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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

English Midweek Football Picks (January 31-February 1)

Unfortunately my laptop died in the last couple of days so I have had to resurrect my old desk top while a new hard drive is being posted out to me... I haven't had much time to update the blog since Sunday, but here are the picks from the midweek slate of games.

Swansea v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13078-Swansea-v-Chelsea.htm)

Wolves v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13079-Wolves-v-Liverpool.htm)

Tottenham Hotspur v Wigan Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13080-Tottenham-Hotspur-v-Wigan.htm)

Blackburn Rovers v Newcastle United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13092-Blackburn-Rovers-v-Newcastle-United.htm)

Fulham v West Brom Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13094-Fulham-v-West-Brom.htm)

Sunderland v Norwich City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13095-Sunderland-v-Norwich-City.htm)

Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13096-Bolton-Wanderers-v-Arsenal.htm)

MY PICKS: Swansea-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Stan James (2 Units)
Wolves-Liverpool Draw @ 3.80 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 188Bet (3 Units)
Blackburn Rovers-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 188Bet (2 Units)
Fulham-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sunderland-Norwich City Draw @ 3.60 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Robin Van Persie Score Anytime @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Australian Open Men's Final Live Updates

Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal Australian Open Final 2012

Novak Djokovic 1-0* Rafael Nadal
There was a slight chance for Rafael Nadal as he moved into a 15-30 lead on the Novak Djokovic serve, but the Serbian brings out some big groundstrokes to eventually hold to 30.

Novak Djokovic *1-1 Rafael Nadal
A very easy service game for Rafael Nadal, and it will be interesting how he can hold on to serve after struggling against Djokovic at the US Open (broken 12 times in 4 sets there).

It is a routine hold to love, with an ace to open the service game.

Novak Djokovic 2-1* Rafael Nadal
There is an error from Djokovic to open up his next service game, and then a wonderful shot from Nadal down the line to move into a 0-30 position.

A couple of big first serves draws the World Number 1 level, and then a great second serve moves Djokovic to game point.

Djokovic holds to 30 as the last 4 points are won within 2 shots or less.

Novak Djokovic *2-2 Rafael Nadal
Not sure if Nadal has a tactical plan to slice the ball back to the Djokovic backhand when the Serbian uses the shot down the line that has been so effective in recent meetings between the two? He has done it twice already, with success, in the opening exchanges.

Djokovic wins the first point on serve, but Nadal runs through the rest of the game with ease.

Novak Djokovic 2-3* Rafael Nadal
Djokovic wins his sixth point in a row on serve to move to 30-0, but a couple of strong Nadal returns brings the game to 30 all...

Best point of the match so far as Rafael Nadal brings up the first break point of the match as Nadal makes an exceptional return off a volley that eventually opens the court for him to pass- second serve but Nadal hits it WAY long.

There is definitely a more attacking element to the Nadal game so far and he earns another break point- the Serbian misses an easy put away with his patented backhand down the line and Nadal has the first break of the Final.

Novak Djokovic *2-4 Rafael Nadal
Djokovic was furious with himself at the end of the last game and it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he has to that outward show of emotion.

A couple of longer rallies are both ended by Djokovic, one with an error and one with a pass and it's 30 all. An unfortunate net cord later and Djokovic has his first break point of the Final.

That is saved beautifully by Nadal with a nice first serve and a searing forehand down the line, a perfect one-two combination.

I am 100% convinced that Nadal is using the sliced backhand back to the Djokovic backhand to negate that shot down the line that helped the World Number 1 to 6 straight victories over the Spaniard. Far too many errors from Djokovic at the moment, and it does look like the longer rallies are being ended by him more often than not, with a winner or an error.

A couple of great returns from Djokovic extends the game and earns another break point- he gets to see another second serve, but makes an enormous error to pull the game back to deuce.

Longest game of the match so far as it keeps going back and forth and this looks like it could be the one to determine the set. Nadal has his third chance to put the game to bed, but another superbly constructed point from Djokovic to keep the game going a little longer.

A lot of respect for Nadal's serving at the moment, but he doesn't want to drop the first serve % down in this match. The Spaniard takes the game on his 4th game point.

Novak Djokovic 3-4* Rafael Nadal
Djokovic looks a little tetchy at the moment, a little frustrated... Some very strong match play from him in this game though and he also seems to be hitting the ball a little harder- it's a straight-forward hold of serve to 15.

Novak Djokovic *4-4 Rafael Nadal
This set is still within Djokovic's grasp despite being a break down- he wins the first point on the Nadal serve.

I have been impressed with the way Nadal has started this match, but I still have the feeling that the match is resting on Djokovic's racquet at the moment.

This is a big point as the game is sitting at 30 all- another disappointing return from Djokovic on a second serve as he fails to get it back in play.

After the start Nadal has made, he is struggling to really get a grip in the rallies that Djokovic is beginning to dictate more and more often... the end of another longer rally earns the Serbian a break point.

A lot of credit has to be given to Nadal for another big serve under pressure to give himself the upper hand and save that opportunity... The reprieve doesn't last long as another break point comes up- once again Nadal finds the effective lefty slider into the advantage court.

It definitely feels that Djokovic is the steadier of the two players when the rallies develop on an equal footing and he has a third break point... Another Nadal error this time and Djokovic is back on serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-4* Rafael Nadal
Now the World's best player has to back up that game... An error to start the game is not the best way to begin, before Nadal finally gets back to the form he displayed earlier in the set to move to 0-30.

Djokovic can kiss the top of the net cord that saves him from falling into a triple break point hole, Nadal VERY unfortunate there.

I have to give the Serb a lot of credit as he wins a couple of good points, taking advantage of the luck he was given in the third point of the game and winning the game to 30.

Novak Djokovic *5-5 Rafael Nadal
It has felt to me that there has been a shift of momentum since the 6th game of the match, even though Nadal won that game... Maybe it has something to do with Djokovic changing his shirt from Clark Kent to Superman?

This is an absolutely massive service game for Nadal, especially for his belief in terms of the match as he has thrown a fair bit at Djokovic in this set only to lose it would crush any belief may have.

Very impressive stuff from the Spaniard to open the game, but Djokovic almost rallies all the way back to deuce before Nadal puts away an impressive cross court forehand, one he has become famous for over his career.

Novak Djokovic 5-6* Rafael Nadal
At this stage of a tight set, a crucial set such as this is, the pressure shifts on to the other player after that hold from Nadal... The World Number 2 wins the opening point to up the ante too.

I might be wrong, but my feeling is that Djokovic is the better player here as he wins a couple of points to move ahead... He seems a little more assured in how he is playing, with Nadal perhaps questioning what he wants to do in points?

Huge point coming in terms of the set at 30 all, 5 all... Nadal doesn't question himself there with a huge forehand down the line to earn a break point- a huge miss from Djokovic off his backhand wing and Nadal will be serving for the set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, *0-0 Rafael Nadal
This is probably a bigger set for Nadal than it is for Djokovic, but that doesn't mean the Serbian will hand it to him on a plate. I just think Nadal NEEDS to show himself that he can win this match, and he can only do it by securing a set he started off so brightly and one that he has had the advantage in twice already.

A beautiful point from Nadal and he brings up two set points- one of those is saved by Djokovic hammering a second serve for a straight winner.

Not sure I agree with the television directors making a couple of spectators look like dicks reading a paper just before the second set point? Anyway, Djokovic forces an error from Nadal and brings the game to deuce.

A ball just goes wide for Djokovic during a rally and that means a third set point for Rafa... The body serve does the damage again and that is the FIRST SET in the bag for the World Number 2.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 1-0* Rafael Nadal
It's an important game for Djokovic just to settle the match down and he does manage to hold. A special shot on the second point of the game, but a slight lull from the end of the first set as he takes the game to 30... The calm before the storm I am sure in this set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, *1-1 Rafael Nadal
Hmmmm a slightly tight looking second serve from Rafa to start the game catches the net cord on the way through... No respite as he throws in a double fault to open the game.

At 0-30, Nadal has another second serve that looks really slow, slow enough to catch Djokovic out that he cannot get it back in play... That is something the Serbian needs to take advantage of if he wants to get back into this one.

Well, well, well, the forehand down the line that has done a lot already for Nadal goes wide this time and there are two break points for Djokovic- Nadal saves the first despite having to go to a second serve and there are the first loud mutterings from Djokovic.

What defence from Nadal which is quickly turned into offense from the Spaniard and he has saved both break points.

Very impressive from Nadal after going 15-40 and we remain on serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 2-1* Rafael Nadal
It hasn't been a match of great great quality, but a lot of intrigue at the moment. The first point of this game is one of the better points we have seen, won by Djokovic with the backhand down the line after a mini-exchange at the net.

A lot of credit to Nadal as that forehand down the line has been imperious for much of this contest, once again doing the damage to bring the game to 30-15.

Great defence from Djokovic to earn the game, as the set is beginning to warm up.

