Friday, 24 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 24th)

We have reached the Quarter Finals of the two ATP tournaments that are being played this week and it looks like Grigor Dimitrov is going to become the latest player to fall out of contention in the Race to London.

That is nothing against Dimitrov who is still involved, but the likes of Milos Raonic, David Ferrer and Andy Murray have enough points in hand and haven't been knocked out this week which suggests the Bulgarian will need a lot to go in his favour for him to make the Tour Finals. He'll probably prefer to finish outside the top 10 so he can have a break and not go to London as an alternate too and that might be the situation he finds himself in with just one tournament to go after this one.

Of course, Dimitrov can win the the title this week and next week in Paris to prove me wrong, but I think that is increasingly unlikely and I believe both Murray and Ferrer are playing well enough to stay in front of a player that will be looking to play in the Tour Finals for years to come.

We will also determine the final four of the WTA Finals and it has highlighted why the Round Robin format was not used for too long on the ATP Tour- a few years ago some of the smaller tournaments attempted to begin their event with Groups, but it makes it much more likely that players will tank matches and I think the final round of matches in the WTA Finals look a little dangerous for that to happen.

A couple of years ago Victoria Azarenka was criticised for not trying in a dead rubber and a couple of players on Friday may actually benefit from losing a match.

Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 games v Benjamin Becker: I backed Kenny De Schepper to keep it close against Ivo Karlovic on Thursday and I think I would have been very much on the right lines if he had taken his only break point opportunity in the first set.

However, Karlovic was comfortably the best player on the court and he fully deserved his win and I do think he has every chance of backing that up with another win on Friday in this Quarter Final.

Karlovic has lost the most recent match against Benjamin Becker, but he had previously won 6 in a row against the German and I have to say I have been impressed that the big serving Croatian has found as many breaks of serve as he has in recent weeks.

Scoreboard pressure may play a part in that and I think that could be the case in this Quarter Final as Karlovic moves through with a 76, 64 win.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Borna Coric: Borna Coric has taken advantage of his Wild Card to reach a Quarter Final in Basel as he has recorded two impressive wins over players ranked much higher than he is.

The Croatian will be confident, but will now be facing a huge challenge in Rafael Nadal who has dismissed his first two opponents while giving up just 6 games. You can't really tell how healthy Nadal is feeling with Simone Bolelli and Pierre-Hugues Herbert very much out of his league, but it also suggests Coric will have a tough afternoon.

A lack of knowledge about Coric may give the youngster a chance to surprise a little, but Nadal plays every point so hard that he is likely to wear down his opponent and it might be a bit of a tennis lesson for the young player.

Nadal has been brutally efficient so far this week and I think he will prove too good in a 64, 62 win.

Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: Jeremy Chardy made it hard work for my pick on him to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov as he took the break advantage in all three sets played, but had to come from one set down to win the match.

It was a solid win for the Frenchman, but I am hoping he didn't leave everything out on the court ahead of this Quarter Final against one of the Spanish contingent left in the tournament in Valencia.

Pablo Carreno Busta has had a couple of surprising wins already this week and it would be something of a surprise if he can put together another solid performance on a surface that isn't the best for his game. He did reach the Quarter Final here in Valencia last season and the feeling is that Chardy's first serve is the more effective weapon and could determine the outcome of the match.

The first set could be another tight one, but I expect Chardy to put his stamp on the match eventually and come through with a 76, 63 win.

Petra Kvitova - 1.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: Regardless of what happens in the first match in this Group, Caroline Wozniacki is in a strong position to qualify for the Semi Finals after winning her first two matches in straight sets.

In fact, unless Wozniacki's friend Agnieszka Radwanska wins in straight sets against Maria Sharapova, she will definitely be through to the Semi Final regardless of her result in this match and I am not sure where she will find the motivation to really push for the win.

Winning the Group might not be the best decision as there is a strong chance that player will have to face Serena Williams who will finish second in the Red Group in three out of four possible outcomes of the Simona Halep-Ana Ivanovic match. A straight sets win for Petra Kvitova would mean Wozniacki is second in the White Group unless the aforementioned scenario where Radwanska beats Sharapova in straight sets occurs.

Kvitova played well enough against Sharapova to think she would give a strong account of herself even if Wozniacki was fully motivated, but this seems a good chance to back the Wimbledon Champion in a match where her opponent might already be looking to conserve energy for the business end of the tournament.

Ana Ivanovic v Simona Halep: I mentioned that Serena Williams will go through in three out of four possible outcomes from this match with the one exception being a straight sets win for Ana Ivanovic against the in-form Simona Halep.

That form and momentum is very high for the Romanian and it is going to be interesting to see how she approaches this match as she will know exactly who she can play in the next round by finishing first or second in the Group. An easy straight sets win for Ivanovic will give the Serb top spot in the Red Group, while anything competitive will give Halep the edge and she is in the fortunate position of determining that depending on how much she puts into this match.

I hate to think of sports stars as machines- there is little doubt to me that Halep losing this match in straight sets is the best thing for her if she wants to win this tournament. She has nothing to prove by beating Serena Williams in the Final, but everything to lose to give the American a 'second shot' at her later in the event.

