Saturday, 18 April 2015

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2015 (April 18th)

For the first time since the French Open Final last June, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet one another and this could be a big chance for the World Number 1 to underline his confidence going into the rest of the clay court season.

That is the second Semi Final on Saturday following Tomas Berdych's match against Gael Monfils as the in-form Frenchman looks to reach the Final.

Tomas Berdych v Gael Monfils: It has been a great week for Gael Monfils having beaten Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov without dropping a set, while he has been playing with a lot more aggression than we are perhaps used to him doing.

He will need to maintain that aggression if Monfils is going to beat Tomas Berdych who matches up very well with the Frenchman. Berdych has a big serve which can get him in a position to dictate the points against Monfils, while he is consistent enough off the ground to keep making the balls if Monfils decides to go on the defensive.

However, this hasn't been a great week in terms of performances for Berdych, even if he is well rested having not been pushed and virtually receiving a walkover to the Semi Final. Berdych has to play better than he has to this point this week if he is going to find a way past Monfils, but I do think the match up is one that works for him.

It might come down to which of these players can dictate tempo the best to determine the winner and we may have to go three sets to get it done, but I do think Tomas Berdych can reach the Final here with a slightly more consistent effort off the ground.

Novak Djokovic - 2.5 games v Rafael Nadal: For the first time, Novak Djokovic is favoured to beat Rafael Nadal on a clay court and you would have to agree with the assessment of the layers to have done that.

It has been a good week for Rafael Nadal as he finally beat a top ten player for the first time since the French Open when he defeated Novak Djokovic, but he hasn't won the tournament here at Monte Carlo in the last two years. This is essentially a home tournament for Djokovic and he has produced some very good tennis here in the past, but this week has been even more special as he has simply blitzed anyone who dares to go against him.

I do think it is unlikely that Djokovic is capable of doing that to Nadal because I think there is some pressure on him to perform too. He wants to show that he is capable of winning the French Open, which remains a huge goal for Djokovic, and beating Nadal on his favourite surface will give him that confidence boost.

David Ferrer showed the devastation a strong backhand down the line can cause against Nadal and that remains the favourite Djokovic shot in this match up. If he is hitting that well, I think Djokovic will hold the edge in the extended rallies, and he will take advantage of any times that Nadal fails to get his length right, which has been the case at times this week.

Nadal may already see this as a solid start to his clay court campaign, but his time in Monte Carlo is likely to end in a 64, 75 loss in my opinion.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 9-11, - 3.36 Units (38 Units Staked, - 8.84% Yield)

NBA Play Offs First Round Picks 2015 (April 18th-May 3rd)

I love when the NBA Play Offs begin as it means two months of competitive basketball that usually does provide plenty of drama and big moments.

I have ranked the last 16 teams remaining in order of their highest chance of winning it all in June down to those that might struggle to make it out of the First Round which can be read here.

Any time I make picks from the First Round of the Play Offs, I will add them to this post and hopefully the Play Offs will be a good period for the picks.

Saturday 18th April
Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors Pick: This is the First Round series where I am expecting the upset the most as I do think the Washington Wizards have gotten healthy at the right time of the season. They also have the experience of winning a First Round series from last season and a nice mix of veteran players with young talent that could take them into the Eastern Conference Semi Finals for the second year in a row.

Compare that to the Toronto Raptors who have a decent back court with both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan capable of taking over a game, but the injury concerns about Lowry has to put the brakes on this team. The Raptors have also been a little inconsistent down the stretch and that is another concern for them.

I was hoping the spread would be a couple of points higher in favour of Washington, especially as they had been swept by the Raptors in the regular season. The Wizards can go through patches in games where they really struggle offensively and that has to be a concern when the spread is as small as this one.

All the pressure is on Toronto to get things right in front of their own fans after losing in seven games in this Round last season and they have to play better than they have been recently. Games between these teams should be close over the next two weeks and I will take the points from this one.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors Pick: There is a real difference between the regular season and the Play Offs, but good luck to any team that has to go into the Oracle Arena and try and steal one off of the Golden State Warriors.

It is why they are my favourites to win the NBA Championship and I think the New Orleans Pelicans will be in for a tough time in this first game. The Pelicans don't have a lot of Play Off experience and there might just be a lull in the performance having finally booked a place in the post-season on the final day of the regular season.

They can pick their poison with Golden State who are capable of pounding teams in the paint or from beyond the three point arc and I think the Pelicans are clutching at straws by trying to use 'scrimmaging' as a motivational tool. That is how Golden State described a game in New Orleans last week, but it was clearly not meant as disrespect and the Warriors should be too good for the Pelicans in the first game of the series.

Golden State have gone 10-1 against the spread this season when coming in with two days rest between games, another edge for them in the Play Offs you would think, and they have blasted teams at home. Double digit underdogs have also struggled in the Play Offs over the last twelve seasons and I like the Warriors to put a marker down on Saturday.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls Pick: This is likely to be the ugliest of the First Round match ups I think as both teams can be offensively challenged and the games in the regular season were far from inspiring.

Derrick Rose should be good to go for the Chicago Bulls which will make them a more dangerous team, but both of these teams rely on their strong defensive play to earn them the wins. The Bulls are definitely the better team, but they have been so uninspiring at times this season that not many will trust them.

Milwaukee have lost their way down the stretch too so there isn't a lot of confidence in them springing the surprise, but this can be a lot of points when you consider how both teams have played. However, a better option might be picking the game to produce fewer than 185 total points as Chicago have limited Milwaukee to an average of under 85 points per game this season, but have also averaged just 92 points per game in those contests.

Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets Pick: This could be a fast paced series with both teams looking to push the tempo where they can and the winner is likely to be the one which can get hot more consistently than the other.

The return of Dwight Howard could be huge for the Rockets as it will just open things up a little more for their players from the three point range, but James Harden has to bring his regular season form into the post-season.