Not sure I agree that the last Grand Slam winner is considered the best player in the World in the locker room- still think Djokovic will be considered in that position even if he loses, at least until Nadal beats him a second time in succession.

The reason for that is that there are the intangibles of Djokovic maybe feeling a little under the weather or fatigued, so players will want to see more before ruling him out as the best player because he lost in one Grand Slam Final after winning 3 of 4 last year, including the two before this one.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, *3-1 Rafael Nadal
The tennis is definitely picking up in terms of quality now as the first two points are both impressive and shared between the players.

If the first two were good solid points, the third is VERY impressive from Nadal as he hits a scorching backhand winner when in an unenviable position.

Another potentially big moment on the Nadal serve as the game goes back to 30 all... An error from Nadal brought it back to that score and another leads to a break point.

It's a second serve, and this time Djokovic earns the point with a truly wonderful, if a little lucky, volley after approaching the Nadal backhand.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 4-1* Rafael Nadal
Nadal has definitely had a slight let down after winning the first set, even if his level of tennis is still pretty high... He has made some bad errors along with his stunning winners and given Djokovic too many opportunities to get himself involved in the match.

A big forehand error gave Nadal the first point of this game, while another crunching backhand wins the Spaniard the fourth point to leave it 30 all.

Wow, another stunning shot as the match is improving greatly- this time it is the Djokovic forehand to give him a chance to consolidate his break... He does so after forcing an error behind the backhand down the line.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, *4-2 Rafael Nadal
You have to have so much respect for the athletic ability of these players as some of the rallies have been exhausting to watch, let alone actually take part. There has been a slight adjustment by Djokovic on the return of serve as he has cottoned on to the fact that Nadal is trying to keep the second serve into the body for the most part.

Hmmm, Djokovic misses a slight chance to really increase the pressure when missing a volley at 15 all that he should have made... That leads to the first easy service game in this set for Nadal.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 5-2* Rafael Nadal
Gruelling rally to open this service game and it is won by Nadal as Djokovic just puts a backhand outside of the line.

A couple of bad mistakes from Nadal making life a little easier for Djokovic on serve, and then a cheeky shot at the net to hold serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, *5-3 Rafael Nadal
Important for Nadal to come out and hold serve, forcing Djokovic to serve out the set... Think it is also important that he gets to serve first in the third set, if Djokovic does serve this one out, and perhaps put a different kind of pressure on the World Number 1.

The eyeball test says that Djokovic is the better player so far, probably since the opening exchanges of the first set... It just seems he is more secure in what he wants to do in every point, with Nadal mixing the sublime with the ridiculous.

And there is one of the rare occasions where a server challenges the fact that his serve had gone in because he was hit with a stunning return winner. Djokovic was a little upset because he thought it meant a replay of the point even if the ball was in, but that is not the case...

We have had a couple of deuce points now as Djokovic looks to press home his advantage... Now he has a chance as he earns his first set point- a lot of respect for Nadal who saves it brilliantly.

He goes on to win the next two points and holds the serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 5-4* Rafael Nadal
When you are serving for the set, there is a different pressure on a player, but you wouldn't guess it from the way Djokovic won the first point of the game.

It is the backhand down the line that does all the damage really and Djokovic earns a couple of set points to level the match... Nadal saves both of those, one with a Djokovic error, but the second with some really solid shot-making. Now the pressure increases on the Serbian.

Wow, Nadal has a huge mental lapse when playing a drop shot that should have been put away... But it isn't and it's a break point for the Spaniard out of nowhere.

And a double fault from Djokovic means two set points have come and gone and we are back on serve. How much will he regret that miss on the easy pass at deuce?

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, *0-0
This is huge for Nadal now as he hasn't really had too many easy service games since the beginning of the match. The Spaniard needs to get plenty of first serves in, and really push home the shift of momentum that could have come from that break in the last game.

A tired looking backhand into the net from Djokovic, but that could be down to the disappointment of losing the last game... He follows it by crunching a second serve to move the game to 15 all.

There is a slight chance for Djokovic now at 30 all... This is a huge point- it is won by Nadal with yet another body serve, but it is the first serves that are helping him out of a tight hole.

Deuce at a crucial juncture of this match... You can feel the tension and the crowd are well aware of the significance of this point.

BIG error from Nadal as he approaches the net by attacking the Djokovic backhand, and he is duly passed for another set point- Djokovic is gifted the set with a double fault and that is ONE SET ALL...

Nadal was really struggling on his own serve, and he has been for a while with no easy holds being given to him by the Serbian... The Spaniard has not been able to consistently punch through Djokovic and I think the World Number 1 is showing why he is in that position as he has looked a little better in most aspects of the game.

There is more consistency in the Djokovic game, and more highs and lows from Nadal, and that means the momentum is surely with the Serbian... We will see in an hour whether I am right.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 1-0* Rafael Nadal
The feeling for me is that Nadal is having a fight on his hands mentally in this match at this moment, making a few strange decisions... He tries another drop shot in this game with no success, and Djokovic runs away with a hold to love.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, *1-1 Rafael Nadal
Nadal just taking his time now on service games, but he could really do with a couple of easy(ish) service holds to open up this third set. He was under pressure for 4 out of 5 service games in set 2 and that pressure led to the double fault that cost him the set.

A couple of decent serves and a Djokovic error gives Nadal a bit of breathing room this time as he has a couple of game points to hold.

That clearly doesn't mean anything as Djokovic is 100% reading the Nadal serve now and returning it with interest as he ups the pressure again at deuce.

The World Number 1 is playing some absolutely brilliant tennis now as he will not let Nadal out of this game... Even if he doesn't break in this game, this could be setting a mental trap for Nadal later on in the set and match, especially as he is serving second again in this set.

It took 5 game points, but Nadal has kept hold of his serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 2-1* Rafael Nadal
That backhand shot down the line from Djokovic, the shot that I thought makes all the difference for the Serb in his head to heads with Nadal, is just beginning to fire with a little more consistency now.

If there is one thing you know you will get from Nadal, it is the fact that he will give it all in EVERY point... He is holding on to Djokovic here and gets to 30 all on the Serbian's serve.

It's not enough though as another really bad error off the backhand releases some of the pressure on Djokovic and he holds to remain on serve early in set 3.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, *3-1 Rafael Nadal
At the moment, Nadal has to keep on the coat-tails of Djokovic who is clearly playing the better tennis... That can change if he stays close and the pressure builds towards the end of the set.

This game is another that is developing into a tough service hold as we get to 30 all again... Nadal is just not getting enough cheap points off his own serve, being forced to dig deep on each point.

A couple of terrible line calls have gone against Djokovic in the last 20 minutes, it has not been a good tournament for the line judges and umpires in all honesty, too many silly mistakes.

Djokovic is furious, but gets his mind together to earn a break point and a chance to really grab this match by the scruff of the neck- what a tough, tough point from both men, but it is Djokovic who forces Nadal to blink first and he takes a strong position in the set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 4-1* Rafael Nadal
Unsurprisingly, Djokovic has shortened massively in the markets to win this match now... He wins the first three points in this service game with Nadal unable to return the ball into play.

Easy hold to love as Djokovic hits the ball 5 times in that game.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, *4-2 Rafael Nadal
Djokovic just has all the answers to the Nadal game at the moment and it is tough to see how the Spaniard will reverse this momentum that has built up in the last hour and a half.

The Serb earns a break point, but that is saved thanks to a big serve from Nadal... It is imperative he holds and see if Djokovic gets tight as the set closes in.

Nadal does hold thanks to a couple of Djokovic errors.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 5-2* Rafael Nadal
It's just far too easy on serve for Djokovic at the moment, winning points on serve without having to do a lot, while Nadal is pressed for everything he wins on his own serve.

Another hold to love for the best player in the World.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *0-0 Rafael Nadal
Has Djokovic learned from set 2 and wants to take this game and not have to serve out the set? He wins the first point as Nadal is getting a little more frustrated and annoyed.

More errors from Nadal leaves Djokovic needing two more points to secure the second set... Another backhand error from the Spaniard brings up three set points.

Djokovic doesn't need too many more opportunities and WINS THE THIRD SET with a stunning forehand winner.

Djokovic dominated that second set and looks to have broken the Nadal spirit with the World Number 2 looking annoyed, frustrated and a little lost on the court at the moment. The Serb has looked better in almost every aspect of this game, including movement, and it is going to be tough for Nadal to recover as he will be playing catch up again in this set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 1-0* Rafael Nadal
It is so funny seeing someone do to Nadal what Nadal has done to so many people in the past... I feel a little sorry for the guy, but this is how he makes Roger Federer feel when they play one another.

Djokovic continues earning enough cheap points in his service games, the best way to relieve any pressure and tension in an arm and that has been a big difference in the match between the players.

