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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 29th

I decided to give Dubai a steer clear today as I think a lot of the spreads have been put up a little high, while I also didn't exactly trust the 'weaker' opponents that the likes of Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic were due to play.

Others like Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are playing opponents that will either crumble or serve out of their skins and it is just too much of a risk to take either way.

Yesterday was a poor day as the picks went 1-2, but hopefully things will not be as grim as that today.

Ernests Gulbis - 2.5 games v Steve Darcis: Steve Darcis produced a big surprise yesterday as he beat Victor Troicki, and the Belgian is having a couple of productive weeks on the United States hard courts.

However, I am backing the enigmatic Ernests Gulbis to progress through to the Quarter Final after he looked impressive yesterday. Gulbis also has course and distance form as a former winner at Delray Beach and I have a feeling this is going to be one of his 'big' weeks, ones that come around far too infrequently for someone with the talent this player possesses.

The courts look to be playing pretty fast and that should suit the big groundstrokes and serve that Gulbis likes to dictate play with and I will back him to come through in straight sets.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v Benoit Paire: Surely the run of matches that Nicolas Almagro has been forced to play will come back and get the better of him sooner rather than later, but I still think he is going to be too strong for Benoit Paire.

While I do think Almagro has played a lot of tennis by winning in Brazil two weeks ago, and then finishing runner up in Argentina last week, he has form for doing this before. Just last season, Almagro won the first two events back to back before reaching the Final here during this South American clay court swing so I will keep faith in him to produce here.

Benoit Paire has shown signs that he can at least progress from his position of World Number 99, but I think his clay court pedigree does not extend to beating someone of the capabilities of Almagro just yet. Paire also has the habit of playing a couple of poor service games per set, and that could be enough to see the Spaniard complete the cover.

Fernando Verdasco v Juan Ignacio Chela: I have avoided backing Fernando Verdasco for the best part of 12 months now as he seems to have reverted to his pre-2009 form when he was a player capable of producing some exceptional tennis, but one that seemed to check out of matches and lose serve at will.

However, I think the layers are under-estimating his chances of beating Juan Ignacio Chela for the 5th time in 6 meetings here. Chela is predominantly a clay court player these days, but he is coming towards the end of his career and is a player that struggles for consistency.

Verdasco has won 3 of their last 4 meetings on a clay court, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one goes the distance. However, I still think the Spaniard is capable of producing enough against a player that could throw in a bunch of errors at any time and I do think he will win this match.

MY PICKS: Ernests Gulbis - 2.5 games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco @ 1.83 Unibet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 2 Units (6 Units Staked)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 28th

I had a pretty average week last week in all honesty as too many picks fell by the wayside- That meant I decided to take a couple of days to myself to re-evaluate the picks I made and whether I could have done something better myself.

I was a little unfortunate in some ways, but in others I just made bad picks and it is good to have a couple of days to recharge the batteries.

I also decided not to make any outright picks this week as I think the tournaments are all a little tough to call, while Acapulco didn't release their draw until late yesterday evening.

That also means a lot of the layers are taking their time getting their full markets up for the matches in play so picks will be out as soon as all the markets are in play.

We have a full schedule in Dubai tomorrow, while both Acapulco and Delray Beach will release their markets later on. I will update my Twitter page whenever I make new picks and will post a link to this thread.

Ivan Ljubicic win 2-0 in sets v Flavio Cipolla: Ivan Ljubicic is coming to the end of a decent career, but I still think he is going to be too strong for the Italian whose best performances are usually on the slower clay courts.

The Dubai courts will play fairly fast during the day and that should only aid Ljubicic's serve and I think he will do enough in each set to take this match in straights.

Cipolla is always liable to throwing in a bad service game, while Ljubicic beat him on his home court in Rome last year in fairly standard fashion.

Nicolas Mahut-Feliciano Lopez Over 23 total games: These two players are both very good servers and not so good at returning so we could see a couple of sets going deep, either reaching a tie-break or coming close to reaching a tie-break.

It is also worth noting that their last 3 matches against one another have gone the distance, with the last 2 matches seeing at least 2 tie-breaks played.

I have a feeling this will go all the way too and I can't pick a winner so taking this at odds against looks reasonable.

Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 games v Rui Machado: Jeremy Chardy failed to qualify for the event in Argentina last week, but he had been in good form during this South American clay court swing and I think his serve is going to make it a little easier for him tonight than Rui Machado.

Chardy has the ability to get through his service games with a little bit of comfort when his serve is on form, and he should be in much better heart than his opponent that has lost all 5 matches he has played so far this season.

Machado's best record is on the Challenger Tour and I think he will have a harder time holding on to serve and Chardy should be able to come through with a break in each set.

MY PICKS: Ivan Ljubicic win 2-0 in sets @ 2.38 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut-Feliciano Lopez Over 23 Total Games @ 2.10 188Bet (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 3.5 games @ 2.00 10Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Picks: 10-12, - 4.7 Units (45 Units Staked)

Season 2012: + 14.05 Units (184 Units Staked, + 7.64%)
Season 2011: + 82.02 Units

Recapping the last week from the Premier League (February 18-26)

It's been another fascinating ten days from the Premier League and European competitions as well as some movement on the English manager front. These are just a few of my thoughts from the last week and a bit as we have a slow week of internationals in front of us before the League gets back into gear next weekend.

Stuart Pearce managing England in the short term: Now this is going to come off as a rant, so I will apologise for that immediately... Some may agree, others may not, but this is my personal view on the whole matter.

First things first, I am absolutely shocked that England would even come close to considering Stuart Pearce to lead the nation to the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland/Ukraine as I just don't believe he has the necessary experience to deal with the players that he will have at his disposal for this event.

I actually can't believe he has managed to position himself so well considering his managerial success at club level has been modest at best and poor if you really delve into it... Yes he displayed 'passion' (there's that word again when it comes to potential England managers) as a player, but that is surely not going to be enough to actually get the best out of his players when they are tactically not set up in the correct manner.

Some will ask who is better placed to do a job at this moment- I don't know if bringing in someone like Alan Curbishly with Pearce as his number 2 wouldn't be an upgrade on what England could be going in with this Summer.

Rooney Rule should be brought in to English Football immediately: The Rooney Rule from the NFL was given a lukewarm reaction from many, but I think England could really set the tone by starting to open the door to black coaches and potential managers.

Now I don't think there is a non-white manager that can do a better job than Harry Redknapp or Roy Hodgson (if I was picking the manager, those two would be on my shortlist), but I think it's about time that non-white coaches are given an opportunity in the England set up.

For example, Paul Ince has as strong a managerial CV as Stuart Pearce, has an iconic moment from his time playing for England (bandaged up in Rome after the 0-0 draw with Italy to qualify for the World Cup 1998), and surely could benefit from being given such an opportunity as has been awarded to Pearce and David Platt in the past.

While Ince would not be considered for the managerial role at this moment, this will give him the experience of working within the camp that seems to have pushed Pearce's prospects forward and would at least get clubs thinking that non-white managers are capable of doing the big jobs in English football.

It is a sad state that we have ONE black manager in the English top flight in 2012, and Terry Connor is only in that position because almost every other candidate seemed to have turned the job down.

The NFL seems to have moved on from their archaic views on the potential of black Quarter Backs as well as Head Coaches, but it took the formation of the 'Rooney Rule' to open the doors on the latter of those and I think English Football would similarly benefit.

Pivotal moment of the season?: Ryan Giggs saved Manchester United from losing a potentially big two points as he scored in the 92nd minute, earning a big three points for the Red Devils and keeping them just a couple of points from the summit of the Premier League.

That could be the pivotal moment of the season as United once again displayed to the rest of the League that they are not going to give up their title without a fight and it eases some of the pressure that two lost points would have provided.

IF Giggs had not scored, United would have been 4 points behind City... City would then be playing Bolton at home on Saturday next week and would likely have had a 7 point lead over United ahead of the latter's trip to White Hart Lane to take on a wounded Tottenham Hotspur team.

The win at Carrow Road also means a point at Tottenham will not be a bad result and keeps United well and truly in the hunt for a 5th League title in the last 6 seasons.

On another matter, how fitting was it for Ryan Giggs to score on his 900th appearance for Manchester United- it is a remarkable achievement to play so long for one club, especially considering United have been on top for pretty much the entire period he has been at Old Trafford.

Congratulations Giggsy, and here's to many more times seeing you tear teams apart... again!

Regardless of the stature of the competition, the Carling Cup can be a big catalyst for success: I know the first thing to do when Liverpool win a competition is to downplay the significance, but the Carling Cup should not be ignored as meaningless as we have seen it can make, or break, the success of teams.

Arsenal provided a great example just a year ago as their entire season crumbled following their defeat in the Final of the Carling Cup to Birmingham City, with the Gunners quickly losing their chances to win anything that season as they fell out of the FA Cup, Champions League and the Premier League in quick succession.

Manchester United and Chelsea fans will also be aware of what this competition can do for teams- United's recent success came about following a Carling Cup win in 2006, the same season they were last knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage.

That success saw United reclaim the Premier League title the season after, the first time since 2003, and also led to Champions League success in 2008 as well as further titles in England.

Jose Mourinho's first trophy at Chelsea was also this competition before winning back to back League titles, so the Carling Cup is not one to be ignored lightly.

Only time will tell if this is going to be the case for Liverpool, although I still think they have a bit to find to challenge for the Premier League title, the one competition their fans will truly want to win.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 25th

I really needed to take a second look as the results came through last night as the layers bashed my brains in with some excellent capping.

