Friday, 29 May 2015

French Open Day 6 Picks 2015 (May 29th)

After a couple of losing days, Thursday proved to be a positive day for the picks thanks to two late winners in Simone Bolelli and David Ferrer who both were very comfortable three set winners.

It made for a much better day after Andy Murray somehow lost his focus completely in the middle of his match against Joao Sousa and after a really poor start to the day with the two picks from the women's tournament both failing to get the job done.


The tournament has been one with plenty of upsets as some Seeds have tumbled and it was very close to being a day when the biggest surprise in the women's section was close to being completed. Serena Williams found herself a set down in her match against Anna-Lena Friedsam but managed to battle back to move into the Third Round as it looked like she might be joining Simona Halep in beginning to prepare for the grass court season.

Williams going out would have opened the door for the two outright winners I have picked from the women's draw, but the tennis fan in me is glad she has moved into the Third Round where she will face Victoria Azarenka. The latter has yet to truly find the consistency to move back to the upper echelon of the women's game where Azarenka had been prior to her injury issues last season, but these players had a classic match in Madrid earlier this month and looks to be potentially the match of the day on Saturday.


We have now reached the Third Round of both draws and that usually means a real upturn in level of matches being offered to the public. That is highlighted on Friday with some very intriguing matches taking place as well as the Williams-Azarenka match scheduled for Saturday.

The majority of the better matches are taking place in the women's draw at this stage, but the men's might be the calm before the storm with some very interesting matches coming up from the Fourth Round onwards as long as the right players make it through to that stage and beyond.


Lukas Rosol - 2.5 games v Teymuraz Gabashvili: Both Lukas Rosol and Teymuraz Gabashvili had impressive Second Round wins over Roberto Bautista Agut and Juan Monaco respectively as both had gone into those matches as fairly big underdogs.

The chance to move into the Fourth Round of a Grand Slam event is not something either of these players have been too familiar with in their career and this might come down to which of these two handle that expectation better. I do think Gabashvili is mentally stronger than Rosol as he doesn't have the same fluctuations in his level of play which can come down to Rosol losing focus and perhaps some confidence in playing the right shot at the right time.

Rosol's favourite surface is the clay courts and he has had some real success on the surface in the past, even if he is most famous for knocking off Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. I actually think Rosol should be a little disappointed he hasn't made more out of his game than he has with the potential he has, but a lot of that is down to the mental side of the sport.

That game should be big enough to see him past Gabashvili, but Rosol won't be able to look past his opponent else he will be stunned. I said in the last Round that Gabashvili has the talent to be much higher in the World Rankings than his current position, but I think Rosol has a serve that can get him going forward in this match and dictate things from the back of the court.

It looks like a match that could easily go four sets, but I think Rosol shows why he is the higher Ranked player and comes through.


Roger Federer - 9.5 games v Damir Dzumhur: Roger Federer might have beaten Marcel Granollers very easily in the Second Round, but there were signs that showed why he is unlikely to win the title here barring some significant luck going his way. He has already gotten some of that by being on the other side of the draw to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, but Federer's sloppy service games that led to a couple of breaks for Granollers will inspire opponents against him.

It is unlikely that Damir Dzumhur is going to be one of those opponents as the Bosnian has not really featured in Grand Slam events in the past and has already matched his best previous performance when he reached the Third Round at the Australian Open.

His height was always going to make it tough for Dzumhur to move up the World Rankings on the professional Tour and it really does hinder his ability to win cheap points on the serve. The pressure of playing Roger Federer and all the mystique that surrounds the 17 time Grand Slam Champion will only make it more difficult for Dzumhur and it might be a big task for him to even make this a competitive match.

Federer has to serve better than he has in the first two Rounds in Paris, but this should be a match up that he is comfortable performing in and I think he will wear down Dzumhur. The Swiss star has made a decent start to matches too and this could easily end in a 61, 64, 63 win for the Number 2 Seed.


Gael Monfils 3-1 v Pablo Cuevas: One of the more intriguing matches in the men's Third Round draw scheduled for Friday is between Gael Monfils and Pablo Cuevas. Gael Monfils might be the great entertainer who admits he would rather please the fans than win, but he has showed some steel and determination this week especially in his Second Round win over Diego Schwartzman when he trailed 2-1 in sets.

Now things don't get any easier for the Frenchman as he faces Pablo Cuevas in the Third Round with the latter very strong on the clay courts and playing with plenty of confidence. As tough as Monfils' had it in the Second Round, Cuevas also had to battle past Dominic Thiem with every set of his four set win going to at least twelve games.

The feeling I have in the match is that Monfils' athleticism is going to be too much for Cuevas to deal with as the match wears on, but I would be incredibly surprised if this is a straight-forward win for the home favourite. Monfils seems to have too many lapses to see off a clay court specialist without dropping a set and Cuevas has played well enough over the season to think he can take advantage of those lapses.

Both players had plenty taken out of them in the Second Round, but the home crowd should get very much behind Monfils which should inspire him to dig deep enough to come through. A small interest in a four set win for Monfils looks like it could have plenty of chances to come in as long as the Second Round hasn't left him with nothing in the tank.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-1 v Pablo Andujar: In their previous match eighteen months ago, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crushed Pablo Andujar fairly comfortably, but that match was on the hard courts and the Frenchman is still looking to find his form having returned from injury recently.

Tsonga will have to be aware of the challenge in front of him as Andujar is a Spaniard who is very comfortable on the clay courts. He showed his belief in his own game by coming from 2-4 down to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 in the final set decider in the Second Round which had to be completed yesterday.

That win would concern me as to how much Andujar has left in the tank for this Third Round, but I think he can give Tsonga far more to think about than the first two opponents the latter has faced. However Andujar's run to the Final in Barcelona shows he is more than decent on the clay and I think he can trouble Tsonga for a while before the fatigue perhaps begins to wear him down.

Andujar is a solid player who has the patience to be successful on the clay, but Tsonga will have the power and aggression to force him on the back foot. That was how Kohlschreiber began to turn around their match in the Second Round before falling short, but I think Tsonga will use the home support to carry him through although not before dropping a set.


Mirjana Lucic-Baroni + 3.5 games v Alize Cornet: After beating Simona Halep in arguably the biggest surprise of the French Open so far, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has to use all of her experience to be able to focus on the next task at hand. She will also need to cope with the pressure of playing an opponent that will receive all of the support as Alize Cornet looks to become the first Frenchwoman to win this title since 2000.

Cornet is the biggest hope for the home crowd this season, although she will do well to take away the back pages from Kristina Mladenovic at the moment. However, the exit of Halep has opened up the section for Cornet and she will be the favourite to reach the Quarter Final at the least.

How Cornet deals with will play a big part in this match against an opponent who has been playing very well over the last few weeks. The results might not be that much to look at but Lucic-Baroni has forced Madison Keys to dig very deep last week and the win over Halep was very impressive.