I don't think Halep will come out 'wanting' to lose, but I'd be surprised if there is a huge effort to fight in the match with a Semi Final to come on Saturday and her position at the top of the Group virtually secured. My concern would be that Halep wants to stay mentally competitive and wins a set, which eliminates Ivanovic even if she wins in three sets, and that might see the Serb decide to check out of the match.

MY PICKS: Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 Games @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 2.14 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 1.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 1.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-10, - 7.82 Units (32 Units Staked, - 24.43% Yield)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

NFL Week 8 Picks 2014 (October 23-27)

By far and away, Week 7 was the best week of the season for the picks so far with all but one pick being successful. Stunning week, but one that will be almost impossible to match, and the hope is that I am not going to hit a long losing run to make up for that wonderful Week 7.

Week 7 Thoughts
Peyton Manning smashes Brett Favre's Touchdown Passes thrown record: You have to give credit to Peyton Manning for breaking Brett Favre's 508 Touchdown passes thrown record last weekend, although it has to be said the League is vastly different from the one that Favre started in.

Manning still deserves a lot of credit, although I do find it interesting that less people are concerned with how much he throws the ball as they were back in 2007 when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were doing just that.

There definitely seems to be more leeway given to Manning in that regard, but I do think that has something to do with the fact that Brady has won three Super Bowl rings compared with Manning's one.

One thing that stood out from last week and the win over the San Francisco 49ers was what looked like a cool move by the Receivers to keep the 509 Touchdown ball away from Manning- however, it has since transpired what a control freak Manning is that he actually planned the whole thing on Friday even if it still looks pretty good.

Is the NFC South the worst Division in the NFL? The Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons were both beaten very easily again last week, while the New Orleans Saints somehow blew yet another game in the final two minutes and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were likely beaten by the 'bye' week.

None of the teams in the Division have a winning record and the heavy losses they have taken at various times are embarrassing and I don't think any team coming out of the South is likely to be a contender for the Super Bowl.

I am still convinced the Saints are better than they have shown, although Drew Brees has not played well, but the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers have looked nothing but poor.

Could this be the Division that we see a team with a losing record win it? I don't think that'll happen, but it won't surprise me if eight wins is enough to win the South and I wouldn't fancy any of these teams to win a road game in the Wild Card Round of the Play Offs in a season where so many believed potentially three teams could be making the Play Offs from this Division.

The Chicago Bears are on the cusp of imploding: Another home loss, the third of the season, has left the Chicago Bears looking up at the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and it seems enough is enough for some players.

Jay Cutler was awful again as his personal turnovers are beginning to kill the Bears and Brandon Marshall decided to effectively call out his Quarter Back, despite saying they are 'brothers'.

Marshall made a point of mentioning all of the playmakers on the Offense except Cutler and said it is 'unacceptable' that the Bears are 3-4.

Shooting themselves in the foot on Offense has made it extremely difficult for a Defense that has struggled to get teams off the field anyway. I can understand Marshall's frustrations too with the mistakes Cutler has been making and the Bears are going to do very well to turn this around and force their way back into NFC Play Off contention.

Percy Harvin traded to the New York Jets: I doubt I was the only person surprised to see Percy Harvin traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the New York Jets last Friday (which screwed one of my Fantasy Football teams) and it was a trade that really did come out of left field.

There weren't any rumblings that Harvin was unhappy in Seattle or that the Seahawks were unhappy with him, but it looks a move that had to be made after some of the stories coming out. Clearly the Seattle Seahawks felt they need to do something to get their season back on track at 3-3, although this move didn't go down all that well with all the rest of the team including Marshawn Lynch who almost decided to pull out from playing in St Louis.

It obviously is a move that Seattle think won't affect them adversely, but the big question is whether Harvin can give the New York Jets a spark.

With Erik Decker and Harvin, Geno Smith won't have a better chance to prove he is the franchise Quarter Back for the Jets future, although at 1-6 it is unlikely to impact their season. I think Harvin can be someone effective in the NFL and I think he will do well at the Jets, but he has to prove his output is worth some of the off field hassle that has followed him from Minnesota to Seattle and will be highlighted in the Big Apple.

Top Ten
1) Denver Broncos (5-1): Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre's record last week, but importantly the Broncos moved to the head of the AFC West ahead of a huge Divisional game against San Diego.

2) Dallas Cowboys (6-1): The Cowboys overcame a 14-7 deficit to beat the New York Giants as DeMarco Murray makes it a new NFL record of 7 straight 100 yard rushing games to open a season.

3) Indianapolis Colts (5-2): Been playing very well and have made a statement the last couple of weeks with comfortable wins over Cincinnati and Baltimore.

4) Green Bay Packers (5-2): R-E-L-A-X... The Packers have looked great since Aaron Rodgers said that after a Week 3 loss to Detroit.

5) Philadelphia Eagles (5-1): Were on a bye last week, but can't drop them much further than this.

6) Arizona Cardinals (5-1): Defensively they still look suspect, but can't argue with the team leading the tough NFC West.

7) New England Patriots (5-2): New England have been playing some good football over the last three weeks, but they were fortunate to hold off the New York Jets in Week 7.

8) Baltimore Ravens (5-2): The Ravens have looked stronger on both sides of the ball and have a chance to put a stamp down on the AFC North this week with a win in Cincinnati.

