Karolina Pliskova is great at bossing weaker players off-court, and the last time she played Elise Mertens it ended 6/1 6/2 to the Czech girl. However, Mertens can’t be filed under ‘’weak, because generally speaking she’s one of the most solid players on tour. Pliskova had no issues in beating both Blinkova or Strycova, it’s just that neither could be put in the same class has Mertens. The 24 year old Belgium girl won three matches in straight sets, if she plays her best she can certainly win a match like this!
It probably won’t last long, the team heading the league is Venlo. By courtesy of their 3-5 win over Emmen, the Pride of the South head the table on goal difference. That first match of the season was an absolutely crazy game, with 7 of the 8 goals coming in the 2nd half. The other weird phenomenon was they did all that damage with just 27% possession. The man of the match was new boy Georgios Giakoumakis, the clubs only costing (€200K) summer acquisition. We should mention that the then visitors got the two winners on 90 and 94 mins, and one of them was an own goal! Utrecht is today's visitors, a team which was 6th before last seasons league was canceled. At the time they had 13 points more than Venlo! It’s interesting to note that the club coached by John Van Den Brom had gone 12 head to heads with Venlo without defeat, that was up to last seasons home fixture which they lost 1-2. Over that period since 2008 Utrecht is 8-5-1 against this opponent! In recent pre-season friendlies, Utrecht beat AZ Alkmaar, GA Eagles, and Heerenveen. They have increased squad size by 3 to 26, and they have a lot of young talent in there! Utrecht is the call, Venlo boss Hans de Koning is winless vs Utrecht in eight prior managerial H2Hs (D2, L6). And, notably, all six defeats came ‘to nil’
Despite winning against Cori Gauff, we were really disappointed with the effort of Garbine Muguruza. With all due respect, the Spaniard shouldn’t be needing three sets to beat such an opponent on clay. In that drawn-out three-setter, there was a total of 24 double faults, 9 of them belonged to Muguruza. Both players were broken 5 times in what can only be described as a joke of a match! It would be illogical to believe Johanna Konta is the better player on clay. However, the Brit made Begu look very ordinary in yesterday's 6/0 6/4, and she was a finalist here last year. The 29-year-old then went on to make the semi of the French open, and she’s outbattled Muguruza in the past. Body language suggests Jo wants this more, and she won’t be giving the match away through double faults!
Polona Hercog came from a set down to beat Kaja Juvan, and she followed up with an even better win over Kiki Bertens. The 29-year-old is playing her best tennis for some time, and she clearly likes the courts in Rome. With a clay record of 69.8%, we shouldn’t underestimate the Slovenian. With all that said, she’s now playing a back to form Marketa Vondousova. The 21-year-old has a career 76.7% on clay. Last year she made the QF here, before going on to make the final of the French Open. Considering she only played 38 matches in 2019, her career-high rank of 14 tells how good she can be! Vondrousova is still top 20, and she’s protecting big points over the coming weeks!
Watching the last round, we thought the best match of the day was between Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Svitolina. What we will give Pav’s is some of her play was fantastic, and she really made the Ukrainian work. However, it was the consistent Svitolina who defended well, and who was striking the ball better than we have seen for a long time! Svetlana Kuznetsova must have been spitting blood at the end of both her matches to date. However, she got past Pera simply because she was mentally stronger than the American, and in the last round against Kontaveit she seemed to want it more. Sveta is now playing someone who is an even better defender than she is. Svitolina can only benefit from her first match back. And, a look at head to heads shows a 3-1.
D’BAI have got into the habit of pulling, he needs to settle better. The recent bare form of GLORIOUS JOURNEY wouldn’t be good enough, he’s got questions to answer. I like KINROSS, he would have gone very close to winning his last race if at was at 7F. Dropping back in trip on the decent ground is the appealing part, and bare in mind 3 of his 5 races were in group 1 company!
MASON CITY might have won his bumper, but it was a weak-looking race and he’s carrying a penalty today. According to jockey bookings, FANCY FOUNDATIONS is the preferred runner from the Elliott stable, but he doesn’t have much in the way of form. I readily prefer Noel Meade’s charge CAPTAIN MC, he should have learned a lot from his debut effort, and stepping up in trip ticks the right box!
THE ECHO BOY jumped well for his young rider at Kilbeggan, but I wouldn’t get carried away with the bare form. BAL DE RIO was rated the same has the favourite over hurdles, it’s just that he’s ex flat and doesn’t have much scope. Despite being rated 6 pounds inferior, the lightly raced RAN RITE is expected to do much better at chasing. This point to point winner has already had a spin around here, and he should improve for that decent effort!
French referees need to get a grip of themselves, the amount of red cards being shown this season is nothing short of a joke. They are absolutely ruining the game, albeit our season results in France have been very good! Marseille comes into this on the back of beating PSG (0-1). Despite the Champions League finalists getting most of their team back from quarantine, Les Phoceen’s still outdid the Paris mob. The only disappointment came at the end of that game when the handbags started flying, 5 players where shown red cards in the space of 2 minutes, and two were from Marseille! To be analytical about the host's suspended players, who need Benedetto? The Argentinian came on has (58 min) sub in the last game, he’s a hothead who received two yellows by the end. Amavi was the other villain, he too is replaceable! St Etienne won both games to date 2-0. However, they have five players injured, including newly out Monnet-Pacquet. Neyou is another doubtful! Frank McCourt's investment is paying off, lets take Marseille to make it 9 points!
It’s not everyday we would bet a Brit to beat a Romanian player on clay, but in the case of Johanna Konta the surface won’t be an issue. Who would have thought Konta would make the semi final of last years French open, with 4 of her 5 wins coming in straight sets. Konta prepares well for tournaments. She’s got an accurate serve, and these courts here will suit her. Oh, and did we mention Konta was a finalist here last year? Begu can be good on her day, and she’s been alright in three matches here. However, Konta is a former number 4 and a player who can be trusted to give it a go!
Javonte Green and Vincent Poirier are out for the Celtics. Gordon Hayward is listed as doubtful. Gabe Vincent and Chris Silva remain out for the Heat. Despite coming off a grueling 7 game series against the Raptors with 5 fewer days of rest than their opponent, the Celtics still should have won Game 1 and at times really showed their superiority in our opinion. The Heat may seem like a team of destiny but their style of play just doesn't play well against the Celtics' defense. The teams are a bit more on equal footing now and as the series wears on, Boston's advantage should shine through. We expect the Celtics to use their versatility and attack the weak points on the Heat who don't have the most athletic defenders. Shots especially from the outside should fall with a little bit less accuracy as the series wears on and while this won't be as pronounced in Game 2, we still see the more complete team producing enough for the win here.
Danka Kovinic has put on a lot of kilo’s, but it hasn’t stopped her movement. In fact, the 25 year old looks in better physical shape now than for a long time, and at least she’s winning more matches than she’s losing. With that said, at last weeks Istanbul it was noticeable that Eugenie Bouchard seemed to outwit her. Needing three sets to get past Kawa in qualifying doesn’t stack, and we are not reading much into the 6/0 6/1 win over an unfit Goerges. Belinda Bencic looked solid in warm up matches. The Swiss girl knows how to return from a break, and she’s clearly a very efficient clay player. We doubt the 23 year old is here for conditioning, so these odds are very tempting!