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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 28th)

It has been a tough week so far with a lot of matches looking like they may go the way I expected before unexpectedly turning in another manner.

After the last three weeks, I can't really complain too much and just look to see how the week goes on.

Ivo Karlovic v Edouard Roger-Vasselin: This has been set as a pick 'em contest in Delray Beach, but I think the big-serving Croatian will be a little too solid for Edouard Roger-Vasselin and should be able to come through in two tough sets.

Ivo Karlovic isn't even the player of a couple of years ago let alone one at his peak, but his serve is still capable of putting the pressure on any opponent he faces, especially those ranked outside of the top 30 of the Men's game. That is the case in this one and there should also be no issues of fatigue for Karlovic as he was able to get through the First Round on a retirement.

It was only around 4-5 months ago that these players last met and Karlovic won through in straight sets, albeit on an indoor hard court, but he did enjoy a fair bit of success on the Roger-Vasselin serve to think he can make hay in this one too.

Tie-breaks will likely be the order of the day, but a 7-6, 7-5 win for Karlovic looks the call.

Tommy Haas - 1.5 games v Denis Istomin: I think the extra day of rest my just favour the veteran Tommy Haas in this one and give him the chance to progress to another Quarter Final here and for the first time since winning this tournament in 2006.

Last week it was an illness that forced Haas out of Memphis and he should be fully fit now. He is also facing Denis Istomin, a tough competitor but one that has played a lot of tennis over the last three weeks.

Istomin did win the only previous match between these players, but I think Haas can get a measure of revenge as he seems to have been on the ball with the way his tennis was going. Haas has always enjoyed playing on the hard courts of North America too and I think he'll just be too good for Istomin in this one.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Nikolay Davydenko: I don't know what exactly is up with Roger Federer, but he hasn't looked like he has been enjoying much of his tennis in the last couple of tournaments and I am beginning to wonder if he is carrying a slight niggle that he doesn't want to reveal.

This tournament and the one in Indian Wells will be the last we see of Federer for around six weeks as he is going to get ready for the clay court season and perhaps adding to his one French Open trophy. This match will also give us a lot more answers as to how the former World Number 1 is really feeling...

Federer has dominated Nikolay Davydenko throughout their career meetings and he was also a comfortable winner at the Australian Open against the Russian. While Davydenko is certainly playing as well as at any time over the last three years, he can still throw in the odd really poor match and he is also susceptible to being broken by an aggressive player like Federer who can expose Davydenko's defence.

I definitely think Federer will get chances to break serve and as long as he doesn't throw away his own games as he did against Julien Benneteau in Rotterdam recently, I do think Federer is capable of recording a straight-forward 6-3, 6-4 win with a break in each set.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: It does look a lot of games to be giving away again, but Rafael Nadal is still a level above the likes of Leonardo Mayer who could easily be intimidated in facing one of the best clay court players of all time.

Winning the event in Brazil a couple of weeks ago will have given Nadal some of the aura back that was lost in his injury absence, especially to the players like Mayer that are much more accustomed to playing on the Challenger Tour.

Mayer hasn't played much tennis this season and so he doesn't seem battle-hardened to take on a Nadal, while the ease in which Filippo Volandri dismissed him has to be a big concern.

I expect Nadal will create a lot of pressure on the Argentinian in this one and it is tough to see him winning many more games than his compatriot Martin Alund who took just 4 off Nadal yesterday.

As long as the knee hasn't had an adverse reaction overnight, Nadal to match his 6-2, 6-2 win over Mayer from the Miami Masters last year looks the call.

MY PICKS: Ivo Karlovic @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Haas - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-6-1, - 3.36 Units (21 Units Staked, - 16% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 27th)

Yesterday turned out to be a mixed bag for the picks as a couple of retirements and pushes meant not too much was settled either way. Hopefully, this day will prove to be a little more productive than the first couple of days of this week have been.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Tobias Kamke: The only previous time that Tobias Kamke and Tomas Berdych met one another on the professional Tour was back in 2010 on an indoor hard court and resulted in a big surprise win for Kamke.

I think it would arguably be an even bigger surprise if he knocks off Berdych in this Second Round match in Dubai as the Czech player has been performing at a very decent level, one that Kamke has rarely reached in the past.

Kamke can certainly put in a string of solid points, but his service isn't the best and Berdych will have some real success if he sees enough second serves in this one. With the way that Berdych has been serving himself, you wouldn't imagine Kamke creating too many chances in this one to break serve himself and I think the court is just playing quick enough to make Berdych's game that much bigger.

I think Berdych could get through with a few breaks here and I am looking at this one ending 6-3, 6-2 in favour of the seeded player.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 5.5 games v Somdev Devvarman: Juan Martin Del Potro had to save two match points to stay in the tournament here, but I think he will have a slightly easier time in this one against Somdev Devvarman, a player still recovering from a long-term injury.

This will be the first time these two have met on Tour, but I think Del Potro's game will be a little too big for Devvarman who is still trying to get back his consistency on a tennis court. He may feel he has to go for a little too much to get the Argentinian behind him on the scoreboard in this one and that could lead to more mistakes.

I also think Del Potro served well enough yesterday to think he'll be able to hold on to serve in this one and I think the match with a similar scoreline as the Tomas Berdych match against Tobias Kamke.

Fabio Fognini - 2 games v Aljaz Bedene: Both of these players are coming of surprising wins in the First Round, but I think it will be Fabio Fognini who is able to back that up with another in this match and build some more Ranking points.

Fognini beat an out-of-sorts Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets, while Aljaz Bedene came from a set down to see off David Nalbandian, but I like the Italian's chances in this one as he spends more time playing at the higher level.

He is a tough player to get a real read on because Fognini can be so hit and miss, but Bedene is a player that has not played too many matches on the main ATP Tour, even if he has had considerable success at Challenger level on the clay courts.

I just feel Fognini is going to be a little too clever for him and the variation in the Italian's game could bamboozle Bedene enough to allow him to move forward in the draw. I will be careful with this one though as Fognini has the habit of tanking sets when he falls behind.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v Tommy Robredo: Tommy Robredo is on the comeback trail again, but he is far off the level that used to see him reach the latter stages of these tournaments on a clay court on a regular basis. He has played a lot of tennis recently after reaching the Semi Final in Buenos Aires last week and had a tough three set win in the First Round here, but now faces another real challenge.

Robredo is facing his compatriot Nicolas Almagro and has been beaten on all four previous occasions he has faced him in the professional ranks, including three fairly straight-forward losses on the clay courts.

The clay court swing in South America is an enjoyable time for Almagro who came through an easy First Round match while dropping just the one game. I expect he will be able to create a lot of pressure on Robredo in this match, starting behind an effective serve.

It should be a fairly routine win and I expect Almagro to perhaps take it 6-2, 6-4 and will back him to cover these games.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Martin Alund: Rafael Nadal was a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 winner in the First Round and I think the former World Number 1 will be able to come through this match with few issues too.

He will be familiar with Martin Alund having played him in the Semi Final in Sao Paulo and that was on a clay court that wasn't up to the standards that the ones in Acapulco are. On that occasion, Nadal won a couple of sets easily, although he was taken to a tie-break in the other and I am expecting the Spaniard to be much more comfortable this time.

Alund has come through qualifiers and a tough First Round match here so will be hardened for the battle, but this is a player that has been a mainstay in the lower level of Challenger events and he won't be able to surprise Nadal with his game this time and a routine 6-2, 6-2 win could be in the making.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 1.84 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 5.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 2 Games @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 Games @ 1.71 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 1.88 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-3-1, - 1.80 Units (12 Units Staked, - 15% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 26th)

The Monday of a new tournament week is always a tough one to find a number of selections because there really isn't a lot of First Round matches going on with qualifiers to be completed in some cases.

The picks went 1-1 yesterday and the luck pretty much evened itself out over the course of both matches. Roger Federer could easily have failed to cover after losing the first set, but a bagel in the second helped him on the way.

On the other hand, Alejandro Falla missed a lot of break points and couldn't save any in his defeat to Xavier Malisse which was much closer than the 6-3, 6-3 score indicated.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: I really had to think about this match- I might give Juan Martin Del Potro the definite edge, but Marcos Baghdatis is certainly a very capable player on his day and can cause plenty of problems for anybody when he feels he is on his game.

I just feel that Del Potro has enough in the groundstoke battle to think he will earn some chances on the Baghdatis serve, especially considering that the Cypriot usually gets a low percentage of his first serves in play.

With a look at a lot of second serves, I am of the belief that Del Potro will be able to get involved in rallies and I think he combination of consistency and big hitting from the back of the court will give him the edge in this one.

With Del Potro having had a week to rest following his win in Rotterdam, I think the Argentine can come out and put together a solid performance that should lead to a 6-4, 6-3 win in this one.

Michael Llodra + 3.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: It is going to be interesting to see how Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is feeling after taking part in a tough Final in Marseille on Sunday night as he had to come from a set behind to beat Tomas Berdych.

