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Saturday, 31 August 2019

US Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2019 (August 31st)

The remainder of the Third Round is going to be completed on Saturday and you can see my selections from those matches below.

I will update the totals from the US Open once the full Friday schedule is completed.

Matteo Berrettini - 1.5 sets v Alexei Popyrin: 2019 has been a memorable year for Matteo Berrettini, but there are still a couple of months to go as the Italian looks to put an exclamation point on the year. He has entered the top 20 of the World Rankings for the first time and also managed to earn a spot in the Fourth Round at Wimbledon back in July, a Round he can match by winning this match at the US Open.

The big improvements made in his game have been clear to see for anyone that has watched Berrettini play over the last several months. While he may be at his most comfortable on the clay courts, Matteo Berrettini has shown he is very good on both the grass and the hard courts and the latter comes with a much bigger sample to make a surer assessment of his capabilities on the surface.

This year there has been an improvement on the serve, but Matteo Berrettini will be the first to admit that he needs to find a little more out of the return game to really make a significant move up the World Rankings. There is no doubt that the serve is going to always lay a decent foundation for success for Berrettini on the faster surfaces, but he will certainly want to improve his break percentage which stands at 16% of return games played on the surface over the last twelve months.

He is going to be facing someone similar in terms of what he wants to do on the court and Alexei Popyrin has also show considerable improvement, albeit at a lower level than where Berrettini has been playing. The step up to trying to play main Tour matches can be difficult for any up and coming player, and that is the reason that Popyrin has slipped out of the top 100 of the World Rankings.

The Australian was Ranked high enough to get into the main draw of the tournament though and he has made full use as he is set to move back inside the top 100 in the next ten days or so. He has only dropped a set so far and Popyrin is someone who can serve well enough to give a returner like Berrettini something to think about, although his own return is not expected to be one that challenges what the Italian has been producing with his serve.

Ultimately I think when two players are similar the slight advantages will make the big differences- in this case I think Matteo Berrettini has the stronger serve by some margin and their returning numbers are similar. It should mean Berrettini is able to win the tight sets and potential tie-breakers and I will back him to win this match in three or four sets.

Gael Monfils v Denis Shapovalov: After just turning 20 years old earlier this year I don't think it is a major surprise that Denis Shapovalov has struggled for consistency in his second full year on the Tour. Two years ago he announced himself on the Tour with a strong run in Montreal followed by reaching the Fourth Round at the US Open, but the Canadian has had a more inconsistent 2019.

In saying that, Shapovalov is still playing his best tennis on the hard courts and his two wins at this year's US Open have come without dropping a set. He had not been in the best form over the last few weeks during the hard court swing, but Shapovalov's comfortable win in the First Round over Felix Auger Aliassime shows this is a player that needs to be respected.

Over the last twelve months Denis Shapovalov has held 83% of his service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 19% of return games played. Those are some good, solid numbers, but just taking in the 2019 matches has seen Shapovalov improve in both aspects although I do think he is now facing one of the players who have really been in fine nick for much of the season.

That means there is going to need to be another step up in terms of level for Shapovalov when he takes on Gael Monfils who has won all six sets played in New York City and who has had a very strong 2019 on the hard courts. The record backs that up and Monfils looks to be playing with real confidence, even if he made some controversial comments that suggested he needed to make the second week of the Grand Slam to ensure he is making some money from playing in the tournament considering all the expenses he has.

It is a comment that fans might not appreciate, but Gael Monfils is still going to receive plenty of support and his return game could be the difference between the two players on Saturday. He has broken in 32% of return games on the hard courts in 2019 prior to the US Open and Monfils has had his eye in on the return at this tournament too.

The layers are not really finding it easy to separate these players, but I do think Gael Monfils is deserving of his place as the favourite. He is at a price which I think is reasonable to back the Frenchman and I think he can get the better of Denis Shapovalov with the superior return proving to be the difference between them.

Alexander Zverev - 5.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: For the second match in a row Alexander Zverev has just about held himself together mentally to come through a five setter and move onto the next Round. Those wins are going to help a player who has lost some confidence in his own abilities, but the other side of the coin is that there are potential fatigue issues to overcome later in the tournament.

At the moment that should not be a concern for the German who will be going into this Third Round match as a pretty big favourite. I can't really argue with the position of the layers considering his opponent has had a couple of tough matches already and has also not been playing at this kind of level on this surface.

Aljaz Bedene frustrated Benoit Paire by coming back from 0-2 down in sets to knock off the Frenchman in five sets in the Second Round. It is a big win for the Slovenian, but Bedene will have put a lot of effort into the match and I do have to wonder how much of a mental and physical toll that has taken on him.

Earlier this month Bedene did win a Challenger event on the hard courts, but this is a completely different level and he also has to ignore the fact that he was beaten convincingly by Alexander Zverev earlier this year at the Australian Open. It was the returning on the day that proved to be a big difference between the players and Zverev has proven to be very comfortable against the Bedene serve in the three previous matches they have had against one another.

There is still some fragility about the Zverev game that is hard to ignore and it certainly makes covering this number a lot tougher than it may look on paper. That has to be factored in to the selection and I do think Alexander Zverev could potentially drop a set if he is not quite able to shake off those moments when he can't seem to do right for doing wrong.

However I do think Zverev has shown enough moments when he is producing his best tennis and being able to pull away within sets and I think that may be the case here. It should mean that even dropping a set does not prevent Zverev from covering this number against an opponent he has enjoyed playing, but we saw in the last Round that even those mental advantages are not guaranteed to be enough.

I have to add in the fact that Aljaz Bedene has struggled on the hard courts at the main Tour level over the last twelve months and that is the reason I am backing the top 10 Ranked player to win and cover.

Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 sets v Tennys Sandgren: Playing in a home Grand Slam has to be a great experience for any player on the Tour and it must be feeling very special for Tennys Sandgren right now. He has needed to play nine sets to earn his place in the Third Round but it is a run that will help push him back up the World Rankings after having a mixed time following his break out on the Tour at the Australian Open in 2018.

The American is a pretty good hard court player, but the step up to the main Tour has been a tough one for him to find the consistency to produce the kind of run he did at the Australian Open. He does have a losing record on the hard courts over the last twelve months, but those are in main Tour matches and Tennys Sandgren is playing opponents of a much higher level in those.

He has held 79% of his service games and Sandgren has broken in 15% of return games which shows that he is going to have a bit of trouble in putting together strong winning runs. It has not prevented Sandgren from coming from two sets down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the First Round and he got the better of Vasek Pospisil in four sets in the Second Round which should mean Sandgren heads into this match with a lot of belief behind him.

On the face of it he must also fancy his chances of beating Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who doesn't look like he should be as effective on the hard courts as he tends to be. The Argentinian has just slipped back from his peak career Ranking earned fifteen months ago, but he was a Quarter Finalist at the US Open in 2017 and it is the Schwartzman return game which should make all the difference in this match.

Over the last twelve months Schwartzman has held 77% of service games played on the hard courts, but he has been impressive on the return with a break in 27% of return games played on the surface. I do think that is going to be a reason he is able to come through this match and earn a path back into the second week at the US Open.

Tennys Sandgren is unlikely to roll over easily, but I think Diego Sebastian Schwartzman can play the big points well enough to win this one in three or four sets with the superior serve proving to be the difference.

Rafael Nadal - 8.5 games v Hyeon Chung: Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have been having some physical issues and Roger Federer has not been near his peak levels so far in this tournament. All of that means there will be plenty out there backing Rafael Nadal to win his second Grand Slam of the 2019 season as he plays in the weaker bottom half of the draw and looks to be in the best possible shape to compete.

You can't always rely on the fitness of the Spaniard, but Rafael Nadal will be all the better for having moved through to the Third Round after playing just a single match. He is someone who likes to get his rhythm on the court, but Nadal should be able to do that in this kind of match and his dominant win over John Millman in the First Round was mighty impressive.

That has come after winning the title in Montreal and Rafael Nadal has some very impressive numbers on the hard courts over the last twelve months, although he has not played as many matches as you would expect thanks to injuries. The Spaniard has held 92% of the service games played on the hard courts and he has broken in 33% of return games which are the kind of numbers that are going to be make it very difficult for Hyeon Chung to push him.

Hyeon Chung has beaten Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam before so there is no doubting the obvious talent he has, but injuries have seen his World Ranking plummet to Number 170. He has been a solid hard court player which furthers his resume to test Nadal, but over the last twelve months he has held 79% of service games played and broken in 25% of return games, although a number of those matches have been on the Challenger circuit.

And it has to be noted that those numbers take a real slump when Hyeon Chung has played top 20 and top 10 Ranked players on the hard courts throughout his career. Against top 10 players Chung is 1-10 and he has held 66% of service games played on the surface, while breaking in 14% of return games.

The two previous head to head matches between Chung and Nadal has seen the latter dominate the stats and I think there is a potential fatigue factor in play here too. In their previous two matches, Nadal has held 86% of his service games against Chung compared with 65% the other way, while Chung has played back to back five setters after coming through the Qualifiers here.

Hyeon Chung saved match points in coming from 0-2 down to beat Fernando Verdasco in the Second Round, but Rafael Nadal is unlikely to take his foot off the peddle in this one. If Rafael Nadal gets in front, I can see him wearing Hyeon Chung and eventually pulling clear for a strong win on the scoreboard that sees him cover this number on the handicap.

Donna Vekic - 3.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: At 23 years old there are clear signs that Donna Vekic is improving as far as being a hard court player goes and she has only recently reached a career best World Ranking. Putting a strong run together at the US Open will see Vekic have every chance of breaking into the top 20 of the women's game and finally begin to get closer to fulfilling the potential so many believed she had.

Her first two Rounds have gone very well and Donna Vekic is going to be a strong favourite to make it through to the second week of the US Open for the first time having done that previously at the French Open and Wimbledon. I am sure the expectations will be much grander than that, but Vekic has to make sure she is not underestimating Yulia Putintseva who has made it a habit to upset players at the biggest tournaments.

She was at it again in the Second Round as Putintseva got the better of Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets and she will head into the match with as much belief in her own game as she has every time she enters the court. Over the last twelve months Yulia Putintseva has been slightly better than average on the hard courts and she has a decent return which can pose problems for everyone she faces.

The long-term issue for Putintseva has been a vulnerable serve which is an area that Donna Vekic will be looking to attack. The Croatian has not had the best returning numbers on the Tour, but her big serve means she can take a few more shots on the return and I expect that to be the case on Saturday too.

A 3-0 head to head lead for Vekic over Yulia Putintseva might have some impact on this match, but they have not played for over twelve months and the last couple of matches have not been on the hard courts. In those matches Yulia Putintseva has struggled to get as much out of the return as her average which underlines the service edge that Donna Vekic has in this match up.

Ultimately it has been the ability of Vekic to attack the Putintseva serve that has proved the difference in those previous matches and I expect to see the same in this Third Round match. There should be enough breaks of serve for Vekic to get into a position to cover the handicap too and I will back her to do that.

MY PICKS: Matteo Berrettini - 1.5 Sets @ 1.66 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils @ 1.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 Sets @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 8.5 Games @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)
Donna Vekic - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bianca Andreescu - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)

US Open Update: 12-10, + 1.12 Units (44 Units Staked, + 2.55% Yield)

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