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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (January 5th)

It feels like only yesterday that Great Britain were winning the Davis Cup and putting a period mark next to the 2015 Tennis Season, but the off-season is not as long as it is in other sports.

Before we knew it, the new 2016 season has rolled around as players have begun their preparation for the opening Grand Slam of the season which begins in Australia in under two weeks time. I am still not completely convinced that the the first Slam of the season should begin just three weeks into the new campaign, but the Tennis Tour have had this quirk for some time and it looks unlikely to change.

The players also have to amend their schedules to take in the Olympic Games this season which take place in Rio de Janeiro in August.

I am looking forward to the season from a viewing perspective as I really want to see if players are able to close the gap on Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic who dominated the WTA and ATP Tours respectively. Both players won three Grand Slams last season while Serena got to the Semi Final of the fourth and Novak Djokovic was a beaten Finalist in the French Open.

The question is whether the other players have made enough of an inroad in the off-season to challenge those two players who will go into the Australian Open as big favourites.

I am expecting a resurgence from the likes of Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka who had disappointing 2015 seasons relative to what they have produced in the past. Roger Federer will certainly feel he still has a Grand Slam left in him, while Andy Murray has seen fatherhood help other players on the Tour and could be a big threat later in the season at Wimbledon and the US Open.

All in all this does look like it will be a fascinating season with the drama beginning this week through to November.

Last season was my worst season making picks on the Tennis Tour by a long, long way! I was in a tremendous position following Wimbledon, but July to November had so little luck and some really terrible weeks as I couldn't find a way to get out of the slump.

That ruined the season totals but 2016 is a new season and I fully expect to bounce back.

I just hope a bit of luck is on my side going forward and I won't have the horrific months of terrible picks and luck combined that destroyed the 2015 season from the position it should have been in.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Sergiy Stakhovsky: The first pick I am making from the new season comes from the tournament in Doha and Tomas Berdych getting his 2016 season underway against Sergiy Stakhovsky. The latter will always be remembered for his win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon, but he has yet to give Berdych any real problems in matches between them which are led by the higher Seed 6-0.

The ultra-consistent Berdych finished in the top eight of the World Rankings again last season, but he found it much more difficult when facing the top players on the Tour. That was highlighted in his three losses at the O2 Arena in the World Tour Finals, but Berdych continues to be good enough to dispose those players down the Rankings.

His big serve and solid groundstrokes should give him a platform in this First Round match in Doha against Stakhovsky who is never too far from throwing in a sloppy service game or two per set.

It is the first match of the season for Berdych though which has to be a concern. He has lost early a couple of times in his first tournament, but Berdych was dominant in his run to the Final here in Doha last season before finding David Ferrer too good and the big man didn't drop any sets on his way through to the Final while dominating matches.

His previous successes against Stakhovsky should mean Berdych is not too surprised by anything he sees in this match and I think he will prove too strong in a 63, 64 win.

Leonardo Mayer - 2.5 games v Benjamin Becker: Benjamin Becker has to be in the twilight of a career that never hit the heights that a win over Andre Agassi in the latter's last ever match might have suggested it would. There is some toughness in the German, which shouldn't be a surprise, but he is erratic at best and this could easily be his last year on the Tour.

The desire to compete hasn't gone away just yet though as Becker fought through two Qualifying Rounds to reach the main draw in Doha. Becker battled back from a set down in each of those wins which should have him battle hardened when facing Leonardo Mayer who is making his season bow.

Mayer had a solid 2015 season developing, but he went 7-8 after Wimbledon and missed out on his most wins in a single season from 2014. That also means he is likely to just miss out on a Seeding at the Australian Open but there still might be more to come from the current Argentinian Number 1.

These two met early last season in Australia in a match that saw Mayer use his under-rated serve to keep Becker at bay before cracking through the German's defences. I think this first match of 2016 will go in a similar way for Mayer who is the younger and better player at this stage of their careers.

Of course the fact Becker has a couple of matches under his belt can't be ignored, and I do think that will see him have the edge in range off the ground early in the match. However I expect Mayer to settle into the match and come through with a 76, 63 win.

Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: There is every chance that Great Britain will have two players Seeded at Wimbledon this year if Aljaz Bedene can kick on to open 2016. Depending on how quick the ITF can come to a decision this year, there is every chance Bedene is leading the line for Great Britain as they defend the Davis Cup which was won in December.

For now he will concentrate on his first match of the 2016 season as he looks to improve on his Number 45 World Ranking, but it looks a tough match against Vasek Pospisil who is still trying to find his consistency on the Tour.

What Pospisil does possess is a pretty good serve and decent volleying skills, although he can be a little erratic off the ground from the baseline. The Canadian will look to use his weapons to put some scoreboard pressure on Bedene and try and crack the latter that way, although he is likely to be assisted by Bedene who can be a little sloppy protecting his serve at times.

The Pospisil return game can be a little poor at times, but he is likely to get enough balls back in play through his sheer wingspan which can extract errors from Bedene. I expect it will be a tight battle that will take a couple of points here and there to make the difference between winning and losing, but I like Pospisil's chances of getting out of tougher spots behind the big serve and I believe he will eventually prevail in this one 76, 64.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Leonardo Mayer - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

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