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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 27th)

Two of my picks on Friday ended in retirements with one going against me and one going for me so I can't really complain too much.

It was a tough day for the picks, easily the toughest of the week as I didn't really get the luck to go with them. Alexandr Dolgopolov looked to be in complete control of his Semi Final before he was beaten in three sets, while Federico Delbonis would have covered if he wasn't upset in another final set losing pick.

Thankfully Sloane Stephens saved it from being a really poor day as we head into the final two days of this weeks tournaments. Next week is a quieter one with a couple of WTA tournaments being run, but the ATP Tour takes time off with the Davis Cup First Round matches played from Friday 4th March until Sunday 6th March.

Following that we have back to back Masters/Premier Event taking place in North America at Indian Wells and Miami so March is going to be another busy month on the Tour.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: The Final in Dubai is something of a surprise because Novak Djokovic is not involved having pulled out of the draw earlier in the tournament. Both Djokovic and Roger Federer have dominated the title in Dubai in recent seasons so the locals will have a new Champion to support at the end of this one.

Stan Wawrinka had never won a match in Dubai before this week and had to ride his luck in the First Round when under intense pressure from Sergiy Stakhovsky. At this point of the event he should be very comfortable in the conditions and Wawrinka will also be confident of the match up against Marcos Baghdatis.

The Cypriot has had a very strong week to this point, but he will have to be even better than previously if he is going to beat Wawrinka for the first time. For starters he has to continue to protect the second serve as well as he has and Baghdatis will be put on the back foot if he has to look after that aspect of his game for much of this match.

I don't doubt Baghdatis has the quality to pressure Wawrinka in this one too when the latter blows hot and cold on the court, but I think this is the time in a tournament when the Swiss player is at his best. I can see Wawrinka working the Baghdatis backhand through the match and eventually finding his way through the defences to take the title home with a 64, 64 win.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 games v Inigo Cervantes: I got it wrong on Friday as Inigo Cervantes was able to knuckle down and beat Federico Delbonis, but it was a close final set that would have seen the latter cover the number if he had won the match. Cervantes was involved in a really close battle with Pablo Carreno Busta in Quito earlier in the South American Golden Swing, but was beaten for the third time by his compatriot.

On that occasion it was a really close match until the final set when Carreno Busta was able to take his chances and run away with the set. The style of play Cervantes has means there is always a chance for him to lose a set by a double break and that means Carreno Busta should have a chance to cover if he can win the match.

There are just too many second serves that Cervantes is relying upon and that leads to mistakes with double faults or being put under immediate pressure. Of course the chance to get to a main Tour Final is not something either player is that familiar with so nerves will play a part especially who can deal with those best.

I think Carreno Busta is the player with more upside and I think he can make that pay in this one as he comes through in three sets with a double break in one of the sets he wins to make sure he gets over this number.

Dominic Thiem - 2.5 games v Bernard Tomic: I really think Alexandr Dolgopolov let Bernard Tomic off the hook in their Semi Final on Friday, but I do think Dominic Thiem is not going to be a generous as that. The Austrian has a big game that can certainly lose the radar at times, but I love what Thiem brings to the court while his ever improving game is now leading to more Finals and title wins.

This would be the biggest tournament win of his career and he will be one more title from matching his entire haul of 2015. In fact all four previous title wins have come within the last twelve months as a player who I believe will crack the top ten and potentially go much further.

I am not underestimating Tomic who has a big serve and can play with plenty of variation to frustrate players and extract errors from their game. That should work to an extent against Thiem who loves to hit very close to the lines so disrupting the rhythm is a very good tactic against him to try and see errors creep into his performance.

However I am not 100% convinced that Tomic is completely healthy for this one and a more composed and focused player than Dolgopolov would have knocked him out on Friday. Dominic Thiem strikes me as someone who wants to get every ounce out of his ability and is unlikely to start 'messing about' with his shot selection and I like him to come through in two tight sets to win his first hard court title of his career behind a 76, 64 success.

Dominika Cibulkova + 2.5 games v Sloane Stephens: When the WTA Final in Acapulco was set, I thought Dominika Cibulkova would be the favourite to win it even if Sloane Stepehens has a title win behind her in 2016 already.

I just believe the movement of Cibulkova and her aggression on the court combine to make it a very difficult day for Sloane Stephens even if the American has looked very strong this week. While Stephens was an impressive Semi Final winner, I think she was helped by Yanina Wickmayer who brought her error strewn game onto the court, but I don't think Cibulkova is going to be as generous.

In saying that, Cibulkova is not likely to have the same impact behind her serve so will have to work hard to make sure she keeps Stephens at bay, although on the other hand I expect her to put more pressure on the Stephens serve too.

All in all I think this is a match that could easily go the distance which automatically makes the games in hand appealing. Add in the fact I think Cibulkova has every chance of winning the title outright and I have to back the 'pocket rocket' to cover these games.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.67 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 23-13, + 11.66 Units (70 Units Staked, + 16.66% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (February 27-28)

It was a big European week of football and it was ended with an exclamation point as the draw for the Europa League pitted Liverpool versus Manchester United for the third and fourth time this season.

For a competition that is heavily derided in England, that is the kind of draw that will get the pulses racing and those matches that are set for March 10th and March 17th are going to be huge for both clubs that are desperate to get back into the Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur fans will also have a big European tie ahead of them albeit one that has been overshadowed by the Liverpool-Manchester United one. Borussia Dortmund are considered the favourites to win the Europa League so the tie between those two teams should be a very good one with the winner likely to go into the Quarter Finals as arguably the team to beat.