You also have to accept that Cornet hasn't been in great form on the clay courts this season either and this looks like it could be a close match. The expectation is on Cornet to progress without Halep to play in the Third Round, but I am not sure she is the best at handling the pressure that comes with that and I can see this going into a deciding set and remaining very nip and tuck until the end.


Lucie Safarova - 3.5 games v Sabine Lisicki: It is Sabine Lisicki who has won three of the four previous matches against Lucie Safarova, but the sole meeting on clay was won by the latter and I do think she is the more comfortable player on this surface.

There is plenty to like about Lisicki's game when she is firing at her top level, but the German struggles to do that consistently especially when off the grass courts. That is where Lisicki is likely to have her best results in Grand Slam events, and her clay court form was not much to write home about coming into Paris.

Lisicki does produce some big time serves, but Lucie Safarova should have the edge when it comes to confidence in her movement on the clay. Once the rallies get going I would expect Safarova to be able to move Lisicki around the court and unleash some of her own power with the extra time you tend to get on the clay courts.

The Safarova serve can also be a big weapon and I think she will be able to dictate many of the rallies that develop. Of course Lisicki will be a threat if she is  producing her 'A' game, but I am not sure she is comfortable enough on clay do that with enough consistency to beat Safarova and I like the Czech player to come through 75, 64.


Angelique Kerber v Garbine Muguruza: The Victoria Azarenka-Serena Williams match might be the biggest of the Third Round in the women's draw, but this is one match that should be very intriguing for the fans. Angelique Kerber has produced plenty of top quality tennis during the clay court season after a poor start to the 2015 season, while Garbine Muguruza has beaten Serena Williams in Paris before and is a dark horse for the title.

The problem for Muguruza is she hasn't played enough tennis over the last six weeks and she had suffered a couple of disappointing defeats as the Spaniard looked to get over her injury.

Out of the two players, I honestly think Muguruza has the much better ability and I am still surprised she is as 'low' in the World Rankings as her current placing of 20. The power and the mental side seem to be with Muguruza, but her consistency still needs to be improved and that is where a defender of the capability of Kerber can eventually wear her down and force mistakes from her.

Muguruza will go for her shots no matter the situation on the scoreboard, but Kerber can frustrate her by making her play more balls than she would expect. It is part of the reason why the German has won all three previous matches against Muguruza and I think Kerber is playing well enough to improve that record to four wins in a row.

Both players have won their two matches here comfortably, but this looks like it might go the distance before Kerber just has a little too much and comes through.


Maria Sharapova - 4.5 games v Sam Stosur: This is another brilliant Third Round match up in the women's event at the French Open and one that should prove to be the biggest test for Maria Sharapova in her bid to reach a fourth consecutive French Open Final.

The clay courts are perfect for Sam Stosur whose serve is a real weapon in Paris and will give Sharapova plenty to think about. That was the case twelve months ago after two tight sets were split between these players before Sharapova wrapped up the match with a bagel in the decider.

You could argue that Stosur is coming into this tournament in stronger form and with a higher confidence level than last year as she won the event in Strasbourg last week. However, I do wonder if all that tennis will eventually tell on her although she has had very little to do in two comprehensive wins so far this week.

The Australian has to feel confident she can overturn the result from last year after seeing some of the problems Maria Sharapova has been having on serve. However, Sharapova is arguably the best player on the WTA Tour on a clay court and there were improvements in her performance in the last Round.

It does feel like the match is going to be decided on Sharapova's racquet no matter how well Stosur has been serving and how well she performs in this match. That might pressure Sharapova a bit more if the Stosur serve is on, but I think the Russian will believe her movement is better and has a definite advantage if attacking the Stosur backhand.

Sharapova will hit to that wing with power and can bring up the short balls and I think she will have a slightly more routine time than twelve months ago as I believe she battles through with a 63, 64 win this year.


Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 games v Flavia Pennetta: If this match had been played twelve months ago, I am convinced that Flavia Pennetta would have been a fairly healthy favourite to progress to the Fourth Round. However, Pennetta has not had a great 2015 season to this point and now faces Carla Suarez Navarro who is one of the most consistent performers on the WTA Tour over the last five months.

It does look like Suarez Navarro is finally comfortable with what ability she has and she has put that together to reach the Quarter Final in Stuttgart and Madrid and the Final in Rome. Take out the shocking First Round loss at the Australian Open and Suarez Navarro has reached the Quarter Final or better in every tournament she has entered and the Spaniard should be well rested in this Third Round match having seen Virginie Razzano pull out with an injury in her last match.

Compare that to Flavia Pennetta who had lost in her first match in Madrid and Rome heading into Paris and you can understand why Suarez Navarro is the favourite. I do have to say that the Suarez Navarro serve can sometimes be a real weakness when opponents begin to get a read of her tendencies, and Pennetta has the power to really tee off on that shot.

However I also think Pennetta will be put under pressure by the consistency and accuracy of the Suarez Navarro groundstrokes and I would favour the latter to win the majority of those at this stage of their careers. Despite some Italians being very comfortable on the clay courts, Pennetta has always looked like one such player from that country who prefers the faster surfaces.

I am not convinced she has either the patience or the consistency to beat Suarez Navarro in this Third Round match and I think the Spaniard comes through 63, 75 after sharing a number of breaks of serve.

MY PICKS: Lukas Rosol - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Gael Monfils Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 21-13, + 12.98 Units (68 Units Staked, + 19.09% Yield)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

French Open Day 5 Picks 2015 (May 28th)

There haven't been too many surprises in the French Open over the first three days of the tournament, but the first truly seismic shock came on Wednesday as Simona Halep was knocked out in the Second Round.

Some would say Agnieszka Radwanska's loss was a big surprise, but no one really believed the Pole was going to challenge for the title at Roland Garros and there is no doubt that Simona Halep would have been a well backed player to come out of the bottom half of the draw. Her surprising defeat makes Maria Sharapova a strong favourite to reach her fourth consecutive French Open Final, although the Russian has a tough Third Round match against an in-form Sam Stosur to negotiate.

Halep's exit was most unexpected, especially at this early stage of the Grand Slam, but the other contenders in the bottom halves of both men's and women's draws made it through to the Third Round. On Thursday it will be the turn of the top half of the draws to take centre stage and there are some big names out on the courts who will be looking to ease their way through to the next Round and preserve some energy to do that.


During the middle of Wednesday my picks went on a 0-4 run, but fortunately the others managed to finish 3-0 to at least limit the losses on the day. That is the second losing day in a row which is a disappointment, especially as Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer both had chances to win their matches comfortably but failed to do so.  However the two winning days have made up for it although now I want to get back to picking winners on a consistent basis.


Marin Cilic - 8.5 games v Andrea Arnaboldi: It was an impressive First Round win for Marin Cilic over Robin Haase, although the latter hasn't really played well at the top level all season. Even taking that into consideration, Cilic was a very comfortable winner as he served very well and used his return to set up plenty of opportunities on the Haase serve.

