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

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

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 31st-April 1st

Novak Djokovic was once again in dominating form for one set in his win over Juan Monaco last night and then seemed to turn off the rockets as he had to win a tie-break to go through in the second.

He has reached the Final and will meet Andy Murray meaning the week is going to end in profit, although it has been a tough tournament to really get my teeth into.

I have decided I am going to let my Maria Sharapova pick ride today in the Final against Agnieska Radwanska for the same reasons I let it ride against Caroline Wozniacki... I think Sharapova is the second best Women's player in the World as far as I am concerned at this moment in time and we have her at 9.00 to win this match.

Obviously I will be doing the same with the Djokovic-Murray Final tomorrow as I have both players as my outright picks this week, so I will be back to do a recap of the last two events at Indian Wells and Miami, most likely on Monday.

And in case you are interested, I do think Sharapova will win today, but may need three sets to do so, while I think Murray will beat Djokovic tomorrow as long as he can stay with the World Number 1 in the first set, a set that Djokovic has been on fire in the last couple of Rounds.

Murray should feel fresher than his opponent and I think he has the most belief that he can beat Djokovic out of all the players in the top 4.

Weekly Update: 7-9, - 2.09 Units (32 Units Staked)

Friday, 30 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 30th (Miami)

I said earlier on my Twitter page that I was going to get my pick out for the Rafael Nadal v Andy Murray Semi Final around 90 minutes before the match was going to start, but then received the news that Nadal has pulled out with the knee injury that has been bothering him the last few days.

Andy Murray getting through to the Final is very good news for the outright picks as that means we will already see a profit even if neither Murray nor Maria Sharapova win their respective events.

Novak Djokovic was another player that I picked in the outright market and I do believe he will make the Final against Murray to ensure a very good week is in the offing.

Juan Monaco + 5.5 games v Novak Djokovic: I will admit that Novak Djokovic is a vastly improved player to the one that has beaten Juan Monaco on all 4 occasions they have met previously, but something has to be said for the fact that all of those matches have been tight affairs.

Monaco has also been playing very well here in Miami over the last ten days and he could cause a few problems, although his serve can be susceptible to offering too many chances, especially if Djokovic plays a first set to the same level as he did against David Ferrer.

Djokovic had failed to cover this spread against Monaco in 5 previous meetings and I will take my chances that the Argentine will at least keep this close.

I expect Djokovic will come through, most likely 7-5, 6-3

MY PICKS: Juan Monaco + 5.5 games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-9, - 0.09 Units (30 Units Staked)

English Football Weekend Picks (March 31-April 2)

My weekend picks are going up over the next 24-48 hours and as usual I will post on Twitter whenever I have new picks up. It is a busy weekend coming up so I want to get the picks out as soon as possible so I can get a few other blog posts up with how the NFL is shaping up following the busiest part of Free Agency and recapping the last two tennis tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.

Aston Villa v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13587-Aston-Villa-v-Chelsea.htm)

Everton v West Brom Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13588-Everton-v-West-Brom.htm)

Manchester City v Sunderland Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13589-Manchester-City-v-Sunderland.htm)

QPR v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13591-QPR-v-Arsenal.htm)

Wolves v Bolton Wanderers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13592-Wolves-v-Bolton-Wanderers.htm)

Fulham v Norwich City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13593-Fulham-v-Norwich-City.htm)

Wigan Athletic v Stoke City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13594-Wigan-Athletic-v-Stoke-City.htm)

Brighton v Middlesbrough Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13596-Brighton-v-Middlesbrough.htm)

Portsmouth v Burnley Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13597-Portsmouth-v-Burnley.htm)

Blackpool v Southampton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13595-Blackpool-v-Southampton.htm)

West Ham v Reading Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13604-West-Ham-v-Reading.htm)

Newcastle United v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13607-Newcastle-United-v-Liverpool.htm)

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13610-Tottenham-Hotspur-v-Swansea.htm)

Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13614-Blackburn-Rovers-v-Manchester-United.htm)

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Everton-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.75 Panbet (1 Unit)
Bolton Wanderers Over 1.5 Total Goals @ 2.38 Coral (2 Units)
Fulham @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Wigan Athletic Over 1.5 Total Goals @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Brighton @ 2.30 William Hill (1 Unit)
Portsmouth @ 2.40 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Blackpool-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Panbet (1 Unit)
West Ham-Reading Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 188Bet (1 Unit)
Newcastle United-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United to win by one goal (English Handicap Draw) @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 29th (Miami)

It has been a strange week at this Masters Event, one where the layers seem to be a step ahead of the game for the first time in a while.

That has meant that I haven't really had a lot of picks on a daily basis, instead relying on the three players that I picked in the outright market to do the business.

Yesterday was one of the better days, although Rafael Nadal did his very best to throw away the match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and I am really hoping that Andy Murray recovers from his stomach complaint as the World Number 2 is there for the taking in my opinion.

I also think yesterday showed how good Novak Djokovic's achievements were last season as Victoria Azarenka lost her first match of the season. It is not a controversial statement to say that the Men's game is deeper than the Woman's so for Novak to go all the way to the French Open Semi Finals before he suffered his first defeat is an even more remarkable achievement.

Azarenka's exit also meant good things for those that follow my blog on a regular basis as Maria Sharapova is the most likely beneficiary of her defeat. Sharapova has a tough match with Caroline Wozniacki to negotiate today (currently leading 4-2 in the first set), but if she can come through that, I would expect her to be a pretty short favourite to win this event.

On another note, Nima Nowrouzi, one of my Twitter followers (@bossNUTS88) attended the event at Crandon Park during the Men's Fourth Round day and clearly had an exceptional time.

The event was run very well (as most of them are in North America) and the difference between watching a match on TV and actually be sitting just metres away was huge. I always recommend anyone who has not been to watch tennis in the flesh, especially when you see the best players in the World. Nima was lucky enough to watch Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and was clearly very impressed with all three players.

The speed of the game is one of the major differences from TV and live, especially when the players start teeing off with their forehands.

If you're lucky enough to live close enough to one of the major events, I would recommend it highly.

David Ferrer + 4.5 games v Novak Djokovic: Novak Djokovic leads the head to head between these two players 8-5 and I do expect the World Number 1 will be too good for David Ferrer tonight, but don't be surprised if it is a lot closer than expected.

3 of the last 4 meetings between the pair have been tight matches and I don't think Djokovic is playing at a ridiculously high level that he is blowing out his opponents.

This has all the makings of a three setter, and I think Ferrer will at least be able to keep it close if he is beaten in straight sets. I am backing Djokovic in the outright market so I do hope he continues on his path to the Final, but I think he may have to go through a bit of hardship to reach that stage if he does.

Agnieska Radwanska - 4.5 games v Marion Bartoli: There is the danger that Agnieska Radwanska will have a let down after a big win over Venus Williams, but surely there is more danger of that happening to Marion Bartoli after she ended Victoria Azarenka's unbeaten start to the season.

Radwanska has been in the better form of the two players this season, winning the event in Dubai, but more telling is her 6-0 head to head record against the Frenchwoman.

Venus Williams is the only player that has got up to 4 games in a set against Radwanska here in Miami, while no player has won more than 5 games overall in her 4 matches here.

Radwanska has also covered this spread the last 5 times she has beaten Bartoli so it looks worth chancing at odds against.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer + 4.5 games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Agnieska Radwanska - 4.5 games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-8, - 0.29 Units (26 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A few thoughts from the last week in Football (March 17-28)

I have been extremely busy at work during the last month and that has meant I have not been able to do many recaps due to time constraints and making sure all the picks were out in time.

It has been a busy time in the world of football as we get to 'squeaky bum time' meaning games are coming thick and fast, but I have found a slight window to put down a few thoughts on some of the issues that have arisen in the last couple of weeks.

The reaction to the Fabrice Muamba incident: This is something that united the football world as everyone hoped the best for the young midfielder, but more recently it has become a source of contention- not what happened to the player, but the reaction of people throughout the country.

The first thing we have to point out is the advances of social networking in the last ten years which has allowed people to put to their everyday thoughts down instantly. Therefore, any news can quickly expand and we can also see uprisings down to planned meetings on such sites, for example what happened in Egypt.

My position on Muamba is that when I initially heard what had happened, I was shocked... Not because of his age, but because it is a shock when a professional sports athlete would suddenly just collapse. It was the exact same reaction I had when I heard Daniel Jarque of Espanyol died after a training session in August 2009 and when Antonio Puerta of Sevilla died on the pitch in August 2007.

The issue I had was the number of one minute applauses held up and down the country at football matches in the days following Muamba's collapse... I could understand this a LOT more if he had passed away, but I found it a little distasteful considering he was still fighting for his life. The last time I checked, an applause was unlikely to be helpful and it just seemed really out of place because...  well because Muamba was still alive.

I could understand his former clubs at Birmingham and Arsenal holding some sort of event to let Muamba's family know he wasn't forgotten as there were players that likely had played with him, and I could understand Spurs fans wanting to do something as they were sadly witnesses to the event, while Bolton was a given.

BUT I didn't understand the need to hold an applause at Chelsea v Leicester the day after Muamba collapsed, or at Blackburn v Sunderland on Tuesday evening.

