yet.

Below you can read my thoughts on a few of the matches I have selected from the Wednesday Second Round matches and I have also added any other selections to the 'MY PICKS' section.

Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 sets v Jeremy Chardy: Even though he has made improvements in 2019, it still feels like Stan Wawrinka is some way away from the form that saw him win three of the four Grand Slams. His numbers have remained pretty average with the limited success on the return of serve preventing from really putting some strong runs together and even the four sets he needed to come through his First Round match shows Wawrinka is a vulnerable player.

When you are struggling with the return of serve, it can put a lot of pressure on the serve and protecting that. Stan Wawrinka does not look like someone who is going to recover too many sets from being down a break and I do think he is someone that can be opposed in the early Rounds of tournaments before any momentum is put together.

It may not be right in the Second Round in New York City though as Wawrinka gets set to take on Jeremy Chardy who needed to come from 2-1 down in sets to upset Hubert Hurkacz in the First Round. The veteran Frenchman has been pretty average on the hard courts in 2019 and he has dropped down to Number 74 in the World Rankings while Chardy decided to only take on one hard court tournament prior to the US Open which may underline his own lack of belief in having a deep run here.

The win in the First Round will give Chardy some confidence and his serve can be a decent enough weapon for him. Jeremy Chardy has produced some consistent numbers over the last twelve months when comparing those to his 2019 numbers alone and the Frenchman is holding around 82% of service games played on the hard courts.

That is a mark only a little down on what Stan Wawrinka has been able to put together on the hard courts, but it is the higher Ranked player who also has the slightly superior returning numbers. Neither player has been able to put any consistent pressure on the return of serve, but the slightly better mark for Stan Wawrinka has to help as will his 5-0 head to head mark against Jeremy Chardy.

It has been over three years since these two have met on the Tour, but those previous matches have shown that Wawrinka's serve has more joy than the Chardy one and I am expecting something similar here. On recent form Stan Wawrinka can't be trusted easily to cover any kind of number, but he should be the better player and even a tight win in three or four sets is the most likely outcome in this match.

Reilly Opelka - 1.5 sets v Dominik Koepfer: Earlier this month Reilly Opelka reached a new career high in his World Ranking and he will be celebrating his 22nd birthday on the day he plays in the Second Round at the US Open. This is the first year the American is playing in the main draw at his home Grand Slam and beating Seeded Fabio Fognini in the First Round will open up his section and give Opelka every chance of finding a path into the second week of a Slam for the first time.

He can't take anything for granted though when taking on Dominik Koepfer who has come through the Qualifiers and won a main draw match against a higher Ranked opponent. Like his opponent, Koepfer reached his career high World Ranking earlier this month, but he is likely to crack the top 100 for the first time at the end of this tournament and almost certainly if he can upset the home player in the Second Round.

The German has shown he is very comfortable on the hard courts, but the majority of his successes have come off the main Tour. The makes the win in the First Round very important, but Koepfer would have expected to get the better of Jaume Munar and this is a much different kind of test for him.

Reilly Opelka is someone who has a huge serve which will put pressure on opponents, but he is a below average returner and that makes it difficult to believe in him. He will be looking to improve that, but like John Isner I do think Opelka will always be fairly limited and his hope is to build scoreboard pressure on any opponent.

It could easily work in a match like this one when you think Dominik Koepfer has held 77% of service games played and the majority of those are in matches away from the main Tour. He has shown to be a much better returner than Reilly Opelka, but the latter's serve is not easy to deal with and I think it is going to be the difference maker on the day.

The American holds a 3-0 head to head advantage over Koepfer and all of those matches have been on the hard courts over an eleven month period. In those matches Reilly Opelka has held 94% of service games played against Dominik Koepfer, while the latter has held 92%. That is not a big difference, but in terms of points won, Reilly Opelka has a significant edge which suggests he will be the more likely to earn some break points and also have an edge when it comes to any tie-breakers that will need to be played.

Dominik Koepfer has to be respected for coming through the Qualifiers and earning another win in the First Round, but I think Reilly Opelka can be backed to win this one in three or four sets.