Those matches will come in a few weeks, but before that there are some big Premier League games to be played as well as the first piece of silverware being decided at Wembley Stadium in the Capital One Cup. This is a big weekend for teams at the top and bottom of the Premier League as the season hots up once we reach March and the Easter Weekend is regularly seen as the signal for the final furlong of the season.

The February picks continue to produce decent numbers although the midweek picks were not up to the standard of the rest of the month. I am hoping for one more big weekend to wrap up this month in the correct way and keep the season totals moving back to respectable levels.

West Ham United v Sunderland PickThe return of Sam Allardyce to West Ham United is not going to get the welcome he arguably deserves having pulled the club back into the Premier League and re-establishing their position in the top flight. Most of the fans just simply couldn't stand the football being served up and they will be feeling much happier with the Slaven Bilic approach and are bound to let Allardyce know.

Big Sam is a big character and he won't mind the fans turning their attentions on him if it means his Sunderland side can produce a performance that earns them another point or three in the battle for survival. The team have to be feeling better following a 2-2 draw at Liverpool and beating Manchester United 2-1 at home, but maybe some momentum has been quelled with the two week break.

This is certainly a big test for Sunderland and I think there will be plenty of people who are tempted in by the West Ham United price considering how poorly Sunderland have played on their travels. However I have to respect the fact that this is a team that can score goals away from home and have earned 4 points from their last three away games in the League.

West Ham United will create chances with the fantastic attacking talent they have put together and Sunderland haven't figured things out defensively as they may have been expected to under Sam Allardyce. I can see the home team being able to cause problems but I also can't ignore the fact that Sunderland have scored nine away games in all competitions.

Yes, West Ham United are the more likely winners, but I prefer the bigger price on there being at least three goals with the feeling that the home team will need to score at least twice to take the three points. Sunderland themselves have scored at least twice in 2 of their last 3 away games in the Premier League and the chance for goals may have been overlooked.

Leicester City v Norwich City PickPreviously this season Leicester City have answered the questions as to how they will handle losses, but once again we will hear people wondering if they can recover from the heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Arsenal. I think the two week break would have refreshed some minds and I also think Leicester City have been given a 'nice' opportunity to bounce back against an out of form Norwich City.

Being out of form is one problem, but Norwich City have also been conceding goals at an alarming rate with twenty-one goals conceded in their last seven games in all competitions. In five of those games, opponents have actually reached at least three goals and that is not going to cut it in the Premier League.

Against the pace and creativity Leicester City have shown all season, Norwich City could find themselves under immense pressure through this one. They haven't shown they can dig in and resiliently grind out results too often which would be a major concern in the coming months and I think Leicester City are too good for them on the day.

My one concern is that Leicester City are now playing with a different expectation and how they manage that is going to be key. For all the plaudits they have rightly been given, Leicester City did fail to beat ten man Bournemouth at home last month and they will know how important it is to win and move the pressure to their title rivals who play on Sunday.

However, in saying all that, Leicester City are facing a Norwich City team conceding too many and I do think the home team can become the fifth straight team to beat The Canaries by at least two goals in front of their own fans.

Southampton v Chelsea PickThis looks to be a really interesting Premier League fixture between two clubs managed by Dutch managers and I am finding it hard to separate them. You can't ignore how well Southampton have been playing in recent weeks, but the same can be said for Chelsea who are improving under Guus Hiddink.

Both teams have been improved behind much better defensive performances and it is on those defences that I think a pick can be made.

Simply put, I don't think both teams will score in this one and there is every chance the goalless draw is a very, very big price.

Recent history between Chelsea and Southampton have shown that goals are in order, but these teams have not been doing a lot of scoring or conceding in recent home/away games. Southampton haven't conceded in their last 6 Premier League games and that includes the last 4 at St Mary's.

If not for a late Charlie Austin goal at Old Trafford, Southampton would have had 2 goalless draws in their last 6 Premier League games.

Chelsea haven't kept clean sheets at home under Guus Hiddink, but all 4 away games in the Premier League under the Dutchman have seen them keep clean sheets. That includes 2 goalless draws at Manchester United and Watford and I think both teams will be looking at keeping things tight.

The 'No Goalscorer' option at 9.00 is appealing for a small interest, but I will keep it more simple and back that one of these teams will not score at a little under odds against.

Watford v Bournemouth Pick: This is the kind of game that Bournemouth have to be looking at in the final months of the season in which they need to earn some kind of points if they are to avoid the drop. The Cherries have been unable to get away from the bottom three as those teams continue to pick up points and Bournemouth have lost 3 in a row in all competitions.

However they have really been struggling at the Vitality Stadium and Bournemouth are unbeaten in 5 in a row away from home in all competitions. They won their last away game at Crystal Palace but Watford are a very strong team at Vicarage Road although I don't think that sees Eddie Howe change his tactics for this game.

Bournemouth will look to get forward and score goals, but they are vulnerable defensively and that is where Watford are going to have their opportunities too.

It should be a surprisingly good game of football, especially if an early goal can open up the game a touch and I think both teams will give the game a good go. I am backing there being at least three goals in the game with the defences and attacks on show and that looks a big price at odds against.

Manchester United v Arsenal PickThe Premier League was formed in time for the 1992/93 season and this will be the first time that Arsenal will be travelling to Manchester United and set as the favourites to win the match. That has something to do with the injuries in the Manchester United squad, but I think it also says a lot about how far the team have dropped under Louis Van Gaal.

While most athletes say they don't pay attention to who is the favourite and who is not, I am sure most of the Manchester United players will be aware of the situation. I am not so sure that there are enough characters in the squad that will want to roll up their sleeves and play with a chip on their shoulder though and I think the layers have made no mistakes with who they expect to win.