This is an important tournament for the players so I don't think motivation will be a problem for Tsonga as he takes on his compatriot. However, Michael Llodra does have the game that can be awkward for opponents if they are feeling a little mentally fatigued as Llodra will continue charging the net and force his opponent to hit passing shot after passing shot.

It can be a little mentally draining having to do that for an hour and a half and it may be tough for Tsonga to get through this match easily, although I was hoping the layers would have given one more game in favour of Llodra in this one.

Tsonga did beat Llodra fairly comfortably at the Australian Open earlier this season, but the other 2 completed matches were both tight affairs, while they have played once in Dubai when the first set went to a tie-break before Llodra had to retire.

Hopefully we will see a good serving day for Llodra and it is possible he loses in two tight sets, but manages to cover the spread.

Denis Istomin - 3 games v Benjamin Becker: The spread on this match looks a little low to me and that could be down to the fact that Denis Istomin was a Semi Finalist in Memphis last week and may be a little fatigued for this match.

However, I think Istomin has been playing well enough to pick up his second win over Benjamin Becker this season and I do believe he can put enough pressure on the German to see him crack at least a couple of times on serve.

I will admit that Istomin isn't the most consistent player on the Tour, but I do think he has the more upside between these two players and I can see him coming through with a 6-3, 7-6 win or perhaps even slightly easier than that. I thought he would be a 4.5 game favourite, so getting Istomin to cover 3 games should be within his capabilities.

Tommy Haas - 3.5 games v Igor Sijsling: Tommy Haas had to retire from Memphis last week, but it seems that could have been down to fatigue as he cited an illness and I expect him to be something like what he produced at San Jose when he reached the Final.

Haas is a veteran of the Tour and would have had an even more successful career if it wasn't for injuries plaguing him. However, his motivation remains high as he said he wants his kids to see him play and remember him as a tennis player and the German is certainly still very capable on his day against any opponent.

I expect Haas will be too strong for Igor Sijsling even though the Dutchman showed some good temperament in a close loss against Marin Cilic last week. However, that was a standout performance in what has been a disappointing season for Sijsling so far and I do think he will find it tough against Haas. They have already met once this season in what was a routine win for Haas on the hard courts in New Zealand and I expect he will frank that form with another win as long as he is fully recovered from his San Jose exploits.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Fabio Fognini: Stanislas Wawrinka is coming off an impressive showing in Buenos Aires last week where he was a little unfortunate to lose in three sets in the Final against David Ferrer and I think he will be ready for this week.

Last season he managed back to back Semi Finals in Buenos Aires and Acapulco so I am not expecting fatigue to be an issue. I also like the match up for Wawrinka here as he faces Fabio Fognini, a player that can use plenty of variation but one who has to work for every point he wins.

The Italian just doesn't have the serve that can cause a lot of damage and that means opponents do force a number of break points against him and I expect Wawrinka to be able to create opportunities in this one.

Current form is also on the Swiss side of the court in this one and I do think Wawrinka can record a 6-4, 6-3 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Michael Llodra + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 3 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tommy Haas - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, + 0 Units (4 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Tennis Outright Picks (February 25-March 3)

This is the final week of tournaments before the first Masters events of the season which take place at Indian Wells and Miami back to back.

However, that doesn't mean that this week is one where the biggest names in the game will be resting, particularly when it comes to the ATP. The tournaments in Dubai and Acapulco are both considered ATP 500 events so it is no surprise to see all the players in the top eight, bar Andy Murray in action across those two tournaments.

It is the tournament in Dubai that will get most of the attention with both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in action and it was interesting to hear Federer talking about his up coming schedule- he has admitted that he will play here and Indian Wells, but will then take a month of to spend time with his family and may not take part in the early clay court season either.

I don't know what to make of that except the fact that Federer is taking even more care of his fitness these days and is perhaps thinking about getting into shape for a big assault on the three remaining Grand Slam tournaments this season. It also makes sense for Federer to spend more time with his family after putting in a big effort to reach the World Number 1 Ranking last season, but that could also see him lose his World Number 2 spot in the near future as he does have a fair few points to defend in the next three weeks.

Last week proved to be a very good week for the tennis picks with the daily picks working out to big profits and it all wrapped up very well on Sunday as both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer won their respective tournaments in Marseille and Buenos Aires.

Tsonga was very fortunate to win as he was a set down and somehow managed to take the second set despite winning just 4 points off the Tomas Berdych serve and that gave the Frenchman the momentum to win his first tournament of the season. David Ferrer also needed three sets to once again win in Buenos Aires and pick up his second title of the season so it was a very good week with all things considered.

ATP Acapulco
This is another tournament where the main headline will be Rafael Nadal, but I also feel this is the first tournament he has entered since his return where there are some serious tests ahead of him.

It is funny to see, but Nadal is actually the Number 2 seed here in Mexico so heads up the bottom half of the draw. I expect Nadal to come through to the Semi Final with relative ease, but he then will likely face either Horacio Zeballos or Nicolas Almagro.

Zeballos beat Nadal in the Final at Vina Del Mar in the first tournament that Nadal played on his comeback, but I wouldn't expect him to repeat that feat as he has been struggling for form since that tournament win and I don't think he makes the Semi Final.

On the other hand, Nicolas Almagro has shown plenty of form in the last couple of clay courts events and certainly has the game to cause Nadal some level of problems, especially if the knee is not feeling great at the moment. This represents the best chance for Almagro to get the better of Nadal and he has at least made the last couple of matches against him closer, although I don't fully know if he has the 'mentality' to beat Nadal.

While I am not sure about Almagro, David Ferrer is the Number 1 seed here and the defending Champion and he certainly won't be worried about seeing Nadal in the draw. Ferrer may not have beaten Nadal on a clay court before, but he has the consistency to cause plenty of problems and the draw has been fairly kind to him.

Ferrer is likely to have a tough Semi Final against Stanislas Wawrinka, the player he beat last week in Buenos Aires to take the title home, and I do think the Number 1 Spaniard, at the moment at least, could upset Nadal and take the title home here again.

I haven't made any picks from Dubai or from the other tournaments for a couple of reasons. I do like Novak Djokovic's chances of winning in Dubai, but he looked a little short to me although I don't think there is another player in the draw that I would prefer as an alternative.

Over in Delray Beach, it looks like an extremely open draw and I also believe that if Ernests Gulbis qualifies, he would prove to be extremely dangerous to either half of the draw. That uncertainty makes me a little wary of picking anyone to win that event.

Over in Brazil and Malaysia, the WTA has two short priced favourites to win those respective tournaments, two players that I can't really look beyond. Therefore, it'll just be the one pick this week.

MY PICKS: David Ferrer @ 3.75 Coral (1 Unit)

Daily Picks: 16-9, + 13.84 Units (49 Units Staked, + 28.24% Yield)
Outright Picks: 2-1, + 5.70 Units (4 Units Staked, + 142.5% Yield)

Season 2013+ 36.47 Units (249 Units Staked, + 14.65% Yield)

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

Tennis Picks (February 25th)

It is the start of a new week and hopefully that means we will see a continuation of the last couple of weeks when there has been a lot of success following the disappointing Australian Open. With some big names in action, it should be another fun week, although it will once again be one where matches are ranging across the time zones.

I only have the one outright pick this week from the tournaments taking place which can be seen here

The Monday in a new tournament is usually a quieter day as a lot of the tournaments will finish their qualifying Round on this day, but these are my picks from the day.

Roger Federer - 6.5 games v Malek Jaziri: This is a slight risk considering Roger Federer is giving up a lot of games and hasn't started 2013 in the same manner he started 2012, but I do think the former World Number 1 will have too much for his Tunisian opponent who is down at Number 130 in the World Rankings.

It is hard to get a real grip on how someone like Malek Jaziri will react to being up against someone of the stature of Federer- will this inspire him to play his best tennis of his career to make a match of things or will he freeze up a little and allow Federer to dominate from the beginning and be defeated fairly comfortably?

The issue I have for Jaziri is that he hasn't had much success outside of the Challenger events and it'll be tough for him against an opponent that will want to erase the memories of his last performance against Julien Benneteau in Rotterdam.

I expect Federer to come out firing and I imagine he may come through with a 6-1, 6-4 win in this one.

Alejandro Falla v Xavier Malisse: This is one of the pick 'em contests at Delray Beach today and I do believe that the Colombian should be able to come through against Xavier Malisse.

I like the way Malisse plays tennis, but he is clearly a player on the slide and although he holds a win over Alejandro Falla here in Delray Beach, I do think Falla is slightly better at this point of their careers.

Falla isn't the most consistent player in the ATP so this is no gimme at all, but I do think he can have just enough about him to see off Malisse, a player that was forced to retire with a lower back injury last week in Memphis which could affect his service if he is not back to full fitness. Malisse has said he is not feeling so bad and should be fine here, but I think Falla can pressure him enough to take the win, even if it takes three sets to get it.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Alejandro Falla @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

NBA Picks February 2013

I didn't have a great January so decided to take a short break from the NBA picks in the current season. February is always one of those months when you have to be a little careful as the All-Star weekend and then the trade deadline makes it hard to establish whether teams are playing 'hard' or whether players are looking forward to a break and a possible change in destination.

