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Friday, 22 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2016 (January 23rd)

I have never had a run as bad as the one I have been on in the last couple of days, especially when it comes to the Grand Slam tournaments.

I couldn't pick a single thing right but I am getting really frustrated by the lack of any good fortune I am getting. Kei Nishikori suddenly can't play with his bad wrist and loses the second set before fighting back, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a break up in every set but loses serve immediately in the last couple of sets, and Belinda Bencic has all the chances but can't make a return get further than the service line to cost her the cover.

All three players won, but it kept going through the day as Marin Cilic blew a healthy second set lead that might have turned his match against Roberto Bautista Agut, Roger Federer missed a 0-40 chance at 5-3 up in the first set and ultimately that costs him with him failing to cover by a single game.

Kristen Mladenovic then played a horrific final few games to go down 11-9 deep in the third set and I was watching some of these things happening and you do get frustrated when those chances have been there.

Instead I have had two of the worst back to back days since I've began making my picks and this Grand Slam is almost certainly going to end with a losing record which just annoys me down to the ground.

And before anyone asks, no I don't think any matches have been fixed but instead it has been a frustrating time.

So what can I do? There is no point making too many changes to the way I am at the moment because I can really point to a lot of poor luck not helping me out, but I really hope that does turn around and get this tournament very much back on track.

Feliciano Lopez + 1.5 sets v John Isner: It was a gruelling five set match for Feliciano Lopez two days ago and the question has to be how much does he have left in the tank following that tough, tough Second Round match. His fitness is not usually something to be overly concerned about and he does have an 8-9 record in Grand Slams following a five set match, but Lopez has enjoyed his previous matches against John Isner.

The big serving American is going to fizz plenty of balls past opponents, but Lopez has the slice return that can nullify that a little, especially if we get to tie-breakers. He is 4-6 in tie-breakers against Isner, but Lopez has found a way to get involved in service games and actually has won their two previous Grand Slam matches at Wimbledon and here at the Australian Open.

I am a little concerned for Isner whose movement didn't look the best in his three set win over Marcel Granollers and that match might have taken on a really different feel if he was pushed into four or five sets. Lopez had to play four tie-breakers in the last Round and it was a long match, longer than he might have figured it to be, but I do think the Spaniard can rally and push this into a fifth set at the least.

In actual fact I think Lopez looks a very live underdog to win this match outright against Isner and he has to be considered to do that. However, I will take the set handicap and look for Lopez to win at least two sets in this one even off the back of his tough Second Round match.

Milos Raonic Win 3-1 v Victor Troicki: This is going to be a tougher Third Round match for Milos Raonic than the layers may be thinking, especially if Victor Troicki can produce the form that took him to the Sydney title last week. That has meant Troicki has played plenty of tennis of late, but the Serb will have every chance of producing a shock if Raonic is playing as ineffectively as he was in the Second Round.

Raonic won in straight sets, but it was a much tougher day in the office against Tommy Robredo than he and many others would have predicted. He blamed not taking a very early chance to break serve which might have made things easier, but that was also against an opponent that hasn't beaten Raonic before.

Troicki won't have to get through those mental battles having beaten Raonic in straight sets in Beijing in the last quarter of 2015, but it is still a big ask to get through and earn the upset. He will have to be at his best to do that, but Troicki hasn't been that strong in the tournament so far to think he will be able to do just that.

It will be close at times with both players able to run through service games, but I think the edge is with the Brisbane Champion in this match between two players who have won titles this season. Milos Raonic has looked after his serve effectively enough to think he will get the better of Troicki but it is hard to imagine it coming in comfortable fashion as a straight sets win would suggest.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Lukas Rosol: I am not a big fan of backing Stan Wawrinka as a big favourite, especially with big spreads, but I did it in the Second Round and will go back to him in the Third Round. As dangerous as Lukas Rosol can be on the court, Stan Wawrinka will know what to expect and can dominate the second serve he sees to help him through.

This is an even that will always be close to Wawrinka's heart having won the title here, his first Grand Slam, and he is quietly making his way through the draw. He has looked solid in his first two wins and Wawrinka will know he needs to serve well to not allow Rosol to get too much of a foot hold in this match.