Rick Carlisle can't be underestimated as the Head Coach of Dallas, a man who can find the right formula to surprise better teams, while the Mavericks are not terribly short of talent themselves. However, I think the Houston team is a little better and I like them to make a winning start by covering the spread in the first game of this First Round series.

Sunday 19th April
It was a 0.500 day for the picks on Saturday, but I have to say I feel that isn't down to 'bad picks', but 'bad luck'. The Golden State Warriors were up by 18 going into the Fourth Quarter but were outscored by 11 when they put their foot off the accelerator and New Orleans just hit everything.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls barely got over 185 points despite combining for 110 first half points and I would be surprised if they get anything like another half of Offense like we saw in Game 1. I would have been extremely mad if Washington had blown their big lead from the final five minutes of their game, but they came through in Overtime to steal home court, and Houston should really have won by a much bigger margin than their eventual 10 point win.

Hopefully the picks on Sunday have a little more luck behind them to get into the victory circle.

MY PICKS: 18/04 Washington Wizards + 4 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
18/04 Golden State Warriors - 12 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
18/04 Chicago Bulls-Milwaukee Bucks Under 185 Total Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
18/04 Houston Rockets - 4.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

First Round Update: 2-2, - 0.16 Units

April Final12-11-2, + 0.32 Units
March Final14-15-3, - 2.01 Units
February Final11-16-1, - 5.70 Units
January Final18-10, + 6.67 Units
December Final3-6, - 3.31 Units
November Final14-11, + 1.70 Units
October Final2-4, - 2 Units
Season 201574-73-5, - 4.32 Units

Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

Friday, 17 April 2015

NBA Play Offs Power Ranking 2015 (April 17th)

NBA Play Offs Power Rankings 2015

You have to love this time of the season- finally the long winded regular season is over where less than half of the teams that begin the season are eliminated and we can get ready for some NBA Play Off basketball.

The expected names, outside of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, have all negotiated the regular season and can get ready for what they have all been preparing for.

The Western Conference is clearly the one loaded with the majority of the talent, but that also means teams from the Conference have the tougher path through to the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference might be top heavy, but whichever teams come through is likely to be the underdog in the Finals, unless of course LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers fight their way through.

This Power Ranking list is not simply picking the teams in order of the most talent and ability, but is factoring in the likely Play Off run that these teams will have to go through to reach the 'Promised Land'.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson can hit a barrage of three pointers to win games on their own

1. Golden State Warriors (Regular Season Record 67-15)
They have the best record in the NBA and I think the Golden State Warriors will be quite happy going against the Number 8 Seed New Orleans Pelicans in the First Round.

Being outside of the Memphis Grizzlies, LA Clippers and San Antonio Spurs bracket helps the Warriors, while their home court advantage has been spectacular all season and it is going to be incredibly difficult for any team to stop them going all the way.

Steve Kerr's inexperience as Head Coach entering the Play Offs might be an issue, but the Splash Brother and the depth the Warriors have makes them very exciting and they could be well-rested before the Western Conference Finals.

Can the 'Big Three' take Cleveland all the way to the NBA Championship?

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29)
The Cavaliers turned on the after burners in the Eastern Conference over the last few months and look to have figured through a few of the chemistry issues.

Any team with LeBron James can go all the way and I think Cleveland will be very happy with the First Round series and will be big favourites to beat the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.

Inexperience in the Play Offs for two of the 'Big Three' has to be a concern, as well as David Blatt's inexperience in the NBA Play Offs as a Head Coach, but Cleveland look the team to beat in the East.

The defending Champions have experience and depth that can take them all the way again

3. San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
The defending Champions really picked up their form in the last few weeks of the regular season and even the loss to the New Orleans Pelicans might not have long-term implications for their chances of reaching the Western Conference Finals and beyond.

The 'Big Three' continue to defy Father Time, while Kahwi Leonard is one of the top players in the NBA at both ends of the floor. Depth isn't an issue for the San Antonio Spurs, but defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans mean they have lost home court advantage in this First Round series although I still don't think that will bother this team as much as people may think.

However, the series with the LA Clippers will be anything but easy for San Antonio and they would have gone in as my Number 1 team if they had finished with the Number 2 Seed in the Western Conference. The Clippers have been quietly going about their business and while I favour San Antonio in the series, I think whoever wins can go very close to winning it all.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are integral to the Clippers chances of winning it all

4. LA Clippers (56-26)
With that said, it is no surprise that I think the LA Clippers should be the Number 4 team on my Play Off list.

What a difference a year makes too- this time last year, the Donald Sterling fiasco had been making headlines and ruined any chance the Clippers had on focusing on the Play Offs, but Doc Rivers knows his team are in a much stronger position this time around.

The window is closing in Lob City to bring a Championship to the other team in Los Angeles, while they have an incredibly difficult First Round series with the defending Champions. The Clippers do have depth issues, but a quality starting five and my concern for them will be if they can handle this series going into a sixth and seventh game.

Home court has not been the be all and end all for the Clippers either, but if they can beat the Spurs, there is every chance we get to see the Western Conference Finals between the Clippers and Warriors that would be full of drama as there is no love lost between those teams.

Surprising Number 1 Seed in the East, but Atlanta Hawks are a quality team

5. Atlanta Hawks (60-22)
The Atlanta Hawks have surprised everyone outside of their locker room by finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but there is a feeling that they have played their best basketball four months too early.

Injuries are affecting a couple of the key players, namely Paul Millsap, but this a team with plenty of quality considering what they were able to send to the All-Star Game.

However, Atlanta might not be extended too much in the First Round which will give them a chance to get a bit more rest for their key players and this is a team that has performed above expectations all season. I consider Atlanta Hawks to have a better Play Off bracket than the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I still believe the two top teams will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals and favour LeBron James' team to battle through that series.

Can James Harden produce consistently in the Play Offs?

6. Houston Rockets (56-26)
The Houston Rockets took the Number 2 Seed in the Western Conference after the San Antonio Spurs faltered on the final day of the regular season, but this is a team that has flattered to deceive in the Play Offs.

