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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Australian Open Outright Picks 2013

Last season was an interesting season for my tennis picks as a quick look at the records showed a really positive first six months of the season followed by a sub-standard second half of the season. I have made a few adjustments to how I will make the picks and so far so good in the new season which has started positively enough.

Now we get to the first Grand Slam event of the season and I think it is an unfortunate spot that both Men's and Women's Draws look like they will be processions by the favourites. However, that may be too simply of a way of looking at things so below I will break down the draw and any outright picks I make from the tournament ahead of the Midnight start in the UK.

Men's Draw
First Quarter
Let's face facts for a minute- Novak Djokovic couldn't have asked for a better draw if he had hand picked it himself and I see very few problems for him in this quarter.

The only potential issues for Djokovic before the Quarter Final are matches against Ryan Harrison and Stanislas Wawrinka in the Second and Fourth Round respectively, but the World Number 1 is going to be far too strong for them as long as he handles the weather which is supposed to be scorching during the first week of the tournament.

Novak has had issues with the weather in the past, but nothing like that in the last couple of seasons and winning this event the last two years suggests he is very comfortable playing in Melbourne.

The biggest threat to Djokovic in this section is Tomas Berdych, but the Czech player hasn't really opened 2013 firing on all cylinders and he doesn't have a good record against the World Number 1. Berdych has lost 9 in a row against Djokovic and I would be very surprised if anyone but Novak Djokovic is playing in the Semi Final in under two weeks time.

Pick: Novak Djokovic, who else?

Second Quarter
The biggest news in the Men's side of the draw remains the continued absence of Rafael Nadal and that means one quarter is always looking a little 'weaker' than the others... It is the second quarter that looks very open in this tournament.

David Ferrer is the top seed in the section in the absence of Nadal and he actually has a real chance of overtaking his compatriot into the official World Number 4 Ranking. So I guess Ferrer is going through to the Semi Final with the open nature of the draw? Not in my opinion anyway...

There are a number of very awkward matches for Ferrer and I have to say there is every chance he won't even reach the Quarter Final, let alone the Semi Final. The Spaniard could face Ivo Karlovic in the Second Round, Marcos Baghdatis in the Third Round and a very awkward Kei Nishikori in the Fourth Round and there is a chance that the latter two players can cause a surprise in my opinion.

Baghdatis' sole win over Ferrer came at the Australian Open in 2010, while Nishikori has beaten Ferrer in 2 of their 3 meetings, including at the US Open when he outlasted Ferrer in a five setter. I am expecting big things of Nishikori this season and I think he has the talent to break into the top ten this season and could be the man to take advantage of the section.

There are also a couple of other dangerous players in this section with Janko Tipsarevic and Grigor Dimitrov in the lower half and it will be interesting to see if the latter can make his first big breakthrough at Grand Slam level.

Pick: Might be a surprise in Kei Nishikori making his breakthrough at Grand Slam level

Third Quarter
After winning the US Open to take home his maiden Grand Slam title, it is no surprise that Andy Murray is a leading contender to win the Australian Open this time. Murray can't be too disappointed with the early draw for him and I fancy the British player to get through to the Quarter Final without too much difficulty at all.

The biggest disappointment for Murray will be the fact that he has been drawn in the same half of the draw as Roger Federer, while the big threat in this section is Juan Martin Del Potro... There were definite signs in 2012 that Del Potro is recovering something of the form that took him to the US Open title in 2009 and I do believe he is the biggest threat to win a Grand Slam outside of the top four.

Murray has dominated the head to head between the players, but the Argentine does have the weapons that can cause a lot of problems for the World Number 3 and it should be a very fascinating Quarter Final if both come through their early matches.

To be honest, there aren't too many threats in my opinion with Marin Cilic likely the one player that could put a spanner in the works- however, he was beaten heavily by Juan Martin Del Potro throughout 2012 and I would fancy something similar here so the two top seeded players clash.

Pick: Andy Murray likely to be a little too consistent for Juan Martin Del Potro in the Quarter Final

Fourth Quarter
The final quarter is where Roger Federer has been placed and I am already looking forward to a potential clash between him and Bernard Tomic in the Third Round. Both have made a few snippy comments about one another in the press and I think that could be a fascinating match to see how far Tomic has come in the last twelve months.

I do have a couple of concerns about Federer ahead of this tournament as he has not taken part in his usual preparations in Doha and there have been suggestions that he isn't at 100% at the moment in terms of his health. Federer should be comfortable early, but matches against Tomic and Milos Raonic could be very awkward and energy sapping both mentally and physically.

Other players that will be looking to take advantage of the quarter are the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, but both can be guilty of mental lapses that costs them matches. I do like Tsonga when is on fire and we have seen what he has done in Australia in the past, while he also has had the bettet of Roger Federer in Grand Slam events.

However, we may not see a real change in Tsonga until he has spent a few more months with Roger Rasheed and I still think the section is in Federer's control although I would take a watching brief as to how he looks early on.

Pick: Still got to fancy Roger Federer from the section.

Outright Picks
There really isn't much to say about the Men's draw really this year and I can't see anyone other than the top two favourites, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, winning the tournament.

