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Friday, 13 February 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (February 13th)

It would have been a really good day on Thursday if I had steered clear of the tournament in Sao Paulo where I went 0-3, especially as I was 4-0 everywhere else.

As the tournaments have got closer to the end of the week, it does mean that the markets are playing catch up with the matches being set so I will add any picks from the later matches in Antwerp, Sao Paulo and Memphis, if I have any, as soon as those are available.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Gael Monfils: The Quarter Final line up at the tournament in Rotterdam has all of the big names, Grigor Dimitrov aside, that the organisers would have been expecting when they put together their entry list. The first ATP 500 event of the season is an important one for World Ranking points and so the motivation remains high.

Both Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils will believe they can make a considerable move during the 2015 season in terms of their goals- that is Berdych challenging for a Grand Slam title and Gael Monfils perhaps getting close to returning to the top 10.

Berdych is the defending Champion here and is the more consistent of these two players although there are similarities with both producing a very good first serve and being able to follow that up. Monfils can be a little more hesitant when it comes to the aggressive tennis and that may be the difference between these players in this Quarter Final.

I think both will have their success serving early in the match and there is every chance the first set needs to be decided on a tie-break, but I think that is where Berdych's extra aggression on the indoor hard courts leads to a 76, 63 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Gilles Muller: It has been a really good twelve months for Gilles Muller but I think he will have his run ended at the Quarter Final here in Rotterdam by Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss Number 2 was a comfortable winner over Muller when they met in Chennai, although it has to be respected how well Muller can serve. He doesn't have the searing pace of Milos Raonic, but his placement and coming from a lefty means Muller can run through games very quickly.

However, I think Wawrinka's aggressive returns can pay off in this one, especially if he can get his eye in early, while Muller has seemed to tire in Zagreb last week. This will need to be Wawrinka's best performance of the week, but he has worked his way into the tournament and got stronger in his win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the last Round.

Wawrinka can make the scoreboard pressure tell in a 76, 63 win in this one.

Carla Suarez Navarro - 2.5 games v Francesca Schiavone: A dominating performance from Francesca Schiavone over Angelique Kerber in the last Round where she lost just two games seems to have had the market over-rate her chances in this one against Carla Suarez Navarro. It has been a very good week for the veteran Italian who had not won a match all season before coming through the qualifiers and winning two matches in the main draw, but I think Carla Suarez Navarro will be a little too consistent for her.

Suarez Navarro won't dominate this match on power, but she has enough shot-making to keep Schiavone on the move and wear her down in the match. It has been a more difficult path through the draw for the Spaniard after she dropped the opening set in both of her matches played this week, but she has shown plenty of belief which can only serve her well in this match too.

I am expecting some long rallies in this one as both players are decent movers and it won't surprise me to see a number of breaks of serve in both directions, but I think the younger Suarez Navarro will have a little too much in the locker.

This could go three sets, but a 46, 63, 64 win for Suarez Navarro is what I am expecting.

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova - 1.5 games v Mona Barthel: One of the more difficult aspects on the tennis Tour is backing up a widely regarded win from a previous Round and that is what Mona Barthel will need to do after dismissing the challenge of Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday.

Barthel came from a set down to demolish the young Canadian star, but Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is another challenge as the Czech player has produced a lot of quality wins over the last nine months. There is every chance Zahlavova Strycova is going to crack the top 20 in the World Rankings over the next couple of weeks and she has won the last two matches against Barthel which have taken place in the nine month period of improved results.

Both of those matches were fairly comfortable wins for Zahlavova Strycova who works hard on the court and has decent enough movement to make Barthel play plenty of balls.

That can lead to mistakes from Barthel who will be under pressure to back up the win over Bouchard and I just think she may struggle to deal with that in this one. It could potentially be another three setter here, but I do like Zahlavova Strycova's chances of moving through with a 63, 36, 64 win.

Dusan Lajovic - 3.5 games v Luka Vanni: Dusan Lajovic surprised me with his come from behind win over Fernando Verdasco yesterday, but he has a very good chance to take advantage and move into the Semi Final here in Sao Paulo. He meets Luka Vanni, a qualifier who was given a bye in the First Round after Feliciano Lopez' withdrawal moved him to the top of the draw, but also someone that Lajovic beat in straight sets in Quito last week.

Both players do feel comfortable on the clay courts, but the edge will go to Lajovic thanks to more consistent serving, which is always important on the slower courts. Earning the short ball is the key to dictating rallies and Lajovic should be able to do that as long as he isn't overly-exerted from the evening session match with Verdasco.

Luka Vanni is likely to reach a career high in the World Rankings on Monday thanks to his first ever win in a main ATP event and the majority of his success has come at the Futures level. For a 29 year old, that looks a large gap to bridge even if the Italian is very comfortable on the clay courts.

