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Friday, 27 March 2015

Miami Tennis Picks 2015 (March 27th)

There were a number of surprising results through the tournament at Indian Wells and it doesn't look like things will be changing in Miami if Maria Sharapova's exit in the Second Round is anything to go by. I really thought she had a chance to go deep into the draw over the next two weeks, but Sharapova has disappointed this week, although she might feel the turn to the clay courts favours her more than she would have in previous years.

The Second Round of the Masters event will begin on Friday which means the top players are all making their first appearance at Crandon Park this week and that can be a dangerous time for them. They will be playing opponents who have at least one win under their belt and will have dealt with the conditions already this week and might find a way to surprise any of the Seeded players they run into.

It was a mixed bag of results for the picks on Thursday as the four ended up with two winners and two losers, although it was a bad start with the first two both losing before the recovery on the day. In that regards I have to say I am not too disappointed, and it is still a good start to the week.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Donald Young: I backed Andy Murray to beat Donald Young handily when they met on the indoor hard courts during the Davis Cup earlier this month and the British Number 1 didn't disappoint. That continues his dominance over Young since being surprised by him at Indian Wells four years ago and Murray has won the next four matches all very comfortably.

The problem for Young is that his serve, despite being an awkward left-handed one, is not the best and players like Andy Murray return enough balls back into play to extract errors from his game. It sounds harsh, but I think Young is guilty of over-estimating what he can produce on a tennis court and that leads him to going for 'Hollywood' shots that have little chance of actually coming off.

Someone like Murray can make Young play a lot of shots to win points and can grind him down and I would expect a fairly comfortable time for him in this match as long as he serves well. It was Rafael Nadal's serving that kept Young in the match against the Spaniard at Indian Wells and Murray can be guilty of being sloppy in that aspect of his game.

However, the match up is clearly one that he has enjoyed and a routine 64, 62 win could be on the cards.

Adrian Mannarino - 2.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: Two left-handed players meet in this Second Round match and I have to favour Adrian Mannarino to find a way to get past Albert Ramos-Vinolas on the hard courts.

The latter is a decent player that has produced some good performances on the hard courts in the past, but Ramos-Vinolas is definitely much happier on the clay courts. However, Ramos-Vinolas has to be respected having put together three solid wins over the last two tournaments at Indian Wells and here and he pushed Novak Djokovic much closer than anyone would have expected in the last Masters event.

In saying that, Adrian Mannarino is an improving player on the Tour who is Seeded at events of this level which shows how far he has come. He has been serving better than what I believed he was going to be capable of, while the return game continues to be one of his strengths.

I expect Mannarino will find a way to get his teeth into the Ramos-Vinolas service games and will end up using that pressure to come through with a 63, 57, 64 win.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v James Duckworth: This is another rematch from Indian Wells as Fernando Verdasco looks to take out James Duckworth for the second time in a row and I do believe the Spaniard will find a way to get that done.

All credit to Duckworth for qualifying for the second Masters tournament in a row and also coming through his First Round match which should improve his Ranking again having cracked the top 100. That will mean he could find himself automatically in the draw for the Grand Slam events upcoming which has to be one of his goals for the coming year.

Unfortunately for the Australian, tennis can be all about levels and I don't believe he has the serve to really trouble the better players. That also means someone like Fernando Verdasco can dictate the points off his return and I still believe Verdasco is playing well enough to beat Duckworth for a second time this month.

Their match at Indian Wells ended with a 62, 76 win for Verdasco and I think he will have a similar kind of margin of victory in this one with more chances to break serve than Duckworth is likely to have. However, Verdasco has to stay focused to get the job done as the second set was closely contested at Indian Wells, although I do fancy him to do that.

Lucie Safarova - 5.5 games v Johanna Larsson: The last two months have been very good for Lucie Safarova as she gets closer to cracking the top ten of the World Rankings having won the tournament in Doha. The Indian Wells Premier Event has to be something of a disappointment to Safarova with a Third Round exit under her belt, but I expect a reaction in Miami and think she will be too strong for Johanna Larsson.

Larsson had a good solid win in the First Round against Yaroslava Shvedova, but Safarova is another step up in opponent and the Swede has struggled to raise her game in that regard. She is generally a much better clay court player than a hard court one and part of the reason is that Larsson tries to play with the same margin on error on the latter and is out-hit.

There is no doubting that Safarova is capable of doing that, while I also think she has the more consistent serve that will make it hard for Larsson to break. Not impossible mind you because Larsson will play from deeper in the court and try and extract errors from Safarova, which can be a problem for her at times, although allowing Safarova to dictate play isn't expected to be the right way to approach this match.

It is unlikely that Larsson takes a different approach though and the result should be a fairly comfortable 62, 64 win for Safarova.

Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 games v Jelena Jankovic: It is still very strange to see Victoria Azarenka outside the top 32 in the World Rankings, but a strong week in Miami could see her at least return to the Seeding positions for the big tournaments coming up.

As dangerous as Azarenka can be for any player on the WTA Tour, I think she would definitely prefer to ease her way into tournaments and not remain outside the Seeding positions and face early matches with the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova as she has had to already this season.

There are still some inconsistencies in the Azarenka game as she looks to recover from an injury-plagued 2014 when she was never at full tilt, but I do think she will be too good for Jelena Jankovic who had a long week at Indian Wells.

It was a surprising week for Jankovic who hadn't played that well in 2015, but who somehow dug deep to escape a couple of matches and use it to a run to the Final. Even with four days rest since that Final, Jankovic might still be feeling all the three set matches she had to play over the last two weeks as well as all the physical exertions she put into the Final against Simona Halep before ultimately coming up short.

Azarenka's serving hasn't been the best with too many breaks given up, but I still think she finds her way through to the Third Round following a 64, 63 win.

Madison Keys - 2.5 games v Sloane Stephens: Two young, hard-hitting American tennis players meet in this Second Round match that should bring in quite a bit of media attention. Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are supposed to lead the next generation of American WTA stars once Serena Williams decides to hang up her racquet and both are expected to be at the forefront of the Tour.

However, I do feel there is more upside and potential in the Madison Keys game as she seems to play with a clearer though process on the court and has other elements on the courts beside the booming serve and heavy forehand. Stephens will look to play that way too and those who love first-strike tennis could be in for a fun day, but I think Keys has the better control of her shots off the ground and will likely dictate more of the points.

Sloane Stephens had the better Indian Wells tournament of the two players, but that was a sharp contrast to her recent form and I think she lets her mind wonder a little more on the court than Madison Keys.

After a lot of powerful winners and some eye-catching tennis from both players, I think Keys can battle through with a 64, 67, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Adrian Mannarino - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Miami Update: 6-3, + 5.62 Units (18 Units Staked, + 31.22% Yield)

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