It just seems to me that people want to show their grief at something like this as a barometer as to how decent a human being they are- if you didn't shed a tear or applaud or offer your thoughts at every moment in the following days while Muamba was fighting for his life and you were disregarded as being heartless and out of order.

The last couple of days we have seen people attack the Red Issue cover, which took a satirical dig at the people who have been OTT with their response to this whole issue- the ones that seem to revel in showing how upset they are over events they have no control of.

The people who seem to have the loudest voices offering their disgust at the cover also, unsurprisingly, seem to be the people that wanted to put their grief on their sleeves in the most prominent manner.

I just don't remember the reaction of these same people to Antonio Puerta when he actually DIED on the pitch as they have had for Fabrice Muamba who is, gladly, making a recovery from his unfortunate events.

The question I have left is in what situations will a one minute applause NOT be applicable from now on? A dangerous precedent has been set in my opinion, and one that has nothing to do with people's actual feelings on the matter, making much more reasonable requests for a minute's applause/silence just part of a national grieving day.

FA Cup Semi Final Dilemma: We are coming up to the 23rd anniversary since the Hillsborough Disaster and the FA have been left in a tough spot as to what they can do with the FA Cup Semi Finals that are due to take place that day.

Liverpool, understandably, have always requested not to play on April 15th and that is the date for the second Semi Final this season. The problem for the FA is that the other Semi Final involves Chelsea, a team that are likely to be playing a Champions League Semi Final on Tuesday following this weekend.

Now what to do? The first thing is they could talk to Liverpool and ask them their feelings of playing on April 15th considering they are meeting Everton, a local rival but one that was also affected by the events in 1989. It is no exaggeration to say families can be split down the middle in that City with their support for either Everton or Liverpool, so it could be the ultimate way to pay respects to those that lost their lives 23 years ago as the two famous clubs come together.

However, that is a question for Liverpool and they have every right to say they do not wish to play on that date regardless of the opposition.

Therefore, the FA have only two real options in my opinion for the Semi Finals. Both involves keeping the Sunday clear for Chelsea as well as they deserve to be given the best opportunity to win the Champions League and need the rest between this game and the Semi Final of the other competition.

The first is simply to move the Liverpool-Everton game to take place at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff... This stadium is closer to Liverpool than Wembley and this game could take place as the early game on Saturday 14th April, with Chelsea meeting Spurs at Wembley in the evening.

However, I think the FA are adamant in playing both Semi Finals at Wembley and the only reasonable idea seems to be Chelsea-Spurs meeting on Friday evening and leaving the Liverpool-Everton game on the Saturday. Some will argue that it is impossible for the police to ensure crowd safety for the Chelsea game if everyone has been on the drink during the day, but there have been night games between the teams in the past and the police have had night games at Wembley in the past.

It seems the most logical way to avoid any issues for Chelsea and Liverpool as both clubs will be keeping a close eye on this game. The London Semi Final makes sense to be played on a Friday night as most fans will be close enough to attend and it keeps the April 15th free for both Chelsea and Liverpool for their respective reasons.

Patrick Vieira is clearly still in touch with Garry Cook: That is the only logical reason I have for the comments coming out of the 'Manchester City legend'  (he was there for 18 months at the end of his career) regarding Manchester United.

Last week he described the current League leaders as 'desperate' and was promptly put in his place by Sir Alex Ferguson later that week.

He clearly hasn't learned that he was looking like a tool (much like Garry Cook didn't recognise that until it was too late) and today has made comments about how Manchester City 'deserve' to win the League and Manchester United get all the decisions at Old Trafford.

Vieira states City deserve to win the League because they have played the best football, but clearly didn't receive the news that it was announced last week that 16 of the 20 top flight managers had nominated Tottenham as playing the best football this season.

I'm guessing the former Arsenal midfielder also missed the tape of Newcastle United being awarded a ridiculous penalty at Old Trafford earlier this season that cost Manchester United two points.

Granted it was a penalty on Monday night for the challenge on Fulham's Danny Murphy, but that has evened up the bad decision earlier this season, while Vieira also tried to hide the 'bitterness' that was brewing by suggesting all the big clubs get these decisions and that is what City are striving for.

I just think Vieira has not forgiven United were thwarting his dreams on more than one occasion during his time at Highbury, but surely someone needs to have a word that the team need to keep the focus on the field during this City run that has seen them drop to second in the League table rather than giving Sir Alex Ferguson more 'ammunition', which he already has 'plenty of'.

The relegation picture got a little murkier: Am I the only one that used to love it when the press would release their predictions as to who will win the League and who will go down based on how they thought the final fixtures would go?

I am going to release something like that on the blog in the coming days, before the weekend games, but what I do know is that last weeks results from the Premier League have made it a little tighter at the bottom of the League with all 5 teams still involved.

The biggest loser was Wolves who find themselves 4 points behind Bolton in the final position of safety (5 if you include their horrible goal difference), but a win for Wigan at Liverpool is a huge boost for their chances while Bolton beating Blackburn has dragged the latter back towards the trapdoor.

Momentum is a big thing at this stage and I think Bolton are leading that front, while Wigan and QPR have an awful set of fixtures to come. I would say Wolves will be all but down if they fail to beat Bolton this weekend at home because they have no momentum and nothing positive happening for them right now.

Blackburn had been playing better of late but the loss last week would have hurt them and it is getting tougher down the bottom. Aston Villa may want to be a little careful in thinking they are fine as there are only 8 points between them and QPR in 18th and they too have an awful set of fixtures to come and looked a little lost at times in their loss to Arsenal.

What is it with those Manchester City fans crying at Swansea and Stoke City?: I have a couple of theories: Either they had heard such a funny joke that it had brought tears to their eyes, or they have been following City for around two seasons.

I mean seriously, crying because the team is second in the table and still in control of their own destiny? (Win every game left and City are Champions as it stands).

This is a team that has gone 34 years without a trophy before winning the FA Cup last season, a team that was playing in the League One Play Offs just a few short years ago and one that has had more bad times than good for a generation.

Crying? I mean come on... It has been rightly ridiculed in a number of quarters, so much so that one of the so called 'fans' came on a radio show to claim he was just 'tired and frustrated'. Those 'fans' need to get a grip- it hasn't all be Sheikhs and financial fortunes at City in recent years and they haven't lost anything just yet.

Tennis Picks March 28th (Miami)

While I have struggled to find markets for the daily picks with the layers taking almost no chances with what they are offering, I am glad to say that my three outright picks for the tournament have all reached the Quarter Finals or better so far.

Novak Djokovic will be pleased to have seen both Juan Martin Del Potro and Roger Federer exit the tournament and open up his half of the draw. I think David Ferrer is the biggest challenge left for him to face before the Final so I am hopeful he will get to that stage.

It isn't as straight-forward for Andy Murray as he faces at least a couple of tough matches if he is to reach the Final. The first is today against Janko Tipsarevic and then the potential Semi Final with either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Rafael Nadal will be a tough prospect to say the least.

In the Woman's draw, Victoria Azarenka has been fortunate to escape and still take part in this tournament, but I am happy enough with how my pick, Maria Sharapova, has done in the tournament. She has reached the Semi Final and now faces Caroline Wozniacki, a player she has beaten in 5 of their 7 previous meetings.

It won't be easy for Sharapova, but I do think she will be too strong and could provide a big pay out for the week.

Venus Williams v Agnieska Radwanska: I am only playing this match for one unit, but I think Venus has been playing so well this week and shown some real heart that I don't think she should be set as a fairly big underdog against a player she has beaten 5 times in a row.

Granted the last time they met was a couple of seasons ago and Radwanska is a vastly improved player since then, but Williams recorded an impressive win over Ana Ivanovic in the last Round who has been playing very well.

Don't be surprised if Radwanska does get through, I just don't think she is as short a favourite as some think in this one.

Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: I know Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will have his supporters considering he has beating Rafael Nadal in 2 of their last 3 meetings, but I just feel the conditions will be against him here, particularly in the cooler night session.

The courts play slow in Miami and that should allow Nadal to get involved and use his superior speed and retrieving skills to force Tsonga into mistakes, very similar to how he would likely beat the Frenchman on a clay court.

My biggest concern is that Nadal has not really been playing that well after taking February off from the Tour and Tsonga is capable of giving him plenty of problems.

However, Nadal beat Tsonga at this stage here a couple of seasons ago and I am going for him to do so again, although it will be tighter than the 6-3, 6-2 win he recorded then I am sure.

MY PICKS: Venus Williams @ 2.40 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-7, - 1.19 Units (23 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 27th (Miami)

It seems the layers are a little ahead of the game so far in Miami and they are making it a little difficult for me to find something to lay my hat on today, even though there are 10 matches due to take place.

The only match that interests me is below:

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Gilles Simon: The spread does look a little high, but I think Andy Murray can cover it as he has a very similar kind of game compared with Gilles Simon, but is a little better in all departments.

He has covered this spread in 5 of his 8 wins over the Frenchman and I think the exit of Tomas Berdych will make the British Number 1 believe the path is open to the Semi Finals at the very least.

Gilles Simon has picked up a bit of form in the last couple of weeks since he moved back on to the hard courts, but this represents a step up in class of opponent and I believe Murray will likely win 6-2, 6-4.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 5.5 games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-7, + 0.81 Units (21 Units Staked)

English and European Midweek Picks (March 27-29)

On this thread I will put down my picks for the different matches taking place during the week as the First Legs of the Quarter Finals in both the Champions League and Europa League are scheduled, while we also have FA Cup ties and Championship fixtures.