9) San Diego Chargers (5-2): Feel a little harsh dropping San Diego so far down the list after one loss, but injuries to key Defensive players will be tough to overcome over the next few weeks.

10) Detroit Lions (5-2): Matt Stafford and co head to London and will be hoping that Calvin Johnson is back sooner rather than later, but the Lions still have control of the NFC North even if holding off Green Bay is going to be tough.

Bottom Five
32) Oakland Raiders (0-6): They are now the only team without a win in the NFL and are in prime position to finish with the Number 1 Draft Pick.

31) New York Jets (1-6): Another loss for the Jets means they, along with Oakland, are the only teams that have lost six straight, although New York can bounce out if they can ride the positives of the Percy Harvin trade.

30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5): Despite being in my bottom five at the moment, Tampa Bay can still make some waves in the awful NFC South.

29) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6): The Jaguars had a huge Defensive effort to beat the Cleveland Browns although some poor play-calling from the Browns contributed to their downfall.

28) Minnesota Vikings (2-5): I think the Vikings are doing the right things playing some of their younger playmakers, but that was a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 7.

Week 8 Picks
After some of the disappointment of Week 6 picks, I couldn't have asked for a better Week 7 as all but one pick came in as a winner and even that one had half a chance except for Larry Donnell's two fumbles for the New York Giants.

I took the points with three underdogs as the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Kansas State Chiefs all covered with the last three of those teams actually winning outright.

Green Bay, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Arizona all did the business as favourites and Week 7 is going to be very difficult to match for the rest of the season if I am being honest. I would love to say that will be the norm, but I think even the most professional player in Vegas would be over the moon with a 8-1 record in one week and my bigger concern is not to pat myself on the back, but to try and remain vigilant and avoid a big setback.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos Pick: I have dropped the San Diego Chargers in my 'top ten' rankings after their loss last week to the Kansas City Chiefs and the fact their two starting Corner Backs are likely to be missing this game. It is no surprise that the public are pounding the Denver Broncos to the point that this spread has increased by two points, especially after Peyton Manning garnered all the headlines last week.

Manning should be able to have another strong showing, but San Diego have found a decent pattern to make them competitive against Denver in the last fourteen months, including a win in Colorado last season. Philip Rivers is playing at a very high level and he will likely use the clock for as much as possible to limit what Manning is able to do as he did last season.

Rivers will make the quick short passes to keep the chains moving as well as sustaining drives, something that San Diego did very well when beating the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season, and that could see Manning left on the sidelines. Denver do get more pressure up front than last season, but Rivers can use Brandon Oliver coming out of the backfield as well as a decent set of Receivers that should be able to win their battles against the Denver Secondary.

The difficulty will be stopping Manning from having his way throwing the ball against a Defense that hasn't got a lot of pressure up front and is missing Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker are too many weapons for the Chargers to deal with, especially if Ronnie Hillman continues to shine from Running Back.

However, I think the Chargers have been looking forward to this game and thus overlooked Kansas City in Week 7. They covered twice here as the underdog last season and I think Rivers and the Offense can sustain long drives that helps them keep this close, even if I think the Broncos will eventually prove too good and win.

MY PICKS: San Diego Chargers + 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 7: 8-1, + 11.20 Units
Week 62-3-1, - 2.46 Units
Week 53-4-1, + 0.84 Units
Week 44-4, + 0.02 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.82 Units
Week 25-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 201433-23-2, + 17.74 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 23rd)

If someone had told me that the match had finished 60, 62, there would have been absolutely no way I would have believed that Simona Halep was the victor over Serena Williams- I even had to look at the score twice again to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong as the World Number 1 was given one of her biggest beatings on a tennis court.

That result hasn't ended Williams' participation at the WTA Finals, but it does mean she needs to beat Eugenie Bouchard, preferably in straight sets, and hope Simona Halep can give Ana Ivanovic either a competitive match that goes into three sets or the Romanian can simply win the match and the Group.

With the Race to London taking centre stage on the ATP Tour, Tomas Berdych was the only player that has yet to secure his place in the Tour Finals that was beaten in competition which could have opened the door for the likes of Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov to make up some points on him if not overtake him.

With Rafael Nadal looking pretty good in Basel and Novak Djokovic admitting he is preparing for Paris after his wife gave birth to a baby boy, the top eight players may be ready to take their place in London after all. That means every point is going to matter in the bid to sow up those places with just two weeks to go until we know the final line up in London for the event which will begin on November 9th.

Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: The winner of this match will likely have booked their place in the Semi Final of the WTA Finals and I think the Dane Caroline Wozniacki is going to have a little bit too much for Agnieszka Radwanska.

Of course one of the concerns is that Wozniacki had to dig really deep within herself to beat Maria Sharapova just two days ago and it would be interesting to see if she has left something on the court.

Agnieszka Radwanska had a much easier time in her win over Petra Kvitova, which was something of a surprise considering Radwanska's late season form.

Both players produce a similar style of tennis which should make this another competitive match, but I think Wozniacki is able to back up her win over Radwanska from the Cincinnati event, their only match of the year. That ended Wozniacki's three match losing run in the head to head and I think Wozniacki has the slightly better serve which could prove to be a difference maker.

