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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 8 Picks 2016 (January 25th)

We are now getting into the business end of the first Grand Slam of the season as half of the Quarter Final line up for both Men's and Women's draws were put together on Sunday.

The second halves will be decided on Monday and this is the time of a tournament when the big matches start being put together.

It has been a tough tournament for predictions with many surprises through the last eight days and some of the well known players perhaps a little undercooked for a run. However, the cream tends to rise to the top and it is no surprise that the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are into the last eight.

While my picks have had a poor time of things in a Grand Slam, I have at least kept all of the outright picks intact through to this point.

Both Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic remain the favourites to win the respective titles, while backing Roger Federer to win his Quarter is a far shorter price now than it was when the tournament opened.

You have to also like the chances of Victoria Azarenka coming through the bottom half of the draw with the form she has displayed to open 2016, but that feels 'further' away with her having to negotiate her Fourth Round match on Monday.

Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 sets v Milos Raonic: The head to head between Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic has been dominated by the former, although some will point out that Raonic won their most recent match in an exhibition tournament to open the new season.

However, I am with Bernard Tomic in saying that exhibition matches are not the same as winning a 'real' tournament match so there are some mental demons for Raonic to work against. He has lost all four matches against Wawrinka and Raonic has failed to take a set in recent matches and has seen his sequence extended to eight sets lost to Wawrinka in a row.

The bigger worry for Raonic has to be the fact he has lost all five previous tie-breakers the pair have played against one another, an area where you think he would be most dangerous. The quicker courts on the main show courts in Melbourne will likely mean one or two tie-breakers in this one with both Raonic and Wawrinka able to produce big serves and heavy groundstrokes.

I have to say that Raonic has looked to improve his return game this season and has played well to win in Brisbane so confidence has to be high. However, he looked a little ropey in his win over Tommy Robredo and Wawrinka loves the courts here and has looked like a very dangerous contender to add to his two Grand Slam wins.

It would be something of a surprise to me if Wawrinka was not able to get enough balls into play to find his way into the Quarter Final from a match up he has seemingly enjoyed. Maybe Milos Raonic can win his first set against Wawrinka since 2012, but I like Wawrinka coming through in either three or four sets.

Bernard Tomic + 2.5 sets v Andy Murray: With Lleyton Hewitt officially retired, the gap at the top of Australian tennis is looking to be filled by the next generation with Nick Kyrgios the most likely to be their next Grand Slam Champion. However, don't tell Bernard Tomic that after he was critical of Roger Federer's comments about his chances of reaching the top 10 of the World Rankings.

I do think Tomic has been inspired by the younger Australian players coming up behind him, and this is a big year for him to take the next step in his career. There has always been an element of Tomic perhaps not giving his all to his craft to improve, but he has looked a more aggressive player this week and will enjoy the faster courts on the Rod Laver Arena.

Even with that in mind, Tomic is still a healthy underdog to beat the Number 2 player in the world in Andy Murray, especially the way the latter has been playing this week. One factor that potentially is in play is how Murray is feeling after his father-in-law collapsed a couple of days ago, but Nigel Sears seems to be over the worst so the British player can concentrate on his game.

The match up has been a good one for Murray in the past having won all three matches and all seven sets against Tomic. That includes a straight sets win in the Davis Cup in Britain, but playing on hostile territory is a different test for Murray, while Tomic suggested the courts in the Davis Cup were too slow for him and being able to be as aggressive as he likes.

Tomic will need to serve well to have any chance because he potentially will have a couple of chances to break the Murray serve in each set. With the way the Australian is playing and with the support behind him, I would be surprised if he crumbled to a straight sets loss and I think the odds against quote with him getting this much of a head start is hard to ignore.

David Ferrer - 1.5 sets v John Isner: I don't believe it is much of a surprise that David Ferrer has such a strong record against John Isner. We all know the American has a huge serve, but you would think that Ferrer becomes a significant favourite in any rally that goes into the five plus shot territory.

That is likely to be the case again on Monday in this Fourth Round match, especially with Ferrer looking in decent form to come through his first three matches without losing a set. He was beaten by Jack Sock in Auckland last week from which Isner can draw some confidence, but on the the hand the latter was beaten by Roberto Bautista Agut at the same event, a player with a similar mindset as Ferrer.

The mental edge is most definitely with Ferrer having last lost to Isner in 2011 and winning six of seven previous matches against him including all three since that loss. One issue is that Ferrer has lost three tie-breakers in a row to Isner which is a concern for me as the quicker courts will likely see us get to at least one and possibly two of those.

