Conditions: Showers and Thunderstorms, top of 21 degrees
Riske’s first round win over Mandy Minella was her first claycourt win in 6 attempts, and first win on clay since the second round in Nuremberg last year, where she defeated Flipkens. Unfortunately, we have seen a real regression in form for the American this year. Outside of a run through qualifying to the third round in Miami, she has had a horror year that has seen her fall out of the top 100, which should not be the case for a player of her talent.
This section is quite short as there isn’t a whole lot of recent claycourt form to discuss. Losses to Jakupovic, Collins and Sabalenka this year so far have all been cause for concern. We did see an uptick in form though with her round 1 match. After a dominant 6-1 first set (broke in 4/4 return games), Riske blew a 5-1 lead to ultimately win the match in a tiebreak. Better form, but giving up that 5-1 lead showed how difficult it was getting over the line here on clay.
After her performance over the last 2 days against Sloane Stephens, it is nice to see I was finally able to get a solid read on Putintseva after her recent poor form. Again, looking through her form, she isn’t playing too badly against the harder, flatter hitters of the ball. Her ability to redirect holds her in a great position vs the bigger hitters, and it is the grinding, low-error players where she struggles (Hsieh, Sorribes-Tormo etc). Yulia was able to fight back from a set down to defeat Sloane Stephens in round 1, and based off her reaction you could tell how much it means to her as well. She is moving well on the clay, and was turning defensive shots into offensive shots quite well.
Short, sharp and to the point here. Considering the playing style of Riske, I think her shotmaking works in favour of Putintseva in this match. Putintseva will make her work for every point, and in the slightly heavier conditions, I think this match is ripe for Putintseva to make a statement with another win. I cannot see Riske walking off the court as a winner in this one, which is something I don’t say all that often. I think all signs points to Putintseva, and as a slight favourite, the head to head price will do just fine for me.
Conditions: Showers and Thunderstorms, top of 21 degrees
The left-handed Pliskova is coming off some pretty solid claycourt tennis over the last month or so, arguably the best in her career. Since the start of April, she has had wins over Siniakova, Kvitova, Vesnina, Bogdan, Vikhlyantseva, Sorribes Tormo and Goerges, some of who are pretty decent on the red stuff. My main concern however is that very rarely is Pliskova any betting value. I am not sure if that is due to her sister, or if it is due to her bigger serve, or a combination, but rarely do I look at the price on offer for her and go “that is value”.
What I will note about Pliskova though is that her form the week before Grand Slams isn’t always at its best. She lost to Flipkens in Hobart the week before the Australian Open, she lost to Gavrilova in the first round of New Haven the week before the US Open, made the second round at Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon, and in fact her best pre-Slam performance was a QF in Strasbourg last year, which she has opted not to play this year. Going back further, the picture doesn’t get any prettier, but it should also be noted that she is obviously playing a lot better than any other stage in her career, so we cannot read too much into those stats.
Effectively by turning up today she has defended the points she earned in Strasbourg last year. To do this, she beat Julia Goerges in round 1 6-2 6-7 7-6, before she defeated Lara Arruabarrena 6-3 7-5 in round 2.
Johanna has had a bit of an up and down 12 months, holding a 29-25 record during that timeframe. When you cut that record down to clay however, it sits at 17-9, with some pretty impressive wins as you work your way through her list of victories (Begu, Vikhlyantseva, Mchale, Rodina etc). She has already improved on her performance here last year where she won only one game against Witthoeft in the first round. This year however she has impressed me on the way to the ¼ finals. She led Begu 6-4 3-3* 0/30 when the Romanian decided to pull the pin, dropping serve only twice along the way. Quite impressive considering she got only 52% of her first serves in play.
The second round was quite brutal to be honest, crushing Christina McHale 6-3 6-3, losing only 17 points on serve and 22 points on return for the match. She managed to race out to a *4-1 lead, as well as win the last 8 games of the match for a comprehensive, confidence boosting victory (pre match price of $1.80)
This match is an interesting one. This tournament is an interesting one as it has been largely interrupted by rain and darkness, meaning the winner will be in the semi final up against players who have had to play multiple matches today. Personally, I am siding with Larsson here at the underdog price. I think the damper, slower, heavier conditions will play more into her hands than Pliskova. Larsson is a great neutraliser of serve and has a great ability to re-direct balls that are hit toward her at pace. In her career, she also holds a 3-1 record on clay vs players over 6 foot tall which is comforting to know, albeit with a small sample size.
Unless Pliskova puts over 70% of her first serves in play here, I like Larsson to win personally. She has had plenty of experience vs big servers and left handers (of which Pliskova is both), and I think the fact Larsson defeated Pliskova on hardcourt in 2017 shows she has the game to match the big hitting. With this one on clay, I think it is hers for the taking.
My prediction is Pliskova will be on a plane to Paris tonight.
Leg 1: Barty to defeat Wang
Leg 2: Pavlasek to defeat Novak
I think both of these players should have no trouble accounting for their opponents. After sitting through Pavlasek absolutely destroying my selection in Dellien yesterday, I can see the confidence that Rome Challenger title has instilled in him. He looks a different man to a month ago, and he should have too much for Novak if he plays anywhere near the level of yesterdays performance.
Along the same lines, I think Barty should be far too strong for Wang. Wang has had two matches in a row now where she has taken advantage of lapses from her opponents (Rosatello and Collins) at key moments. Collins led 6-4 *5-5 30/0 before going on to drop the next 6 games and losing her stranglehold on the match. Barty won’t afford Wang the same opportunities. Her movement on clay has improved significantly, and I think her combination of power and variety will be too much for Wang to handle here.
Combining these two for a double play seems to be the right move in my opinion.
TIP: Barty to defeat Wang (WTA Strasbourg) and Pavlasek to defeat Novak (ATP French Open Qualifying) at $1.99 at Topsport (3 units or 3% of bankroll)
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