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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2016 (January 21st)

There were fewer surprise results on Day 3 at the Australian Open, but the biggest one came late in the evening as Petra Kvitova was beaten by new home favourite Daria Gavrilova in straight sets.

It was another disappointing Grand Slam performance from Kvitova who has struggled to make a big impact outside of Wimbledon, but injuries and illness have played a part this time around. The early exit at least gives Kvitova the chance to get a little healthier before she returns to the Tour or else this could be a very tough season for her.

For Gavrilova it must feel very good to have been adopted by her new home fans as quickly as she has with her official confirmation of becoming an Australian citizen coming through in December. The Australian public have taken her to their hearts already and Gavrilova has thrived under that much better than Sam Stosur ever has in Melbourne.

Other than that, it was a fairly standard day at the Australian Open which avoided the long rain delays the weather had been threatening early in the day. Most of the big names got through fairly comfortably, but that does mean we have seen some really good Third Round matches set for Friday.

Grigor Dimitrov vs Roger Federer and Nick Krygios vs Tomas Berdych look the stand out matches for Friday and both should be set to play on the Rod Laver Arena with the latter likely to be the night session match. Both matches should be entertaining and certainly something to look forward to as the first Grand Slam of the season picks up some pace.

The picks had a mixed bag through Day 3 with the potential for much better if players could have just knuckled down a little harder. The most frustrating loss had to be the Federico Delbonis failure to cover after he blew a 5-0 lead in the third set that would have put him in a strong position if he could have put together a 6-0, 6-1, or 6-2 set in that one from the position he was in.

Instead Delbonis actually dropped that set which gave his opponent enough confidence to keep things close.

The other frustrating pick had to be Marin Cilic's failure to cover against Albert Ramos-Vinolas when he had to win the third set in the tie-breaker. The Croatian was so close to earning the vital break in the third set but just missed out and thus missed the cover by a single game.

Both of those matches going my way would have turned around the week after the awful Day 1, but I will just have to keep plugging away to get to that point.

John Isner - 5.5 games v Marcel Granollers: Whenever you see John Isner having a big handicap to cover, the first instinct is that the number of games is going to be too much. That might be the initial feeling in this Second Round match, but Isner has actually been very strong in the early Rounds of Grand Slams in recent years, something that might surprise many.

Since the French Open in 2012, John Isner has won 22 matches in the first two Rounds of Grand Slam events and he would have covered this number in 14 of those which is a healthy rate. The American did that in the First Round here too when dismissing big serving Jerzy Janowicz, although he is unlikely to be given the gifts from Marcel Granollers that the big Polish player tends to hand out.

Granollers is a lot more solid when it comes to shot selection and he will be happy any time he gets Isner into an extended rally although the Spaniard now reserves his best for the Doubles circuit. He did have an impressive First Round win which will make him dangerous, but Granollers has been knocked out in the Second Round in each of the last four Grand Slams he has played and all of those losses came without covering this number of games.

I am not the only one that will know that Isner's return game can be very weak, but he is playing with more aggression and a strong serving display puts the pressure on Granollers in this one. I have seen Granollers serve very well at times, but the second serve can be a weakness and I think Isner has the capabilities of breaking in each set and moving into the Third Round with a nice looking win behind him.

Santiago Giraldo + 1.5 sets v Joao Sousa: The higher Ranked player in this Second Round match is Joao Sousa, but it is Santiago Giraldo who leads the head to head and is perhaps being under-rated by his current World Ranking. I will never forget the level Giraldo produced when beating Juan Carlos Ferrero on the clay courts of Rome a few years ago, but that standard has rarely been seen again from him and he is an erratic player with a small margin for errors.

I really appreciate any player that can make the best out of the talent they have been blessed with and Sousa most definitely fits into that category. There won't have been many outside of his inner circle that would have felt Sousa was going to be in a position to be Seeded in Grand Slam events and he won his second title at the back end of last season on the indoor courts of Valencia.

Both players had solid looking First Round wins and I can see this being a very close match, even if the layers are not so convinced. The rallies are going to be long, but it is Giraldo who has the better shot making ability, although that also means he is likely to have many more unforced errors which makes this a tight match.