That was a good solid win for Cilic, but I have to give Andrea Arnaboldi real praise for coming back from two sets down, and match point down, to beat James Duckworth in five sets. This is off the back of going the distance in the qualifiers, although it also means the Italian has spent a lot of time on court recently and has to be battling fatigue.

His confidence should see Arnaboldi through the early stages of this Second Round match, but Cilic will put him under a lot more pressure than Duckworth managed in the last Round. Cilic likes to be very aggressive on return and Arnaboldi is going to have to serve very well to give himself a chance of upsetting the US Open Champion.

It's just hard to imagine Arnaboldi can raise his level to match what Cilic is able to bring to the court and I think the Croatian will prove too good for him. Unlike the match against Duckworth, Cilic won't let Arnaboldi off the hook if he gets him down and I think he ends up coming through with a 75, 63, 62 win.


Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: Easily one of the more intriguing Second Round matches is the one between these two Spaniards which is scheduled to be the second match on the Philippe-Chatrier Court.

Nicolas Almagro produced a really high quality match against Novak Djokovic in Rome which suggested that he is almost back to his top level after his return from injury. However this is a different mental challenge for Almagro as he takes on Rafael Nadal who has dominated their head to head although Almagro did beat him for the first time on the professional Tour just over twelve months ago.

Unfortunately for Almagro, he is yet to really give Nadal the same kind of test in their two previous matches this season and I am not sure he has the 'belief' he can beat the player who has dominated these courts for a decade. Nadal is arguably at his most vulnerable coming into the French Open, but he will be well aware of what Almagro is going to try on the court and I expect Nadal to wear him down.

I can see one set being really competitive, but Nadal could break the spirit of Almagro by taking that set and then pull away in the match. That happened in their Quarter Final here in 2012, although Almagro might be more interested in a very close Quarter Final they played in Paris in 2010.

I just don't think Almagro is playing at that level and I think Rafael Nadal is going to have a little too much for him in a 75, 63, 63 win.


Bernard Tomic + 3.5 games v Thanasi Kokkinakis: These two are amongst the leading lights of Australian men's tennis alongside Nick Kyrgios and that will add a little extra spice to a Second Round Grand Slam match. I am not suggesting there is any animosity between Bernard Tomic and Thanasi Kokkinakis, but tennis such an individual sport that both will want to prove they are the better 'hope' for the future of Australian men's tennis.

You can see the extra fire this match up has given Bernard Tomic in his two wins over Kokkinakis earlier this season and that is understandable with Tomic a couple of years older. For a long time it looked like Tomic was going to replace Lleyton Hewitt as the flag-bearer for Australia, but the arrival of Kokkinakis and Kyrgios will have put his nose slightly out of joint.

The actual match up is quite a good one with Tomic comfortable playing on the defensive, but also with the firepower to turn rallies around, while Kokkinakis has a big all around game.

The clay courts are unlikely to be the favoured surface of either of these players going forward, but I think Tomic has the better movement which should aid him in this match. He will have to serve well to match up with Kokkinakis and put pressure on his younger compatriot, but I do feel there is every chance Tomic wins this match outright.

However I do respect the fact that Kokkinakis did a lot more winning on the clay courts than Tomic over the last couple of months so I will take the games and look for a close and competitive match throughout.


Andy Murray - 9.5 games v Joao Sousa: Andy Murray is playing very aggressively on the clay courts and he will feel very confident in his Second Round match against Joao Sousa. As well as Sousa played in reaching the Final in Geneva last week the level of competition goes up tenfold in this Second Round for him and he has to block out previous memories of playing Murray to give himself any chance.

This is the sixth time Murray and Sousa will play each other, albeit first time on the clay courts, and Murray hasn't just won the matches but has generally won them very comfortably. That includes two thumping wins at the Australian Open and Dubai earlier this season and there won't be a lot that Sousa can do to turn that around except maybe hope Murray is not 100% focused.

It is hard to think of a reason that Murray won't be focused as he knows he needs to keep plenty in the tank for bigger matches that he will have to play later in the tournament. He won't be at all intimidated by the Sousa serve and Murray will believe his added aggression coupled with his defensive skills will see him extract enough unforced errors from the Sousa game to go along with his winners in another dominating win.

Sousa will be confident on his favourite surface after his run to the Final in Geneva, but this is all about Murray for me. If Murray remains focused on the task at hand, I can only see another strong win for him against Sousa as he moves through 61, 64, 63.


David Ferrer - 9.5 games v Daniel Gimeno-Traver: In the early Rounds of a Grand Slam, the leading contenders for the title love to have an opportunity to play themselves into the tournament. That means the draw is one they appreciate when they are matched with opponents that they know well enough to anticipate much of what they will do on the court.

That is the case for David Ferrer as he takes on his compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver in this Second Round match and he was an impressive winner in the First Round. The chances of Ferrer winning the title at Roland Garros are very slim these days, but he has gone deep in the tournaments played on the clay in preparation for this event and is still good enough to trouble the best players.

Gimeno-Traver had a strong First Round win, but his game will suit Ferrer down to the ground as he doesn't have any overpowering weapons to intimidate the latter. The serve is little more than a rally starter and Ferrer should be able to get his teeth into plenty of return games.

The one concern with a spread of this size has to be Ferrer's tendency to throw in sloppy service games of his own these days, but I see him out-working Gimeno-Traver and wearing him down the longer the match goes on. It could be a tight couple of sets in there for Ferrer to get through, but I also expect a big set for him in a 63, 62, 63 win.


Simone Bolelli v Victor Troicki: Simone Bolelli has already been beaten twice by Victor Troicki in 2015, but he has to believe the move to the clay courts will favour him and the layers tend to agree. I also believe the Italian is the more likely winner of this competitive looking Second Round match, although I hope Bolelli has steered clear of Doubles partner Fabio Fognini who has been suffering from an illness.

It was supposedly food poisoning that affected Fognini in his Second Round loss to Benoit Paire so I guess I should simply hope Bolelli didn't eat the same meal as his friend.

If he is healthy, I think Bolelli is the better clay court player of these two players with his confidence in the movement required on the surface giving him an edge. Victor Troicki has liked the match up against Bolelli, but he shouldn't get as many free points behind serve as he had in the first two matches they played against each other on a slower surface.

Prior to the Rome Masters, Troicki had really been struggling to get his game right on the clay courts too and I do believe Bolelli is the more comfortable player on the surface. It won't be easy for the Italian who can struggle to cope mentally at times, but I think is stronger pedigree on this surface will help him come through in what may need to be four or five sets.


Andrea Petkovic - 5.5 games v Lourdes Domingues Lino: An injury last week in Nuremberg saw Andrea Petkovic pull out of the tournament during her Second Round match, but it looks like it was a precautionary move after a strong First Round win in Paris.