As always, my picks will come in staggered periods over the next couple of days and I will update my Twitter page with a link to this thread whenever new picks are posted.

Apoel v Real Madrid Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13562-Apoel-Nicosia-v-Real-Madrid.htm)

Benfica v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13563-Benfica-v-Chelsea.htm)

Tottenham Hotspur v Bolton Wanderers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13564-Tottenham-Hotspur-v-Bolton-Wanderers.htm)

Sunderland v Everton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13565-Sunderland-v-Everton.htm)

Leicester City v Nottingham Forest Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13558-Leicester-City-v-Nottingham-Forest.htm)

Peterborough United v West Ham Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13561-Peterborough-United-v-West-Ham.htm)

Marseille v Bayern Munich Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13570-Marseille-v-Bayern-Munich.htm)

AC Milan v Barcelona Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13571-AC-Milan-v-Barcelona.htm)

MY PICKS: Real Madrid win to nil @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Chelsea to score first and fail to win @ 5.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Jermain Defoe to score anytime @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sunderland-Everton Both to Score @ 1.95 William Hill (2 Units)
Leicester City @ 1.92 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Peterborough United-West Ham Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Coral (1 Unit)
Marseille-Bayern Munich Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
AC Milan-Barcelona Over 2.75 Goals @ 1.95 188Bet (2 Units)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 26th (Miami)

Ewww, what a horrible day of picking winners yesterday as all three picks fail to reach the winners circle. The John Isner result was the one that surprised me the most considering his form coming into the event, and I am now hoping that is my one bad day in this tournament.

I have decided I am going to recap this tournament and the Indian Wells tournament together at the end of this event... It just makes more sense to recap the first two Masters events together and time has been a factor in my decision.

Kevin Anderson v Mardy Fish: I just don't believe that Kevin Anderson is the right underdog in this match considering the form of the two players, with the big South African winning in Delray Beach recently, and Mardy Fish losing early in every tournament he has played this season so far.

Fish is a good player, but I just think he may be on his way down the Rankings and the loss to Matthew Ebden last time out at Indian Wells is more than disappointing.

This match is also due to take place on the faster Grandstand court, and I think that will benefit the booming Anderson serve.

Fish beat Anderson in three tight sets at the US Open, but I think Anderson can reverse that here and come through in a match that could go the distance.

Fernando Verdasco v Nicolas Almagro: I am a big fan of what Nicolas Almagro has already achieved in 2012 and I think he could be a top 10 player sooner rather than later with the clay court season about to start, but I did mention that I believe Fernando Verdasco is in for a big week here and I am going to back him in this pick 'em contest.

Verdasco has begun to show some of the form that took him high up the Rankings in 2009 and he will appreciate playing his compatriot who he has beaten 5 out of the 7 meetings they have had, including the most recent at Acapulco.

Almagro is more than capable on the hard courts, but I just think Verdasco is going to be a little too strong and will come through in a couple of tight sets.

Sabine Lisicki + 3.5 games v Na Li: Na Li has been picking up a little bit of form in her last tournament at Indian Wells and here in Miami, but I think Sabine Lisicki can at least keep this close against her although I am not sure which of the two players will be progressing through to the Quarter Finals.

Lisicki has not been in great form, but a couple of wins here should have given her a confidence boost and she has also won the two previous meetings with Li.

I just have a feeling this match could go the distance, so the extra games on Lisicki's side may make all the difference.

MY PICKS: Kevin Anderson @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Fernando Verdasco @ 1.90 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki + 3.5 games @ 2.00 188Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-5, + 1.81 Units (16 Units Staked)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 25th (Miami)

It was a good day all around yesterday as all three picks came in to the winning circle, while Maria Sharapova has moved into the Fourth Round here as one of my three outright choices of the week.

Hopefully we can move forward with some more positive results as the tournament begins to hot up in the second week.

Today looks like another tough day for predictions, but I have found three picks that I think are worth chancing.

Gilles Simon win 2-1 in sets v Jurgen Melzer: These two players have met four times in the past and have split those meetings 2-2, but I think it is telling that all of the matches have been close affairs with 3 of those finishing without a straight sets win.

I think Simon's grinding style will work well here in Miami, although the match is scheduled to take place on the faster Grandstand court today. Jurgen Melzer has been struggling a little since winning in Memphis and was feeling under the weather last time out at Indian Wells.

I just feel the Frenchman will be a little more solid when it comes down to the crunch, but Melzer is capable of taking a set off of him on the way through.

John Isner - 3.5 games v Florian Mayer: Florian Mayer is one of the most awkward players to meet on the Tour, especially when you have never seen his style of play up close and I expect it may take John Isner a little bit of time to get used to the variations of spin and slice.

However, Mayer does throw in a couple of poor service games every set he plays, and I think that will be the difference between the two players here as Isner should be able to hold serve with relative comfort and pressure his opponent on the scoreboard.

Isner has been in very good form at Indian Wells and won a tough first match here against Nikolay Davydenko, while Mayer has not been in the best of form himself. I am guessing Isner does enough to get a break in each of the first two sets, and that should be good enough to cover the spread.

Daniela Hantuchova + 4.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: I said I won't back Daniela Hantuchova as a favourite any time soon as she just seems to be lacking the belief to win those matches as comfortably as she should, but I do like her here with the games.

Ana Ivanovic has been struggling with a hip injury, one that forced her withdrawal at Indian Wells in her match with Maria Sharapova, and it won't be easy against an opponent that has given her trouble in the past.

Ivanovic holds a 4-2 head to head record against Hantuchova, but it was the Slovakian that won their last meeting on the grass courts in Birmingham last season, while 4 of their 6 meetings have been close affairs.

Hantuchova's form has been a little up and down to say the least in recent weeks, but she does have the shot making ability to at least steal a set here and that could be enough for her to cover the spread, even in a losing effort.

MY PICKS: Gilles Simon win 2-1 in sets @ 4.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
John Isner - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daniela Hantuchova + 4.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-2, + 6.81 Units (11 Units Staked)

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 24th (Miami)

How good is it to see Venus Williams back and winning tennis matches again? After suffering an illness last year that has kept her off the court for over six months, I didn't think she would come back at the level we are used to considering she is also the wrong side of 30.

However, the desire shown by both Williams sisters to come back from long lay offs is staggering and it was an impressive Venus win over the Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova.

Don't get me wrong, Kvitova has not been in great nick recently, coming back from an injury of her own and not showing the form that some would have expected, but it is still a big win for Venus and one she really seemed to enjoy according to all the reports.

The one pick I had yesterday was successful as Janko Tipsarevic got his revenge over David Nalbandian for the defeat at Indian Wells. Today, I have a few more picks as we finally get some TV coverage of the second Masters event of the season.

Fernando Verdasco - 4 games v Bjorn Phau: I am a little surprised that Fernando Verdasco is being a little under-rated in this match as I really think he could be in line for a big week here in Miami with the conditions likely to suit his game very well.

Verdasco has shown some signs that he is recovering his form in the last couple of tournaments, pushing Juan Martin Del Potro at Indian Wells and reaching the Final at Acapulco.

Bjorn Phau is a veteran of the Tour and really shows his best stuff on the Challenger Tour these days so I expect the challenge of Verdasco to be too strong for him today.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v David Goffin: Nicolas Almagro reached the Quarter Final at Indian Wells last time out to continue a very solid start to 2012.

He has won one tournament this season, reached the Final of another and his 'worst' showing so far is reaching the Fourth Round at the Australian Open. This kind of form could see Almagro breaking into the top 10 of the World Rankings sooner rather than later and the conditions in Miami should favour a player that is adept at playing on the hard courts.

David Goffin beat Donald Young in the last Round, but it was a match full of breaks of serve and he won't have so much joy against the Almagro serve which is fairly solid.

It just feels to me that the win over Young has been over-rated by the layers here and I can see Almagro finding a couple of breaks of serve per set and that should be enough to bring in the cover.

Na Li - 4.5 games v Iveta Benesova: I am going to back the World Number 8 here against an opponent she has beaten in 4 straight encounters and one that she would have covered this spread against in 3 of those wins.

Li was playing better at Indian Wells after recently returning from an injury, although she hasn't reached the heights that took her to her first Grand Slam last year at the French Open. However, she should have full confidence that she can win this match with her head to head record against Benesova.

Benesova has regularly lost to the best players on the Tour over the last year and I don't foresee too much changing here for her.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 4 games @ 2.00 188Bet (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Na Li - 4.5 games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-2, + 1.17 Units (5 Units Staked)

English Football Weekend Picks (March 24-26)

This is where my picks from the weekend slate of games will appear. As per normal, I will put up the picks in staggered periods as the games are spread over the next couple of days.