I do think Ferrer is capable of getting enough balls in play to give Isner troubles, although the American can be dangerous if he is able to close the net and pressure Ferrer. It's just hard for Isner to do that over three or four hours like he might need to do against a terrier like Ferrer who will chase down everything and drag Isner into some long rallies.
Ferrer is 7-2 in the last nine sets played by these two- the speedy courts will help Isner some, but I think Ferrer moves into the Quarter Final with a three or four set win.

Gael Monfils - 5.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: When the draw was made, if you were to have asked 100 people to name the eight Quarter Finalists, I am not sure many would have picked Gael Monfils or Andrey Kuznetsov to be one of those. However these are the two players that have taken advantage of Rafael Nadal's surprise exit in the First Round and have been given a big opportunity to get into a Grand Slam Quarter Final.

This is a more familiar position for Gael Monfils who has played well this week and quietly made his way through the draw. Injuries and a loss of form have hurt Monfils through his career and I do think he is going to fail to reach the potential heights that many thought he might have had.

The Frenchman might not have had an 'easier' path through to a Fourth Round in a Slam and if he wins this one Monfils will yet to have really been tested. But he won't be worried about that and I do think he will have too much for Kuznetsov who has played well to get into the Fourth Round with just one set dropped.

Kuznetsov has already surpassed his previous best result at a Grand Slam and he has talent as shown by winning the Junior title at Wimbledon. He has yet to really show that consistently on the main Tour and I think someone like Monfils can frustrate him in this one and eventually wear him down.

It was Monfils who won their two matches in 2015 and he has been getting stronger in his matches after relatively slow starts. He can't afford to make one here as it will give Kuznetsov plenty of confidence, but I think Monfils may come through 76, 64, 63 in this one.

Ekaterina Makarova - 2.5 games v Johanna Konta: This has been another special Grand Slam for Johanna Konta who is well on the way to earning a Seeding by the time Wimbledon rolls around. She now has a second opportunity in the space of a few months to become the first British female player to reach the Quarter Final of a Grand Slam in over thirty years, but once again is facing a formidable left-hander.

At the US Open it was Petra Kvitova who proved too strong for Konta in straight sets, but the latter did anything but disgrace herself in that match which was competitive. This time she faces Ekaterina Makarova who has loved playing in Melbourne in her career and who has put together three convincing wins to move into the Fourth Round again.

The mental aspect might edge towards Konta having beaten Makarova last year on the grass of Eastbourne, but this is a different challenge on courts the latter enjoys. The Russian was serving very big in her win over Karolina Pliskova and her best shot instinctively attacks the Konta forehand which I believe is her weaker wing.

I have so much time for Konta and I really think she is capable of producing some great tennis no matter who is standing on the other side of the court. However, I think her run has been helped by playing opponents who have perhaps not been at 100% and she has to raise her game significantly to win this one.

It will be tight and competitive, but ultimately I think Makarova is too good on the day and I like her to progress 64, 64 and move into another Melbourne Quarter Final.

Madison Keys - 3.5 games v Shuai Zhang: The second night match looks a very good one for the neutrals as the underdog story of Shuai Zhang takes on the Semi Finalist from twelve months ago in Madison Keys.

Not many are going to get bored of listening to Zhang's story and her run to the Fourth Round which began in the Qualifiers. She can't be accused of earning a fortunate draw as Zhang beat the World Number 2 in Simona Halep, the Hobart Champion Alize Cornet and then demolished Varvara Lepchenko, another Seed.

The confidence is in such a high place and she has become the latest player coming out of left field to perform wonders at the Australian Open. The fact Zhang is also 2-2 in the head to head with Madison Keys won't reduce that confidence but might actually give her the belief she can win this match, even if the last match was two years ago.

Before this tournament, I wouldn't have said there had been a big improvement in Zhang's game but Madison Keys had improved measurably from that time. However her confidence makes her dangerous and Keys will have to be aware of the player on the other side of the net.

Keys has the big game to blow her off if she is on, but that hasn't always been the case with her bludgeoning style a hindrance if the margins are not quite where they are expected to be. I think the courts suit Keys though and I think she is the better player, but I appreciate the Zhang run although I expect it to end with a 63, 64 defeat on Monday.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Sets @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic + 2.5 Sets @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Gael Monfils - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update22-36, - 28.34 Units (112 Units Staked, - 25.30% Yield)

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