James Harden has played at a MVP level for Houston in the regular season, but he has yet to put his stamp on a Play Off series, while Dwight Howard has to prove he is healthy.

On their day, Houston will be able to beat any team if they can get hot from beyond the arc, but I am not convinced about the defensive play and figure the three teams ahead of them in this list from the Western Conference are too good in a best of seven series. Even the First Round series is far from a given considering how much talent the Dallas Mavericks have at their disposal, but I think Houston make the Semi Finals and then find either San Antonio/LA Clipper too much to handle.

Lots of talent, but are the Dallas Mavericks consistent enough to win more than one series?

7. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
The Dallas Mavericks have been locked into the Number 7 Seed in the Western Conference for some time and they have been able to get some rest for their key players down the stretch. There is NBA Championship winning experience on their roster and they have plenty of depth and talent that can see them surprise the Houston Rockets in the First Round.

Just twelve months ago, a weaker looking Dallas Mavericks roster almost beat the San Antonio Spurs in the First Round and no other team got closer to knocking off the eventual Champions.

Now they have defensive players like Tyson Chandler and offensive options through Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis with Rajon Rondo running the team. If Rondo can bring previous Play Off performances into this season, Dallas might be a dark horse, but they have to defend the three point shot better than they have if they are to beat Houston and things only get tougher from them on.

Would be a real achievement for Washington to reach the Eastern Conference Finals

8. Washington Wizards (46-36)
This is perhaps my most surprising pick considering they are only the Number 5 Seed in the Eastern Conference, but I think the Washington Wizards are getting healthy at the right time and can surprise the Toronto Raptors in the First Round.

The Raptors actually swept the season series from the Wizards, but they haven't played since early February and I feel Toronto have shown signs of fatigue since then.

It is hard to see either of these teams beating the Atlanta Hawks, but I have placed Washington here as the team I favour to win this First Round series.

Can Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan spark enough offensively to help Toronto surprise?

9. Toronto Raptors (49-33)
This is a team that I feel may have played their basketball a little prematurely yesterday, while the injury that Kyle Lowry has been trying to shake could be another potential issue for them.

The Toronto Raptors play too many sloppy games for me and I am not sure they have the consistency on the offensive side of the court to make up for some poor defensive play.

If they can knock off the Washington Wizards, perhaps the Raptors get the confidence to take into a potential series with the Atlanta Hawks, but anything more than an appearance in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals will be a surprise and I quite like the Wizards to secure a First Round upset.

Lots of talent, but something just isn't clicking consistently for the Chicago Bulls

10. Chicago Bulls (50-32)
I know there will be plenty of people surprised to see the Chicago Bulls below two teams that are Seeded lower than them in the Eastern Conference, but that has much to do with a potential Semi Final series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Chicago Bulls have been hit by injuries again this season, but this is the healthiest they have entered the Play Offs for three years and they have the depth and size to beat anyone in the East on their day.

My problem with the Bulls is that they have shown mental weakness at times, which is a surprise considering the players in the locker room, and they haven't been as good defensively as usual. I can't put my finger on it completely, but something isn't right in Chicago and I think they will fall short in the Semi Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks fairly handily in the First Round.

Injuries have gutted the Memphis Grizzlies and winning the First Round series might be as far as they go.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)
They might be the Number 5 Seed in the Western Conference, but I expect home court advantage to be a key for the Memphis Grizzlies to overcome the Portland Trail Blazers in the First Round.

However, they have to hope they get healthy very quickly as both Mike Conley and Tony Allen could be missing early in this series against a team they have dominated in the regular season. If neither player can return, Memphis might be surprised in this series, but I think they are defensively too strong for the Trail Blazers and expect them to grind their way into the Semi Finals.

That is where the Golden State Warriors likely await and I can't see the Grizzlies beating them with the health issues they have been suffering. That might close the Championship window here with Marc Gasol expected to leave in Free Agency this summer too.

Injuries have destroyed any real chance of Portland having a deep run in the Play Offs

12. Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)
If it wasn't for the NBA protection of Division winners which ensures a place in the top four Seeds in any Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers would have been the Number 6 Seed in the West this season.

The injury to Wesley Matthews was always going to be an issue for Portland from a defensive standpoint, but Arron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum are also banged up and LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing through a thumb issue.

All of these injuries and the fact that Memphis swept the regular season between the two teams makes it difficult to pick the Portland Trail Blazers to win a series this year. However, Damian Lilliard can get incredibly hot and carry Portland to success and Memphis missing Mike Conley may give him more room to create magic.

Even if Portland can somehow get past Memphis, you'd figure Golden State will be far too good in the Western Conference Semi Finals.

This buzzer-beater essentially booked New Orleans place in the Play Offs

13. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37)
That shot is the difference between booking some time on the golf links and playing in the Play Offs for the first time in four seasons as a buzzer-beater gave the New Orleans Pelicans the tie-breaker over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This is important for the learning curve of the young Pelicans roster and they are clearly trying to inspire themselves by talking about Golden State's players referring to a game between the two teams as a 'scrimmage' last week.

However, it would be incredible if the Pelicans were able to win more than two games against the Golden State Warriors and even that is asking a lot. Anthony Davis is a superstar, but the Play Off run shouldn't last beyond the First Round.

The Milwaukee Bucks will take this bonus season as they continue to re-shape the roster

14. Milwaukee Bucks (41-41)
It is an impressive turnaround for the Milwaukee Bucks after some recent struggles, but they had been having a hard time down the stretch and have backed their way into the Play Offs. There are clearly some communication issues between Jason Kidd and some of the better players on the roster and they might struggle offensively to impose themselves on the Chicago Bulls.

Some of the trades made at the deadline also suggested the Milwaukee Bucks have seen this as a bonus season as they re-shape the roster and I think they will do well to take a couple of games off the Bulls and push them a little harder than they would like.

Milwaukee averaged under 85 points per game against the Chicago Bulls in the regular season and that isn't going to get it done in the Play Offs.