You can follow my Twitter page where I will update any time the new picks are posted.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13516-Chelsea-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

Arsenal v Aston Villa Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13518-Arsenal-v-Aston-Villa.htm)

Bolton Wanderers v Blackburn Rovers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13519-Bolton-Wanderers-v-Blackburn-Rovers.htm)

Liverpool v Wigan Athletic Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13530-Liverpool-v-Wigan-Athletic.htm)

Norwich City v Wolves Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13532-Norwich-City-v-Wolves.htm)

Swansea v Everton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13531-Swansea-v-Everton.htm)

Stoke City v Manchester City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13517-Stoke-City-v-Manchester-City.htm)

Millwall v Leeds United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13534-Millwall-v-Leeds-United.htm)

Watford v Ipswich Town Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13533-Watford-v-Ipswich-Town.htm)

Birmingham City v Cardiff City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13541-Birmingham-City-v-Cardiff-City.htm)

West Brom v Newcastle United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13542-West-Brom-v-Newcastle-United.htm)

Manchester United v Fulham Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13549-Manchester-United-v-Fulham.htm)

MY PICKS: Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 188Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 188Bet (2 Units)
Bolton Wanderers-Blackburn Rovers Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Liverpool to win and 3/4 total goals @ 2.80 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Wolves + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 188Bet (1 Unit)
Swansea @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Stoke City + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.35 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Millwall-Leeds United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 188Bet (1 Unit)
Watford @ 2.63 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Birmingham City-Cardiff City Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
West Brom-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Panbet (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 188Bet (3 Units)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 23rd (Miami)

It was an interesting day yesterday as the First Round of the Men's event was completed, with the picks going 2-2 for a small profit.

I have to say I am still surprised that this tournament does not begin its TV coverage until the last matches of the Second Round are to be completed and, in the Women's case, not until the Third Round. The fact that we get coverage of entire ATP 250 events means it is a little weird not to have coverage of one of the big events outside of Grand Slam level.

Miami has always been described as the 'unofficial fifth major' so can you imagine if the Australian Open or Wimbledon decided there would be no TV coverage until the end of the Second Round matches? I have no idea what the thinking behind this is, but hopefully that is something that will be addressed sooner rather than later.

It was also a shame that Fernando Gonzalez' last match on the Tour was not televised, although you can catch the tribute the ATP put together for him. The Chilean was one of my favourite players to watch, especially when the forehand was firing, and I think he is a real character that will be missed. Hopefully he enjoys all he is going to do in the future.

It's a tough day to pick games I think with a lot of matches leaving me very much mixed in my emotions as to who will win, while others look short in the prices without me having enough faith in their opponents to take advantage. Therefore, I will only make the one pick today:

Janko Tipsarevic v David Nalbandian: I am only taking this as I think the Serbian represents some value, especially considering he was the favourite to win when these two players met at Indian Wells around ten days ago.

It is great to see David Nalbandian playing the tennis he is at the moment and I think he could have resurgent year if he can stay healthy. Nalbandian has no points to protect over the next couple of months until we get to Queens in June and there is a real chance he will get back into the top 32 in the Rankings if he can continue playing as well as he was at Indian Wells.

However, he beat Tipsarevic there in three sets, a match that could have easily gone the other way, and I just don't think Nalbandian should be favoured against a top 10 player just yet.

Tipsarevic is a solid player so if Nalbandian's form has dropped a little, I think the Serb can make his Ranking tell and earn his first professional win over the Argentine.

MY PICK: Janko Tipsarevic @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Weekly Update: 2-2, + 0.17 Units (4 Units Staked)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 22nd (Miami)

We get to finish the First Round of the Men's Tournament today, while the bigger seeds in the Women's draw will begin their campaign today including Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.

Due to being very busy at work for most of the day, I am not going to go into my reasons for my picks, but suffice to say I have done my research as I would normally.

Gilles Muller win 2-0 in sets v Alex Bogomolov: Muller has won all 3 previous meetings between the two players, including in Atlanta last season, and he has also won all 6 sets they have competed against one another.

Bogomolov has not been in good form to open 2012 and I think last season will represent a peak for the veteran, while Muller can at least point to a Quarter Final run in Dallas last week (a tournament that saw Bogomolov lose in the First Round).

With his big serve, I think Muller will find it a little easier to hold and force the pressure on his opponent and hopefully continue his run of never dropping a set against Bogomolov.

Frank Dancevic v Jeremy Chardy: This has been set as a pick 'em contest, but I like the Canadian to earn his way into the Second Round here as he looks in better form than Jeremy Chardy.

Dancevic has won 8 matches in a row after qualifying for the Challenger event in Dallas and going on to win that, including wins over the likes of Marin Cilic and Igor Andreev. It is clear his form has not deserted him just yet as he won a couple of qualifying matches to take part in the main draw here in Miami too.

Chardy was beaten in the First Round at Indian Wells, albeit against a tough Marcos Baghdatis, but that means he has lost his last TEN matches on a hard court on the main Tour, so I think the Canadian may come through with confidence more likely on his side.

Yen-Hsun Lu v Jarkko Nieminen: I am going with the underdog here as I think Jarkko Nieminen blows hot and cold enough for Yen-Hsun Lu to at least push him to a third set and then it could go either way.

Lu won a Challenger event in Asia recently and was beaten in Dallas last week by the eventual winner Frank Dancevic, although that match did need a third set to separate the two players.

Nieminen's confidence is likely to be a little low as he has now lost 4 of his last 5 matches, while Lu has won the last two meetings between the players, enough for me to take a chance on the dog to bark loud and proud.

Donald Young v David Goffin: This is going against some of my principles which has led me to taking the first three picks as I am taking the out of form Donald Young in this match, another that has been set as a pick 'em.

Young has lost 3 matches in a row, and 5 of his last 6, but I think his experience on the North American hard courts will be the difference between himself and David Goffin tonight.

Goffin has done well to get through a couple of qualifying rounds to reach the First Round proper, but these are his first matches in the United States this year, while he had not played for three weeks before these qualifiers.

Young has generally lost to players at a higher level than the 21 year old Goffin, and I am taking a chance that his experience will see him through here.

MY PICKS: Gilles Muller win 2-0 in sets @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Frank Dancevic @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Yen-Hsun Lu @ 2.25 Stan James (1 Unit)
Donald Young @ 1.90 188Bet (1 Unit)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Miami Tennis Outright Picks (March 21-April 1)

I had a horrible last day in the Indian Wells tennis tournament as I lost a little bit of faith in how things were going so I decided to take the rest of the week off from the Quarter Finals stage and take a watching brief on how things were going.

I would certainly not have expected John Isner to make the Final of the event, so I think I saved myself a little bit of heartache, while the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal is another where I might have gone a different way.

I will be providing a recap of Indian Wells in the next 24 hours or so, but the next big event is already upon us as the unofficial 'fifth major' begins in Miami. On this thread, I will break down the Men's and Women's draws and also pick a couple of players for my outright staking plan.

Men's Tournament
First Quarter
As usual these days, we see Novak Djokovic at the very top of the draw as he bids to recover from a couple of relative setbacks on his amazing 2011 season. This time last year, Djokovic had already secured another two titles at Dubai and Indian Wells, but he comes into this one having been beaten in the Semi Finals of both events.

Now I don't know how much we should read into these events at the moment considering he did win the Australian Open, but it is clear that the little bit of luck that was on his side last season is missing so far.

Djokovic has a potentially very awkward first match here in Miami as he could meet Marcos Baghdatis, but I expect the Serb will be a little too consistent for him and can then have a relatively straight-forward passage to the Quarter Finals.

At that stage, Djokovic is likely to meet the winner of the Juan Martin Del Potro and David Ferrer match, although I do favour the Argentine in that spot. Del Potro has made a real impact on the Tour this season as he looks to rediscover his 2009 form, but he has consistently found Roger Federer a little too good for him.

I expect the World Number 11 to beat Ferrer if they do meet, although that could be a gruelling encounter, one that should give Novak Djokovic the edge in any potential Quarter Final clash.

Second Quarter
The second quarter of the draw is where the most in-form player on the Tour, Roger Federer, is placed. To cut a long story short, I think Federer will be very happy with the draw and his route through to the Semi Finals.

He does potentially face Andy Roddick in the Third Round, but the American has fallen out of the Top 32 in the Rankings for a very good reason and I don't see him posing enough problems for Federer at this stage of their careers.

A potential Quarter Final with Mardy Fish will not worry Federer in the slightest considering the form Fish has been displaying in the early part of 2012 and I think we are more likely to see either Fernando Verdasco or Kevin Anderson at this stage, with neither player likely to cause Federer too many sleepless nights.

Third Quarter
The third quarter of the draw is perhaps the most interesting of all as we see players like Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, Milos Raonic and the rejuvenated David Nalbandian in the section.

Andy Murray had a terrible Indian Wells when he was beaten in the Second Round by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and he does not have the easiest of starts here as he will likely face Denis Istomin in his first match and quickly follow that with a match against Milos Raonic.

However, I do believe the Indian Wells result was a blip and I can see Murray given those two players plenty of problems with the mix of spin and variations he uses in his matches. Those two matches will also give the British Number 1 a lot of confidence, confidence that could take him through to the Quarter Final.

Tomas Berdych is his most likely opponent in that match as he has a couple of relatively straight-forward matches to get through before facing a potential Fourth Round match with one of Alexandr Dolgopolov, David Nalbandian or Janko Tipsarevic.

However, those latter three players will already have had a couple of real tough matches to get through to the Fourth Round and may, understandably, be a little fatigued.