That doesn't mean Nadal is allowing Djokovic an easy time in this game though as he pulls it back to deuce... Big miss on the forehand side from Nadal, a shot he had been making regularly and effectively earlier in the match, but he still stays in the game.

Nadal is putting in a huge effort to stay with Djokovic, a real testament to his character here... He has been really outclassed in the last hour and a half of this match, but he keeps working hard and trying to force a change in momentum.

Not to be this time for the Spaniard, and a massive service game coming up for him next.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *1-1 Rafael Nadal
It's a great backhand shot to win the opening point for Nadal, but how often can you do that? He is working so hard and has to play shots like that to win points on his own service games, while Djokovic is picking up errors and making unreturnable serves in his own.

The game goes back to 30 all as Nadal tries to replicate the shot that wins him the first point in this game, only to go long... This could be a vital game for Nadal to hold as we to get to deuce- the reason for that is that there is rumours of rain in the air and that could stop the Djokovic momentum that he has picked up so far.

A 6 minute game, but Nadal shows a lot of guts to hold serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 2-1* Rafael Nadal
We get a couple more demonstrations to the 'cheap' points that Djokovic is able to pick up on serve that Nadal isn't- he gets a short ball for the first point, hits two aces, and then Nadal hits the serve straight out for the error.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *2-2 Rafael Nadal
Everything Nadal tries, Djokovic is seemingly able to counter, including a defensive lob that lands on the line at the back of the court to move the game forward to 15 all.

Lots of credit to the Spanish player as he wins 3 points in a row to level the set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 3-2* Rafael Nadal
Nadal has done the first thing he needed to by staying in the set early by holding a couple of service games. He now wins the first point on the Djokovic serve with an impressive forehand that lands on the back of the line.

The World Number 2 is pumped as he wins the point with a great forehand across the court, and is now in a decent position to pressure Djokovic... Credit to the level of play both have shown at different times under pressure though as the Serb levels the game at 30 all... Big point this one for Nadal.

The serve has been one of the crucial differences and it earns Djokovic another cheap point before he holds to 30.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *3-3 Rafael Nadal
It is on these occasions that Champions can show the reason why they are what they are... The pressure is on Nadal to keep holding serve, but he hasn't won 11 Grand Slam titles before without dealing with this. A solid opening serve is much appreciated I'm sure.

He doesn't want to give too many points away as a double fault brings it back to 30-15... And now the pressure has increased ten-fold with a Nadal error leaving him a perilous position at 30 all.

Lovely stuff from Nadal to survive that game from a tough position and we remain on serve.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 4-3* Rafael Nadal
A bit of a mental lapse from Djokovic perhaps as he opens the game with a drop shot into the net when in control of the point.

The pressure must really be immense on both players as we close in on the latter part of this set, but Djokovic showing what has taken him to 3 of the last 4 Grand Slams by winning the next two points to the frustration of Nadal who continues to make too many basic errors.

Silly mistakes really from Nadal at this stage of the match and I think his return of serve has really let him down. Still on serve, but one break of serve could end this match now for Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *4-4 Rafael Nadal
Nadal comes out now and I am wondering if they will sit down again in this match for a change of ends? First serves are crucial I feel if Nadal wants to stay in this match.

Great start from Djokovic with a backhand that hits the outside of the line to win the first point of the game.

Nadal has served two first serves to open up this game, but he has lost both and it's a very pressure filled moment for the Spaniard now at 0-30.

Crunching winner from Djokovic on his forehand and it's three break points for a chance to serve for the Championship... The first of those are saved behind some thumping Nadal forehands, but that is tough to do for another couple of points in all honesty.

Big first serve which is not returned and we are down to the final break point at this moment... What a shot off the backhand and Nadal has SAVED all three break points... AND THE RAIN HAS COME!!

What a time for the rain to come down, and now Nadal serves an ace to move to game point... What a Champion Nadal is, and what guts and bravery has he shown.

He gets out of the game with 5 unbelievable points, I bow down to Rafa Nadal... And it looks like we are going to have a 20 minute break for the rain delay until the roof is closed.

How much momentum will that take out of Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 5-4* Rafael Nadal
This is a huge game for Djokovic after what happened before the rain delay... He must feel this should have been the last game of the match, but has to focus else he may have another couple of hours to go.

Very smart match play from the Serb and he wins the first two points behind the serve... An error from Nadal gives him 3 game points and he then holds to love with maybe the shot of the match as he hits a forehand winner from outside the tramlines.

Tremendous temperament from the World Number 1 and now the pressure is truly on Nadal.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, *5-5 Rafael Nadal
Nadal just cannot afford to come out and make mistakes as the pressure is going to be extremely taxing after the emotional highs of a couple of games ago.

Unfortunately, he goes long with the first point of the game, but shows more of the famous belief by toughing out the next to take us to 15 all.

Hmmm a couple of bad errors on Djokovic's part now and Nadal can level the match with two game points.

What defence from Nadal again and this set is still alive.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-5* Rafael Nadal
Now how does Djokovic respond to this mini-revival from Nadal who is playing better than he has for most of the last couple of hours?

It's getting tense, you can tell that both players are beginning to feel the fact they have been out there for over 4 hours already... Djokovic faces a huge moment, perhaps for the whole match, as we get to 30 all, 5 all...

Eye of the needle stuff from Djokovic to move to game point... My respect for these players has gone up a couple of notches today, especially in the big moment changing points, particularly for Novak Djokovic.

Another hold of serve, and once again the pressure is on Nadal to hold serve and force a tie-break in this fourth set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-6 Rafael Nadal
Nadal has found a new lease of life and belief since going 0-40 down in game 8 of this set, and he starts off by winning the first point in this service game.

This is probably the best tennis Nadal has produced on a consistent basis since the start of the match and he is two points from a tie-break situation.

Brilliant serving from Nadal, truly brilliant under the pressure he must have been feeling and it is tie-break time.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7) Rafael Nadal
They say 75% of tie-breaks are won by the person who wins the first point... Djokovic earns that point with an unreturned serve.

Point 2 is magnificent as Nadal hits a ball right on the baseline and then buries Djokovic with a huge forehand that effectively won him the point as he puts a simple volley away.

Best serving of the match from Nadal in the last 20 minutes or so and he wins an easy enough point to move ahead 2-1 in this breaker.

That was an absolutely big chance for Nadal to win the point, but he has gone long with a backhand... That has to be considered a real chance, tie break is tied at 2-2.

Tight forehand from Djokovic on the next point at the first mini-break goes to Nadal who leads 3-2 with two serves to come.

Oh no... Bad net cord for Nadal there which sees the ball fly out and it's 3-3 at the change over.

Has Djokovic won that point? We get to a challenge and Nadal has just put the ball wide of the line and it's Djokovic who now leads 4-3 with two serves to come... Big, pressure filled moments.

This is why these two are the best players in the World right now- great defence from Nadal for so long, only for Djokovic to slap a winner off his forehand right on to the line... Great stuff, 5-3 World Number 1.

Oh my goodness, Djokovic has just hit the ball wide of the line when in control of the rally and we are at 5-4*, with now Nadal having to serve twice... How big is this set for Djokovic now?

Unbelievable defence from Rafa again, but Djokovic should not be missing that ball from there... Still not sure how Nadal managed to get the ball over the net though if I am honest, 5-5.

Biggest point now, set point, or match point... Big first serve, set point Nadal, 6-5.

That is tremendous stuff from Nadal, I have absolutely no idea how he has won that set from the positions he has been in... Djokovic hits the ball wide, again, of the sidelines and we are level at TWO SETS ALL

How much can Djokovic have left in the tank after blowing 3 break points in a row during the middle of the set and then losing 4 straight in the tie-breaker to drop from 5-3 to 5-7... This will show the heart of a Champion now.

Great from Nadal who has had a Lazarus style comeback when seemingly well out of the match and coming back out of nowhere. He finished that set playing the best tennis he has all day.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *0-1 Rafael Nadal
It's a shift in pressure too as Nadal will get to serve first in this final set... Personally I think he has all the momentum and it is his tournament to lose.

Some more great shot-making and Nadal holds to 30 in that one.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 1-1* Rafael Nadal
It's a fairly routine hold for Novak Djokovic as he quickly moved 40-0 up and eventually holds to 15... It has gone a little quiet at the moment after all the excitement of set 4.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *1-2 Rafael Nadal
How many bad line calls have gone against Djokovic today? He has yet another one off a solid return and is rightly unhappy.

Tennis is a funny sport- around an hour ago, Nadal was finding it almost impossible to win easy service points and games... He has been serving massively straight through the tie-break and opening up the first couple of service games in set 5.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 2-2* Rafael Nadal
This is a dangerous time for Djokovic as it is him who now needs to hold on to the coat-tails of a Nadal playing as well as he has in this entire tournament.

Those danger levels have just gone up another level as Djokovic falls into a 15-30 hole... Next point is absolutely huge, so Djokovic decides to throw in an ace, 30 all.