I do have to say that Manchester United have played better in the 'big' games than they have in others for much of this season and they are hard to beat in these games. I expect Van Gaal will look for disciplined shape, but the defensive injuries make them vulnerable to an Arsenal team blessed with pace.

It is a very big week for Arsenal in the Premier League title race as they visit Old Trafford and White Hart Lane in a seven day period and also host Swansea City during the week. After the defeat to Barcelona the players do have to pull themselves back together and this has usually been a time of the season when The Gunners tend to shoot themselves in the foot.

You also can't ignore the poor recent away form in the Premier League with a run of 3 games without a win before beating Bournemouth. That coupled with Manchester United winning 4 of their last 5 games at Old Trafford in all competitions means this could be a tight and tense game.

There is no denying the importance of Manchester United winning the three points if they have serious ambitions of finishing in the top four and I think there is a chance of seeing goals in historically a high scoring game. Games at Old Trafford tend to be lower scoring than those in North London, but Arsenal are a much more comfortable team on the attack and Manchester United are expected to do the same at home.

My gut feeling is that Arsenal win this one, but I think Manchester United play their part and I will back at least three goals to be shared out in the live Sunday afternoon Premier League offering.

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City PickWhen Tottenham Hotspur were beaten 0-1 by Leicester City in the Premier League last month, most would have wondered about their chances of finishing in the top four. However they have since recorded 5 straight Premier League wins to move to within 2 points of Leicester City at the top of the table and the 1-2 win at Manchester City two weeks ago will have the fans believing.

This is a big week for Tottenham Hotspur who can't afford to slip up against the likes of Swansea City if there is a genuine feeling they can win the title. Following this one they have a tough game at West Ham United before hosting rivals Arsenal in a huge League game next weekend and so dropping any points this weekend could have a longer impact in terms of results than simply this one day.

Swansea City have been improving under Francesco Guidolin, but the team were beaten in their most recent game by Southampton. That was two weeks ago so Swansea City will be fresh to take on a Tottenham Hotspur side that have played three times since then including just three days ago.

The biggest concern for Tottenham Hotspur has to be the potential fatigue they are feeling, but Mauricio Pochettino has made full use of his squad for the Cup games and that should have kept them fresh enough for some big games upcoming.

Harry Kane's return is vital for Tottenham Hotspur and I think they have looked good the last couple of games at White Hart Lane in the Premier League. The League form in general has been very strong, but Tottenham Hotspur will have to be careful against a Swansea City team that did win at Everton last month.

The Swans have also had competitive defeats at Manchester City and Manchester United and they have rarely been beaten easily, even though they have 6 away losses to their name in the Premier League. Only a single one of those has come by more than a single goal and I think Tottenham Hotspur will be happy with any kind of win off the back off three games during a period Swansea City have been resting.

A small interest in Tottenham Hotspur winning by a single goal margin looks like being the right way to play this game.

Liverpool v Manchester City PickThe League Cup Final has been a fairly entertaining game in recent seasons and this one has the potential of being no different when Liverpool take on Manchester City at Wembley Stadium.

If someone was to ask me who is going to win this game, my gut feeling is that Manchester City are the better team and will show that on the day. However Manchester City have a few more injuries to deal with at the moment and Liverpool look a healthier squad now that the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are back.

Add in the fact that Liverpool have won 3 of their last 4 games against Manchester City and crushed them 1-4 at The Etihad Stadium earlier this season and all of a sudden that gut feeling feels more like indigestion.

Both teams look like they will be threatening when getting forward and I think both Jurgen Klopp and Manuel Pellegrini will send out teams that will produce a very good game of football for the neutrals to watch. Both teams should create their chances and it will come down to which of the teams show better composure in front of goal.

That is where I think Sergio Aguero can make the difference for Manchester City compared with Daniel Sturridge who is still finding his feet after an injury. Clean sheets have been an issue for Manchester City more than Liverpool of late but this is the best attacking team that Liverpool have faced for a while.

Games between Liverpool and Manchester City have tended to be high-scoring recently and I prefer picking there being goals than a winner. The last 8 times these teams have played one another has seen at least three goals shared by them and 4 of the last 6 League Cup Finals have also seen that number reached.

Backing at least three goals to be scored between them in the Cup Final might be a little overpriced as far as I can see and I will back that to be the outcome of the match.

MY PICKS: West Ham United-Sunderland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Leicester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Chelsea Both Teams Not to Score @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Watford-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win by One Goal @ 3.60 Stan James (1 Unit)
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

February Update28-19-1, + 23.46 Units (92 Units Staked, + 25.50% Yield)

January Final19-13, + 17.56 Units (61 Units Staked, + 28.79% Yield)
December Final15-23, - 9.32 Units (64 Units Staked, - 14.56% Yield)
November Final: 11-19-1, - 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, - 25.37% Yield)
October Final16-25, - 13.51 Units (79.50 Units Staked, - 16.99% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% Yield)
August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1687-128-5, - 38.37 Units (467 Units Staked, - 8.22% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 26 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 26th)

It has been a very good week for the picks this week from the four tennis tournaments being played in Acapulco, Doha, Dubai and Sao Paulo.

With the range of times between the different events, it does mean that my picks have had to come out in two separate periods. First I can put up the picks for those matches in the Middle East and then I can get any other picks out from the other two events during my lunch break.

Another strong day could mean the season totals move significantly back in a positive direction after a miserable start to 2016. The key is to make sure I am not giving too much away in the final couple of days of the tournaments to be played this week.

I have updated the weekly totals up to the final two matches that were due to be played in Acapulco. I will add those results on Friday lunch time at the same time I add any picks I may have from the two tournaments in Brazil and Mexico.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Carla Suarez Navarro: When these players met in the Australian Open Quarter Final, Carla Suarez Navarro produced an absolutely miserable performance on the court. She will need to be a lot better than that if this match is going to be a lot more competitive and I do think the Spaniard is capable of making things a lot more interesting against Agnieszka Radwanska.