The thigh injury she suffered will still be sore and that is what Lourdes Dominguez Lino will be looking to exploit having been fortunate to get through her First Round match against Christina McHale. Dominguez Lino saved two match points in that win and also benefited from an injury McHale suffered in the final set and the veteran will look to wear down her opponent in this one too.

The big question in the match is how fit Petkovic is going to be having suffered that injury last week in a home tournament, but if she is good to go after her own win over Shelby Rogers I would favour her to win this one fairly comfortably. As well as Dominguez Lino battled in her win in the last Round, her second serve is a real weakness and that is an area that Petkovic can exploit.

Petkovic won't win this match with the double bagel she put on Dominguez Lino on the clay courts of Charleston last season, but she should be too strong assuming she is fit. The pressure she puts on the Dominguez Lino serve should lead to a 63, 62 kind of win.


Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 games v Francesca Schiavone: No one on the WTA Tour will appreciate being called a 'veteran' but that is the status that should be afforded to both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone who meet for the fifteenth time on the Tour. However the last match was six years ago and both players are not performing at the same level as those days.

Out of the two players, Kuznetsova is still producing some solid tennis albeit inconsistently. The clay courts remain a surface she is very comfortable on as she showed by reaching the Final in Madrid as Kuznetsova had some impressive victories under her belt.

That is a world away from Schiavone who is dropping down the Rankings and doesn't look like she has a lot left in terms of a Singles career. The Italian is a former French Open Champion and reached the Final in consecutive years in Paris, but Schiavone had lost 4 of 5 matches on the clay courts before recovering from a set down to come through her First Round match.

The consistency has gone from her game and Schiavone doesn't have the same athleticism as a few years ago when her movement could hide her lack of power on the court. Schiavone will have some success in this match against Kuznetsova because the latter can be highly inconsistent too, but I think the Russian proves to be a little too good at this stage of their career.

Schiavone and Kuznetsova may split some breaks early in the match, but eventually I look for Kuznetsova to battle through to a 64, 62 win.


Heather Watson + 4.5 games v Sloane Stephens: Sloane Stephens had a really poor start to the 2015 season, but there have been plenty of signs that she is ready to turn things around. The talent is clearly there when the American is on the court, but I think the focus leaves a lot to be desired while Stephens can also get highly agitated and frustrated when things aren't going perfectly.

Those emotions could really be exploited by someone like Heather Watson who is capable of very good defensive plays and forcing Stephens to hit one extra ball than she would like. It might be the real reason Watson has a stunning 4-0 head to head record against Stephens including a comprehensive win over her on the way to the title in Hobart to open the season.

It has been a really underwhelming clay court season for Watson though which would concern me in relation to her chances of improving that head to head record. She has lost matches she shouldn't be losing, and Watson will need to be at her very best to keep on top of Stephens in this Second Round match.

I do think Watson can force Stephens into enough mistakes to take a set though which makes this number of games very appealing, although Watson is also capable of throwing an absolute stinker of a set. If Watson can frustrate Stephens and get her talking to herself and focusing on everything but the next point, there is a chance the upset comes in, but I will simply look for the British Number 1 to keep this competitive.

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic - 8.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic + 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Stan James (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 9.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Simone Bolelli @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Andrea Petkovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Heather Watson + 4.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

French Open Update: 16-9, + 11.90 Units (50 Units Staked, + 23.8% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Europa League Final 2015- Dnipro v Sevilla (Wednesday 27th May 2015)

The defending Champions of the Europa League have managed to negotiate another tricky draw to return to the Final which is played in Warsaw on Wednesday evening, and Sevilla will be a big favourite to win the title and earn their place in the Champions League next season.

While Sevilla were always amongst the favourites to win the Europa League, their opponents have had something of a Cinderella story to reach the Final as Dnipro beat favoured opposition in each of the knock out stages of the competition. The Semi Final win over Napoli was arguably the biggest surprise as Dnipro showed off all of their defensive steel to beat the Italians 2-1 on aggregate.

The Europa League Final of recent years has been a really competitive contest and it will be interesting to see the attack of Sevilla versus the defence of Dnipro to see who comes out on top.



Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
It had already been a special season for Dnipro in European football as they surpassed their club's previous best of a Quarter Final appearance before surprisingly knocking out Napoli to reach the Final of the Europa League in Warsaw. Not many would have picked Dnipro to reach the Final ahead of Napoli, while the club have won less than half of their games in this competition but still managed to reach the last stage.

This will be a familiar position for Dnipro as there won't be too many people outside of their locker room that feels they can win the Europa League against the defending Champions. That lack of confidence is likely to be underlined by the fact that Dnipro produced their winning performances at home and actually won just 1 of 8 games outside of the Ukraine in the Europa League.

Dnipro will be looking at this as a big chance for their team to earn a spot in the Champions League as they go into the final weekend of the Ukrainian season 2 points behind Shakhtar Donetsk for one of those positions. They did beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 at home last weekend, but that was only their second win in their last 6 games in all competitions. Dnipro have won none of their last 3 away games in all competitions.





Sevilla
This is the final week of the season for Sevilla who began it with two chances to reach the Champions League next season- the first of those was extinguished in the Spanish top flight on Saturday despite Sevilla's 2-3 win at Malaga and now their only chance to get to eat at the main table in European football will be if they retain the Europa League they won on penalties last season.

The form in the Europa League certainly makes Sevilla the favourites to win on Wednesday in Warsaw as they won 8 of their last 9 ties in the competition. That included a comfortable 5-0 win over Fiorentina in the Semi Final and the experience of winning the Europa League last year could also play a big part in dealing with nerves and any doubts that the Sevilla players may feel.

Sevilla's form in the Europa League is one thing, but they have also only lost 1 of their last 21 games in all competitions and go into the Final having won 4 of their last 5 games since that defeat to Real Madrid at home. They are not afraid of playing away from home either as Sevilla have won 3 of their last 4 away games in all competitions and are unbeaten in 11 games on their travels.





Prediction
Winning a big European trophy will obviously create some tension, but adding the Champions League as a prize for the winner might only make this more of a nervy Final than usual. The Europa League Final has been closely fought in recent years and this has all the makings of another closely run contest between two teams that perhaps like to play their football in different ways.

Dnipro have ground their way through to the Final even though they have won less than half of their Europa League games. They have looked to sit on a solid foundation which makes them hard to beat, but they also have some players capable of producing a moment of magic at the other end of the field which has led to a number of 1-0 wins at home.

On the other hand, Sevilla will look to play some attacking football and keep their opponent on the back foot so the styles should gel. Sevilla will be feeling the pressure having failed to finish in the top four in Spain last weekend and being the favourites means the expectation is greater than even last year when they faced Benfica who were considered more on the same level as the Spanish side.

This time most will believe Sevilla are clearly the better team and that expectation can force mistakes or nerves to play a real part in the Final. You would think Sevilla will be tough to pull back if they score first as a chasing Dnipro side could be caught on the counter-attack.

Then again, a first goal for Dnipro would mean the Ukrainian team can sit back and constrict the space that Sevilla will want to thrive upon.

