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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 1 Picks 2016 (January 18th)

The first Grand Slam of the season begins and the Number 1 Seeds in both the Men's and Women's draws will be looking to get another potential calendar Grand Slam bid underway. I am finding it hard to oppose both this week as you can see when you read my outright picks here.

Day One of the tournament is when the top Seeds in both draws and the top half of the draws get underway in Melbourne. It looks like being a warm day in Melbourne which can play havoc on the players with many struggling here in the past, but the organisers might be glad to have a roof over their main Stadium for the rest of the week considering the forecast looks to be calling for some rain over the first week of the event.

That obviously benefits the top players who can keep their tournaments on schedule but hopefully the forecasts are not as bad as they may look at this moment and the Australian Open is not affected too much.

Philipp Kohlschreiber + 6.5 games v Kei Nishikori: This is essentially the home Grand Slam for Kei Nishikori and he has reached the Quarter Final in two of the last four seasons and had two Fourth Round appearances in the other two. The fans will be out for Nishikori, but this is a tough looking First Round match for him as he faces the veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber on the opening day.

I don't think many will doubt that Kohlschreiber is definitely on the curve downwards in his career, but he is still capable of producing some solid tennis which will give him a chance to perhaps take a set.

My worry for this line is clearly the capability that Nishikori has to wear down opponents and force a couple of breaks of serve in a single sit. However, I think Kohlschreiber is able to serve well enough to win a set and perhaps force another set into a tie-breaker which will begin to make this a big number for Nishikori to cover.

I do think Nishikori is a tough player to meet, but he is someone who has to work hard to win his points and any kind of slip on serve could give Kohlschreiber his chance. The veteran is a tough First Round match for Nishikori and I think stealing a set will mean the German covers this one.

Robin Haase - 4.5 games v Mirza Basic: I believe Robin Haase has underachieved in his career to this point, but he is back up inside the top 70 in the World Rankings. The Dutchman has had a couple of decent weeks to open 2016 with plenty of wins put on the board and his two losses coming against players that are in and around the top ten of the World Rankings.

That gives Haase some momentum to take into the Australian Open where he has been handed a very respectable First Round draw against Mirza Basic from Bosnia. Basic has battled through three Qualifying Rounds to get into the main draw of this Grand Slam, the first time he has actually reached the main draw of any Grand Slam tournament.

Representing Bosnia in the Davis Cup does mean that Basic has played some best of five set tennis matches before which can be the biggest eye opener going into a Grand Slam. In fact Basic is 5-2 in his only seven best of five set matches and so he should be plenty of confident himself with the three Qualifying wins behind to get into the main draw.

Basic has a decent serve and Haase does have a tendency to play down to the level of his opponent at times. However, I think he has started 2016 well enough to win this match in straight sets and I think Haase will get the job done in covering this spread.

Andreas Seppi - 2.5 games v Teymuraz Gabashvili: Andreas Seppi has just been hanging onto a position that has given him a Seeding at the Grand Slams, but it does look like the Italian is on the slope down the World Rankings. He has had a disappointing start to the 2016 season, but the Australian Open will have some good memories for him after beating Roger Federer in the Third Round here last season.

The Italian will head into this First Round match as the favourite to beat Teymuraz Gabashvili, a player that can produce some pretty good tennis, but perhaps lacks the consistency to really improve his Number 50 World Ranking. Gabashvili has had some good wins to open 2016, but the defeat to Ilya Marchenko in Doha shows he perhaps lacks the ability to maintain a consistent level from day to day.

If he brings his best, Gabashvili is a dangerous player that can give Seppi all he will be able to handle. However I think Seppi is definitely more likely to bring a consistent level to the court that should give him the edge and also has to be a big reason he has a 6-2 head to head record against Gabashvili.

That includes a four set win at the US Open last September and I think Seppi is likely to dig deep to record something similar in this one. The first three sets are likely to be tough and hard to separate the two, but Seppi can find a way to win two of those and then pull away in the fourth set to move into the Second Round.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Camila Giorgi: I have picked Serena Williams to win the Women's title at the Australian Open this week as you will have seen if you've read the outright preview above. I did say that Williams will have a tough opening match here, but I still was surprised that the layers went at least one game lower on the handicap for Serena to cover.

I have a lot of respect for the Camila Giorgi game when she is finding her 'A' game and I have seen her give some top players plenty to think about. However, Giorgi's high-risk brand of tennis means she is never too far away from cooling off significantly and producing far too many unforced errors, while her serve can be vulnerable especially when she is offering up plenty of Double Faults.

That side of the Giorgi game would have to be controlled significantly if the Italian is going to cause the biggest upset of the 2016 season in the opening three weeks of the event.

If Williams is still feeling her knee issue that upset is definitely in a position to be completed, but Serena has been mentioning that she is feeling stronger. I have a tendency to believe her on that front and I think she might come out looking for a statement win to make sure every other player in the draw sits up and takes notice and I will look for her to move through 64, 62 once Giorgi self-destructs.

Timea Babos v Heather Watson: I have no doubt that Heather Watson is a really nice girl off the court and I do think that helps with her image with the public back in Great Britain. The performance at Wimbledon when pushing Serena Williams all the way will likely be replayed during the month the tennis Tour reaches the UK, but Watson has still struggled to make herself a more consistent player with her style not always meshing with what she knows she needs to do.

Naturally Watson is a more cautious player that will look to use her movement and ability to get plenty of balls back in play as her default setting. However, Watson has brought in coaches that are looking for her to be more aggressive in matches which has produced some success, but is perhaps still a work in progress when it comes to her mental feelings in tight matches.

Watson has had some good results to start 2016, but she is now facing a confident Timea Babos who reached the Semi Final in Shenzhen to open this season. There are only six places between them in the World Rankings, while Babos might have a mental edge having beaten Watson in Cincinnati last August in their last meeting.

The defeat to Alison Riske in the Semi Final in Shenzhen might be considered a disappointing loss for Babos, but she had a good tournament and the win over Eugenie Bouchard looks much stronger considering how the Canadian played in Hobart. That win is better than anything Watson has managed and I do think the wrong player is favoured in this one so I will back Babos to come through at odds against.

Sam Stosur - 4.5 games v Kristyna Pliskova: When the draw was made, Sam Stosur must have been really concern for a moment when seeing the name 'Pliskova' next to hers. However it is Kristyna and not Karolina that Sam Stosur will be playing and only a switch by the twins should prevent Stosur from improving her poor record at the Australian Open.

My one concern has to be that record though- Stosur will play with some nerves which have affected her performances in Melbourne in the past and I am not sure she is going to be in a better place now. The match up with Kristyna Pliskova should present Stosur a good chance of progressing and she has at least made a positive start in the last couple of Australian Open events to think she can get off to a good one here.

The serve is tough for unfamiliar opponents to deal with and Pliskova is not as strong as her sister Karolina on the Singles Tour. She has a lefty serve which will give Stosur some problems as it will naturally go into the weaker backhand wing and Pliskova has come through the Qualifying Rounds to build some confidence while she can ask Karolina about any secrets of the Stosur game.

It has been difficult for Kristyna Pliskova to really find the consistency her sister has to become a real feature of the WTA Tour and I am not sure she bridges that here. There will be some scares for Stosur but I think she is the better player and can show that in a 64, 63 win and move into the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber + 6.5 Games @ 1.85 Betway (2 Units)
Robin Haase - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andreas Seppi - 2.5 Games @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Timea Babos @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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