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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

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)

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