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NBA Play Off Picks 2018- Conference Finals (May 13-22)

The NBA Conference Finals have rolled around after an underwhelming Semi Final Round which saw the four teams progress without losing mor...

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (May 23rd)

The week before any Grand Slam event can be tough to get a real read of because players are going to be focusing on keeping something in the tank for the upcoming Slam.

Of course the majority of those players expecting to challenge for the title at the French Open are not playing this week and it does mean we have some open draws.

I haven't found a lot of options over the first couple of days at the four tournaments with a number of players in the draws that would not normally be playing at this level. As we progress through to the latter stages of the tournaments we should get more familiar match ups and we have reached the Second Round on Wednesday which has produced some options to be backed.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 games v Natalia Vikhlyantseva: Two Russian players meet in a bid to find some form before the French Open as both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Natalia Vikhlyantseva have struggled on the clay courts.

Out of the two players there does seem to be more room for improvement from Pavlyuchenkova who has previously had some success on this surface.

Pavlyuchenkova has definitely had the tougher draws during the clay court season compared with Vikhlyantseva and the latter has not had the same quality wins as her compatriot has had.

I expect in this match Pavlyuchenkova will have more joy from the return of serve than she has had in her clay court matches so far. That isn't a surprise when facing the quality of servers she has seen, but Vikhlyantseva has not been able to get the best out of her serve on the clay courts and it should mean Pavlyuchenkova has some success.

Her own serve is a little more consistent and I will look for Pavlyuchenkova to win and cover on Wednesday.

Sam Stosur v Daria Gavrilova: This is a virtual pick 'em set by the layers and that says a lot about the declining numbers Sam Stosur has been producing in 2018 overall and on the clay courts.

At one time Stosur was one of the best clay courters on the WTA Tour and she has enjoyed considerable success on the surface, but she has struggled for consistency this season. One of the major issues has been the lack of impact on the return of serve which has put more pressure to get it right when serving and allowed opponents to take control of matches.

The return should have a better outing against the Daria Gavrilova serve which is a vulnerable shot and forces Gavrilova into tough matches regardless of the opponent. She did reach the Final in Strasbourg last season but generally Gavrilova has been a little hard to predict on the clay courts.

That Final ended in a loss to Stosur and Gavrilova had to take another in Prague on the clay courts this season when she couldn't continue after being taken into a deciding set.

There should be a number of breaks in this match, but I do think Stosur may still be the superior clay court player despite the declining form. It will be close and may need a decider but I will look fo the veteran Australian winning this match.

MY PICKS: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Sam Stosur @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (May 20th)

This has been a busy, busy weekend and it has been tough to get the time I need to write down my analysis of matches to be played in Rome.

We have gotten to the final day in Rome on Sunday and this week we will also see the four tournaments to be played in the week ahead also beginning First Round matches on Sunday. The main reason for that is the French Open actually gets going next Sunday rather than the traditional Monday start for the other Slams and so there is a pressure on the tournaments this week to make sure they are concluded by Saturday.

The Picks on Saturday were not as good as Friday with a couple of near misses turning my fortunes, but it has still been a winning week to this point. Hopefully the two remaining Picks from Rome can make sure there are some positive numbers to add to the season totals.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina @ 2.20 William Hill (2 Units)
Sachia Vickery - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Rome Update: 15-13, + 1.34 Units (56 Units Staked, + 2.39% Yield)

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Boxing Picks 2018- Adonis Stevenson vs Badou Jack (May 19th)

It was an absolute pleasure watching Vasyl Lomachenko work last week, but a lot of credit has to be given to Jorge Linares who made the bout as competitive as it was.

I hate when people say Linares quit- I rated him from getting up from a perfect liver punch and it was clear how hurt he was.

There is no way Linares quit on the day, but he just didn't have anything left from a great punch from Lomachenko who has now elevated himself to the Number 1 position in the pound for pound list. I would love to see Lomachenko come over to the United Kingdom if only to have the chance to see a truly special fighter perform, although it looks like Lomachenko is heading towards a SUPER fight with Mikey Garcia assuming both fighters pick up their second World Tittles in the Lightweight Division in the coming months.

Both Lomachenko and Garcia are set for Unification bouts in the summer which would set up a blockbuster between the two for the end of 2018.