With Berdych suffering with the flu in Indian Wells, I think I favour Murray to have a bounce back week at a venue where he has won the tournament before, but the first couple of matches is where he is going to be most vulnerable.

Fourth Quarter
The final quarter of the draw looks set for Rafael Nadal to make the Semi Finals for the second tournament in succession. The Spanish player could not have hand picked a much easier way to get involved in the tournament than the matches he is expected to face in the first three Rounds and I would be more than surprised if he doesn't make the Quarter Final.

His likely opponents at that stage are either the runner up from Indian Wells, John Isner, or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who have both been given what looks like a nice passage through to a Fourth Round clash with one another.

Isner could be a real danger for Nadal, but he has had fitness issues in the past and I think last weeks run at Indian Wells may just catch up with him despite the few days of rest he will have earned.

Tsonga has been a little hit and miss this season and I think Nadal would eventually wear him down through his own consistency and that should enable the Spanish player to make it through to the Semi Finals at the least.

Outright Picks
We have seen that the majority of the Masters Events over the last few seasons has been won by one of the top 4 tennis players in the Men's Rankings and I see no reason to believe otherwise.

I think it is telling that Juan Martin Del Potro is yet to win an event at this level, despite winning a Grand Slam, and I also believe the prices on Novak Djokovic have reached tempting levels.

Roger Federer is the obvious danger with his form being what it is, but it is tough to win these events back to back and I think he may fall to the Serb in a potential Semi Final meeting on what have generally been slower hard courts over the last few seasons.

I am also going to back Andy Murray each-way this week, despite him letting me down last time out at Indian Wells, as his price looks a little big IF he can negotiate the first couple of matches he has in his way. However, he has shown he can make a real impact at this event when he gets on a run by winning it in 2009, and he has shown good form with a run to the Semi Finals in Australia and the Final in Dubai before that surprise defeat at Indian Wells.

Rafael Nadal looked rusty last week in California, so I am happy to take him on with Murray.

Women's Tournament
First Quarter
The Women's tournament has already started at Indian Wells, but the prices remain steady as the big seeded players do not begin until Thursday.

Sometimes it can be easy to over-think things, but I refuse to let this be one of these occasions so it is hard pressed to look beyond Victoria Azarenka with the way that she has opened up 2012.

The only two players in this section that may surprise Azarenka are Angelique Kerber and Marion Bartoli, but it is hard to look beyond the World Number 1 after the way she played following a scare in her first match at Indian Wells.

Second Quarter
The second quarter is headed up by Petra Kvitova, but she looked out of sorts in her defeat at Indian Wells to Christina McHale and I am still unsure as to where the Wimbledon Champion is in terms of fitness, belief and confidence.

There are plenty of challengers on paper headed by Ana Ivanovic, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieska Radwanska, but all three of those players have had their own issues.

Ivanovic and Zvonareva have had a few injury problems to contend with recently so it is likely that Radwanska is the most likely beneficiary of the section, although she didn't look at her best in Indian Wells either.

Third Quarter
This is where we see the return of Serena Williams to the Tour (both Williams sisters miss the Indian Wells event after being racially abused there a few seasons ago) and I think we know she is capable of making waves even when she has not been playing as much tennis as her rivals before an event.

Serena has reached the Final of this event on the last three occasions she has competed in Miami (winning twice, but losing the latest to Victoria Azarenka) so she clearly likes the conditions here, although this is her first appearance since 2009 at South Beach.

There are some potentially tough hurdles in her way in the form of Sam Stosur, Julia Goerges and Caroline Wozniacki to contend with, but I would favour Serena to beat all three if it comes down to it.

Stosur has not been in the best of form to open up 2012 and the slower conditions may not favour her in a match with Williams, while Wozniacki is really struggling since losing her World Number 1 Ranking.

Goerges is an interesting character but blows hot and cold so often that it is tough to see her beating Williams in a match IF the German can reach that stage.

A real potential dark horse from this section is Kim Clijsters, another player that has shown her capabilities of competing on the Tour despite not playing as many tournaments as her rivals. She is in the same half of the section as Goerges and Wozniacki so could be battle hardened for a tilt with Serena Williams if it gets to that stage.

Fourth Quarter
The second best player on the WTA Tour at this moment in time is Maria Sharapova, a player that will be playing in her 'home' state of Florida and one that has only really found Victoria Azarenka too good for her this season.

She at least did me proud by reaching the Final last time out in Indian Wells and there is no reason to doubt her ability to do the same this week in Miami.

The likes of Na Li and Jelena Jankovic may cause problems for the Russian, but she has shown a lot of consistency in her game, while her belief is second to none that she can win matches and tournaments.

I doubt that Sharapova will be exiting this tournament prematurely and a potential Semi Final against Serena Williams would make wonderful viewing.

Outright Picks
The odds on Victoria Azarenka have become very short as the layers are worried they have another 'Djokovic season' on their hands, so the value potentially lies with one of her rivals, especially considering how close Azarenka came to losing her first match at Indian Wells in the last tournament.

With the belief that Azarenka is the most likely winner, I am looking at the other half of the draw for a couple of potential each-way shouts that could take advantage if the World Number 1 was to fall early.

You have to keep Maria Sharapova in the staking plans as she has shown the most consistency outside of Azarenka this season and she did reach the Final here in 2011 before losing to... yes, you guessed it, Victoria Azarenka.

At 9.00, an each-way shout on Sharapova looks worth risking.

I did consider picking Serena Williams too, but she has a tough section to get out of as well as the fact that the layers seem to be taking no chances with her prices, so I will stick with the Russian as my one and only play from the Woman's draw.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic @ 3.00 Totesport (2 Units)
Andy Murray @ 7.00 Totesport (1 Unit E/W)
Maria Sharapova @ 9.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit E/W)

English Midweek Picks (March 21)

I haven't been around much over the last few days thanks to work commitments taking priority, while I also figured it was a pretty good time to take a break after a couple of very unsuccessful days.

It doesn't hurt to take some time off and recharge the batteries, as well as getting an opportunity to consider where things may have been going wrong, and I hope this time has been well spent (even if my head has been buried in plenty of paperwork for my job).

Below are my picks from the Premier League games taking place on Wednesday 21 March:

Manchester City v Chelsea Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13495-Manchester-City-v-Chelsea.htm)

Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13496-Tottenham-Hotspur-v-Stoke-City.htm)

Everton v Arsenal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13497-Everton-v-Arsenal.htm)

QPR v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13498-QPR-v-Liverpool.htm)

MY PICKS: Manchester City @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win to Nil @ 2.50 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Everton-Arsenal Time of Last Goal After 73rd Minute @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
QPR-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 15th (Indian Wells)

We are getting down to the last few days here at Indian Wells as the Women's Quarter Finals are completed today, while the first two Men's Quarter Finals are played.

Hopefully the week will be ending in a positive note, and then we can get on with the Miami draw that should be out by Tuesday next week.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: Novak Djokovic has not looked at his best this week if I am honest, but I think he may take advantage of his opponent who could come out a little emotionally flat after a win over Tomas Berdych yesterday.

You could see after the first couple of games that Almagro really wanted the win over Berdych and that can take it out of a player mentally, even though he is now facing the best player in the World.

Djokovic had a tougher match in the last Round than I think many would have predicted, but even then he was a fairly comfortable winner in the end, while he has been doing just enough in the first couple of Rounds.

I think this is the time when the Serb will start cranking up his game as the tournament comes to the end of the road and I think he is going to be a little too tough for Almagro. I am hoping Djokovic makes a fast start and that should enable him to get the cover.

Marion Bartoli v Ana Ivanovic: Ana Ivanovic was very impressive in her dismantling of Caroline Wozniacki in the previous Round, but I am still not quite convinced that the former World Number 1 can consistently play to that level and this is a very tough test for her.

Marion Bartoli had been struggling with an injury a few weeks ago, but has shown she is back up to fitness this week and I think she will stamp her authority on Ivanovic having won 3 of their last 4 meetings including here at Indian Wells last season.

I expect the French player will be able to grind down Ivanovic who has struggled to find her best game on a regular basis, while she will also be playing a player that will feel completely comfortable that she has the game to beat her.

John Isner win 2-0 in sets v Gilles Simon: I am backing the big American to keep the local interest alive today against a player that is tough to beat, but one that could be under a lot of pressure to keep up against this server.

John Isner will keep the pressure on Simon because his serve is going to be very tough to break down, while Simon does throw in a bad couple of games on his own serve in a set of tennis. They met in a tough 4 setter at the US Open last season, but Isner won all 3 tie-breakers on that occasion and I think that will give him the edge here.

Simon has had a good tournament so far, but he has not been in the best of form before this week and I think it is going to be a step too far for him today.

MY PICKS: Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marion Bartoli @ 1.90 Panbet (2 Units)
John Isner win 2-0 in sets @ 2.38 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-7, + 4.04 Units (32 Units Staked)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 14th (Indian Wells)

It was a terrible day for the picks as I ended up going against two players that have played as well as I have seen them in the last couple of seasons.

One player I shouldn't have opposed was Victoria Azarenka who is playing like the real deal and looks very confident and totally secure in what she wants to do.

However, David Nalbandian and Ana Ivanovic were both excellent in their wins yesterday, although the latter was helped by a truly horrific performance from Caroline Wozniacki.