Three of my four losing picks yesterday lost by 0.5 games which is either ridiculously bad luck or horrible decision making... Either way, it didn't feel good!

Fortunately, both picks from Dubai were winners, although the bad news kept coming as John Isner went out of the tournament in Memphis and leaves me with just Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the outright market (who is down a break in the final set in his Semi Final against Juan Martin Del Potro at the time of writing).

Hopefully this week ends in a much more positive note than Black Friday.

David Ferrer - 3.5 games v David Nalbandian: It is a little funny to think that just over a year ago was the last time these players met- that was in the Final at Auckland when it was David Nalbandian set as the favourite.

David Ferrer should be far too consistent for Nalbandian at this stage of their careers, although it is a dangerous pick as the Argentine is playing at home and has been in very good form this week.

Both players have made easy progress through the draw, but I just feel Nalbandian will make too many errors and that should allow the Spaniard to be a little too strong and come through in straight sets.

Milos Raonic - 4.5 games v Benjamin Becker: I know Milos Raonic came up a little short to cover this same spread yesterday, but I am going to go back to the well with him today.

Becker is a solid player, but one that can suddenly start spraying errors and that should allow Raonic to come through in straight sets with a break in each.

This will rely on him serving first to make things that much easier for Raonic, but I am going to stick with him despite his failure to cover yesterday.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer - 3.5 games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 4.5 games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-9, - 1.3 Units (38 Units Staked)

Friday, 24 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 24th

It was not a good day yesterday as the picks went 1-2, while Davydenko retired from his match with Del Potro to void that pick.

There are a few players on my 'blacklist' that I refuse to back or go against as they always seem to do exactly the opposite of what I think they will... The latest to join the list is Daniela Hantuchova, a player that plays well when she wants but one that I cannot seem to read anymore.

I ignored her match with Peng earlier in the tournament after seeing her struggles against Hercog, yet Hantuchova is barely threatened on serve and looks very good, all this after winning a tournament a couple of weeks ago so confidence is clearly high.

However, I was very disappointed with her performance against Julia Goerges today, a match she seemed to have in control before falling apart, and so I will keep a mental tab on her matches but I will not be playing them anytime soon.

Just out of interest, the other players on that list at the moment are Alexandr Dolgopolov, Ana Ivanovic, and now Daniela Hantuchova (these are the more 'famous' names, but there are a few others).

The tournament in Dubai has already reached the Semi Finals stage as they want to keep Sunday as a day of rest so will finish earlier than the other tournaments taking place this week, all of which will have reached the Quarter Final stage tomorrow.

I will update a link to this thread on Twitter once my picks have been made- these should be up in the morning, at least a couple of hours before the first matches are scheduled.

Agnieska Radwanska - 3.5 games v Jelena Jankovic: A slightly risky pick considering the form of the latter so far this week, but I think Radwanska has shown herself more than capable of beating most players on the Tour over the last few months... Well most players not called Victoria Azarenka.

Radwanska has lost just 6 matches since the US Open, 3 of those to Azarenka, while other defeats to Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova were expected.

However, I think she has full belief in her ability to knock off any other opponent and that has shown this season so far where only Azarenka has managed to get the better of the Polish Number 1.

Jankovic has been playing very well, but she still shows signs of frustration at times, and I think Radwanska's ability to make her play one more ball will be the telling factor.

Radwanska won their most recent meeting on the hard courts of Tokyo in a 3 set match... I don't think it will go that far today and I am looking at her winning in straight sets with a break of serve more than Jankovic can manage (I know that's how tennis works to win sets, I mean in the sense that I expect a number of breaks of serves with Radwanska coming out on top in each set).

Julia Goerges + 4.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: This is a pick that could die a very early death if Goerges is in her 'make 3 unforced errors a game' mode, but I am backing the German to at least keep it close against an opponent she has beaten twice in a row, both wins coming last season.

Goerges is really a hit or miss character, going from the unplayable to the inability to hit the ball over the net, but the match up does work for her as Wozniacki is unlikely to power her way past her.

I have noticed that Wozniacki is being a little more attacking at the moment in her game, with an obvious need to improve that aspect if she wants to win Grand Slams, but that also leads to more errors and mistakes than she is used to making.

Goerges has clearly been comfortable on the courts here and she will have her opportunities to perhaps even win the match outright... However, I like having the games on my side in this one.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games v Richard Gasquet: A quick look at the results and you could be forgiven for thinking Richard Gasquet has cruised through to this stage of the tournament in Marseille, but that has really not been the case at all.

Gasquet was a little fortunate to beat Igor Kunitsyn as simply as he did in the last Round, offering up far too many opportunities and this is something that can come back to bite him against Del Potro.

I also feel there is still a mental block for the Frenchman when he comes up against the best players on the Tour and Del Potro certainly fits into that department. The Argentine has looked like gettting closer and closer to the form that took him to the French Open Semi Final and winning the US Open in 2009 as he continues to find confidence in his own game.

His big hitting style is certainly going to pose Gasquet problems and I think he should be able to take advantage of the opportunities Gasquet is allowing on his own serve- that should hopefully lead to a straight sets win with a break in each set.

Ivan Ljubicic + 3.5 games v Janko Tipsarevic: Anyone who has followed my picks since last season will know how much I like Janko Tipsarevic, but this could be a tough evening for him in prospect.

Ivan Ljubicic is clearly not the same force of old, but he still can cause problems if his serve is 'on' and he should have some confidence having already won a couple of matches here. Ljubicic hasn't got the same consistency in rallies, but can pressure opponents if he is getting through his own service games and he will look to do that tonight.

Tipsarevic has looked comfortable as a Top 10 player and he seems happy with the way things have been happening for him. He has reached the Final in Chennai this season, although a Third Round loss at the Australian Open was a disappointment.

The courts should aid Tipsarevic with his own serve, which is very much under-rated as far as I am concerned, but this match easily has the potential to reach a couple of tie-breaks and I am hoping that will be enough to ensure Ljubicic can cover the spread.

Igor Andreev + 3.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: I said earlier this week when backing Andreev to beat Kavcic that I believe the Russian is playing as well as he has for at least a couple of seasons, and he has backed up those comments by reaching a Quarter Final here in Argentina.

He won as the underdog yesterday against Fernando Verdasco and his serve has been working very very well in the last couple of tournaments. He also showed tremendous guts last week against Albert Ramos to stay in the match, although ultimately losing in two tie-breakers, but I was impressed as his determination has not been so great the last couple of seasons.

Nicolas Almagro is a very tough clay court competitor, but he has played a lot of tennis of late and has begun to make life a little tougher for himself in matches than it needs to be. While he did win impressively yesterday, he struggled against Filipo Volandri and Potito Starace recently and I can easily see this going the distance.

In that case, the extra 3.5 games on Andreev looks a touch high in what I foresee being a closely contested match.

They have met 7 times in the past (Andreev leads 4-3), but the majority of those matches have been closely contested. The way Andreev is playing at the moment, this could be another one to add to that list.

Milos Raonic - 4.5 games v Olivier Rochus: This looks like a fairly large spread that could all be decided on whether Milos Raonic decides to start serving first or whether Rochus is given that opportunity.

However, at odds against, this is definitely worth chancing that the Canadian continues his form of the last two weeks when he has been serving like a machine and not allowing his opponents too many chances of winning points, let alone breaking serve.

The courts here in Memphis will aid Raonic all the more and will heap the pressure on the diminutive Belgian to try and keep up, something we have seen scupper a couple of opponents in recent matches.

The big serving Canadian can break the spirits of his opponents when he is serving as well as he is, and they can fall apart if Raonic does move ahead in the set as they begin to feel there is no chance of them recovering.

Rochus also has to earn every point he is going to win in this match and that should present Raonic with the opportunity to break serve- yesterday, Ryan Harrison earned 6 break point chances while Alex Bogomolov earned 9 in their matches with Rochus.

I can just see Raonic breaking serve in the first two sets and serving out the match... If he serves first, I think this will be an easier cover than if he is forced to break twice in a set, although that is entirely possible too if the pressure of saving serve gets a little too much for Rochus.

MY PICKS: Agnieska Radwanska - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Julia Goerges + 4.5 games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Ivan Ljubicic + 3.5 games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Igor Andreev + 3.5 games @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Milos Raonic - 4.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-5, + 3.04 Units (26 Units Staked)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 23rd

Some of the tournaments this week have reached the Quarter Final stage and it seems the layers are taking their time getting all the markets in play.

I will have to wait a few hours until the layers have got the full markets available and then I will post up my plays for this day.

At that time, I will also update the results for this week, although it has looked like another good day yesterday with the picks going 3-1 and Andy Roddick still to play.

As always, I will update my Twitter page when the picks are made.

Daniela Hantuchova v Julia Goerges: This is the final match on court today in Dubai and I am a little surprised that the layers have got this as a 'pick 'em' contest.

Daniela Hantuchova recently won a tournament on the hard courts of Thailand and has been in decent form over the last 12 months, even though she has had some poor performances in the last couple of weeks, including in the First Round here where Hantuchova could easily have been knocked out of the tournament already.

With Hantuchova, you know generally what you are going to get, but Julia Goerges is one of the most hit and miss characters on the tour. I have been very critical of the way she goes about her business and have described her as a 'mindless ball-basher' who tries to hit through the ball no matter where she is on the court and she doesn't construct points as well as she should.