To that end, I think the better 'value' is picking Andy Murray to that end, but I do think he has a couple of potentially very tough matches whereas I believe Novak Djokovic has a more 'comfortable' path to the Final.

Therefore, taking the evens that Djokovic wins the tournament looks the 'boring' call and the one I will make.

One other pick I will take from the Men's draw is taking Kei Nishikori to be one of the surprise Semi Finalists by winning the second quarter of the draw at a decent price. The Australian Open is famed for a surprise player going deep into the tournament, especially as the early season form can make some of the top players vulnerable.

I think Nishikori could have a big year on the Tour if he stays healthy and he has beaten David Ferrer, the top seed in this section, at a Grand Slam in the past and he looks like someone that could very much go deep in this tournament.

Women's Draw
First Quarter
The top seed at the Australian Open on the Women's side of the draw is also the defending Australian Open Champion and Victoria Azarenka will feel she can go very close again this season.

Azarenka couldn't have asked for a much better way to ease her way into this tournament and I see her barely dropping games, let alone sets, on the way through to a Quarter Final.

At that stage, there are players like Carolina Wozniacki, Sara Errani, Anastasia Pavyluchenkova and Sabine Lisicki that could stand in the way of the World Number 1, but I would favour Azarenka to beat any of those players.

Pick: Not much to say except I think Victoria Azarenka comes through

Second Quarter
While the first quarter of the draw is dominated by the presence of Victoria Azarenka, the second quarter is one where Serena Williams stands out far more than any of her rivals.

Let's face facts- when Serena is fully motivated, no player on the WTA Tour comes close to competing with her... She will have a couple of blips, but mentally she is far stronger than 99% of the players and it does takes all the stars to align to see her beaten.

That is not to say that this is a cakewalk for Serena as we did see her lose surprising matches against Ekaterina Makarova and Virginie Razzano at the Australian Open and French Open respectively, while she could have been upset by Jie Zheng at Wimbledon and Victoria Azarenka at the US Open.

Unfortunately for those waiting for Williams to lose, I don't think there is a player with the combination of mentality and ability to knock her off in this section before the Semi Final. Even the likes of Petra Kvitova have been in such poor form that is hard to see anything but a Serena stroll to a big Semi Final which would decide the World Number 1 Ranking.

Pick: Serena Williams all day long for me

Third Quarter
With the two big stars of the Women's game on one side of the draw, there is every chance for a surprise Finalist from the bottom half of the draw. The third quarter has a few in-form players within it including Na Li, Mona Barthel and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Li and Radwanska have both won tournaments already this season, although it is the latter that has the better form coming into the Australian Open. However, Radwanska could face a real test in the Third Round if she is faced with Mona Barthel, although winning that match could give her the momentum to reach her second Grand Slam Final in the last three tournaments.

Another hope in this section is Samantha Stosur, but her poor record in her home Grand Slam does make it tough to foresee her getting through the section, although she has dominated Na Li, a potential Fourth Round opponent.

With other players like Ana Ivanovic and Julia Goerges amongst the section, it could be the player that comes through who is battle hardened to reach the Final.

Pick: Agnieszka Radwanska has been in fine form and that can continue here

Fourth Quarter
Usually, the first player you would mention in this final quarter of the draw is Maria Sharapova, but there are enough concerns about her fitness to think this could be a section won by another player.

There are plenty of candidates with Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber amongst the players in the section and it is the latter that could be the most interesting. Kerber has really developed as a player over the last 18 months and she could may some hay in this section if Sharapova is not fit to go to deep into the draw.

Kerber should have the better of Tamira Paszek and either Ekaterina Makarova or Marion Bartoli and she definitely looks a live contender in this one. The German also began to show some real form in the Grand Slams last season and some consistency too in reaching the Semi Final at Wimbledon and the Quarter Final at the French Open.

I would favour Sharapova over Kerber if the Russian was at full fitness, but she did withdraw from tournaments this season to get ready for this one and it may just be Kerber who takes advantage.

Pick: I like Angelique Kerber to find her way to the Semi Final

Outright Picks
I think it is really hard to ignore Serena Williams as a winner of the Australian Open, but at odds on it does seem a little pointless to back her to win this tournament.

Instead, it may be an idea to back a couple of the outsiders from the bottom half of the draw at bigger odds- the first of those I will back is Agnieszka Radwanska as she has shown some very good form to open 2013 and could take advantage of the two big favourites being on the other side.

Radwanska has reached a Grand Slam Final before so the mental side should be covered for her and I like the Pole as one of my picks.

The second pick I will make from the Women's draw is taking Angelique Kerber to come through and win the fourth quarter at a decent price. With doubts surrounding the health of Maria Sharapova, Kerber does look the best player in the section to take advantage and did reach a Grand Slam Semi Final last season and she was also a Semi Finalist at the US Open in 2011.

The German could very much do the same thing here and I like the odds on offer for her to be my second pick from the outright markets.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic Winner @ 2.00 Paddy Power (4 Units)
Kei Nishikori Win Second Quarter @ 13.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Agnieszka Radwanska @ 15.00 Coral (1 Unit E/W)
Angelique Kerber Win Fourth Quarter @ 6.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Season 2013: + 5.97 Units (46 Units Staked, + 12.98% Yield)

Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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