I don't think there will be any surprises if there are a lot of break points in this match as neither player has a dominating serve. One of the keys to the match is how much controlled aggression Suarez Navarro is going to be able to produce effectively as it was her misfiring performance from the back of the court which cost her in at Melbourne Park.

We know the Suarez Navarro backhand is the shot that probably has the most penetration through the court of both players and she can take control of the match if she is hitting that shot with confidence. For Radwanska it is all about getting enough balls back in play and hoping her opponent breaks down but this has been a very good start to 2016 and I do thin Radwanska is playing with enough belief to do that.

Matches between these players has seen the winner cover this number each time and I do think Radwanska is the more likely winner in this one on the form produced over the last two months. That isn't to say that Suarez Navarro has played badly, but she is someone that might need Radwanska off her game or her own to be firing to its maximum to win this one and I like the Pole to move into the Doha Final behind a 64, 46, 61 win.

Andrea Petkovic - 3.5 games v Jelena Ostapenko: Both Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Ostapenko have had some impressive wins to reach a big Semi Final and it is where I expect the experience of the former to prove to be a big difference maker.

After a couple of disappointing losses earlier in the season Petkovic has played well in the Middle East after reaching the Quarter Final in Dubai. She has backed that up here in Doha and her win over Garbine Muguruza in the Quarter Final here on Thursday was a very impressive result.

I think Petkovic will be too strong at this point of her career for the eighteen year old Jelena Ostapenko who has enjoyed a special week in what has been a tough experience for her in 2016. Playing at the higher level at a young age means she is learning each week on the Tour and I think she has benefited from the draw to reach the Semi Final.

Some of her defeats in 2016 have come to players much further down the World Rankings than the likes of Petkovic and I think the latter will understand the opportunity for Ranking points she has. It won't be a blow out win, but Petkovic should ultimately be too strong at key times to win this one 64, 63.

Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: I won't hide the fact that I am a Nick Kyrgios fan and I like some of the antics that put others off- however I didn't like the whole incident with Stan Wawrinka last year in Montreal and I hoping that it doesn't get as personal as it did back then.

It is hard to go against Kyrgios here in Dubai as he continues his strong run from Marseille, but I think he might not be at 100% which is a problem when facing a talented player like Wawrinka. There was a first set issue with his back, while Kyrgios admitted he was struggling with food poisoning and I do wonder if he is going to be completely ready to go in this one.

The Australian is serving unbelievably well at the moment so Stan Wawrinka has to show a little more consistency when he has the ball in hand. Wawrinka himself noted he has been a little up and down with his serve and giving gifts to someone like Kyrgios is never going to end well.

Of course the incident last time these players met will dominate the headlines ahead of the match, but I have to think both players have learned and moved on from it. I don't think that will be a problem, but I can see Wawrinka using it as extra motivation to be more focused and beating a player who has played a lot of tennis over the last two weeks has to be within his abilities.

I am guessing this is going to be an incredibly fun match to watch, but Wawrinka will eventually have enough to come through with a 76, 75 win.

Federico Delbonis - 3.5 games v Inigo Cervantes: The Quarter Final in Sao Paulo that interests me the most is this one between Federico Delbonis and Inigo Cervantes and I do favour the former to come through.

He had to battle hard to beat Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the Second Round and Delbonis should be the stronger player on the South American clay courts. That isn't any disrespect to Cervantes who has moved up to Number 65 in the World Rankings thanks to his success at the Challenger level over the last twelve months.

The Spaniard has had a couple of very solid weeks in South America, but the fact of the matter is that he is used to playing opponents who are not quite at this main Tour level like Delbonis. That has shown up in some of the losses that Cervantes has, especially if he continues to struggle with his serve with double faults being a big issue for him.

I can imagine there are chances for Cervantes to break serve too as Delbonis can be inconsistent behind that serve. However I ultimately think Delbonis is going to come through with a 64, 64 win.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 games v Bernard Tomic: This could be a fascinating Semi Final to watch from Acapulco as both Alexandr Dolgopolov and Bernard Tomic are capable of producing the ridiculous to the sublime.

It isn't easy to always predict what we are going to see when these two players head to the court and the wind in Acapulco has been another issue. That hasn't affected these players though as they use plenty of slice and variation to put opponents in awkward spots on the court and I am interested to see how it develops.

The edge goes to Alexandr Dolgopolov for me because I think he has recorded the more impressive wins this week and looks to be in the stronger form. Bernard Tomic fans might point out that he has yet to drop a set but I think he has had the more straight-forward draw and a better player than Illya Marchenko would have given him big problems on Thursday.

Dolgopolov is a better player and looks to be playing the more secure tennis and I think he will find himself in the Final after a three set win. It could easily end up a score similar to 26, 63, 62 in this one and I think the Ukrainian will head through.

Sloane Stephens - 3.5 games v Yanina Wickmayer: Winning a title in Auckland but following it with a really poor Australian Open kind of highlights the player that Sloane Stephens is. The American is certainly tough to back with confidence early in events, but she can pick up some real momentum and is then difficult to stop.

For a long time Stephens struggled to reach Finals and win titles but that might have changed over the last few months and so I expect she will have the confidence to win this Semi Final against Yanina Wickmayer.

I don't think Wickmayer has ever got back to the level she was prior to a ban from the Tour and she has struggled for consistency with her big hitting game. When on form, Wickmayer is a very difficult customer to deal with, but falling below her standards can see her make a host of errors and almost hand the match to her opponents.