There will be points in the match that Goerges is unplayable as she hits winners, but I also think she is capable of going through long stretches where she cannot make a ball, and that should give the edge to the Slovakian player to move through to the Semi Finals.

Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games v Igor Kunitsyn: I backed Richard Gasquet successfully in the last Round as I think he is too strong for players he THINKS he is better than and he seems to reserve his best tennis for them at this moment in his career.

Gasquet will need to protect his own serve a little better than he did against Go Soeda, but he should get some chances to break serve when Kunitsyn is serving.

Kunitsyn had lost in the First Round of every tournament he had played this season until winning in the last Round here and he was bageled twice by Mikhail Youzhny last week in Rotterdam. The Russian player generally struggles against players in the top 32 and he was also have to remove the memories of his crushing at the hands of Gasquet at Wimbledon last year.

I think this is a tough match up for Kunitsyn, and I think Gasquet will grab a couple of breaks in a set to get away from him and cover the spread.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games v Nikolay Davydenko: Nikolay Davydenko has been back to something like his best in the last couple of weeks, but I am going to oppose the former Top 5 player here.

Even though he holds a 3-1 head to head record against Juan Martin Del Potro, he is playing the Argentine in as good as form as he has been in over the last 12 months, with only Roger Federer managing to get the better of him.

It won't be easy for Del Potro, but I think his game is getting better all the time and I am not sure Davydenko will be able to keep tabs on him as his consistency is no longer at the same level as it was a couple of seasons ago.

The Russian's serve has always been susceptible to being broken, even at the height of his powers, and I am going to back Del Potro to cover with a break in each set to win in straights.

Radek Stepanek - 3.5 games v Ryan Sweeting: Radek Stepanek beat one American player last night, and gets his chance with another tonight and I think he is capable of coming through with another straight sets win and a cover of the spread.

Ryan Sweeting is 24 years old now and he has not really progressed on the Tour as much as he would have liked. He has a big first serve, but his second is not really up to scratch, although confidence should be high after beating James Blake in the First Round for the loss of just 2 games.

However, Stepanek is still more of a challenge than Blake these days and his awkward style can frustrate opponents, particularly if they do not have the consistency to hurt him. The Czech player has a rich history on the North American hard courts, including a straight sets win over Sweeting in New Haven 18 months ago.

If Stepanek can serve well, I think he will put a lot of pressure on Sweeting and I think he should be able to come through with a break in each set to win in straights too.

MY PICKS: Daniela Hantuchova @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Radek Stepanek - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-3, + 5.2 Units (20 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 22nd

It is a little unfortunate that the tournaments are spaced out in the manner they are as that means the layers are taking their time in releasing their markets for all the matches that will be taking place tomorrow.

For that reason, I am going to to make my picks in spurts for this day, but I will update my Twitter page whenever I have updated this thread. I will try and get all my picks out in the morning as I think the earliest scheduled match is 10am in Dubai, before tournaments in Marseille, Buenos Aires and Memphis begin later in the day.

Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 games vs Simona Halep: Caroline Wozniacki has lost back to back matches on the Tour following her defeat to Lucie Safarova last week in Doha, but that is something that hasn't happened too often in the last couple of seasons and I am looking for her to bounce back today.

Simona Halep has had a couple of productive weeks in the Middle East, reaching the Third Round in Doha last week and following that with 4 victories here in Dubai to Qualify and progress through to this Second Round match.

However, I am not convinced she has the power to punch through Wozniacki on a regular basis and that could be the big difference between the players in this match, the final one on the courts of Dubai.

With that in mind, I would look for Wozniacki to progress with a 6-4, 6-2 scoreline.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Benoit Paire: Stanislas Wawrinka has seen a downturn in form coincide with fatherhood, but I still think he is too strong for Benoit Paire on a clay court.

Paire was a little fortunate to get through his First Round match against Javier Marti and he could have been beaten in straight sets on another day, while Wawrinka toughed out a win over Horacio Zeballos.

I feel the Swiss Number 2 is still a little too consistent and solid in his overall game for Paire, and he will inspire confidence from thrashing the Frenchman at the Australian Open last month. I expect Wawrinka to create opportunities on the Paire serve, and that should be enough for him to come through 6-4, 6-3 in this one.

Radek Stepanek - 3.5 games v Bobby Reynolds: A couple of seasons ago, I would have felt a lot more comfortable backing Stepanek in this spot, but the Czech Republic player is definitely coming to the end of his career as top 32 player as far as I am concerned.

The bottom line is that Stepanek has a 3-4 record to start 2012 in Singles action although he did win the Doubles Grand Slam at the Australian Open with Leander Paes.

However, Stepanek still competes at a higher level than Bobby Reynolds during the course of a season and he does have a 3-0 head to head record against the American so Reynolds will also be fighting a mental battle in this one.

Reynolds should be happy with the conditions as he qualified for the event, but I just think Stepanek holds the key, even at this stage of his career, and I will chance him to get through.

Andy Roddick - 4 games v Xavier Malisse: Another veteran I will be backing today is Andy Roddick and, much like Stepanek, I would have felt much better backing the American a couple of seasons ago as he is another that looks set to be coming to the end of his career.

A lot of suggestions are that Roddick will call it a day at the end of this season as his Ranking continues to plummet and the American has enough money that he is unlikely to want to compete too much once he drops out of the World's Top 20, a real chance of that happening this season.

However, I think he has a good match up today against an older player than himself who has just not looked right in the early part of the season. Xavier Malisse has lost all 4 matches he has played this season, including a stunning 6-1, 6-2 loss to Robby Ginepri last week in San Jose.

Roddick is not the force of old, but still brings in a 9-0 record against a player low in confidence, so I will look for him to cover this spread in the early hours of the morning.

Michael Llodra - 3.5 games v Marco Chiudinelli: This is a risky pick if I am honest, but I think Michael Llodra is very comfortable playing in front of his home support, perhaps even saving his best tennis for these occasions.

The faster indoor courts also aid the serve-volley game that Llodra enjoys playing and he is a previous winner here as recently as 2010.

Chiudinelli is a player that is more than capable of holding his own on an indoor court and he has won a couple of matches here to qualify for the event so this could be close. He also boasts a 2-1 head to head over Llodra including a win on the indoor hard courts of Rotterdam.

However, I just think the pleasure of playing in front of his home fans (I also believe Llodra's family usually attend this event) means I will back the Frenchman to come through and cover the spread.

MY PICKS: Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Radek Stepanek - 3.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andy Roddick - 4 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Michael Llodra - 3.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-1, + 3.5 Units (8 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 21st

I decided to give Monday a day off after a disappointing week last week when I finished with a small deficit, plus I wasn't really that interested in the small number of matches on offering as the tournaments get underway across the globe.

As I had to last week, I may have to make some picks a bit later as the schedules for the tournaments in North and South America are released a little later and that means the layers will not get their markets up until later.

I will post a link to this thread on Twitter whenever new picks are made as I look for a positive start to the new week.

Ana Ivanovic - 4 games v Francesca Schiavone: I haven't backed Ana Ivanovic much at all since the end of 2008 as her career has really fallen off from the heights of winning the French Open that season and she has never really recovered from the pressure of becoming World Number 1.

However, this does present a good match up for her as she has the power to overcome Francesca Schiavone, especially at this stage of the Italian's career.

Schiavone has not had the best start to 2012, although I still think she will present a tough opponent on the slower clay courts later on in the season. Her 0-3 record against Ivanovic also works against her here and I just think the Serbian can win this one in straight sets, likely 6-4, 6-3 to move through to the Second Round.

Igor Andreev - 3.5 games v Blaz Kavcic: Last week I said I was much more impressed with the way Igor Andreev was going about his business considering the fall in his career over the last couple of seasons, and there were some clear signs that he could be making his way back up the Rankings sooner rather than later.

Andreev has already become accustomed to the conditions here, winning 3 Rounds to Qualify for the event, all wins coming in straight sets.

The Russian is 8-2 in his last 10 matches, all on clay courts, and he should be too strong for Blaz Kavcic who has been a First Round loser in 3 of the 4 tournaments he has competed in so far.

Kavcic was beaten by Jeremy Chardy last week in Sao Paulo- that loss came in straight sets and he has to be a little low in confidence at the moment.

Andreev beat him in straight sets a couple of seasons ago on the clay courts of Belgrade and I will look for him to do so again here.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v Potito Starace: Nicolas Almagro will play this match just a couple of days after winning the event in Sao Paulo and he should have plenty of confidence that he can extend his winning run against an opponent he has beaten 5 times in a row.

Starace is most comfortable on a clay court, but his last 3 defeats to Almagro have come on the surface and he has not made a great start to 2012. The Italian's serve can be a little inconsistent and he can also fall apart in matches when he feels it is getting away from him.

There is the concern that Almagro has never beaten Starace in straight sets, but he would still have covered this spread in 2 of their last 3 matches on a clay court and I will back him to do so again here.

Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games v Go Soeda: Richard Gasquet should get plenty of support from the home crowd here in Marseille and I think he will continue to show the decent form he has been in the early part of the season.

Gasquet continues to show his class against some of the lesser opponents he faces, while not quite good enough when he gets up against some of the more consistent players on the Tour.

Go Soeda falls into the former and I think Gasquet should be good enough to win this one in straight sets.

Soeda generally plays on the Challenger circuit and Gasquet is going to be a huge step up for him, one I think will be a little too high for him to overcome. I feel Gasquet will likely get a couple of breaks in one set and that should be enough to cover the spread.