In form, but horrible First Round series for the Boston Celtics

15. Boston Celtics (40-42)
All the credit in the world needs to be given to Head Coach Brad Stevens who has got the best out of this roster at the Boston Celtics. There has to be excitement in Beantown about the direction their Boston Celtics team looks to be taking, but getting more than a gentleman's sweep from this First Round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers would be a surprise.

Boston have been one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference over the last month as they have battled into the Play Offs and on form this might look a harsh spot for them.

However, I think there is the tiniest of chances that the Celtics are going to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a best of seven series and it would be an stunning run for Boston to make it past the First Round in the Play Offs this season.

The character has been questioned in Brooklyn and you have to doubt their long-term chances

16. Brooklyn Nets (38-44)
After some of the comments made by Paul Pierce regarding his time with the Brooklyn Nets, you have to think there are very few outside of their locker room that believe they can beat the Atlanta Hawks.

That is even before noting the Hawks smashed Brooklyn during the regular season and the supposed lack of character in the Nets team doesn't bode well for their chances.

The veterans have all been on the trading block for the season and I think it will take something monumental for the Nets to get more than two games in this First Round series. Brooklyn are fortunate to be in the Play Offs and I think it might be a very short stay for them.

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (April 18-19)

The big Premier League game this weekend comes from Stamford Bridge as Manchester United visit Chelsea, but there are also two FA Cup Semi Finals to be played over the weekend.

We should also begin to get more of a picture as to how the bottom of the Premier League will shape up in the next six weeks, while Manchester City have to win this weekend to prevent the nerves really kicking in as they hope to at least finish in the Champions League in an otherwise disappointing season.

Crystal Palace v West Brom Pick: One of the obvious story lines from this game is the return of Tony Pulis who saved Crystal Palace from the drop last season before walking out days before the start of the new season. However, don't expect Pulis to be interested in those dynamics as he bids to prevent his West Brom team's slide to the bottom three after it looked like survival had almost certainly been earned.

You do have to wonder if the players began to believe that too and have switched off somewhat in the last few weeks. West Brom have lost to the likes of Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City in that time, all teams below them in the table, and they have conceded seven goals in the last two games.

That won't bode well against a confident Crystal Palace team that have scored plenty of goals in recent weeks and are riding a 4 game winning run. While the Palace team have been conceding goals, they have scored at least twice in each of those 4 games and have the pace and power in the forward areas to give West Brom a lot of problems to deal with.

In saying that, Tony Pulis should know exactly what to expect from the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie and he should have West Brom well drilled to deal with the threat from out wide. That is where the chess game will begin between Pulis and Alan Pardew and could be the key to the whole match.

Confidence is definitely flowing in the home team though and they love playing in front of a loud home support. If Crystal Palace can get on the front foot early on and get a goal, this game could really open up and goals have been a feature of games between these teams. At a big price, backing at least three goals to be scored looks the right call.

Everton v Burnley Pick: The fear for Burnley was that they were going to have two months of really difficult fixtures and might have lost touch with the sides above them. However, football results are now in the books and Burnley have done enough in that period to give themselves a great chance of surviving in the Premier League which would be a remarkable achievement for the club.

This is arguably the hardest game they have left to play with fixtures against rivals around them and teams with nothing to play for to come, but getting something from Everton will be incredibly difficult.

Burnley have not played as well away from Turf Moor and have lost 5 of their last 6 on their travels which has to be a concern for Sean Dyche. They are also running into Everton at the wrong time of the season as the home team have picked up their form and have won 4 in a row at Goodison Park in all competitions.

The return of Romelu Lukaku will give Everton more attacking options and they do have the look of a team that is hoping to end the season in the right way. A top half finish would be respectable considering where Everton were two months ago and I think they are a squad that is on the up.

The home team have looked a little more secure defensively in recent games and they do have goals in the side so I think they are a decent enough price to back to win.

Chelsea v Manchester United Pick: I don't know what Louis Van Gaal has done to finally get his Manchester United team to click in the manner they have in recent weeks, but he has definitely got the side playing in a way that will excite the fans for the future. There is a real return of the confidence and swagger that made Manchester United so successful under Sir Alex Ferguson and the freshness of not being in Europe this season has also played a part.

Some may disagree with that, but I think you would be foolish to dismiss the importance of having limited games under your belt at this stage of the season. While Manchester United have flourished, Chelsea have looked a little fatigued as a long season takes its toll on a small squad.

They have been forced to huff and puff in recent games and been fortunate to win against Hull City and Queens Park Rangers, while the home form has also dipped alarmingly as they have won just 2 of their last 8 games at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard is top quality, but some of the other players in the Chelsea squad, especially further up the field, have looked short of ideas at times and I do wonder if they would last in the title race if there was a team a lot closer to them.

Goals have dried up to some extent for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho will look to stifle the Manchester United attack and protect a defence that hasn't been as tight as you would expect. The return of Nemanja Matic gives them some more protection, but Manchester United will give this back line a real test on Saturday.

After the performance last weekend, I was convinced that Manchester United can come to Stamford Bridge and win this game. However, dismissing Chelsea is foolish especially as they are unbeaten in the Premier League here. There are still some holes in the Manchester United defence that Chelsea can take advantage of as Manchester City and Liverpool have shown in recent games.

That is a concern for me and I think both teams will have their chances to score in this game. If Didier Drogba is leading the line for Chelsea, I think Manchester United really can win this game and I don't mean that from the heart, but from the head.

The freshness that Manchester United have shown and Louis Van Gaal's preparation for these big games will both play a big part in the game. Loic Remy will pose more problems with his pace and power, but confidence seems to be higher in the Manchester United squad compared to some of the tiredness that Chelsea have displayed in their performances.

Manchester United's record at Stamford Bridge is not the best in recent seasons which is putting me off a little, but they do look a very, very big price to win here. It is hard to imagine a situation where Chelsea don't score so it might be worth a small interest this weekend on Manchester United winning a game in which both teams score at a massive 7-1.