These attack versus defence games can be intriguing to watch, but the tension will only increase as the game goes on if we don't get to see an early goal. The Europa League Finals have seen 3 of the last 6 go into extra time including last season when Sevilla needed penalties to see off Benfica. If you consider the Chelsea Europa League Final win in 2013 also came courtesy of a 93rd minute winner for the Blues, you can appreciate that these Finals tend to be very close.

I can see this one going along the same lines as Sevilla try to produce something magical to win the game- both teams might just play a little more cautious if this one is level with twenty minutes to go and it might take time to break down the other. I think Sevilla are the more likely winners, but they might have to wear down Dnipro over 120 minutes and wait for the victory for the second season in a row.

Backing the Spanish club to win this one in extra time looks a big price and worthy of a small interest.

MY EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL PICK: Sevilla Win in Extra Time @ 9.00 William Hill (1 Unit)

May Update10-18, - 11.46 Units (52 Units Staked, - 22.04% Yield)

April Final18-27-1, - 14.29 Units (83 Units Staked, - 17.22% 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 2014/15148-189-5, - 9.86 Units (592 Units Staked, - 1.67% 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)

French Open Day 4 Picks 2015 (May 27th)

The start to the tournament in Roland Garros has been very good for the picks, but Tuesday felt like a much worse day than it actually was when you look back with the results in front of you.

The day went 2-3 for the picks made, but there is a feeling that the tournament owes me a bit of luck now after two of the three losing picks got to match point, which would have seen them also cover the handicap, but both failed to take that chance and actually lost the match.

I can't remember the last time I have had a player get to match point and fail to win, let alone two of those occurrences on the same day and it was quite remarkable at the similarities in both James Duckworth's and Christina McHale's losses.

Both had yet to drop a set when they got to match point and both missed that chance before ultimately losing that set in a tie-breaker. Both Duckworth and McHale were then serving first in the deciding set and simply needed to win that set which would have also produced a cover of the handicap,

This is where there were a couple of differences as James Duckworth completely went away having lost back to back tie-breakers to book his place in the Second Round, while Christina McHale went 2-0 up but hurt herself at that point and ultimately came up short in a tight deciding set.


Despite the strong three days at the French Open, both of those losing picks are highly frustrating and I do feel I could have had a much stronger start. You have to clear your mind and start again though rather than feeling you need to 'chase' winners you should have had and that is why I also took a couple of extra hours before looking at the schedule for Wednesday and creating my list of picks.

It has still been a strong tournament start so that is the positive mindset that I am holding onto as the Second Round gets underway with the draw now split in half as traditionally for the rest of the way.

The bottom halves of both men's and women's events get the start of the Second Round and will be played through Wednesday.


Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Marcel Granollers: He might not be the force of old, but Roger Federer is still among the leading contenders at Grand Slam events even if he is perhaps more vulnerable over the best of five sets than he has been since before winning his first Slam at Wimbledon in 2003.

He is also not the dominant force of old that could easily brush aside opponents in the early Rounds of tournaments, so it might be a surprise that I am looking for him to cover a large spread against Marcel Granollers.

The obvious talking point from Federer's First Round win over Alejandro Falla was his criticism of the lack of security at Roland Garros, but his performance on the court was perhaps under-appreciated against an opponent who has regularly troubled Federer. Aside from not taking more of the chances he created, Federer looked in strong form to take into this Second Round match.

The match up with Marcel Granollers shouldn't make Federer will uncomfortable as the Spaniard doesn't have too many big weapons to trouble the former World Number 1. The first serve can be effective at times, but Granollers will give Federer chances and I don't think the latter will be taxed by the situations he sees on the court.

Matches between them have been regulation wins for Federer including a thumping at the US Open last summer, and Granollers has taken many a thumping during this clay court season. His serve can give Federer the chance for at least one set with a double break and that should give him a routine 63, 62, 64 kind of win.


Juan Monaco - 4.5 games v Teymuraz Gabashvili: Juan Monaco made his First Round win over Federico Delbonis far more difficult than it perhaps should have been, but he has had time to get ready for his Second Round match. He might have expected to see Feliciano Lopez here, but Teymuraz Gabashvili had other ideas in a straight sets First Round win and is a more dangerous customer than his Number 74 World Ranking may suggest.

The problem Gabashvili has had is turning his form from the Challenger circuit into consistent results at the main ATP level, but he has plenty of talent and shot-making ability. The serve is also a decent weapon when Gabashvili finds a rhythm on it and Monaco will do well to focus completely on his opponent.

The good thing for Monaco fans is that this is a player that does give his all every time he goes onto the court, even if he can sometimes struggle in his role as a front-runner. Managing his mental state is always a big question mark for Monaco who can get edgy when closing in on a win, but his talent on a clay court should give him the edge in this match.

Monaco will look to force Gabashvili into some deep rallies and the conditions in Paris did make the court slower on Tuesday which would be to the Argentinian's favour. Grinding down Gabashvili will be the key for Monaco, although he could easily drop a set in this one too on the talent level the former has alone.

Even in that situation, I think Monaco will be too good and come through with a 63, 36, 64, 63 win.


Kei Nishikori - 6.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: This could have the makings of a really difficult test for Kei Nishikori, but I think Thomaz Bellucci could struggle having won the title in Geneva last week. Winning a title will give him confidence on his favourite surface, but the Brazilian will also have to fight the fatigue factor against an opponent that can get plenty of balls back in play and force players to have to dig deep into long, drawn out rallies.

There were some decent wins for Bellucci in Geneva last week, but none against a player of the level of Nishikori who is also very comfortable on the clay. Bellucci might have won their only previous match, but that was eight years ago and suffice to say that Nishikori is much improved these days.

I don't think anything I have said should have you under-estimating what Bellucci can produce when he is confident- this is a player that took a set off of Novak Djokovic on the clay courts of Rome, while Bellucci's lefty serve might also need some time for Nishikori to decipher.

However, Bellucci's fitness levels could be an issue as could his tendency to make a host of errors when feeling the pace mentally. That has seen him drop some sets with a couple of breaks of serve over the last six weeks and that should give Nishikori a chance to weather the storm and finally break down Bellucci in a 46, 63, 64, 62 win.


Fabio Fognini - 5.5 games v Benoit Paire: Two of the characters of the ATP Tour meet in the Second Round and this could be a match with plenty of flashy shots coupled in with some of the most ridiculous tennis you are likely to see over the next two weeks. Shot selection isn't always the strong point of either Fabio Fognini or Benoit Paire who seem happier trying to impress the watching crowd than thinking of the percentage play.

That might be a little harsh on Fabio Fognini who has been one of the better clay court players on the entire Tour over the last eighteen months. His biggest issue might be mentally as he won't just be playing Paire, but a partisan French crowd that won't be impressed by any of Fognini's antics.

