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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (January 13th)

The first picks of the week came out very positive with all three made on Tuesday coming through as winners.

It is only a start though and there is plenty of tennis left to be played this week, although the schedule is tighter than usual as the tournaments in action look to get all the matches played by Saturday to ensure everyone has a break before the Australian Open begins on Monday.

The draw for the Men's Qualifiers have been made Down Under, but the main draws won't be put together until the end of the week (Thursday night/Friday morning for those of us in the United Kingdom).

British eyes will be interested in the Men's Qualifiers though with the likes of Dan Evans and James Ward trying to get into the main draw, but a harsh reality is that Andy Murray remains the sole genuine Grand Slam threat from Britain even if they did win the Davis Cup last season.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 2.5 games v Sara Errani: The Sydney WTA event has reached the Quarter Finals and all four of those matches are going to be played on Wednesday with that event concluding on Friday for the women.

A decent field has been put together in Sydney and that should remain competitive with the early finish meaning the winner will have plenty of time to prepare for Melbourne Park.

The first of the Quarter Finals is being played by two veterans of the Tour in Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sara Errani and I think the former is going to come through for a place in the Semi Finals. Both have had impressive wins this week after their first tournament of the season was ended a touch prematurely last week in Auckland/Brisbane respectively.

I do like the match up Kuznetsova has in this one although I would not be surprised to see a number of breaks of serve for each player. However, Kuznetsova definitely has the serve that is likely to be more secure and I can her having enough success behind the first serve to just keep Errani at bay. We know Errani's serve is a big weakness of her game and it is a matter of Kuznetsova getting over the return and forcing the break point chances that should see her come through in straight sets.

It has been a match up Kuznetsova has enjoyed in the past although it has been a long time since they have played one another since their meeting in Tokyo 2013. However, the bigger hitting of Kuznetsova should see her earn enough chances to win this match with Errani and I like her coming through 64, 64 for a Semi Final place.

Sam Stosur - 3.5 games v Monica Puig: This is a rare position for Sam Stosur to be in after she made it through to the Quarter Finals in Sydney and I have to say that the Australian has got to be happy with the opponent next up for her in Monica Puig. That is no disrespect to Puig who had a very special win in the Second Round, but this has been a terrible match up for her in the past and the Stosur serve was in good form on Tuesday.

The serve has posed a big problem for Puig against Stosur and the past four matches between the players has shown that with Puig's best performance seeing her win 35% of the points against the Australian's serve. That first match came at the French Open in 2014 and the three subsequent matches has seen Puig win a lower and lower percentage of points against the Stosur serve (35%-33%-28%-22%).

It might have something to do with Puig's aggression as the Stosur serve can be difficult to attack and another poor returning display is only going to play into the home favourite's hands. Asking Puig to keep her unforced errors in check is not always a productive way to go about things and Stosur has to be confident having won all eight previous sets against Puig and dropping eight games in total being her 'worst' performance.

That did come in their last match in Hong Kong towards the end of last season, but Stosur was very much in control of that one and could have earned at least a couple more breaks of serve than she did. I think Stosur will use her serve to keep the scoreboard pressure on Puig in this one and I believe she will earn a break more in each set to come through 64, 63 and reach her first Semi Final in Sydney since her first appearance here in 2005.

David Ferrer - 5.5 games v Matthew Barton: Over the years, David Ferrer has enjoyed significant success in Auckland in preparation for the Australian Open. After a poor showing in Doha, where he was defending the title he won to open 2015, Ferrer has taken a Wild Card into Auckland to get some matches under his belt before the first Grand Slam of the season begins.

The Wild Card put Ferrer into the tournament as the Number 1 Seed which means he received a bye in the First Round and I think he will have a distinct advantage in this Second Round match against Matthew Barton. Credit the Australian for coming through the Qualifiers and then winning a First Round match, especially as the last two wins have come against Denis Kudla and Steve Johnson, but Barton will also know this is a big step up for him.

It hasn't really happened for Barton so far in his career but the last two wins will give him plenty of confidence to take into this Second Round match. Barton will look to get to the net to pressure Ferrer and has to take advantage of his current knowledge of the conditions the players are dealing with, but this still looks a big step up from his usual level and it is hard to see him bridge that gap.

Ferrer will give players a chance, if they are hot, because he doesn't have a dominant shot and instead looks to wear down opponents. However, I think the Spaniard is focused for a big week after the disappointment in Doha and that makes him very dangerous and even more so when considering the success he has had in Auckland in his career.

I think the first set might be close as Ferrer gets to see what Barton has to offer, but I expect a double break in the second which should lead to a 64, 62 win for the Number 1 Seed.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: This is the opening match of the season for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga whose goal has to be to break back into the top eight of the World Rankings after just missing out on the World Tour Finals in 2015.

The first three months of the season are critical for the Frenchman who didn't begin his 2015 season until Miami so the points he can earn in the coming weeks are going to help his World Ranking in the immediate future. 2015 was a little too inconsistent for Tsonga fans and they will be hoping there is still something left in the tank from a player who has suffered a number of injuries through his career and is turning 31 in a few months time.

Tsonga is not usually one for the preparation tournaments ahead of the Australian Open and this is the first time he will be playing one since winning in Doha in 2012. However, he could not have asked for a better match up than Philipp Kohlschreiber in the opening match of the 2016 season having beaten the German all eight previous times they have played one another including at the back end of last season in Metz.

Some of the matches have been very close with Kohlschreiber capable of hitting a purple patch that can knock Tsonga out of his stride at times. Kohlschreiber will have to return better than he did in his first match in Auckland against Benjamin Becker if he is going to get on the front foot here, but he has looked a player that might be coming down the mountain from his own career peak and I think Tsonga holding the mental edge is going to be key.

I actually thought Tsonga would be a bigger favourite than he has been set for this match and I think he will come through after a tight first set with a 76, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Svetlana Kuznetsova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-0, + 5.56 Units (6 Units Staked, + 92.67% Yield)

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