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United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th)

United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th 2017) If you were going to grade the 2016/17 season...

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (August 3rd)

Novak Djokovic has called an end to his 2017 season with a lingering injury, and another big name will be worrying about their own injury issues going into the next month ahead of the US Open.

Maria Sharapova has only just returned from a long lay off from injury, but she had to pull out of her Second Round match in Stanford, although the Russian insists it is only a precautionary decision. After all the hullabaloo surrounding her return from the ban imposed by the ITF, Sharapova has had a tough time in 2017 with those injuries beginning to have a toll on her.

She is likely going to have to play the Qualifiers at the US Open barring a surprising Wild Card into the main draw and Sharapova will be hoping she can be healthy for the big events in Toronto and Cincinnati upcoming. All in all it has not been the fairytale return to the Tour that some would have been expecting (remember Sharapova was the second favourite to win the French Open a few days after her return to the Tour) and she looks to be in a position where she will simply be hoping to have a few months of injury free tennis before using the off-season to recharge the batteries.


The tournaments being played this week continue on Thursday and the tennis matches are spread throughout the day with events being played in Europe and North and Central America. With the tournaments in Washington and Los Cabos having their markets prepared in the coming hours, I will begin with the two picks from Kitzbuhel before adding any picks I have from those events in Washington, Los Cabos and Stanford.


Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: It is hard to trust Fabio Fognini when you know this is a player who can blow hot and cold as much as the Italian can. Add in the fact he had a long week in Gstaad where he won the title and those factors do concern me.

He is also facing an opponent in Thomaz Bellucci who is very capable on the clay courts and who has had two solid wins already in the main draw to move into the Quarter Final. Those have come at an important time for the Brazilian who had lost nine of his last ten matches including the last seven in a row before this week.

Some of those losses have been narrow ones which may underline the lack of confidence Bellucci had to be playing with in recent weeks. However narrow losses also means it could be a big ask for Fognini to cover the number of games I am looking from him.

In saying Bellucci has lost some tight matches, I really mean by the numbers rather than on the scoreboard. During his run of nine losses in ten matches, Bellucci was beaten seven times in best of three set matches and would not have covered this number six times.

A poor record against Fognini can't be ignored either, even if there is a nagging doubt in the back of the mind that the Italian could always be in 'gift giving' mode. On this day I am hoping for the motivated Fognini that had been in action last week and I will look for him to find his way past Bellucci with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win.


Gerald Melzer + 2.5 games v Joao Sousa: It might be something of a surprise that I am taking the games with a player that spends the majority of his time in tournaments on the Challenger Tour when facing an opponent who has played ATP events throughout 2017. But that is the case when I look for Gerald Melzer to give Joao Sousa plenty to think about in this Quarter Final.

You have to give Melzer credit for another good run in Kitzbuhel as he reached a Quarter Final for the second year in a row. Last year Melzer made it through to the Semi Final and I think the two wins he has this week have to be respected.

Now he faces Joao Sousa who has just started winning matches again after a really poor run of form. Sousa reached the Quarter Final last week in Gstaad and he has done the same here despite previously losing eleven of twelve matches on the Tour. That would have knocked the confidence of Sousa and he has needed three sets twice already this week.

If this one is to go into a third set, Melzer will have his chance to cover with this number of games behind him. Melzer has some confidence having had two strong showings in the Challenger events in Perugia and Cortina, although I do respect the fact that Sousa is an upgrade in level of opponent to anyone that Melzer has played since his participating in the Golden Swing tournaments in South America.

Home comforts may help Melzer control the nerves and I think he can keep this match close. His numbers in 2017 have suggested that too, while Sousa is 0-3 when facing players Ranked outside the top 100 on the clay courts in 2017 and with some poor numbers behind him. I will look for Gerald Melzer to take at least a set and that should give him a chance to cover with the games.


Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: With the Canada Masters event just a few days away, the ATP event in Los Cabos has reached the Quarter Final Round on Thursday. That will give time for the players to head over to Montreal, even those who may be competing on Finals day, and one of those keen to go all the way will be Tomas Berdych.

A great field hasn't been put together for this draw, which is no surprise with the back to back Masters events which will begin next week. Add in the fact there is an ATP 500 event being played in Washington, and this tournament has felt more in line with a glorified Challenger tournament adding in a couple of big names.

Berdych does look the stand out player in the draw and he is a big favourite to see off Adrian Mannarino against whom he has a 4-0 head to head record. That includes a relatively straightforward win in the Miami Masters on the hard courts and I think Berdych is likely to match that margin here.

On that day it ended 6-3, 7-5 for Berdych as he was able to dictate things behind the serve and force a couple of loose games from the Mannarino serve. While I do think the left-handed Frenchman will be able to get through a few games on serve, he is always close to throwing in a really poor one and that can make up for the declining return numbers Berdych has produced over the last twelve months.

To give Berdych his credit, he has been returning a little better in recent matches and I think that will be enough to earn a 6-3, 6-4 win in this Quarter Final.


Jack Sock - 3.5 games v Jared Donaldson: There are definitely some positive signs for Jared Donaldson as he learns more and more from being on the main ATP Tour. The experiences he is having will be a positive for the 20 year old player in the coming years, but I still think he is a little short of being able to compete with the better players on the Tour.

Jack Sock may not be in the best form and he may have a limited return game which puts pressure on him to serve at his highest level. However he is still strong on the North American hard courts and the heavy forehand can give Donaldson some problems as it did when they met earlier in 2017 in a match where the younger American won just three games.