Can you imagine an end of the year where Lomachenko-Garcia and Joshua-Wilder both set to go? I think the former is more likely to happen, especially with the news about the latter bout slowing down over the last week as the two teams continue to hash out the details of the deal.

I am hopeful that they will get together and figure it out, but it looks more and more likely that both will be in action this summer in different bouts and any fight between the top two Heavyweights in the world will have to wait until 2019. Hopefully by that time we will be talking about Joshua and Wilder being a part of the top three Heavyweights as Tyson Fury will be a year into his return to the sport too.

One other fighter who we have been hearing a lot from over the last couple of weeks is Tony Bellew who is fresh off another win over David Haye. Bellew has a lot of options and continues to speak about being the best Cruiserweight in the world, but I would have him behind all four Semi Finalists from the World Boxing Super Series.

Bellew won't mind being an underdog to anyone as he has raised his performances in each bout he has been disregarded, but I don't think he truly chases the winner of the World Boxing Super Series as they may not be a 'big enough name' for the casuals to get excited about. That will be the case even if the winner is expected to move up to Heavyweight and instead Bellew is looking at Tyson Fury and Andre Ward as the next fighter he wants to take on.

He is considerably bigger than Ward which would make the fight much closer than most expect, but I would expect Fury to deal with Bellew comfortably.

Having options is great for the Bomber though and it will be interesting to see where he takes himself going forward.

On Saturday we have some really intriguing fights coming up with the headliner from Toronto between Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack. I can't wait for that one and it really does look a close one to call.

A huge domestic dust up comes from Elland Road earlier in the day and I am looking forward to another big day of Boxing with the Picks from those bouts below.

Lee Selby vs Josh Warrington
A hostile atmosphere awaits Lee Selby as the IBF Featherweight Champion puts his World Title on the line against local hope Josh Warrington at Elland Road in Leeds.

There is plenty on the line for the winner with a likely bout with Carl Frampton set to be put into play at Windsor Park this summer, but neither Selby or Warrington will be looking past this one where genuine dislike between the fighters and the two teams have developed.

This is a fight that Selby does feel is beneath him having reached World level and defended his World Title four times. Some have suggested we have not seen the best of Selby for some time, but I think this is the kind of bout that would have got the adrenaline going and I think we are going to see one of the best performances from Selby as he takes on an unbeaten fighter in front of his own fans.

Being unbeaten means Warrington will come in with a lot of belief in his ability to win the fight but I think this is a significant step up in class for him. His best wins have come against Dennis Ceylan, Kiko Martinez and Hisashi Amagasa but I don't think any of those are great preparation for taking on someone with the ability Selby has.

Even the win over Martinez came by Majority Decision against a fighter who has been stopped by the likes of Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz (and both stopped him within Five Rounds).

I think Warrington will show plenty of heart and come forward and try to rough up Selby, but the latter is a slick boxer and I am looking for him to build up the accumulation of punches as he times Warrington coming in. Neither fighter is known for their Knock Out percentages and so the layers are anticipating the cards being read which is the most likely outcome of this one.

However I think Warrington's style may see him go out on his shield in this one as Selby starts to really dominate in the second half of the fight. Some are questioning whether Selby has some problems making weight, but he has looked good and very confident this week and I think he may just time Warrington onto something late in the fight as the home crowd urge their man forward to try and get back into the bout.

A small interest in Selby finding a second half stoppage to underline his position above Warrington's level is my call.

Gary Russell vs Joseph Diaz
The one loss on Gary Russell's record looks better in each passing month.

Russell was beaten on a Majority Decision by Vasyl Lomachenko but he has bounced back to win four consecutive fights and he has stopped his last three opponents and he has picked up the WBC Featherweight World Title in that time.

He looks to be peaking, although this will only be the third time we see Russell in the ring since April 2016 and it has been almost a year to the day when he beat Oscar Escandon. That inactivity is disappointing when it looks like Russell has plenty of talent and it is never a good look to waste too many years by taking one fight a year.

Facing his mandatory in Joseph Diaz is a tough place to return and Diaz is unbeaten which will make him more of a threat. Fighting from the southpaw stance is going to mean Russell has to readjust his shots and Diaz is definitely a live contender.