One of the weaknesses in the Rosol game is his return and he has rarely hit the heights he achieved when beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. That is the match where he usually produces some fireworks, but he has rarely been able to do the same against other top ten players.

When they met in the Davis Cup two seasons ago, Wawrinka was a comfortable straight sets winner on an indoor hard court, but they had a tight three set match in Geneva last season on clay. I do think the slower courts favour Rosol a little more as he can get a good wind up on his shots, but Wawrinka is very comfortable on the Rod Laver Arena and I think he will batten down and come through 75, 63, 64.

Andy Murray - 9.5 games v Joao Sousa: At first glance you have to say this is a massive spread for Andy Murray to cover when you think he is playing another Seeded player in this Third Round encounter. However, Joao Sousa has really had a hard time with the match up that Murray gives him and the form of the World Number 2 makes him a clear favourite to put another dominant win on the board.

So far Murray has dropped just eleven games in the six sets he has played and he made the big serving Sam Groth look distinctly average. Of course he will have to get used to the different conditions that players are facing when playing on the night session, but Murray dominated Sousa in previous matches and it is hard to see that changing.

I do love what Sousa has got out of his game and the fact he is Seeded is testament to the hard work he puts into his tennis. He won a title at the back end of 2015 in Valencia, the biggest of his career, and Sousa has also only dropped a single set so far in two Rounds which will give him plenty of confidence.

However, Sousa has lost all six previous matches against Murray including two absolute pastings at the Australian Open in 2013 and 2015 which would have seen the British player cover this number of games. There won't be too many cheap points being earned by Sousa in this one as Murray gets plenty of balls back in play and also is the far superior player off the ground who won't look to push too far and start handing out a bunch of unforced errors.

As long as Murray avoids the sloppy set he threw in at the French Open when the met last season, one that meant he would have missed covering this number of games by one game, I think the World Number 2 continues serene progress through the draw behind a 62, 63, 63 win.

Bernard Tomic - 6.5 games v John Millman: Two Australians will meet in the final match of the night session on the Rod Laver Arena and Bernard Tomic looks a considerable favourite to win the match. He will respect what John Millman brings to the court, but the latter has spent a lot more time on court than Tomic and the superior player should prove far too strong.

It was only a sloppy finish to the third set against Simone Bolelli that prevented Tomic making routine progress into the Third Round and that has to be a concern for me. There are too many times that Tomic seems to just go off the boil when the match is at hand, but I think this match up is a lot more comfortable for him than the enigmatic Italian.

Tomic will know exactly what he is going to get from John Millman and he should be relatively comfortable on the court. Avoiding those mental lapses is the key for Tomic if he is going to get over this number but he should have plenty of chances to do that with his style of play as he frustrates Millman by getting plenty of balls back in play and employing plenty of variation.

This has been a good start to the 2016 season for Tomic and I think he has a chance of coming through this Third Round match in perhaps the most straight-forward fashion he has all week.

Johanna Konta - 3.5 games v Denisa Allertova: I am not going to be ashamed of the fact that I was pretty high on the Johanna Konta game for a while, especially now she is living up to the potential she has. Konta has the chance to reach the Fourth Round in back to back Grand Slams with a win on Saturday and I do think she has every chance of beating Denisa Allertova behind the two wins she has already achieved at Melbourne Park.

Last season Konta was beaten in three sets in the French Open First Round by Allertova and she can't underestimate a player that has beaten a Seeded player in Sabine Lisicki to make it through to the Third Round.

Like many on the WTA Tour, Allertova has had some big successes, but finding the consistency in her game continues to elude her. She has beaten the likes of Simona Halep but lost to Misaki Doi, and I think Konta is able to get revenge for the loss she suffered last year in Roland Garros.

There really wasn't much between them back in May as Allertova won four more points to move into the Second Round. I do think the British Number 1 has improved markedly from a mental point of view since that match and she is not going to overawed by the occasion having already reached the Fourth Round at the US Open in September.