The Donaldson numbers have been slightly weaker when he has faced top 20 Ranked players on the hard courts compared to when he has faced top 50 players. Slightly weaker service points won and return points won do make a big difference and I think that is going to show up when he faces Sock in the Third Round in Washington.

This isn't the kind of number Sock is used to covering as shown by the fact he has won eleven of twelve matches against players Ranked outside the top 50 in the World Rankings on the hard courts, but only in five of those has he covered this number. At odds against it is worth chancing though having shown he can get into the Donaldson service games when they played in Miami as well as Donaldson's generally weaker numbers when serving against top 20 opponents.

Sock will have to take the chances that do come his way, but I think he can earn enough break point chances to bring up three breaks of serve which may be enough for a 7-6, 6-3 win on the day.


Gilles Muller - 4.5 games v Tommy Paul: Credit has to be given to Tommy Paul for the way he was serving in his Second Round win over Lucas Pouille, although the Frenchman underlined my belief that his limited return game is going to prevent him staying inside the top 20 of the World Rankings.

If Paul is serving as well as he was this will be a tough match for Gilles Muller, although the mental edge belongs to the latter having crushed the young American for the loss of four games last week in Atlanta.

Fatigue may have gotten the better of Paul last week as that defeat came after winning four matches in a row all in three sets. That has to be considered, but Paul will also be dealing with the mental pressure of losing return games fairly comfortably if Muller is serving as well as he can.

This is still a big number of games being asked of Muller and I am only interested because it is offered at odds against for him to cover. He crushed Dmitry Tursunov on Wednesday and Paul is coming off a career best win which can be tough for inexperienced players to back up as we see regularly through the course of a year on the Tour.

Muller serving first would be important and I think he can then earn the two breaks to win this one 6-3, 6-4.


Simona Halep - 5.5 games v Mariana Duque-Marino: The problem with backing Simona Halep to cover spreads like this one on the hard courts is the fact that her serve is not the biggest and she has to work so hard to protect it. Over the course of a match that means opponents do have their chances to break serve and those can be critical despite the Romanian being the kind of returner who will create plenty of pressure off the return herself.

The return game is very important on the WTA Tour and Mariana Duque-Marino is capable of breaking the Halep serve. The win over Shelby Rogers was impressive in the First Round, but this is another step up in class for Duque-Marino.

She is facing an opponent who has a 14-3 record on the hard courts over the last four years when facing a player Ranked outside the top 100. Halep has been very good in that spot in 2017 with strong numbers produced, but I don't think those are sustainable which is a concern for me.

However, Halep is 9-5 against this number in those fourteen wins in that time while Duque-Marino is 0-6 lifetime against a top 10 Ranked player and is 1-5 with this number of games behind her. Duque-Marino is also 0-7 against top 20 Ranked players on the hard courts and she has only covered with this number of games once and I do think Halep will prove to be too good on the day.

Clay is the best surface for Mariana Duque-Marino and her numbers on the hard courts are slightly weaker across the board compared with clay. While she challenged Halep on the clay back in 2011, Halep is a much stronger player these days and I will look for her to come through with a 6-4, 6-2 win.


Eugenie Bouchard - 1.5 games v Andrea Petkovic: I have said for a few years that Eugenie Bouchard is one of the most overrated players on the WTA Tour with many pricing her up on her one strong season back in 2014. While Bouchard did have a winning record in 2016, this is a player that has struggled on the Tour and her Number 59 World Ranking is testament to that.

The Canadian is overrated and that can be highlighted by the fact she has been a favourite twenty-one times over the last twelve months. Bouchard has won just 33% of those matches which is a remarkably poor record (7-14) and some of her best results in that time have come when set as the underdog and the pressure free environment that may be creating for her.

Even her First Round win here came as the underdog against Christina McHale so I am questioning the fact I am taking Bouchard to win this match as the favourite. However I thought she would be a much stronger favourite to beat the declining Andrea Petkovic who has slipped down to Number 78 in the World Rankings.

Petkovic is just 8-15 on the Tour this season and the German is another player who tends to be priced up with her previous form in mind rather than what she is producing on the court these days. Over the last two seasons Petkovic is just 28-35 when playing top 100 Ranked players and that becomes 16-17 on the hard courts.

Both players have had their issues, but I think Bouchard has been the slightly superior performer which can show up on the scoreboard. Expect breaks of serve and expect a deciding set, but I will look for Bouchard to earn the narrow victory and cover this number.


Alison Riske v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: The final pick from the Thursday tennis matches comes from Stanford where I am looking for the underdog Alison Riske to get the better of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

I am not entirely sure why Riske is the underdog considering she has the 3-1 advantage on the head to head and has certainly been showing superior form in recent weeks compared with Pavlyuchenkova.

The better hard court results in 2017 have come from Pavlyuchenkova, but she is returning to the surface after a poor grass court season. This is also an event where Riske reached the Semi Final last season and the American put together a solid win in the First Round which will have given her confidence back in Stanford.

The recent numbers on this surface are very similar for both Riske and Pavlyuchenkova and that is where the recent positive form and the head to head lead Riske has could pay off.

It won't be an easy match for Riske if Pavlyuchenkova is at her best with her ability to hit very big and take the racquet out of the hand of the American. However, I think Riske is playing well enough and Pavlyuchenkova has not been in the best form to think the former can come through with a three set win and I will back the underdog here.

MY PICKS: Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Gerald Melzer + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gilles Muller - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alison Riske @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-11, - 8.50 Units (36 Units Staked, - 23.61% Yield)

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