I believe Wozniacki is struggling with the fact that she is no longer the World Number 1 and seems to have lost belief, very similar in the manner that Dinara Safina did although not with the same level of drop off of form.

However, I think the Dane is someone worth opposing in the coming weeks as I think more and more players believe in their own game to beat her.

I will never apologise for being a David Nalbandian fan and it was nice to see him roll back the clock yesterday with a fantastic performance to beat Janko Tipsarevic. Nalbandian was consistent and, bar a couple of bad service games, was pretty strong all round.

It is nice to see him playing that way, but I think I will be going against him again today, even if the win yesterday was the best I have seen him play since winning the title in Washington back in August 2010.

Nicolas Almagro + 1.5 sets v Tomas Berdych: This is going to be a very interesting watch considering the way their match at the Australian Open ended without a handshake, and I just think the Spaniard is being a little under-rated on a hard court that should suit his game.

I agree that Berdych is the more consistent player, but Almagro has opened 2012 in good form and the slower nature of these hard courts should give him a chance.

Their match at the Australian Open could not have been closer as Berdych won 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 and that means the Czech player leads 5-2 in the head to head.

However, Almagro has won a set in 5 of their 6 completed meetings (one he lost when retiring in the first set) and I think the added spice will focus him to give his all here.

At odds-against, I think it is worth chancing that this goes the distance or potentially an Almagro win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v David Nalbandian: As I said, David Nalbandian played his best match for a long time yesterday as he beat a top 10 player, but this challenge has been ramped up another level and I think it is going to be tough for him to repeat the trick against a player like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga is at his best on the faster surfaces, but he does have the ability to hit through these slower surfaces too, while David Nalbandian will have to serve at his very best if he is to keep the pressure off himself against a powerful server like the Frenchman.

Nalbandian has got the ability to make it tough for Tsonga when is at the top of his game, but I just have a feeling it may be too much to ask of him after the performance yesterday and I think Tsonga creates enough pressure on the Argentine's service games to win this one and cover the spread.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: Alexandr Dolgopolov has all the talent in the World, but to say he is inconsistent with it is an understatement and I think he is going to be given another lesson from the former World Number 1.

Rafael Nadal has looked like he has not missed a minute on the court in the first two matches he has played here, but this is the toughest opponent he has faced. However, the conditions should favour Nadal as it allows him to put his movement to good effect and I think he is going to cause Dolgopolov plenty of problems, despite also seeing some stunning winners go past him I am sure.

The problem for the Ukrainian will be the conditions, meaning he is likely going to have to hit two or three 'winners' before he can win the point against a defender of the capabilities of Nadal, and that is going to lead to errors and give the Spaniard chances.

Nadal also doesn't allow his opponent any easy games as he fights for every point, and that could allow him to cover with 3 breaks of serve spread over two sets.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Almagro + 1.5 sets @ 2.20 188Bet (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-6, + 1.74 Units (26 Units Staked)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 13th (Indian Wells)

So the rematch has been set- Nicolas Almagro will face Tomas Berdych just a couple of months after their blow up at the Australian Open and it will be very interesting to see how tetchy that becomes. The lack of a handshake after that match will be shown again I am sure, while we may also see if they had any further words in the locker room.

It should make for an interesting match as the Indian Wells tournament hots up with a number of solid looking matches to enjoy.

One player who won't be involved is Mardy Fish who was looking... well mardy in his loss to Matthew Ebden yesterday. I really thought he would push on from the five set win over Stanislas Wawrinka in the Davis Cup tie in Switzerland, but he has made a poor start to 2012 and could be having a letdown season after being very strong for the last couple of seasons.

Fish has Miami left on his schedule before the clay court season begins and I think his top 10 position, as well as his position as American Number 1, are both in serious doubt before the grass court season begins.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: I am going to back Juan Martin Del Potro as I think he is the superior player between the two and I think the slow nature of the courts will allow him to get more involved in Fernando Verdasco's service games and create the more opportunities to break.

Verdasco did play well in his last tournament at Acapulco, but he struggles to find the consistency in his game these days and I think Del Potro is in much the better form of the two players.

Del Potro hammered Verdasco 2 and 2 on a clay court last year and I think the conditions here will favour him to win this one in straight sets.

Nikolay Davydenko - 3.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: This is a risky pick as Nikolay Davydenko is not the player of old, but he has shown his ability in recent weeks and I think he can take care of the streaky Brazilian who has yet to really make an impact on the Tour for a consistent period of time.

Davydenko did suffer an injury a couple of weeks ago that forced him to retire from a match with Juan Martin Del Potro, and that does concern me a little, but he is playing a player that has not had a winning record on the hard courts at this level over the last five seasons.

The Russian also beat Bellucci comfortably in their one and only meeting and I think he is going to be too consistent for him. Bellucci can get himself in trouble in his own service games, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few breaks of serve with Davydenko just doing enough to cover the spread.

Janko Tipsarevic - 2.5 games v David Nalbandian: I think Janko Tipsarevic is one of the most under-rated players on the Tour, but he is consistently getting to the latter stages of tournaments and I think he is too strong for David Nalbandian at this stage of their careers.

Nalbandian has had a solid tournament already, but this is easily the toughest opponent he would have faced so far and I think he will struggle with the consistency needed to beat a top 10 player.

Tipsarevic would get more exposure and feel more comfortable the more he gets to the latter part of these tournaments and I think he has enough all around game to beat Nalbandian here.

Julia Goerges + 6.5 games v Victoria Azarenka: It will take a brave person to back against Victoria Azarenka this week, but I think Julia Goerges will be given just enough time on the ball on these courts to at least cause a couple of problems for the World Number 1.

It seems like a lot of games to give a player that is comfortable on the slower courts, courts that will give Goerges more of a chance to have a swing and hit through the ball.

Victoria Azarenka is one of the better defenders on Tour, and certainly has the game to extract errors from Goerges and punish her with winners, but Goerges has been in very good form recently and all this is about is keeping the match semi-close.

Azarenka has won their last two meetings, but has failed to cover this spread in both of those matches and I will look for Goerges to manage to do that again at the least.

Caroline Wozniacki - 3.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: Caroline Wozniacki has struggled to deal with the new pressure of no longer being the World Number 1, but I think she is going to be a little too solid for Ana Ivanovic who did struggle with some sort of injury yesterday in her win over Ksenia Pervak.

Wozniacki beat Ivanovic a couple of weeks ago in Dubai and I think these conditions are going to favour her and her ability to defend against a big hitter like Ivanovic... I don't expect much except the Dane to eventually grind down Ivanovic and come through in two tight sets.

MY PICKS: Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Nikolay Davydenko - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Janko Tipsarevic - 2.5 games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Julia Goerges + 6.5 games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Panbet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-3, + 5.34 Units (18 Units Staked)

English and European Midweek Picks (March 13-15)

My picks for the midweek slate of games will be placed in this thread as they are completed. This has come out a little later than usual due to work commitments, but hopefully I will have Wednesday's up later today and then I will work on the Europa League Second Legs.

Liverpool v Everton Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13431-Liverpool-v-Everton.htm)

Derby County v Nottingham Forest Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13433-Derby-County-v-Nottingham-Forest.htm)

Athletic Bilbao v Manchester United Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13444-Athletic-Bilbao-v-Manchester-United.htm)

Manchester City v Sporting Lisbon Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13443-Manchester-City-v-Sporting-Lisbon.htm)

MY PICKS: Liverpool win and 1/2 goals scored @ 3.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Derby County-Nottingham Forest Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Panbet (1 Unit)
Athletic Bilbao-Manchester United Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.63 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2 goals (English Handicap) @ 3.30 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 12th (Indian Wells)

I didn't get time to write my tennis picks from yesterday as I didn't really fancy anything in particular and I was still recovering from the surprise that Andy Murray was beaten in his first match here for the second season in a row.

It is a shame for the British Number 1 that he couldn't get a run going here as he would have closed in on the top 3 players in the Men's Rankings, but the bigger issue will be how he recovers in Miami in a couple of weeks time. After all the positives surrounding his early start under Ivan Lendl, Murray cannot really afford to have a letdown period as he did last season, so the Miami event takes a bigger role than it perhaps would have with a run here at Indian Wells.

The other factor to look out for is a virus that has been spreading through the players taking part. Roger Federer has been a bit under the weather, while his family are apparently feeling even worse, so be careful to keep an eye out for how players are feeling ahead of matches.

Lucie Safarova v Francesca Schiavone: This has been set as a pick 'em match, but I like the chances of the talented, if inconsistent, Lucie Safarova to continue her run of decent form recently.

Safarova is well suited to playing on the hard courts as she has a big all round game, although she can go off the boil and make plenty of errors. That is what Francesca Schiavone will look to extract from her game, but the veteran Italian is not the player of old and seems to save her best performances for the clay courts.

Conditions at Indian Wells are slower than a lot of the hard courts, but there is still enough in the court to give Safarova a chance to get through, although it may take three sets to do so.

The Czech player has a 3-3 record with Schiavone, but it is telling that all 3 defeats have been on a clay court, while Safarova is 3-0 on other surfaces... I will be looking for her to make that 4-0 tonight.

Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games v Ksenia Pervak: I don't like backing Ana Ivanovic much as she is not as good a player as the layers would have you believe and I find her normally far too short to be interested in.

