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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Miami Tennis Outright Picks 2014 (March 17-30)

This is the part of the season where we see a quick turnaround from the first Masters/Premier Event to the second as the Tour moves from California to Florida. Indian Wells is usually the more 'surprising' event of the two and I expect Miami to have a more familiar feel come the end of the week.

It is another important event for the top players and the returning Serena Williams gives the WTA draw a real favourite after the Flavia Pennetta win last week in an open draw. Victoria Azarenka is not going to take part this week, but I believe Serena Williams is the player that really gives the women's draw legitimacy.

The men's draw has turned upside down this week too with the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Murray placed in Novak Djokovic's side of the draw instead of with Rafael Nadal like last week.

It should be another decent week of tennis, the last before the clay court season kicks off on the road to the French Open. The picks also had another nice week and keeps the season profit ticking along in the right direction.

WTA Premier Event Draw
As I said above, the return of Serena Williams has given the women's draw a real favourite and the way the names have come out suggests she is the right choice to win the tournament having done so twelve months ago.

My biggest concern for Williams is some of the stories suggesting all is not well in her personal relationship with Patrick Mouratoglou and that can have an effect on any player on the Tour when they are not comfortable off the court. It may also be the reason that Serena has failed to win the last two tournaments she has entered as she tries to match the high standards set in 2013.

When you look at the players in this half of the draw, some would perhaps make a case for the likes of Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Flavia Pennetta, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber but it would be a real surprise if any of those find themselves too good for Serena Williams before the Final.

Ivanovic may be in the best position to do so, but she is so inconsistent that it would take a brave person to pick the Serbian former World Number 1 to reach any potential Semi Final against Williams.

The other players are either returning from lay offs, have struggled for their own consistency or are coming off a long week to think they can beat a fresh Williams before the Final.

The bottom half of the draw is interesting, although I would run a line through Agnieszka Radwanska immediately after she was struggling with an injury by the end of the tournament in Indian Wells.

Venus Williams showed some real form in winning the tournament in Dubai and will have her backers, but she is in the same mini-section as the likes of Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova and the feeling for me is that the player coming out of it could have something taken out of their legs.

Eugenie Bouchard is an interesting player to keep an eye on, but I still want to see how she responds to her run in Australia and a new found attention on her game before I think of her as a potential winner at these Premier Events.

Na Li is another that has to perform much better than she did in Indian Wells despite reaching the Semi Final there and so someone like Jelena Jankovic could make an interesting choice to come out of the bottom section.

Jankovic has been playing well for the better part of twelve months now and has landed in a decent portion of the draw that could see her go deep into the tournament. She will likely have to close out a couple of tough matches to reach the Final, including a likely Quarter Final against the Australian Open Champion Li, but she can certainly surprise a few with a decent run again this week.

ATP Masters Draw
After a disappointing early exit at Indian Wells, Rafael Nadal has a few more questions to answer about his back and how healthy that is following the Australian Open. The World Number 1 himself refuses to answer those now and I think he will be very happy with the draw in Miami as he looks to win the tournament here for the first time.

Last week, Nadal had the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in his side of the draw, but the first two of those players won't be seen until the Final, while Wawrinka has admitted he isn't feeling great mentally.

Juan Martin Del Potro is still not over his wrist issues and while there is a chance that someone like Milos Raonic serves through Nadal, you have to like the Spaniard's chances this week to reach the Final here at least.

There are other dangers lower down in his half of the draw, but Nadal has a strong record against Tomas Berdych and might see Marin Cilic run out of gas by the time we reach the Semi Final despite how well the Croatian has been playing. John Isner is another obvious danger with the way he serves and having a strong run in Indian Wells that pushed him into the Top Ten of the World Rankings, but Nadal can certainly show his doubters that he is ready for a strong clay court campaign by displaying some of his best tennis here.

I can imagine there will be a few backers of Novak Djokovic looking for him to complete the Masters double here in Miami, but he has a brutal draw and that would really worry me- he will likely have to beat Ernests Gulbis, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in consecutive matches just to reach the Final and I am not convinced his confidence is fully restored just yet.

That could have been shown by his failure to serve out the match twice against John Isner in the Semi Final last week and also once in the Final against Roger Federer and there is a real chance that Djokovic is surprised before the Final.

Instead of worrying about his quarter of the draw, the top quarter looks like one that Roger Federer will enjoy, especially if he continues playing at the level that he has started 2014 in.

You can't tell how some of the older players will produce from week to week, but Federer is about as fit as they come even if he has lost a slight step in getting around the court. He was serving brilliantly to end the week at Indian Wells and his aggressive brand of tennis should be successful in Miami.

Federer's route to any potential Semi Final looks less fraught with danger than Djokovic's and I think he is playing well enough to see off Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov who are likely to be the big threats in his section. The former World Number 1 could then be picking the bones of whoever comes out of the Fourth Quarter and Federer has a strong chance of making his third Final in a row, although he is probably hoping that anyone but Rafael Nadal is waiting for him at that moment.

It sounds boring with some of the surprise Finalists we have seen already in 2014, but I went with the bigger priced outsiders last week and at the end of the day it is about finding the right Finalists/Winners. With the way the draw has gone down, I am backing the favourite from the WTA draw, but am using two players against the favourite in the ATP draw.

MY PICKS: Serena Williams @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (3 Units)
Jelena Jankovic @ 26.00 Sky Bet (0.5 Units E/W)
Rafael Nadal @ 3.75 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roger Federer @ 7.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit E/W)

Weekly Picks26-20, + 8.10 Units (92 Units Staked, + 8.8% Yield)
Outright Picks: 1-3, + 2 Units (7 Units Staked, + 28.57% Yield)

Season 2014+ 37.54 Units (463 Units Staked, + 8.11% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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