However, the latest news about the injuries in the Manchester United squad do temper the enthusiasm and instead it might be best picking there being at least three goals shared by the teams on Saturday.

Manchester City v West Ham United Pick: The manner of the defeat at Old Trafford last weekend must have raised some eyebrows in the Middle East as Manchester City fell below rivals Manchester United by four points. Manuel Pellegrini insists it is not about him at the moment, but that hasn't stopped the rumours regarding his future as manager of the club, especially not after Jurgen Klopp announced his departure from Borussia Dortmund.

Carlo Ancelotti is another big name that could be available this summer and finishing outside of the Champions League places will spell the end for Pellegrini. Even a 4th place finish the year after stealing the title from under the noses of Liverpool may not be enough, but Pellegrini will be focusing on getting back to winning ways this weekend.

As bad as some of the recent results have been for Manchester City, those have come away from the Etihad Stadium and they have won 3 in a row at home in the Premier League. All of those wins have come fairly comfortably and they are facing a West Ham United team that might be without their forward threats.

There has also been a loss of form for West Ham United in the last three months as they have been hit by injuries as well as the future of Sam Allardyce being up in the air. That uncertainty and the season soon coming to a close means West Ham United have been there for the taking in a few of their games and they might have a hard time this weekend against a Manchester City team looking to right recent wrongs.

Goals at home haven't been a problem and Manchester City have won 6 straight games at the Etihad Stadium against West Ham United. If City get in front early, I can see West Ham dropping their heads and that might see the home team win yet another game here with some comfort and I will back them to win by a couple of goals at least.

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Neither Newcastle United nor Tottenham Hotspur are in the form to inspire their fans and there really isn't much of a case to be made for either team winning this game. John Carver might continue to tell anyone who listens that he is 'Newcastle through and through', but the players haven't responded to him at all and are playing like they know a new face will be sitting in the manager's office in the summer.

They were sleep-walking for much of the game at Liverpool on Monday night and were fortunate to lose 2-0 when better finishing would have increased that margin considerably. A lack of effort has to be a real concern for Carver, especially coming off the Tyne-Wear derby defeat to Sunderland, while both Manchester United and Arsenal have come to St James' Park and left with the three points.

On the other hand, Tottenham Hotspur look tired and out of ideas in recent games as they failed to score in 3 of their last 4 Premier League games and were beaten by Aston Villa last weekend. The Champions League places now look beyond them and Spurs were lacklustre in a recent goalless drab game at Turf Moor.

It has been more of the same for Tottenham Hotspur on their travels where they have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 in all competitions and you can't make much of a case for them here.

For as bad as Newcastle United have been, they have at least been somewhat competitive at St James' Park and I expect they will make life difficult for Tottenham Hotspur. I am not sure many of the neutrals will be tuning in early in this one as it clashes with the second FA Cup Semi Final of the weekend, and they might not miss much as far as I am concerned.

No form and struggling for goals doesn't inspire me for either side and it might be a game that fails to ignite for much of it. The draw doesn't really do much for either team, but they are closely matched and it will likely take something special to separate them, if they are indeed separated.

Reading v Arsenal Pick: This should be a really good day out for the Reading fans, but Steve Clarke won't be going to Wembley Stadium with a white flag coming out of the team bus. He will understand there is a big difference in terms of quality that both squads have, but Clarke will look to challenge Arsenal through hard work and getting amongst them as a team and trying to unsettle their Premier League opponents.

That won't be easy for a Reading team that played on Tuesday without the expected rotation that some suggested in their game against Bournemouth. The problem will be trying to restore energy levels to get around the large Wembley playing area and failing to get close to Arsenal will only result in one result.

Reading can take heart from the way Wigan Athletic played against Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi Final when they managed to take the Gunners to a penalty shoot out, although ultimately losing, twelve months ago. Getting in front will give Reading something to hold onto, but this is a team that has struggled in front of goal in recent weeks and now have to raise their level.

The form also points to Arsenal being too good on Saturday and it is hard to ignore the fact that they have regularly scored at least twice in their recent wins. Getting to that total again will give Arsenal every chance of winning this Semi Final comfortably and an early goal could see them exploit plenty of spaces on the counter attack.

As long as complacency doesn't set in, as it did at times in the win over Burnley when there were some lapses in concentration, I would expect Arsenal to come through far more comfortably than twelve months ago. It just looks like Arsenal have too much pace and power for Reading and I expect them to win by at least a couple of goals.

Aston Villa v Liverpool Pick: One of the hardest factors to guess in any sport is how nerves will affect the competitors and that is a big question for the Aston Villa and Liverpool players who know the importance of this Semi Final.

Both have other goals to achieve in the Premier League, but they won't be focusing on those and I think both managers will be looking to get their team forward and win this one by scoring plenty of goals.

Liverpool and Aston Villa have both looked nervy at the back in recent weeks which could play into the tactics that both Brendan Rodgers and Tim Sherwood look to bring to the table. There is pace in both forward lines which will worry the defenders and I think chances will be created at both ends of the field.

Christian Benteke is the form striker who can be called upon and he will fancy his chances of increasing his recent tally of goals, while Raheem Sterling could lead the line for Liverpool. Sterling did score a goal against Newcastle United, but he missed two sitters and can't always be trusted in one on one situations so Liverpool's success could come down to how he is feeling on the day.

There should be goals in the second FA Cup Semi Final of the weekend, but I also believe Liverpool are the better team and should prove to be too strong. Gaps could open up for their counter-attack if Aston Villa go chasing the game at some point, and I like Liverpool to win a game that features at least three goals.