However, she continues to play well against the weaker players on the Tour for the most part and I think Ksenia Pervak still enters that category.

Pervak has picked up form in recent weeks, but usually comes up short when up against the better players on the Tour, being comfortably beaten by Yanina Wickmayer and Na Li this season, and I just think she is still getting her game together as a 20 year old.

Ivanovic won their only previous meeting last year at the US Open, covering this spread in the process, and I will look for her to do so again.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Andy Roddick: The more and more I see of Andy Roddick this season, the more and more I am convinced that he is going to call it a day on his career after the US Open in September.

He doesn't have the explosiveness in his game that he had a few years ago, and I think he has lost a yard of pace around the court so getting to the net is getting tougher. I also think he struggles to hold on to his own serve as easily as he could and all this points to a player that is coming to the end of the road.

Facing Tomas Berdych is as tough as it comes at the moment as the Czech player has opened the 2012 season in very good form.

The one concern is that Roddick has a very strong record against Berdych, winning 7 of their 10 meetings, including 5 of their last 6.

However, outside of an exhibition earlier this season, the last meeting came back in 2010 and I think both men have bypassed each other at this stage of their careers.

I expect Berdych will be able to put a lot of pressure on Roddick with his own service games and I favour the younger man to find a way to break in each set and go through to the next Round here.

Nicolas Almagro - 3 games v Santiago Giraldo: I like the Spaniard in this contest as he brings his 3-0 head to head record against Santiago Giraldo into the contest.

Nicolas Almagro has played a lot of tennis over the last month, but he had a good period of form on the clay courts and he has the game that should transfer over to the hard courts.

Santiago Giraldo is a decent player, but he doesn't have the consistency that will bring regular wins over the top 20 players in the Rankings and I think that is what will cost him here. He will cause Almagro some problems, but I think the Spaniard will find a way to earn a break in each set and that should be enough to earn the cover.

MY PICKS: Lucie Safarova @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 5.5 games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 3 games @ 2.00 Panbet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-3, - 0.40 Units (12 Units Staked)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 10th (Indian Wells)

The First Round of this tournament was surprisingly not televised, especially considering it is the first Masters Event of the season, but it is generally the way.

The biggest surprise to me was seeing Bernard Tomic being knocked out by Gilles Muller and it goes to show how difficult it is to have a true breakthrough in the professional ranks.

A couple of months ago, during the Australian Open, people were talking about this being a break-out tournament, but it is not the first time Tomic has performed well at a Grand Slam only fail to follow it up with some positive results. The Australian is still young, but needs to find some consistency soon as he shouldn't really be losing to players like Muller at this stage of his career when he is looking to make an impact at the top of the Men's game.

The picks went 1-1 again yesterday as Michael Llodra won but failed to cover by 0.5 games, while Denis Istomin won and covered by 0.5 games so I can't complain too much. Now the big boys have entered, I am hoping for some more positive success going forward.

John Isner - 4.5 games v Frederico Gil: This is not as straight forward as it looks as John Isner can sometimes struggle to break an opponent's serve, but I think he will get chances against Frederico Gil who is not the biggest server and so I am taking this pick.

Isner played very well to help the United States win a Davis Cup tie in Switzerland, knocking off Roger Federer on a clay court no less, but I have been a little disappointed that he didn't win one of the two tournaments he entered in North America recently.

However, he is playing a player in Gil who is much more comfortable on a clay court rather than the hard courts. It is easy to understand that the Portuguese player decided to play on the clay courts during the South American golden swing recently, while he only qualified for this event as a 'Lucky Loser' following a defeat in the final Round of Qualifying.

Isner should create lots of pressure by holding his own serve more comfortably and he usually decides to start serving first, something that could be the entire key to the cover.

Andy Roddick - 3.5 games v Lukasz Kubot: I am also backing another American today as Andy Roddick, who is barely seeded these days, takes to the court against Lukasz Kubot, a player that has won their only other meeting.

Andy Roddick has struggled early this season, possibly due to a lingering injury from the Australian Open, although he looked like he may be recovering some form last week at Delray Beach where he did reach the Quarter Final.

Roddick has had some success here in the recent past, getting to the Final a couple of seasons ago and the Semi Final the year before that, but this will not be an easy match for him.

Lukasz Kubot has really made a name for himself in the latter part of his career, with his career high singles ranking coming a couple of years ago. He beat Ivo Karlovic in the First Round, so the serve of Roddick will hold no fear, but his best surface remains a clay court rather than a hard court.

Even though Kubot beat Roddick on a hard court in their only previous meeting, I just think the American is finding his form a little bit and I think he will be good enough to find a break in each set to go through.

Kevin Anderson - 1.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: Kevin Anderson will play his first match at Indian Wells this week fresh off his title win at Delray Beach so I have no doubt the confidence will be flowing through the South African.

He plays a Philipp Kohlschreiber that has been playing well in recent weeks, but having too many silly losses for me to have faith that he can push Anderson today. The German is comfortable playing on the surface and did reach the Third Round here last season, but he can be hit and miss against the bigger servers on the Tour.

Kevin Anderson should keep the pressure on for the most part, and I think he can take advantage of the number of second serves that Kohlschreiber can throw in during sets. I also think he is less likely to crumble on his own service game and should be able to move forward to a potential Third Round clash with Novak Djokovic.

MY PICKS: John Isner - 4.5 games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Andy Roddick - 3.5 games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Kevin Anderson - 1.5 games @ 1.92 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, - 0.20 Units (8 Units Staked)

English Football Weekend Picks (March 10-12)

My picks for the weekend football will all be placed on this thread. As always, I will put up the picks as I get through them and I will update my Twitter page whenever I make new picks from the slate of games on offer.

Bolton Wanderers v QPR Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13403-Bolton-Wanderers-v-QPR.htm)

Chelsea v Stoke City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13404-Chelsea-v-Stoke-City.htm)

Sunderland v Liverpool Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13406-Sunderland-v-Liverpool.htm)

Wolves v Blackburn Rovers Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13405-Wolves-v-Blackburn-Rovers.htm)

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13407-Everton-v-Tottenham-Hotspur.htm)

Swansea v Manchester City Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13416-Swansea-v-Manchester-City.htm)

Manchester United v West Brom Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-13417-Manchester-United-v-West-Brom.htm)

MY PICKS: Bolton Wanderers-QPR Over 2.5 goals @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Chelsea win to nil @ 2.38 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sunderland-Liverpool Draw @ 3.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Wolves-Blackburn Rovers Over 2.5 goals @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Everton-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City win to nil @ 2.60 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United win and 3/4 total goals scored @ 2.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 9th (Indian Wells)

It was a mixed bag of results yesterday as Andreas Seppi came through in three sets with the cover, while Alberta Brianti lost in a third set tie-break when that would have been enough to cover the spread.

Even though this event is similar to a Grand Slam with the huge number of matches on offer, I think there are enough doubts in the early Rounds that I don't want to play too many matches.

However, these are my picks for today as the top Women join the mix in that tournament, while the Men complete their First Round.

Michael Llodra - 2.5 games v Ernests Gulbis: Now this will be considered a slightly risky pick considering the up and down form that both players regularly display, while the head to head is only 3-2 in favour of Michael Llodra.

The courts won't really favour Llodra's serve and volley game but I expect he will be able to put enough pressure on Gulbis that he can force the enigmatic Latvian to crack.

Gulbis has admitted that he needs to find more consistency or his tennis career could be over within the next couple of seasons, but he seems to check out of sets mentally and that is why he struggles to put a run together.

The spread is a tough one to read as one set going to Gulbis could put it in jeopardy, but I am going for Llodra as I think he will be a little more consistent on serve and I will hope Gulbis mentally blows up as he sometimes can.

Denis Istomin - 3.5 games Yen-Hsun Lu: Another tough match as Yen-Hsun Lu is always capable of playing on the hard courts and causing surprises and is also in good form following a win in Singapore last week in a Challenger event.

However, Denis Istomin has been playing well in North America over the last three weeks, including reaching the Final in San Jose and he has also beaten Lu in their only previous meeting, although that was at home around 5 years ago.

My issue is that Istomin can be a little flaky with his play and can go through periods of losing matches, but I think he should be good enough to take care of Lu as their careers are going in opposite directions at this moment in time.

MY PICKS: Michael Llodra - 2.5 games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 3.5 games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.20 Units (4 Units Staked)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Tennis Picks March 8th (Indian Wells)

It wasn't that long ago that I said I have placed Ivan Ljubicic on my blacklist as he was playing terribly- it seems the big Croatian figures his best days are past him as he has decided to call it a day and will retire in a little over a months time.

Ljubicic was a decent player in his day, although I still don't understand why he didn't have a bigger impact at Wimbledon where his game should really have stood up. He reached the World Number 3 Ranking, but he never really had an amazing impact at Grand Slam level and that will go against him when he is remembered by the fans.

He reached one Semi Final at the French Open and one Quarter Final at the Australian Open, but I think I wouldn't be out of line in thinking that his game should have given him more opportunities at Grand Slam level.

He has made a bigger impact in his role on the Players Council at that is why he will always have the respect of his peers. The kind words offered for him by Roger Federer shows the kind of respect Ljubicic will command and I hope he is happy with whatever he decides to do in the future.

