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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 3 Picks 2016 (January 20th)

After the scandal that overshadowed the first couple of days of the Australian Open, a first truly seismic shock will have turned back the attention to things happening on the court. I think the Tennis Integrity Unit has some big questions to answer in the coming weeks, especially as people are going to have an extra keen eye on the markets and any manipulation in the next six weeks between this Grand Slam and the first Masters event of the season in Indian Wells.

For now the concentration has returned to events on the court and Rafael Nadal's exit at the hands of Fernando Verdasco is by far the biggest shock of the First Round.

I really thought Nadal could have a big fortnight here, but that is going to knock some of the confidence he has built up after the US Open. The match up with Verdasco has become a troubling one for Nadal after winning the first fourteen matches between them, but he has now lost three of four.

The forehand wasn't working as effectively as it should be, but Nadal had won the second and third set to seemingly take control and was also a break up in the fifth set. He will go back to the drawing board and then head over to South America for a couple of the tournaments on the Golden Swing as Nadal gets back onto the clay courts that he has dominated in the past.

This season he will have a chance to pick up some significant Ranking points in that part of the season after his struggles in 2015, but Nadal will need to rebuild his confidence in the next two months after a disappointing First Round exit here.

After a really poor start on Day One of the Australian Open, the picks were in much better form on Day Two to get them moving back in the right direction. However I have to be a little disappointed Rafael Nadal couldn't win the fourth set tie-breaker with Fernando Verdasco which would have almost completely erased the first day's losses, but instead I have had to settle for those to be trimmed in half.

That is something I still appreciate as I look to build on Day Two, although it has to be said that Day Three could be severely disrupted with plenty of rain forecast up until 6pm. The Rod Laver Arena play won't be affected with the roof in place, but some of those scheduled to take to the courts later in the afternoon might want to make some contingency plans for what they are going to do with their chances of getting onto the court looking unlikely at this point.

The next few days do look a little miserable in terms of the rain that is going to affect play, but at least the organisers can justify the fact they are putting a roof on a couple of the other show courts in the coming years.

Federico Delbonis - 4.5 games v Renzo Olivo: The Renzo Olivo run to the Second Round of the Australian Open has been very unexpected, especially as he looked down and out in the First Round when trailing 2-1 in sets to Jiri Vesely. However, Vesely began to struggle with the conditions and Olivo was able to take advantage to come through in five sets.

His opponent Federico Delbonis was also the beneficiary of the conditions, although he was up by a couple of sets when Ivo Karlovic decided he needed to withdraw from the tournament. It was a good solid performance from Delbonis and I am expecting him to be too strong for his compatriot in this Second Round match that opens on Court 8.

I wouldn't say either player is at their best on the hard courts, but the slightly slower conditions in Melbourne might mean both Delbonis and Olivo can play this a little like a clay court match. However it is the Delbonis serve that could make the difference as he is more likely to earn some cheaper points from the first serve, while he also holds a distinct mental advantage having crushed Olivo last season in their sole match on the Tour.

There just isn't a lot of hard court experience that Olivo can rely upon and he has made use of the draw after coming through the Qualifiers. I just don't think he will be able to continue that here and I believe Delbonis will battle through in straight sets.

Dominic Thiem - 1.5 sets v Nicolas Almagro: An injury meant Nicolas Almagro returned to the Tour with his World Ranking far below the level he is accustomed to. It is still a work in progress to get the Spaniard moving up the World Rankings from his current position of Number 73, but a win in the First Round is a step in the right direction.

In all honesty it was a good draw for Almagro against Julien Benneteau who has had a significant lay off from the Tour himself, but the real Ranking points he will pick up will likely come on the clay courts over the next month. Almagro is still a solid player with a decent serve, but the movement might not be up to the level of a couple of years ago and this is a difficult Second Round match against Dominic Thiem.

I am a big fan of Dominic Thiem and I expect him to consolidate his place in the top 20 of the World Rankings this season, although he has to avoid a slump in form that younger players do face. Thiem had a very solid win over Leonardo Mayer in the First Round and he will have a similar match up here with Almagro looking to dictate behind a solid first serve and heavy groundstrokes.