A lot of the points will be on Giraldo's racquet and serving well will give him a chance of earning the upset. Either way I would not be surprised at all if we were to see a fifth set, but the lean towards Giraldo makes the set handicap look very appealing here. The last eight Grand Slams that Sousa has played in has seen him dragged into a fifth set four times and his style of play could easily force this one to the distance too.

Milos Raonic - 7.5 games v Tommy Robredo: The most difficult aspect of Milos Raonic's First Round win might have been playing with a new gum-shield and he will be a big favourite to move into the Second Round. His title win in Brisbane is a huge boost for a player that is looking for a big 2016 season and the match up with Tommy Robredo has proven to be a very good one for Raonic in the past.

The Spanish veteran needed to dig deep to come through in five sets in the First Round, but the big serving and power players on the Tour have proven to be Kryptonite to Robredo. The movement is not quite so good as it used to be and Raonic has the power to hit through Robredo, while the serve is anything but a weapon.

It is no surprise to me that Raonic has won all five previous matches against Robredo and many of those have been very comfortable with a couple of breaks of serve in a set. Their only two meetings on hard courts have seen Robredo win five games in one match and three games in another and I think this is going to be a difficult match for Robredo especially with some fatigue in the legs.

I am looking for Raonic to make a fast start as he did in the First Round that made life easier for him and I expect the Canadian to put Robredo on the back foot early. If he can take the chances that will likely come his way, I think Raonic can win this match 62, 63, 64.

Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 games v Dudi Sela: Some players on the Tour will have a significant issue trying to back up their big wins, but Fernando Verdasco has plenty of experience and I don't expect a let down. He has already returned to the court following his win over Rafael Nadal when taking part in the Doubles tournament here, while the match up with Dudi Sela should be anything but one that Verdasco will be confident of winning.

He might not have played Sela since 2010, but Verdasco won't be facing a barrage of power from the other side of the court and this is all about maintaining his mental edge. There will be times when Sela is able to frustrate with his movement, but Verdasco will have the edge in the majority of the rallies if he can avoid a raft of unforced errors on the court.

Doing that will force Sela to push a little more and that is difficult when trying to absorb the power that Verdasco clearly has. The serve is also an edge for Verdasco and everything is pointing his way except the potential for some fatigue to have set in from playing back to back days.

However, there have been reports that Verdasco has really worked hard on the fitness side of things during the off-season and is in great shape. I will be looking for him to show that off in this Second Round match as he moves through relatively comfortably with a break more than Sela in three straight sets.

Jeremy Chardy - 1.5 sets v Andrey Kuznetsov: The biggest question for Jeremy Chardy to answer is how much has he recovered since Tuesday and his epic five set win over Ernests Gulbis. The last set needed twenty-four games to be played before separating Chardy from Gulbis and I do wonder if he has had enough time to prepare for this Second Round match from a physical perspective.

Chardy has managed to bounce back relatively well from five set matches in the past, but not when they go into the extended games as his last one did. He also can't overlook Andrey Kuznetsov who pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in Doha and was a very easy winner in the First Round.

The Russian is a player that can quickly gain confidence in tournaments and he has reached the Third Round of Grand Slams three times since Wimbledon 2014, but also failed to make the main draw on a couple of occasions. Kuznetsov can be hit or miss at times and I do think Chardy is the more talented player that can progress as long as he is physically ready after two days rest.

The good news for Chardy is that he is set to be last out on his scheduled court on Thursday giving him that additional time to rest and recuperate. That should play a part and I like Chardy winning this match in either three or four sets to get his tournament back on schedule from a physical point of view.

Stan Wawrinka - 7.5 games v Radek Stepanek: Whenever Stan Wawrinka is favoured by a large number of games, I have figured that I am not going to play him as he constantly fails to cover those numbers. However, I think Wawrinka has every chance of breaking down Radek Stepanek as the veteran tries to juggle his Singles and Doubles commitments in the Australian Open.

Stepanek has done very well to come through three Qualifiers and was a comfortable winner in the First Round which will give him plenty of confidence. In years gone by he has managed to get under the skin of Wawrinka, but his dominance of the head to head is over with the latter winning the last two matches.

