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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2014 (March 8th)

So the first big casualty of the tournament, on either the men's or women's draw was Victoria Azarenka as she was beaten in straight sets by Lauren Davis on Friday evening. It was a surprise that Azarenka lost that match, but I am also aware of the long lay-off she has had from the Tour and so the bigger surprise may have been the fact that she had been set as the favourite here this week.

The defeat has opened up the bottom half of the draw and has meant all players prices in that section have been cut, including my pick of Caroline Wozniacki whose price is now half of what it was at the start of the week as she moved through to the Third Round.

Saturday is the beginning of the ATP tournament for real as the big names are now entering the draw and the television cameras are officially at the event. With the top half of the draw containing some of the best players in the world, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka will all be in action on a packed day of tennis.

Off the court, it was interesting to hear Maria Sharapova's comments regarding the men's Grand Slam tennis and the fact that they should not be asked to play best of five. As much as I respect her as a competitor, I can't help but think Sharapova is wide of the mark and Andy Murray was correct to point out that Slams need to be earned in a much different way than regular tournaments.

Of course you have to play seven matches in a Slam which already makes it a different tournament to most, but it wouldn't feel different than a Masters for players who are not seeded and I think the Slams should offer a test that is not seen through the year.

It is physically and mentally gruelling to win those Slams, but reducing the number of sets doesn't feel right to me and I will still maintain that women's tennis should still be thinking about extending the number of sets they compete at the Majors.

Finally, you have to wish Elena Baltacha well after she was diagnosed with liver cancer- hopefully that is something that has been caught in early enough stages for her to make a full recovery, even if I was a bit surprised she felt the need to make a statement about it.

Ross Hutchins case was different as a player that was still competing on the Tour, but it is what is and I do hope she gets through this time.

It was a better day for the picks yesterday as they went 3-2, although it would have only taken one more hold from Agnieszka Radwanska in the second set to see her cover that spread and I was vastly disappointed with the Elena Vesnina collapse in the final set against Annika Beck.

Lleyton Hewitt + 1.5 sets v Kevin Anderson: He may not be the force of old and he may have struggled through the First Round match and he did have to retire in Delray Beach a couple of weeks ago, but Lleyton Hewitt continues to give big servers plenty of problems.

That has been the case through the years, bar Ivo Karlovic who is the exception that proves the rule, and I expect he should be able to push Kevin Anderson in this one even if he doesn't have enough to win the match.

Anderson has been in good form himself, but he has been forced to go the distance in 5 of his last 8 completed matches and I do think the conditions will help the Australian push him here too.

They have met once before which resulted in an Anderson win, albeit in three sets and I like Hewitt to come through.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Lukas Rosol: Lukas Rosol will always be remembered for his performance at Wimbledon when he beat Rafael Nadal under the roof in a five setter, but he has struggled against the top players since then.

He was beaten comfortably by Roger Federer in Dubai a couple of weeks ago and, despite having a decent serve, finds himself breaks of serve down far too often.

The conditions may not favour Rosol's play either as he can hit the ball a little too flat and it may see the ball fly through the desert air, while the actual court speed may also make it tough for him to hit through Andy Murray.

It has been a tough start to the season for Murray returning from the back surgery, but he should still be too good for Rosol. He has to serve better than he did in Acapulco, but I think he will like the conditions at Indian Wells and come through 63, 63.

Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 games v Monica Niculescu: One of the more bizarre players to watch on the WTA Tour is Monica Niculescu who uses a lot of variation in her game that can bamboozle opponents, although I still think Ekaterina Makarova has the advantage of having played her recently.

That should at least help her formulate a game plan, although the players on this Tour can be guilty of just hitting the ball harder than really thinking about a strategy.

The match they played at the Australian Open saw a lot of breaks of serve and I imagine this one will go the same way, but there just seems to be a little more power that can produce winning tennis on the Russian side of the court.

Makarova can be a little erratic with her performances which can hurt in terms of a number of games to cover, but I think she will find a 64, 64.

Julia Goerges + 5.5 games v Maria Sharapova: It was interesting to see what the lay off had done for Victoria Azarenka, but that came through injury, so how will Maria Sharapova react to her time off for commentating duty at the Winter Olympics?

I don't know how much tennis she would have played during that time in Sochi, so a match against Julia Goerges should present problems, especially if their past matches are anything to go by.

The German has the power behind serve to at least earn the short ball and keep Sharapova penned back, while she can 'get hot' on the court and produce unplayable tennis.

If Goerges can bring that to the court in this evening clash, she may at least push Sharapova to the extent that it is a very competitive match even if she cannot take at least a set.

MY PICKS: Lleyton Hewitt + 1.5 Sets @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Julia Goerges + 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 6-5, + 1.34 Units (22 Units Staked, + 6.09% Yield)

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