Yoshihito Nishioka - 1.5 sets v Feliciano Lopez: Not many would have expected the veteran Feliciano Lopez to get the better of Taylor Fritz in the First Round, but he came from behind to win that match in four sets. Now he has to take on another player looking to begin to make a consistent impact on the Tour and once against Lopez is going to be the underdog to move through to another Round.

A surprising run to win the title at Queens Club back in June has stopped what had been a big slide down the World Rankings for Lopez, but ultimately it may be one of the last really big moments of his career. In recent years the Spaniard has not been the same force on the hard courts as he once had been and the limited return game has been one that has forced Lopez to try and get more out of the serve.

Over the last twelve months Feliciano Lopez has held 82% of the service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 13% of return games. His percentage of points won behind the serve have continued to slide and that leaves him very vulnerable in matches that he might have once been expected to win.

In the Second Round he takes on Yoshihito Nishioka who produces some decent, if not spectacular, hard court tennis and who reached the Quarter Final in Cincinnati earlier this month. Like Lopez, Nishioka came from behind to win his First Round match in four sets and he will be heading into this match with some confidence after the tennis he has produced in recent weeks, although Nishioka is still a little inconsistent.

There needs to be a big improvement as far as his serve goes if Nishioka is going to make strides on the main Tour, and he has held just 74% of service games played on the hard courts in 2019. That is going to leave the Japanese player vulnerable when he plays the better players out there, but Nishioka is a very strong returner and I think he will be able to use the Lopez limitations on the return to help him get through in this one.

These players have met once before and it was Nishioka who beat Lopez in straight sets on the hard courts of Miami. That match took place in March 2016, but Lopez has slipped somewhat since then and I think Nishioka should have enough to get the better of him.

Feliciano Lopez will be confident after beating Taylor Fritz, but I expect the Nishioka return to ensure a win in three or four sets.

Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Damir Dzumhur: It has been a difficult fifteen months for Damir Dzumhur who has slipped from his career best World Ranking of Number 23 in July 2018 all the way back to Number 99 as he enters the US Open. The First Round win over Elliot Benchetrit might be good enough to prevent the Bosnian from falling out of the top 100, but it is going to need a massive upset for Dzumhur to prolong his stay in New York City.

The Second Round draw pits Dzumhur with former World Number 1 Roger Federer who is one of the leading favourites to win the title over the next two weeks. It was not an ideal start to the tournament for Federer having dropped the first set against Sumit Nagal having also been upset in the early Rounds in Cincinnati while preparing for this event, but the fact Federer was able to turn things around as comprehensively as he did will help.

Just under two months ago Roger Federer dropped the first set he played at Wimbledon, but he improved markedly from that time and perhaps should have won the title there. He will be hoping something similar happens here in New York City, although the declining numbers on the return of serve have to be a concern for the Swiss superstar.

Ultimately I don't think those issues will present a problem for Federer in this match as Damir Dzumhur is only holding 68% of service games played on the hard courts over the last twelve months. That is despite the fact that Dzumhur has had to step back his level as his World Ranking has fallen, while his return game is not really one that looks to be able to threaten Federer.

Roger Federer has held 90% of service games played on the hard courts over the last twelve months and he has won 70% of points played behind the serve on the surface. The expectation is that Federer is going to be able to keep Dzumhur under pressure and he should then be able to do enough to find the breaks of serve he needs to get into a position to cover the number.

This is actually going to be the third Grand Slam Roger Federer and Damir Dzumhur are meeting in, although the previous two matches were at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. In those matches Roger Federer held 96% of service games played and he broke in 42% of return games and, while he has declined in terms of the return in that time, I do think Federer is going to put Dzumhur under immense pressure throughout the time they spend on court.

Without a doubt this is a big handicap for Roger Federer to cover these days, but I am expecting a more dominant performance from the off compared with the First Round match he played. That should see him find the breaks of serve he will need to cover this number and I will look for him to do that.