The big point is that most teams take the All-Star weekend as the 'end of the first half' despite the fact that more regular season games are played before that point than there will be after. The 'good' teams also start getting themselves into Play Off mode at this point and there is less coasting going on through games and so we should see less 'crazy scores' than we may have done before that point.

Over the next couple of months, the biggest news stories will likely be surrounding the LA Lakers in their bid to make the Play Offs, although they look in a tough spot in the Western Conference. The Lakers have the big name players but can no longer believe that the ship will be righted without a big effort. While there have been signs that Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are getting on the same page, their problems on the road look certain to cost them unless they can rally together.

Of course, the sad news currently with the Lakers was the passing of Dr Jerry Buss just after the All-Star weekend. It is an emotional time for all connected with the Lakers as Buss was the man who brought 'Showtime' to the masses and Kobe Bryant has tried to rally his team-mates by telling them to make the Play Offs in memory of their owner.

There are just 6 days left in February, but I will have a few picks to close the month and then hope to kick on in March.

February 23rd
Houston Rockets @ Washington Wizards Pick: This looks a bit of a trappy line considering how well Houston have played in recent games, but I do think the Rockets can get the better of the Washington Wizards in this one.

The Wizards are a tough team to play in Washington and they are off an impressive win over the Denver Nuggets last night and I believe that would have taken more out of them than the Houston win in Brooklyn on the same evening.

Houston have dominated the recent series between these teams and are hot from beyond the arc so I like them here.

Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: When you talk about teams playing at an extremely high level, you have to talk about the LeBron James powered Miami Heat who have been looking like the team to beat in the NBA this season. The Heat are going for their 10th straight win and have already recorded big road wins at Oklahoma City and Chicago in that run.

The problem for Philadelphia all season is that their risky trade to bring in Andrew Bynum has just not worked with the Center yet to play a game in their uniform. Losing Andre Iguodala was a big deal and they haven't matched up well with the Heat.

I think the Heat have another focused effort before going home and record another success in Philadelphia.

Indiana Pacers @ Detroit Pistons Pick: The Indiana Pacers have dominated their Divisional rivals the Detroit Pistons this season and I am looking for them to complete the sweep in this home and home spot.

The Pacers detroyed the Pistons last night in Indiana and both teams have travelled here in differing hearts. Indiana have now won 8 of their last 10 games while Detroit have lost 4 of 6 at home and it does seem Indiana have a clear edge in the contest.

Danny Granger may also make his season debut for Indiana in this one and they look strong enough to take care of the Pistons again.

February 25th
Atlanta Hawks @ Detroit Pistons Pick: I think the Atlanta Hawks can grab a vital victory at the Palace of Auburn Hills in this one- I thought it would have been a much changed Hawks team taking to the court after the trade deadline, but they have kept their roster together although unlikely to make a challenge for a title.

They face a short-handed Detroit team who will be missing Will Bynum through suspension and one that has taken back to back pastings from the Indiana Pacers. While the Pistons have been very good in the recent series with Atlanta, I just feel they are one of those teams that could have a slower final two months of the season.

It'll likely be close, but I expect the Hawks can pull away late in this one before a Western Conference road trip.

LA Lakers @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The LA Lakers are just one game away from getting back to 0.500 and they have closed to 2.5 games behind the Houston Rockets in the chase for a Play Off berth in the Western Conference. However, they will be severely tested in this one as they head to Denver to take on the Nuggets with a very strong home record.

The Nuggets could make life tough for an older LA Lakers squad, especially with their fast style of play and the altitude of Denver. The Lakers are also playing the second of back to back nights play and they earned a big win in Dallas yesterday, but could be focused on getting back to the Staples Center after this one and playing 'weaker' teams than the Nuggets.

Denver are 7-3 against the spread at home against the Lakers and I think they can extend their recent good run against the Lakers in this one.

February 26th
Golden State Warriors @ Indiana Pacers Pick: I like the Indiana Pacers in this one to continue their recent good form and also continue their recent domination of the Golden State Warriors.

While the Warriors can score a lot of points, Indiana have one of the best defenses in the NBA and I expect that defense to be the reason they are able to cover in this one.

Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat Pick: The Miami Heat have been playing exceptionally and recovered from the scare that the Cleveland Cavaliers gave them to record their 11th straight win.

They have dominated the Sacramento Kings in recent meetings and I expect that to continue against a team that has shown signs of form, but too often fail to get things going on the road. The Kings have lost 8 in a row on the road and have been beaten by an average of 16.2 points per game in that run, while they have lost 8 in a row to the Heat by 19.5 points per game.

Miami should be able to take care of this big spread with a few days rest between this game and their next game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers Pick: While the Orlando Magic are short-handed for this game, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to play without Andrew Bynum, although a returning Thaddeus Young gives them some more scoring power to add to Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

Philadelphia crushed Orlando here earlier this season and I think their motivation will be high to get a win and close the gap to the Eastern Conference Play Offs. It is a big spread, but the Magic are missing some big pieces and it hard to see them keeping this one close.

February 27th
Toronto Raptors @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: It seems almost certain that Cleveland will be missing Kyrie Irving for a second game in a row and that should be enough for the Toronto Raptors to continue their winning run on the road since Rudy Gay was traded from Memphis.

It is also a tough spot for Cleveland as they put in a big emotional effort against Chicago last night to win that game without Irving. There is also a chance that Cleveland could overlook Toronto as they have just played Chicago and then host some tough opponents like the LA Clippers and New York Knicks.

New Orleans Hornets @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The New Orleans Hornets will be short-handed for this one with both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis missing out and that leads me to think the Oklahoma City Thunder will be an easier winner in this contest than they have the more recent times they have hosted New Orleans.

Oklahoma City have dominated Western Conference teams at home with 17 straight wins here and they have too much Offense for the short-handed Hornets in my opinion. It is a big spread, but I like the Thunder to dominate and cover.

February 28th
LA Clippers @ Indiana Pacers Pick: Roy Hibbert is suspended for this game after his part in the mass brawl between the Pacers and the Golden State Warriors a couple of nights ago, and that is a big body to lose against Lob City.

This is a big game for both teams who will have serious Championship aspirations and both will want to prove themselves. Both should be focused on one another, but I have a feeling the Clippers are in the slightly better spot.

The absence of Hibbert and Danny Granger still working his way back to full game fitness means I think it could be tough for the Pacers. The Clippers have been hot and they do look capable of winning their first game here in Indiana since 2008.

MY PICKS: 23/02 Houston Rockets - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/02 Miami Heat - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/02 Indiana Pacers - 4 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
25/02 Atlanta Hawks - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
25/02 Denver Nuggers - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/02 Indiana Pacers - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/02 Miami Heat - 15 Points @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/02 Philadelphia 76ers - 9.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/02 Toronto Raptors - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
27/02 Oklahoma City Thunder - 14.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
28/02 LA Clippers + 1 Point @ 1.92 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

February Update: 6-3, + 2.61 Units

January Final5-14, - 9.31 Units
December Final17-7-1, + 9.19 Units
November Final13-8-1, + 8.03 Units

Season 201335-29-2, + 7.91 Units
Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

Weekend Football Picks (February 23-25)

It has been a busy week so I didn't have time to put up the picks from the weekend football any earlier thanks to work commitments.

Arsenal v Aston Villa Pick: To say it has been a tough week for Arsenal would be an under-statement, but I do believe Aston Villa provide the perfect opposition for the side to bounce back and get back on the winning trail.

While the trophyless seasons have now likely been extended to 8 with back to back Cup defeats in the last seven days, Arsenal have only lost 2 of their last 11 Premier League games and I think they have enough options up front to cause Aston Villa a lot of problems. Villa have the worst away defence in the Premier League and they will be under pressure in this one.

The biggest concern for Arsenal will be the fact that Aston Villa have drawn 3 Premier League away games in a row since an 8-0 hammering at Stamford Bridge and they seem to play with a little more freedom away from home when there is no expectation on the side.

Paul Lambert will be aware that the pressure is on the home side after their last two performances, but I can't see Villa keeping Arsenal at bay in this one. I just feel the Gunners will be ready and itching to set the record straight somewhat in this one and I think they will win by at least 2 goals.

Norwich City v Everton Pick: Everton must have felt sick when Oldham Athletic scored a late equaliser in the FA Cup Fifth Round at Boundary Park last week, but the draw for the Sixth Round was fairly kind to them and they can get back to the FA Cup Semi Finals with home wins over Oldham and Wigan Athletic.

For now, Everton can get back to concentrating on the Premier League where they are still in with a chance of finishing in the top four and a Champions League place. Currently they are trailing Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur by 7 and 6 points respectively in 3rd and 4th place, but Everton will feel they can really get close by winning this game as those two sides have tough away assignments this weekend.

