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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2016 (January 22nd)

Honestly I felt the day was going to be exactly the way it panned out after watching a couple of the early matches at the Australian Open.

It was a brutal day as the players I picked couldn't get out of their own way and what looked like they should be very comfortable wins became huge battles.

I had some bad picks too- Fernando Verdasco has never been able to perform at his best after being Rafael Nadal and I should have put more stock into that, while the likes of Timea Bacsinszky and Alize Cornet became the latest favourites in the Women's draw that were completely dismantled.

But bad luck was a real issue with three of my early picks going 3/27 on break point chances at one stage when things began to unravel... A 9% conversion rate is sickening across three players and even a 50% conversion from John Isner, Jelena Jankovic and Milos Raonic would have produced a much different scoreline than we eventually saw.

Frustrating to say the least and only a few late winners prevented it being a complete hogwash of a day, although it has damaged the first Grand Slam of the season, perhaps irreversibly.

On the other hand, my outright picks are somehow all intact despite the favourites and Seeds being hit square in the face over the first four days and that is the positives I can take so far.

Friday looks to be a very cold and rainy day in Melbourne so expect all three roofs to be employed and perhaps some matches not being able to be completed and pushed over to Saturday. However, the three roofs do give the tournament organisers a chance of making sure all of the Singles matches are played to keep those events on schedule as the Third Round begins, particularly if a couple of the main courts see quick matches run through which is a distinct possibility.

Kei Nishikori - 6.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: His overall game might not look the most effective, but Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is a wily veteran that has moved through to the Third Round as he was expected to through his Seeding. However, Garcia-Lopez will need to pick up his play if he is going to beat a top ten player like Kei Nishikori who is thriving in his 'home' Grand Slam.

There is plenty of Japanese support in the stands to make it feel like home and the Australian Open does call itself the 'Grand Slam of The Pacific and Asia' so Nishikori may have that added motivation of wanting to play well here. He has been in very good form through the first two Rounds, especially the First Round win over Philipp Kohlschreiber who was the highest non-Seeded player in the draw.

Nishikori has yet to drop a set, but one concern might be the change in conditions that he is likely to see in this one. The rain expected in Melbourne means this match is almost certainly going to be played under the roof and that might give Garcia-Lopez a chance to hit out. Unfortunately Garcia-Lopez may not really have the power to disrupt Nishikori who has the superior movement and the better shot-making of the two.

I also think Nishikori has been able to protect his serve better than the Spaniard and that should be a big deal in this one. I hate underestimating Garcia-Lopez who always seems to bring his best when I back against him in Grand Slam events, but Nishikori can continue his quiet path through the draw without dropping a set and I like him to find a 63, 64, 64 win.

Dominic Thiem - 1.5 sets v David Goffin: These two players are good friends off the court and could produce something very interesting to watch when they meet in the Third Round on Friday. Both Dominic Thiem and David Goffin are expected to be top 20 players in the coming years as they look to make another move up the World Rankings in 2016.

I do think there is more upside to the Thiem game as he begins to round into a quality player on every surface and he won't mind the conditions here in Australia. After losing his first four matches against David Goffin, Thiem won both in 2015, albeit the first thanks to a retirement, and I think the Austrian will be too good for Goffin here.

Thiem has had two awkward looking matches in the tournament, but he has dropped just one set to Leonardo Mayer and Nicolas Almagro and his confidence has to be high. He had a big breakthrough at the US Open last September and can match that achievement with a place in the Fourth Round here.

I am a fan of Thiem but also like the way David Goffin plays, although I am not sure he has the power to get too much higher than his current position of 15 in the World Rankings. The Belgian hasn't looked himself this week either and was in big danger of going out of the tournament in the Second Round when down a break in the third set against Damir Dzumhur.

Goffin has made a tough path through and looked to be ailing physically in that match and I think that will show up here even with a day of rest since he last played. Dominic Thiem is a tough frontrunner to peg back and letting him get ahead in this one should result in a three or four set win for the Austrian and I like his chances to cover this set handicap.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Tennis is one of those sports when two compatriots play one another that the pecking order between them is hard to ignore. That is likely going to be the case when Qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert takes to the court to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and it is hard to see anything but the higher Ranked Frenchman coming through fairly comfortably.

It has already been a very good week for Herbert who won three Qualifiers to get into the main draw and has taken advantage of what has been a fairly kind draw. Neither Pablo Andujar nor Noah Rubin are going to have prepared Herbert for facing Tsonga, although it has to be said that Herbert has a decent serve that can keep him in the match.