MY PICKS: Crystal Palace-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Everton @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.71 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Tottenham Hotspur Draw @ 3.50 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.78 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)

April Update9-12-1, - 4.85 Units (41 Units Staked, - 11.83% Yield)

March Final30-18, + 30.66 Units (88 Units Staked, + 34.84% Yield)
February Final20-24-2, + 3.19 Units (75 Units Staked, + 4.25% Yield)
January Final10-22-1, - 10.54 Units (57 Units Staked, - 18.49% Yield)
December Final25-19-1, + 18.70 Units (81 Units Staked, + 23.09% Yield)
November Final17-21, - 0.59 Units (69 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/15130-162-4, + 4.43 Units (509 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2015 (April 17th)

It was more of the same on Thursday as the frustration of not doing better than 0.500 from the picks has meant the week remains in a negative.

Sometimes you have to look at things and say it is not meant to be as players have struggled to maintain their leads when they have got into those positions, but it is also feeling like a week where players I have backed have struggled to grab their break point chances, but also been broken with limited chances against them. These little things make big differences in the match and for the picks and that has also not helped, although earlier in the week I was guilty of making some poor picks so that is on me.

Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games v Milos Raonic: It has been a strange week for Tomas Berdych who has reached the Quarter Final without being at his absolute best, but he may have caught a break as he faces Milos Raonic who is dealing with some kind of foot injury.

A win would mean Tomas Berdych is the top Seeded player left in the bottom half of the draw since both Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer were knocked out on Thursday just before they were expected to meet a year after their Monte Carlo Final.

Even though Raonic is playing with some issue that became apparent in his win over Tommy Robredo, Tomas Berdych has to serve well and keep his patience. There is no doubt that some serves will whizz by Berdych and he may have a couple of half chances quickly closed off thanks to the Raonic bombs that he can produce, but that injury has to be a concern with bigger events to come in the next month and then leading into Wimbledon at the end of June.

Raonic also has a winning record over Berdych so could have the mental edge in the match, but I do think the Czech player is the better mover on the clay courts which could ultimately be the difference between two players that look to play strike-first tennis. I will be looking for an improved performance from Berdych who hasn't played well this week, but I think Raonic could be a little passive if the injury is bothering him and it might lead to a 76, 64 win for Berdych.

Grigor Dimitrov v Gael Monfils: The layers are undecided as to which of these players are going to make it through to the Masters Semi Final and you can understand why as both Grigor Dimitrov and Gael Monfils have some impressive wins under their belt this week.

Both are also coming in off surprising wins over Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer respectively, and both played well in those matches to think this could be a really good Quarter Final.

Gael Monfils has won the two previous matches between them, the two that have been completed anyway, including a straight sets win at the US Open last year. The Frenchman did ride his luck in that win and I think it would have been a match that Dimitrov kicked himself about in the following days.

The big question for Monfils will be to see how he backs up his win against Federer considering the two previous times he has done that in tournament play has seen him lose his next match. Granted those losses came to Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling in Masters events, but Dimitrov is playing confidently enough to take advantage of any lull that Monfils produces.

It does look like a match that could go the distance, but I think Dimitrov has been the more consistent of the two this week and I expect him to snap his losing run to Monfils and get a little closer to reaching a Masters Final.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Marin Cilic: It was an impressive win by Marin Cilic on Thursday, but he has to snap an 11 match losing run to Novak Djokovic if he is going to make it through to the Semi Final in Monte Carlo. This has already been a positive week for Cilic who has only recently returned to the Tour from an injury lay off, but beating Novak Djokovic on current form looks an immense task.

Novak Djokovic is looking to become the first player to win the first three Masters events of the season having already taken the title in Indian Wells and Miami. He could set up a big Semi Final with Rafael Nadal by coming through this match and the form hasn't come down from Miami despite the change in surface.

Some of their previous matches have been close, even if Djokovic has come through and won those matches, and that is because Cilic has an effective return, while he can also serve some lights out stuff.

I am still not sure he is at 100% following injury and taking on the best player in the World is going to be a huge test for Cilic in this Quarter Final. Novak Djokovic will return plenty of balls and make Cilic really work in this one and I think he wears down the Croatian at where they are at the moment.

Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v David Ferrer: It has been a long time since Rafael Nadal was as big a price as this to beat David Ferrer on a clay court, but it goes to show how much the layers have lost confidence in the former World Number 1 even on his favourite surface. However, Nadal seemed to be much happier in his press conference after his win over John Isner in the Third Round and I think he can earn some revenge for the Quarter Final defeat to Ferrer twelve months ago.

It has been a solid season for Ferrer, but he had to spend longer on the court than Nadal on Thursday and has regularly been dismissed on the clay courts when going up against his compatriot.

If Nadal is right and he has started to get his eye in on the clay, it could be incredibly tough for Ferrer to outlast him in this Quarter Final, although there should be break points for both players as neither has a dominant serve. That has been a main reason that Nadal has been able to wear down Ferrer in the past and eventually get past him fairly comfortably and it could be more of the same in this Quarter Final.

This might be a really fun match to watch in terms of the point construction, but I do think Nadal will be too good and come through 75, 63.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 3.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 7-10, - 4.32 Units (32 Units Staked, - 13.5% Yield)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2015 (April 16th)

The big names all moved through to the Third Round at the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday and that means there are some top matches for the paying public to enjoy on Thursday. With the tournament completed in the next four days, that means all the top names on the ATP Tour are going to be out in force if they are to win the event.

While the tennis on the court didn't produce too many surprises, one story that did raise eyebrows was Rafael Nadal announcing that he had changed his frame in a bid to improve his form. That is a stunning time of the season for Nadal to make such a drastic change (just remember how long it took Roger Federer to feel comfortable when he went to a bigger racquet) and I do wonder if we won't see the best of the Spaniard until next season.

The other option may be to go back to the racquet that has won so many titles for Nadal in the past, but it was a complete surprise to me that he feels his game has dropped so dramatically that he needed to make a change of this magnitude. I was personally convinced it was more between the ears where Nadal's problems had manifested, but I am guessing he hasn't felt as comfortable on the court.

His Third Round match with John Isner is awkward to say the least, but the new frame makes it even more intriguing as the clay court season continues.