For a while I can see Almagro giving Thiem some issues and perhaps even stealing a set, but I would be surprised if the Austrian isn't moving through in three or four sets. Thiem is very solid off the ground and protects his serve, while his Fourth Round run at the US Open gives him the experience to handle the occasion in this match.

Marin Cilic - 6.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: The Rafael Nadal loss is the obvious First Round story, but I don't think anyone should ignore the manner in which Albert Ramos-Vinolas dismissed Borna Coric in the First Round. The Spaniard was a healthy underdog in that match, but he dominated in a straight sets win and he has shown he can be a very dangerous player when bringing his best to the court.

He will need to be at his best when facing a former Grand Slam winner in Marin Cilic, but Ramos-Vinolas has the game to cause big problems. He has an underrated return of serve, while his serve can be very tough to break when he is hitting his marks, although Ramos-Vinolas has found it hard to back up his 'perfect' performances in the past.

The Spaniard does hold a win over Marin Cilic but that was back in 2011 and the former US Open Champion looked in good nick after coming losing the first set to Thiemo de Bakker in the First Round. Cilic dominated from there and will have to serve well to prevent Ramos-Vinolas having any real confidence of being able to earn the upset.

I do think Cilic is one of the better returners on the Tour once he gets his eye in and his aggressive nature means he will put pressure on his opponent. I think the first set is going to be very close, but I can see Cilic pulling away if he can put that one on the board and I like him to cover this number.

Tomas Berdych - 8.5 games v Mirza Basic: Any time you get to this kind of number being asked to be covered, a player needs to produce a pretty perfect performance to ensure they are going to get over it. Tomas Berdych managed to cover an even bigger number in the First Round, but this should be a little more difficult as Mirza Basic has more power than Yuki Bhambri who didn't give Berdych enough to think about.

Even with that in mind, this is a significant leap up in competition for Basic who was a little fortunate to win his First Round match against Robin Haase in straight sets. The Dutchman missed a host of break point chances through the match and Berdych is a far more effective returner with plenty of aggression in his play that should give Basic a little too much to deal with.

The Bosnian does have a decent first serve that will help him in some games to come through, but Berdych won't want to waste too much time on court with the rain in the area. I expect him to be fully focused and Berdych has every chance of earning a double break of serve in a single set that should set him up for a fairly straight forward win.

Basic has done well to come through three Qualifiers and then win a main draw First Round match, but this is a different level of competition and I can't see him bridging that gap. After a tight set to open up, I think Berdych will get stronger as the match progresses and win this one 64, 63, 62.

Grigor Dimitrov - 8.5 games v Marco Trungelliti: When you are Ranked outside of the top 200, you have to think a run in the Grand Slams will offer a nice financial reward to take into the rest of the season. Marco Trungelliti has used the draw to his advantage by coming through three Qualifiers and then winning a First Round match as a slight underdog, but facing Grigor Dimitrov does mean a huge step up in opponent.

There is little doubt that Trungelliti is going to have to work for everything he earns on the court on Wednesday but a lack of experience won't help his cause. This is the first time the Argentinian has reached the main draw of a Grand Slam and his recent results suggest it will be very difficult to improve his 1-0 record against someone like Dimitrov.

This is a big season for Dimitrov who really slipped off the standards he has set for himself during 2015. As a potential star of the future, Dimitrov is turning 25 years old this season and that future has to start now and he made a solid start to the 2016 season to think he is getting that point.

I still think Dimitrov has to cut out the sloppy games that he produces if he is going to take the next step in his career. That might be a lack of mental focus rather than his style of play and he has to make a statement ahead of a potential Third Round match against Roger Federer. I do believe this is the kind of match he will enjoy and I can see Dimitrov coming through with a very comfortable win in this Second Round.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 8.5 games v Omar Jasika: A very impressive win for another 'next generation' Australian player has allowed Omar Jasika the opportunity to play on one of the big show courts in his first main draw Grand Slam experience. Jasika is only 18 years old but showed maturity in knocking off Ilya Marchenko in the First Round, but a former Australian Open Finalist is going to give him a completely different test.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came through a testing First Round match against Marcos Baghdatis as he was irritated by his opponent and the annual loud Cypriot following he has at his matches in Australia. Tsonga even wanted a 'code violation' to be called on the crowd, but the popular Frenchman is going to see his opponent being vocally backed this time.