Another real chance for Nadal to make a pass and force Djokovic to come out with a volley, but he fails to make it. And Djokovic gets the hold.. What a tennis match.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *2-3 Rafael Nadal
The World Number 1 should be sitting in the changing rooms with another trophy in his cabinet having finished this match around 40 minutes ago and he looks extremely tired now.

A tired backhand allows Nadal to move up to 30-0, and he goes on to hold to love with little to no problems. We have seen Djokovic come back from the dead before, but this looks really tough for him here.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 2-4* Rafael Nadal
It's getting to that point where holding serve becomes more and more difficult when you are serving second. This will tell us a lot about the state of mind that Djokovic has now.

The errors are coming off the Djokovic racquet now, but he continues to show tremendous heart and moves into a 30-15 lead.

Big pressure now though as another error gives Nadal a slight chance to put his foot on the throat at 30 all.

Another error and this could the match right here as Nadal has a break point- he takes it thanks to another error from the World Number 1 and I think this is just about it for the Serb in a match he really should have won.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *3-4 Rafael Nadal
It really is the best tennis Nadal has played all tournament as he has cut out his unforced errors and started to hit more winners.. There is still some fight left in Djokovic as he pulls the game back to 15 all, but it does feel he has been ground into submission here.

It looks like the game is going to Nadal with a bit of space, but he has somehow put a ball wide from a position I think I could have put it away and it's 30 all.

And out of absolutely nowhere, Djokovic earns a break point... That miss is looking even more silly now!! And Djokovic does break back, I cannot believe this match, some ridiculous turns of momentum when it looked like the World Number 1 was finished.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 4-4* Rafael Nadal
The question is how much did Djokovic expend, energy wise, in getting back into this? His body language is languid and he looks completely out of it, but he is summoning some unbelievable levels out of himself.

You can totally see why he is the World Number 1 player, both players have been amazing and showed real resilience in this match and there have been some massive momentum shifts.

Djokovic lost the first point on serve, but has fought back and moved into a 40-15 lead... Absolute epic of a match, and some real credit to Djokovic just days after another long match with Andy Murray.

The World Number 1 holds and now the pressure is on Nadal after it looked like he was going to cruise in this set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *4-5 Rafael Nadal
Djokovic collapses in a heap after a ridiculous point in the opening point of this game... Have these guys really been out there for over 5 hours? I cannot believe this, I really cannot!!

That first point took a lot out of Djokovic, but he is once again undone by a terrible line call, that must be the 5th or 6th time that has happened to him now... What are the line judges doing?

Well well, Nadal makes a couple of bad errors there and all of a sudden, after looking out on his feet, Djokovic is back to 30 all.

Unbelievable stuff from Djokovic, he wants this and forces the game to deuce... This is his moment I feel, I don't think I like his chances of having to serve to stay in the match if he fails to break here.

And just as I finish typing that, it is indeed a break point for the Serbian- big serve, big heart and big belief as Rafa saves that point.

Nadal gets his chance to get out of the game and a Djokovic error allows him to do so... Now how is your tension Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 5-5* Rafael Nadal
I just don't know how much more I can say about Novak Djokovic... He is rightly the best player in the World and he is showing why he is in that position by finding this energy from within.

I would probably tell Serbia that he won't be ready to compete for his country in the Davis Cup in a couple of weeks time though, he will need a month to recover from this.

Superb tennis from the World Number 1 and he holds to 15... We are in the position now where we need a two game differential to separate the players, no tie break in this set.

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, *6-5 Rafael Nadal
I am left shaking my head as Nadal somehow hooks a forehand down the line to win the first point... Great tennis.

He tries something similar on the next point, but is not so accurate and it's 15 all.

It's 15-30, and Djokovic has a real chance to do something as he reads the Nadal approach as he comes to the net... But the lob is wide and it's 30 all.

WOW... Djokovic had won that point about 4 times but Nadal keeps retrieving and scrambling, but he can't do much more and it's break point, a huge moment now.

Big mistake from Djokovic in trying to return the second serve, bad footwork really and Nadal has the easy put away... Back to deuce...

Not to matter now though as he has another chance with a second break point- it sounds like someone shouted out on the shot and put Nadal off... Djokovic will not care as he earns the break and now will get a chance to serve for the Championship!!

Novak Djokovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5
What kind of physical shape must you be in to perform the way these two are? Imagine how long it would take on a clay court if they meet at Roland Garros?

After winning a gruelling first point, Djokovic moves up 30-0 and is two points from the Championship...

Oh my goodness- Nadal shows incredible defence but Djokovic puts a smash into the bottom of the net. Think he should have let that bounce and played another shot, but now it's 30 all.

Seriously, I am going to fall out of my seat here- how in all the World did Nadal survive that point and then create a break point? Superbly saved from Djokovic and he remains just two points from the title. GREAT TENNIS all round!!

It's another unfortunate net cord, but here we go... Championship Point for Novak Djokovic.

And there it is... Congratulations to Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open 2012 Champion

The man deserved to win that Final, but I have to say I want to give Rafael Nadal all the praise in the World for making this as good a contest as it was.

Djokovic should have won almost 90 minutes ago, but congratulations to him... I'll be back for an Australian Open Recap later this evening, I need a beer now... Thanks for reading

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Australian Open Day 14 Pick- Djokovic v Nadal

It turned out to be a wonderful Saturday as Victoria Azarenka confirmed her place as the new World Number 1 in Women's Tennis, beating Maria Sharapova in remarkably straight-forward fashion to also claim the Australian Open title.

It was wonderful as Azarenka had formed part of the staking plan at the beginning of the tournament and brought in the prize 7.00.

To make me feel even better, she also managed to secure the win in straight sets, meaning we picked up an additional 2 units of profit for the daily picks with one more match to go.

Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal: This was the Final that everyone was looking forward to see as Rafael Nadal tries to put a disappointing 2011 behind him where he lost all 6 matches against Novak Djokovic, all coming in Finals.

Nadal is also looking to avoid a bit of negative history rather than a lot of the positive history he has made in his career as he could be the first player to lose three consecutive Grand Slam Finals in the Open Era I believe.

So how will this Final go tomorrow? Personally I think Novak Djokovic has an excellent chance to win this match and that is mainly down to one shot- the backhand down the line to the Nadal backhand was the shot that won him those matches last season, and we have already seen Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer have success to a lesser extent in this tournament.

The bottom line is Djokovic plays that shot with so much consistency and is is able to change the direction of the ball so well in rallies that it keeps Nadal a little off-balance when playing against him.

The Nadal serve also means he has to win more rallies than someone like Federer does when he plays Djokovic, and I think that is what gives the World Number 1 a definite edge as his consistency and shot-making ability off the backhand hurt Nadal effectively.

The intangibles here are how fit Djokovic is after really having a couple of extremely tough matches- however, I think the day and half rest will be enough for him to come out firing in this one and I do think he will be too good for the Spaniard again.

I have already picked Djokovic as my outright choice to win this tournament, so, like yesterday, I won't be loading any more money on him in the match markets.

Instead, I will look for the World Number 1 to win this match in 4 sets, a number of sets it took him to complete the job at Wimbledon and at the US Open against Nadal. It is also telling that Nadal won a set in 4 of their 6 meetings last season, suggesting he takes advantage when Djokovic slips from his level a little bit, but the Serbian is took good for the most part.

As I did yesterday, I am going to try and cover this Final live with my thoughts as the match progresses on this blog tomorrow. I really enjoyed doing it for the Women's Final, and there seemed to be enough people viewing to make it at least worth my while too.

Unlike yesterday, I will hopefully begin the thread before the match starts and cover right through to the lifting of the trophy.

Thanks for the support and I hope a few of you will join me in the morning for another fascinating clash between the two best players in the World... I will post a link on Twitter to the thread for the live updates.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic win 3-1 in sets @ 4.33 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 21-15, + 16.76 Units

Australian Open Women's Final Live Updates

If you keep refreshing this thread, the updates should come up... Slightly later than planned, as the match has started but let's get it going...

Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sharapova

Victoria Azarenka *2-2 Maria Sharapova
I just saw the end of the last hold for Azarenka, and she takes that form into the next game by breaking Maria Sharapova to love... It was a big hold in the game before as it settles someone down into the match, although she was helped out massively by some unforced errors from the Russian.

Game on

Victoria Azarenka 3-2* Maria Sharapova
Azarenka follows up the break with a very good service game to hold to 15... It was very important that she got on the board early and there are plenty of positives for her in that game as she was hitting the ball hard enough to cause Sharapova plenty of problems.

I am looking for her consistency to continue here and keep the pressure on. This is a big service game for Sharapova to stop the mini-run of games against her.

Victoria Azarenka *3-3 Maria Sharapova
Sharapova wins the first point of the game, but another unforced error (9th of the match) and a powerful backhand off the ground gives Azarenka the sniff of another chance.