When they met in Quito, Lajovic didn't take his chances to produce a win better than the 76, 64 scoreline it ended up being. I think he might be a little more efficient this time unless Vanni produces a lot of first serves and I like the Serbian to perhaps win this by a game more in a 75, 64 win.

Leonardo Mayer - 3.5 games v Joao Souza: I was watching the Joao Souza win over Martin Klizan last night and tweeted that I would be surprised if he was going to win more than six games against Leonardo Mayer. While I have changed my mind about that since last night, I still think the Argentinian can break Brazilian hearts with a fairly comfortable Quarter Final win.

These players have met four times in the past, all below the ATP level, and it Mayer who has won all four of those matches, although he has needed to go the distance every time. It is a weird trend in their matches which sees Mayer win the first set fairly comfortably, but then lose a second set tie-breaker... That has happened in all four previous matches!

The last of those matches took place three seasons ago and Leonardo Mayer has become much more comfortable competing at a higher level than Souza does. While the Brazilian has two impressive wins this week, Mayer is the most difficult challenge he would have faced and the familiarity with this opponent should aid the higher Ranked player.

Even though Mayer has dropped the second set in all four previous matches against Souza, he has covered this number of games three times and I do think he is the better player. Souza has been inspired by the home support which makes a lot of noise when his opponent makes errors, an issue that can upset the opponent, but Mayer is experienced enough to deal with that. I like Mayer to come through 63, 76.

Fabio Fognini - 2.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: I am not sure how Fabio Fognini ever got to Number 13 in the World Rankings, but you can't doubt what the Italian has done on the clay courts over the last eighteen months. He came through a very difficult Second Round match in three sets and explained that it is tough to make the surface change, so I do expect a more rounded performance in this one.

Fognini will be playing Santiago Giraldo in this Quarter Final and has got the better of the Colombian in 4 of their previous 6 matches, including beating him in their most recent match on clay. However, he was only two games away from a double bagel from this opponent in Barcelona last year before pulling out with an injury, although it wasn't anything long-term as Fognini was back in action a week later and reaching the Final in Munich.

This will be tight Quarter Final where both players should pick up the momentum- the clay courts seem to work well for Fognini and his defensive ability on the court which will extract errors from Giraldo, although it is the latter who has the edge in the service and power department.

However, I think the defensive players that can get a lot of balls back in play are always going to be a problem for the inconsistent Giraldo to deal with and I believe Fognini will come through. Even if this ends in straight sets, I don't think Fognini pulls away too far, but the games are small enough that I will back the erratic Italian to come through 75, 75.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Austin Krajicek: Kei Nishikori is going for his third straight Memphis title and he has only dropped two sets over the last two a bit tournaments that he has played so you can understand that he is very happy with the conditions he faces. He should progress through to the Semi Final with little fuss against Austin Krajicek, even if the American has earned some confidence stripes from coming through the qualifiers and winning two main Round matches.

The problem I see for Krajicek is that a somewhat limited returner like Ivo Karlovic was winning a lot more points against his serve than he would perhaps like to admit. There were many 15-30, 30-30 points that were played and he now faces a player that will get a lot of balls back in play and is as quick turning defence into attack as any player on the Tour.

Nishikori's serve is the biggest weakness when it comes to him covering big spreads simply because he has to work so hard to win points and he is not going to get a lot of cheap points. However, Krajicek will also be under pressure to try and keep up with the World Number 5 and he is coming up against a top 10 player for the first time.

That should inspire him for a while and the first set could be tight, but I would expect Nishikori to take control once he figures out what Krajicek can produce on the court and come through with a 64, 62 win.

John Isner - 1.5 games v Sam Querrey: It is hard to believe that these two American players who had the hard task of following on from the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick haven't met for five seasons in a competitive match. As two of the members of the United States Davis Cup team, there still won't be any secret as to what the other wants to do and that is namely dictate behind a huge serve and crushing forehand.

Sam Querrey is no longer the player that some American fans would have hoped could be the next Grand Slam Champion from this nation and it is John Isner who burdens that pressure for the most part. However, neither is really someone that people would back to win a Slam because of limited return games.

Of the two, Isner has been much more consistent and has been dominant when playing in the United States on the hard courts and I think he will have the edge in this one. Querrey is a big man that will get his racquet on more balls than some, but he also has the tendency to throw in a sloppy game or two or serve and that is where Isner can pounce.

It is Querrey who holds a 2-1 head to head advantage between these players, but Isner has improved markedly since 2010 while Querrey has stood still and I like the higher Ranked American to come through 76, 64.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dusan Lajovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leonardo Mayer - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
John Isner - 1.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-5, + 2.30 Units (24 Units Staked, + 9.58% Yield)

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