Saturday, 31 January 2015

Australian Open Day 13 Picks 2015- Women's Final

I am considering doing a live blog for the women's Final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams which takes place on Saturday morning and will use this post if I am going to do that.

First of all is my pick for the Final:

Serena Williams - 3.5 games v Maria Sharapova: There is a real feeling that Maria Sharapova won't have a better opportunity to snap her 15 match losing run against Serena Williams than in the Final of the Australian Open when they meet on Saturday.

The form of the two players suggests Sharapova has every chance of finally beating Williams for the first time since the end of the 2004 season, but there is some real mental pressure on the Russian having to overcome all the losses she has taken.

Serena Williams hasn't been at her best in the tournament, but she was producing arguably her best tennis in the last two Rounds and she has only lost one set from the last TWENTY-FOUR that these two have competed against one another. That is another huge mental barrier for Maria Sharapova to break through and she will need Williams to be short of her best if she is going to win this Grand Slam title.

Both players have similarities with the way they approach their tennis- both will look for a big serve to set their points up and have heavy returns off the ground. The forehand and backhands are powerful shots and both players look to dictate the points with those heavy shots to keep their opponent's on the back foot.

So why has Serena Williams dominated the head to head? It does look like Serena has the more consistent serve and won't serve the double faults at the rate that Sharapova does, while her second serve has a little more on it and is tougher to attack. The movement is also in favour of the American who is the slightly better defensive player and even these slight issues give her the edge in the contest.

There is also the added fire that Serena seems to bring to the court when she sees Maria Sharapova on the other side of the net and that has shown up in the head to head. Sharapova will have her chances in this one if she can play first strike tennis, but I do believe Williams is the one that is going to dictate the majority of the rallies and come through this match with a 63, 63 win and add her 19th Grand Slam trophy into the cabinet at home.

MY PICK: Serena Williams - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (3 Units)

Australian Open Update: 34-23, + 23.66 Units (107 Units Staked, + 22.11% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (January 31-February 1)

It has been a busy week with the Australian Open taking most of my attention as well as the Super Bowl, from which I will have my pick up on Saturday evening which is a day before the big game. That means the Weekend Football picks have had to take a back seat somewhat after the surprises of last weekend in the FA Cup Fourth Round which saw some of the biggest names in English football humbled.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool were all either beaten or failed to win in the Fourth Round and that has opened up the FA Cup to 'lesser lights'. However, the favourites remain Arsenal along with Manchester United and Liverpool, the latter two playing replays this week, and the Fifth Round draw has suited the former two teams as they face lower League opposition.

Hull City v Newcastle United Pick: The last time Hull City hosted Newcastle United, all of the headlines were about Alan Pardew and his inexplicable reaction in trying to headbutt David Meyler. I still remember being confused even more by the fact that Newcastle United were winning that game and couldn't figure out what must have gone through Pardew's head.

The pantomime villain won't be in town on Saturday having moved to Crystal Palace to take over as manager at Selhurst Park, but John Carver will bring Newcastle United here having been assured he will manage the club until the summer at least. It will be like a four month job application for Carver, who is desperate to be given the permanent job at St James' Park, and that means trying to ensure Newcastle finish as high up as possible.

They have struggled away from home in recent weeks, but the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea doesn't tell the full story as Newcastle created plenty of chances. If they can replicate that at the KC Stadium, the Magpies can certainly pile some more pressure on Geordie Steve Bruce.

Injuries have been a big problem for Bruce through the season, but he will have the services of Nikica Jelavic, Gaston Ramirez and Abel Hernandez to give Hull City a little more bite up front. Against West Ham United, Hull City missed their composure in front of goal in the 3-0 defeat as they did create the chances to get something out of that game.

Goals have been in short supply for both of these sides at home/away respectively this season, but I think this game could reverse that trend. For example, Newcastle United have conceded at least twice in their last 3 away games in the Premier League, albeit against the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

They are playing a Hull City team which is missing a couple of defenders so they will believe they can hurt them on the counter attack and the three games between these teams over the last eighteen months have featured at least 4 goals in each. At the prices, backing at least three goals being shared looks big and might just pay off if both defences are still struggling a little after a two week break.

