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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (February 20th)

There have been some mixed performances through the first three days of the week, but I can't complain too much against fortune or bad luck as it has been fairly even both ways.

The only other positive is that the outright picks I have made at the start of the week are all intact at the moment, even if we are still to reach the Quarter Finals in Marseille or Delray Beach.

Edouard Roger-Vasselin - 2.5 games v Sergiy Stakhovsky: For as long as he plays tennis and beyond, Sergiy Stakhovsky will be known as the man who beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon, but he has rarely performed to that level again.

Both of these players had to come through tough First Round matches against players who qualified for the main draw, but I think the edge in the match will be with the Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Roger-Vasselin has dominated the head to head between these players and has also shown a little more form in 2014, while the home support will likely inspire him to come through the match.

I have seen Stakhovsky really perform on the indoor hard courts, including winning a title on the surface in the past, but he has suffered some disappointing defeats this season and I am not sure he would be able to recover from losing the first set as he did against Daniel Evans in the First Round. Roger-Vasselin beat him 75, 75 in St Petersburg at the end of last season and something similar wouldn't be a big surprise to me.

Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: Ernests Gulbis must have been glad to see the organisers give him a few days off from his exploits in Rotterdam as he plays his first match here in Marseille, although the real hope is that he hasn't lost some form that he was displaying a week ago.

If Gulbis serves as well as he did last week, he is going to be very tough to stop this week and I think he can get off to a strong start against Roberto Bautista-Agut.

The Spaniard is coming off a career year in 2013 which saw him open 2014 as one of the Davis Cup members for his country, but he hasn't had a lot of tennis since the Australian Open and didn't enjoy a lot of success on the indoor hard courts last season.

That included a thumping at the hands of Gulbis in St Petersburg on the way to the latter winning the title- I would expect this to be closer but the Latvian to come through 64, 64.

Michael Llodra - 1.5 games v Andreas Seppi: Michael Llodra may have lost the last two times he has come across Andreas Seppi, but he picked up a morale boosting win in the First Round and may be able to knock off the seeded Italian in this match.

While the win would give Llodra a boost, Seppi has lost 7 of the 8 matches he has played in 2014 and he was also just 3-6 on the indoor hard courts last season.

The courts do favour the serve-volley tactics that Llodra will look to employ and I do think the Seppi serve is a little vulnerable as it does sit up and can be attacked. If Llodra finds a way to force his opponent backward, he won't hesitate to get to the net and use his volleying skills to keep the pressure on Seppi.

So far this season, Seppi just hasn't looked right on the court and I think Llodra will be able to come through and reach the Quarter Final.

Venus Williams - 2.5 games v Flavia Pennetta: It is quite interesting to note that Venus Williams does not have a winning record against Flavia Pennetta with the latter leading 4-3 in the head to head even though they haven't played one another since August 2009.

The Italian does have a lot of variety in her game that perhaps makes it a little more difficult for Williams when she gets into the net, but it is still surprising to see that statistic. I would favour Williams behind her serve and would expect her to do some damage against the Pennetta serve too so I do think the older Williams sister can come through the match.

She will have to serve as well as she did in her win over Ana Ivanovic as Pennetta will be in confident mood with a run through the qualifiers and then beating Agnieszka Radwanska, the current World Number 3, in straight sets.

If Williams can serve well, that pressure may build on Pennetta and help the American reach the Semi Final, and extend her winning run in Dubai, with a 64, 64 win.

Sorana Cirstea + 3.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: Any kind of performance that resembles the one we saw on Wednesday from Caroline Wozniacki will give Sorana Cirstea a real chance of springing the surprise outright in this match.

I think it is going to be competitive because Cirstea has a decent serve and will also have the power off the ground to trouble Wozniacki if the latter can't find the bite that hurt Sabine Lisicki in the final two sets they played a couple of days ago.

A better player than Annika Beck would have beaten Wozniacki in the last Round, while Cirstea should have the belief that comes with winning their last match against one another as well as pushing the former World Number 1 on other occasions.

Cirstea has to keep her concentration, but I think she can win at least one set which should give her a chance to cover the spread with the games in hand even in a losing effort.

Alexander Dolgopolov - 4.5 games v Facunda Bagnis: He might have been on my 'blacklist' for over twelve months now, but finally I feel it may be the right time to back Alexandr Dolgopolov to come through this Second Round match.

While he plays some interesting tennis and is fun to watch, Dolgopolov is extremely inconsistent and I have never had the feeling that tennis means everything to him. He should be far higher up the Rankings than his current position of 54, although it represents the inconsistencies he brings to the court.

Dolgopolov seems to drop serve out of nowhere at times and that is a concern for spreads as high as this, but he is playing a player in Facunda Bagnis who is not used to the ATP main draw level and who has a lot of tennis in his legs.

Bagnis had to come through the qualifiers and has won all three of his matches this week after going the distance and that can eventually wear on any player. That should especially be the case for a young player that may not be expecting the level he will face on the main Tour and I think Dolgopolov comes through 62, 46, 63.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Albert Montanes: Rafael Nadal had a more difficult match in the First Round than some may have expected, but being the first match back on the clay meant adjustments and I expect a more dominating win this time around.

We all know how good Nadal is on the clay courts and I think it is a big ask for Albert Montanes to find 6 games to take off him at this stage of his career.

Montanes ended a long losing streak with a win over Robin Haase in the First Round, but the competition is ramped up in this one and he has struggled for games the last two times he has met his famous compatriot.

Barring some bad bounces of the ball, Nadal should win this one 63, 61.

Albert Ramos - 3.5 games v Joao Sousa: I will admit that I got Albert Ramos all wrong in the last Round and I think he is going to be a little too effective for Joao Sousa in this Second Round match too.

He has dominated Sousa in their previous three matches and he has the bigger serve in the match which can help him set up the rallies in his favour.

On the other hand, Sousa is going to have to work hard to protect serve and he did struggle over the last twelve months to have a real impact on the main Tour, even on the favoured clay courts.

The first set is likely to be critical, but if Ramos can take that, I think he can come through 75, 63.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Ryan Harrison: I think Ryan Harrison has to be considered a disappointment to this point of his career as he looked to be getting ready to make a step up on the Tour and take over the mantle of men's American tennis, but he has fallen back somewhat.

Whether that was down to the pressure of expectation, or just a natural 'hitting the wall' for a young player is yet to be seen, while this match presents a very difficult challenge for him.

That is because Marin Cilic is in as good form as anyone at the moment with back to back Finals over the last two weeks and comfortably beating Benjamin Becker in his first match here.

His return of serve is vastly under-rated and actually has made life easy for Cilic, especially as his own serve is effective, and that is the extra pressure he is putting on opponents. With the way Cilic has been returning, Harrison is going to be under pressure and I do think the Croatian will find a couple of breaks of serve in one set and that should stand him in good stead to win and cover.

MY PICKS: Edouard Roger-Vasselin - 2.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Ernests Gulbis - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Michael Llodra - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sorana Cirstea + 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Albert Ramos - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-8, - 2.49 Units (30 Units Staked, - 8.3% Yield)

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