Strong serving from Sharapova under pressure, not for the first time this tournament, gives her game point, but another unforced error sends the game to deuce.

There seems to be a pattern developing her- Sharapova is struggling to win the point if the point is extended into a rally.

Two big serves from Sharapova to hold to 40.

Victoria Azarenka 4-3* Maria Sharapova
Another one of those tough long rallies is won by Azarenka to move up 30-0... It definitely feels that the younger player has the edge here when the rallies are extended.

I think Sharapova needs to continue playing the aggressive tennis, but the court is not helping her as there is still enough time for Azarenka to play defence and force the Russian to play one more ball.

Pressure point at 30-30 for the server, but Sharapova fails to return the ball and Azarenka goes on to hold serve after yet another extended rally, finishing with a nice lob after bringing Sharapova into the net.

Victoria Azarenka *5-3 Maria Sharapova
After a double fault leaves the game at 15 all, some impressive defence from Sharapova allows her to move ahead in the game.

The first serve is clearly the key for Sharapova here as the second is liable to breaking down during the pressure moments in game- that is backed up with a second double fault to pull the game back to deuce.

It had looked a comfortable service game as she moved 40-15 before that, but all of a sudden Azarenka has a break point... However, Sharapova brings out a big serve and does very well in dictating the rally and putting away the chance.

Sharapova has found her serve at just the right time at key moments throughout this tournament, particularly in the third set of her Semi Final against Petra Kvitova, but the pressure is still on in this game... So much so that Azarenka has earned another break point- the game lasted 9 minutes as Azarenka once again uses the drop shot to full effect and puts away an easy chance at the net to now get a chance at serving for the set.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 0-0* Maria Sharapova
This Final has really been one full of quality tennis in my opinion, with both players hitting the ball sweetly and also defending very well.

Azarenka moves through her game and brings up two set points- she only needs one as another unforced error from Sharapova hits the middle of the net. First blood to the youngster and remember that Sharapova has never gone the distance in her previous Grand Slam Finals, whether she has won or lost.

It seems clear to me here that the court is very much favouring Azarenka here as she is the better mover and the better defender of the two players. With it being a lot slower than many hard courts out there, it means Sharapova is having to do MORE to win points and is making too many errors. Sharapova gets to serve first in this set and needs to stay in front on the scoreboard and see whether that creates any additional pressure in Azarenka's mind and gets her to become a little tight.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *1-0 Maria Sharapova
A great statistic pops up to say Sharapova is winning just 18% of the baseline rallies- I am assuming that means shots of more than 5 shots... I did have a feeling the extended rallies were going in favour of Azarenka, but not to that extent.

A huge point now for Sharapova, even early in the set, as she goes 15-30 down on serve. It just seems she can't punch through Azarenka in these conditions and that is two break points for Azarenka.

A HUGE mistake from Sharapova on the first one gives her opponent the chance to pass, which is gratefully accepted, and there is big trouble brewing for the Russian... Now how does Azarenka's mind hold up as she gets close to her maiden Grand Slam win.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 2-0* Maria Sharapova
A little nervy start to the game for Azarenka as she opens with a double fault and then a mistake to fall 0-30 down... That is all forgotten as Sharapova dumps another simple ball into the net, before Azarenka dictates another punishing rally to move level.

Best return I have seen from Sharapova since the start of the match and she earns a break point- she dictates the point, but seems to take a backward step in the rally that allows Azarenka to take control and force another error.

Far too many mistakes coming from the Sharapova racquet and perhaps the Russian is looking a bit short of ideas as to how to win this match. A couple more errors and Azarenka holds serve.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *3-0 Maria Sharapova
I might be speaking far too early, but there seems to be very little thought in what Maria Sharapova wants to do to win this game other than hitting the ball harder and harder... That is leading to more errors on a court where the ball does not fly through.

Unfortunately for Sharapova fans, I don't think she has a lot more to her game other than hitting the ball hard, and if that isn't working she is in trouble. There are not enough slices in her game, while her net play is poor at best. Maria has always struggled with her movement, and I just don't see how she can get back into this.

Errors give Azarenka a huge chance with another two break points- again she needs just one of those and now Azarenka is in absolute control of this Grand Slam title and the World Number 1 Ranking.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 4-0* Maria Sharapova
Big moment here for Sharapova- she needs to find something on the Azarenka serve if she truly has desires to make this a contest.

There is no chance for the former World Number 1 to get into this contest and she is going for far too much. Errors are coming thick and fast, and she looks a little clumsy when being moved around the court- Azarenka is now just 2 games from the title with a double break advantage.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, *5-0 Maria Sharapova
Another great example of getting Sharapova to move around and winning the point from Azarenka as she moves two points away from a triple break and a chance to serve for the Championship.

This must be frustrating the life out of Sharapova as she gives up another two break points because she cannot penetrate the Azarenka defences and eventually concedes another error.

The first of those is saved after a big serve, but the pattern that has been going on for the last hour continues with solid defence and the eventual Sharapova error giving Azarenka the chance to serve for the title.

Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-0 Maria Sharapova
There is no way Sharapova goes anywhere without a fight at least as she crunches a forehand down the line to bring this back to 15 all.

Another crunching groundstroke, this time off the backhand, and Sharapova has a sniff of a chance to extend this match.

Great one-two combination from Azarenka to level the game, but a lucky net cord gives Sharapova a break point... That is missed with another error off the ground from the Russian.

Another wonderful one-two punch gives Azarenka her first Championship point- that's all she needs as another Sharapova backhand goes into the net and we have a new Grand Slam winner and a new World Number 1.

Congratulations to Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 Australian Open Champion and the new World Number 1

It is actually an exciting time for Women's tennis as far as I am concerned now that Azarenka has won her first Grand Slam... With Petra Kvitova at World Number 2, there are finally a couple of Women who will deserve their place at the top of the Rankings, players who have won the biggest tournaments and ones who will clearly be in the consideration for the rest of the Grand Slams this year.

I had a feeling before this match that those two players could have a monopoly on the Grand Slams this season, with Azarenka likely to do better at the French Open, while Kvitova will love the faster surfaces at the US Open and is the defending Wimbledon Champion.

I am looking forward to the rest of the WTA Tour this season, the first time I can say that for a good few years now.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Australian Open Day 13 Pick- Azarenka v Sharapova

So we are in the final couple of days of the Australian Open and it does seem strange that the first Grand Slam of the season is almost over.

I think this has been a pretty solid tournament on both sides of the draw and bodes well for another strong season on the tennis circuit in 2012. With most of the top players now just about ready to take a couple weeks off, I think we are going to be treated to a couple of solid Finals to whet our appetite for the rest of the year.

Women's Final Pick
Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sharapova: I am really looking forward to this Final as I think the two best players in the draw this year are taking their rightful place, while the additional bonus of the winner being crowned the new World Number 1 is brilliant news for the Women's game.

This should be a fascinating match between two players that very much like to dictate the points from the back of the court, and it could be the more consistent of the two that wins the Grand Slam.

I think Victoria Azarenka is the more consistent of the two players and I think her movement is going to be the key to the match as the slower courts in Australia should allow her to get involved in more rallies and also force Sharapova to hit one shot more than she may want to on the vast majority of occasions.

The other real issue here is the Sharapova serve that can break down, especially giving away far too many double-faults and that could mean the Russian is under pressure against her younger opponent for much of the match.

The intangibles here are how Azarenka copes with playing in her first Grand Slam Final, but I think she has a lot of belief in her game and that she can cope with Sharapova.

It is telling that the younger player has won 2 of the last 3 meetings against one another, the other being a Sharapova win when Azarenka was forced to retire. More importantly, it says something that Azarenka has won the last 5 full sets that these players have competed in.

Now I already backed Azarenka in the outright markets so I see no need to load up on her again here- I also feel she is the more likely winner of this match so I will not be laying her price or backing Sharapova to cover the outright pick.

With that in mind, I am actually thinking that I will have a small interest in Azarenka to get the better of her nerves and win this match in straight sets... Sharapova's last 5 Grand Slam Finals has ended in straight sets, either with her winning or losing, while Azarenka has won the last 5 sets they have played.

I think there will be a few breaks of serve in this one, but I believe Azarenka will come through 6-4, 6-2.

I am considering doing a live blog during the Final tomorrow and see how it goes... I will post a link to the thread on my Twitter if I decide to go forward with that and I do hope a few of you viewers will join me.

It will just be a few of my thoughts jotted down with live updates of how the match is going. Hope a few of you guys grab a read tomorrow, even if the majority of you will have access to watch it on TV yourselves.

MY PICK: Victoria Azarenka win 2-0 in sets @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 20-15, + 14.76 Units

English FA Cup 4th Round Picks (27-29 January 2012)

I will post up any plays I make from the English FA Cup games on the slate for this weekend in this thread.

The games are spread over three days so the picks will come up at different times. Also remember that all of my official picks are only available in this thread.