I won't be that surprised if we did see a final set decider for the first time this week, but Wozniacki might just have the edge to come through with a 75, 46, 63 win.

Jeremy Chardy v Alexandr Dolgopolov: This Second Round match comes between two players who will be meeting for the fourth time this season as Alexandr Dolgopolov looks to level the head to head with Jeremy Chardy having won the last match between them.

Chardy is a player that can frustrate me as he can make a rash of errors to lose matches comprehensively, but I am surprised he has been set as the underdog in this match. It seems to be an overreaction to Dolgopolov's dismantling of Gilles Simon in the First Round, especially as that was his first win since coming back from surgery.

The indoor hard courts should really aid both of these players you would feel as they have decent first serves, but neither Chardy nor Dolgopolov have had a sustained success on the surface.

The Frenchman has been in better form of the two players of late with more wins to his name and I am interested to see how Dolgopolov will try to back up his first win in months with another match so soon after that one. I wouldn't be surprised to see this go the distance with both players sometimes very erratic on the court, but I think the underdog can come through with a win.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: Coming through the qualifiers and winning a match on the main draw should have given Thomaz Bellucci some confidence ahead of this Second Round match against Roberto Bautista Agut and may also have eased a couple of my concerns in backing the Spaniard.

Bautista Agut was the far better player when seeing off Santiago Giraldo on Wednesday, but he had a long week in Moscow last week that saw him come a little short when losing in the Final. However, he had a couple of days to recover and Bellucci has played more tennis in the last few days than Bautista Agut so tiredness may affect the Brazilian more in this match.

The lefty serve will take some reading for Bautista Agut, but he can frustrate opponents with his defence as he did to Giraldo and I can see the same fate eventually befalling Bellucci. There are times I have watched Bellucci and been impressed with the talent he possesses, but Bautista Agut is having a great season and he looks like a man determined to end 2014 in the right way.

If Bautista Agut is protecting his serve as well as he did on Wednesday, he could wear down Bellucci in this one and eventually come through 75, 64.

Kenny De Schepper + 2.5 games v Ivo Karlovic: This isn't a lot of games to take to the bank, but Kenny De Schepper has a big enough serve to force a couple of tie-breaks even if he doesn't quite have enough to see off Ivo Karlovic. The veteran Karlovic has been playing well in recent weeks and has had a big 2014 season to move back into the top 32 in the World Rankings, but he doesn't get a lot of joy when it comes to return games and is still heavily reliant on his own big serve.

This match is likely to have a lot of quick games with both players much more effective when having the first strike of their serve and I think break points will come at a premium. It might take just one break for Karlovic for him to cover this number, but the opposite view is that one break for De Schepper may make it almost impossible for Karlovic to do that.

When they met a couple of years ago, it was no surprise that Karlovic needed two tie-breakers to win the match and De Schepper will have some confidence having won a couple of qualifiers to reach this Second Round match.

I'll be looking for De Schepper to use that confidence to keep this match very close and will take the games on offer.

Roger Federer - 5.5 games v Denis Istomin: The lure of finishing with the year end World Number 1 position is keeping Roger Federer focused for the final three weeks of the Tour ahead of his first appearance in the Davis Cup Final.

He was brutal in dismissing Gilles Muller in the First Round in Basel, but Denis Istomin showed twelve months ago that he can be a decent indoor hard court player when pushing Federer in a three set loss.

That was about as tough as Istomin has ever made it for Federer and my criticism of the Uzbekistan player is that he doesn't seem to give himself a real shot of beating the top players on the Tour. I am not convinced he believes he can win these kinds of matches and I think making it as competitive as last season would constitute a success for him.

I think Federer is playing better than he was twelve months ago and I don't think this match will go the distance although it would be less surprising if the score from the last two sets is repeated again.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: A late bid for a place in the World Tour Finals means Grigor Dimitrov has played a lot of tennis in the last month and I am not sure if that contributed to some of his problems in the First Round against Alexander Zverev.

A bigger issue may have been a lack of familiarity with Zverev's game that allowed his opponent to dominate the first set before Dimitrov dug deep within himself to turn the match around and keep his hopes of reaching London alive.

Vasek Pospisil is less of a mystery and I think that will help Dimitrov in this Second Round match and I do think the layers have made a mistake with this spread. I figured it would be at least one game higher, while I never expected this to be at odds against.

Pospisil does have a serve that should work wonders on the indoor hard courts, and that showed up when he reached the Semi Final here last season. However, he found Roger Federer a little too good in that match and Grigor Dimitrov might be better placed after his First Round scare.

We will likely see at least one tie-breaker, but I think Dimitrov has an effective enough return to find a break or two which can help him cover the number.

MY PICKS: Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kenny De Schepper + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-8, - 10.66 Units (22 Units Staked, - 48.45% Yield)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 22nd)

It has been a pretty poor first couple of days for the tennis picks including the terrible Tuesday where all four picks went down the drain- it was one of those days when you couldn't even point to bad luck as all four picks were pretty terrible.

On Wednesday, the WTA Finals move to the second set of round robin matches, while the tournaments in Basel and Valencia both really get going. After the really poor Tuesday action, I am hoping that Wednesday proves to be a more productive day as some of the biggest names in the sport are all in action.

Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Any time a player comes through the qualifiers into the main draw, they have to be respected, especially when that player wins a match in the First Round too. Pierre-Hugues Herbert has had to battle hard to come through to this marquee match against Rafael Nadal, although he will need to hope that the latter is off his game somewhat for the shock result to have a chance of coming in.

Nadal was brutally efficient in dealing with Simone Bolelli in the First Round, although there remain some issues with his health that have yet to determine his participation in London for the Tour Finals. The Spaniard also admitted he was a little surprised with his performance in the First Round, but I still think Nadal should be far too good for a player ranked outside the top 100 and who spends the majority of his time on the Challenger Tour.

Of course a spread like this can be dangerous for Nadal who generally prefers serving second, while Herbert is someone that pushed Novak Djokovic fairly hard a year ago on an indoor court in Paris. However, Nadal won't give up any point and I think he will wear down his opponent in this Second Round match and come through with a 64, 63 win.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: The big problem at this time of the season is trying to work out the motivation of players with the end of the season fast approaching. I think Santiago Giraldo could be facing a problem in that regards as he has lost his last three matches and I think Roberto Bautista Agut is going to be a little too consistent for the Colombian.

As big as Giraldo can play at times, Bautista Agut has a decent enough defence to force him to try and hit closer and closer to the lines and eventually leading to the mistakes that the Spaniard will thrive upon.

One concern is that Bautista Agut had a long week in Moscow reaching the Final there on Sunday, but I also think this has been a career year for Bautista Agut and one that he would surely like to end on a high.

Eventually I look for Bautista Agut to just have a little too much for Giraldo which leads to a 64, 64 win.

Serena Williams - 4.5 games v Simona Halep: Both of these players won their first round robin match at the WTA Finals which has given them a great chance of reaching the Semi Finals and the winner will most likely have booked their place in the last four of the final tournament of the season.

Serena Williams battled deep within herself to see of Ana Ivanovic in her first match, while Simona Halep had a much 'easier' day in the office with a convincing win over Eugenie Bouchard that was very one sided.

As consistent as Halep has been, it will be very difficult for her to keep up with Williams who should be able to play first strike tennis which makes her so effective a player. Keeping Halep on the backfoot should allow Williams to dominate the match in terms of pace and eventually breaking down the Romanian who could potentially want to leave something in the tank for her final round robin match against Ana Ivanovic.

Williams has to serve better than she has since the US Open if she is to make this a match she can win with room to spare on the scoreboard, but her power should give her the edge. Keeping the unforced errors to a minimum should be achievable as I expect Williams to earn the short ball and that should be enough to see her come through with a 64, 63 win.

Eugenie Bouchard + 3.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: With both players losing the first round robin matches, this is a must win match for Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic and I do think we will see more out of the Canadian than we did a couple of days ago.

On that occasion, too many unforced errors from the Bouchard racquet made life very easy for Simona Halep as she fell behind very quickly in the first set and Bouchard made it clear that she realises she has to be more consistent when dealing with the competition in the WTA Finals.

Ana Ivanovic played Serena Williams very tough in her opening loss, but also went down in straight sets and her own inconsistencies make her a vulnerable favourite. Bouchard has won their two previous matches including coming from a set behind to beat Ivanovic at the Australian Open earlier this season and I think she can make this a competitive match.

The number of games given to Bouchard suggests that winning a set will be enough to help her cover as long as that set is won in any way other than a tie-breaker and this does look a three set match in the making. There should be a few breaks of serve each way, but I like Bouchard to at least keep it much closer than she did against Halep in a huge match for both players with ambitions of making it through to the Semi Finals.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard + 3.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-6, - 10.16 Units (14 Units Staked, - 72.57% Yield)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 21st)

I was out at a wonderful talk given by the incomparable Roy Keane which means I won't have the time for my normal post for the tennis picks from matches to be played on Tuesday.

The first day was a mixed bag with both picks from the WTA Finals falling by the wayside, but Rafael Nadal was a very convincing winner in Basel to move into the Second Round of a tournament loaded with some big names.

MY PICKS: John Isner @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 3.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 2.16 Units (6 Units Staked, - 36% Yield)

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 20th)

This is the final week of the WTA Tour in the 2014 season with the Finals taking place in Singapore as the top eight players in the world fight out for the last prize of the year. We also are going to see two ATP 500 events which could really begin to highlight which eight players will be competing in the ATP World Tour Finals in three weeks time as five of the eight participants have been confirmed.

Well that might be pushing things as Rafael Nadal has booked his place in London for the Tour Finals, but admitted last week that he is going to take part in Basel and then reevaluate whether he will take his place in London. Nadal has been suffering with his appendix and is certainly going to have to go in for surgery, but he was hoping to delay that until the end of the season, although those plans look to have changed following his surprise loss in Shanghai.

I do believe Nadal wanted to end the season with some positive momentum, but he had a long time off the Tour and I think I would have advised him to sit out before the appendix issue showed up as the indoor hard court season hasn't been the most productive for him. Of course winning the Tour Finals is arguably the last prize in tennis that Nadal needs to win and it is clear that means something to him as he has previously argued for the surface to also be changed rather than consistently played on indoor hard courts.

I think that was the motivation for him to come back and compete, but at this stage it wouldn't be a surprise to hear he has pulled out of the event, although it might need an early exit in Basel for that to come about.