Andreas Seppi - 2.5 games v Olivier Rochus: Neither one of these players have been pulling up trees in 2012 nor have they had a sustained success at Indian Wells, but I am backing Andreas Seppi to continue his dominance of the head to head between himself and diminutive Olivier Rochus tonight.

Seppi has won the last 3 meetings between the players, all over the last couple of seasons, and that could provide the edge for the Italian to move through to the Second Round.

He is a tall man, but his serve is not the biggest, while his second serve would generally be considered a weakness. However, Rochus doesn't seem to possess the tools to take advantage of the second serve and that makes life easier for Seppi.

On the other hand, Rochus finds it hard to continuously hold on to serve as he doesn't have the power to win the cheap points and that means Seppi should be involved in a lot of them and create chances to break serve.

Seppi would have covered the spread on offer in the last two meetings between the players and I will back him to do so again today.

Alberta Brianti - 2.5 games v Silvia Soler-Espinosa: I am backing the veteran Italian to oust her younger opponent today who has been struggling for form in the early part of 2012.

Silvia Soler-Espinosa has won just 1 of her 7 matches played this season and most of her success over the last three seasons has come on the clay courts so this could be a tough day in the office for her.

However, I don't think it is wise to underestimate her too much considering she did reach the Third Round of the US Open last Summer so just may enjoy playing on the North American continent.

Alberta Brianti has opened her season with a few wins and I think she may have a higher level of confidence coming into this contest. She has never pulled up any trees on the hard courts, but she has played a lot of tennis on this surface and maintains a winning record in all events on the hard courts over the last five seasons.

The Italian has also won both previous meetings with Soler-Espinosa, although the last of those was over two years ago, but I think her hard court nous may just see her through in a game that could feature a huge number of breaks of serve.

MY PICKS: Andreas Seppi - 2.5 games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alberta Brianti - 2.5 games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Indian Wells Tennis Outright Picks

I am going to preview both Men's and Women's events in this thread and I will put down any outright picks I am making for the first big tournament outside of the Grand Slam events.

Men's Tournament
The Masters Events have been dominated by the big four players in the Rankings and I would be surprised if we were to get a winner outside of one of them as they all have one quarter to themselves in what looks like a good chance for all four to get to the Semi Finals.

Novak Djokovic has already lost his first match in 2012 after going five months without one last season, but I think I want to oppose him at the short odds considering he has looked a little jaded and perhaps struggling to cope with the expectations of a World Number 1, and not just on the court but off it too with media commitments.

Djokovic has more than a couple of lively challengers in his section of the draw, with early potential meetings against Kevin Anderson, a winner at Delray Beach recently, and Richard Gasquet. This is all before a likely meeting with one of the early form players in the form of Tomas Berdych.

All in all, I think the 2.75 on Djokovic winning the tournament is a touch short for me.

An even bigger problem for the Serb could be lying in wait in the Semi Final where I think Andy Murray will be waiting for him. Murray has been given an extremely kind draw through to the Quarter Finals, but that is when he could face one of his bigger challengers in the form of Mardy Fish.

I think Fish is going to have an upturn in fortunes after helping the United States win a Davis Cup tie in Switzerland and I think he has been given a decent draw, although a tough potential battle with John Isner is in prospect in the Fourth Round.

Fish has a decent record against Murray and would fancy his chances, but I think the British Number 1 has been in fine form to open this season and is definitely worth chancing at 6.50 as an each-way pick to at least get to the Final.

Murray has had some success here in the past, reaching a Final, a Semi Final and a Quarter Final, and he could really close the gap on Roger Federer in 3rd place in the Men's Rankings with a big couple of weeks here and next up in Miami.

The bottom half of the draw will see the return of Rafael Nadal to competitive tennis after he had decided to take February off following the Australian Open. It is going to be interesting to see how he has recovered mentally from losing yet another big Final to Novak Djokovic, although he can have no complaints with the way the draw has panned out for him.

I can't see the Spaniard having any problems before the Quarter Finals as there are too many inconsistent players, or ones that have taken too many losses to him in the past, to really knock Nadal off course.

A potential threat at that stage is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga but I think it is tough to back the Frenchman to cause a surprise as he has had a poor record at this event where the courts play slower and the windy conditions can sometimes make it very tough. However, Tsonga did push Nadal to three close sets in his first appearance at Indian Wells and could be a big challenge if he can negotiate the first few Rounds.

Tsonga also has a couple of real early tests, meeting the winner of Michael Llodra and Ernests Gulbis in his first match at the event, while further challengers from the likes of Xavier Malisse, Radek Stepanek and Janko Tipsarevic could cause problems.

With that in mind, I think I am avoiding backing a player in this section with the amount of question marks surrounding the key players. Rafael Nadal looks a touch short considering he hasn't played since the end of January and I will just take a keen interest to see how he does ahead of the event in Miami.

One player who is definitely in form in the bottom half of the draw is Roger Federer who has won back to back events at Rotterdam and Dubai to increase his good run of form since the US Open last September.

Federer hasn't won this event since 2006, but has reached three Semi Finals since then and he has been given a draw I think he can take advantage of. Milos Raonic is a potential hazard in the Third Round, but I think the slower courts will negate his game somewhat against someone like the former World Number 1, while players like Jurgen Melzer and Gael Monfils have their own issues to contend with.

Some will point to David Ferrer or Juan Martin Del Potro as players that can perhaps derail the Fed Express if they meet him in the Quarter Finals but I would have reservations about both- Ferrer played brilliantly to win back to back events on the clay courts of South America coming into this one, but he has to contend with a change of surface and has been beaten in his first match at this event in the last two seasons. To further trouble me, Ferrer has never moved beyond the Quarter Final at Indian Wells and has lost all 12 meetings with Federer.

Juan Martin Del Potro has shown he is getting better and better in each passing week, but it has been Roger Federer that has stopped him in tournaments for the most part and that is a mental hurdle to overcome for the big hitting Argentine. However, he does have some history here by beating Rafael Nadal in the Quarter Finals of 2009 before losing in the Semi Final to Andy Murray.

I just think he is not quite up to that level just yet in his play and I think it will be tough for him to beat potentially David Ferrer and Roger Federer in back to back matches, while I still think Federer has his number from recent meetings between the two players.

The trouble for me is I don't really want to pick Federer at the same price as Nadal as that potential Semi Final is going to be a huge mental challenge for the Swiss man. The bottom line is Federer has lost the last 7 matches on an outdoor court against Nadal and I think the price is a little too short with some of the tests lying ahead.

It's a little boring, but I am keeping just Andy Murray in my staking plan as an each-way pick for the week.

Women's Tournament
I am sure I am not the only person to be asked on more than one occasion whether I believe Victoria Azarenka is going to 'do a Novak Djokovic' and dominate the Women's Tour much as the Serb dominated the Men's last season.

Azarenka is unbeaten this season, winning all 3 tournaments she has contested including her first Grand Slam title from the Australian Open. She has also moved to World Number 1 and only lost 4 sets from her 17 matches so far in 2012.

It is, therefore, no surprise to see her as the short priced favourite to win this event, but I am going to avoid picking her as she is coming back from a left ankle issue, as well as facing a couple of potentially tough matches in the early Rounds, particularly the Third Round meeting with Svetlana Kuznetsova who has won 4 of their 5 meetings.

Another danger could be Agnieska Radwanska in the Quarter Finals- the Polish player has won the tournament in Dubai in the absence of Azarenka and she is also the player that has forced the World Number 1 to three sets in 2 of their 3 meetings this season.

Both Kuznetsova and Radwanska are definitely live contenders to beat Azarenka before the Final so I think I will avoid the World Number 1 in this tournament.

I am also going to avoid Petra Kvitova who looks remarkably short in the outright markets considering she has played just two matches since the Australian Open and I am not so sure how well she has recovered from the illness that kept her out of the last two events in Dubai and Doha.

On her usual form, Kvitova would look a really good choice to go deep in this tournament as she has been given more than just a kind draw. There are plenty of questions surrounding many of the players in her section of the draw, although her biggest challenge could come early in the form of Angelique Kerber- the German player won a recent tournament in Paris and could cause one or two problems if Kvitova is not on form, but I am going to look at another section of the draw to see if I can grab an outright winner.

And in doing so, I feel Maria Sharapova is definitely worth chancing to go deep this year- Sharapova has won this tournament once before in 2006 and she has also reached the Semi Final on three other occasions so she has course and distance in her favour.

The Russian has not played a lot of tennis since the Australian Open and did suffer a surprise early exit at the indoor tournament in Paris, but she could not have hand picked a better path through the draw. I see almost no issues for Sharapova getting through to the Quarter Final where she is scheduled to meet Sam Stosur, a player she has beaten 9 times in a row before losing the last time they met.

My biggest concern is the windy conditions here considering Sharapova's serve can sometimes go AWOL, but if she can keep control of that, I think she has a great chance of going all the way.

A potential Semi Final against either Marion Bartoli or Caroline Wozniacki will not really hold any fears for Sharapova if she has progressed this far into the tournament, and at 6.50 she has to be worth taking a chance on in the each-way stakes market.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Andy Murray @ 6.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit E/W)
Maria Sharapova @ 6.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit E/W)