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Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 10th)

The tennis comes thick and fast on Wednesday with the tournaments being played this week really getting moving.

Hopefully this is a chance to build on a successful Tuesday, although last week has given me a lesson as to how things can change when the breaks, pardon the pun, are not going the way I anticipate.

Annika Beck - 3.5 games v Lucie Hradecka: Over the last few years, Annika Beck has been able to put together a couple of really solid weeks, but generally failed to find the consistency to move up the World Rankings. 2016 might prove to be different if she can back up her successes at the Australian Open and the Fed Cup and I do think Beck has a very strong chance to get her bid in St Petersburg off to the perfect start.

One of the weaknesses in the Beck game can be the serve which she finds hard to protect, but I still believe she will be too good for the big hitting Lucie Hradecka. You can't ignore the fact that Beck has beaten her four straight times without dropping a set especially as the German has not dropped more than eight games in any of those wins.

While Hradecka has a big first serve and plenty of power, Beck is able to soak a lot of that up and force her to play extra balls which eventually produce the errors the latter thrives upon. I expect she will be looking to do the same in this First Round match in St Petersburg and try to frustrate Hradecka.

Confidence won't be in a great place for Hradecka who has suffered some heavy losses to open the 2016 season. While she will have some success in this one through her sheer power, I think Beck will have the edge in the longer rallies which will see her come through 64, 64 in this one.

Elena Vesnina - 2.5 games v Patricia Maria Tig: This should have been an intriguing First Round match between Alize Cornet and Elena Vesnina, but the former has pulled out of the tournament and allowed Lucky Loser Patricia Maria Tig to take her place in the draw.

From a heavy underdog as Vesnina would have been against Cornet, the Russian goes into this one as the favourite but I don't think that should have an affect on her performance. It has been a difficult couple of years as a Singles player for Vesnina which is a concern, but the match up looks a good one for her to move into the Second Round of a main draw for the first time in 2016.

Vesnina is going against an opponent who is yet to play in the main draw of any tournament in 2016 having lost a number of Qualifiers already. Maria Tig was beaten here by Klara Koukalova before earning her Lucky Loser spot and the Romanian has generally played at a lower level than Vesnina which could show up here.

It will be a tight match with the lack of confidence on Vesnina's side of the court and this being a rare opportunity for Maria Tig to play in a main draw, but I do think the home advantage shows up. Vesnina can battle through with a 76, 64 win and a place into the Second Round.

Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 games v Kirsten Flipkens: You have to admire the belief Daria Kasatkina has in her own game as the eighteen year old looks to have a big impact on the WTA Tour in 2016. She reached the Third Round at the Australian Open before running into Serena Williams, but Kasatkina didn't show any fear going into that match and she should be looking to win matches like this one against Kirsten Flipkens.

A win over Venus Williams in Auckland has shown Kasatkina that she can mix with the best players on the Tour, but it will be matches like this one that dictate how much she can improve her World Ranking this season.

Kirsten Flipkens is a former Wimbledon Semi Finalist, but the last couple of years have been more difficult for her. The style of play means she will give opponents a chance as Flipkens plays with a lot of variation, but can be pushed back by powerful opponents who have the heavier weight of shot.

A strong run in Auckland will have given Flipkens some belief that she can turnaround her falling World Ranking, and she is a dangerous opponent when frustrating her opponents. However I think Kasatkina is going to be a little too strong on the day and will be able to come through this one in three sets with a double break in one set giving her the chance to cover this number.

Joao Sousa + 3.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: 2016 has proved to be an already memorable season for Roberto Bautista Agut having won two titles which has doubled his career titles. Last week he won in Sofia and Bautista Agut has also reached the Fourth Round at the Australian Open and I can imagine the Spaniard might have changed his goals for the season.

Bautista Agut has to be thinking about a top ten World Ranking in the form he is displaying, but I think it might be tough to back up the win in Sofia here in Rotterdam.

The First Round has paired him with Joao Sousa who has won both of their matches in 2015 including in the Final in Valencia on an indoor hard court in October. It has been a difficult start to the season for Sousa who has to be disappointed with his early losses in Auckland and Montpellier, especially as both came in final set deciders.

Sousa has been very competitive in those losses though and I think he might be getting too many games in this match. He has clearly enjoyed the match up with Bautista Agut as he doesn't give the Spaniard the pace from which to throw in his counter punches and this has all the makings of a tight three set match.