Crystal Palace v Everton Pick: Look at the recent form of these two teams and try and tell me that the prices for the home/away wins are not based on previous achievements of these sides- how else would Everton be favoured to win at an in-form Crystal Palace?

It has been a difficult second season for Roberto Martinez at Everton where he has not been helped by injuries to unsettle his line up. However, a bigger concern for the fans have to be some of the defensive performances of Everton that bring back memories of Martinez' Wigan Athletic in the Premier League and it does feel they are perhaps lacking a plan B at the moment.

On the other hand, Crystal Palace have been reinvigorated by Alan Pardew's arrival at the club and their belief and determination has been evident from 3 wins in a row despite trailing in all of those games. Dwight Gayle feels wanted and is scoring the goals that Neil Warnock didn't believe he had and Palace have an abundance of pace in forward areas that will cause Everton problems.

It is a shame they are still missing Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie, but Pardew has still found the right formula to win games and I think the pressure is all on Everton to turn around their own form. That has seen them slip into a potential relegation fight that is getting tighter in each passing week, while Everton have lost 5 straight away games in the League.

That run is bound to end sooner or later, but Crystal Palace look a huge price to make it 6 Premier League losses in a row on their travels for Everton. I'd only keep a small interest in this game because of the fact that Palace have been behind in their last 3 games and continuing to dig deep and win games is tough, but I still believe the home side should not be the underdog in this one.

Liverpool v West Ham United Pick: This looks like being one of the more entertaining games of the weekend with both Liverpool and West Ham United in decent form and both managers taking an attacking approach in their tactical decisions. Sam Allardyce might be tempted to make life difficult for Liverpool from the off, but he has taken an attacking approach at Manchester United and Everton earlier in the season and I will say the performance at Chelsea was due to the busy festive period.

There is also no real reason for Allardyce to fear a Liverpool team which has conceded goals regularly at home and one that Andy Carroll will be desperate to impress against. Carroll didn't have a good time while playing for Liverpool, but he has been a real handful of late and the return of Diafra Sakho from injury is another bonus.

However, Allardyce will also want to be careful not to ask his side to push on too much considering the chances that Liverpool have begun to create again. This has resulted from a change in the system and the return of Daniel Sturridge may just give Brendan Rodgers a regular source of goals.

For all the good positions Liverpool found themselves in against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup Semi Final, you do feel that someone like Sturridge would have made the difference in front of goal and the return from injury couldn't have come soon enough.

Liverpool have had a lot of draws at home and are facing a West Ham United team that has scored plenty on their travels during the course of the season. However, I can see Sturridge perhaps coming off the bench and making the difference in this one and improving Liverpool's recent form against West Ham United at Anfield by helping them win their fourth game in five against them.

The attacking philosophy of West Ham United this season has resulted in the side scoring in every away League game outside of Stamford Bridge this season and I will back Liverpool to win a game in which both teams score.

Manchester United v Leicester City Pick: The words 'philosophy' and 'progress' have been used in press conferences through the season by Louis Van Gaal, but there has been little of that of late for Manchester United as they have struggled to turn possession into real chances. Manchester United have had a tough month, but I have to say the majority of those games have been away from Old Trafford and the side have had a hard time on their travels for much of the season.

Aside from the recent disappointing loss to Southampton, Manchester United have been playing effectively at Old Trafford and I think that will be a key for them in this game. Before that defeat, United had won 3 of their last 4 games at Old Trafford by at least two goals and I think they will be too strong for Leicester City.

For all the disappointment in going forward, Manchester United have the third best defensive record in the Premier League and are facing a Leicester City team that has only scored 7 times away from home.

I did consider backing Manchester United to win with a clean sheet to boot, but Louis Van Gaal might be looking for a more positive attacking game in this one and that might leave more spaces for Leicester to exploit. Therefore I am looking for United to get back to winning ways at Old Trafford with another comfortable enough victory by at least two goals which had begun to be a feature of their games before the defeat against Southampton.

Leicester City have also shown improvement in recent away games, but they were 2-0 down at Liverpool and behind at Tottenham Hotspur and I think United have played well enough defensively at home to hold those kinds of leads.

For all the attacking talent at Van Gaal's disposal, he has to get the right fit sooner rather than later if Manchester United are to achieve their top four goal and they can't afford to drop points in this one. At odds against, backing the home team to win by two or more goals looks to be the call.