The form of the two players will only point to one winner, but Fognini is an erratic player who might get too involved with the crowd to remain focused. Benoit Paire has a decent first serve which can help him put the pressure on the Italian, but he is also someone who mentally struggles under pressure and will be forced to play more balls than he would like.

With the way both players can check out of matches at times, this should go at least four sets, but I think Fabio Fognini works his way past the crowd and Paire with a 36, 64, 61, 64 win.


Pablo Andujar + 4.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: This is a tougher Second Round match to predict than the layers seem to think as I do think Pablo Andujar is being under-rated against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Some of that may have come from the fact that Kohlschreiber was such a comfortable First Round winner, but Andujar wasn't overly threatened either in a much tougher match. They have both had similar clay court results over the last couple of months but it is Andujar who has had the more impressive victories in that time.

Wins over David Ferrer and Fabio Fognini show what Pablo Andujar is capable of on the clay courts and I think the Spaniard can give Kohlschreiber plenty to think about. I do believe Kohlschreiber is the better player on other surfaces, but I am not convinced that is the case on the clay courts and there is every chance the upset lands in this Second Round match.

There is every chance this match goes the distance too and I think Andujar is getting one too many games here and I will back him to make this a really competitive match, one he might be able to sneak the victory out of.


Lucie Safarova - 5.5 games v Kurumi Nara: After winning the title in Doha earlier this season, Lucie Safarova would have come into the clay court season with a high expectation of success. However she has not really been able to match that performance in the Middle East that took her to the title, although Safarova showed her ability on the slower surfaces with an impressive and hard fought win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the First Round.

The match up with Kurumi Nara should be one that suits Safarova down to the ground as there won't be a lot that the Nara can bring to the court to intimidate the latter. Safarova has a decent serve which should set up the rallies to her liking as she can bring her aggression forward, while Nara will give her chances to break serve as long as Safarova is returning as effectively as she can.

You have to be the aggressor on the clay courts to be really successful and that is where Nara can struggle as she prefers using the pace of her opponents and making a lot of balls back in play. That won't really cut it if Safarova is on form and Nara has had a hard time on the clay courts over the last eighteen months aside from a successful time in Rio De Janeiro in February 2014.

A good serving day for Safarova should keep her in front on the scoreboard and help her eventually wear down Nara in a 64, 62 win.


Elena Vesnina - 2.5 games v Polona Hercog: Polona Hercog had an easy First Round match as Shuai Peng struggled to deal with her injuries and eventually had to pull out of the match having lost eight games in a row. Hercog has to be hoping that she can take advantage of any fatigue Elena Vesnina may be feeling having had to dig deep to beat Kirsten Flipkens in the First Round, although there has been plenty of rest for her ahead of this Second Round commencing.

Prior to the win over Peng, Hercog had been struggling on the clay courts and she will have to better if she is to beat Vesnina who has put together some wins over the last six weeks.

It has been a hit and miss season for Vesnina- she has produced the goods on the Doubles Tour, but the Singles has been something of a let down although some wins recently might have restored confidence.

This should be a tight match though between two players who like to get on the front foot and play aggressive tennis and it may come down to who is having a better day serving. Aggressive returning will also be a key to the successful outcome for one of these players and I think Vesnina's recent wins will give her the stronger mental belief.

That might be the difference in a match that could easily go the distance as I look for Vesnina to knuckle down at crunch times to come through 63, 46, 64.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Juan Monaco - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 6.5 Games @ 1.90 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Andujar + 4.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Elena Vesnina - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 13-5, + 14.58 Units (36 Units Staked, + 40.5% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

French Open Day 3 Picks 2015 (May 26th)

The final First Round matches, which are scheduled over three days at the French Open, will be played on Tuesday as the tournament will begin to take a more familiar feel. You can read the outright picks I have made from the French Open which can be read here.

Tuesday is a great day for the spectators, especially those who will be viewing action on the Philippe-Chatrier Court as the two men's favourites and the women's favourite all begin their charge to the title. Once Petra Kvitova concludes her match, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will all begin their tournament and there will be plenty of attention to see how those players deal with the pressure and expectations on them.


It has been a very good tournament for the picks in the opening two days as they have gone 11-2 during that time. Of course this is a long two weeks and I don't think it is even close to the time to start patting myself on the back, although I have to say I am pleased with a positive start to the second Grand Slam of the season.

Things can quickly change if losing focus coupled with some bad luck so the key is to try and remain clear in the thinking and try and find the right match ups that have been wrongly set in the markets.


Julia Goerges - 2.5 games v Coco Vandeweghe: Neither of these players will be expected to challenge deep into the second week of this Grand Slam, while the lower Ranked Julia Goerges is favoured to beat Coco Vandeweghe. Goerges certainly looks like a player that might already have had her best days on the WTA Tour, but she does seem the more comfortable on the clay courts which should give her a big advantage in this First Round match.

It has been another poor season for Vandeweghe on the clay courts in Europe, but she will be expecting bigger things for herself when the Tour moves onto the grass courts and especially when it moves back to the North American hard courts ahead of the US Open.

There is a real issue for Vandeweghe when it comes to movement on the red dirt, although she can't be underestimated having pushed Petra Kvitova into a third set in Madrid. However I am not sure she has the confidence on the surface even if Julia Goerges is another inconsistent player that can throw in too many unforced errors from out of nowhere.

Aside from Madrid, it has been a poor clay court season for Goerges too, although she has had a slightly stronger season than Vandeweghe. There will be a lot of momentum changes in this match though as both players have a chance to break serve and this is likely to go into a third set. However, it is the German who I believe is happier on the clay courts and can battle to a 63, 36, 63 win and a place in the Second Round.


Timea Bacsinszky - 4.5 games v Lara Arruabarrena: Timea Bacsinszky has had a very strong 2015 season which would have erased the doubts that almost saw her quit her professional tennis career. While Bacsinszky could be a real threat in tournaments through the year, the clay courts are probably her worst surface and it would be a real surprise for her to go deep in the draw at the French Open.

This is also a tougher First Round draw against Lara Arruabarrena than it may initially seem on first glance, especially as the Spaniard is very confident on the clay courts being from that nation.

Arruabarrena has had a decent clay court season and has been beaten by some of the best players on the Tour while also reaching the Semi Final in Nuremberg last week. She also lost a close match at the French Open last season and she will give Bacsinszky some problems with her ability on this surface.

Bacsinszky had to qualify for Roland Garros last season and was barely beaten by Carla Suarez Navarro and it shows how good her last twelve months have been as she comes in as a Seed this time around. She should be the tougher player mentally with the form she has displayed in 2015 and I believe Bacsinszky will eventually have too much for Arruabarrena in a narrow 75, 63 win.


Christina McHale - 3.5 games v Lourdes Dominguez Lino: Coming through the qualifiers will make Lourdes Dominguez Lino a very dangerous First Round opponent for Christina McHale, especially as the Spaniard should be more accustomed to the clay courts than McHale. Dominguez Lino is now Ranked outside the World Top 100 and she spends the majority of her time playing in clay court tournaments.

