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Friday, 30 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2019 (August 30th)

The rain that basically wiped out the entire day's play on Wednesday meant the majority of the Second Round had to be completed on Thursday.

It is not ideal for the players, but it is not ideal for the Tennis Picks either with the markets for the Third Round only coming out during the evening. I have been able to find some selections I feel are worth backing on Friday and those you can read below.

This has not been the best of starts to the Grand Slam with a relatively poor record from the first couple of days of making Picks, but I am looking to begin to get things turned around on Friday. I should have the Saturday selections out later this evening and hopefully the tournament being back on schedule will help in putting those Picks out with ample time for those who want to read and perhaps follow.

You can read my Third Round selections from Friday below as well as the updated US Open totals.

Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 sets v Dominik Koepfer: It has already been a long tournament for Dominik Koepfer and he is certainly about to reach a new World Ranking having upset Reilly Opelka in the Second Round. He had only been 1-11 against top 100 Ranked opponents on the hard courts throughout his career, but Koepfer has turned that form around at the US Open with wins over Opelka and Jaume Munar to get through to the Third Round.

On Friday he is taking on the highest Ranked opponent he has ever faced when going up against Nikoloz Basilashvili and I do think the underdog will have his chances for the upset. I have to say I believe Basilashvili is one of the poorest top 20 Ranked players I have seen for a number of years, but he is still playing at a significantly higher level than Koepfer and I expect that kind of experience to help him even if Basilashvili is as inconsistent performer I have watched.

A 22-14 record is a good return on the hard courts, but Basilashvili rarely does anything easily and he has needed nine sets to get through the first two Rounds. The numbers over the last twelve months have been average at best but there is hasn't been a lot in what Dominik Koepfer has produced to think he is going to be able to maintain what have obviously been stand out results in his run at the US Open.

My concern whenever I back Nikoloz Basilashvili is that he is an erratic player who loves throwing sets away. That is partly down to a very aggressive type of tennis which means going for his shots and the low margin for error can lead to a host of mistakes.

He was a little fortunate not to find himself 0-2 down in sets in the Second Round and there is the chance of an upset here, but my feeling is that Basilashvili has proven to be the slightly better player at a higher level. At some point that is going to show up in a Dominik Koepfer match and I think this Third Round encounter will be the time.

The German has won plenty of sets against top 100 Ranked opponents in this tournament, but prior to the US Open he had only had a 3-23 record in sets played against those opponents on a hard court. I wouldn't be surprised if Nikoloz Basilashvili dropped a set considering his own kind of performances, but I do think the Georgian should have too much and I will look to back him at odds against to cover the set handicap.

Daniil Medvedev - 1.5 sets v Feliciano Lopez: Grand Slam tournaments can see players make surprising runs and one of those in the first week at the US Open has been Feliciano Lopez'. The veteran has not really shown a lot of form on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but he will be looking to drag Daniil Medvedev into a long match and test the fitness of the youngster.

One of the main reasons for that will be the problems Medvedev has had in this tournament so far and he was cramping very hard in the Second Round. In most cases he would have gotten a day between matches to rest when playing at a Grand Slam, but Daniil Medvedev had to play his Second Round match on Thursday with the rain delays in New York City and that could be costly.

It has been an incredible month for Medvedev who was heading into the final Grand Slam tournament as a real dark horse, especially when you think that Novak Djokovic is perhaps not at full strength. However Medvedev is going to need to find a way to avoid cramping and having thigh issues if he is earning his spot in the second week.

On the pure face of things Daniil Medvedev has the edge in almost every department in this match and I would expect him to win on most occasions. The only previous match between the Russian and Lopez came over two years ago, but in that time Medvedev has improved markedly and he would usually be a much bigger favourite if not for the injury issues that are surrounding him.

The one saving grace for Medvedev is that he should be dragged into long rallies to worsen the injury and he can look to play some aggressive tennis to break down the Lopez game. Feliciano Lopez is also playing with confidence having dropped the first set in the opening two Rounds before coming back and winning those matches in four sets, and I do think he could be a dangerous opponent, but he struggles on the return.

Daniil Medvedev is one of the better returners on the Tour so should be able to pressure Feliciano Lopez and I think he will have to win this one in three or four sets if he is going to make it through to the Fourth Round.

Roger Federer 3-0 v Daniel Evans: There has been something not quite right with Roger Federer over the last three weeks and I do wonder if the defeat in the Wimbledon Final has affected him much more than previous Grand Slam defeats. At 38 years old Federer must know he won't have too many better chances to win another Grand Slam, but it could be argued that a big door has opened for him at the US Open.

This is a tournament that most expect Roger Federer to perform well in, but in recent years he has struggled to find his best form in New York City with a number of surprising defeats before the business end of the week. In both of his matches in 2019 Federer has dropped the first set before recovering to win in four sets and I think that has something to do with the price.