Giving Stephens a head start or offering her encouragement to get involved in the longer rallies with her movement will give the American the edge in this one. Stephens also has a pretty big game herself and I think she is likely to get the better of Wickmayer who has had to dig deep to get to this Semi Final and play a lot more tennis than her opponent.

Maybe that physical fatigue also plays a part as Wickmayer mentally drops her level and I think Stephens goes through 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Andrea Petkovic - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sloane Stephens - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 22-10, + 15.84 Units (62 Units Staked, + 25.55% Yield)

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 25th)

Wednesday was another solid day for the picks, but I am hoping for even better to start getting this season moving in the direction that I would be expecting.

There have been some rough weeks for many by the sounds of things at the beginning of 2016 and you have to think the Tennis Tour will settle down as the weeks progress.

One thing that hasn't changed is the dominance Novak Djokovic is showing on the court and he has won his two matches in Dubai this week while losing just six games. It looks like it is going to take some special efforts to stop Djokovic doing whatever he wants on the court this season as he looks head and shoulders above his peers at this moment.

Speaking of Dubai, we have reached the Quarter Finals there and in Doha as we have in Acapulco. However the tournament in Sao Paulo has been affected by the poor weather that was also in play in Rio de Janeiro last week and that means there is an almost full Second Round schedule to get through on Thursday.

Nick Kyrgios v Tomas Berdych: Last week I actually picked Tomas Berdych to beat Nick Kyrgios in Marseille and was duly stunned when the Australian served so effectively that he barely lost points behind his biggest shot. Winning his first title on the Tour seems to have inspired Kyrgios and he has been pretty impressive in Dubai where the quicker court conditions just aid a huge serve.

It would have been easy for Kyrgios to have come to Dubai and perhaps not have the energy to compete, but this looks a player with the potential that a lot of people have been talking about. Kyrgios is playing smart tennis and he continues to produce the multiple big serves that is putting a lot of pressure on whoever is standing on the other side of the court.

I have a lot of respect for Berdych who I thought would have more joy from his return than he did in Marseille but I am not expecting a repeat of those struggles. However, it will still be difficult to break the Kyrgios serve and I would be worried that Berdych isn't able to protect his serve as well as the Australian.

Over the last four sets they have played, Kyrgios has begun to get the better of things and I think he can mach the Berdych power with better movement and better ability off the backhand to cause damage. It should be a fun match but backing the underdog Kyrgios to make it two out of two against Berdych is my call in the first Quarter Final of the day.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: Backing Marcos Baghdatis has been good for me this week, but I have continued to be impressed with the way Roberto Bautista Agut is playing and I think he gets the better of this Quarter Final.

There is a lot of hard work that Bautista Agut puts in on the court and I think he will have to do that to protect his serve against a talented and healthy Baghdatis. However, I also think Bautista Agut is a player that will get a lot of balls back in court and extract errors from Baghdatis if the Cypriot is even a little off his game.

Bautista Agut will see plenty of second serves and that is a shot that I think he can take advantage of by leaving Baghdatis in some really awkward spots on the court. I do think Bautista Agut has to serve well to make sure there is no encouragement for Baghdatis in this one, but I think his confidence is high enough at this moment to do that and I think he will be too good on the day.

At times Baghdatis has just rode his luck in his couple of wins here, but he is now playing an opponent who is in such fine form that he is unlikely to lack belief in his own game. After a battle I look for Bautista Agut to come through 75, 64.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: Stan Wawrinka hadn't won in Dubai before and he might have been a little lucky to get over the line in the First Round to break his duck. However that is the kind of win that can get Wawrinka going and he should be a stronger favourite to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in my opinion.

The German has taken advantage of a very kind draw to reach the Quarter Finals this week, but the opposition certainly picks up considerably in the form of Wawrinka. Both players have wonderful backhands to watch so that should be fun for the neutrals lucky enough to watch this one.

However one big difference has to be the movement around the court and I definitely feel Kohlschreiber has lost half a step from side to side on the court. If Wawrinka is controlling the unforced errors, he should be able to move Kohlschreiber around which will increase the pressure and eventually force some errors from his racquet.

I do think the momentum is behind Wawrinka now who should be confident in the conditions here with another evening match scheduled. For the most part Kohlschreiber is beginning to struggle against the top players on the Tour and I think Wawrinka will be able to expose those movement issues I have mentioned and come through 76, 64.

Santiago Giraldo - 2.5 games v Gastao Elias: There is plenty of rain around Brazil at the moment which had affected the tournament in Rio last week and is set to disrupt the Sao Paulo tournament too. Wednesday was effectively written off which means we have a full Second Round schedule to get through on Thursday, although I wouldn't be holding my breath that they are able to get through the whole day without more rain.

That does make it difficult for the players having to warm up and warm down during matches while it isn't any easier for those scheduled for later in the day as they have to wait around. That might be the case for Santiago Giraldo and Gastao Elias in their Second Round match which is expected to be closer than I would have had it myself.

They did have a tight match in Rio de Janeiro last week, but I think Giraldo was looking the stronger player in that match and I expect the Colombian to frank that win here. He played very well in the First Round and it has to be remembered that Elias usually plays at a lower level with more Challengers in his future than there will be these main draws.

Elias has played well over the last couple of weeks to show he might be capable of bridging the gap, but Giraldo is the better player in this one. It might be a similar scoreline to last time, but I have a feeling Giraldo will find a break more in each set and I like him coming through 64, 64 to move into the Quarter Final.

Pablo Cuevas - 4.5 games v Facundo Bagnis: Winning the title in Rio de Janeiro, the biggest of his career, should be the kind of confidence builder that can see Pablo Cuevas perhaps achieve the goals he has set for himself. There was plenty of belief in the way he played last week and I think he might be glad of the rain which will mean his first match here is delayed until this moment.