Even with that in mind, it isn't easy to avoid the pressure that an opponent is creating on the scoreboard or with their returns and Tsonga has shown enough so far this week to think he could have a big impact. He dismissed a couple of players that would have received plenty of support from the crowd and this time he might feel even more comfortable with the support likely to be behind him.

Some would be rightly concerned in backing a player like Tsonga who is not exactly known for his strong returns of serve, but he has been pretty dominant in early Rounds at Grand Slam level. He is actually 11-5 in his last sixteen wins if it came to covering this number of games and you have to believe Tsonga is going to find a way to crack through the Herbert game at least once per set in a standard 63, 64, 64 kind of win.

Roger Federer - 6.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: He might have failed to defend his title in Brisbane, but Roger Federer was not down-hearted having played that week with some kind of virus. Federer has been a lot more positive this week in Melbourne and has proved that on the court with two very, very easy wins and that does not bode well for Grigor Dimitrov who is 0-4 against Federer.

They met in Brisbane and it was a tight three set win for Federer, but he is much healthier now and I expect this one to be more straight-forward. I am not doubting that Dimitrov has the game to trouble the best players on the Tour, but he has found little change out of the Federer serve in their head to head and that is a big problem when he is seemingly never too far away from a sloppy service game of his own.

'Baby Fed' is not a moniker that Dimitrov appreciates and I would say it is hardly apt for a player that has struggled to really fulfil the potential many had for him. His style might be similar, but the real Federer is much more solid behind the serve and the forehand is a dominant shot even at his advanced age.

I have felt the Australian Open conditions are not really suiting Federer to win the title, but he should still have far too much for Dimitrov while the chance this is played under the roof of Rod Laver gives Federer another edge. It was close in Brisbane earlier this month, but I think Federer might make this a little more comfortable as he builds scoreboard pressure with his serve and comes through with a 63, 64, 64 win and a statement win to take into the second week of the tournament.

Federico Delbonis-Gilles Simon Over 3.5 total sets: It is perhaps unsurprising to many that these two players have had to battle as hard as they have to reach the Third Round with the way they approach the game. The surprising aspect may be that Federico Delbonis was able to come through the draw, but he was given a helping hand by an out of sorts Ivo Karlovic who withdrew during their First Round match.

A really tough Second Round match might have taken something out of the tank for Delbonis, but Gilles Simon has to be feeling it a little too as he has already played eleven sets in two matches. I don't fear for Simon as much as I do for Delbonis in this Third Round match because of the past experiences where Simon has proved his fitness edge, but I also would be a little surprised this is going to be a straight sets win for either.

Delbonis has matched up well with Simon in the past because of the lack of real bite in the Frenchman's service games as well as the lefty play from Delbonis. He did fall to Simon in four sets when they last met at the US Open 2014, but Delbonis should have some success in this one as long as he can control the errors that were flowing off his racquet during his Second Round win.

The indoor conditions might make his serve a little more potent too, but I am still edging towards Simon getting a foothold in the match and slowly wearing down Delbonis. It is only the tendency of Simon to somehow fall into these five set matches at the Grand Slams that is preventing me to pick him winning this in four sets, but the odds against quote of at least four sets being played looks hard to ignore.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: This is the third time Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut will be meeting on the Tour and the first time they won't be contesting the Moscow title when they do. The former US Open Champion has won both previous matches by the same 64, 64 score each time and Cilic has looked in decent nick through the first two Rounds and looks a worthy favourite to make it three in a row.

I do respect the way Bautista Agut has been getting the best out of his game and his hard work around the court means he is always making opponents have to beat him rather than giving the match away. His serve looks relatively weak, especially alongside Cilic's, but Bautista Agut does a good job backing it up off the ground and there is plenty of character in his performances.

That has been in evidence this week as he has had to go through five sets in both matches played against Martin Klizan and Dusan Lajovic. The competition is ramped up and even if Bautista Agut hasn't really had a couple of 'tough' five setters, he is still going to feel it a little in the legs after winning the title in Auckland last week. However, even with the additional sets played this week, Bautista Agut has only spent less than a hour more on court than his opponent

With the run in Auckland and the mental pressures of battling through two five setters here, Bautista Agut does have some scars and Cilic has looked very good in his two wins this week. The match up with Cilic hasn't been the best for Bautista Agut because of the power that is on the other side of the court and the likelihood that the Spaniard will give away a couple of chances to have his serve broken which ultimately costs him.

Potentially this match could be delayed until Saturday which will help Bautista Agut, but I still think it has all the makings of a 63, 64, 76 kind of win for Cilic.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 sets v Nick Kyrgios: The Third Round on Friday has set a couple of really good matches- the first is Roger Federer vs Grigor Dimitrov, but the last match on the Rod Laver Arena might be the one that takes on the headlines.