It won't be easy against a Norwich City side that are tough to beat at Carrow Road and one that doesn't concede a lot of goals. The home side haven't been winning many games recently, and I think Everton are good enough to win here, although their quotes look a little short to me.

Instead, I am recommending dutching the 1-2 Everton win and the 2-2 draw... The most recent Everton wins seem to follow a 1-2 trend and I am keeping the 2-2 on side after what happened to the Toffees last week, but you can get those correct scores together at a decent 6.63 and is worth a small interest.

Queens Park Rangers v Manchester United Pick: Queens Park Rangers were brought back down to earth with a bump in their last Premier League game when they were beaten 4-1 at Swansea and Harry Redknapp knows it is looking increasingly unlikely that his team can avoid the drop barring a remarkable turn in results.

They have been much tougher to beat at home in recent games, drawing 3 in a row here in goalless games including against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City so this certainly won't be an easy game for the League leading Manchester United.

However, the lack of goals in the home side has to be a concern for Redknapp as that wasn't an area they fully rectified in Janaury with Loic Remy missing a few games with injury since signing.

Sir Alex Ferguson will make changes to the side that beat Reading in the FA Cup Fifth Round on Monday night, but he knows the importance of increasing the pressure on Manchester City now and perhaps resting players in later Premier League games if Manchester United do progress in the Champions League.

I can see this being a tight game, but I do feel that United will find a way to break down the QPR resistance, although I do hope Julio Cesar isn't in the inspired form he has shown a few times in the last couple of months. It might be a tight game that follows a similar pattern to the one United played at Fulham recently and I do think United can win this one without conceding a goal.

Manchester City v Chelsea Pick: All the pressure has been shifted onto Manchester City thanks to Manchester United's comfortable 0-2 win at Loftus Road on Saturday and Roberto Mancini's men cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to retain their Premier League title.

It should be a fascinating game between City and Chelsea in the live lunchtime offering, especially as Rafa Benitez and Roberto Mancini are both feeling a lot of pressure when it comes to their respective management jobs.

Chelsea have certainly been a better team on their travels than they have at Stamford Bridge since the Spaniard took over as Interim Head Coach and I do expect them to cause City some problems with the attacking players that Benitez can use.

My issue for Chelsea is that they are conceding far too many goals recently, especially away from home, and I think it will be tough for them to get a result here without scoring at least twice. They are certainly capable of doing that, but the return of Vincent Kompany should settle down a City defence that was abysmal at Southampton two weeks ago.

I am expecting goals in this one and I also think City will be able to edge the win as they have three years in a row now. Twice they have had to win 2-1 and I think that is the most likely score in this one.

Bradford v Swansea Pick: The Capital One Cup Final is being played by a League Two and a Premier League side this season and I am a little surprised that Swansea are priced as 'high' as they are on a neutral field to pull off the win.

I am expecting the bigger Wembley pitch to cause problems for the Bradford players, especially with the way Swansea keep the ball and I think they will wear down their opponents before recording a 2-0 win.

Bradford can certainly pose some problems from set pieces, but I think Swansea will limit their chances to few and far between. I also think the pressure of expectation has to be managed as I am sure the Swansea players are aware that the onus will be on them to win this game and everyone is going to expect them to win the Cup now.

That may make them a little nervous to start off with and take a little more time to break down the Bradford resistance, but I do expect Swansea will eventually be able to do that. With the likes of Michu finding themselves in the right place at the right time, I expect this to be one of the brightest days, if not THE brightest day, in Swansea's history. Taking the Swans to win this one without conceding a goal looks the best call.

Wolves v Cardiff City Pick: Swansea won't be the only South Wales club whose chances I like this weekend, but I also expect Cardiff City to take another big step to playing in the Premier League next season with a win at Wolves.

With the likes of Hull City and Crystal Palace losing and Leicester City failing to win, Cardiff look in a very strong position in the Championship, a position that can be strengthened mightily with a win in this game.

They are facing an extremely out of form Wolves team that are staring back to back relegations in the face and one that hasn't responded to Dean Saunders since he took charge of the club. Cardiff are winning plenty of their recent away games and Wolves have lost a fair few games here in recent weeks and I just feel things are going to get that little bit worse for the home fans this weekend.

Cardiff have to avoid complacency, but I think the losses for their rivals on Saturday will inspire a good performance from them and picking up the three points.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This is a big game for Tottenham Hotspur as they look to keep the 4 point buffer between themselves and Arsenal in the race for the Champions League places in the Premier League. Tottenham have seen that lead cut to 1 point thanks to Arsenal's win over Aston Villa on Saturday, but they can extend it back to 4 points and also overtake Chelsea in 3rd spot with a win in this game.

It is important Spurs have some type of momentum heading into their home game in the North London derby next Sunday. They also seem to be picking up some health in the key striking positions with Jermain Defoe expected back in the 16 for this game to aid Emmanuel Adebayor in giving Andre Villas-Boas attacking options.

West Ham United will certainly provide tough opposition as they haven't rolled over for anyone at Upton Park this season and they will be especially dangerous from set pieces. I can definitely see West Ham scoring at least once in this one, and the over 2.5 goals options makes sense with the counter-attacking ability Spurs do have.

Of course, it has to be stated that Spurs' recent away games have not followed the trends of earlier this season when goals didn't seem to be a problem. However, both of these sides should look to get onto the front foot in this one and I do think both will get at least one goal in the live showing.

Hopefully those will come early enough to give both sides motivation to go for a winner and that'll be my take at 1.95 in this one.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Dutch Norwich City 2-2 Everton & Norwich City 1-2 Everton Correct Scores @ 6.63 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 2.88 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester City to win and over 2.5 goals to be scored in the match @ 3.10 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Swansea Win to Nil @ 2.38 Coral (1 Unit)
Cardiff City @ 2.40 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
West Ham United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

February Update10-20, - 5.37 Units (39 Units Staked, - 13.78% Yield)

January Final10-22, - 10.89 Units (45 Units Staked, - 24.2% Yield)
December Final17-24-1, - 0.83 Units (53 Units Staked, - 0.02 % Yield)
November Final8-21, - 8.25 Units (37 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
October Final9-9, + 5.44 Units (27 Units Staked, 20.1% Yield)
September Final17-11, + 21.19 Units (46 Units Staked, 46.1% Yield)
August Final12-13, + 1.29 Units (40 Units Staked, 3.22% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 7.95 Units (248 Units Staked, + 3.21 % Yield)

Tennis Picks (February 23rd)

With two of the three outright picks still in the running in their respective tournaments and the daily picks proving to be very profitable, it has been a decent week so far in the tennis picks.

The Australian Open was a big disappointment for me personally as I couldn't get much going, but the last couple of weeks have at least made up for that somewhat.

Hopefully the last couple of days can complete a fine week.

Petra Kvitova - 5.5 games v Sara Errani: Petra Kvitova continues to play at a very high level and I think she is going to be able to see off Sara Errani as the Italian did look a little fatigued in her last match against Roberta Vinci.

I don't know whether that was down to Errani feeling the mental anguish of playing against her best friend, but there definitely some areas of her game that will be exploited by Kvitova on current form.

Kvitova has the edge when it comes to the power and the serve and I don't think she will be too bothered about having to hit through Errani following comfortable back to back wins over very strong defenders in Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

I do expect Errani to give Kvitova some problems, but eventually see the Czech player coming through to win the title with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Gilles Simon: I know Jo-Wilfried Tsonga spent a lot of time on court in his Quarter Final win over Bernard Tomic, while Gilles Simon has come through in fairly routine fashion, but I am still surprised that the layers feel this match will be a lot closer than I think it will.

Tsonga has won 4 of the 6 matches between these compatriots, including 2 wins on indoor hard courts and I think he was serving well enough to exert enough pressure on Simon to see him through in this one.

The faster court should definitely favour Tsonga's game in this one and he should be a more comfortable winner than he was against Tomic as long as he takes his chances in this one on the break points as that was the main reason Tsonga needed three sets to see off the Australian yesterday. I have this one as a 6-3, 6-4 win for Tsonga and so will back him to clear this spread.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 5.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Stan James (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-8, + 14 Units (45 Units Staked, + 31.11% Yield)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 22nd)

While the regular daily picks are going pretty well, it looks like being my worst outright picks of the new season as Milos Raonic went out and David Ferrer is in a bit of bother as I writing this (although that is down to David Nalbandian who could make some serious leaps back up the Rankings by knocking out the top seeded Spaniard).

That means that only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is left and I haven't seen the draw in Marseille open up as I expected with both Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro winning tight three set battles to move into the Quarter Finals.

We'll have to see how things develop on that front as the week goes on, but for now these are the latest of my picks.

Sara Errani v Roberta Vinci: Going against Roberta Vinci hasn't been productive for me at all this week, but I am going to try one more time as she faces her close friend Sara Errani in the Semi Final in Dubai.