MY PICKS: Ana Ivanovic - 4 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Igor Andreev - 3.5 games @ 1.85 188Bet (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 5.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

English and European Midweek Picks (February 21-23)

Over the next couple of days, I will be covering a few of the midweek games that we have on slate and the picks will be updated on here as they get completed.

I'll update a link to the post on Twitter whenever new picks are posted.

CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13245-CSKA-Moscow-v-Real-Madrid.htm)

Napoli v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13246-Napoli-v-Chelsea.htm)

Blackpool v West Ham Preview (http://www.goonersguide.com/football-pick-13247-Blackpool-v-West-Ham.htm)

Manchester City v Porto Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13262-Manchester-City-v-Porto.htm)

Basel v Bayern Munich Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13263-Basel-v-Bayern-Munich.htm)

Marseille v Inter Milan Pick: I am going to back a draw in this game as I think there are plenty of doubts surrounding both clubs going into the game.

Inter Milan have been in awful form, failing to win any of their last 6 games and losing 5 of those games. However, they have performed well away from home in the Champions League, losing just 1 of their last 5 games on their travels.

Marseille are on a long unbeaten run in all competitions, but they have not had the best of time in the Champions League, losing 2 of their 3 home games.

With those doubts about both teams, a draw may suit.

Athletic Bilbao v Lokomotiv Moscow Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13272-Athletic-Bilbao-v-Lokomotiv-Moscow.htm)

Manchester United v Ajax Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13274-Manchester-United-v-Ajax.htm)

MY PICKS: Real Madrid Win to Nil @ 2.38 Coral (2 Units)
Napoli @ 2.40 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Blackpool-West Ham Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Goal English Handicap @ 2.75 Coral (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marseille-Inter Milan Draw @ 3.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Athletic Bilbao - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ajax + 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 188Bet (2 Units)

Monday, 20 February 2012

A few thoughts from the last week in Football (February 11-19)

It has been two weeks since the last time I put down a few of my thoughts from the week in football so I have a little bit more to look through.

Some of the issues may seem like they happened a lifetime ago now as football moves on so fast, so I won't cover those in great depth.

Hopefully I will be able to get back to doing these on a weekly basis, but that is something that will be dictated by work pressures unfortunately and finding the time between writing previews and thoughts.

1) Where do Arsenal go from here?: For the second season in succession, Arsenal have found their season in tatters before we get to 'squeaky bum time' and the question is relevant as to where they will go from here. The Gunners are effectively out of the Champions League following a crushing defeat in the San Siro last week and have now fallen out of the FA Cup at the 5th Round as they have reached 7 years since they have last won a trophy.

The pressure is on the management and staff to make sure that they get into the Champions League, but the best they can hope for on that front is reaching the Qualifying Round as they had to pass this year.

Even that is no guarantee with a host of clubs queued up behind them and they have to find their form quickly.

The game against Tottenham Hotspur was usually a 'gimme' for Arsenal fans over the years, but this Sunday the tables will be turned as Spurs come to the Emirates intent on keeping their title ambitions alive while denting their North London rivals' own abitions.

2) Fourth place is up for grabs: The Premier League was not in action this weekend, but Newcastle United and Liverpool must feel they have a great chance of securing the coveted Fourth Place in the Premier League as Arsenal and Chelsea continue to show massive vulnerabilities in their own play.

Both London clubs struggled mightily in their respective FA Cup ties, and both have looked vulnerable in the League all season so surely the other two teams in contention for this place will be full of confidence.

Newcastle United would be the surprise package if they could manage it, while Liverpool may just finish with one of their most successful seasons in recent times if they can get back into the Champions League as well as adding a couple of bits of silverware too. They host Arsenal and Chelsea during the remainder of this season and will feel comfortable having already played Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur twice this season.

3) Aston Villa cannot afford to lose at the DW Stadium this weekend: I said, with my tongue in cheek, that Aston Villa fans may have to deal with a relegation scrap if they don't pick up form a couple of weeks ago in my preview for their game with Manchester City, and that could become a real concern if they were to lose at Wigan this weekend.

Villa are currently on 28 points, leaving them 7 clear of those in the relegation zone, but a defeat could suddenly leave them in an extremely uncomfortable position.

Speaking off the top of my head, I believe they are yet to play Manchester United (Away), Liverpool (Away), Arsenal (Away) and Chelsea (Home) in the League this season, so those 7 points could quickly evaparote with a defeat on Saturday.

Alex McLeish has been under pressure even since accepting the job as he came across town from Birmingham City and that could be increased ten-fold with a defeat at the weekend.

4) The Premier League being the best League in the World: Now I personally hate it when the Premier League is described this way, usually by Sky in hyping a game or by fans that haven't visited a stadium more than twice in their lifetime, as I just don't believe it is true.

There was a period recently when the English sides would do very well in Europe, but they never had a sustained period of dominance in actually WINNING the Champions League, with only Liverpool in 2005 and Manchester United in 2008 winning the top prize since the famous Treble-winning United side of 1999. To prove the Premier League was the 'best League', surely English sides should have won more than a couple of titles in the last 12 seasons, especially considering Real Madrid and Barcelona accounted for 4 of those between themselves in that time and the two Milan clubs have shared 3 titles.

On Wednesday last week, we saw one of the two remaining English representatives hammered at the San Siro, while Manchester United and Manchester City were preparing for their first Europa League games.

The Premier League may be the most 'competitive' League, but the League is of a poor standard as far as I am concerned.

I say this as a United fan myself- the fact we are sitting 2 points off the lead with the midfield we have operated this season is a sad indictment of the quality in the Enlish Premier League rather than anything else.

5) And they said Patrice Evra was the liar?: Over the last 3 months since the incident between LS and Patrice Evra, we have heard a bunch of rhetoric coming out of Anfield from people like Kenneth Dalglish straight through to the players and the fans, with most of that people an attempt to discredit Patrice Evra and the allegations he had made.

There have been a number of PR gaffes throughout that time (those T-Shirts being the most embarrassing without a doubt), but it all seemed to come to a head at Old Trafford 10 days ago.

The most influential way Liverpool had felt it was right to defend their own player was to accuse Evra of being a liar, Dalglish in particular saying soon after the allegations had been made that 'he has done this before, hasn't he?'

I even remember people telling me it was Evra's word against LS's word and that Evra was a known liar so how could he be believed...

Since last Saturday, I have heard nothing but radio silence...

You see LS was proven to be an absolute liar when he informed the club and his manager that he intended to shake Evra's hand, only to decide against it at the last minute... He didn't tell anyone, everyone believed LS when he said he would shake hands, so I guess the FA believed the right person after all.

The embarrassment was not complete though for Liverpool as Kenneth decided to blow up live on TV moments after the game (not quite Kevin Keegan levels, but very enjoyable all the same) and then we once again got all the Liverpool fans up in arms that EVRA had refused the handshake and it was all a conspiracy against the club- some even went so far as to say that Rio Ferdinand should have some consequences for his refusal to shake LS's hands (they were being serious too).

The climbdown on Sunday, courtesy of the American owners finally deciding to make a stand, saw a number of apologies come out of the club- far too little and far too late considering there was no apology over the whole incident that began this sorry affair.

Right now, I don't think it is too far fetched to believe that LS will be shipped off in the Summer at the request of the owners, especially since the refusal to shake Evra's hands had reached the New York Times on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Tennis Outright Tournament Picks (February 20-26)

ATP Memphis
This is an ATP 500 event taking place on the indoor hard courts of North America and we have a decent field that has got together to compete.

The top seed here this week is John Isner and he is a player that I do want to get on my side as he has shown that 2012 could be a real breakout year for him, especially if his early season form is anything to go by.

While the American did reach the Third Round of the Australian Open, it was his win under pressure against Roger Federer in the Davis Cup in Switzerland on a clay court that really shows that he could be in line for a big season.

Isner has been given a kind draw, and he has enjoyed plenty of success on the North American continent in the last couple of seasons. He has beaten his First Round opponent Gilles Muller twice in their two previous meetings, but the biggest danger before the Semi Final could be Bernard Tomic after his impressive performances at the Australian Open.

However, Tomic is set to meet either Jurgen Melzer or Denis Istomin in the Second Round and there is every chance that Isner can avoid that tough match with the Australian and move through the draw.

The likes of Andy Roddick and Milos Raonic are both players that could present a challenge, but both are on the opposite side of the draw and have doubts about their own challenges in this tournament.

Andy Roddick was lucky to get as far as he did in San Jose last week, and he was comfortably beaten by Denis Istomin in that tournament and I think there is enough doubts about him at the moment for me to want a lot more than single figure quotes on him winning the event.

Milos Raonic is involved in the Final at San Jose at the time of writing, but he did reach back to back Finals at that event and here last season and is the obvious danger again. However, he does have a tough First Round meeting with the enigmatic Ernests Gulbis which could cause problems, although if the Canadian gets through that match, he could be very hard to stop here.

With that in mind, Raonic looks like a favourite worth opposing so John Isner will be the call here at 6.00.

ATP Marseille
The two favourites for this tournament are Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are scheduled to meet in the Semi Final of this event as both are given byes into the Second Round this week and I think the winner is very much going to be one of those players.

Del Potro reached the Final last week in Rotterdam and looked very good for that week until he met Roger Federer on Sunday. He could have a couple of tough matches before he gets to the Semi Final as his first match here could be against Nikolay Davydenko.