It might be a little longer that Cuevas has to wait to get his event underway, but he should be happy with the match up against Facundo Bagnis who will give him a decent rhythm from the back of the court.

They met last meet and Cuevas won very easily, but that is unlikely to be the case again. Bagnis has put together three solid wins this week to get into the Second Round and I think he will have learnt something from the lesson that was handed out to him by Cuevas.

In saying that, I do think Cuevas is the far stronger player and he loves the clay courts in South America. With the extra time to recover I think he will be ready for this event in Sao Paulo and while it will be closer than last week, I still believe Cuevas is good enough to win this one 63, 64 and book his place in the Quarter Final.

Bernard Tomic - 3.5 games v Illya Marchenko: There were some sloppy moments in the Bernard Tomic win over Adrian Mannarino, but the Australian knuckled down at key moments to ensure he moved into the Quarter Final in straight sets. He will need to continue his focus if he is going to see off Illya Marchenko who is a player that can produce some fine tennis on his day.

Marchenko has already reached one Semi Final on the main Tour this season so I don't imagine nerves are going to bother him that much. However he has also had some silly losses since that Semi Final in Doha and it can be hard to figure out what kind of form he will bring to the table.

It will need to be his best to see off Tomic who has enjoyed his time on the South and Central American hard courts in his career. He regularly performs well in Bogota in Colombia later in the season and Tomic has looked a little more focused this week even through some of the inconsistent moments.

This is certainly a big event for Tomic who has made his top ten ambitions very clear to the media and picking up the Ranking points from a deep run in an ATP 500 event is certainly the way to go. That should keep him focused in this one and I think Tomic will find his way to break down Marchenko in a 64, 64 win.

Dominic Thiem + 2.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: When this match was set and before the prices were released, I really thought it was going to be a pick 'em Quarter Final between Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem. It is going to be a close match to call so I would not have played it, but I can't stand by and see Thiem as a fairly big underdog being given this many games on the handicap.

The bigger 'name' is definitely Dimitrov for the casual fans, but I don't think he has been in the kind of form that his straight set wins over Denis Kudla and Donald Young may suggest. Dimitrov had to dig deep in both of those matches and now he is facing a much better player in Thiem who has the confidence of a title win and a Semi Final run behind him.

Perhaps the clay courts are more to Thiem's liking at this moment in his career, but he is more than capable of producing on the hard courts. He has some power behind him and Thiem won't be intimidated by facing Dimitrov but instead may look at this as a chance to show there is a 'new kid on the block'.

I might be completely wrong and Dimitrov dominates this match from start to finish, but I think he is not serving as well as the scores might suggest. He will give Thiem chances and I think the upset has every chance of being achieved in this one.

However I will take the security of the games and look for a very competitive showing from Thiem in this one.

Sam Querrey - 1.5 games v Taylor Fritz: This looks a fascinating match between the last generation of American players and the next.

You can't help but be impressed with Taylor Fritz and the way he has performed on the main Tour after a strong Junior season in 2015. He is set to break into the top 100 in the World Rankings on Monday and Fritz has already reached a Final in Memphis to back up a Challenger win earlier in the season.

Fritz has won some solid matches this week against the likes of Jeremy Chardy and Victor Estrella Burgos, but I do think the level steps up when facing the Delray Beach Champion Sam Querrey. I have to say I wasn't sure Querrey was going to do anything but slip down the World Rankings, but he looks revitalised and the serve continues to be a huge weapon for him.

If he is serving well it will build plenty of scoreboard pressure on Fritz and I think the youngster might just struggle to cope in this one. I do think he could have big things in his future, but I also believe Querrey is in hot form and can come through this one 76, 64.

MY PICKS: Nick Kyrgios @ 2.20 Bet365 (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo - 2.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Pablo Cuevas - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sam Querrey - 1.5 Games @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 16-7, + 10.68 Units (44 Units Staked, + 24.27% Yield)

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 24th)

This has been a better week for the picks compared with last week, which isn't difficult, but I am writing this post before the final two picks from Tuesday are played. Hopefully both David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov can do the business in those picks to produce a positive record for the week heading into the Wednesday matches.

The tournaments in the Middle East have both had a lot of their matches scheduled early in the week as they look for the Saturday finish which means there are plenty more on offer on Wednesday.

Both Sao Paulo and Acapulco also continue, although picks from the tournament in Mexico will be made on Wednesday lunchtime.

At that same point I will update the weekly totals once the results from the Ferrer and Dimitrov matches are completed.

For now I will get the picks out for the first three tournaments with the events in Doha and Dubai beginning early in the day British time compared with Acapulco.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 games v Hyeon Chung: If the ATP Tour suddenly decided that their World Rankings would be updated to reflect how 2016 has begun, Roberto Bautista Agut would be Number 5 and with a real chance of finishing this week as Number 3. The Spaniard is officially Number 18 in the World Rankings, but his form to open the season suggests he will be making a significant move upwards in the coming months.

Of course that is if Bautista Agut can maintain his level in the weeks ahead, but he has the game to be effective on all surfaces and so I wouldn't rule him out. A comfortable win over Simone Bolelli in the First Round suggests the week off he had last week was effective in restoring some of the energy levels after winning two titles and reaching two other Quarter Finals to open the season.

Bautista Agut has the movement to really give Hyeon Chung something to think about as the youngster has just found the daily grind of the Tour a little difficult to handle. A solid win over Andreas Seppi can't be dismissed, but Bautista Agut is a step up for a player who has struggled with a 3-5 record on the season and had a few heavy defeats.