In fact Dominguez Lino has a winning record on the clay courts over the last three seasons and the veteran will believe she has a very good chance to win this match. However, McHale has also been producing some good stuff on the red dirt and doesn't mind playing on the slower surface unlike many of her American compatriots.

It hasn't been a great 2015 season for McHale, but she has at least shown some flashes of form in good runs in Madrid and Rome while preparing for the French Open. She will also have some good intel from her fellow American players like Lauren Davis and Alexa Glatch who have beaten Dominguez Lino over the last couple of months on clay courts.

McHale will have to serve well to keep the rallies under her own control because she will get chances to break the Dominguez Lino serve. If McHale can do that, I can see her battling past the veteran Spaniard with a 64, 64 win.


James Duckworth - 2.5 games v Andrea Arnaboldi: With the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal beginning their French Open campaign, matches like this in the First Round will be lucky to get anything more than a result flashing across the screen or result pages on the internet.

That is unless something special happens in the match, for example something like what happened in Andrea Arnaboldi's second qualifier which needed 52 games to be played in the final set before the Italian moved through. Arnaboldi will be glad his First Round match was left for the Tuesday after all three qualifiers went the distance including that tough match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

It was perhaps a surprise that Arnaboldi qualified for the main draw here in Roland Garros considering his lack of real form over the last couple of months on the clay courts. Coupled with the physical fatigue he has to be feeling even with a couple of days of rest should give James Duckworth every chance of progressing to the Second Round.

Duckworth is perhaps suited to other surfaces, but he reached the Quarter Final in Nice last week and has been more consistent than Arnaboldi at a similar level of competition over the last couple of months. He'll have to try and cut out the unforced errors that blighted him in the loss to Borna Coric in Nice, but Duckworth might also have been given confidence by what has looked faster clay courts than usual in Paris.

That helps Duckworth because he does like finishing points at the net and he could take away some time from Arnaboldi when he feels he wants to get forward. It might be wise to test Arnaboldi physically too by keeping the rallies going and Duckworth should have a great chance of progressing if he can control the unforced errors. It might go four sets, but that shouldn't affect his chances to cover this spread too and I like Duckworth to do that.


Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v Jack Sock: I think Jack Sock could have a really good grass court campaign this year as he seems to have got a hold of his game with some good performances in 2015. However, I am not sure he is going to have enough on the clay courts to give Grigor Dimitrov another surprise loss at Roland Garros.

Dimitrov, like Sock, looks a player who would enjoy the faster surfaces more than the clay courts, but he has had plenty of success outside of Paris to be disappointed with his record here. The Bulgarian has never surpassed the Third Round at the French Open and has twice been beaten in the First Round in four visits which includes a huge surprise defeat to Ivo Karlovic last season.

This entire season has been something of a disappointment for Dimitrov heading into the second Grand Slam of the season, but I can see him coming through a really tight first set before pulling away from Jack Sock in this match. The American does have a big serve and a forehand that can get a lot of spin going on a surface like this, but Sock can't really hide the limited backhand on the slower courts.

That will be where Dimitrov will be focusing to find the short ball to take control of rallies and going to the Sock backhand is an easy 'get out of jail free card' that can be played under pressure. While Sock can hide that on the faster surfaces with quick-fire tennis, it's harder for him to do that on the clay courts and it doesn't surprise me he comes in on a three match losing run.

For the most part Sock has been very competitive, but the best of five set situation will give Dimitrov a chance to cover this spread because I can see him producing at least one 61 or 62 kind of set. As long as Dimitrov doesn't get frustrated, which he has shown signs of as his game has struggled to come together in 2015 on a consistent basis, I think he can win this one 76, 62, 64.

MY PICKS: Julia Goerges - 2.5 Games @ 1.87 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Christina McHale - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
James Duckworth - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

French Open Update: 11-2, + 17.24 Units (26 Units Staked, + 66.31% Yield)

Monday, 25 May 2015

French Open Day 2 Picks 2015 (May 25th)

The French Open has started very positively for the picks, but you can still read the outright picks I made here.


While there weren't many upsets or truly entertaining matches on Sunday, the biggest talking points both came out of the top two Swiss male players in the world who both comfortably won their First Round matches. However neither Roger Federer nor Stan Wawrinka were impressed with the tournament organisers and made their feelings clear in their press conferences following their wins.

Roger Federer was stunned to see someone manage to get on the court for the second time in two days as he was asked for a 'selfie' and he had a lot to say about the lack of security. I can understand exactly where Federer is coming from as he should be free to concentrate on working without fearing someone will get onto court and the French Open should be disgusted especially in light of what happened to Monica Seles twenty years ago.

The last thing anyone would want to see is a repeat of that situation and the French Open should be roundly criticised for allowing this to happen on consecutive days on their main court.


Stan Wawrinka concentrated more on an article that had been placed on the Roland Garros website making a note of his recent personal troubles and he wasn't holding back as to what he wanted to see happen to the 'journalist' who wrote the piece.


A controversial start to the second Grand Slam of the 2015 season, but it was a positive one for the picks which went 4-1 on Sunday although I would never have guessed the one losing pick would have been Steve Johnson beating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez outright. Hopefully the start to this week can be built upon in the next two weeks as Monday continues the First Round action.


Juan Monaco v Federico Delbonis: I did consider picking Juan Monaco to cover the 1.5 game handicap, which would also protect you from any injury withdrawal that Juan Monaco could potentially have. I decided against that simply because there wasn't a noticeable price difference between picking Juan Monaco to win straight up or to cover the games, but I am clear that I believe he should come through in this battle of two Argentinians on their favourite surface.

Juan Monaco has shown more consistency on the European clay courts than Federico Delbonis over the last six weeks, although Delbonis had a welcome return to form having reached the Final in Geneva last week. Delbonis has won a Challenger tournament in that time too, but failed to qualify for either the Madrid or Rome Masters and this is the level that Monaco has been winning games in.

It can be frustrating backing Monaco simply because he can be something of a choker under the pressure of expectation when he comes close to winning matches. He has allowed opponents back into matches when Monaco should be closing them out, while Delbonis did beat Monaco comfortably on the clay courts last season.

However, Delbonis can be moved around by someone like Monaco and the latter can win this match if he can prevent Delbonis teeing off from the baseline. That can happen by keeping Delbonis on the move and this match will be decided in a couple of tight sets which may go either way. I just feel Monaco is the better player and he is slightly overpriced to win this match and I will look for him to progress to the Second Round.


Fernando Verdasco - 7.5 games v Taro Daniel: Taro Daniel has come through the qualifiers which can make him a dangerous First Round opponent for Fernando Verdasco who is certainly not the same player as a few years ago. The Spaniard is still capable of having runs in Grand Slams as Verdasco is very comfortable in a best of five set match and feels he can out-last others, but he can also be erratic which can give Daniel a chance.