Davydenko was in very good form in Rotterdam and perhaps feels he should have beaten Federer when they met in the Semi Final. The Russian is not the same player of 2009 and early 2010, but he did show enough last week to suggest he could be a difficult test for Del Potro here if he gets through against Andreas Beck in the First Round.

Even if Del Potro was to get past Davydenko, he is then likely to run into Richard Gasquet who could potentially cause problems if he gets up ahead of steam in front of his home support. Those two matches alone pushes me towards backing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga instead.

Tsonga has a potentially awkward Second Round match against Nicolas Mahut, but will feel confident he can get through to the Semi Final if he can get through that match.

The Frenchman has really enjoyed himself on the indoor hard courts over the last 12 months, reaching the Final at Rotterdam, Paris and the end of year Championships in London last season, as well as winning events in Metz and Vienna on the surface.

Tsonga beat Del Potro in the Final at Vienna and I would favour him to do so again here considering the amount of tennis the Argentine has played in the last week and I would guess Tsonga could complete the win if he does get to play on Sunday next week.

I was intrigued by Janko Tipsarevic from the bottom half of the draw as he has been playing very well over the last 12 months, showing a lot more consistency than he has previously in his career. However, he has a tough route and I think his price is just a little short for me to get involved outside of Tsonga at 3.75.

MY PICKS: John Isner to win Memphis @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win Marseille @ 3.75 Bet365 (2 Units)

Tennis Weekly Recap (February 13-19)

It was not a great week as I seemed to put in a lot of effort, but have not had the rewards as I finished virtually where I started except there was a lot of tennis played in that time.

I am a little disappointed I didn't stick with my Milos Raonic pick from the tournament in San Jose as he did reach the Final there with a minimum of fuss and it seems the leg injury that kept him out of the Davis Cup was not as serious as initially feared.

Tomas Berdych cruised through to the Semi Final of the tournament in Rotterdam before he ran into a hot Juan Martin Del Potro, although the Argentine was a little outclassed by Roger Federer who picked up his first title win in 2012.

Federer was not in great form this week, but he saved his best performance on the week for the Final and will head to Dubai in two weeks time with a lot of confidence. That tournament will not be easy for him as the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will be joining other top stars in the desert.

Nicolas Almagro at least brought in some good news with his win in Sao Paulo on what was an otherwise disappointing week.

Weekly Picks: 11-13, - 4.46 Units (50 Units Staked)

Outright Picks: 1-1, + 2.33 Units (2 Units Staked)

Overall Feb 13-19 Update: 12-14, - 2.13 Units (52 Units Staked)

Season 2012: + 18.75 Units (139 Units Staked, + 13.49% yield)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 18th

It was another mixed day as a couple of picks came in easy, while a couple others were close but not enough...

The good news so far is that my two outright picks this week are both through to the Semi Finals as Nicolas Almagro beat Carlos Berlocq and Tomas Berdych beat Andreas Seppi. I wish I had stuck with my Milos Raonic pick too as he looks to have a clear path to retaining his title now, but I would be happy enough if one of the two players I did pick come in.

As has been the case all week, I will post my picks from the tennis as the markets are put up by the layers, something they seem to have taken their time putting together all week.

Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games v Juan Martin Del Potro: The courts here in Rotterdam suit both of these players as they get the opportunity to really wind up on their groundstrokes and dominate rallies but something will have to give in the match between them.

I think the edge has to be given to Tomas Berdych due to the fact that his serve is a little more consistent and I think he is likely going to have a better time holding than Juan Martin Del Potro who can see his first serve percentage come down too low against the best players in the World.

I also think Berdych is in magnificent form at the moment, while Del Potro is still trying to find his best tennis since a wrist injury slowed down his career in 2010.

The key for both players will be to impose their own game on the match, but it could be the case of who manages to get the big strike in first in rallies that will determine the winner of points. I just think Berdych is a little too match hardened after his start to the 2012 season and that should see him through in two tough sets.

Marion Bartoli - 2.5 games v Sam Stosur: I was a little disappointed that Lucie Safarova could not stay within the handicap against Marion Bartoli in their Quarter Final match despite taking that to three sets, and I think that match will have given the French player a lot of confidence to reach the Final for the second time in consecutive tournaments.

Sam Stosur got through in three sets herself yesterday, but she was not that effective on serve and could face a couple of problems against Bartoli in this match if she does not make life easier for herself on that front.

These two players actually met twice last season and Bartoli won both meetings, including once on a hard court, without being broken once and only allowing 3 opportunities to Stosur in those matches.

Bartoli seems to have all the confidence following her run to the Paris Final last week and I think the fact she has handled Stosur comfortably in their last two meetings gives me more confidence that she can win this one.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marion Bartoli - 2.5 games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Milos Raonic - 3.5 games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Julien Benneteau - 2.5 games @ 2.18 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 5.5 games @ 2.20 BoyleSports (2 Units)

Weekly Update: - 0.36 Units (40 Units Staked)

Friday, 17 February 2012

English Football Weekend Picks (February 18-19)

I will put up my picks for the weekend football from England on this one post and will update my Twitter page as new picks are made over the next couple of days.

The Premier League is on a break this week as we get to the 5th Round of the FA Cup and that means the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle United will all not be in action.

The draw for the 5th Round also pitted a number of Premier League clubs against lower-League opposition, but I would still be a little careful to try and steer clear of any potential surprises.

I will also take a look at the small Championship schedule that is in place and any picks will again be posted on this thread.

Chelsea v Birmingham City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13215-Chelsea-v-Birmingham-City.htm)

Everton v Blackpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13216-Everton-v-Blackpool.htm)

Norwich City v Leicester City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13218-Norwich-City-v-Leicester-City.htm)

Sunderland v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13219-Sunderland-v-Arsenal.htm)

Crawley Town v Stoke City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13237-Crawley-Town-v-Stoke-City.htm)

Stevenage v Tottenham Hotspur Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13238-Stevenage-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

Liverpool v Brighton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13239-Liverpool-v-Brighton.htm)

MY PICKS: Chelsea win to nil @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Everton-Blackpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Norwich City-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Robin Van Persie score anytime @ 2.25 Unibet (2 Units) Unibet will only take this if RVP starts the match and return stakes if he doesn't
Crawley Town-Stoke City Draw @ 3.60 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Liverpool to score in both halves @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Tennis Picks February 17th

With the tournaments in Rotterdam, Doha, Sao Paulo, Bogota and San Jose all reaching the Quarter Final stages this evening, it does mean that we have to wait for the layers to get their markets ready overnight.

That means that all the picks for this day will begin to be made in the morning, but the earliest tennis match scheduled is at 11:30am so that should provide ample time for the picks to go up and give you time to follow them if you like.

You can keep an eye on my Twitter page which will provide a link to this thread as the picks are updated throughout the day.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Andreas Seppi: The spread is a touch big here as it does need Berdych to win both sets, one of those with a double break at least, but I think he will be capable of doing so with the slow conditions at Rotterdam.

The Czech player was the beneficiary of a Marcos Baghdatis retirement yesterday so should be fairly fresh despite playing a lot of tennis over the last month, and I think he will hold a clear advantage in the serving department that could lead to the cover.

Andreas Seppi is not an easy out for any player, but he has a weakness in the second serve department which is not good enough at the top level. The slower courts will also not help him when it comes to penetrating the Berdych defences in the match and I just have the feeling he will be forced to work too hard to win points and that could lead to a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

The players have not met since 2008 and have split their four matches 2-2, but Berdych is a much improved player now.

It is odds against that the Czech player covers and it will be close, likely being a game either way to decide this... I just have a gut feeling we will be looking at a 6-4, 6-2 win for the World Number 7.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v Victor Troicki: This should be a tough match for Juan Martin Del Potro as he looks to return to his 2009 form that brought him his first Grand Slam at the US Open, but it is also considered a very winnable match.

Del Potro has had a couple of tough matches here in Rotterdam already, but that should have sharpened him up for the conditions we are seeing on the court, one which is playing unusually slow for an indoor hard court.

That won't bother Del Potro too much as he has more than the ability to hit through any court and any surface so I do believe he will be able to hurt Victor Troicki off the ground.

Troicki has had a slow start to 2012 and I think he has probably reached about high as he will when it comes to the Rankings being a former World Number 12. He has a decent serve, but it is one that can break down, and I think his inconsistencies off the ground can be exposed by the better players.

It is no surprise that Del Potro has won all 4 meetings with Troicki, and he leads 9-1 in sets in those matches. The Argentine should be able to exert enough pressure to cover the spread as he has won the first set 6-3 on every occasion they have met and has covered this number in 3 of their 4 meetings.

I hope Del Potro wins the toss and gets to serve first, as that would make the cover that much easier, and I will back him to come through 6-3, 6-4.

Lucie Safarova + 3.5 games v Marion Bartoli: This should be an interesting match to watch this afternoon as the in-from Lucie Safarova looks to secure her third big scalp in a row.

Safarova has beaten Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova in consecutive Rounds to reach this Quarter Final, with the win over the former coming under intense pressure which she handled very well.

The Czech player has a very effective lefty serve and can be a very hard player to stop when she gets ahead of steam as she has in this tournament and I think she has the capabilities of pushing Marion Bartoli close at the very least.

Bartoli is a tough player and has shown that she is in good nick by reaching the Final in Paris last week and coming through a couple of Rounds here with ease. However, Safarova does present a big rise in the level of competition she has faced in Doha.

These two players met twice last season, with Safarova winning easily in Kuala Lumpur and Bartoli winning a tight match in Eastbourne. With the confidence that Safarova has surely built up this week, the spread is just high enough for me to back her to do enough to keep this close again, perhaps even winning the match.