Konta handled being the favourite in her win over Saisai Zheng in the Second Round as she backed up her big win over Venus Williams for the loss of just five games. She did show nerves trying to close the show in the same manner she did against Venus Williams, but Konta will be stronger for that and I think she is good enough to break down Allertova and win this one 75, 64.

Ekaterina Makarova v Karolina Pliskova: One of the few players that has come through for me this week is Karolina Pliskova, but her Grand Slam 'failures' might continue as I believe Ekaterina Makarova ends her tournament in the Third Round. Pliskova really had a hard time at this level in 2015 and Makarova is the kind of player that has plenty of experience of going deep into tournaments that can't be dismissed.

The Russian's best Grand Slam successes have come at the Australian Open and she has the making of another deep run if she can see off Pliskova in this one.

I would imagine Makarova is plenty confident having won both previous matches against Pliskova and won all four sets played, including here at the Australian Open in 2015. As big as Pliskova's serve is, Makarova can match that power and it was the latter who dictated the rallies when they met here last year in a very deserved win.

This one is likely to be closer, but Makarova has quietly come through the draw having lost nine games in the four sets she has played this week. I was impressed with how Pliskova dealt with her first two opponents, but this is another level up when it comes to opponents and I believe the lower Ranked player wins the match and moves into another Fourth Round here.

Ana Ivanovic v Madison Keys: The opening match on the Rod Laver Arena for the night session features a player that is beloved in Australia against one that made a lot of friends following her own special run last season. Ana Ivanovic loves playing in Melbourne and the draw has opened up for a big tournament for her, but it is a big task to take on the big hitting Madison Keys who was a Semi Finalist here in 2015.

Keys didn't disgrace herself in a narrow defeat to Serena Williams in that Semi Final, but she hasn't really found the consistency in her game since then. Even coming into this tournament, Keys has admitted she might not be at her best having suffered an unfortunate accident in the off-season and being a little match rusty.

The two tough wins that Keys has had to battle out might actually work in her favour in that regards, giving her some confidence to take on Ivanovic who has plenty of power but is never far away from the serving yips. That could be critical in this match as Keys has been serving pretty effectively with just one break in each of her first two matches.

Ivanovic will feel she has the power and hitting ability to get more chances than the previous two opponents had in their losses to Keys. The second serve Ivanovic possesses is a particular weakness that she has to try and hide as much as possible, but I do think she might have the physical edge in this one which should be close and competitive throughout.

I do feel Keys is looking like a short favourite at this point of her fitness and backing Ivanovic to reach another Fourth Round here thanks to the large crowd support is the call.

Varvara Lepchenko - 2.5 games v Shuai Zhang: I was stunned by Shuai Zhang's win in the Second Round against Alize Cornet and the Qualifier has admitted this has already been a dream run in the Australian Open. She might not be favoured by the layers, but Zhang has to feel this is the first match of the main draw where she 'should' be winning and I am looking forward to seeing how she copes with that different sort of pressure.

Zhang might have the edge over Varvara Lepchenko having already played one match in the night session during this tournament, but I do wonder when all the tennis she has played affects her performance. The Chinese players is playing with plenty of confidence which makes her extremely dangerous, but I can't shake the fact she needed fourteen games to beat Virginie Razzano in the Qualifiers and that overrides her two top wins.

Her opponent Lepchenko is a solid but unspectacular player and she has done just enough to come through her first two matches in the main draw. Lepchenko will give Zhang a different look with the lefty serve and this is a big chance to reach the Fourth Round which would match her career best performance at a Grand Slam having done that previously in the 2012 French Open and 2015 US Open.

As long as Lepchenko stays in the moment and doesn't start looking ahead, I think she has a very good chance of wearing down Zhang in this one. Credit the latter for a very strong tournament, but Zhang has to eventually feel some pressure and physical ailments from a long ten days of tennis. With this being a match that many will tell her she can win, Zhang might feel that pressure on Saturday in the Third Round and I will look for Lepchenko to come through.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez + 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Milos Raonic Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 9.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 3.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova @ 1.90 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic @ 2.38 Bet365 (2 Units)
Varvara Lepchenko - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 14-29, - 29.12 Units (83 Units Staked, - 35.08% Yield)

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