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Wednesday, 28 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2019 (August 29th)

With the format of the US Open and the time needed to put my thoughts down, I am going to make updates after the initial thread is posted.

For example in this case any update for the tournament will be placed on Thursday morning, although this thread is going to be posted with the Tennis Picks from the Second Round matches on Wednesday evening.

Hopefully the first day will get this tournament off on a good footing, but I will update my thoughts on how it went in the Friday Third Round thread.

Andrey Rublev - 4.5 games v Gilles Simon: Both Andrey Rublev and Gilles Simon came through very difficult First Round matches and the two players have to be hoping the one day between those and this Second Round match is enough for them to recover mentally and physically. The only positive is that it has not been as hot in New York City as it can be during the last Grand Slam of the season, but you can't ignore the fact that Rublev needed almost four hours to win his First Round match and Simon went over four hours to secure his own win.

One difference between the players is that Simon won a match he would have been expected to win, while Rublev also has to deal with all of the headlines that come with beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the First Round. You do have to put some stock into that result as it can be difficult to back up upsets for those players further down the World Rankings, but Andrey Rublev might also be playing with a lot of belief.

Earlier this month Rublev beat Roger Federer at the Cincinnati Masters before falling to compatriot Daniil Medvedev and he also managed to reach the Quarter Final in Winston Salem in the week before the US Open began. The youngster also reached the Quarter Final at the US Open two years ago and I do think he will believe in his ability to win this match, although I am not always a big fan of opposing someone like Gilles Simon that can frustrate opponents who are not always aware of facing players like him.

Out of the two players Rublev does have a slight advantage over Simon in terms of the numbers produced on both the serve and return. In the last twelve months, Rublev has held 80% of service games played on the hard courts compared with Simon's 79%, while the Russian has broken in 25% of return games compared with Simon's 23%.

Those are fairly close, but in 2019 we have seen the improvements made by Rublev and a slight decline in the Simon numbers. It has also been a much better six weeks on the Tour for Rublev compared with the Frenchman who had been beaten in his first match in both Montreal and Cincinnati before overcoming Bjorn Fratangelo in the First Round at Flushing Meadows.

Only the win over Tsitsipas and having to deal with the expectation that comes with a big win is preventing me from being a little firmer in my belief that Andrey Rublev wins this match and covers the number. I can see there being some swings in momentum so I would be surprised if this is a straight sets win, but I would expect Rublev to create enough break point chances to cover the number even in a four set win.

Gilles Simon is a solid veteran, but I will look for Andrey Rublev to cover.

Nick Kyrgios - 6.5 games v Antonie Hoang: You can literally count on one hand the amount of times I have backed Nick Kyrgios over the last twelve months- I love watching this player and he is one of the few tennis players I actually follow on social media, but I have little doubt that you don't always know what you're going to get from him from match to match.

Winning the title in Washington was followed by two early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati and Nick Kyrgios is someone who isn't going to devote the time to the sport as others who have reached the very top of the game. He is talented and there is a potential Slam Champion in there, but Kyrgios has admitted himself he is not as professional as he should be and I don't think I being critical in saying that is a major reason I tend to avoid his matches.

At the end of the day Kyrgios isn't playing for everyone else so if you back him you have to take a personal responsibility in making that call. This Second Round match feels a good chance to do that when the Australian takes on Antonie Hoang, a player who has a peak Ranking of Number 98 in the World, although it came about at a time when it earned him a spot in the main draw of this Grand Slam.

Antonie Hoang has shown very little on the main Tour and his service numbers take a big dip in the matches that have taken place in main Tour matches on the hard courts. The return of serve is a decent weapon for the Frenchman, but it is going to be difficult to get a lot of joy out of the Nick Kyrgios serve if the latter is bringing his very best form to the court.

Over the last twelve months Nick Kyrgios has held 89% of service games played on the hard courts and he wins 69% of points played behind that shot. It certainly means chances are likely going to be limited for Antonie Hoang, but one of the main criticisms of the Kyrgios game has to be the limited success he has had when it comes to the return of serve.