However the resume is hard to get a read on for Diaz and Russell is a considerable step up in class for the Golden Boy fighter. His team are confident he can time Russell onto some big shots and with both expected to trade this could be the surprisingly best fight of the night.

The speed of the Russell combinations is likely going to be the difference once he has worked out the southpaw stance and where Diaz is going to be expected to be. I think both fighters will land some big shots, but I expect Russell to begin to get the better of the exchanges by the middle Rounds.

Diaz is going to tough out some moments, but eventually I expect Russell's combinations to perhaps get the referee to step in and record a fourth consecutive stoppage. It could be a really fun fight though with both having to ride out some difficult moments, but I like Russell to get the stoppage at some point.

Adonis Stevenson vs Badou Jack
Superman is back this weekend for the first time in a long time we are expecting to see Adonis Stevenson given a stern examination as a World Champion. The home crowd should be behind Stevenson who has been criticised for the choices of opponents since picking up the WBA Light-Heavyweight Title, but there is no doubting that Badou Jack is a big opponent for him.

Badou Jack has come up from Super-Middleweight and dispatched Nathan Cleverley last year to announce himself at the Light-Heavyweight limit.

Jack has also been on a strong run with wins over the likes of George Groves, Anthony Dirrell and a draw with James DeGale in a fight many thought he had won and all of these fights have come after his loss.

Confidence won't be an issue for Jack, but it does feel like the most important questions are going to be needed to be answered by Stevenson.

Is he too old at 40 years old? Has inactivity slowed down Stevenson? Has he ever been the real deal at Light-Heavyweight or has Stevenson ducked live opponents to keep hold of the WBA Title?

Stevenson does look in fine shape to be honest and I think my lean has been towards the Haitian born, Canadian based Champion to make a statement this weekend. The power is quite staggering from Stevenson and it is a fight changer against any opponent and I just think he may hit Jack with something very early that puts the challenger in a tough situation.

Jack has to try and keep out of trouble and test the stamina of a 40 year old Champion, but I think Stevenson is going to be fresh enough to last the distance if necessary and I think he is also capable of carrying power through the 12 Rounds. There is no doubting Jack is a tough fighter mentally, but he was put down by DeGale and he has been hurt by fighters who simply don't hit anything like as hard as Stevenson who also provides more awkward moments coming out of the southpaw stance.

I just think rumours of the Stevenson demise have been greatly exaggerated and I think he re-announces himself on the world stage with a big performance.

I've had a gut feeling this is an early win for Stevenson to really send out a statement to the rest of the Division and perhaps even line up a potential rematch with Tony Bellew at a catchweight. At some stage I expect Stevenson to hurt Jack to the body and follow up with some thudding shots that hurt the challenger. He won't let Jack off the hook either and I expect Stevenson to hold back Father Time for at least one more fight.

While I've got a feeling it is going to come early, I will simply look for Stevenson to find the stoppage in the fight which is almost a pick 'em coming close to the opening bell.

MY PICKS: Lee Selby Win Between 7-12 @ 6.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Gary Russell to Win by KO, TKO or Disqualification @ 2.62 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Adonis Stevenson to Win by KO, TKO or Disqualification @ 2.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Boxing 2018 Update: 14-28, + 3.63 Units (63 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (May 19th)

The Tennis Picks had a good Friday to produce a winning record, but it could have been better if Alexander Zverev had been able to win his match against David Goffin without losing one more game.

A winning day is still a winning day though and I am looking for another positive return on Saturday as the four Semi Final get set to be played.

Friday was a busy day for me and I have been looking forward to getting some rest. That means I am simply putting down my Tennis Picks for the day on Saturday which can be read below.

MY PICKS: Anett Kontaveit + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Marin Cilic + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Rome Masters Update: 14-10, + 5.74 Units (48 Units Staked, + 11.96% Yield)

Friday, 18 May 2018

FA Cup Final 2018 Pick- Chelsea v Manchester United (May 19th)

Chelsea v Manchester United FA Cup Final 2018
Expected Chelsea Team: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Alonso, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Kante, Hazard and Giroud

Expected Manchester United Team: De Gea, Valencia, Young, Smalling, Jones, Matic, Pogba, Herrera, Rashford, Lingard, Alexis Sanchez

This is an important game for both Manchester United and Chelsea with a chance to end another campaign with silverware to put into their bursting trophy cabinets.