Both of those have come since Wawrinka started having a bigger impact at the Grand Slam level and both wins have generally been relatively straight forward for the top five player. Stepanek will still have some joy as he is able to attack the net and pressure Wawrinka into passing him, while he will try and get on the front foot of the rallies when dealing with the Wawrinka second serve.

That should give Stepanek some success in this one, but I think Wawrinka will put plenty of pressure on the Stepanek serve himself and he can replicate his win from the US Open in 2013 against this opponent. I expect Wawrinka to get stronger as this match wears on and can win the final set with a double break of serve which should give him a chance of getting over a big number that has been difficult for him in the past.

David Ferrer Win 3-1 v Lleyton Hewitt: James Duckworth did feel the pressure of competing with Lleyton Hewitt in the latter's final Australian Open in the First Round as anticipated. However it is going to take something special for the veteran to delay his retirement for another Round and I think David Ferrer will eventually wear down Hewitt in the night session.

While Duckworth felt the pressure of trying to end Hewitt's career, Ferrer is unlikely to feel the same thing with his experience on the Tour as well as the fact that he has played Hewitt three times previously in Grand Slams. In fact Ferrer will get to complete the set with the three previous matches taking place at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open and I think Ferrer will use his superior fitness to come through this one.

It would be a big surprise to me if Hewitt goes away early and I expect him to be competitive in the first couple of sets. We know how hard both players will try and work for every point they earn and neither has the biggest serve so I can see a number of break point chances for both Hewitt and Ferrer with the first two sets being split.

At that point I expect Ferrer to start getting the better of the longer rallies and eventually break down Hewitt whose body can't do what the heart is willing it to do. With a deafening roar cheering him down the tunnel, Hewitt will have to call time on his career and focus on his duties as Davis Cup Captain in a four set loss on Thursday evening.

Bernard Tomic-Simone Bolelli Over 3.5 total sets: The layers are expecting a relative breeze for Bernard Tomic in his Second Round match at the Australian Open, but Simone Bolelli is to be underestimated at your own risk. Don't get me wrong, Bolelli can be a frustrating player at times when he throws in too many unforced errors to win any match, but he has a decent serve and all the pressure is on Tomic to win and move into the Third Round.

There is a love-hate relationship between Tomic and the Australian media, but the fans certainly enjoy his character and will be fully behind him. However, it has to be said that Tomic never seems far away from throwing in an absolute shocker of a service game which will allow Bolelli a chance to steal a set.

On the other hand I don't think you can truly expect Simone Bolelli to win this one in straight sets and backing there being at least four sets looks the call. Only two of Bernard Tomic's last nine matches won at the Australian Open have come in straight sets and only five of his last sixteen wins at the Grand Slam level have been in straight sets.

I can't deny Bolelli hasn't had the best start to the 2016 season and needed a much tighter four set win over Brian Baker in the First Round that would have been anticipated. However his straight sets loss at the US Open last season was the first time he had been beaten in a Grand Slam in straight sets since the French Open in 2014, a run of six Slams and it isn't like the Italian has had easy draws or something.

He pushed Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer to five sets and took a set off Roger Federer here in his Grand Slam appearances last season and I do think he will take advantage of a lapse of concentration that Tomic is susceptible to. The home hope is the better player though and likely to come through in four or five sets, but I will simply back at least four sets to be played.

Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 games v Laura Siegemund: It has been a long time since Jelena Jankovic led the World Rankings and was a constant threat to win a Grand Slam title. The Serb failed to replicate what Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic have done by winning a Grand Slam title, and it looks like her window has closed on that front.

These days Jankovic struggles to even get the consistency in her performances from match to match, but she is still able to put together strong runs if she can build confidence going into a draw. A solid First Round win will give her some confidence and this looks a good match up for Jankovic against Laura Siegemund from Germany.

The majority of Siegemund's matches are played at lower than the main WTA Tour level and she has found it hard to bridge the gap to the top players. She is Ranked inside the top 100 which meant she could enter the main draw in Australia rather than battling through the Qualifiers and her First Round win will give her some decent Ranking points.

Siegemund has reached the main draw of a Grand Slam for the third time in a row and the win in the First Round is the first she has achieved at this level. Results like that will build confidence but Jankovic is still a level above the competition Siegemund has faced and I believe she is going to move into the Third Round with a 64, 62 win.