However it has to be said that where Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have had obvious injury issues at the US Open, Roger Federer has not been making any excuses for his level. Those two players were expected to be his main rivals in the top half of the draw, but I think it could be argued that the Swiss player is the one to beat considering those injuries and possible fatigue issues compared with Roger Federer who might just be struggling for a bit of confidence.

I expect him to turn things around sooner rather than later and Federer has also benefited from playing on Wednesday as one of the few players scheduled for a court that has a roof. That means he is well rested compared with Daniel Evans who had to play his Second Round match on Thursday, although the British player looks to be in decent nick having recently made the decision to go in a new direction from a coaching point of view.

Daniel Evans needed four sets to come through his Second Round match and it was a much warmer day in New York City on Thursday which may have sapped some energy. He has to be respected as a decent hard court player, but Evans has struggled when stepping up to the top players and I think that is down to a vulnerable serve.

He did push Rafael Nadal in Montreal earlier this month, and he has given some top players challenges on the hard courts in the past. However he only holds 76% of service games played in those matches against top 10 Ranked opponents and that number drops to 74% from his previous two matches against Roger Federer which have both come at Grand Slam level.

One of those was on the hard courts of Melbourne back in January and Daniel Evans was anything but overawed as he lost two tie-breakers in the opening two sets against the former World Number 1. The lack of chances to break the Roger Federer serve could be an issue though as well as the short turnaround that is going to favour one of the top Seeds and I think Roger Federer can have his most straight-forward win of the tournament.

Alex De Minaur + 1.5 sets v Kei Nishikori: There are 31 places between these two in the World Rankings so some might be surprised that the layers are struggling to separate the two players. However I do think Alex De Minaur is a much improved hard court player over the last twelve months and there have been some signs that Kei Nishikori is perhaps not as strong as he once was and I do think the underdog is a live one to say the least.

When you look at the pure numbers over the twelve months there really isn't much between them on the hard courts, but just accounting for 2019 matches and it is Alex De Minaur who is arguably playing the better tennis.

The Australian has got through his first two matches at the US Open without too many concerns and he had a good hard court swing ahead of the final Grand Slam beginning too. Alex De Minaur won the title in Atlanta and reached the Fourth Round in Cincinnati and I do think the match up is one that he will appreciate as long as he serves well.

Over the last twelve months De Minuar has held 85% of his service games played on the hard courts which is a few percentage points above Kei Nishikori's numbers. In the shorter look at 2019 alone, that gap is even bigger and I certainly think it gives the youngster a chance of earning the upset over the former US Open Finalist.

Kei Nishikori has yet to be tested at the US Open in 2019, but the win in the First Round ended a run of four defeats in a row on the hard courts. His numbers are also given a boost by the early season form on the hard courts when Nishikori won a title and also had a strong run at the Australian Open, but the Japanese star is only 7-6 on the hard courts since then and all of his defeats have come against players Ranked outside the top 36 in the World Rankings.

He has previously had some very strong runs at the US Open which means you have to respect Nishikori, but I really do believe Alex De Minaur has every chance of earning the upset. With that in mind, having the chance to back the underdog with a start on the Set Handicap is hard to pass up meaning he needs to win just two sets to produce a winner on the day.

I do think De Minaur will be playing with enough confidence to push Nishikori all the way in this one and I will look for him to make it a very competitive match, if not win outright.

Madison Keys - 3.5 games v Sofia Kenin: This was an exact line I took three weeks ago when Madison Keys beat Sofia Kenin in Cincinnati and I think the former US Open Finalist can be backed to cover the same number again.

The match earlier this month was a close one, but Madison Keys was clearly the stronger player on the day and I do think she has the edge when it comes to hard court tennis. One of the reasons the match was perhaps a little closer than it should have been was the problems Keys had in protecting her second serve, but I think the experience of the win in Cincinnati will help and she was certainly deserving having won 52% of the points played that day and being a slightly more positive player when it came to the big break points.

Sofia Kenin can't be disregarded easily because she is a fierce competitor who plays with plenty of fire in the belly. That has perhaps seen her win matches that she hasn't always looked like being able to and the self-belief is very high in the player which means she is able to push through matches that are not going her way.

It has led to a number of close wins and I do think Kenin is someone who will have learned plenty from the loss to Madison Keys earlier this month. I just don't believe there is enough time for her to really make the adjustments when dealing with the huge Keys first serve, while the latter also looks like a player who is peaking at the right time having won the title in Cincinnati too.

Neither player has really been pushed in the opening two matches at the US Open, but Madison Keys has been the more dominant winner. The eight wins in a row on the hard courts is going to be huge for a player who can struggle with her belief on the court when things are going badly, but I think Keys also benefits from having played on Wednesday in cooler conditions than Sofia Kenin who had to win her Second Round match on Thursday as the temperature rose in New York City.