Neither team will be completely satisfied with the performances in the Premier League, but Manchester United should be in a better place than Chelsea who have missed out on Champions League Football for the coming season.

Rumours continue to persist that Antonio Conte will be relieved of his position as manager of Chelsea in the coming days and I do think that has an impact on the preparation for the Cup Final.

It is almost in stark contrast to last season when Chelsea went into the FA Cup Final as the strong favourites to beat Arsenal and complete the Double after winning the Premier League a few days earlier. This time they come in with the questions and face a team who have achieved some of their goals and perhaps feeling in a better place all around.

However recent Manchester United performances have been under-par and it is hard to turn the switch to produce a much better display. In saying that Manchester United have raised their game against the best teams and you can't ignore the fact they have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal since their 2-0 loss here against Spurs in the Premier League at the end of January and 2 of those wins have come away from Old Trafford.

The likely absence of Romelu Lukaku is a blow as he has been a very important part of the team with the way Mourinho sets Manchester United up. His participation is touch and go, but I think Lukaku will be a bench player at best and Mourinho may decide to play with Alexis Sanchez as his most forward player in this one, although he will be able to interchange with Marcus Rashford who scored last week which may earn him the start.

Manchester United have shown they can score against the top teams in those recent wins and they have managed at least two goals in each of those. They won the FA Cup in 2016 so the majority of the squad will know the feeling of doing that as they snapped Manchester United's wait for a success in this competition which had dragged back to 2004.

On the other hand Chelsea know what it is like to lose a Final having done that just twelve months ago. This is a club who had won four of six FA Cups between 2007 and 2012, but who have not won the competition since then and the rumours about Antonio Conte's future will not be helping.

Chelsea did beat Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, but they had a poor recent record against the top clubs in 2018 prior to that having lost to Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. The side have not found their best away from Stamford Bridge for large portions of this calendar year too and the negative display at Newcastle United last weekend is a big worry.

There is clearly some quality in the starting line up for Chelsea and they played well at Old Trafford for half an hour with the game turning on Manchester United's equaliser. I think they will pose problems and I expect the players to produce a much bigger performance than last weekend when they perhaps knew their chances of a top four finish was already beyond them.

A close game should develop, but I don't think it will be one without chances for both teams and the layers are taking a chance with the prices for at least three goals to be shared out.

4 of the last 6 FA Cup Finals have ended with at least three goals shared out including last seasons and that looks like it will have every chance of happening here at the big prices being offered.

Picking a winner in normal time is difficult with neither team playing their best football to end the season. However the difference in the results Manchester United and Chelsea have had in 'big' games over the last couple of months does make me believe Jose Mourinho can add another trophy to his list of honours and another to the heaving Manchester United trophy cabinet.

I just expect a more 'together' performance from Manchester United across the ninety minutes and there is a chance, albeit a slight one, that Chelsea produce another sub-par performance for their beleaguered manager. Both teams could play a part in this one, but I will look for Manchester United to prevail on the Asian Handicap which is effectively a 'Draw No Bet' market for the Cup Final.

MY PICKS: Manchester United 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (May 18th)

It has been a busy Thursday evening as I have tried to discover if there is a car mechanic in me trying to fix the other half's Golf, but it has been a forlorn exercise in the main.

So back to the 'You Tube' video help which is going to take up some of my time this weekend.

That does mean I haven't had time for the full analysis for the Tennis Picks from the Rome Quarter Final matches which are scheduled for Friday. I may even add another Pick depending on how the market is formed, but the Tennis Picks on Friday are listed below.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Rome Masters Update: 10-8, + 2.66 Units (36 Units Staked, + 7.39% Yield)

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (May 17th)

On a day where I came away with more winning Picks than losing Picks it can be hard to be too disappointed but that was my overall feeling out of the day.

Each day I have compiled a short list of matches before breaking down the numbers and determining whether those matches will make it as one of my Tennis Picks for the day. I saw a number of those players I passed on winning comfortably on Tuesday as they made their way into the Third Round of this last major event prior to the French Open beginning.

That can be a little frustrating, but it would have been a lot worse if I had not come away with a winning record on Wednesday and I will take the positive number for the week being added to.

