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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Australian Open Day 5 Picks 2015 (January 23rd)

The big match between Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka was played in the night session on Thursday and it was the former World Number 1 Azarenka who earned her place in the Third Round. Azarenka is unseeded here this year, but the Australian Open has been her favourite Grand Slam tournament and a win over Wozniacki is actually very impressive considering the form of the latter over the last six months which has propelled her back into the top ten of the World Rankings.

Azarenka is definitely on the road back up the Rankings after injury adversely affected the 2014 season for her and she went into the tournament as one of the dangerous floaters in the draw that could do some real damage. However, the negative of going into the tournament unseeded is that Azarenka has been given one of the toughest draws out there and it won't get easier just because she has knocked out the highest Seed in her section of the draw.

Can Azarenka win the tournament? I still think that is a big ask considering the talent of players she is going to have to beat in consecutive Rounds, but a Quarter Final, or perhaps a Semi Final, would be a successful tournament. It does also give her the confidence to take into the rest of the season as Azarenka looks to return to prominence on the WTA Tour after missing as much of 2014 as she did.

Thursday also looks like it could have potentially been Lleyton Hewitt's last appearance at the Australian Open after the veteran let a two set lead slip in his defeat to Benjamin Becker. Hewitt only lost three games in the first two sets, but couldn't maintain the form he showed early in the match, although he didn't announce a retirement as of writing.

However, Hewitt mentioned the Davis Cup being the next big tournament which suggests he wants to continue, but the Australian team has been freshened up during this Grand Slam and his place in the Davis Cup is definitely not secured. If Hewitt is left out of the Australia team, he certainly may begin to think this is the final season of his long career, although I am leaning towards him playing one more Australian swing in twelve months before calling it a day.

Day 4 was a fairly quiet one when it came to surprises as the majority of the players expected to move through to the Third Round managed to do just that. The biggest surprise was Roberto Bautista-Agut going out to Gilles Muller on one of the outside courts, but generally it was a day when all the favoured players earned their place in the Third Round.

I can't complain too much with a fourth straight day where the picks came back as winners, but it could have been an even better day if Hewitt had held on to his two set lead against Becker. Feliciano Lopez did go through in very fortunate fashion, but Boyle Sports void when matches are not completed so the Adrian Mannarino injury that saw him withdraw in the fourth set was not good for him or me.

Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: Marcos Baghdatis is loved in Melbourne and is bound to attract a large amount of supporters for his Third Round match against Grigor Dimitrov. Baghdatis won't be short of confidence having seen off David Goffin in four impressive sets in the Second Round, but this is also another step up in class and a gap that I don't think the Cypriot will be able to bridge.

As well as Baghdatis has played in the first two Rounds here, this is a different level of challenge and I think Grigor Dimitrov is going to be proved too good.

Dimitrov has been very comfortable in the tournament so far, but I think the belief is also there that he expects to be performing at the business end of every event he enters now. The Bulgarian will have plenty of supporters in this Third Round match too, while he has dismissed the challenge of Baghdatis the last two times these players have shared a court.

There is no doubt that the first couple of sets could be highly competitive if Baghdatis is serving well, but I expect Dimitrov's superior fitness and confidence to come through in a tough 76, 64, 63 win.

Richard Gasquet - 3.5 games v Kevin Anderson: Kevin Anderson may be the higher Seed in the draw, but Richard Gasquet is a player that I expect will get the better of the big South African in a good looking Third Round match.

Both players have been comfortable in the earlier Rounds, but I think Gasquet can nullify the Anderson serve to some extent in this one and I would expect the Frenchman to win enough of the rallies from the baseline to take control of the match.

There will be times that Anderson will get through his service games very quickly and Gasquet has to avoid the frustration creeping into his mind which may lead to errors in his own service games. However, I think Gasquet has enough experience playing Anderson that he should go into the match knowing what to expect and I believe he will win key points to move into the Fourth Round.

I don't think this will be a straight-forward win for Gasquet but I do think he comes through 64, 67, 64, 76.

Rafael Nadal - 7.5 games v Dudi Sela: Rafael Nadal had to dig deep within himself to beat Tim Smyczek in the Second Round as he recovered from being 2-1 down in sets as well as stomach cramps to avoid the upset. That win might be exactly what Nadal needs to build the confidence levels that he had been lacking going into the Australian Open and the Spaniard now becomes a threat to win the whole tournament.

He has admitted that he is feeling a lot better on Thursday and Nadal also has the benefit of playing in the night session- that means extra recovery time for this Third Round match, while also avoiding to play in the heat of the day.

The match with Dudi Sela should see some long rallies, but it is going to be tough for Sela to match the firepower that will be coming from the other side of the court. Sela has had to battle hard to come through the first couple of Rounds here but I think it will be tough to do that against a Nadal who has had a scare and should be that much more focused now.

After some entertainment for the fans in attendance, Nadal to come through 62, 63, 63 for me.

Julia Goerges - 3.5 games v Lucie Hradecka: It has already been a very strong tournament for Lucie Hradecka, but she won't want it to come to an end in the Third Round after qualifying for the Singles draw and then knocking out Ana Ivanovic. Hradecka has done things the tough way too with wins in the first two Rounds despite going a set down.

That means three of her five wins over the last seven days have all come by three sets and I do wonder if that will eventually lead to fatigue.

Julia Goerges has shown signs of recovering her form having suffered an alarming dip in the World Rankings over the last couple of years and she has put together two impressive wins. There are still some erratic moments in her game that will give Hradecka chances, but Goerges has limited those moments over the last couple of games and in her run in Auckland.

Goerges actually beat Hradecka in Auckland after taking advantage of the latter's run of matches that had seen her qualify and come through the First Round with a lot of tennis under her legs. That also means the German has won 4 of the previous 5 meetings between these players and I like Goerges to come through with a tough 64, 75 win.

Simona Halep - 6.5 games v Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Simona Halep has played like one of the favourites to win the Australian Open, but she will be tested by Bethanie Mattek-Sands in this Third Round match. However, Halep should have too much consistency for the American in this match and I expect that to help the end result for the World Number 3.

Mattek-Sands is a fun character, but she can be a little inconsistent on the tennis court- there are times she plays with a lot of heart and determination which makes her a threat, but finding the consistent form to knock off someone as good as Halep is asking a lot.

And it has to be said that Halep has been in impressive, no nonsense form since the start of the season. In fact, aside from her first match of the season, Halep has won 6 straight matches where she hasn't given up more than six games in a match.

Bringing that sort of belief into this tournament has helped Halep become one of the favourites to take home the first Slam of the season and I think she outworks Mattek-Sands in a 63, 62 win.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 7.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Julia Goerges - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 18-9, + 14.58 Units (54 Units Staked, + 27% Yield)

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