Nicolas Almagro - 3.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: I was a little surprised with the spread being this low in favour of Almagro as I think he is the superior player on the clay courts and has started 2012 in impressive fashion while not playing too much on his favoured surface.

There is no doubt that Carlos Berlocq is in very good form himself having reached the Final in Chile a couple of weeks ago, but a quick look at the players he has faced shows that Almagro is going to be a huge step up in class, while the Argentine's one defeat in that time came to Juan Monaco in relative comfort.

Berlocq did push Almagro to three sets in their one meeting in 2011 on the clay courts in Nice, France, but he failed to cover the spread on offer today in that match and I just think the Spaniard is going to be too strong here, likely winning 6-3, 6-4.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games @ 2.20 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova + 3.5 games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 3.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-8, - 0.36 Units (32 Units Staked)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 16th

It has been a better couple of days, although the curse of the capitulation is still hovering over my head as David Nalbandian lost 8 of 9 games at one point of his match with Benoit Paire and still managed to just miss the cover by half a game.

It was disappointing as he was 5-1 0-40 on the Paire serve, but failed to win the set and then went on to lose 5 games in a row.

Still, I won't complain too much as I had winners with Robby Ginepri, Marcos Baghdatis and Potito Starace to at least recover the bad start to the week.

We still have Nicolas Almagro and Tomas Berdych going in the outright markets, although the latter has taken a hit with the news that Roger Federer has received a bye through to the Quarter Finals as Mikhail Youzhny pulled out of the tournament. That means the former World Number 1 should be very fresh while Berdych still has to negotiate Juan Martin Del Potro if he is to even reach the Final.

Almagro is yet to make his first appearance at the tournament in Brazil, but should be in action tomorrow.

As I have done all week, I am going to make my picks for the day in different periods as the tournaments in the Americas have their markets put up a little later, while the same can be said of Doha which has a full schedule tomorrow.

You can follow me on Twitter where I always post a link to this thread when new picks are made.

Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games v Alex Bogomolov Jr: Now I know Richard Gasquet made tougher work of his 1st Round opponent than he needed to, but this is a match he should be winning with a bit to spare as long as he can serve effectively.

That was Gasquet's problem against Flavio Cipolla in the last Round as he struggled with the serve and winning enough points behind it, but he managed to steel himself on the Italian's serve to earn enough break points to win the match.

Alex Bogomolov had a career season last year, but his a player that can fall apart in matches as we have seen in recent losses to Jurgen Melzer and Lukas Lacko and I think Gasquet can put enough pressure on him to secure a couple of breaks in a set and that should be good enough to cover this spread.

Hopefully Gasquet won't have a loss of concentration as he did in the 1st Round and, in that case, come through 6-3, 6-3.

Marcos Baghdatis + 1.5 sets v Tomas Berdych: I have picked Berdych in the outright market to win the tournament here in Rotterdam, but I think he may have to go the distance to beat Marcos Baghdatis in what looks like being the match of the day in Holland and perhaps in any tournament being played today.

Baghdatis was a solid winner in the 1st Round and has the game to cause anyone problems, even someone in very strong form as Berdych is. If the Cypriot can serve well, I can see him exerting enough pressure to create chances against the Czech's service games and at least push him the whole way.

They have met 5 times previously with Berdych winning 3 of those meetings... Only one, the last, has actually seen both Men win a set, although Baghdatis could be inspired by the fact he has won 3 of the last 5 sets that they have competed.

The players are 2-2 on hard courts against one another, but I just think that at odds against, Baghdatis is perhaps being a little under-rated and is worth chancing to take at least a set.

Yanina Wickmayer - 4.5 games v Ksenia Pervak: Now I am hoping I am not catching Pervak in a breakout week after attempting to fade her in the 1st Round here, but I do believe Yanina Wickmayer has the skills to see off her young challenger here in Doha.

Pervak is coming up against a player that has shown plenty of decent form in recent weeks, while the young Kazakhstan player has usually come up short when playing the better players on the WTA Tour. Whether Wickmayer can be considered in that category may be up for debate, as she has not really pushed on as expected, but a Semi Final run in Paris last week has indicated that she is finding some good tennis.

I can't escape the fact that Pervak had lost her last 4 matches before winning two in a row here this week and feel this could be a hurdle too far. As long as Wickmayer is not in the 'mindless ball-bashing' mode she can sometimes resort to, I think she should be too strong, pulling away in the second set after a tight first.

Albert Ramos - 3 games v Igor Andreev: Igor Andreev had so much potential, but I fear he has missed the boat and it is funny to see him languishing outside of the top 100 now. He beat Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets in the 1st Round here, but this is sure to be a much tougher test for a player that has the tendency to collapse under sustained pressure.

Albert Ramos was predominantly a clay court player in his early career, which is no surprise seeing as he is from Spain, but he seems to have taken the policy to follow the Main Tour a little more closely this season and this is his first clay court tournament of 2012. He had an impressive win over Santiago Giraldo in the last Round as the underdog and has the game that could wear down Andreev here.

I expect Ramos will try and use consistency in his play and hope Andreev loses patience and perhaps becomes a little erratic in his play. The Russian has also failed to progress beyond the 2nd Round at a tournament since before the US Open in 2011 and was heavily beaten by Juan Monaco in Chile a couple of weeks ago at this stage.

Ramos will also feel confidence from having beaten Andreev on a clay court in their only previous meeting and I will look for him to do so again today.

Jeremy Chardy - 2 games v Leonardo Mayer: I am a little unsure as to why, but Jeremy Chardy continues to be underestimated by the layers despite enjoying a decent couple of tournaments on the clay courts of South America and I think he has been overlooked in this market.

Chardy was a Semi Finalist in Chile a couple of weeks ago before being beaten in straight sets by the eventual winner of the tournament in Juan Monaco, and he has already won three matches here as he was forced to come through the Qualifying section. His career had hit the buffers last season after a couple of decent years on the tour, but there are signs that he is getting his act together.

The Frenchman will surely fancy his chances against Leonardo Mayer having beaten the Argentinian a couple of weeks ago in Chile 7-5, 6-2. Mayer enjoys playing on the clay courts, but the majority of his success has come in qualifying campaigns or on the Challenger Tour and I think his win over Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 1st Round is being given a little too much credit considering the Spaniard had travelled over from Europe where he had been having a couple of fitness issues in the Davis Cup.

Chardy has a decent serve and I think that should enable him to win more 'cheap' points and also allow him to pressure the Mayer serve. Chardy won 47% of the points off the Mayer serve and I think he should be a fairly comfortable winner if he can get his own first serve percentage up to around the 60% mark.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis + 1.5 sets @ 2.10 188Bet (2 Units)
Yanina Wickmayer - 4.5 games @ 1.95 188Bet (2 Units)
Albert Ramos - 3 games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 2 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-6, - 0.26 Units (24 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 15th

There is still one more match that I have picked which is yet to play from yesterday, but it was an interesting day already and one that could have been much better when it was all said and done.

Philipp Kohlschreiber and Daniela Hantuchova both won their first sets of their respective matches with relative comfort, but then seemed to capitulate and fall apart... Kohlschreiber did enough to win his match, but Hantuchova was beaten outright although both failed to cover the spread on offer from a position of strength.

Kohlschreiber's match is hard to explain without watching it as he won the first set 6-1 while being fairly comfortable on serve, and then lost 1-6 in the next set while barely being able to win points on his own serve.

Hantuchova looked like being in a position where she would cruise through as she moved a set and a break up, but maybe the travel from Thailand got to her as she fell apart in the second set and then was beaten in a third set tie-break.

Both Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo and Mikhail Youzhny lost the second sets in their matches too, but both at least made it a day where a minimal defeat was suffered, albeit with Robby Ginepri to play.

As with the other days, a lot of the layers seem to be taken their time getting their markets together for all the tennis that is taking place across the board so the picks will come up as soon as they are available and I will do my best to put them up in adequate time although that cannot always be possible with work demands.

I will update my Twitter page whenever the picks are made with a link to this post (@DavAulak)

Marcos Baghdatis - 4.5 games v Matthias Bachinger: The spread is a little dangerous as any kind of form like I have experienced over the last couple of days will effectively kill my chances before the match is even close to being completed, but I do think Marcos Baghdatis can get the better of his German opponent here.

Matthias Bachinger has won a couple of matches to qualify for this tournament, and he will provide a tough test I am sure, but Marcos Baghdatis did beat him comfortably when they last met and showed some good form in reaching the Semi Final in Zagreb ten days ago.

Baghdatis should be a little too consistent for Bachinger although I do expect a tight first set between the players. I just feel Baghdatis is capable of creating chances on the Bachinger serve and will have the opportunity for a couple of breaks in one of the sets and thus able to cover this spread.

The Cypriot will need to serve at around 58-63% of first serves and that should allow him to hold serve without too many issues and thus allow him to focus his energy on breaking Bachinger's service games. As I say, it will be close but I think Baghdatis wins 6-4, 6-2.

Potito Starace - 1.5 games v Paul Capdeville: Now the only reason I can see for this small spread is the fact that Capdeville has been playing only in clay court tournaments since the end of last season, while Potito Starace has to travel in from Europe having been in Davis Cup action for Italy on an indoor hard court.

The bottom line for me here is that Starace is at his most comfortable on a clay court and the schedulers have been kind enough to give him a couple of extra days to get used to the conditions and the change in time zone in Brazil.