In terms of the handicap I do think this will be close, especially if Sofia Kenin plays the big points a little better than she did in Cincinnati, but I also think Keys will have plenty of success on the return to find those opportunities again. My edge has to go with the player in the better form and I just think she will be able to get through the difficult moments to win and cover this number too.

Qiang Wang - 4.5 games v Fiona Ferro: These two players met in the final tournament before the US Open began and it was Qiang Wang who produced another strong win over Fiona Ferro to move to 3-1 in the head to head between these two players. I am expecting her to record another victory on Friday in the Third Round at the US Open as Wang books her place in the second week of the tournament and I think there is every chance of this match being as comfortable as it was in New Haven.

Qiang Wang will have respect for the fact that Fiona Ferro has earned a win over her on the clay courts earlier this season, but their three hard court matches have all been relatively comfortable wins for the higher Ranked player. There is no doubt that Wang feels much more comfortable on this surface than she does on the clay and I expect that will increase her confidence going into the match too.

Both players have had differing runs to the Third Round too as Wang won her two matches in straight sets as expected. On the other hand Fiona Ferro needed three sets in the heat of Thursday to come through her match and she had to dig deep to upset compatriot Kristina Mladenovic, a win that might have taken something away emotionally which is only going to make it that much more difficult to back up in the Third Round.

Over the last twelve months Ferro has shown she is a decent hard court player at best and the step up to face someone like Wang looks a big step to take. The serve is average and one that Wang will look to attack, while Ferro will be under pressure to find a way to recover breaks against someone who can be effective behind her own serve.

That serve of Wang has restricted Ferro to winning 33% of return points in their three previous hard court matches and two of those have been played this year. The Frenchwoman did break the Wang serve for the first time last week in New Haven, but Wang has created at least eight break points in each of those matches on the hard courts against each other and she has broken the Ferro serve at least three times in each match too.

It might need one or two more breaks of serve in this one to cover the number being asked of her, but I think Wang is more than capable of doing that. I expect her to be the dominant player and Fiona Ferro may just struggle to cope with the emotional comedown of beating Kristina Mladenovic as the underdog on Thursday and then facing someone who has had the better of her more often than not over the last twelve months.

Qiang Wang isn't someone I look at as taking things for granted, so I expect a strong effort from the Chinese player and a solid win to boot.

Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Maria Sakkari: I think most will know my thoughts about Maria Sakkari and the level she is operating at compared with the true level I believe she has, but once thing I will never dispute is the clear heart she plays with. It is one that means the Greek player never really knows when she is beaten, but I do think she is going to need more to overcome Ashleigh Barty even though the latter has been in mixed form.

Most first time Grand Slam winners have had issues backing up the new found sense of expectation that surrounds them and that has particularly been the case for the recent women who have picked up Majors. Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka are the exceptions, but the likes of Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens have not really dealt with things as well as they might have liked.

Ashleigh Barty is somewhere in between those contrasting ways of dealing with the new pressure on the shoulders- she has had some good runs in tournaments and even won a title since winning the French Open in June, but an underwhelming Wimbledon was a disappointment.

The Australian did reach the Semi Final in Cincinnati earlier this month, but she never really convinced to the full at the tournament and Barty also dropped her first set at the US Open by a 1-6 set scoreline. It just makes me wonder if she is fully engaged on the court at the moment and whether Barty is overdoing things to try and manage the pressure, something that could cost her in this tournament which looks very open.

Her numbers have stayed relatively decent, but Barty won't want to give Maria Sakkari momentum especially as she has won two matches fairly impressively. The last two months have also seen Sakkari playing at a level she has rarely been able to maintain for as long as she has been and that makes her a threat, although the head to head might wear heavy on her mind.

Maria Sakkari has lost both hard court matches against Ashleigh Barty in 2019 and she has not really been very competitive even though she did take a set off of her in Cincinnati. The numbers show that Sakkari does not really have an effective answer to the Ashleigh Barty serve and that the latter has been very comfortable when she is on the return and for most that is a recipe for disaster and it is no different for Sakkari.

The heart and the belief to the very end of matches makes Maria Sakkari someone who can play better than the raw data may suggest, but this has not been a good match up for her. While Ashleigh Barty is clearly not playing as consistently as she would expect of herself, I do think she holds the mental edge and her serve should be the more effective of the two on the day.

With that in mind I do think the former World Number 1 can move into the second week of this Grand Slam with a strong win under her belt.

MY PICKS: Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 Sets @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer to Win 3-0 @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur + 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Qiang Wang - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

US Open Update: 7-8, - 4.12 Units (30 Units Staked, - 13.73% Yield)

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