In the same time period described above, Nick Kyrgios has only broken in 12% of return games which makes it difficult to believe he is capable of covering this number. However, he is facing an opponent who has held just 68% of service games played on the hard courts in main Tour matches so there may be more opportunities for him, while those break percentages improved markedly when the Australian has played opponents Ranked outside the top 50 (17% of return games resulting in a break in last twelve months) and those outside the top 100 (20% of return games resulting in a break).

Those numbers are a little more productive and I think Nick Kyrgios can get the better of this opponent. I imagine there will be a set where he is able to pull away for a strong scoreline that opens up the chance to cover the number and I will make a rare decision to back Nick Kyrgios to cover this mark.

Gael Monfils - 6.5 games v Marius Copil: The French Open has been the best of the Grand Slams for Gael Monfils as far as consistent results go, but he has matched the Semi Final run he had at his home Grand Slam by doing the same previously at the US Open.

Another win on Thursday would mean Monfils actually has won the second most Grand Slam matches at the US Open within in his own career and the Frenchman has been in good form on the hard courts throughout 2019. He already has the most wins in a single season on the hard courts since 2016 and Monfils has been producing some solid numbers after recording a comfortable straight sets win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the First Round.

Over the last twelve months Gael Monfils has held 85% of service games played on the hard courts, but the more impressive number is the 30% of return games ending in breaks of serve. That is going to make Monfils very dangerous, although I do think this is a player who might not have the mental strength to beat the very best players on the Tour.

Marius Copil is not one of those and I make Monfils a strong favourite to win this match. Over the last six weeks the Romanian is just 2-5 on the hard courts in the build up to the US Open and he needed five sets to knock off Ugo Humbert in the First Round with the current opponent a significant step up from his last one.

One of the main reasons Copil has been struggling for form on the hard courts has to be the decline in the levels he has produced behind the serve. Marius Copil has held 78% of service games played on the hard courts and that has put more pressure on what is a pretty limited return game.

He has also struggled when playing top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts over the last twelve months and I think Gael Monfils will have every chance of pulling away and covering this number. It is a big mark, but the best of five format should give Gael Monfils a chance to find a couple of breaks of serve within a set that should offer him an opportunity to move into the Third Round with a strong looking win on the day.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5 sets v Frances Tiafoe: 2019 has been a difficult year for Alexander Zverev and he is a player that is not someone that I particularly wanted to back too often. His numbers have not been too bad, but Zverev is lacking something mentally which is preventing him from winning matches in the fashion that may be expected.

It was more of the same in the First Round as he lost a 2-0 lead in sets in his eventual five set win over Radu Albot. The latter has not been playing badly on the hard courts, but Alexander Zverev is a top 10 Ranked player who would have been expected to put his foot down once getting into a commanding position, but instead has underlined some of the vulnerability around him at this moment in time.

A lot of the issues could be the lack of success at the very biggest moments in matches that have seen things slip through his fingers- Alexander Zverev has won 66% of points behind serve in 2019, but the German has 'only' held 80% of service games played and that has offered opponents the chance to become confident and earn an upset over him.

Overall Alexander Zverev is still playing pretty well and this is the kind of match he would be expecting to win as long as he can just clean up his play slightly. The fans will be behind Frances Tiafoe, but the young American has been average at best on the hard courts despite the obvious talent he possesses.

Over the last twelve months, Tiafoe has held 80% of service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 19% of return games. Those numbers take a further dip when only considering matches against top 20 Ranked opponents and Tiafoe also is 1-3 in his head to head with Zverev, although they have only played once in two years.

In their head to head, Frances Tiafoe seems to find a way to have more success on the return than he enjoys overall, but his own serve has been attacked with confidence by Alexander Zverev. The American is only holding 68% of his service games against Zverev in their three hard court matches compared with the higher Ranked player being at 79% and I expect the difference in return of serve to be the difference on the day.

It is something of a risk expecting Alexander Zverev to win any match in a relatively straight-forward fashion when you think of his current form and vulnerabilities. However, I also think Frances Tiafoe is not as effective on the hard courts as some may believe and I will look for the top 10 player to come through in three or four sets.

