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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Australian Open Day 11 Picks 2013 (January 24th)

This has easily been my worst Grand Slam performance for over five years, a tournament where I just seem to missing my feelings as each Round goes by.

Thankfully there is a long season ahead, although this is a disappointing result for the thread which has been so effective during these events over the last two years. Some things you can blame on luck, others were just bad picks on my part, but the tennis season has these ups and downs. Obviously I am most disappointed that a down period came through the first Grand Slam of the season.

At least we are finally getting to see some good tennis with a couple of very good matches between Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams and Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tournament which has been lacking the drama that usually comes with Grand Slam events.

The Sloane Stephens win was particularly impressive as she is one of the young players on the Tour that you just know will have a big future- many have tipped her up as a future Slam winner and I think she will succeed in that, although her run should also give Laura Robson some confidence having played her fairly close earlier in the tournament.

Both of those girls are the future, but the main talking point from the Wednesday matches is the next battle between Andy Murray and Roger Federer which was set up after both Men came through their respective Quarter Final.

That Semi Final has the pride of place as being the only match to be played on Friday as today's schedule has the first Men's Semi Final in the evening and the two Women's Semi Finals played earlier in the day in the Rod Laver Stadium.

Maria Sharapova - 5.5 games v Na Li: Maria Sharapova has barely been extended in the first five matches she has played at this tournament and she looks capable of taking home the title, especially without Serena Williams in her path.

It could very much be a repeat of twelve months ago when she met Victoria Azarenka in the Final and that is what I believe will be the end result.

First, Sharapova has to negotiate a tough Semi Final with Na Li, who was an impressive winner against Agnieszka Radwanska in the Quarter Final. Li has opened the 2013 season with a tournament win in China and she has yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park, the venue where she really made her breakthrough as a Grand Slam contender two years ago.

Both players are in very good form, but I do think Sharapova is a little too good on the ground- while Li was capable of 'out-hitting' Radwanska, she will be faced with the same, or higher, level of power coming back at her in this one and that could put a lot of pressure on her consistency with the groundstrokes.

They met three times last season and only one of them was a close game on the clay courts in Rome, although Sharapova won that won. The other two were one by the Russian much more comfortably on the hard courts in Miami and Beijing and Sharapova actually dropped just 5 games in those two wins.

I just feel one set will be close, but Sharapova runs away with the second, as she did in Miami and Beijing, to cover.

Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 games v Sloane Stephens: Sloane Stephens showed real heart, determination and courage in her win over Serena Williams yesterday, but I think it will be tough to back that up against the World Number 1.

Victoria Azarenka is playing very well at the moment and she is a lot more careful with her returns of serve and I doubt Stephens is allowed to get away with so many free points as Williams let her in their match. Whether that was down to Williams hurting and trying to shorten points, I doubt Stephens opens with 3 service games without dropping a point in this one.

Azarenka puts a lot of pressure on her opponents by attacking their serve and I think she will do the same to Stephens in this one. I expect the World Number 1 to win more of the battles in the rallies and I think she will be far too strong for the teenager at this stage of their careers.

So often we see a player produce a real upset and then fail to back that up- Stephens won't have a lot of time to digest what she has done and it is entirely possible that she is suffering from nerves ahead of her first Major Grand Slam Semi Final. I don't think she is ready to go toe to toe with Azarenka in this one and I think we will see a 6-3, 6-2 scoreline.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v David Ferrer: David Ferrer is one of the biggest warriors on the ATP Tour and he proved the point once again with a 5 set win over compatriot Nicolas Almagro despite being 2-0 down and Almagro serving for the match on THREE separate occasions.

However, Ferrer is coming up against another warrior on the Tour in Novak Djokovic who many would have forgotten went through a 5 set match himself in the tournament as he dismantled Tomas Berdych in the Quarter Final.

This does look like a high spread, but I think the problem for Ferrer is that he is going to have to battle for every point on the ground as his serve doesn't get him enough cheap points. Playing the best returner on the Tour means he is usually under pressure on his own serve and there is every chance that Djokovic can win a set with 2 clear breaks of serve.

You can see from their matches that Novak wins a lot of sets either to love, 1 or 2 and that should set him in a good place to cover the spread in this one. There is a chance that Ferrer can come out and dominate a set, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see something similar to twelve months ago when Djokovic won in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.

I just feel that Djokovic was given a real wake up call by the performance of Stanislas Wawrinka and he is focused and motivated- the way he beat up Berdych was mightily impressive and I think he can do enough to cover in this one.

MY PICKS: Maria Sharapova - 5.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 7.5 Games @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 14-24, - 14.26 Units (68 Units Staked, - 21% Yield)

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