Errani has won the last 4 matches between these Doubles partners and I do think she has enough game to see off Vinci in this pick 'em contest. The younger Italian also hasn't lost against Vinci since 2010 and I think she will be well prepared to take on someone whose game she will know backwards.

Don't get me wrong though, Vinci has played at a pretty high level this week so under-estimating her would be a bad mistake. She has deserved to win both of the matches when I favoured her opponents, but I think Errani will be tough enough mentally to get through the match.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: I said last week that I think there are signs that Petra Kvitova has turned a corner after a number of months of sub-standard performances from the high level she had set herself.

Her form has continued here in Dubai and I think she will have one too many weapons for Caroline Wozniacki, although I have to say I have been a little impressed with the way the Dane has also been playing this week.

However, she hasn't played someone like Kvitova who is capable of taking the racquet completely out of her hands and I think Wozniacki could find herself under some pressure in this one. The way Kvitova broke down Radwanska today would have been a concern for Wozniacki and her fans and I am not that surprised that the Czech player has won 4 of the last 5 matches between these players.

As long as Kvitova keeps her head, she should be able to come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Jerzy Janowicz: This is a slightly risky spread as Jerzy Janowicz certainly is backed by a serve that can make it tough to break- Tomas Berdych will need to break twice if he is to cover this spread (twice more than Janowicz) and I think he is capable after coming through a really tough match with Ernests Gulbis.

I wasn't sure how Berdych would respond to his wrist injury that kept him out for a couple of weeks, but he looked in good shape against Gulbis and should really have won that match in straight sets.

He is playing an opponent whose game will be heavily backed by the indoor hard court conditions, but I also feel Janowicz is still finding his feet on the main Tour and the pressure that Berdych could exert is possibly going to be too much to handle.

The top ten player will have to take any chances that come his way as I don't think he will have  a lot of break points, but I think Berdych can do so and it may result in a 7-6, 6-3 win.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v Federico Delbonis: This is a rematch of a meeting these two players had last season here in Buenos Aires and I think Nicolas Almagro will be able to book his place in the Semi Finals.

Almagro has come through his first couple of Rounds fairly comfortably and he is one of the better clay court players in the world and I think that will be enough to take him past Federico Delbonis again.

Last season this ended in a 6-3, 6-2 win for the Spaniard and he was very comfortable returning the serve in that match. Delbonis is an improved player since then so I can see him winning a couple more games, but I would be surprised if this wasn't a fairly routine win for Almagro.

MY PICKS: Sara Errani @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 3.5 Games @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 11-8, + 6 Units (37 Units Staked, + 16.22% Yield)

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 21st)

Some of the tournaments have reached their Quarter Final stage, while others are a little behind schedule thanks to the weather. It has been a pretty good week for the picks so far and the likes of David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic are all still involved in their respective tournaments (although Raonic is playing his first match in Memphis after I have finished writing this).

While I have made a fair few picks this week so far, I think this day could be slightly quieter.

Sam Stosur - 2.5 games v Roberta Vinci: This is the opening Quarter Final in Dubai and I am sticking with Sam Stosur who has proved to be a very profitable player to back this week.

I think Stosur holds the clear edge when it comes to the serve in this one and I think that'll prove to be the difference in the match and I do think the Australian will win this match in fairly straightforward fashion.

Roberta Vinci surprised me by beating Angelique Kerber yesterday, but that was as much to do with the German's poor performance as it was with Vinci winning the match. The backhand slice befuddled Kerber who threw in a ridiculous amounts of unforced errors, but I don't think this tactic will fluster Stosur who is very adept at playing the backhand slice herself.

With that weapon taken away from Vinci, the Italian may be forced out of her comfort zone somewhat. Stosur won their only previous meeting comfortably enough on the hard courts in Toronto in 2011 and while Vinci is an improved Singles player since then, Stosur is playing well enough to dispose of her again.

Denis Istomin - 2.5 games v Lleyton Hewitt: Lleyton Hewitt could be considered a little bit fortunate to still be in this tournament after struggling in his First Round match yesterday and I think Denis Istomin is going to prove a little too tough for him in this one.

Istomin is a infuriating player to watch, as I have mentioned before, but he has been playing some good tennis over the last couple of weeks and also holds a win over Hewitt from Brisbane earlier this season.

The problem with Hewitt these days is that he allows his opponents to dictate play and doesn't have the same fitness level of old to chase down all the balls he used to. That makes him a little more vulnerable on serve too and I think that will be the problem for him to overcome in this match if Istomin is serving as he can.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Igor Sijsling: Marin Cilic can take advantage of Jurgen Melzer's exit by beating Igor Sijsling in the Second Round here in Memphis and I think he will be an easy enough winner in this contest.

Marin Cilic has a very under-rated return of serve and I think he can put enough pressure on the Dutchman in this one to earn at least a break of serve in each set and I think Sijsling's comfortable losses to Martin Klizan and Mikhail Youzhny says more about his form than the win over Melzer who has been struggling for form for around 18 months.

I can see the Croatian just being a little too strong in most aspects of this one and his confidence will be high after winning the tournament in Zagreb and coming through a tough opening contest here so I wouldn't be surprised to see Cilic record a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Albert Ramos - 3.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: I don't like going against home players in these smaller tournaments as they can be inspired to put in a big performance, but Leonardo Mayer looks like he will be in for a tough task against Albert Ramos.

Mayer hasn't opened up 2013 in the best form, but he did record a decent win over Filippo Volandri in the First Round here, although it has to be said that Leonardo Mayer has mainly achieved his success on the lower Challenger circuit than on the Main Tour.

The Argentinian is only 10-10 on the clay courts in ATP events over the last three seasons and he is facing a player in Ramos that has achieved his best results on the slower surfaces. That is not surprising with Ramos being a Spaniard, but his also plays at the higher level on a more regular basis than Mayer and he does have a Quarter Final appearance under his belt this season.

I can see Ramos earning a break of serve more in each set to ensure this spread is covered.

MY PICKS: Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units) Advised Yesterday
Sam Stosur - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denis Istomin - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Albert Ramos - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-6, + 4.46 Units (27 Units Staked, + 16.52% Yield)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 20th)

The tournament in Buenos Aires is slightly behind schedule as much of Tuesday was rained out, although they are not too far behind that players are going to be asked to play twice on the same day. However, it does mean the David Nalbandian's match with Carlos Berlocq was moved to Wednesday.

Victoria Azarenka, unsurprisingly, pulled out of the tournament in Dubai after her success in Doha last week. That means Serena Williams is now the clear favourite to win this event and underline her status as World Number 1, although it will be interesting to see her motivation when she opens up her tournament on Wednesday.

Angelique Kerber v Roberta Vinci: Angelique Kerber will play her first match in Dubai against Roberta Vinci and I like the chances of the German progressing through to the next Round in this contest.

Kerber was comfortably beaten last week in Doha, but she has been speaking about her confidence going into this event in Dubai and I think we will see a much better performance against Vinci than she had against Mona Barthel. The difference between Vinci and Barthel is that the latter is capable of hitting opponents off the court, while Vinci will allow Kerber the chance to dictate the play.

Both players won 1 match against the other in 2012, the latest being Vinci's straight sets win in Montreal. However, I think Kerber will be able to have success against the Italian on this court and I do think she will have enough in her game to see off the threat Vinci poses.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see quite a few breaks of serve in this one, but I think the German will have enough to end on the right side of the scoreline.

Sam Stosur - 5.5 games v Su-Wei Hsieh: Sam Stosur played pretty well in her win over Ekaterina Makarova yesterday, especially behind her serve which was pretty effective for much of the match.

I think it is that serve that will prove to be the difference again as she faces Su-Wei Hsieh. I was surprised to see Hsieh is ranked at number 25 in the World Rankings, but much of that was down to tournament wins she had last season Guangzhou and Kuala Lumpur.

That does make me respect Hsieh and what she is capable of, but I can't help look at some of the heavy losses she has taken and wonder whether she will be able to hang with Stosur and the serve the Australian can produce.

As long as Stosur is as efficient as she was on the break point chances she created against Makarova, I can see her coming through with something like a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Ernests Gulbis + 3.5 games v Tomas Berdych: At the start of the week, I ruled out Tomas Berdych in the outright markets as I felt this potential Second Round match against Ernests Gulbis could catch him cold, so there is little surprise that I will be taking the games in this one.

I know Berdych pulled out of the tournament in Rotterdam because of a wrist injury, so it will be interesting to see how he is feeling in this one. He is playing an opponent that has looked good in the last week or so and looks motivated enough to put in a performance here.

Even if Berdych goes through, I do think there is every chance this one goes to three sets and that makes the games being offered on Gulbis look a touch too high in my opinion.