On Thursday I would be surprised if we don't get at least a break in the play, but it should be another strong day of Tennis with both the ATP Rome and WTA Rome events completing their Third Rounds in the same day.

Jelena Ostapenko - 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: It still feels weird to think about Jelena Ostapenko as a Grand Slam Champion and she is going to have a lot of Ranking points to defend at the French Open. So far Ostapenko has not really found the consistency in terms of results on the clay courts, but I think she has been playing well enough to expect better on the surface.

Ostapenko is going to be challenged by Johanna Konta who has won back to back matches here in Rome. The clay courts have not always been the most favourite surface for Konta to play on, but the two wins this week will have given her confidence which makes her a dangerous opponent for the Latvian.

Winning the French Open means Ostapenko is going to be slightly over-rated on the clay courts, but I don't think that is the case in this match.

Compared with 2017, Ostapenko has definitely improved on the serving side of things with superior first serve and second serve points won and she is 4-2 on the surface. Only the loss to Irina-Camelia Begu could be considered a poor one for Ostapenko and there is perhaps some room for improvement when it comes to the return of serve.

If she can do that Ostapenko is going to be another threat at the French Open as she defends her title and I do think she is going to be a little better than Konta in this one. The Konta serve has been a decent weapon for her on the clay courts and she has returned as well as Ostapenko which is going to be make this a very close match.

The difference may be that Ostapenko is much more comfortable on the clay courts than Konta and that could keep her mentally stronger when we reach critical points in the set. She is also serving slightly better and the level of competition Ostapenko has faced has been stronger than Konta's which suggests the numbers being similar has much to do with Konta beating those players she should do.

It may need three sets to separate these players, but Ostapenko can edge this one and cover the number.

Elina Svitolina - 3.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: The defending Champion in Rome will continue her defence of the title she won twelve months ago when Elina Svitolina takes on Daria Kasatkina in a good looking Third Round match.

Svitolina has been one of the more consistent players on the clay courts over the last few years and there will be plenty of people backing her to win her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open. The numbers have remained pretty similar when it comes to the serve and return impact Svitolina has had in matches over the four seasons.

The results have not come as Svitolina would have liked in 2018 but she has suffered a couple of close losses which can be overturned.

Svitolina will have to be at close to her best level to beat someone like Daria Kasatkina who has shown she is very comfortable on the clay courts and who has won a couple of matches here in Rome in strong fashion. However her numbers do take a serious dent when Kasatkina has played top 50 Ranked players and she struggles a little more to compete with top 20 Ranked players.

This has to be something of a concern for Kasatkina going into a match against an opponent she has lost to in all three previous matches played. One those was in Dubai in the Final back in February and none have been on the clay courts, but Svitolina looks like a player with a little more all around game on this surface.

I think that will help Svitolina reach the Quarter Final in Rome again and I think she can get the better of Kasatkina in a strong win.

Maria Sharapova - 4.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: Third time is hopefully the charm when backing Maria Sharapova this week who has come through her first two matches with some positive momentum, but who has just made a couple of mistakes which have prevented the cover in matches.

She has deserved both wins against Ashleigh Barty and Dominika Cibulkova, but there is still room for better for Sharapova.

However a big factor in backing her on Thursday in this Third Round match is the fact that opponent Daria Gavrilova played a long match on Wednesday which went deep into the Rome night. The win over Garbine Muguruza saw the Australian hold her nerve at key times, but the match finished close to 3am Rome time and by the time Gavrilova has rested there isn't a lot of time between that finish and this match beginning.

Gavrilova has been struggling on the clay courts in 2018 for any consistency and she has the kind of game that Sharapova will have been used to dealing having played similar players in Barty and Cibulkova. Sharapova will expect Gavrilova to use her speed of movement around the court to try and extract errors by making sure she gets plenty of balls back in play, but it is tough to do that in her current circumstances and fatigue has to wear her down.

The fact her own serve is likely to be put under significant pressure by Sharapova only will increase the mental fatigue and I think the Russian matches her margin of win over Gavrilova when they last played back in 2015. That was also here in Rome and Sharapova deservedly won 7-5, 6-3 that day and I think we will see something similar this time around.

MY PICKS: Jelena Ostapenko - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Roma Masters Update: 9-6, + 5 Units (30 Units Staked, + 16.67% Yield)