That is where a long week in Sofia could take a physical toll on Bautista Agut as Sousa forces him to dig deep to win points and I will take the games here.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 2.5 games v Ivan Dodig: I am expecting a tough Second Round match between Philipp Kohlschreiber and Ivan Dodig as both players have shown some decent form in their opening salvos in Rotterdam. The latter had to come through the Qualifiers to reach the main draw having shown his best form as a Doubles player in recent seasons, but Dodig has the game that should transfer effectively onto the indoor hard courts.

Kohlschreiber is coming off a Quarter Final appearance in Sofia and did come through a tougher than expected First Round match against Julien Benneteau.

I do think the German is slowing down and definitely on the way down in his career, but he will know what Dodig is going to bring to the table. There is enough in Kohlschreiber's return game to force Dodig into making some tough volleys and earn a couple of break points which is going to be key to the match.

I respect the fact that Dodig has put together a lot of wins at the end of 2015 and opening 2016 but the majority of those have come against lesser players than Kohlschreiber. A first set tie-breaker could be a difference maker, but I think Kohlschreiber comes through that and is then able to push away from Dodig in a 76, 64 win.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Borna Coric: It was a relatively easy day in the office for Gael Monfils when he saw off Ernests Gulbis in the First Round on Tuesday. I am expecting it to be a lot tougher against the talented Borna Coric in their Second Round clash to close the day in Rotterdam, although the latter has struggled with his form since playing in Chennai.

That was the opening tournament of the 2016 season for Coric when he reached the Final before falling short against Stan Wawrinka. Since then he had lost in the First Round in Sydney, the Australian Open, and in Montpellier last week. Interestingly all three losses came against left-handed opponents, but a worry would be that Coric was defeated against players he would have expected to beat.

The pressure might be off in this one with Coric the underdog against Monfils, but I do think he might have a bit of bother against him. The Frenchman will get a lot of balls back in play and look to make Coric overplay and subsequently make some errors, although the Croatian has to be feeling better after winning his First Round match against Thiemo de Bakker.

It took a big effort from Coric to win that match, but he will have to be a lot better to see off Monfils who played effectively against Gulbis. I expect the Monfils first serve to be a difference maker to set him up for a few more easier points and I think Coric's confidence might still be a little vulnerable which should see the higher Ranked player win 64, 64.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Gastao Elias: At one point Gastao Elias and Joao Sousa were vying for the Portuguese Number 1 spot, but the former has not been able to kick on as much as the latter. The majority of Elias' time is now spent on the Challenger circuit and he has struggled when he has been asked to make the step up to the main Tour level.

Elias will be feeling good having come from a set down to win his First Round match but now the level increases significantly as he gets ready to take on Dominic Thiem. Thiem was a very good First Round winner against Pablo Carreno Busta, and this is a player that has played very well on the clay courts with three main ATP Tour title wins on the surface in 2015.

Playing a player who has won titles on the main Tour is a big step up for Elias and I think he might find it difficult to bridge that here.

I will say that Elias is a competitor and many of his recent losses have been tough ones where has pushed opponents to dig very deep. Those haven't come against a player as talented as Dominic Thiem though and I think the Austrian is a little too good on the day with a 63, 64 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: The final match in Buenos Aires this evening looks like one that is going to entertain the fans who will be looking to back home favourite Leonardo Mayer. Despite playing at home, Mayer hasn't really enjoyed his time here having never been beyond the Second Round and he will be fully tested by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who is more effective on the clay courts than I ever thought he would be.

It was always a feeling that Tsonga's return game would not be good enough to transfer onto the clay courts, but he has enjoyed plenty of wins on the surface in recent years. It is still surprising to see Tsonga take in a clay court in South America rather than the indoor hard courts in Europe, but I have to think he is preparing for a really big effort at the French Open where Tsonga has been close to reaching the Final.

This certainly isn't an easy first match for Tsonga against someone like Mayer who is comfortable on the surface and who possesses a decent first serve that can set up points for him. However I think 2016 has opened up with Mayer not in the best form and his lack of success in Buenos Aires has to be a concern for his backers.

We also know Tsonga has a big first serve that can be hard to deal with even on the slower surfaces and I think he is going to be too good on the day. It might be a first set tie-breaker that is required to separate them, but I think Tsonga can win that and then come through with a 76, 64 win and move into the Quarter Finals.

MY PICKS: Annika Beck - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Elena Vesnina - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Joao Sousa + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Betway (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-0, + 5.36 Units (6 Units Staked, + 89.33% Yield)

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