With that erraticism in mind, this might initially seem like a lot of games for Verdasco to cover, but Daniel doesn't usually play at the same level as the Spaniard.

Daniel was comfortably beaten by Nicolas Almagro in Casablanca and he has the kind of serve that will offer Verdasco chances to get a double break in a single set. Verdasco himself will give Daniel some chances as he likes to go for his shots and can give away silly points when perhaps pushing too hard, but I think his power will eventually wear down what Daniel can do.

As I have said before, any qualifier has to be respected with three wins behind them and Daniel has done a lot of winning at the Challenger level. However, I think Verdasco will come through a tight first set and then pull away in a 75, 63, 63 win and a cover of a big number of games.


Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: How weird is it to call Aljaz Bedene the British Number 2? But that is what Bedene is having won a Challenger in Rome and he also reached the Quarter Final in the main draw in Casablanca so confidence could be high that he can make an impact in the French Open by upsetting Dominic Thiem.

That won't be easy as Thiem won his first main Tour title in Nice last week and has reached a career-high Number 31 coming into the French Open. He is considered one of the top talents on the ATP Tour and Thiem has always called the clay courts his favourite surface so it made sense he won his first title on this surface.

This could actually be one of the more fun matches to watch on Monday as both players will look to play their shots, but I think the edge has to go to Thiem who should have a little more from the baseline. Thiem can sometimes be erratic when it comes to protecting his serve, but I think he will put plenty of pressure on Bedene's serve too and he should have the edge as long as he remains focused on the task at hand.

It will be fun to watch however long it lasts, but Thiem can cover even in a four set win.


Tommy Robredo - 5.5 games v Andrey Golubev: Andrey Golubev has entered the main draw at Roland Garros as a Lucky Loser and he will be hoping that his two wins in qualifiers from the three matches played will give him a chance to beat Tommy Robredo on his favoured surface. Golubev will look to take advantage of any match rustiness that Robredo displays after he returns to competitive action for the first time since Barcelona last month.

It will be difficult for Golubev to beat Robredo if the latter is ready to go in Paris and not being troubled by any kind of injury. The match up looks a good one for Robredo as he should be able to extract plenty of errors from the Golubev game as the rallies are extended and the Spaniard remains one of the fittest players on the Tour.

The Robredo serve can be a weakness so Golubev will feel he can have some chances to break and get himself involved in the match, but he has struggled to really perform on the main Tour over the last few seasons. Golubev is also more suited to the faster surfaces and I think that all comes together in this First Round match to see Tommy Robredo move through to the Second Round.

There is a real chance this match needs to go at least four sets, but I think Robredo can earn a double break in one of the sets to move through with a 46, 64, 62, 64 win.


Borna Coric v Sam Querrey: Borna Coric is another young player on the ATP Tour that is expected to be part of the next generation that will challenge for Grand Slam titles and perhaps reach the World Number 1 status. He has begun to make a real impact on the Tour already at 18 years old and Coric comes to Paris having reached the Semi Final in Nice last week.

Admittedly this might not be the surface that suits Coric prefers, but two of his best performances on the Tour have come in clay court events and I was perhaps a little surprised to see him as the underdog to Sam Querrey in this First Round match.

It is an intriguing contest as Querrey has the serve that can frustrate opponents, but he is not a comfortable performer on the clay courts and is just 4-8 in previous matches in Paris. The American has struggled on the European clay courts during the last month and Querrey is probably already looking forward to getting onto the grass courts.

The serve makes this a more difficult match to predict as Querrey could frustrate Coric whose own serve is still developing and will give the American chances to break. However, I think Coric has an edge in terms of movement and rallying from the baseline and I believe he extracts enough mistakes from Querrey to move into the Second Round as the underdog.


Adrian Mannarino - 3.5 games v Jurgen Melzer: I did have a couple of second thoughts about this pick because of Adrian Mannarino's poor 1-6 record at his home Grand Slam and his general struggles on the clay courts where he can't use the pace his opponents are bring to turn things around on them.

Over the clay court season, Mannarino has won just 1 of 5 matches so you can understand my concerns, although I think the First Round match against Jurgen Melzer is the kind of match the Frenchman would have hoped for.

A few years ago I would have made Melzer a big favourite to win this kind of match, but he has really slipped down the World Rankings and looks to be coming to the end of a decent career. Melzer has had a poor 2015 season and you could see the lack of confidence in his own game in his defeat to Joao Sousa last week in Geneva.

There should be plenty of breaks in this match and it would be a real surprise if it is won in straight sets, but I think Mannarino is playing at a better level than Melzer in general these days. While the clay courts are not the type of surface Mannarino enjoys, he did win his first match at Roland Garros last season and I think he can come through with a 75, 36, 63, 64 win.


Angelique Kerber - 5.5 games v Timea Babos: It has been a couple of lean seasons for Angelique Kerber having reached just one Grand Slam Quarter Final since July 2012, although the French Open has arguably been her most consistent Slam over the last four years.

The German has been producing some top quality tennis since the move to the clay courts after a poor start to 2015 and I can see why some would have tipped Kerber up as a dark horse in this tournament. She won in Stuttgart, a big clay court title, but Kerber didn't really back that up effectively in Madrid or Rome which would be a negative against her.

However, I think she will be too strong for Timea Babos in this First Round match on Monday, especially as Babos has had a tough time finding consistency on the clay courts over the last six weeks. Aside from a strong run in Marrakech,  Babos has really struggled to earn wins and will always give opponents a chance to win sets with a double break of serve.

The Kerber serve can be a little inconsistent too and she will have to do well on that front if she is to cover a big number, but I think she will find a way to do that in one set which will lead to a 64, 62 win.


Sam Stosur - 5.5 games v Madison Brengle: Sam Stosur is no longer a legitimate contender to win Grand Slam events, but the French Open may provide her best opportunity to go deep in a Slam draw again. She is a former Finalist at the French Open and winning the tournament in Strasbourg last week will have given the Australian some confidence, even if the draw didn't have the big names the one in Paris does.

Stosur can only take it a match at a time and see where that leads her and the first test is presented by Madison Brengle who has been struggling badly since reaching the Semi Final in Stuttgart. Four consecutive First Round losses coming into the French Open will have dented Brengle's confidence and I think the Stosur serve can keep her under pressure in this match.

The kick serve Stosur employs is really effective on the clay courts and that should put her in a stronger position to hold serve compared with Brengle. Setting up short points on the clay and beginning to dictate the rallies is very important, while it will also allow Stosur to protect the backhand wing which is clearly a weakness in her game.

If Stosur can serve well I would expect the scoreboard pressure to be very important in the match and allow her to wear down Brengle in a 75, 62 win.

MY PICKS: Juan Monaco @ 1.73 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tommy Robredo - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Borna Coric @ 2.10 Betway (2 Units)
Adrian Mannarino - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 5.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

French Open Update: 4-1, + 5.84 Units (10 Units Staked, + 58.4% Yield)