The one to David Goffin is of particular interest as Chung is likely to be taken into the longer rallies in this one against a player that doesn't give up much easily. If Bautista Agut can control the unforced errors, I think he can give Chung a lot of mental pressure to hit deeper and closer to the lines and I like the Spaniard to find a way to grind him down with a 75, 63 win to move into the Quarter Finals.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: Two players that would love to put up the Ranking points that comes with a trip to an ATP 500 Quarter Final meet on Wednesday and I favour Marcos Baghdatis to get the better of Vasek Pospisil. I think the Baghdatis First Round win over Victor Troicki was the more impressive of the two players and he should be the more confident player having begun 2016 more positively than the Canadian.

One element where Pospisil could get the better of Baghdatis is the first serve percentage, behind which Pospisil usually wins plenty of points. Both have big first serves, but Baghdatis is regularly at 50% or fewer and the key for Pospisil is to try and pressure the Cypriot by attacking the second serve.

However it has to be noted that Pospisil has struggled mightily to protect his second serve through the season and I do wonder if he really believes he can out-rally players at this moment. His first serve does set up easy points with short balls or unreturned serves, but failing to back up the second suggests he might have an issue attacking Baghdatis' second serve effectively and consistently through this one.

These players split two matches in 2015, but I think a difference maker in this one is the better confidence Baghdatis should have. Pospisil had to dig deep to win his First Round match and that might have sapped something from him and I like Baghdatis to come through 76, 64 in this one.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Thomas Fabbiano: All credit has to be given to Thomas Fabbiano for beating Leonardo Mayer in the First Round, although I think that says more about the latter than the former. It will certainly be a much bigger test when he faces Tomas Berdych in this Second Round match, especially if the Number 3 Seed here can bring in the form that saw him dismiss Joao Sousa for the loss of just five games.

Berdych has reached the Quarter Final or Semi Final in each of the tournaments he has played this season, but he is yet to get over the hump and play for the title. That consistency will keep him in the top eight of the World Rankings, but Berdych has made changes in his coaching staff to win titles and so anything less has to be a private disappointment for him.

This is the kind of match that should be comfortable for Berdych against a player like Fabbiano who simply doesn't play at this level. Fabbiano did reach the Quarter Final in Chennai which has to be respected, but he will need Berdych to be off his game if the upset is really to be achieved.

The weight of shot coming from Berdych should force Fabbiano back and I don't think he will have much joy off his second serve as he did against Mayer in the First Round. The conditions here should only aid Berdych as the match wears on and I think he will come through with a 64, 62 win.

Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 games v Saisai Zheng: This is the first appearance on the Tour of Eugenie Bouchard since her Second Round exit at the Australian Open as she has made her way through to the Third Round.

Her serving has left a lot to be desired this week, but the return game has been working for Bouchard and guided her through the draw which has been opened up by her opponent Saisai Zheng. The Chinese player stunned Angelique Kerber in the Second Round on Tuesday and there is a big question as to how she back up such an emotional win as that one.

Like many of her compatriots, Zheng will work hard around the court with her movement to make things awkward, but she is also pretty good off the ground even if the serve can be a weakness. Being able to beat a Grand Slam Champion like Kerber will give Zheng confidence after some mixed results through 2016 to this point, although I do think she will need to be fully focused to beat Bouchard.

I am not the biggest fan of the Canadian who I feel was vastly over-rated because she has the 'look' that commentators and fans can get behind. Bouchard certainly isn't as powerful as some may suggest and she can struggle from the mental side of things.

However, in saying all that, I think her opponent might have expended a lot of energy in her own win over Kerber and backing that up a day later is going to be very tough. The biggest name Zheng has beaten prior to Kerber was Petra Kvitova earlier this season (although in a second set retirement from Kvitova) and Zheng was duly crushed in the next match she played. I doubt she is beaten easily, but I think Bouchard can knuckle down and win this one 75, 64.

Timea Babos + 4.5 games v Garbine Muguruza: I backed Timea Babos with the games against Sara Errani and she didn't disappoint in a straight sets win over the Italian. Of course the level of opponent rises in this one when she faces Garbine Muguruza, while the style of play is going to be very different.

Errani is a solid player that will look to rely on superior movement and an ability to get a lot of balls back in play to win her matches, but Muguruza will be able to match the Babos power. In fact the Spaniard is the stronger player and that might be difficult for Babos to deal with as she tries to impose her own game on proceedings.

However I do like where Babos' confidence is at this point in time and she is facing a player that has struggled to open 2016. Muguruza will have to serve well, but she can sometimes be erratic off the ground, while the volleying is another aspect of her game that can let her down.

Expect a lot of big hitting in this one as both players try to trade from the back of the court and I do think Babos might be getting too many games in this one. Most will expect Muguruza to come through with the more familiar name to the casual fan, but I like the way Babos goes about things and she might even be able to spring the upset if she is returning effectively.

Roberta Vinci - 5.5 games v Cagla Buyukakcay: I raised my eyebrows when I noted that Doha had given Cagla Buyukakcay a Wild Card into the main draw considering the 26 year old is down at Number 161 in the World Rankings. However all credit has to be given to her for making use of the draw to win two matches here, although beating Roberta Vinci will need her to raise her game again.

Buyukakcay has some heavy shots off the ground, but I do think she can be forced into overplaying. That is an issue against someone like Vinci who will make her play plenty of balls off the sliced backhand and the Italian also has an under-rated first serve that might set up a few more cheap points than most would imagine.

Vinci is coming in off a very tough Second Round win when she had to break Daria Kasatkina in the final set when the latter was serving for the set. The Italian did recently win the title in St Petersburg and I think she is playing well enough to keep Buyukakcay playing until she eventually breaks through.