West Brom v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: There is little doubt that West Brom have gone back to basics since Tony Pulis has come into the club and that is focusing on the defensive side of things and making the side hard to beat. They have kept clean sheets in their last two Premier League games, but there will be more expectation when they play at the Hawthornes and that could make this a better game to watch than some Pulis managed games can be.

That is probably a little harsh on Pulis because his teams play with passion and they can ruffle the feathers of some of the best teams in the Premier League. However, the first instance for this West Brom team is picking up any kind of points to make sure they avoid the drop and so Pulis might set them up to be tough to beat in this one.

On the other hand, perhaps the manager has seen the effort that Tottenham Hotspur put into their Capital One Cup Semi Final at Bramall Lane on Wednesday and might want West Brom to take advantage. They will be expected to push forward and pose some problems for a Tottenham defence that struggles for clean sheets.

While West Brom have clean sheets in 3 of their last 4 home games, Spurs are a team that has scored plenty of goals away from home and have shown a determination to win games late. Goals have been a feature of Tottenham Hotspur away games for much of the season and this has all the hallmarks of a 2-1 scoreline either way.

I was surprised that the layers seem to over-estimate what Tony Pulis will be able to do defensively with this West Brom team, especially as they have not faced a team as good as Spurs in his time at the club. At home, West Brom will be expected to get forward and the odds against quote that there are at least three goals in this game looks far too big to ignore.

Chelsea v Manchester City Pick: Diego Costa has been banned for three games which begins in this one and that may even things up a little for Manchester City who continue to miss Yaya Toure as he plays for the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations.

Unfortunately for Manchester City, it seems that Toure has taken the form with him as the side have struggled in his absence, although another week with Sergio Aguero getting healthier will be a bonus for the side. I think City can also take the positives from the chances that Liverpool created against Chelsea over two legs of the Capital One Cup Semi Final as well as the four goals that Bradford scored at Stamford Bridge last weekend in the FA Cup.

Newcastle United were another team that has recently visited Stamford Bridge and had chances to take the lead so Manchester City have to be encouraged about their chances as they look to close the 5 point lead that Chelsea have at the top of the table.

However, City have to play better than they have been as they are without a win in 3 games and were beaten 0-2 by Arsenal in their last Premier League game. Going out of the FA Cup against Middlesbrough is another body blow that they have taken, but this looks a game where Frank Lampard may hurt his former club again.

With the chances that both teams have created and conceded in recent games, this looks like a game that could feature at least three goals shared by the sides. My concern is the nature of Jose Mourinho to set his teams up to not concede too much space, especially as a draw will suit Chelsea a lot more than it does Manchester City, but the away team have the quality to break them down.

If Manchester City can score, Chelsea will have to play more of an open game than expected and I will back there being at least three goals shared in this one with both defences not playing up to the standard expected of late.

MY PICKS: Hull City-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 2.80 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Both Teams to Score and Liverpool to Win @ 3.30 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.07 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

January Update6-18-1, - 15.88 Units (45 Units Staked, - 35.29% 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 2014/1570-98-1, - 18.88 Units (289 Units Staked, - 6.53% 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)

Friday, 30 January 2015

Australian Open Day 12 Picks 2015 (January 30th)

Thursday was the last truly 'busy' day at the Australian Open with both women's Semi Finals and one men's Semi Final being played and we will now get to see one match per day over the next three days. Some are obviously interested in the Doubles events and the Junior titles that will also be settled in the coming days, but for those who prefer the main Singles events will know the first Grand Slam event of the season is almost over.

The three matches that we saw on Thursday all had their own story lines, but the biggest 'story' that seems to have come out is the behaviour of Kim Sears while supporting Andy Murray against Tomas Berdych.

The fact that Sears made a few swears is hardly worth the headlines, but the controversy seems to have developed from WHAT she said, even if the majority of newspapers have overlooked that aspect of things.

For example, a number of the newspapers have printed what they believe Sears has said: 'Fucking have that, you Czech flash fuck'.

Once you have finished guffawing at the fact that a middle class woman has sworn a couple of times, I am shocked that not one commentator, journalist, fellow player, who all found the whole thing absolutely hilarious, have not seen anything wrong with what Sears said.