I just hope the 'good Gulbis' is still taking part in these events as 'bad Gulbis' is never too far away.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v Nikolay Davydenko: I wasn't impressed with the early exit Jo-Wilfried Tsonga suffered last week in Rotterdam, especially as his game should be tailor made for the indoor hard courts. However, I am expecting a much better tournament for him this week in front of his own fans at an event he has won in the past and also reached the Semi Final last season.

It's not to under-estimate Nikolay Davydenko who has some big wins under his belt this season, and one who has 2 indoor hard court wins over Tsonga in the past. However, I think Tsonga will be able to put enough pressure on the Russian to force a couple of bad service games and that could be enough to see the Frenchman to cover the spread.

Tsonga has won 41 matches in the last couple of seasons on the indoor hard courts and also beat Davydenko in Metz on the surface last season and I do think he is able to record a 6-3, 6-4 win in this one and progress to the Quarter Finals.

Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: I thought this was going to be a spread of 5.5 games and still liked Nicolas Almagro's chances of winning the match and clearing that, so the 4.5 game spread is a bit of a bonus.

There is no doubt that Nicolas Almagro is one of the better clay court players in the World and I believe he is facing an opponent that hasn't quite got the temperament to be playing against the quality that Almagro will be providing.

Andrey Kuznetsov has certainly proved himself on the Challenger Tour on a clay court with a number of title wins last season on the surface, but he has generally fallen short when playing on the main ATP Tour. Last season he was dismissed comfortably by Fernando Verdasco on the clay, while Carlos Berlocq knocked him off easily two times in a row already this season.

The win over Filippo Volandri is a good one for Kuznetsov in the First Round, but Almagro is a different level of opponent and I would expect a 6-2, 6-4 win for the Spaniard.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 games v Bjorn Phau: Usually I am not a big fan of backing Alexandr Dolgopolov as you just don't know what you are going to get out of the inconsistent Ukrainian.

However, he should have the big edge in talent in this one while Bjorn Phau is also coming in off a knee injury which has curtailed his start to the 2013 season. Even in matches Phau has completed, he has taken some comfortable losses and this one looks like a 3 and 4 win for Dolgopolov at worst.

Dolgopolov is hit and miss in his matches though, and that is a concern, especially as he hasn't played since the Davis Cup matches over two weeks ago so he could start a little slow.

However, he does look the superior player in this one and should be able to come through with a little room to spare.

MY PICKS: David Nalbandian - 2.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units) From Yesterday
Angelique Kerber @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 5.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-4, + 1.16 Units (15 Units Staked, + 7.73% Yield)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Midweek Football Picks (February 19-21)

It's back to the Champions League and the Europa League this week as the first legs of the former competition and the last-32 of the latter competition are completed.

I'm not fan of splitting the Champions League Second Round over a month as I feel the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals are 'rushed' through. There is no doubt that the latter stage of the Champions League comes at a critical point for all clubs that are completing their domestic competitions and so giving more space between the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals is surely better than right now.

TV continues to dictate all though and that was again the point as Manchester United's Fifth Round FA Cup tie was moved to a Monday night- if United don't progress to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, games against Manchester City and Aston Villa will also be Monday night for television coverage.

I understand that the TV companies don't care about the fans and only want to boost their coffers so I am not surprised they have decided to overuse the Monday night facility in recent weeks and to finish out the season.

Arsenal v Bayern Munich Pick: Bayern Munich are the clear favourites to win this Second Round tie, but I don't think they will have won the tie from the first leg in London and will have to complete the job in Munich next month.

My problem for Bayern Munich is that they have struggled away from home in the Champions League, regardless of their very impressive form in the Bundesliga that looks certain to see them winning the title for the first time in three seasons.

Bayern were beaten in BATE Borisov and only managed a 1-1 draw in Valencia, while they have lost 4 of their last 8 away games in the Champions League. Add to this the fact that Arsenal have lost just 3 of 50 home games in the competition, including only 1 defeat to non-English sides.

The home side should put in a much better performance than they did against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday after Arsene Wenger has been bashed up by the media for what looks like being an eight season drought without a trophy. However, they were beaten here by Schalke in this competition earlier this season and that defence makes me wary about Arsenal doing enough to take a lead to Munich.

I wouldn't be surprised if this game ends up in a score draw which will give Bayern Munich the advantage when they host Arsenal at the Allianz Arena.

Porto v Malaga Pick: This looks like one of the most open ties in the Second Round and is one of those matches that looks like we could see home wins in both legs and it will be down to away goals or extra time in the Second Leg to separate them.

Porto have been very good at home all season, while Malaga have shown some real character in earning draws at Milan and Zenit St Petersburg in the Group Stage. Porto's home win over Paris Saint-Germain looks the all the more impressive after PSG beat Valencia in Spain in their first leg of the Second Round last week.

I think both sides are going to come out and look to score the goals to win the game, although the first leg of knockout ties can be a little tentative at times. I do think Porto are the more likely winners of this first leg, but they aren't an odds on shot as far as I am concerned.

Instead, backing the home side to win by the minimum of margins makes sense with the tie being in the balance as they head to Spain in a month.

AC Milan v Barcelona Pick: AC Milan certainly are not as good as the recent teams that reached three Champions League Finals in 5 years and actually won 2 of those, but they will be given due respect by Barcelona in this game and so I think this is going to be a tighter match than the layers believe.

The word 'respect' has been used a lot by the Catalan club as they face Milan for the fifth time in the last two seasons and they are particularly concerned with how tough it will be at the San Siro.

However, I do think Barcelona will end up being a little too tough for Milan when it is all said and done in this first leg and I can see them becoming the latest club to pull off an away win during these first legs that have been played over the last week.

I can just see it being a game that could be decided by one goal and I think Barcelona will be happy with any lead they can take back to the Nou Camp.

Galatasaray v Schalke Pick: Two of the less fancied teams back in December, but the signings of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba make Galatasaray an interesting proposition going forward.

However, I think there has been an overreaction on the home win price for this one and Schalke are certainly not a team to be under-estimated as they have performed well on their travels over the last couple of seasons.

It has also got to be noted that Galatasaray have struggled to put teams away at home in the Champions League and their only win in the Group here came against a second string Manchester United team.

Goals could instead be the order of the day from this match as both sides will fancy their chances going forward and will also feel they are better going forward than they are defensively. I can see both sides getting at least one in this game and hopefully someone will go on and take a lead into the second leg in three weeks time.

My Europa League picks from the second legs of the last-32 Round can be found in the 'My Picks' section.

MY PICKS: Arsenal-Bayern Munich Draw @ 3.60 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Porto to win by 1 Goal @ 3.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Barcelona to win by 1 Goal @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Galatasaray-Schalke Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Blue Sq (1 Unit)
Lyon-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Metalist Kharkiv-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Coral (1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Liverpool win and over 2.5 goals scored in match @ 2.60 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Benfica win and over 2.5 goals scored in match @ 2.88 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

February Update7-14, - 5.60 Units (30 Units Staked, - 18.67% Yield)

January Final10-22, - 10.89 Units (45 Units Staked, - 24.2% Yield)

December Final17-24-1, - 0.83 Units (53 Units Staked, - 0.02 % Yield)
November Final8-21, - 8.25 Units (37 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
October Final9-9, + 5.44 Units (27 Units Staked, 20.1% Yield)
September Final17-11, + 21.19 Units (46 Units Staked, 46.1% Yield)
August Final12-13, + 1.29 Units (40 Units Staked, 3.22% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 7.95 Units (248 Units Staked, + 3.21 % Yield)

Tennis Picks (February 19th)

The first day of the new tournaments wasn't too bad, although I was reminded why I don't like backing an inconsistent player like Ana Ivanovic as she blew a big lead before just about scrambling over the line.

Ivanovic was leading her match 6-3, 4-0 and was then serving... She should have covered the 4.5 game spread comfortably from that position but proceeded to lose 6 of the next 8 games before finally recording a 6-3, 7-6 win.

Thankfully, Nicolas Almagro didn't take his foot off the pedal in his own match with Guido Pella and was a comfortable winner when dropping just 5 games to move into the Second Round of the tournament in Buenos Aires.

The tournaments will really begin to get going now as we move into the second day and these are my picks from the various events taking place.

Petra Kvitova - 4.5 games v Daniela Hantuchova: While it hasn't been the best few months for Petra Kvitova, there were definitely some more signs in Doha last week that she is perhaps finding something like her best tennis. Kvitova pushed Serena Williams all the way in their Third Round match and I think she can take that confidence into the event here in Dubai.

The Czech player meets qualifier Daniela Hantuchova in the First Round in Dubai and this clearly is a favourable match up for Kvitova.

While Hantuchova has the experience of the conditions after winning three matches here already, I also think her game plan fits nicely for the way Kvitova plays. There is a definite edge in serve for the higher Ranked player and I think Hantuchova doesn't use a lot of variation in her game which should allow Kvitova to find her range and rhythm in this one.

I am not surprised that Kvitova has won all 5 previous matches between the pair and I am not surprised that all of those wins have been fairly comfortable and I think she can wrap up another win along those lines in this one.