It was another disappointing day for the picks as they could only split the winners and losers, although it should have been better with Gael Monfils missing a number of chances to win his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov in more of a straight-forward way.

Grigor Dimitrov + 2.5 games v Stan Wawrinka: The defending Champion Stan Wawrinka was in impressive form on Wednesday as he won his first match back at Monte Carlo, but the level of competition rises again as he meets Grigor Dimitrov in the opening match on the main court.

There has to be some confidence picked up by Dimitrov having beaten Fernando Verdasco and Fabio Fognini in his first two matches here and the latter win was very impressive as the Bulgarian served well and took his chances when they came.

It will need to be more of the same for Dimitov if he is going to beat Wawrinka who played so well for a lot of the win over Juan Monaco yesterday. The Swiss player has a clear advantage when it comes to the backhand battle, but I think Wawrinka has been playing a little up and down in recent weeks himself to think the confidence is fully restored after one win.

This looks like a match that will develop into a battle as both players are capable of purple patches but then coming off the boil to the extent of dropping sets they shouldn't. My feeling is that Dimitrov has picked up more from his two wins than Wawrinka might have this week and this has the making of  a three set match that could end up going either way.

Milos Raonic - 2.5 games v Tommy Robredo: It wasn't a great performance from Milos Raonic in the First Round, but it was more than good enough to see off Joao Sousa in straight sets. Now the competition gets a little harder, but Raonic has proved too good for Tommy Robredo in previous matches including here in Monte Carlo last season.

That match ended in a routine two set win for Raonic and his serve does make it difficult for Robredo to get into the match. The Spaniard has a tendency to stand a little further back on the return of serve than necessary and that opens up the angles for Raonic as well as offering up plenty of short balls on the return which he tends to gobble up without too many difficulties.

Like Sousa, the Robredo serve is a little more than trying to get the rally started, especially on the clay courts, and that gives Raonic a chance to get his eye in and make a few returns that can lead to a break of serve. Robredo is also a little loose with his errors and that may offer the Canadian a chance to get into the match and find chances to break serve.

Raonic could only manage one break of serve on Wednesday, but that might be enough in this one to offer him a 63, 76 win for the second time in a row and help him cover the spread.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Gael Monfils: When these two last met, the Davis Cup Final was being played and Roger Federer was hammered by Gael Monfils in straight sets on the clay courts.

However, I think Monfils invested a lot into his Second Round win over Alexandr Dolgopolov and may be a little fatigued for this match. With the way Federer played against Jeremy Chardy to beat him 62, 61, you have to think that he will be too strong for Monfils.

A couple of things could make this closer- if Monfils isn't as tired as I think he might be and whether the Frenchman decides he will actually go for the big first serve that he possesses. It was surprising to see him fail to utilise that serve for much of the match with Dolgopolov, but anything cheap he can get off of Federer will be a boost to his chances.

It is a big spread of games, but if Monfils isn't mentally checked into the match, Federer is making strong starts to matches to put the pressure on his opponent and we may see more of the same on Thursday. Federer could have the control of this match and come through with a 63, 64 win after getting through a couple of sticky moments in the match.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: Last year at the French Open, Tomas Berdych crushed Roberto Bautista Agut and I think he can record another victory against him in this Third Round match. Berdych had to really battle his way past Sergiy Stakhovsky, although he made life difficult for himself by not taking the break point chances that came his way and I think that match will stand him in good stead for the rest of the week.

Despite being from Spain, the feeling is that Roberto Bautista Agut is not at his happiest on the clay courts and I am not sure he has the power or aggression to really trouble Berdych.

The serve remains something of a weakness, although I do think Bautista Agut will give Berdych a few things to think about too. However, he has recently returned from Houston where he was beaten easily by eventual Champion Jack Sock and I do think the extra weight of shot coming from Berdych will be difficult to deal with.

He will have to be better than he was on Wednesday, but I do think Berdych has more to come and can earn a 64, 64 win in this one.

John Isner + 3.5 games v Rafael Nadal: This might look an incredibly foolish pick on Thursday evening, but backing John Isner with the games is my pick from this Third Round match. That is mainly going against Rafael Nadal and his change of equipment as I am not convinced he will have an easy time getting his timing right to return to John Isner serve.

I'd still expect Nadal to win this match on a clay court of course, but I can see him having a couple of issues with Isner that may take a little longer to resolve than the Spaniard may wish.

It is all down to whether Isner can serve effectively, while he has made it clear he doesn't mind the clay courts as he gets a little more time to wind up his shots on both on return and the second ball off return. Isner is also looking to get to the net and I can see him pushing Nadal into a tie-breaker in one set, while there is a chance that Isner can steal a set with good serving behind him.

Like I say, maybe the pick makes me look foolish if Nadal dominates from the outset, but I am not at all convinced that will happen and like the American with the games.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Marin Cilic: The last two years have seen Marin Cilic really up the aggression when it comes to returning serve, but that timing and aggression may take time before it returns. That is because of the lay off that Cilic had to open this season and he struggled at times to really put the hammer down on Florian Mayer in the Second Round.

He now faces a confident Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who has won back to back matches in Monte Carlo, the first time he has won consecutive matches anywhere on the Tour since the US Open last year. Tsonga has been serving well, but there is an element of his last two opponents giving him an easier time than they perhaps should have and I don't think Cilic will be as so charitable.

However, the lack of playing time for Cilic is an issue in itself and I think Tsonga has some momentum behind him. Both players have had success on clay in the past, but Tsonga has shown more consistent performances on this surface and I do think he can snap his two match losing run to the Croatian.

This match might come down to which of the players serve better on the day, but I think Tsonga's serve is a little more reliable and I like him to come through 76, 64.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov + 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
John Isner + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 4-7, - 4.32 Units (20 Units Staked, - 21.60% Yield)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2015 (April 15th)

It looked like being a second frustrating day in a row after Jan-Lennard Struff was beaten by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga despite having seven break points and failing to take one, before Fernando Verdasco was wasteful in his match against Grigor Dimitrov.