'You Czech flash fuck'...

Is there not something a little abnormal with that statement?

Let me put this to you, what would you think about someone complaining about someone from an EU country being on benefit support? If they are making a reasonable argument, you would likely tend to either agree or disagree and put forward your own opinion I'm guessing.

But how would you respond if said person began the argument as such: those fucking [Insert EU Country] bastards claiming benefits is a disgrace... Would that not set a few alarm bells ringing as to where this is going to go?

Some have argued in favour of Sears that Tomas Berdych 'is Czech isn't he?' Is that really a reasonable response? And if so, I am guessing the same person is not sure why John Terry was widely criticised by almost everyone for his 'you black c**t' comment that was directed at Anton Ferdinand seeing as Ferdinand 'is black isn't he?'

It comes down to what is perceived as a middle to upper class woman who couldn't possibly have been close to a racial slur- it is not as far a step from what Terry said to Ferdinand as the 'middle classes' who are linked with tennis in Britain would like to think.

And that is what worries me- this being laughed off because we have seen a middle to upper class woman swear, but how has no one who reported what Sears is thought to have said and put two and two together and said it is an unacceptable comment to make?

I also have absolutely no doubt that if Wayne Rooney or AN Other Footballer was sitting in those stands and did the exact same thing that the media would have rounded on him, correctly too, but Sears is being given a pass by middle class tennis writers 'protecting one of their own'.

I follow someone called @theoverrule on Twitter and he made an extremely valid point- what would the reaction have been if either Berdych or his fiancĂ© had been seen saying 'have that, you English/Scottish shit'? I am pretty sure the British media who have found this whole incident hilarious wouldn't have been so impressed with those remarks!

We haven't actually had any confirmation or, perhaps more importantly, any denial that the words attributed to Sears were the ones that were actually used so you have to give her some leeway. I am just a little embarrassed by the response of people like Anne Keothavong, someone who I can imagine might have taken similar levels of abuse in the past and perhaps not have appreciated them then, can just say she believes it is 'hilarious', while other writers have made a point of writing the words attributed to Sears but believe it is simply 'supporting her fiancé'.

Personally I find that disgusting to think there has been so little made of the words used, namely the identification of where Berdych is from, and it does worry me about the mindset of the tennis journalists, commentators and the middle classes who are heavily linked with the game to believe this is a justifiable 'support'.

I've actually had something similar said to me at university- the whole thing seemed to become that more personal when I heard it said and there was a different level of rage that hit me in response because the attack felt 'different' than a normal attack. Calling someone a 'flash fuck' might not be the nicest thing, but I swear and I don't/can't have an issue with that.

Calling someone a Nationality/Religion/white/black flash fuck is more disrespectful and should be criticised not applauded.

The picks went 2-1 on Thursday with only Madison Keys' epic serving on match points at 1-5 in the second set preventing Serena Williams from completing the hat-trick. However, it was another strong day of winners and means the tournament is likely to be finishing on a very good note and makes my decision to wait until the Australian Open to begin the season look a good one.

Andy Murray coming through in four sets was a perfect result, even if his fiance's potty mouth has taken a few more headlines than the British Number 1 getting to the Final.

I am also considering doing a live blog for the two Finals over the weekend, but I will make a decision on that matter tomorrow evening and will state whether I am doing that on the post for the women's Final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

Novak Djokovic win 3-1 v Stan Wawrinka: Anyway, back to the tennis which was actually stellar from Andy Murray in the Semi Final win over Tomas Berdych from 5-3 down in the first set.

That means Murray has reached his fourth Final at the Australian Open as he looks for his maiden title at this Grand Slam event, but first we have to see which player he will be facing in the Final as Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka meet for the third straight year at Melbourne Park.

The last two matches have been split 1-1 with the winner going on to win the title and both have needed a long five sets to separate the players from one another. In 2013, Djokovic came through 12-10 in the fifth set, while last season saw Wawrinka win 9-7 and Andy Murray will be hoping something similar develops on Friday and he can pick the bones on Sunday.

While I do think this is going to be a competitive and fun Semi Final to watch, I am going to say that this won't be the fourth Grand Slam match between Djokovic and Wawrinka that goes to five sets.

