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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2014 (March 11th)

Well, well, well, I will admit that I didn't see Rafael Nadal going out of the tournament yesterday and it almost makes it worth losing one pick as it certainly shortens the odds on Novak Djokovic winning the event, who is my main outright pick of the week.

It was a surprising result for Nadal considering how well he has dominated Alexandr Dolgopolov in the past, but the Spaniard missed the chances he had especially when you consider he was twice with a break advantage in the first set but still lost it 63.

A lot of people may also automatically think that the back must have been bothering Nadal, but Dolgopolov played very well and made a lot of decent shots, while also riding his luck a little.

That also means the top half of the draw has been opened up- the likes of Andy Murray and Roger Federer will feel they can take advantage, but it is Stanislas Wawrinka who has looked the most comfortable so far. He is clearly playing with a lot of confidence having won the Australian Open and will be extremely tough to stop if he maintains the form he has shown in dismissing Ivo Karlovic and Andreas Seppi.

There was also another surprise in the women's event as Maria Sharapova became the latest casualty in the draw. The Russian was outplayed by Camila Giorgi in large parts of their match and I think the young Italian is really beginning to make a statement on the Tour and could be someone to keep an eye on over the next few months.

Giorgi hits the ball hard and consistently off both wings and has a surprisingly decent serve considering she is 'short' when it comes to tennis players at 5 foot 6 inches.

Being able to match what was coming from Sharapova's side of the court can only bode well for her going forward as long as she keeps her head straight.

It was another result that I appreciated having backed Na Li at the start of the tournament and seeing the favourite (Victoria Azarenka) and the third favourite (Sharapova) exiting the draw will strengthen her chances of winning. However, nothing is set in stone and Li is always capable of throwing in a real stinking performance so there is a lot more tennis to be played before anyone is picking up the title.

Jarkko Nieminen + 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: It was another special performance from the Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut that saw him beat another top ten player during the 2014 season as he knocked off Tomas Berdych in the Second Round.

He followed up his win over Juan Martin Del Potro at the Australian Open by crushing Benoit Paire, but I am expecting Jarkko Nieminen to cause him more problems in this Third Round match.

Nieminen is a veteran that is likely to slip out of the top 50 by the end of the season, but the fact that he is left-handed will cause some problems even if he doesn't have the biggest serve on Tour. He is still capable of returning decently and forcing opponents to make mistakes and he will have chances to take at least a set in this match.

It will be a gruelling match for both players that should see plenty of break point opportunities and the match has a real chance of going into a deciding set. That could make this number of games critical in favour of the Finn and I believe he will stay within the number, even in a losing effort.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Tommy Robredo: I really like the way Marin Cilic is playing at the moment and I think he can ride the crest of a wave and knock off the veteran Tommy Robredo in this Third Round match.

With the help of a former Wimbledon winner in Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic has become more aggressive behind his serve which is helping him a lot. Now he is earning those aces and cheap points that a player of his size should be winning and that will put the pressure on Robredo in the match.

I hate underestimating someone as grizzled as Robredo, especially as he has shown a lot of heart and determination over the last twelve months to move up the Rankings and win matches from seemingly impossible positions (the run at the French Open really springs to mind).

Robredo serves pretty effectively and the courts should be to his liking, but Cilic is in imperious form and I like the Croatian coming through 64, 64.

Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 games v Richard Gasquet: They played a tight match in Paris at the end of last season and I wouldn't be surprised if this is another one that follows a similar path.

Fernando Verdasco is certainly not the player of three/four years ago and is enjoying considerably more success as a Doubles player these days, but he still has the game that can cause immense problems for those not quite at the top of their game.

I have a feeling that Richard Gasquet could be a little undercooked for a tough Third Round match having been the beneficiary of a retirement in the last Round. The Frenchman has certainly improved, in my opinion, over the last twelve months, but he has had a slow start to 2014 from what may have been expected.

Someone like Verdasco can cause enough problems to steal a set and although he can sometimes fall apart in losing efforts, I think the match up is a decent one on a court that should suit the Spaniard.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: I must need my head tested for backing Feliciano Lopez again this week, but the Spaniard is generally under-rated by the layers because of his poor returning statistics.

However, I expect he will get a fair bit of help from Mikhail Kukushkin who can produce a rash of errors to give away sets and that is where I think Lopez will come out on top.

The courts are perhaps a bit slow for the Lopez serve-volley combination, but he is getting enough bite out of the serve to earn cheap points. If Kukushkin plays as he does usually, he too will get a few cheap points behind the first serve, but he can't produce through the longer rallies and I expect the Lopez slice to cause some problems.

Lopez has beaten Kukushkin twice in the past, including earlier this season and I think he will have enough to come through 76, 64.

Flavia Pennetta - 1.5 games v Camila Giorgi: The battle of a couple of Italians in the Fourth Round could be a very entertaining match to watch, but I am looking for Flavia Pennetta to earn her revenge over Camila Giorgi having been beaten in their sole previous match.

That came at Wimbledon a couple of years ago and it was fairly comfortable for the younger player... However, Giorgi has to prove she can back up a huge win by finding her way through her next match, something she has struggled with over the last twelve months.

Giorgi has won a match as a fairly substantial underdog five times in the past year but has been beaten in her next match every time and it is going to be tough for her to come back down to earth with no days to rest since beating Maria Sharapova.

There is no doubt in my mind that Giorgi is a potential star on the Tour, but Pennetta is playing well and may be able to expose any fatigue that may be lingering for her younger compatriot.

Na Li - 5.5 games v Aleksandra Wozniak: Na Li has made it through comfortably in the last two Rounds of the draw here in Indian Wells and I think she will have a little too much for the Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in this Fourth Round match.

Li has admitted there are areas of her game that she needs to improve if she is to take the title home at the end of the week, but I think Wozniak will give her the opportunity to find her rhythm.

As well as Wozniak has done to reach the Fourth Round here, Li is a big step up in class and I think it will be tough for the World Number 241 to win more than 6 games in the match.

She will make a big jump up the Rankings at the end of the week so Wozniak has some positives to take from Indian Wells, but I like Li to win this one 64, 62.

MY PICKS: Jarkko Nieminen + 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Flavia Pennetta - 1.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Na Li - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 14-13, + 0.26 Units (54 Units Staked, + 0.05% Yield)

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