If Nadal does decide to miss the Tour Finals, it will make the final two weeks a little less exciting to see which players make it to London- Kei Nishikori is almost certainly going to be the sixth man which means that four players are fighting for two places, but the exit of Nadal would open up another place to lessen the intrigue just a little.

Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych strengthened their positions last week by beating David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov in Finals, the current Number 9 and Number 10 in the Race to London. All four players are in action in Basel/Valencia this week which could be the pivotal one in determining which players are competing in the Tour Finals, although the last Masters event in Paris presents a lot of points to earn too.

I took a week off from the picks last week as I tend to do at this time of the season, but the season still looks to be an improvement on the 2013 one although not to the levels of 2011 and 2012. There have been some real ups and downs during the last ten months, but hopefully a strong last month will end the 2014 with a positive feeling.

Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v Simone Bolelli: After all I have said about Rafael Nadal and his health, this is the kind of match that the Spaniard should be winning fairly comfortably and I think there has been an overreaction to some of his health concerns. There is no doubt that Nadal isn't at 100% with the appendix bothering him, but I imagine he has taken his place in the Basel draw because he feels he is capable of bringing some quality tennis to the court and that may be too much for Simone Bolelli to match.

I always respect a qualifier as they will have become accustomed to the conditions compared with the other players in the draw and Simone Bolelli had to dig deep to come through those qualifying rounds. He won both matches in three sets and the indoor courts should aid him in this match with the serve one of the weapons he has when it is firing on all cylinders.

The first serve should give Bolelli a chance, but he needs to make sure he gets a high percentage in play if he is to surprise Nadal for the first time having lost all three previous matches against him. The issues Nadal is having with his health has to give the Italian some more belief in creating an upset, but I am not sure he has the full mental belief to win a match like this.

Nadal will have to play better than he did in his loss to Feliciano Lopez in Shanghai, but I was still expecting this handicap to be at least a game higher and I can see Bolelli fighting hard in the first set before falling away in a 76, 63 loss.

Serena Williams - 4.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: The big question about the WTA Finals is the health of a number of players taking part considering all the withdrawals the top players were having in the final weeks of the season.

They have all arrived in Singapore for the final tournament of the season which suggests those withdrawals were more for cautionary reasons and the first group games will be played over the next couple of days.

I fancy Serena Williams to get off to a strong start against Ana Ivanovic despite the distraction of what a Russian official said when describing the Williams sisters as the 'Williams brothers' on Russian TV. Williams has made it clear how much that has angered her, but I can see her coming out and putting on a statement match to try and focus on the tennis.

Ana Ivanovic has given Williams fits in two matches this season, winning one of those at the Australian Open, and she has been in decent form with plenty of wins behind her. However, the Serb can sometimes be rattled by the best players on the Tour and quickly get down on herself if she doesn't immediately open competitively and the first few games will say a lot about this match.

If Williams makes a fast start, Ivanovic could be blown away and focus on her remaining two matches as her best bet of getting out of the group and I can see the American producing a 63, 63 sort of win.

Eugenie Bouchard v Simona Halep: Eugenie Bouchard can sometimes be a frustrating player to watch as her style of play can lead to a lot of errors which looks like she is giving away a match, but her power is also the reason she has reached the business end of some many big tournaments this season.

The young Canadian is making her first appearance in the WTA Finals, but so is opponent Simona Halep so I do think there will be nerves on both sides of the net. That is going to be coupled with the additional pressure of believing this is the match that has to be won if they are to progress to the Semi Finals and I think this will be closely contested.

Halep is the better mover and defender of the two, but Bouchard does have the shot-making to hit through her as long as she is serving well and cutting down on the unforced errors. Generally the indoor hard courts have favoured Bouchard of the two players and I think she can back up her win over the Romanian at Wimbledon by beating her here too in what has been set as a pick 'em match. 

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)

Season 2014+ 28.14 Units (1505.5 Units Staked, + 1.87% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (October 18-20)

The domestic football is back in action from Saturday 18th October following another two week break where the international football took centre stage and it will be another busy month of games in the Premier League and European competitions before the final international break until March.

I don't think I have ever enjoyed the mismatch qualifiers that usually take place during these breaks, although Dutch and German fans would probably call these matches anything but ones where they have dominated. Both Holland and Germany have made a poor start to their European Championship qualifiers, but the new format means both are still likely to qualify for the tournament in France which would make the whole qualification period a bit of a farce.

England have picked up nine points from their games to present a strong position in the Group, although Roy Hodgson just can't seem to get out of his own way with more criticisms of his training methods following his revelations about Raheem Sterling. It does feel a real club vs country row is developing between Liverpool and England, although both Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers have played down reports suggesting that is the case.

For now Rodgers can try and concentrate on revitalising Liverpool's season which has been poor to this point with a number of points dropped- fans believing they were going to challenge for the Premier League title have been given a rude awakening of what happens when a team is being asked to play a number of games in a short period as Liverpool are this season with the added Champions League games.

It is a big week for Liverpool in that regards with Real Madrid to visit Anfield during the week and they can't afford to lose both of those games after losing in Basel in the last round of games.