Capdeville does not have much success at this level of competition any more and was beaten last year in his home tournament by the Italian so I am not sure why the layers think this will be as close as this.

The Chilean does have 3 Qualifying wins behind him here, but I just think Starace will be too strong, although it could take 3 sets to separate them.

David Nalbandian - 4.5 games v Benoit Paire: Now the spread is a little high considering this is only a best of three match, but I think David Nalbandian will be too good on the ground for his young French opponent, one who has not played any competitive tennis since the Australian Open.

There is the intangible of how Nalbandian is feeling after playing in Europe in the Davis Cup, although he did look very good after a shaky first set against Florian Mayer. Nalbandian will exert plenty of pressure if on his game, especially with his attacking return of serve and that may cause Paire all sorts of problems today.

Paire is beginning to play more and more tennis at the main event level as he looks to push on now he has reached the top 100. He is young and will be getting used to the conditions having not played on a clay court this season. I just think that Nalbandian still thrives on matches like this, even if he is not as consistent as he was in his prime.

With the pressure from the returns, I can see Nalbandian getting a couple of breaks of serve per set, and that should hopefully be enough to see him over the spread.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis - 4.5 games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Potito Starace - 1.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Nalbandian - 4.5 games @ 1.95 188Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-5, - 4.56 (16 Units Staked) Still have Robby Ginepri to play

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 14th

It was not a good opening day of the tournaments for my picks as I went a disappointing 1-3, although it could very easily have gone 3-1 with a little more luck.

Still, it is actually only my second losing day all season in the tennis so I can't really complain, but I am hoping this day brings a little more success.

The way the tournaments are spaced out means the layers do not offer their markets for the tournaments in Bogota, Sao Paulo and San Jose until the morning here in Britain, although they have got their act together with those at Rotterdam and Doha.

That means I will likely add a couple of picks in the morning before lunch time, hopefully before any of these picks start their matches (I don't chase, so I won't put up picks just because some earlier may not have been successful... To make sure I am not doing anything stupid sub-consciously, I like having all my picks ready before any of the earlier matches I pick have started).

I will update Twitter with a link to this thread in the morning with the other picks are ready to go.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games vs Marcel Granollers: I like Philipp Kohlschreiber's chances in this match as he was showing some decent form at the tournament in Montpellier recently on an indoor hard court, only losing in a close match to Tomas Berdych who went on to win the tournament.

Kohlschreiber missed the Davis Cup match with Argentina last week with a stomach bug, but he has had enough days to get over that and also did not need to change surface from the indoor hard court to the clay that Germany had picked in that tie.

The German is back in the top 32, but he could find himself moving up the rankings if he can maintain the consistency that has seen him start 2012 in decent nick.

Marcel Granollers is known for his clay court play, but did win a tournament at Valencia towards the back end of last season on an indoor hard court, although he had lost all 4 other matches he played on this surface outside of that one in Valencia.

The Spaniard played the fifth rubber in their Davis Cup win over Kazakhstan on Sunday, so he has not had much of a chance to get used to the change in surface and I think that will be the telling difference. I am surprised he didn't decide to play the South American clay court swing to be honest, and I think Kohlschreiber is going to be too strong for him.

I expect the German will come through in straight sets, likely 6-4, 6-3.

Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 games v Igor Kunitsyn: I was extremely surprised that Russia decided to use Igor Kunitsyn instead of Mikhail Youzhny in their Davis Cup singles matches against Austria over the weekend and I think Youzhny will demonstrate why it was a mistake.

It left me scratching my head a little more when considering Youzhny is ranked over 30 places higher in the Rankings and had won the tournament in Zagreb on an indoor hard court just the week prior to the Davis Cup tie.

Kunitsyn has now lost 8 matches in a row stretching back to last season and I think his serve is one that Youzhny can take advantage of. As I said, Youzhny recently won a tournament on an indoor hard court and he obviously enjoys himself in Rotterdam having been a previous winner of the event here.

Add to that the fact he has reached the Quarter Final twice in the last 3 seasons and also reached a Final here in that time and you have to feel a little confident that he can beat his compatriot in straight sets and cover the spread on offer.

Youzhny was beating Kunitsyn 6-3, 6-1, 3-0 at Wimbledon in 2006 when the latter had to retire in their last match... I think it will be tighter than that, but I am looking for Youzhny to win 7-5, 6-4.

Daniela Hantuchova - 3.5 games v Simona Halep: Daniela Hantuchova is really enjoying an 'Indian Summer' in her career over the last 12 months, with some impressive performances. She comes into this event having won in Thailand last week and I think that is the reason we are seeing this small (famous last words?) spread on this game.

Hantuchova left Thailand on Sunday evening to come to Doha and could be suffering a little bit of jetlag having won that tournament. However, she faces Simona Halep, a player that has a decent game but one that has not pulled up any trees over the last 12 months on a hard court.

Halep has been beaten players that are not as good as Hantuchova, and the Slovakian is in good enough form for me to think she wins this in straight sets and covers the spread in a 6-3, 6-3 win.

Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo v Rui Machado: A slightly risky pick here, but I am going to back the veteran Spaniard to earn a win in the 1st Round here at the Brazil Open as I think he is in better form than Rui Machado.

Ramirez-Hidalgo is probably most famous for being the player who was in control of providing a shock win over Roger Federer at Monte Carlo, but then tried to pass the great man with a hotdog shot when it was easier to hit a normal shot... That woke Federer up who upped his game and managed to get through on a tie break in the final set.

He has qualified for this tournament, after doing the same in Chile last week, and has to be favoured here now he is more familiar with the court conditions.

Machado has done his best work on clay courts, but he has lost all 3 matches he has played in 2012 and this will be his first match on the red dirt. With Ramirez-Hidalgo having already won a couple of matches here to get to this phase, I think he will confirm the form between the two having won their only previous meeting on a clay court last season.

It might go the distance, but I do like the Spanish veteran to move forward.

Robby Ginepri v Xavier Malisse: These two are a couple of vets winding down their careers, but I think Ginepri is a little bit more match hardened in recent weeks, while Xavier Malisse has not played since retiring in the 1st Round at the Australian Open.

Ginepri can at least point to reaching a Final on the indoor hard courts in Hawaii in that time, although it was at the lower Challenger level, and he does spend almost all of his time in United States tournaments these days.

Malisse has lost all 3 matches he has played in 2012 and I don't know how much desire he has left, especially if he is taken into a battle.

The players haven't met since 2008, a match Ginepri won in 3 sets on the hard courts of Las Vegas, but I just think he may be worth chancing as the underdog considering the lack of tennis Malisse has played in recent weeks. That run to the Final in Honolulu a couple of weeks ago could stand Ginepri in good stead here.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Daniela Hantuchova - 3.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo @ 1.92 Stan James (2 Units)
Robby Ginepri @ 2.00 BetFred (2 Units)

Week Update: 1-3, - 4.4 Units (8 Units staked)

English and European Midweek Picks (February 14-16)

My Picks for the midweek games will come throughout the week as the Champions League, Europa League and the Championship all in action from Tuesday through to Thursday.

You can follow me on Twitter where I will update whenever the new picks are posted.

Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13190-Bayer-Leverkusen-v-Barcelona.htm)

West Ham v Southampton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13191-West-Ham-v-Southampton.htm)

Burnley v Barnsley Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13192-Burnley-v-Barnsley.htm)

Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13200-Zenit-St-Petersburg-v-Benfica.htm)

AC Milan v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13201-AC-Milan-v-Arsenal.htm)

Ajax v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13204-Ajax-v-Manchester-United.htm)

Porto v Manchester City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13205-Porto-v-Manchester-City.htm)

MY PICKS: Bayer Leverkusen-Barcelona Both to Score @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
West Ham-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 188Bet (1 Unit)
Burnley-Barnsley Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Zenit St. Petersburg-Benfica Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.25 Stan James (1 Unit)
AC Milan-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 188Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United win to nil @ 3.30 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City @ 2.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Tennis Picks February 13th

This is the first day of the new tournaments starting this week in Rotterdam, San Jose, Sao Paulo, Doha and Bogota as the ATP and WTA Tours both getting back to a normal schedule after a couple of stop-start weeks following the Australian Open.

There are a huge number of matches scheduled for tomorrow, in particular the WTA event in Doha which has a big field taking part, so I will post up any picks I make on this thread at least a couple of hours before the matches I pick will take place.

I will be updating my Twitter page during the course of the day when picks are made as the layers could be a little slower off the mark with the events taking place in the United States and Brazil, although I have noticed they are at least getting their act together when it comes to the event in Holland.

Keep an eye on this post and Twitter (@DavAulak) for the picks on this date.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 4.5 games vs Ksenia Pervak: I like the young Russian player in this match, despite her not playing since the Australian Open, as I still believe she is going to step up to the next level on the WTA Tour this season.

She does have a decent all round game, although her movement is still a little suspect.

However, she plays Ksenia Pervak, a player that has lost all 3 matches she has played in 2012, and one that has struggled to really compete with the better players on tour although she is still only 20 years old.

The fact that she is a left-hander could cause some early problems, but Pavluchenkova has beaten her comfortably before, and I think she will be too strong here in a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 2 games vs Paul-Henri Mathieu: Now this could be seen as a little risky as Feliciano Lopez is one of the vulnerable seeds I spoke about in my outright preview, but I do think he will be a little too strong for the Frenchman coming back from an injury.