Sam Stosur v Ekaterina Makarova: This should be a really good match between two players who have shown signs of form in the first six weeks of the new season.

Ekaterina Makarova had to retire from her match with Petra Kvitova last week with an illness, but she should be good to go here, while Sam Stosur showed some decent form last week in Doha after what has been a tough start to 2013 in general.

The winner of this match is likely to be the player that can impose their game on the other, but Stosur also seems to hold a slight mental advantage with a 2-0 lead in matches between these players on the hard courts. I think if the Australian serves as she can, Stosur will be able to do just enough to come through this one.

Makarova is a good player, but she can be a little hit and miss with her consistency off the ground and she can mentally collapse in matches and that could be all the difference in this one when one or two points could literally decide which way the match falls.

Ernests Gulbis v Jarkko Nieminen: This has been set as a pick 'em contest between two players that have shown signs of real form in the last couple of weeks, but I do like the talented Latvian to come through the contest.

There is no doubt that Ernests Gulbis can play tennis at an extremely decent level when he is fully motivated, although he hasn't shown that he wishes to put in the hard work ethic to do that. His background is clear in that he comes from a family with enough financial power that Gulbis has never really had to work hard at his tennis and he apparently lives a very lavish lifestyle on the Tour.

However, Gulbis showed some really good signs in his game last week in Rotterdam where he qualified and then reached the Second Round before falling to Juan Martin Del Potro. It was Del Potro who also ended Jarkko Nieminen's tournament at the Quarter Final stage, but the Finn also has a Semi Final appearance to his name on the indoor hard courts this season.

I like Gulbis' chances in this one because he has the power to effect the Nieminen game a lot more than vice versa and I do think he looked motivated last week and I can't imagine he won't be confident in this one. Gulbis also has a 2-0 head to head record against Nieminen and I think he can win this one.

Lucie Hradecka - 2.5 games v Claire Feuerstein: Both of these players have enjoyed plenty of success on the indoor hard courts over the last couple of seasons, but the difference between them is Lucie Hradecka has been performing on the main Tour, while most of Claire Feuerstein's success have come in the second level tier of events or in qualifiers.

Feuerstein has won a couple of matches to qualify for the main draw here in Memphis so may be able to surprise Hradecka who plays her first Singles match since the Australian Open Second Round back in January.

I know Hradecka has the game to give some of the better players on the Tour a tough time and she has beaten Feuerstein in all three previous matches without dropping a set. It might be tight early, but I do expect the Czech player to tough out a straight sets win and cover this spread.

Florian Mayer v James Blake: Florian Mayer hasn't been in great form to open the new season, but I am surprised that he is considered the underdog against the veteran James Blake.

Blake was a decent player in his day, but he seems to be playing tennis for his personal enjoyment these days as he hasn't really had a big impact on the Tour for a couple of seasons now. He can still perform at a high level for moments in matches and that may be enough to see off Mayer, but Blake's successes are coming in the Challenger level events these days.

I also accept that Mayer has lost 4 of his last 5 matches so his confidence can't be too high, but he did win his first match against Blake in 4 attempts last season and I still think a top 30 player shouldn't be the underdog against the American these days so it is worth a small interest.

Alejandro Falla + 3.5 games v Sam Querrey: These players are meeting for the second time in consecutive weeks and while Sam Querrey has got the better of their recent meetings, they have certainly been close matches.

It took the American three sets to see of Falla last week and the Colombian does have the game to make life difficult for Querrey. At the key times, I am guessing the Querrey serve will make the difference to win the match, but there is every chance this one could go the distance and that makes the 3.5 games being given to the underdog look a lot.

There is also the chance that we will see a tie-break and even a straight sets win for Querrey may come with something like a 7-6, 6-4 scoreline, while I do think Falla has half a chance of pulling the upset in this one.

With all that in mind, taking the games looks the call.

David Nalbandian - 2.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: David Nalbandian turned back the clock somewhat last week as he reached the Final at the Brazil Open, the first time he has reached that far in a tournament since being defaulted at Queens last June.

Now he gets to play in front of his own supporters against a fellow Argentinian in Carlos Berlocq and I do like Nalbandian's chances of progressing through to the Second Round.

There is only one place between the players in the World Rankings, but Nalbandian is certainly the more talented of the two and that has shown by his 3-0 head to head against Berlocq while he has won 7 sets and lost just the 1.

It's not wise to under-estimate Berlocq who has a Semi Final and a Quarter Final under his belt from the last two clay court tournaments, while also winning a couple of Davis Cup ties for Argentina, but I do think he will be out-hit by Nalbandian when this is all said and done.

I did consider Nalbandian to win in straight sets, but his form can be up and down in matches and I am taking the game spread instead in case this goes to three sets.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Stosur @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Lucie Hradecka - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Florian Mayer @ 2.30 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Alejandro Falla + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
David Nalbandian - 2.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, + 0.60 Units (4 Units Staked, + 15% Yield)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 18th)

This is the start of a new week of tournaments from around the World, although the Monday is usually one of the quieter days as this is usually a day when the qualifying matches are completed and there aren't a lot of matches scheduled.

However, the events in Dubai, Buenos Aires and Memphis are pretty loaded so they have had to schedule more matches and these are the opening picks of the week.

You can read my outright previews of the tournaments and the picks I have made here.

Ana Ivanovic - 4.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Ana Ivanovic may be a top 15 player on the WTA Tour, but her inconsistencies continue to keep her out of the top 10 and she can be a tough player to back as you just don't always know what you are going to get from her.

Ivanovic should be plenty confident having won all 4 matches against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on the Tour and I still don't feel the latter has got out of the slump that saw her fall down the Rankings in 2012.

Both players have a similar game in that they are looking to get the first bite of the cherry when it comes to big shots in the rallies, but I do think Ivanovic has the better movement and is a little more consistent in that regard. That could prove to be the difference between the players yet again and I am going to back Ivanovic to come through with a likely 6-3, 6-3 win.

Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 games v Guido Pella: At first glance, this certainly looks like a big spread to cover, but I think Nicolas Almagro is going to be a little too solid and consistent for his young opponent and I do like the Spaniard to come through with a 6-4, 6-2 scoreline.

It was a little surprise to see Almagro lose so early in Brazil last week as he looked to defend his title from last season, but the change in venue and the conditions of the court weren't exactly up to scratch and that may have been playing on his mind. Almagro also faced David Nalbandian, a player with a strong record against him, and that is another reason I can provide for his poor performance and I expect him to be a lot more comfortable this week.

Guido Pella will be receiving the home support and he has been scheduled to play as the final match of the night session so that is a tough environment for Almagro to play in. However, he did beat Federico Delbonis here comfortably last season, another young Argentinian player, and I think Almagro has enough big match experience to be able to deal with the atmosphere and come through with some room to spare.

MY PICKS: Ana Ivanovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 Games @ 2.30 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Tennis Outright Picks (February 18-24)

It was another positive week for the tennis picks made as both the daily picks and the outright picks came back in the black.

Juan Martin Del Potro may just have got his 2013 season up and running with his win in Rotterdam, although I am sure the shock exit of Roger Federer in the Quarter Final stage and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga going out in the Second Round just made life that much easier for Del Potro.

In all honesty, he didn't really face anyone of note apart from Gael Monfils in the First Round and Del Potro was a comfortable winner.

Rafael Nadal also won his first tournament since the French Open last June by beating David Nalbandian in two fairly straight-forward sets. Nadal has done a lot of moaning this week with various issues he has raised and I think this win in Brazil will at least settle him down somewhat has he moves on to Argentina and then Mexico before the first Masters events in the United States.

There is still a question mark on whether Nadal will actually go to Indian Wells and Miami or whether he will rest up for the European clay court season. I think it would be a little silly of Nadal to miss the Masters events, even if he doesn't feel ready to get back on the hard courts as he just needs to get back to a real level of competition in my opinion, but I guess his physical fitness will decide matters in the coming two weeks.

Other big news was Victoria Azarenka beating Serena Williams in Doha to retain her title from last season- Azarenka may have lost her World Number 1 position, but that win was huge for her mentality after losing so many matches against Serena. It was was even more impressive considering she lost the second set 6-2 and then was 0-30 to open the third set but managed to hold serve, break Williams' serve, and then serve out the set for the match.

This week we have another five tournaments across the board with some of the bigger names in both Men's and Women's Tours playing. Below are my semi-previews of those events and my outright picks.

ATP Marseille
There are some big names heading to the tournament in Marseille this week and it looks to be a tough one to get a good read on.

The likes of Tomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro are the leading contenders to pick up this title and I can't see beyond those four names when picking a winner.

However, of the four, I like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to perform better in front of his own fans than he did last week in Rotterdam. Tsonga won this tournament in 2009 and was a  Semi Finalist last season before being beaten by Juan Martin Del Potro who went on to win the event.

Of all the leading players at this tournament, I do feel that Tsonga has the clearest run after being given a bye in the First Round and I have a few doubts about the other top players here.