The next month is also an exciting time for Manchester United fans as it will give us a real idea of where United stand compared with the title favourites. After the game at the Hawthornes on Monday night, Manchester United face Chelsea and Manchester City in back to back Premier League games and we will see a realistic position for the side as games reach the 10 played mark.

Going into the international break in 4th spot was a positive, but United are likely to kick off on Monday a couple of places lower down the table at least in what is a very tight Premier League table at this moment.

The only team seemingly pulling away at the moment are Chelsea who have already faced the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal and some are even suggesting the Blues can go unbeaten. It seems a stretch to think that despite the positive start as an injury to Diego Costa will restrict what Chelsea bring to the table and I think they will still be going to Old Trafford next week with something to prove about their title credentials against a rested and hopefully fitter Manchester United squad.

The picks have not been very good to open the season and I am hoping the international break will start settling things down for myself, although I have to be a little better too. With the added preparation for this weekend games, I am hoping it will be a start to move into a positive direction and then look to kick on from there.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The international break is not just a momentum breaker for teams in domestic action, but it also poses problems for some of the best teams as their players won't arrive back to training until a few days before the next round of fixtures. The travelling is another factor that can play a real part in team selections, but this should be an important enough game for both managers to pick their strongest line ups.

Both teams are also involved in European action during the week which can also influence team selection, especially in the case of Manchester City who travel to Moscow for an early Tuesday game, but the early start should give the both managers a little more free reign.

Manchester City have proved a real nightmare for Tottenham Hotspur in recent games, something the BT Sport adverts have been playing up on, including scoring 11 times against them last season. They have dominated them at the Etihad Stadium since Peter Crouch's winner for the North London side that saw Spurs enter the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City, and the home side are certainly right to be favoured.

They do look a little short considering Tottenham's recent form away from home where they had the lead at Arsenal and should have won at Sunderland, but it is hard to see Manchester City continue to struggle at the Etihad Stadium. Goals have been a problem for City in front of their own fans as they have drawn with the likes of Chelsea and Roma in their most recent games, but there is too much attacking potential to really believe that continues.

The lack of real pace in the Tottenham Hotspur back line could be exposed by Manchester City, although I think Spurs have enough about them to cause some problems on the break. The counter attack has really been an issue for Manchester City to deal with, but the return of Fernandinho will help bolster their defensive shape.

Manuel Pellegrini has struggled to get the best out of Yaya Toure to this point as he has been using the Ivorian in a defensive two in midfield which has curtailed some of his explosiveness, but the goal against Aston Villa may see a change in form for Toure.

I think Manchester City will win this game, but it might not be as straight-forward as the short odds suggest. Goals have been a real feature of recent games between these two sides that like to play their football and it is unlikely to change this weekend so backing Manchester City to come out on the right end of a high-scoring game could be the right selection.

Arsenal v Hull City: The injuries in the Arsenal squad have to be concerning for the home fans heading into this game as Hull City have proven to be a difficult team to shake off for teams that have played them this season. Hull showed their heart and belief in coming back from 0-2 down against Manchester City to level the game before eventually being seen off, but that should show Arsenal that this is far from an easy three points.

Missing the likes of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey in the midfield are big losses for Arsenal, but they should at least have Danny Welbeck available and it might give the team a little more balance for Ozil out of the team. I am a fan of the German playmaker, but he can be wasted playing on the far left for Arsenal and his absence may give Arsene Wenger less of an issue picking the right players for the right spots.

Defensive injuries and suspensions should give Hull City some belief they can come to the Emirates Stadium and cause a surprise as they did in their first season in the Premier League during the 2008/09 season, but I am not convinced that will happen.

Hull are conceding too many goals recently, despite the clean sheet against Crystal Palace, and this Arsenal team does have goals in them with the likes of Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshire pulling the strings.

I believe that will lead to a win by a couple of goals for Arsenal although any goal for Hull City will make that difficult to overcome. However, Arsenal beat Hull City comfortably enough in the Premier League in both games last season and I think they will be able to score the goals to see off the Tigers and earn an important three points to get the side moving in the right direction up the table.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea Pick: After Tony Pulis departed Crystal Palace, I really did think the side could be in a spot of bother, but they appointed another man-motivator in Neil Warnock who had the side going in the right direction. Personally I am not that big a fan of Warnock, but this is the kind of game where he really will get his players pumped up and he will be looking to for Crystal Palace to rattle Chelsea ahead of a Champions League game and a visit to Manchester United.

However, Chelsea are playing Maribor at home on Tuesday night and will be confident they can get through that match without too many problems and Jose Mourinho will want his side to keep the pressure on their title rivals, even at this early stage of the season.

Chelsea have looked very good going forward so far this season and I would be surprised if Mourinho puts the shackles on his team after the way they have performed in their early games. Their ability on the counter attack has shown up away from home where Chelsea have won 3 of their 4 away games this season including scoring plenty of goals in wins at Burnley and Everton.

Even the 0-1 win at Sporting Lisbon doesn't highlight the number of chances Chelsea created in that game and in Diego Costa they have one of the better finishers in the Premier League.

The side did lose here last season which should motivate them to right that result, while Crystal Palace were beaten comfortably by the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City at home during that campaign. Even Liverpool had a huge lead at Selhurst Park before inexplicably collapsing and I don't think Chelsea have that kind of collapse in their make up.