Alize Cornet - 4.5 games v Shuai Zhang: After a bit of a stumble early in the event, Alize Cornet took full advantage of a walkover in the Quarter Final in Hobart to go on and win that tournament last week. Her last two wins came for the loss of just five games against the likes of Johanna Larsson and Eugenie Bouchard and Cornet hasn't let up in the move to Melbourne having lost one game in the First Round win.

I am convinced she is going to feel quite close to unbeatable at the moment which is no surprise when you are barely losing games let alone sets or matches. The draw has also opened up for Cornet with Venus Williams and, more importantly, Simona Halep being knocked out in the First Round in her quarter of the draw.

The latter is more important because Cornet now has to play Shuai Zhang instead of Halep and another win will give her a chance to add some vital Ranking points to move back into the top 32. Of course Zhang is going to feel very good having upset Halep in straight sets as she won all the big points and four wins in a row at Melbourne Park will have the confidence flowing.

However, Zhang has to erase some mental demons having been dismissed by Cornet in the First Round at the Australian Open in 2015 and the form of the latter makes her arguably a tougher match than Halep was in the First Round. Cornet is protecting her serve well at the moment and that is going to be a key in this one as she will have chances to break the Zhang serve and I like the Frenchwoman coming through 63, 63 in this one.

Timea Bacsinszky - 3.5 games v Annika Beck: After coming back to the Tour following a stint working in a hotel, Timea Bacsinszky marked her return in 2015 by reaching the Semi Final at the French Open and the Quarter Final at Wimbledon. Two fantastic results which raised expectation for Bacsinszky which she struggled to deal with in the final months of the season.

After the Quarter Final at Wimbledon, Bacsinszky played six tournaments in the remainder of 2015 and she was beaten in the First Round five times, while she has lost in the First Round in both tournaments played in 2016 prior to the Australian Open. Of course the one exception was the title win in Beijing at a big tournament which showed Bacsinszky has the talent, but needs to find better consistency through 2016.

Her style of play does give other players a chance against her as Bacsinszky looks to extract errors from others and can sometimes be hesitant when needing to push the pace. Her First Round win will give her confidence though and Bacsinszky is clearly someone who can build up some momentum with a couple of wins behind her and I like he chances of beating Annika Beck.

The youngster is an erratic player because she has a weak serve and can sometimes be pushed too far back in the court to have an impact. Beck won as expected in the First Round but had two heavy defeats to open the 2016 season against players that Timea Bacsinszky would be expected to beat.

Beck did win their sole previous match which will help from a mental point of view, but I think Bacsinszky can pick up a second consecutive win for the first time since Beijing. It will be tight but I like the Swiss player to come through 64, 64 and move into the Third Round.

Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Julia Goerges: Her twin sister was beaten in the Second Round on Wednesday despite holding match points, but Karolina Pliskova will have put that to the back of her mind by the time she comes out for her own Second Round match in the night session on Thursday.

Karolina Pliskova has spoken of her disappointment of failing to really make an impact in the Grand Slams through 2015, but believes she is mentally better prepared this season. Being a higher Seed does bring its pressures but Pliskova is expected to cope with that much better this time around and I expect the Czech player to be too good for Julia Goerges.

There can't be a doubt that Goerges is a dangerous player with heavy groundstrokes that is very difficult to stop when at her very best. Unfortunately Goerges is not too far from making unforced error after unforced error in her matches when things are not going right and I can see Pliskova being able to escape difficult moments behind her serve which is one of the best on the WTA Tour.

On the other hand I do think Goerges can be a little sloppy when protecting serve and that is likely to be a difference maker in what looks a promising night session match. Expect some fireworks off the ground in this one as both players will look to hit their winners and force the play and that should mesh well with one another.

However, when it is all said and done, I expect Pliskova to be the one moving through to the Third Round behind a 75, 64 win.

MY PICKS: John Isner - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo + 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Ferrer Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Bernard Tomic-Simone Bolelli Over 3.5 Total Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alize Cornet - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 10-12, - 3.88 Units (42 Units Staked, - 9.24% Yield)

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