Watford v Tottenham Hotspur Pick and Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13053-Watford-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

Liverpool v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13062-Liverpool-v-Manchester-United.htm)

QPR v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13063-QPR-v-Chelsea.htm)

MY PICKS: Jermain Defoe to score anytime @ 2.25 BetFred (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester United Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
QPR-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

January Update: 12-14, + 0.27 Units

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Australian Open Day 12 Pick- Djokovic v Murray

Yesterday we picked all 3 underdogs to win their matches and we had a good day as two of those managed to get through.

I was stunned with the lack of respect that was given to Rafael Nadal and his chances of winning his match with Federer, not just by the layers but by the so called 'experts'... I was not concerned at all that he would Federer all the way in the match as he has the game plan that is tough for the Swiss player to deal with and we saw that again yesterday.

The one handed backhand used by Federer just does not do enough damage on a consistent basis, while Rafael Nadal was too quick and physically strong as he began to grind Federer down.

In the Women's draw, I am very happy to see the Final between Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova as both are deserving to be in this position and should offer up plenty of entertainment for the crowd.

Even better was the fact that the winner of this Grand Slam will be taking over as the World Number 1 in the Women's game and that should be a fascinating encounter. I am thinking of doing a live blog covering that Final and, IF I enjoy it, I might do the same for the Men's Final on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic win 3-1 sets vs Andy Murray: I have been thinking about this match for much of the day today and I have finally decided that I am going to have a small interest on the World Number 1 going through to his third consecutive Grand Slam Final against Rafael Nadal with a 4 set win.

Andy Murray should feel confident that he can spring a surprise, and I think he will push Djokovic here, but I still think his serve needs some work to find the consistency of getting up to 65% of first serves in play... The second serve remains a liability that can be exposed, especially by the very best players in the World like Djokovic.

I expect Murray's link up with Ivan Lendl will work, but it is still early in their relationship and I have a feeling Murray could resort to his former tactics IF he falls behind in this match... Those tactics have not really helped him in the past in best of 5 set matches in the latter stages of tournaments and I have a feeling he will fall short here.

There were some doubts about the fitness of Djokovic as he was beginning to really struggle against David Ferrer in the last Round, but he looked very strong in the third set so I don't think there are going to be too many physical issues for him to overcome here.

I think the World Number 1 will be a little too consistent and aggressive for Murray here and will pull away after splitting the first two sets. Murray was beaten in 4 sets in his last two Grand Slam losses, both to Rafael Nadal, and I think he can take a set from previous experiences of playing Djokovic.

However, I think the Serbian will get through 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic win 3-1 in sets @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Update: 20-14, + 15.76 Units

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Australian Open Day 11 Picks

The tournament is fast moving to its conclusion and I don't think there will be too many people out there that are disappointed with the line up we have in both the Men's and Women's draws.

Novak Djokovic worried me for a few moments as I thought the outright pick could be in real trouble, especially in the second set as David Ferrer looked to press home his advantage. However, the World Number 1 got a second wind and will look to take advantage of the couple of days rest he has before his Semi Final clash with Andy Murray.

Day 11 features both Women's Semi Finals, but also the magnificent looking match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer so let's get on with the picks.

Kim Clijsters vs Victoria Azarenka: I am already in a fairly nice position that I have both of these players in my outright picks, so I have Victoria Azarenka at 6.00 and Kim Clijsters at 11.00 to win the tournament outright.

However, I am going to have an interest in Kim Clijsters coming through this match as I think she is the stronger player of the two and I believe she has recovered from the ankle injury that threatened her tournament in the 4th Round win over Na Li.

Azarenka is a very good player, but one that likes dictating the rallies, something I don't think she will be given the opportunity to do in this match as Clijsters is the more powerful player off the ground.

Both players serves can sometimes let them down, but I think the Belgian also has the edge in this department too, while she also leads the head to head 4-2 (4-1 on hard courts).

It will be tight, but I am surprised that Clijsters is considered the underdog. I think it is also telling that Clijsters has been the favourite in every other meeting, with the longest odds being 1.68 in those matches.

I don't think enough has changed to have the Belgian as the underdog and will look for her to move on 6-4, 6-3

Maria Sharapova vs Petra Kvitova: Now I am picking the underdog here as well, despite the fact that I think Petra Kvitova is the most exciting player on the WTA Tour and would be a worthy World Number 1 at the end of this tournament.

However, she has not looked her dominating self in the last couple of Rounds as I think the slower courts means she has to do more with her shots, leading her to making more mistakes and showing a few inconsistencies in the shot making.

Now Kvitova faces Maria Sharapova, a player that has only been tested once in this tournament, but one that will have to display the mental strength she has become known for against her conqueror at Wimbledon last July.

My biggest concern with this pick is the Sharapova serve that can be a real liability when the pressure increases in matches, although she has done well in this department throughout the last 2 weeks. I also think Sharapova will be able to do a little more against Kvitova in the offensive department and might pressure her younger opponent enough to come through this one.

It's funny to think that around 2 months ago, Sharapova was the 1.55 favourite in this match, yet she is now the underdog. I think that is an over-reaction to the plaudits Kvitova is getting at the moment and the Russian has to be backed to come through in what should be an exciting Semi Final.

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer: I have never wanted to be more wrong about a pick than this one as I would love to see Federer reach the Final, but you can't argue with Nadal's record against him and I just feel there is a lot of value at the current prices on the Spanish World Number 2.

Nadal hasn't had a great tournament, but he has the game that is likely to cause Federer plenty of problems as it has in 19 of their previous 28 meetings.

The players that have had success against Nadal have begun using the backhand down the line to his backhand, but this is a shot I don't think Federer can hit with consistent effect and we will see a lot of heavy spins going to his backhand from the Nadal lefty forehand.

The other reason I want to keep Nadal onside in this one is the fact he has won the last 5 tie-breakers that they have played against one another, showing that he is effective in the big points in which, I would guess, he has hurt the backhand.

Nadal leads on outdoor hard courts 6-1 and has not been beaten on one of these courts since 2005 to Federer. The courts have been playing slow enough to suggest Federer will have to earn all his points and I just think Nadal will be too consistent.

I would love to be wrong, but I do think the Spaniard will get through in a long 4 or 5 setter.

MY PICKS: Kim Clijsters @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova @ 2.25 BetFred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal @ 2.50 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 18-13, + 12.26 Units

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Australian Open Day 10 Picks

It was a very good day for the daily Picks yesterday as they went 3-1, but it was also a nice day for my outright picks as both Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka progressed to a Semi Final clash against one another.

Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro both fell to their more illustrious opponents in the Quarter Final stage, but I remain happy with the choices made at the start of the tournament as there were plenty of doubts surrounding the fitness of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

We also still have Novak Djokovic in play and he has looked just as good as anyone left in this tournament, although the potential Semi Final clash with Andy Murray could be a lot more difficult than I thought it might have been at the start of the tournament due to the opponents Murray has in his path rather than the ones he was seeded to meet.

I was a little disappointed to see Juan Martin Del Potro so easily brushed aside in his match with Roger Federer, even if I had backed Federer to cover the 5.5 game handicap in that match. I still think Del Potro has a little way to go before he is competing with, and beating, the top 4 players in the World, but this tournament has shown he is going the right way.

He should be moving into the top 10 at the end of the tournament and I still think he could be a major force by the time the last Grand Slam of the year, in New York no less, comes around in September.

On the other hand, I was super impressed with Tomas Berdych and the effort he made against Rafael Nadal in a 4 set defeat. For the first 2 sets, Berdych was the better player as he put a game plan together using the Novak Djokovic blueprint from last year. In all honesty, Berdych probably deserved to be 2-0 up in sets, but I thought him losing the second set would be the turning point.

Berdych did break to move 2-0 up in the third set, but it was really one way traffic following that and it seems I was a little unfortunate not to cover the 5.5 game spread as Nadal had plenty of BP opportunities in almost every service game the Czech had from that point.

Now we get to look forward to an intriguing Semi Final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in what, I believe, is their first Grand Slam clash outside of a Final since 2005 (I could check this, but I am being lazy- I do believe it was the French Open Semi Final when they last met at this stage, but could be wrong).

Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games v Sara Errani: This is actually the first meeting between the two players, but I really do think Sara Errani is going to have plenty of problems dealing with the powerful groundstrokes generated by Petra Kvitova, the World Number 1 in the making.

Errani did have an impressive win over Nadia Petrova earlier in the tournament, but her serve and groundies are just not as penetrating as her opponent's and this could be a really tough day in the office for her.

There is the thought that Errani has nothing to lose, but she hasn't really got the power play nor the consistency that would allow her to dictate points if she was just going hell for leather on every shot.

Kvitova has not looked unbeatable in this tournament so far, and has had a couple of little wobbles, but her game looked in good shape for the most part against Ana Ivanovic and I don't think Errani will pose as many problems.