I am expecting a fairly routine win for Chelsea on Saturday and I will back them to win by a couple of goals, even away from home.

Everton v Aston Villa Pick: One of the main criticisms I have pointed out about Roberto Martinez' managerial career is the amount of goals his teams have conceded and I made that point again last season when so many Everton fans were jumping on the Spaniard's bandwagon and being overly-critical of former manager David Moyes.

Some claimed Moyes had been holding back Everton and while Martinez had improved some of the attacking play, he had inherited a very solid team that had been left behind by his predecessor and not one that was lacking attacking talent. I did say the big task for Martinez will be keeping Everton a solid team defensively that Moyes had created and this season the injuries as well as the lack of depth has been shown up.

Phil Jagielka believes Everton have been punished for every mistake, but the defending hasn't been good enough and that has to be a concern for fans that took note of Roberto Martinez' time at Wigan Athletic.

After a poor start to the season, Everton need to start winning games if they are to challenge for a top four berth like some expected of them, but that does mean reducing the amount of goals conceded. Everton have had just one clean sheet this season and that is an area where Aston Villa can use their counter-attacking style of play to punish an Everton team that will be pushing forward for three points.

Aston Villa have been shown that the top teams are generally a little too good for them at the moment, but they can cause problems for Everton with their pace in forward areas, while Christian Benteke may be ready to start. I do think Everton will turn around their form and start winning games, but this one won't be easy and they may have to score at least twice to get the job done.

Their form at home against Aston Villa in recent seasons hasn't been the best, but Everton managed to come through with the three points last season and I think they can win back to back League games at Goodison Park against them for the first time since 2004. However, I won't be surprised if Everton's defensive problems continue to create an issue for them and the home side win a game where both teams score.

Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool Pick: The first live game on Sunday comes from West London as Queens Park Rangers look to earn manager Harry Redknapp an important three points against Liverpool. All of the talk this week has been about the disagreement between Brendan Rodgers and England manager Roy Hodgson in their handling of some of the younger Liverpool players, but that was overshadowed by the news that Daniel Sturridge will be out of action potentially until after the next international break.

Liverpool have certainly lacked a bit of potency without Sturridge and the summer departure of Luis Suarez, while Mario Balotelli hasn't really settled in at Anfield in the manner that Rodgers would have liked. The side also have to concentrate on this important Premier League game which comes just a few days before Real Madrid will be visiting Liverpool in the Champions League.

The player at the heart of the latest storm between Liverpool and England, Raheem Sterling, should be available for selection against his former club and he could be the key for Liverpool if they are to win this game. They look short considering they have won 1 of 4 away games in all competitions and the fact that Liverpool have lost 3 of those games, but Sterling has been one of the few bright notes for the side.

He has scored in his last 2 Premier League away games, both in London, and Sterling could be the man to break the deadlock in this one with Liverpool lacking a lot of goals from other areas. Sterling will be playing high up the pitch and Queens Park Rangers will be very wary of the pace that he will provide, while the side have conceded first in 2 of their 3 home League games.

QPR did show some heart in coming back twice to earn a draw with Stoke City in their last home game and Redknapp will know they won't have too many better occasions to play and beat a team like Liverpool. I am not convinced they will do that, and I think the player at the centre of the storm this last week following his request not to start against Estonia could be worth backing to open the scoring in this game.

West Brom v Manchester United Pick: This has been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United in recent seasons, but this Manchester United team have been suffering with some doubts defensively that will make this a more difficult task to continue their record of being unbeaten in 10 League visits to this ground of which they have won 9.

Defensively there are some problems, but the two week international break might have given the chance for the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans to return and offer some experience at centre half for Manchester United. Also, there is little doubt that this Manchester United team have goals in them and I think they can become the latest team to expose some of the defensive frailties that West Brom have shown themselves.

It's a tough position for West Brom to be in- they are at home so will be expected to get forward and attack, but they will also need to be aware of the pace and quality Manchester United have in forward positions. I would find it surprising if Alan Irvine doesn't at least set up his side to try and challenge some of the weaknesses United have shown at the back, but that should also allow Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao to flourish in space they should enjoy.

I do think Manchester United can win here as they should have done at Leicester City and there are far bigger tests on the horizon for the side. I was then torn between two picks because United are very short in the prices considering some of their defensive problems and a lack of away wins in recent games.

Either backing Manchester United to win a high-scoring game or backing the side to win a game where both teams score look the best way to get on the away side in this one, especially considering the last 10 League games at the Hawthornes between these teams have ended with at least three goals scored.

Of those 10 games, West Brom have scored in 7 of them, while the Baggies have scored in 12 of their last 14 home Premier League games. However one of those failures came against Manchester United, and I think it could make a lot more sense backing the away side to win a high-scoring game which is slightly lower priced than backing them to win a game where both teams score.

I believe Manchester United will have a few high-scoring games this season, but they are more than capable of scoring three goals themselves as they did in the 0-3 win here last season and that will be my pick.

MY PICKS: Manchester City Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.33 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.40 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Raheem Sterling First Goalscorer @ 7.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester United Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)

October Update6-8, - 2.83 Units (27 Units Staked, - 10.48% 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 2014/1520-40, - 22.20 Units (92 Units Staked, - 24.13% 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)