Tomas Berdych was a Semi Finalist here last season and he has been a feature of the top 10 of the World Rankings for many a year now. He might have missed his boat to actually win a Grand Slam title, but Berdych is a dangerous player and he won't be intimidated by the power nor the flash that the young Australian Nick Kyrgios brings to the court.

There is no doubting he is like Marmite- you either love or you hate Nick Kyrgios and I am in the former category. Some of the things he has done have pushed the boundaries too far, but I like Kyrgios although he now has the pressure of the nation on his shoulders with Lleyton Hewiit being sent into retirement on this court on Thursday.

Kyrgios is part of a new generation of Australian Men's tennis players that could be destined for the top, but he has yet to fully show he can embrace the support he will get even when things are going wrong. On those occasions Kyrgios can be quick to turn against the crowd and have them urging against him, although that would take some doing on the Rod Laver Arena.

I can see Kyrgios irritating Berdych had time, a player who is not that far away from playing on the edge between control and anger. There have been plenty of runs in from Berdych through his career, but he has to think he has the more polished game of the two at this stage of their careers and biding his time will extract errors from Kyrgios' game.

I really am looking forward to this one, but I am surprised the layers believe it is much closer than I would potentially have it right now. Nick Kyrgios has some big wins, notably beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon and Roger Federer at the Madrid Masters, but he was beaten by a top ten player in Andy Murray three times in the Slams last season while earning one set and lost to another top ten player at Wimbledon in Richard Gasquet in four sets.

Since that win over Nadal at Wimbledon, Milos Raonic and Tommy Robredo have also seen off Nick Kyrgios at the Grand Slam level and I do think think Berdych is consistent enough to get this done. I can see a pivotal tie-breaker going the way of the big Czech player in the middle of this match that helps him get through in either three or four sets as long as he is not distracted by the antics across the other side of the net.

Belinda Bencic - 4.5 games v Kateryna Bondarenko: One of the few mothers that are playing on the Tour, Kateryna Bondarenko has already had a week that has surpassed expectations by reaching the Third Round. The win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Second Round makes her a dangerous opponent for Belinda Bencic in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, but I have faith that the youngster can win this match with some room to spare.

It has been a pretty solid week for Bencic too as she has won both matches she has played in straight sets to back up her Semi Final run in Sydney last week. There were perhaps a couple of question marks over Bencic having retired during that Semi Final, but she has been in control of her play and emotions this week, although I expect both to be tested.

My one issue with Bencic is that she can lose focus and 'throw away' a set when it is not going the way she wants and that makes this number of games dangerous for her to overcome. On the other hand I think she is a very good player and someone who handles the pressure of expectation pretty well for someone as young as Bencic is.

I like her match up too with Bondarenko trying to back up a couple of very good wins, but who had been having issues prior to the tournament. Bondarenko failed to qualify for Hobart thanks to a pretty heavy loss and this feels like a match that will be close for a while but eventually end with Bencic moving through behind a 64, 63 win.

Kristina Mladenovic v Daria Gavrilova: She might only have recently officially become an Australian citizen, but Daria Gavrilova has already been embraced by her new public. Her upset win over Petra Kvitova saw her dominate the local headlines two days ago and now she returns to the court with added expectation and perhaps pressure on her.

Gavrilova has said she doesn't feel that, but has embraced the warmth and support she has been given by the public. That does make her a dangerous player having opened up her section of the draw with the upset, but I believe Kristina Mladenovic is worthy of being an even stronger favourite to win this match.

The Frenchwoman and Gavrilova had initially been close to a pick 'em but the support has begun to come in for Mladenovic who has more experience at this level following a very successful US Open run. That experience can be crucial as Gavrilova has made it through to the Third Round of a Grand Slam for the first time and now faces an opponent who has looked strong in the first two Rounds.

Mladenovic is yet to drop a set and will set things up behind her big serve and I do think we may see Gavrilova struggle to deal with all the new eyes that will be on her. She has experienced playing on a big court at the Australian Open which will help, but the win over Kvitova means more interviews, more request for her time and Mladenovic will be quietly preparing and getting ready without that attention.

I do think Mladenovic will have to serve well to not give Gavrilova too much to get pumped up about, but I think she can do that and win to move into the second week.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 1.5 Sets @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 6.5 Games @ 1.85 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis-Gilles Simon Over 3.5 Total Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 13-21, - 15.62 Units (65 Units Staked, - 24.03% Yield)

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