Djokovic has been serving well in the tournament and I think that is going to be a key for him to avoid having to go into a fifth this time, although Wawrinka has played well enough to say that the short odds on the World Number 1 winning in straight sets looks a touch disrespectful. However, I think Wawrinka has been a little looser when it comes to the unforced errors through the tournament, while I expect Djokovic to deal with his power better than Kei Nishikori did in the last Round.

It won't be a surprise if Wawrinka strings together a couple of games where he hits through Djokovic on the return of serve and earn a couple of breaks, but I also think Djokovic can extract the errors that will eventually lead to his win.

I have to respect the fact that Wawrinka has actually been leading 2-1 in sets in 2 of their previous 3 Grand Slam matches that have ended up in five sets, but I think this time it is Djokovic who has that lead. I can see there being an important tie-breaker in either set three or four being the key one for Djokovic to win if he is to get this done without over-extending himself and I like him to come through that tough moment with a 64, 36, 63, 76 win.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic Win 3-1 @ 3.60 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 34-22, + 24.66 Units (106 Units Staked, + 23.26% Yield)

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Australian Open Day 11 Picks 2015 (January 29th)

The final four days of the Australian Open are about to begin with the two women's Semi Finals both taken place on Thursday and the first of the men's Semi Finals taking over the night session.

That also means it is the last of the tennis to be played during the day (night for us in Britain) and the remaining matches will all begin at 8am UK time.

Maria Sharapova - 5.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: The first Semi Final at the Australian Open is the all-Russian affair between Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova and it will be up to the lesser known player of the two to try and turn around the head to head between these players. Sharapova has won all 5 previous meetings between herself and Makarova including two one-sided wins at the Australian Open.

However, it has to be said that the last of those wins came here in January 2013 and both of those victories were in the Quarter Final- those were also the first time that Makarova had played Quarter Finals in Grand Slam events as a Singles player and nerves could rightly have played a part in the results.

Since then, Makarova has reached two more Quarter Finals at Slam events, while breaking through the barrier by making it to the US Open Semi Final last September and I expect that to help her in this one. On the other hand, she is going up a fierce competitor in Maria Sharapova who is playing very well to open the 2015 season and I think she will still hold the mental edge in the match.

Makarova will have to serve well if she is going to give Sharapova all she can handle, but I do think she is potentially the more nervous of the two players. The problem I see for Makarova is that she can get a little down on herself when things are not going right and that showed in her heavy defeats at the Slam events last season.

Sharapova looks a player that won't give up when it isn't quite going the way she anticipated and I think the more experienced player comes through after taking a tough first set. This has the feel of a 64, 62 kind of win for Sharapova and I like her to cover the games.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Madison Keys: Serena Williams seemed to be suffering from a pretty strong cold in her interview after a dominating win over Dominika Cibulkova on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see if she has recovered from that or perhaps gotten worse.

On the other hand, Madison Keys overcame a problem with her left thigh in the middle of her match against Venus Williams and recovered two breaks of serve in the final set to come through against the older Williams sister. Now how Keys has recovered from that problem in the twenty-four hours she has had will be another important factor that can be tough to determine.

You have to feel there is added motivation for Serena Williams knowing that Venus was beaten by this opponent in the last Round. I have not got any conclusive evidence that she raises her game in this circumstance, but even reaching the level of her win over Cibulkova will make Serena Williams a strong favourite to overcome Madison Keys in this one.

Both players will look to dominate behind heavy first serves, but I think the movement and any limitations that Keys has will also play a part in the match. If she can't get the same pop on serve, Serena will get a chance to play first strike tennis which may enable her to dictate the tempo of the match.

I have a lot of time for what Keys can achieve, especially with the experience of Lindsey Davenport in her corner, but I don't believe the future will begin today and it will be the two veterans of the WTA Tour competing in the Final on Saturday. This feels another match that could potentially be tight in the first set and then dominated by the more experienced player in the second set as Serena Williams goes through 64, 62.

Andy Murray win 3-1 v Tomas Berdych: This match has a couple of fascinating angles that brings added intrigue, if that is possible, to a Grand Slam Semi Final.