Fortunately Verdasco fought back in the third set to at least make it a closer match and ensure that he got within the number and prevented it being four straight picks ending up as losers in the first two days of the tournament in Monte Carlo.

We now get to see all the remaining top names in action on Wednesday as the defending Champion Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are all set to play their Second Round matches.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Juan Monaco: He might be beyond his peak years, but Juan Monaco has opened the 2015 season in strong form and the next couple of months could be huge for him. There is no doubt that Monaco loves the clay courts and this portion of the season should see him have the opportunity to pick up a lot of points, but facing the defending Champion is a big test for the Argentine on Wednesday.

Monaco was an impressive winner in the First Round over Jiri Vesely and this is Stan Wawrinka's first match on the clay courts this season. You also can't ignore the poor run of results Wawrinka has had since winning the title in Rotterdam and another poor week may see the Australian Open Champion of fifteen months ago fall out of the top ten in the World Rankings.

The last three losses have been very disappointing for Wawrinka who showed what he is capable of producing in the 2014 season. Being off his game in this match will give Monaco every chance of securing the upset, but the match up should be a good one for Wawrinka and that is why I like the Swiss Number 2 to get through.

Wawrinka has the bigger serve and has the heavier shots, while his previous campaign in Monte Carlo has to bring back good memories for him. As good as Monaco has been playing, there have still be some vulnerabilities in his fitness and mentality as he has blown some big leads, while the serve is not a dominant shot and will give Wawrinka a chance to get on the attack.

The first match on a new surface is tough, but I expect Wawrinka to gut this out and come through 75, 63.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Sergiy Stakhovsky: Tomas Berdych has been practicing on the clay courts in Monte Carlo for a while and I do think he will be happy with the draw that offers him a match against Sergiy Stakhovsky in this Second Round.

Berdych has gotten the better of Stakhovsky in their previous matches and the majority of those have been fairly one-sided in his favour. The slower clay courts are not exactly the surface that will suit Stakhovsky's game in this one as I don't believe has either the consistency or the power to handle what Berdych will throw at him through the match.

The lack of previous success on the clay will also be playing on Stakhovsky's mind as he tries to give Berdych something new to look at and he will have to serve very well if he is going to make this a competitive Second Round match.

It is the first match on clay for Berdych in 2015, which might be the biggest problem he has to deal with in this contest and if he can make a decent transition to this surface, I would expect Berdych to come through with a 63, 63 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Fabio Fognini: The win over Fernando Verdasco in the First Round could be a very important moment for Grigor Dimitrov, especially if you consider he was three break points down when serving for the match. The fact he came through that moment may have restored some of the missing confidence from the Dimitrov game through the 2015 season.

He will need that against Fabio Fognini who is very comfortable playing on the clay courts and who will be expecting to pick up a lot of Ranking points in the coming weeks. However, Fognini can be a maddening player who is as capable of upsetting someone like Rafael Nadal on the clay courts as he is in failing to win a game in a set against someone like Carlos Berlocq.

Fognini has been one of the better players on the clay courts over the last two seasons, but Dimitrov had a decent time on the surface prior to his shocking First Round exit at the French Open. The Bulgarian has to serve well and protect the second serve better than he did against Verdasco on Tuesday, but he might be able to frustrate Fognini who never seems that far from mentally checking out of matches.

It certainly won't be easy, but I think Dimitrov's win over Verdasco will stand him in good stead for the rest of the week and perhaps kick start his season. This could see him battle through Fognini with a 46, 64, 62 win.

Milos Raonic - 4.5 games v Joao Sousa: Milos Raonic is not his most comfortable on the clay courts, but his serve is still an effective enough weapon and getting a second or more additional time to wind up his groundstrokes has served him well.

That is especially the case against some of the lower Ranked players on the Tour and I expect Raonic to be too strong for Joao Sousa even if the Canadian is playing his first match back on the clay courts this season.

The problem for Sousa is that he doesn't really have a dominating shot and the power is generally on the other side of the court against him. He has taken some heavy losses because of that fact and even though the clay is Sousa's favourite surface, he won just one match during this part of the season in 2014.

If Raonic is serving well, the scoreboard pressure is on Sousa to keep in the match mentally and that might be tough in what could end up being a 63, 64 win for the big-serving Canadian.

Gael Monfils - 2.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: Two players who like to entertain the crowd and not worry about playing the percentages on a tennis court meet in Monte Carlo in this Second Round match and both Gael Monfils and Alexandr Dolgopolov should entertain those fans in attendance.

Both players believe in their athleticism getting around the court so this match could feature a lot drop shots and non-conventional tennis shots that might lead to frustration for some people watching. However, it also gives the Tour some character and I think both Monfils and Dolgopolov are fun to watch although not always fun to back.

The difference in the game could be made by the fact that Monfils is the better defender and that could lead to extracting more errors from Dolgopolov than the other way around. It might be the reason that Monfils has also won the last two matches when these two play each other, while the Frenchman will be enjoying the support from the stands.

Monfils did have a long match on Tuesday, but that was first thing in the morning and he has been given the full time to recover and I can see him battling through with a 76, 64 win in this one.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v David Goffin: During the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga win over Jan-Lennard Struff, I did tweet out that David Goffin will give the Frenchman a lot more to think about, but I didn't think the layers would have this as a virtual pick 'em.

Tsonga was fortunate that Struff didn't take his chances and made a host of errors to help him through the match and it is clear that Goffin won't do that, but the latter also doesn't have the same power as Struff off the ground.

Instead the Belgian will look to try and wear down Tsonga and should have some success doing that because of the lack of match fitness that Tsonga may show. However, Tsonga's power is going to be a problem for Goffin and he is actually more comfortable on the clay courts than many would initially imagine.

I don't really know where Tsonga stands having been handed the match to a large extent by Struff, but he seems to be in a good place mentally and I think he will come through this one in three sets.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 1-3, - 4 Units (8 Units Staked, - 50% Yield)