Del Potro won in Rotterdam last week, but he could face a really tough challenge in the Second Round where he could face Michael Llodra, the player he beat in the Final last season and one who has won this event previously too.

Richard Gasquet could have to beat Gael Monfils and Janko Tipsarevic to reach the Semi Final, while Tomas Berdych has a potentially awkward first match here against Ernests Gulbis.

With the doubts on the other contenders and the paths they have to take, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looks the call here.

ATP Memphis
This tournament is actually a ATP 500 event so it is very important for those players wanting to improve their Rankings by picking up big points. The player who looks like he can finally win the event here is Milos Raonic, who has reached the Final two years in a row before falling just a little short.

Raonic is competing in the Final at San Jose as I write this, but that has been his normal route on the Main Tour over the last couple of seasons and hasn't prevented him reaching the Final here. He is playing Tommy Haas in the San Jose Final and could face the veteran German again here in the Quarter Final, while another obvious danger is John Isner.

However, Isner hasn't been in great form to open 2013 and he has a couple of really tough matches to get through if he is going to face Raonic in the Semi Final here and the big-serving Canadian does look the pick of the bottom half.

The second favourite at the event is Marin Cilic, but he could face the defending Champion, Jurgen Melzer, in the Second Round as he makes his debut in Memphis.

With the likes of Sam Querrey and Alexandr Dolgopolov also in the top half of the draw, it might not be plain sailing for Cilic and so I'll have a small interest in Milos Raonic taking home the title after coming so close in the last two seasons.

ATP Buenos Aires
Rafael Nadal is not playing in Argentina this week having won his first title on his return in Brazil on Sunday and that means David Ferrer is the number 1 seed here and also the clear favourite to win the title, something I can't find a reason to disagree with.

Ferrer will potentially have a huge Second Round clash with either David Nalbandian or Carlos Berlocq, but he should be too consistent for both of those players at this stage of their careers and I like the Spaniard to go all the way and defend his title from a season ago.

There are potential dangers in Thomaz Bellucci and Horacio Zeballos in the top half of the draw, but I would like David Ferrer's chances against either of those players and he does look the best player in the draw.

Who Ferrer could play in the Final is a little more unclear but I wouldn't be surprised if we see a repeat Semi Final from twelve months ago when Nicolas Almagro and Stanislas Wawrinka met. Both of those players could meet again this year, although picking a winner is a little more difficult from that match up and so I'll stick with Ferrer to win this event.

I am not making any outright picks from the WTA events being held in Memphis and Dubai this week- the tournament in Memphis looks fairly open, while the top two seeds in Dubai, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, are clearly the leading contenders to win that tournament. However, you just don't know how they are feeling after a tough Final they contested against one another in Doha and so I would want a watching brief.

Therefore, the three outright picks from each of the ATP events taking place this week are my only outright picks.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ 5.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Milos Raonic @ 4.33 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
David Ferrer @ 2.10 Bet 365 (2 Units)

Daily Picks: 11-9, + 5.58 Units (38 Units Staked, + 14.68% Yield)
Outright Picks: 1-1, + 4 Units (4 Units Staked, + 100% Yield)

Season 2013+ 16.93 Units (196 Units Staked, + 8.64% Yield)

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

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Tennis Picks (February 16th)

It was a very productive day yesterday as all four picks I made came through to the winner's enclosure and turned around what had been a pretty poor week up until that point.

While that was a welcome change in fortunes, the surprise exit of Roger Federer has opened the door for Juan Martin Del Potro in Rotterdam, the outright pick I had made at the start of the week. The Argentine is now the favourite to win the event, although he will have to be careful against Grigor Dimitrov today in the Semi Final.

Other good news was David Nalbandian fighting through to the Semi Final in Sao Paulo after being Nicolas Almagro in three tough sets. Everyone who reads this will know that Nalbandian is my favourite player of the last few years and this win will ensure he will not be dropping out of the top 100 and he should also be making his way up the Rankings.

Another win today would be very good and would make up for the points he lost at Queens last season when his points were taken away for the default he suffered in the Final.

It is Semi Final day today in all the events around the World and the draws for the next tournaments will also be released at some point during the course of the day so it is a busy day. Here are my picks:

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: Juan Martin Del Potro has made pretty serene progress through the week so far and I am liking him to get through this Semi Final against Grigor Dimitrov, a player that has been forced to win a couple of deciders already including in the Quarter Final against Marcos Baghdatis yesterday.

Dimitrov has been impressive and there are definite signs that the young Bulgarian is going to make a serious move up the Rankings, but I saw a couple of signs from his match with Baghdatis that suggests he will not quite be good enough against Del Potro in this one.

I still think Dimitrov is not pro-active enough when he has the advantage in rallies and he also seems to go through phases where he is not picking the correct shot, all elements that come with experience and physical maturity. Facing someone who hits as big as Del Potro can and the consistency the Argentine can play with might be a little too hard for Dimitrov to break down in this one and I think it will be Del Potro who creates the more break point opportunities.

Del Potro should have the edge in most aspects of this match and I can see him getting away from Dimitrov after what is likely to be a tough opening set.

Gilles Simon v Julien Benneteau: I am a little surprised that Gilles Simon is considered the underdog in this contest and am of the belief that it could be down to the fact that Julien Benneteau beat Roger Federer last night.

It was an impressive performance from Benneteau and one I didn't think was coming after the easy progress Federer had made through the draw at that stage. However, maybe Benneteau has something intangible when he plays the former World Number 1 having beaten him on the indoor courts in Paris a few years ago and having a two set lead at Wimbledon last season before succumbing in five sets.

Benneteau has certainly made some waves early in the 2013 calender with this being his second Semi Final of the season and he does hold a solid 10-4 record, but it will be interesting to see how he can build on his big win from last night.

Facing Gilles Simon, who was up late in a three set win, is not an easy match up for Benneteau as his compatriot certainly can make him play one more ball than he may like and force errors from the Benneteau game.

Simon has the stamina to take Benneteau into the deep waters in this one and while he isn't the player he was four years ago, he still has enough about him to think he can make the underdog status pay in this one. It has been a good start to 2013 for Simon too and he does hold the 4-2 head to head record, despite losing their last meeting in Australia last season.

I'm guessing this will be close, but Simon to do enough to come through in 3 sets is my call.

Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: Victoria Azarenka may have lost her position as World Number 1, but she will feel she can still prove a lot by retaining her title from twelve months ago and I expect her to be fully focused on this match.

Azarenka has a big 12-3 lead in the head to head with Agnieszka Radwanska and I am expecting her to continue her recent dominance of the Pole against whom she has won 10 sets in a row, mainly in devastatingly easy fashion.

The problem in this match up for Radwanska is Azarenka's consistency off the ground, an area that Radwanska can exploit against 99% of players on the WTA Tour. With Azarenka not making mistakes, it forces Radwanska to push a little more with her own shots, while Azarenka also has the heavier shots allowing her to dictate the tempo of the match.

Both are in excellent form, but Azarenka has the confidence of having won here before and also from her Australian Open win and I think she will be able to come through with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

Serena Williams - 4.5 games v Maria Sharapova: These two players clearly don't have a lot of time for one another and there is definitely an edge when they play one another- another interesting element is the fact that Maria Sharapova is dating Grigor Dimitrov, a person who was romantically linked to Serena Williams just six months ago.

Serena came through a tough battle with Petra Kvitova last night and I do wonder if that was down to the fact that if she won, she would become the oldest Women's World Number 1 in history and whether achieving that goal had made her tentative and a little too emotional.

I don't expect the same today and think Serena will be a lot more focused on this match against an opponent that hasn't beaten her since 2004 and against whom Williams has won 9 matches in a row.

Most of the recent battles have been very one sided in favour of Williams and I don't know what Sharapova will change in her game plan to turn things around in her favour. The Russian believes her 'A' game can beat anyone so I think she will come out and play as she always does and I believe Serena will be a little too strong for her and a little too consistent.

The last four Williams wins have been extremely one sided and I have a feeling this could end up going the same way.

Sam Querrey v Milos Raonic: I am going to take a small interest in the American to surprise Milos Raonic in this one and move through to the Final as the underdog in this Semi Final.

Sam Querrey has the serve that can win him a lot of cheap points in this match and while Raonic will do the same, this is clearly a match that could be decided by literally one or two points per set.

Querrey has the 2-0 head to head record against Raonic and that mental edge could prove to be the difference, especially as both wins came last season including indoors at the Paris Masters in November. However, the statistics from their matches show there isn't a lot between them and that makes me wonder why Querrey is the big underdog in this one.

I am aware that Raonic has owned this tournament with back to back wins in the last couple of seasons, but Querrey looks under-rated and may just pay off backing the dog.

MY PICKS: Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Gilles Simon @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 4.5 Games @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sam Querrey @ 2.63 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Weekly Update: 8-7, + 2.54 Units (29 Units Staked, 8.76% Yield)