Tomas Berdych has been in great form and dismissed the challenge of Rafael Nadal without too many problems, which was a surprise considering he had lost 17 in a row to the Spaniard prior to the Quarter Final.

He also has Daniel Vallverdu in his box, a man that was a part of Andy Murray's team up until the end of the 2014 season and who has been described as knowing Murray's game better than anyone else by the Brit himself.

Vallverdu will know the weaknesses Murray brings to the court, but I think Murray will benefit from knowing exactly what is thought of Tomas Berdych, even if he hasn't faced the Czech player since August 2013. That is surprising considering these two players are amongst the best on the ATP Tour, while it is Berdych who has won 6 of the 10 previous matches including the last 2 in a row.

That last win came on the hard courts of Cincinnati, which snapped a 3 match winning run for Murray on the hard courts against Berdych, but was also just six weeks after Murray had won Wimbledon and taken a huge burden off of his shoulders. Murray has been playing well enough here in Australia to show he is back to being a threat to win a Grand Slam title, although he is yet to have really been tested to the point that Berdcyh will.

Grigor Dimitrov wasn't playing as well as Berdych is when he lost to Murray in four sets, but I do think the British Number 1 is also playing at a very high level. I expect him to better at getting a length on the return of serves than Nadal was and Murray has also been serving fairly effectively for much of the tournament.

With the Berdych game working as well as it is, I would be surprised if this is a straight sets match, even if I did say the same about the Kei Nishikori-Stan Wawrinka Quarter Final match on Wednesday. I expect a lot of quality tennis to be on display, but with Andy Murray getting through to his fourth Final in Australia.

MY PICKS: Maria Sharapova - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray win 3-1 @ 4.33 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 32-21, + 21.13 Units (101 Units Staked, + 20.92 % Yield)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Australian Open Day 10 Picks 2015 (January 28th)

I am still stunned by the nature of the beating that Tomas Berdych handed out to Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, but I am still not convinced that it didn't have more to do with how poorly Nadal played rather than the brilliance of Berdych.

I would be surprised if he has as easy a day in the office when he faces Andy Murray in the Semi Final, despite Murray saying that Berdych should be the favourite because of what Daniel Vallverdu will bring to the table for the Czech player. More important could be the fact that Berdych has won the last two matches against Murray, including on the hard courts of Cincinnati, although the last of those was in 2013.

For now, the main talking points of the day at the Australian Open will be completing the Semi Final line up and the potential for an all-Williams Semi Final being put in place. Neither Venus nor Serena have an easy Quarter Final to get through before the match of the day takes place between Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka.

Novak Djokovic is going to be the clear favourite to win his Quarter Final against Milos Raonic and now will also be a strong favourite to win the title here, but he won't want to overlook anything at the moment. The fact of the matter is that Djokovic has to beat Raonic and then faces one of the two players who beat him in Grand Slam events last season in the Semi Final.

Stan Wawrinka win 3-1 v Kei Nishikori: This looks a quality match in the making and I can understand why Kei Nishikori was set as the favourite to overcome the defending Champion Stan Wawrinka.

However, I actually think the heavier shot is going to come from Wawrinka's side of the court, especially when it comes to sorting out the serve and that can help the Swiss Number 2 to overcome Nishikori.

They played a special match at the US Open and Nishikori has admitted this has the feel of a 'home' Grand Slam for him with the support he has been receiving. I love the style the Japanese star plays with and I think he can give Wawrinka plenty of problems with his return and ability to move the latter around the court.

That should ensure this is anything but a straight forward win for any of the two players with Wawrinka looking to play first strike tennis behind the first serve and also attacking the Nishikori serve which is perhaps the weakest shot in the Japanese player's arsenal.

I can see there being a vital tie-breaker in the middle of the match that will determine the outcome of this match and perhaps lead to a 63, 46, 76, 64 win for Wawrinka in the underdog role.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: I think there are going to be a lot of people ready to back Dominika Cibulkova to surprise Serena Williams in this Quarter Final considering the Slovakian's form in this tournament and the fact she reached the Final twelve months ago.

However, I think Williams has had a couple of scares in the tournament where she could have been knocked out of the tournament and she should have refocused enough in this one. As solid as Cibulkova has been off the ground, the serve could be under immense pressure from the power that Serena Williams will be bringing to the table and I think it will be Williams who gets the first strike tennis in this one.