I do think Buyukakcay will keep one set very competitive, but I expect Vinci will show off the difference in their levels by the end of the match. A 64, 62 win for the Italian and a place in another Quarter Final is my expected outcome from this match.

Federico Delbonis - 2.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: A battle between two Argentinian players in Brazil takes place in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and I like the higher Ranked player to come through.

Take nothing away from Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who has had a couple of decent wins over the last couple of weeks, although it has to be said he has struggled to back those up. He was the beneficiary of a retirement in the First Round here and will have to be very strong from the back of the court against Federico Delbonis.

The latter might not have put together as many wins on the clay courts as he would have liked, but he was beaten by Nicolas Almagro in Buenos Aires and Pablo Cuevas last week. Delbonis might feel he wasn't that many points from winning both of those matches against players that went on to either reach the Final or win the tournament which suggests he is in better form than the results have shown.

It was a really tight match between these two last season in Rio de Janeiro that concluded in the final set when Schwartzman was forced to pull out with an injury. This one is likely to also be decided by a few points here and there, but I like the way Delbonis has been playing and I think he will have the majority of break points in this one in what is ultimately a 75, 64 win.

Bernard Tomic - 2.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: He might have bristled when it was put to him what Roger Federer said about his top ten chances, but Bernard Tomic has to prove on the court that he is capable of reaching that milestone. Too often the Australian puts in a really shocking set of results, but this looks a tournament in which he can go deep into the draw if he can get past Adrian Mannarino.

I am not entirely sure what I think of Mannarino- sometimes he looks a player that will make a significant leap in the World Rankings, at other times he looks like he has overachieved already.

After winning a Challenger event to open 2016, Mannarino has been consistent enough to beat the players he should for the most part, although losing to those he is expected to be defeated by. Someone like Tomic makes enough silly errors to give Mannarino a chance and their two matches in 2015 both needed a third set decider including here in Acapulco.

That is a concern for me as Tomic has a habit of tanking sets when things are not going the way he expects and someone like Mannarino is more level-headed with his play. However, I think Tomic is looking for a big week here and a focused Tomic should be too good for Mannarino whose serve can be something of a liability at times. That despite coming from a left-handed player and I like Tomic to break him down in a 63, 36, 63 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Donald Young: It took Grigor Dimitrov a little time to get his mind on the tournament after struggling in the first set against Denis Kudla. He was much more convincing in the second set and I do think he will have the edge over Donald Young who surprised me earlier this week when upsetting Gilles Muller in the First Round.

However this is a different challenge for Young who has had his ups and downs in 2016 as he tries to mix it with the best players on a more consistent basis. Talking about ups and downs also brings me to Dimitrov who seems to drift in and out of matches, but I do think he looked better once he got in front against Kudla.

Both players are better as frontrunners than chasing the match and I think that will be key here. I think neither player can really say they back up their serve as effectively as they should and there should be break points for both Dimitrov and Young in this one.

When saying that it might be hard to understand why I like Dimitrov's chances to cover a big number in this one- the main reason is I think Young has a tendency to fall away in matches and Dimitrov could win one set with a double break of serve that should give him every chance of getting over this number. It should be a fun match for those watching the match, but I think Dimitrov will take over in the middle portion and come through 64, 62.

Sam Querrey + 4.5 games v Kei Nishikori: After winning the title in Delray Beach, Sam Querrey made a very strong start to his bid in Acapulco when dropping just two games against Dudi Sela. Now the American gets set to take on a familiar foe in Kei Nishikori in the Second Round and I have a feeling he is getting too many games on the handicap in this one.

The layers are taking no chances with the juice limited with this number, but not many have gone with a handicap of one game fewer, something that would have interested me too.

Nishikori is clearly the better player from a technical standpoint, but Querrey's power has given him issues in the past and it has to be remembered that while the higher Ranked player has won four in a row, he is yet to cover such a big number. Querrey's serve can be tough to break and Nishikori also has a serve that will offer up some chances even to a limited returner like Querrey.

The confidence from consecutive strong tournaments will help Querrey who won the title last week and was also a Semi Finalist in Memphis. On that occasion it was Nishikori who beat him in three sets and I think this could be a competitive match for the fans to enjoy despite the odds very much favouring Nishikori to come through. I believe it is too many games for Nishikori to cover and I will back Querrey to at least remain within this number even if he is beaten on the day.

Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 games v Victoria Azarenka: This Second Round match looks like it could be a classic as the Number 1 Seed in Acapulco takes on Dominika Cibulkova. It has been a few weeks since Azarenka was on the Tour so the slow start she made in the First Round might have been expected, although another one will see her in big trouble against the 'pocket rocket' Cibulkova.

I am not discounting how well Azarenka has played to open 2016 and even her surprise defeat to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open can be forgiven considering the latter went on to win the tournament. Winning in Brisbane in dominating style suggests Azarenka is going to head back to the very top of the women's game in 2016 after injury troubles, but someone like Cibulkova is going to test her to the very limit.

The movement Cibulkova brings to the court and her aggressive style of play means she will give Azarenka all she can handle and matches between these players have been very competitive in the past. I would be surprised if this one is any different with every chance of seeing a final set decider between them.

I do think the match up is one that Cibulkova enjoys with Azarenka not offering the biggest serve and a nice rhythm that can be built up. The movement should aid Cibulkova to get out of trouble at times and I do think this is at least one too many games being given to her on the handicap.

MY PICKS: Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Timea Babos + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberta Vinci - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Federico Delbonis - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sam Querrey + 4.5 Games @ 1.61 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-5, + 2.50 Units (24 Units Staked, + 10.42% Yield)