Benoit Paire - 1.5 sets v Aljaz Bedene: There were some major things expected from Benoit Paire when he first burst onto the ATP Tour, but he has never really made the kind of impact people would have noted at the Grand Slam level. The Frenchman has yet to make the Quarter Final of any Slam, but he did reach the Fourth Round at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the last two Slams played in 2019 and Paire may be ready to take the next step in his career.

He is certainly a big enough favourite to win this Second Round match when taking on Aljaz Bedene who has not played much hard court tennis to prepare for the US Open. That did not stop Bedene from beating Jozef Kovalik in the First Round, but that was also only the fourth match played on the hard courts in 2019 at the main Tour level and Bedene had lost the previous three.

In the last twelve months Aljaz Bedene has only played seven matches at the main Tour level on the hard courts and he has held 72% of service games played and found a break in just under 16% of return games played. He is going to have to find a significant improvement in this Second Round match if he is going to earn the upset, but this has not been a good match up for Aljaz Bedene.

The Slovenian has a 3-4 record against Benoit Paire and both previous matches on the hard courts have been settled in favour of the latter. In those two hard court matches, Benoit Paire has held 86% of his service games played compared with Aljaz Bedene's 68% and that should give the favourite a mental advantage to take into the match.

Benoit Paire is a pretty average hard court player who perhaps does not make the most of his attributes on the surface and that does temper some enthusiasm to back him in this match. The numbers underline the fact that Paire is not as strong on the hard courts as he may be perceived to be and the 74% of service games being held on the surface over the last twelve months is a pretty disappointing number.

Where I expect Paire to have the edge is the fact that he has broken in 23% of return games which is significantly better than what Aljaz Bedene has been able to produce in the same time period. In their head to head it is the Paire return that has proven to be pivotal on the hard courts and I think he is going to be capable of moving through relatively comfortably in this Second Round match on Thursday.

John Isner-Jan-Lennard Struff over 43.5 games: The layers could set an over/under line of 4.5 breaks of serve in this Second Round match and I think plenty would be rushing out there to back the under in that spot. That is even when accounting for the fact that John Isner won his First Round match with breaks in each of the three sets played, and the fact that Jan-Lennard Struff managed plenty himself in his own straight sets win.

Those wins came against players who are perhaps not the best servers out there, but both Isner and Struff have to believe they have the serve to make it very difficult for the other to break them. There has been a significant improvement in the level of performances that Jan-Lennard Struff has produced and over the last twelve months he has held 85% of the service games played on this surface, while John Isner won't surprise anyone with his 92% number over the same time period.

Out of the two players it is Struff who has the superior returning numbers and that may give him a chance in any tie-breaker we get into, but Isner holds a mental edge with a 3-0 head to head record and I would be disappointed if we didn't see at least four sets played in this one.

If we do start getting to that stage, I would imagine at least two tie-breakers will be needed in this match and that would put the match in a very strong position to cover this number of games. Much is going to depend on the German as Jan-Lennard Struff will have to deal with the mental pressure of having to keep holding serve, something that John Isner has been used to throughout his career having always had a limited return game at best.

In their previous matches, which have all come on the hard courts, John Isner has yet to be broken by Jan-Lennard Struff. The latter has held 84% of his own service games, but he is 2-1 in the three tie-breakers played so my feeling is that this is a match that can be extended in four and possibly five sets.

With the way both of these players can serve, I would be stunned if sets are concluded with two or more breaks of serve to produce 6-0, 6-1, or 6-2 scores. It is going to be a warmer day on Thursday in New York City, but I don't believe either player is going to be dragged into long rallies which will physically tire them out, although the biggest fear is that the heat perhaps sees someone lose heart if they fall 2-0 behind in sets.

However if the first two sets are split like I would hope, I would be very surprised if we don't get into a position where the total games line is not surpassed in this one.

MY PICKS: Andrey Rublev - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nick Kyrgios - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
John Isner-Jan-Lennard Struff Over 43.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Cori Gauff - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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