Mathieu did beat two seeded players in the Qualifying to get through to this match, so he has got a little bit of form about him, but he is still a little inconsistent in his play from what I saw of him in recent weeks and I think Lopez should be able to take care of him in straight sets that should allow him to cover this spread on offer.

It is a slightly risky pick as Lopez doesn't always give the impression of someone that is trying to win matches and can look a little lethargic, but he has shown enough this season to think he should win this match against a player that has lost to players a lot weaker than the Spaniard in his comeback bid.

Frederico Gil - 4 games vs Javier Marti: This looks like an interesting match at the Brazil Open today, but I am going to be backing the Portuguese player to come through as I think he is the better of the two on the clay courts at this stage of their careers.

Javier Marti is a young Spanish player, so it is a surprise to see him playing in indoor hard court events and hard court events early in 2012 rather than the clay courts. Last season Marti, who has just turned 20, finished 17-16 on the clay courts in the Challenger and qualifying circuit and he was beaten in the 1st Round of the two main tour events he entered.

While he probably favours clay courts, he is facing a player that who has shown he is very comfortable on the surface. Gil reached the Quarter Final at the Masters event in Monte Carlo last season on this surface, although he was only 8-9 in main tour events.

However, his Quarter Final run in Chile recently saw him dispose of Pablo Andujar, an adept clay court player, in straight sets for the loss of just 3 games and any replication of that form would see him come through this match fairly comfortably too.

I think his experience will prove telling for Marti, whose most recent tournament was in Russia on an indoor hard court, and I think Gil wins 6-4, 6-2.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 4.5 games vs Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez: Kuznetosva is a hard player to get a feel for these days as she throws in a lot of poor performances, but then can look like a world-beater in other matches.

I think she will be too strong for Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez who is making her first appearance of 2012 after suffering a knee injury at the back end of last season. Sanchez is no fool on a tennis court, and her lefty serve can cause problems, but I think it is tough to return from a long lay off against someone of the calibre of Kuznetsova.

The Russian is also the stronger hard court player and it all seems to point to her winning this with a bit of room to spare. She performed very well on the hard courts of Dubai last season so can handle the conditions in the Middle East and I think she will have the opportunity to run away with the match after a tight first set.

I'll back her and look for her to come through 7-5, 6-2.

MY PICKS: Anastasia Pavyluchenkova - 4.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Frederico Gil - 4 games @ 1.95 TitanBet (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 4.5 games @ 1.80 SkyBet (2 Units)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tennis Outright Tournament Picks (February 13-19)

I only took part in the opening day of the Davis Cup ties as that is the one day that most of the layers have their prices up, while there is a lot of confusion in the later days over who is playing and who won't be with teams winning ties after the first three rubbers.

It wasn't a great time picking those games though as we saw some real surprise results (Federer losing to Isner being the biggest), so I was fairly content getting out of the day with a slight loss.

This week the tournaments take a slightly more serious tone, and that is highlighted by the fact that players like Roger Federer are going to be in action as the Rotterdam tournament is also a ATP 500 event. With that in mind, I think I will be playing the week as usual with the outright picks below, and daily picks being posted throughout the week.

ATP Rotterdam
It is actually a surprise, and shows a lot of intention for the 2012 season, that Roger Federer will be taking part in this event this season. The former World Number 1 has already declared his ambition to get the top position back and he will know that he has half a chance if he can increase his schedule and win a few more events. With Novak Djokovic having a tonne of points to defend this year up until the US Open, winning events will help reduce the gap between himself and Federer, while the Number 2 position could also be up for grabs.

Federer has been given a fairly straightforward draw and could have no real complaints about that, so it is no surprise to see him as a short favourite to win the event.

There are a couple of tough looking encounters to negotiate, but I would expect Federer to get through against Nicolas Mahut, Mikhail Youzhny, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Richard Gaquet, with the latter two most likely to cause the most problems.

While I have no doubt that Federer is coming to Holland with the intention of winning (why else would he take part in an event he has mostly missed over the years?), I still think it is a little risk to back him at the short odds being offered.

Instead I am going to look at the bottom half of the draw and Number 2 seed at the event, Tomas Berdych- the big Czech player will not be facing the change of surface that Federer is having played in the Davis Cup on an indoor hard court, and he has started magnificently well this season after an inconsistent and disappointing 2011.

Berdych reached the Quarter Final at the Australian Open and pushed Rafael Nadal heavily in that loss, while following that up with a win at the indoor tournament in Marseille last week. He has been in very solid form and should enjoy playing on the courts here in Rotterdam, although he will have a couple of tough tests in his path to the Final.

The big man has a potentially awkward match with Marcos Baghdatis in the 2nd Round that could cause one or two problems, but Berdych has won 3 of their last 4 meetings and I think he is playing at a much higher level than the Cypriot at the moment.

The biggest problem, however, could come in the form of Juan Martin Del Potro, who is seeded to meet Berdych in the Semi Final. The Argentine had won the last two meetings with Berdych, although suffering a number of injuries since then and he has also been given a tough opening match with Michael Llodra who plays his best tennis indoors.

With that tough opener in mind, I think Berdych looks a decent choice to win his second tournament of the season, especially at the decent looking 5.50 being offered at Bet365.

ATP San Jose
A small field has got together on the American hard courts in San Jose, being led by Gael Monfils and Andy Roddick, both players that look a little vulnerable to me at the top of the market.

Gael Monfils has all the talent in the World, but he is infuriating at times and it is no wonder he has only won 4 career titles and struggles to maintain a presence in the top 10. On paper, it looks like Monfils has been presented with a great opportunity to make it through to the Final here, as he receives a 'bye' in the 1st Round, and then plays a Qualifier before a tough, but winnable, Quarter Final against Ryan Harrison.

However, the biggest danger to Monfils could come from the up and coming Milos Raonic of Canada, a player that had a break out season last year and is looking to push on this while defending his title here.

Raonic is a definite top 20 player in the making and could easily break the top 10 if he can find some consistency in his game and he has already secured a title in Chennai this season. The Canadian is still playing in their Davis Cup tie, but he has been given a 'bye' through the 1st Round and will not have to play here until Wednesday.

He has a tough looking game with Kevin Anderson in the Quarter Final, but I think he will fancy his chances of defending his title here. Raonic lost his only meeting with Monfils on an indoor hard court in 3 sets in Sweden, but that was a close match and he could easily reverse that result on a court he enjoyed playing on in 2011.

The bottom half of the draw is a little harder to separate as there are a number of players that have a few question marks to answer. Andy Roddick is the top player in this half by seeds, but I would be keen to see how he has recovered from the injury that forced him out of the Australian Open last month.

Sam Querrey would have been of interest if he had not been returning from an injury plagued 2011, while Julien Benneteau is another vulnerable seed.

One player who could come of the section is Radek Stepanek, although he is clearly a player coming towards the end of his career. Stepanek helped the Czech Republic to a win over Italy in the Davis Cup and has enjoyed plenty of success in these type of tournaments in the States in the past, including winning a 500 event in Washington last season.

I just think his price is a touch short considering he has not had the best start to the 2012 season, although his draw is decent.

However, the winner looks set to come out of the top half of the draw for me, and Milos Raonic seems to fit the bill in terms of consistency, ability to win on these courts and motivation.

ATP Sao Paulo
The Number 1 seed at the event is Nicolas Almagro and I think he can may hay from this position. He has been playing in the Davis Cup for Spain, but will be given a 'bye' in the 1st Round here so will not have to take to the court until Wednesday at the earliest.

That time will enable Almagro to hopefully get rid of any jetlag from the trip to Brazil from Europe and I think he can go all the way through to the Final, even if that means beating a couple of big obstacles in the way.

The Spaniard shouldn't have too many problems in the 2nd Round, but a potential Quarter Final against the in-form Carlos Berlocq is a worry, before a likely Semi Final with Fernando Verdasco.

Almagro has a winning record against Berlocq and would fancy his chances against him on a clay court, while he has beaten Verdasco in 2 of their last 3 matches. The latter is also in horrible form after a poor 2011 and he may not have the confidence to see off Almagro if it turns into a close encounter.

The bottom half of the draw has some very interesting players, although you could put a question mark beside a few of the names we see. Juan Carlos Ferrero was showing signs of physical incapability while playing for Spain so it hard to imagine him winning 5 matches in a row to take this tournament, while Thomaz Bellucci has been out of form although he could be inspired by playing in front of his own supporters.

David Nalbandian would be an interesting player with the right draw, but he too will be coming over from Europe without the benefit of having a 'bye' in the 1st Round. Nalbandian has also been very inconsistent over the last 12 months and is always susceptible to a pull out through injury.

The Argentine will also run into Gilles Simon in the 2nd Round and it just looks like a tough path through to the Final for him. Nalbandian would be a dangerous opponent for Almagro if he got to the Final as he would be match hardened, but the Spaniard has won 2 of their 3 meetings on clay courts and should be able to beat him at this stage of their respective careers.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Tomas Berdych @ 6.50 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Milos Raonic @ 4.50 Stan James (1 Unit) Just as I was about to place this pick, I noticed that Raonic has pulled out of the 4th Rubber in the Davis Cup tie with France and is suffering with a knee issue that could rule him out of this tournament... PICK CANCELLED and I won't be picking another player in the tournament now.

Nicolas Almagro @ 4.33 Stan James (1 Unit)

Davis Cup: 2-3, - 2.4 Units (10 Units Staked, - 24% yield)

2012 Season: + 20.88 Units (87 Units Staked, + 24% yield)
2011 Season: + 82.02 Units