I can see the Czech player coming through 6-3, 6-1.

Ekaterina Makarova + 4.5 games v Maria Sharapova: Ekaterina Makarova has to be the biggest surprise package in the tournament, in either the Men's or Women's draw, so far as she has recorded straight sets wins over Kaia Kanepi, Vera Zvonareva and Serena Williams in consecutive rounds.

However, things will not get easier for her in this Round as she faces a known battler in the form of Maria Sharapova, a player that has beaten Makarova in both their previous meetings.

Makarova has impressed me with the way she has been playing and I think she is going to cause problems with her heavy strokes off the ground and the lefty serve working well. She reminds of Kvitova in the manner she has played, but I am very surprised with the consistency she has displayed considering her results over the last couple of seasons.

I have no doubt that she can create issues for Sharapova who was blown off the court by Kvitova when they met in the Wimbledon Final last year, especially if the more experienced Russian begins to get the yips on her own serve.

We all know that Sharapova has some of the best battling qualities on the WTA Tour and she has no worries in trying to grind out a result and I think she may do so again here... However, I can certainly see Makarova taking a set here and that may be enough to ensure she gets the cover.

I can see a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win for Sharapova as she finally grinds down her compatriot.

Andy Murray - 8.5 games v Kei Nishikori: I have to admit that I actually thought Andy Murray was going to have a higher handicap here so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the line.

I am not disrespecting the achievements of Kei Nishikori, but I truly think this will be a step too far for a player that plays in a similar manner to Murray, but with far less effectiveness.

I am sure Nishikori is an excellent athlete, but you can't tell me that playing every day in these tough conditions will not take their toll on somebody, especially somebody who has needed 5 sets, 4 sets and 5 sets to knock out his last 3 opponents. The Japanese youngster was playing mixed doubles yesterday and I think we may this taking it's toll against Murray who is very happy trying to wear out opponents on the court.

The British Number 1 has been in very good form dismissing his challengers so far in the tournament and you can imagine he will want to get the job done here as soon as possible, He beat Nishikori 6-3, 6-0 in their only previous meeting and, while I don't think it will be that easy, I think his consistency will lead to a straight sets win.

I'll look for Murray to cover this spread with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v David Ferrer: I love what David Ferrer has done with the talent that was given to him and I have a lot of respect for him reaching the heights in the game that he has- Ferrer works so hard on the court that he would be a real role model for a lot of potential professionals out there who are looking to see what it takes to become a really good player.

In saying that, he is still a little behind the very best and that is what he will be facing in the evening session in this Quarter Final. Novak Djokovic suffered a little wobble in his match against Lleyton Hewitt, but he has brushed aside almost all challenges with very little trouble.

While the World Number 1 has not really been faced with anything too difficult, the manner of his wins has been impressive and I think he is going to be too strong for Ferrer here.

Djokovic just does everything better than Ferrer, and he is capable of finding more than the Spaniard and that should be enough to carry him through. The Serb also beat Ferrer for the loss of 3 games in an exhibition tournament in the Middle East before the official start of the 2012 season.

The head to head suggests it will be closer than I think as it is 7-5 in favour of Djokovic, however I think it is telling that Djokovic has won all 5 meetings against Ferrer on hard courts without losing a set.

The two players have also met here in Australian in a Quarter Final back in 2008 which was won by Djokovic for the loss of 8 games.

I expect this match may be a little closer, but I am looking at Djokovic to come through 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 6.5 games @ 2.00 188Bet (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova + 4.5 games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 8.5 games @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games @ 1.80 BetFred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 16-11, + 12.66 Units

Monday, 23 January 2012

Australian Open Day 9 Picks

The two picks were both winners last night as the Tsonga-Nishikori match ended with 5 sets and David Ferrer was a comfortable 3 set winner over Richard Gasquet.

The biggest surprise of the day was Ekaterina Makarova beating Serena Williams in straight sets for the loss of just 7 games- Williams had not looked herself during these last 10 days, but it was still a surprising result all the same.

While that ended the interest of one of my outright picks, I was happy to see the other 5 players had made their way into the Quarter Finals, although that could be reduced heavily by the time tonight's games are finished.

Kim Clijsters has to overcome an ankle injury if she wants to make her way forward in this draw, while Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro have really tough matches to come through. Victoria Azarenka is another player that has been given a tough draw, but one that I think she is capable of coming through.

Andy Murray must also be the happiest man in the draw as he has avoided what looked like a really tough path through to the Semi Finals as other players have fallen at the wayside. Murray can only concentrate on his own games, but he must have raised himself a smile when he noticed he was due to play Mikhail Kukushkin instead of Gael Monfils and again yesterday now that he is set to play Kei Nishikori rather than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray has looked fresh and focused in this tournament and I think he could be a real danger for Novak Djokovic if they do meet in the Semi Finals.

Roger Federer - 5.5 games vs Juan Martin Del Potro: This is a Quarter Final that I have really been looking forward to in the last couple of days as both players have been in good form and have produced fireworks when meeting in the past.

This is their first meeting in a Grand Slam since the US Open Final of 2009, a year in which they actually met in 3 of the 4 Grand Slam events.

I do think Federer will get the job done in this match, because I think he is a better spot mentally than Del Potro who is still getting up to the form that carried him so far in 2009.

Del Potro has looked better and better as the tournament has progressed, but this is by far the toughest test he has faced and I don't feel he is quite ready to take the big step of knocking off one of the top 4 players, not just yet anyway.

Federer has been very solid so far in the event, and is on a long winning run so I expect he will be very confident he can win this match. The Swiss player won their last meeting in straight sets on the hard courts of Cincinnati around 6 months ago, and I think he will have too much for Del Potro on the slower courts here in Australia.

I think Federer will be a little too consistent behind his own serve, while his groundstrokes are working well on both wings... Del Potro will have his own success as he is a player that can take the racquet out of an opponent's hands, but I think he will not quite have the consistency to beat Federer and will likely fall to a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 loss.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games vs Tomas Berdych: After seeing what happened at the end of the Berdych-Almagro match, I was reminded of the end of a match between the Czech player and Nadal back in 2006 in Madrid.

On that occasion, Berdych beat Nadal in straight sets in Madrid, then had a go at the crowd which upset Nadal.

I think it is telling that Nadal has won 10 straight matches against Berdych since that one, also winning 23 of 24 sets that they have competed in and I think the Spaniard will be 100% focused again.

He will not be happy with the way Berdych treated his compatriot and he has never really forgiven him for his actions in Madrid, and I think he will be even more focused in every point than he is usually.

Nadal has looked comfortable in this tournament so far, ending all doubts about his fitness problems that he had followed him into Melbourne. The court is playing slower than most hard courts so I think he will be able to get involved in rallies against Berdych and that should allow him to win plenty of points off the big Czech serve.

Apart from Berdych's win over Olivier Rochus, he has not exactly been pulling up trees despite showing some real mental strength in beating Almagro and Kevin Anderson by winning 5 sets in tie-breakers.

I just think Nadal will be too consistent for Berdych and will be involved in enough rallies to earn breaks of serve and likely come through 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Victoria Azarenka win 2-1 in sets vs Agnieska Radwanska: Both of these players come into this Quarter Final in plenty of confidence having secured a comfortable passage through the draw, barring Radwanska's 1st Round clash, as both are also looking to pick up their maiden Grand Slam tournament.

They seem to match up well despite Azarenka leading the head to head 7-3, with their last 3 matches going the distance including in Sydney last week when Azarenka came through in their Semi Final clash before picking up the title there.

Radwanska has the game plan that can frustrate a player like Azarenka as she looks to keep the ball in for one for shot and that can lead the higher ranked player to make mistakes.

While I can see this going the distance again, I think Azarenka might hold the mental edge has she has won 5 of their last 6 matches and won their most recent one only last week.

In that case, I think it might be worth taking a chance on the Number 3 seed winning 2-1 in sets at an attractive price.

Caroline Wozniacki-Kim Clijsters Over 21.5 Total Games: I have no idea how Kim Clijsters is going to feel today after what looked like quite a bad ankle turn in her win over Na Li in the 4th Round.

Clijsters would have been the favourite, as far as I am concerned, if she had not suffered that injury as Wozniacki would have really struggled to keep up with the pure shot-making ability that Clijsters can generate.

The Belgian Number 1 leads the head to head 2-0, and both matches were tight affairs that went over the total games that has been set for this one.

I don't think Wozniacki is the kind of player that will bludgeon anybody off the court, so Clijsters will have the chance to make her shots- the question is whether she can move around enough to find the right angles against the World Number 1 who is very effective at keeping a ball in play and looking for an opponent to make mistakes.