If she can serve better in the first set than she has in her last two matches, Williams should be able to keep Cibulkova at bay and not allow the latter to dictate the rallies and get her going from side to side. By doing that, this should be a little more routine than her last two matches and Williams should be too strong for Cibulkova who falls short of her performance from last season.

As long as Williams doesn't make a slow start, this has all the makings of a 63, 62 win for the Number 1 player in the World Rankings.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka Win 3-1 @ 5.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 31-20, + 20.23 Units (98 Units Staked, + 20.64% Yield)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Australian Open Day 9 Picks 2015 (January 27th)

We have reached the Quarter Finals in both men's and women's events at the Australian Open as the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2015 season rapidly reaches the business end of the week.

In all honesty, I think the line up for the last eight is intriguing in both draws and that should mean a fun couple of days of tennis beginning with the four matches from the bottom half of the draws being played on Tuesday. We will start with the two women's Quarter Finals being played back to back, while the night session is unsurprisingly set for home hope Nick Kyrgios taking on Andy Murray.

Yesterday was a mixed bag for the picks, but the tournament remains in a very healthy state and I am close to being vindicated for missing the first two weeks of the season to begin the picks from the Australian Open. There are still a few days to go so getting 'cocky' about things is a sure-fire way to fall flat on your face.

I do think both Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova are the right favourites in the women's Quarter Finals and expect them to be too strong for Ekaterina Makarova and Eugenie Bouchard respectively. However, the layers have got both priced up very short and the games are perhaps just one too high for me to be confident with the underdogs both receiving a 4.5 game head-start on the handicaps.

However, I do like the two men's favourites in their respective Quarter Finals.

Rafael Nadal - 2.5 games v Tomas Berdych: I have picked Rafael Nadal as one of the my two outright picks in the men's draw to win this Grand Slam event and I do think the confidence has returned to the Spaniard after an awkward beginning to the event. So you can imagine my surprise that the layers are not as convinced as me by making Rafael Nadal a pretty short favourite to beat Tomas Berdych.

This is a huge mental challenge for Berdych and there is no other way to look at it- no matter how well Berdych has been playing, and he has been playing very well, he has lost to Nadal 16 times in a row and that is not including one match when he was forced to retire.

That is a huge burden to have to overcome and I think Berdych will feel that pressure in this match, especially if Nadal can stick with him early and show that he has back to something like his best. This could be the first time that one player has won 18 straight times against another on the Tour, which will be playing on Berdych's mind and I don't believe he will display enough quality tennis to win a best of five against Nadal.

Nadal and Berdych had a very close four set match here in Australia three years ago and there is every chance this will go at least four again. But when it is all said and done, I think Nadal comes through with a 64, 36, 63, 76 win.

Andy Murray - 6.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: There is a lot of hype surrounding the young Australian Nick Kyrgios as he reached another Grand Slam Quarter Final which is going to see him enter the top 40 in the World Rankings. I don't really care whether people think he is 'cocky' and that Kyrgios seems to get up some people's noses, because I think characters like this bring new interest in a sport and it can only be good for tennis.

However, I was very much hoping the hype would mean that the layers would perhaps over-estimate his chances against Andy Murray who has been playing at a very high level through the tournament. It looks like his back issues of 2014 are now very much in the past and Murray is a threat to win this Slam for the first time.

Murray may have said he is not worrying about 'breaking anyone's heart' as he looks to concentrate on the task at hand and I think his experience of playing matches of this magnitude in hostile environments will be key to him progressing. Additionally, Murray has the ability to get a lot of balls back in play and expose some of the issues that Kyrgios' game still needs to develop and I can see him frustrating his younger opponent who wants to play 'highlight reel' tennis on every point.

As long as Murray serves well himself, he should keep Kyrgios at bay in this one and I believe he comes through with a 76, 62, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 30-19, + 20.63 Units (94 Units Staked, + 21.95% Yield)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Australian Open Day 8 Picks 2015 (January 26th)

The Quarter Finals at the Australian Open have already set four intriguing matches across the men's and women's events, but another four matches will be set today and I have the feeling those will be 'good looking' ones too.