I don't think the Australian crowd will be half as boisterous as the Cypriot fans were and so Tsonga should be able to focus more on his young opponent. He is a big favourite to win the match, which isn't a surprise, and I think it will be tough for Jasika to stay with Tsonga simply because of the firepower the Frenchman brings to the court.

It will be difficult for Jasika to really get a foothold on the Tsonga service games and I also think he might be put under considerable pressure off the return if Tsonga is fully focused. That should see Tsonga win at least one set with a double break and I think he will pull away in this match once Jasika struggles to cope with the intensity a top fifteen player generally will bring to the court.

Serena Williams - 7.5 games v Su-Wei Hsieh: The First Round match with Camila Giorgi was always going to be a difficult match for Serena Williams but the Number 1 Seed looked very good for the most part. Someone like Giorgi can be tough to look good against because a lot of the match is going to be on her racquet, be that good or bad, and she was definitely on the good side of the spectrum in the First Round match.

The Italian hits the ball hard and gave Serena Williams little rhythm while serving well, but all of that is going to be different when Su-Wei Hsieh comes to the court. Hsieh's game is nothing to do with power and I think that works for Williams who will have time to execute her shots and should be a comfortable winner if the American is on her game.

That is the biggest question mark for me- is Serena Williams going to come out firing and limit the unforced errors or will she make a few mistakes. The latter makes this a very big spread but I think Williams is going to make a statement here against a comfortable opponent who won't really have the power to compete with her.

Maybe Hsieh can get to the net and put away a few volleys to shorten the points, but coming to the net against the power of Serena Williams is not easy. The slightly slower conditions in Melbourne will give Williams ample time on this hard court and I can see her crush Hsieh in a 63, 61 win.

Kristina Mladenovic - 2.5 games v Nicole Gibbs: A strong showing at the US Open last September might have been the turning point for Kristina Mladenovic to have a real impact at the top of the Singles Tour. A very impressive win over Dominika Cilbulkova in the First Round here will have boosted that confidence and even the two losses Mladenovic has had to open 2016 can be forgiven.

She does have a big game and that can be a little frustrating when the margins are slightly off radar which results in some poor results. I do think Mladenovic is much better than her Number 30 World Ranking suggests and I do think she will prove to be too good for Nicole Gibbs in this Second Round match.

The American should be confident having had a lot of wins to end 2015 and to start 2016 including coming through three Qualifiers and one main draw match here in Australia. While I credit Gibbs for putting the wins together, it is arguable to say the only time she met a player of the level of Mladenovic saw he beaten comfortably by Eugenie Bouchard.

Mladenovic has a definite edge when it comes to the power she can produce, but those margins that can go off are a concern because Gibbs defends effectively enough. However, I think the higher Ranked player will earn enough joy off the return of serve to keep Gibbs under pressure and her win over Cibulkova will have given Mladenovic a taste of what she will see on Wednesday, although Gibbs is unlikely to be as effective as a counter-puncher.

Petra Kvitova - 4.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: Daria Gavrilova switched her allegiance from Russia to Australia last year and she is playing in the Australian Open for the first time as an Australian player. She was grateful for the support she received from the crowd and now gets to play on one of the show courts in the night session against a two-time former Grand Slam Champion.

It has been a tough few months for Petra Kvitova who is now engaged, but still battling injuries which has affected her performances on the court. The Czech player was in dominant form in the First Round though which will excite her fans, but she will be more than a little aware as to how tough this match is for her.

Kvitova and Gavrilova played a close match in Wuhan at the back end of last season, but the home hope will have to serve better than she did in the First Round. She afforded too many break point opportunities and Kvitova is unlikely to be as generous as Lucie Hradecka when those opportunities come her way.

The way Kvitova plays will give her opponents a chance at times when she is a little erratic with her play, but she should be too strong and too experienced for Gavrilova in this one. After a battle, I like Kvitova coming through 75, 63 in this one.

MY PICKS: Federico Delbonis - 4.5 Games @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 1.5 Sets @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 8.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 8.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 8.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Serena William - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Betway (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 5-8, - 3.96 Units (24 Units Staked, - 16.5% Yield)

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