David Goffin - 7.5 games v Gregoire Barrere: The last twelve months have seen David Goffin not able to produce the kind of tennis that has taken him into the top 10 of the World Rankings. Inconsistent results have been a real problem for the Belgian, but he has beaten an overmatched Frenchman in the First Round and the same will be expected when he takes on Gregoire Barrere in the Second Round.

David Goffin did drop a set in the First Round which underlines that he is still someone whose levels are not consistently at the same heights as they would have been eighteen months ago. The 78% of service games being held does leave Goffin vulnerable to dropping sets and being under pressure, but he remains a decent enough returner which is helping him avoid a significant drop in the World Rankings.

He is going into the Second Round as a big favourite to beat Gregoire Barrere who has come through the Qualifiers and stunned Cameron Norrie with a tough five set win in the First Round. Winning a final set tie-breaker is huge for Barrere who had been 1-5 in main Tour hard court matches before his win in the main draw here.

The Frenchman has held 78% of service games played on the hard courts on the main Tour in 2019, but he has continued to have his issues when it comes to the return of serve. That is potentially a huge boost for David Goffin who has considerably stronger returning stats which should mean he is the more likely to recover breaks of serve as well as potentially being able to pull away from his opponent in one or two sets played.

Gregoire Barrere's overall numbers on the hard courts are decent enough, but he has already had a difficult week in New York City and I do wonder if there is going to be some fatigue issues at play. At least the Qualifiers are not played in a best of five set format, but the First Round match saw three of the five sets needing tie-breakers and it would have been an emotional as well as physical effort put into the win.

These players met over three years ago at the French Open and it was David Goffin who won the match in pretty routine fashion. At this stage Gregoire Barrere must believe he is in a much better position to compete, but I still think Goffin has a significant edge in the match and I would expect him to get the better of this match.

Considering the form of the last twelve months I have to be slightly wary with the number of games that David Goffin has to cover. The Belgian also has a miserable record against players Ranked outside the top 100 on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but I expect his return game to get the better of Gregoire Barrere and I will back David Goffin to cover.

Alex De Minaur - 5.5 games v Cristian Garin: It has been a very good twelve months for Cristian Garin who has moved so far up the World Rankings that he is coming into this tournament as one of the Seeded players. The majority of his successes have come on the clay courts on which Garin will feel most comfortable though and that is the reason he is the underdog when he faces Alex De Minaur in the First Round.

The Chilean needed five sets to beat Christopher Eubanks in the First Round, but this is another step up for him against an opponent who is very happy on the hard courts. Cristian Garin has a really poor record on the hard courts as far as main Tour matches are concerned and his numbers reflect that too.

In fact even his overall numbers in 2019 on the hard courts need improving as Garin has only held 70% of the service games played on the surface. Returning serve has been a real struggle too and all in all you would have to make him a significant underdog in this match and perhaps a bigger one than he is.

Alex De Minaur has slipped back from his peak career World Ranking of Number 24 from earlier this year, but he is still very much at his happiest on the hard courts. There has been a real improvement in his level in 2019 compared with previous seasons and it is the De Minaur serve that has been a vital part of that improvement.

In 2019 the Australian is holding 87% of the service games played on the hard courts, but I think De Minaur would be the first to admit that he will want to be more effective on the return of serve if he is really going to kick on in his career. Last season Alex De Minaur was breaking in 24% of return games played on the hard courts, but that number has slipped to 20% this time around, although the serve has covered any drop off when it comes to win-loss record.

He was a solid winner in the First Round and I do think this is the kind of match that Alex De Minaur should be good enough to control. If he serves well he should keep Cristian Garin under pressure and the relatively vulnerable serve of the higher Ranked player should mean De Minaur has enough to be in a position to cover this number of games on the handicap.

I would have been looking for Alex De Minaur to have had to cover more games than where the line is set though and I will look for the Australian to continue serene progress at the US Open after a strong First Round win.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Sets @ 1.61 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Reilly Opelka - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Yoshihito Nishioka - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
David Goffin - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Alexandrova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 5.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)

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