The business end of Grand Slam tournaments will generally provide plenty of drama and it is good to see the Australian Open has been leading up to these kind of matches into the second week of the event. We have already had some surprises, but generally the best players have got through and that is always a benefit to tournament organisers.

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep making it through to the Quarter Finals also means three of the four outright picks remain very much in contention to win the respective tournaments. The daily picks also had a very good first week and it was another positive day yesterday as I hope to wrap up the week with positive results.

Kei Nishikori win 3-1 v David Ferrer: These two players both work extremely hard on the court and expect to see some long rallies with some exceptional tennis mixed in to boot.

I have always had a lot of respect for David Ferrer, but I think Kei Nishikori is a much improved player over the last twelve months with his run to the US Open Final a real confidence boost and a vindication for the hard work he puts in.

The feeling is that Ferrer has just dropped from the heights of a couple of years ago, even if he did win the title in Doha to open the season, and I think Nishikori will just have too much for him. However, Nishikori's serve could still do with some work and I do think Ferrer will fashion enough chances to extend this to four sets.

Nishikori has won 4 in a row against Ferrer, but he dropped a set in every one of those matches and I think he will likely do that in this one before coming through a tough Fourth Round match.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v Gilles Muller: After coming through the first three Rounds fairly comfortably, Novak Djokovic should be feeling better in the second week now that he is over his illness.

This isn't the easiest of matches against a big-serving Gilles Muller who is playing very well at the moment, but Djokovic is the best returner on the Tour and I expect he will put enough pressure on Muller. Djokovic should create chances once he gets his eye in on the return and I think that will help him ease through to the Quarter Finals.

Djokovic was pushed by Fernando Verdasco in the Third Round, but I think that just focuses him a little more in this one and he will work through a 75, 63, 63 win.

Garbine Muguruza + 1.5 sets v Serena Williams: Some of the mistakes that Garbine Muguruza made in the last Round against Timea Bacsinszky won't be able to be ignored against someone of the quality of Serena Williams, but I also think the latter has been struggling through the first week of the tournament.

Williams has been able to recover from her slow starts in the first three matches at the Australian Open, but she was perhaps a little fortunate to not have bumped into someone like Muguruza earlier in the event.

The loss at the French Open to this opponent last season will not have been forgotten by Williams which will make her a more dangerous player in this one with the added focus. However, I can't ignore the early struggles she has had in 2015 and I think Muguruza can give Williams some real problems in this one.

I am not sure if Muguruza will be able to play well enough for long enough to beat Serena, but taking a set at odds against looks a big price.

Madison Keys - 3.5 games v Madison Brengle: The big question will be whether Madison Keys can back up her very impressive win over Petra Kvitova in the Third Round and I think she will with the advice being given to her by Lindsey Davenport.

Madison Brengle came through her Third Round match thanks in part to the mistakes made by CoCo Vandeweghe and I don't think Keys is going to be as generous as her compatriot was a couple of days ago.

The serve is definitely favouring Keys and, if she can look after that element of her game, I think that will help her come through this match in fairly routine fashion. Brengle played well enough over the last couple of weeks to reach the Final in Hobart and also win three matches here, but I don't believe she has a very big game that can't be exposed by someone like Keys.

This just feels like a 63, 63 kind of match that Keys should win.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 games v Venus Williams: Venus Williams had to weather an Italian storm in the form of Camila Giorgi in the last Round, but this is going to be a different kind of match for her to figure out. Agnieszka Radwanska isn't blessed with the same firepower as Giorgi, but she has the variation and defensive skills to extract errors from Williams and also has won the last three matches against Venus without dropping a set.

Radwanska has been very comfortable so far at the Australian Open and she has also been displaying a little more pop on her serve which may make things a little easier for her, although I have to say that Venus Williams has played well too.

The problem for Venus will be that she shouldn't be given a lot of unforced errors that Giorgi offered up in the last Round and Radwanska has been playing with a lot of confidence. If Williams serves well this could be a competitive match, but she will have to be a lot better than she was against Giorgi and I think Radwanska comes through 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori Win 3-1 @ 4.20 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Novak Djokovic - 7.5 Games @ 1.92 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza + 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 28-16, + 21.47 Units (85 Units Staked, + 25.26% Yield)