It wouldn't surprise me if this match goes the distance today, but I also feel the first 2 sets will be tight enough that the total games could go over even if either player wins in straight sets.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 1.85 188Bet (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka to win 2-1 in sets @ 4.00 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Caroline Wozniacki-Kim Clijsters Over 21.5 Games @ 1.90 Bodog (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 13-10, + 7.86 Units

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Australian Open Day 8 Picks

The final Quarter Final matches will be decided today and, unfortunately, due to time constraints, I can only put up my picks today without the reasons that I usually accompany with them.

It was a good day for the picks yesterday as Roger Federer won with ease and Tomas Berdych was a 4 set winner. It could have been even better if Kim Clijsters had won her match by serving it out at 5-2, but I am just glad that she is still in the tournament.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Over 3.5 sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 11-10, + 4.10 Units

NFL Conference Championship Games

Due to all the activity on the blog, including the Australian Open Tennis Picks as well as the Football Picks, it means I cannot write too much about these games, but I have had full previews of the NFC and AFC Championship Games which you can access below.

I will offer a disclaimer and say I am 0-4 in the AFC Play Off games this postseason, but am 4-0 in NFC Play Off games so take that as you like.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots Pick and Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13038-Baltimore-Ravens-at-New-England-Patriots.htm)

New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers Pick and Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13039-New-York-Giants-at-San-Francisco-49ers.htm)

MY PICKS: Baltimore Ravens + 7 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New York Giants @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Australian Open Day 7 Picks

It was a tough day yesterday for picks as far as I was concerned before the day's play, and for a while I thought it was going to be a 0-2 day as Vera Zvonareva was getting massacred by Ekaterina Makarova, while David Ferrer made a horrendous start to go down 0-4 in the opening set against Juan Ignacio Chela.

It was telling that Ferrer went on to win 19 of 23 games to come through 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 and split the Picks.

On the outright front, we have reached Round 4 with all 6 players still in the competition. Novak Djokovic has barely been tested so far, while Serena Williams is looking solid but is yet to face a true challenge like Makarova should give her in the next Round.

Hopefully, all 4 players in action on Day 7 will force their way into the Quarter Finals.

Kim Clijsters - 2.5 games vs Na Li: I have picked Kim Clijsters as one of my outright picks and I think she will be good enough to beat Na Li in this Round to go through to the Quarter Finals in a repeat of the Final from 12 months ago.

Clijsters has looked healthy and has played well in the first 3 Rounds here, including an impressive win over Daniela Hantuchova in the last Round.

Na Li has made a strong start to the new season after really struggling following her win at the French Open in May and I think she is finally showing the form she is capable of. However, it could be a tough ask to match with Clijsters who loves playing here in Australia where she has been accepted as one of their own and is a huge fan favourite.

Clijsters has picked up 5 wins from the 7 meetings against Li, including a 3 set win in the Final here last year. The spread is low enough that she should have a chance to cover even if this one goes the distance, something that I feel is very possible with the way Li has been playing.

However, I am looking at Clijsters to come through 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Roger Federer - 7.5 game vs Bernard Tomic: Bernard Tomic has really caught the imagination of the Australian public with his run to the 4th Round, but I still think he has a little way to go before he is beating the likes of Roger Federer in a Grand Slam.

Federer has looked very much in control as he has progressed through the draw, and he would have learnt a lot from playing Tomic on the grass in a Davis Cup tie last season. Tomic's style of play can bamboozle opponents who have not seen it before, but I think it will play into the hands of the former World Number 1 who should be allowed the time to dominate using his forehand.

I also think Federer holds a clear edge when it comes to serving and should be a lot fresher than Tomic who has been forced to a 5th set in 2 of the first 3 Rounds already this year.

I just feel Tomic was a little fortunate to come through the last Round against Alexandr Dolgopolov, and he showed some vulnerabilities that Federer should be able to exploit.

Tomic shouldn't be overawed as he played Rafael Nadal in the 3rd Round here last season and was beaten in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.

Personally, I see this ending 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to the Swiss player.

Juan Martin Del Potro win 3-1 in sets vs Philipp Kohlschreiber: This should be a close contest between players that have had tough contests against one another in the past and I think the German can at least grab a set off of Del Potro, while probably not being consistent enough to come through the Round.

Del Potro has only dropped 1 set so far in the first 3 Rounds in the tournament, but this is the toughest test he will have faced all week as he looks to get back to the form that carried him to the US Open title in 2009.

Kohlschreiber is a tough test as he has a lot of the shot making ability that can take the racquet out of an opponent's hands when he gets hot. However, I think his serve can be inconsistent and that is what makes it tough for him to beat the very best players in the World.

Del Potro has won all 4 previous meetings with Kohlschreiber, but they have all been tough matches with 2 of those going the distance.

They met last season with Del Potro winning 7-6, 7-6 in Indian Wells and 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 in Miami and I think we will see the Argentine coming through in 4 close contests tonight.

Tomas Berdych to win 3-1 in sets vs Nicolas Almagro: This is another contest between two players that seem to match up well when looking at results against one another, and I think Almagro can make a contest of it on the slower hard courts we have seen this year.

Berdych has won 4 of the 6 meetings against one another, but they did split their 2 matches last year and the Czech player has been solid, yet unspectacular so far in the tournament.

Almagro has done well in recovering from a 1-2 deficit in sets against Grigor Dimitrov to win that in 5 and then beat Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets and I think he will feel he can have an impact in this match behind his heavy groundstrokes and decent serve.

However, I think Berdych will eventually be able to wear down Almagro with his own power.

I imagine this will be keenly contested for 3 sets before Berdych pulls away in the 4th to record the 3-1 win in sets.

MY PICKS: Kim Clijsters - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Juan Martin Del Potro win 3-1 in sets @ 3.75 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Tomas Berdych win 3-1 in sets @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 9-8, + 2.30 Units

Friday, 20 January 2012

Australian Open Day 6 Picks

I am so disappointed that the Picks only went 2-2 yesterday, especially as Alexandr Dolgopolov looked the more capable player in his loss to Bernard Tomic.

Let us hope Day 6 provides a more successful day.

David Ferrer - 8.5 games vs Juan Ignacio Chela: David Ferrer was forced into a 5 set match in the last Round, but I still think he will be too strong for Juan Ignacio Chela who is now predominantly a force on the clay courts.

Ferrer is very consistent and I think he will make it tough for Chela and force the Argentinian into hitting one too many balls and I don't think Chela has the consistency to keep up with the Spaniard.

Chela doesn't have the big powerful serves that could make it easier to secure games, and he will be forced to work for every point he wants to earn. However, that is going to be a tough ask against Ferrer and I think he will be able to win a set or two with a couple of breaks in the set.

I expect Ferrer will go through in straight sets and will look for a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win in his favour.

Vera Zvonareva - 4.5 games vs Ekaterina Makarova: Now this is a bit of a risky pick as Zvonareva has not been in great form in this tournament nor has she made a fast start to the season, but I think she has a very good match up against a player that won in a huge surprise in the last Round and may struggle to reach those heights again.

Makarova shocked Kaia Kanepi in the last Round, and did reach the 4th Round here twelve months ago, but I think she could have a let-down performance against her fellow Russian who crushed her for the loss of just 3 games when they last met back during the US hard court swing of 2011.

Zvonareva is the more consistent player at this level and I think she will be able to show that in this match.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 8.5 games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Vera Zvonareva - 4.5 games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 8-7, + 2.46 Units

English Football Weekend Picks (January 21-23)

The weekend is here, but I have been ridiculously busy at work, while any spare time has been mainly focusing on the first Grand Slam of the tennis season in Australia.

That is not to say that I am ignoring the fact that the Premier League is back in action this weekend, but it does mean that I won't have time to put down any thoughts relating to the last couple of weeks in the World of Football.

In all honesty, it has been a fairly quiet month considering the transfer window is open, so I don't think I would have had a lot to say anyway.

There HAS been one important change- all my official picks will ONLY be posted on this blog from now on, with my previews written for Goonersguide.com giving you an idea into my mindset. Usually the picks I make and the preview will tally nicely, but there will be occasions when I may take a different pick to the one I 'recommend'.

On this blog, MY PICKS will be the official ones made for any round of games.

As usual, my picks will all be on this one thread and will be posted whenever I get spare time. You can follow me on Twitter where I update any time new picks have been posted.

Everton v Blackburn Rovers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13013-Everton-v-Blackburn-Rovers.htm)

Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13014-Bolton-Wanderers-v-Liverpool.htm)

Norwich City v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13016-Norwich-City-v-Chelsea.htm)

QPR v Wigan Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13026-QPR-v-Wigan.htm)

Wolves v Aston Villa Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13027-Wolves-v-Aston-Villa.htm)

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13036-Manchester-City-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

Arsenal v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13037-Arsenal-v-Manchester-United.htm)

MY PICKS: Everton-Blackburn Rovers Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Norwich City-Chelsea Draw @ 4.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
QPR-Wigan Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Stan James (2 Units)
Wolves-Aston Villa Draw @ 3.40 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

January Update: 10-9, + 4.47 Units