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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 16th)

The last couple of weeks have seen me making a pretty strong start to the week and then falling away in the latter half so it was disappointing to open the picks with three straight losses.

None of the players got close in their matches, but hopefully this week will be a reverse of the first two in February and can be turned around in the coming days.

Onto the picks with a lot of matches being played in the various tournaments going on from the Middle East through to North and South America.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Julien Benneteau: Over the last couple of weeks, Alexander Zverev has shown he is capable of really improving his World Ranking over the rest of the 2016 season. I have been impressed that he has been able to hold himself together so effectively when under pressure and I think he is in a position to beat Julien Benneteau in Marseille.

That is because Benneteau is still very much on the road back from an injury that saw him miss the last seven months of the 2015 season. The Frenchman has suffered some tough losses this season in his return to the Tour, although his two wins in the Qualifiers this week have to have boosted the confidence to take into the main draw.

In previous years you would call someone like Benneteau the kind of player that will expose any issues young players have. He is a solid competitor without looking that flashy at anything and he would have tested Zverev to the full. However coming back from a long-term injury and facing a confident player who has had some big wins over the last couple of weeks might be too much for him this time.

I think Zverev does need to hold himself together a little better mentally when things are not quite going the way he expects. He can be very emotional on the court when making some silly unforced errors, but he seems to thrive in pressurised situations and I think he will win this match 75, 64.

Ana Ivanovic - 2.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: The Australian Open was a very special tournament for Daria Gavrilova who announced herself to her new public in the best way possible. Having recently been given Australian citizenship, Gavrilova reached the Fourth Round in Melbourne before going down in three sets to Carla Suarez Navarro.

This is her first appearance on the Tour since then and I do wonder if she is perhaps a little undercooked to take on Ana Ivanovic who was a Semi Finalist in St Petersburg last week. I do think Gavrilova has the game to give Ivanovic plenty to worry about as she showed when beating her in a tight three setter in Rome last season, but the lack of recent matches has to play a part in this one.

Gavrilova is very aggressive and not having the competitive matches might mean she takes a little bit of time to find her range, which will give Ivanovic a chance to move into a position she likes. When Ivanovic gets her nose in front in matches, you can see the confidence quickly rise and she can be tough to peg back which has to be an issue for the Australian in this one.

The quicker courts in Dubai will mean the second serves of both players will be under pressure, but I am looking for Ivanovic to level the head to head behind a 63, 46, 64 win.

Belinda Bencic - 3.5 games v Jelena Jankovic: The run to the Final in St Petersburg ended in disappointment for Belinda Bencic as she was beaten by Roberta Vinci on Sunday. That means she hasn't had a lot of time to recover both mentally and physically from that defeat, but I still believe the Swiss youngster will be a little too good for the veteran Jelena Jankovic.

It has been a very disappointing start to the 2016 season for Jankovic who was last seen on court around ten days ago when she was beaten in two Fed Cup matches for Serbia. That followed a really disappointing loss at the Australian Open and she looks like she could be coming down the mountain from the peak of her career.

There are still some tournaments when Jankovic is able to put things together and she tends to reach the business end of those once she starts stringing the wins together. However, this is a really difficult opening match for her and I think the quicker courts can expose the fact that Jankovic has slipped just a touch in terms of movement around the court.

I don't think anyone can doubt that Bencic has to pick herself up from a disappointing end to St Petersburg which is a concern. However I think she is young and should be physically ready to compete in another big tournament and I like her chances of winning this one 76, 63 once she gets her mind set on the match.

Ricardas Berankis - 2.5 games v Damir Dzumhur: This is the second week in a row that Ricardas Berankis and Damir Dzumhur will be meeting on the Tour and the third time they have played overall. It was Berankis who made it two wins out of two against Dzumhur last week in Memphis and I do think he can win on Tuesday in Delray Beach too.

It ended up being a strong week for Berankis who reached the Semi Final before surprisingly losing to Taylor Fritz, although the young American is full of potential to go very far on the Tour. I don't think anyone out there can doubt the talent that Berankis possesses, although he isn't always able to put it together consistently, while he has to battle for every point as he doesn't possess the power to hit through opponents regularly.

That shouldn't be an issue against Dzumhur who is also needing to battle for every point he earns on the court and I think the edge in the serving department towards Berankis is hard to ignore. Of course the physical effort to reach a main Tour Semi Final could have an affect on his performance here in Delray Beach, but I am not expecting that to show up in this match where the style of play that Dzumhur produces should be good for Berankis.

The last two matches between them have ended with the same 63, 64 scoreline in favour of Berankis. This might be a little closer than those, but I still expect Berankis to cover this number in this First Round match.

Taylor Fritz - 2.5 games v Tim Smyczek: It was a fantastic week for Taylor Fritz in Memphis and even the narrow loss to Kei Nishikori in the Final would have done wonders for his confidence. Young players can find it tough to back up big weeks consistently at this stage of their career which is a concern for me in backing him, but I do think Fritz is in a position to beat someone like Tim Smyczek already.

That isn't any kind of disrespect to Smyczek, but I think he would be the first to admit that he hasn't found the consistent success at the main Tour level he might have wanted. Taylor Fritz has proved over the last six months that he is very capable at the Challenger level and has already achieved more on the main Tour than Smyczek, while a comfortable win over his compatriot at the back end of 2015 gives him the mental belief.

I was really impressed with his run last week, especially the manner in which Fritz beat Steve Johnson in two tie-breakers. There will be some ups and downs in his performances and Smyczek isn't any slouch at the level that Fritz will generally compete this season so has to be given his due respect.

At the end of the day though, I think Fritz is young enough to recover physically from a big week and he has come across as a confident player that will be able to produce consistent results. I like him to battle past Smyczek in this one and move into the Second Round.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ana Ivanovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Ricardas Berankis - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Taylor Fritz - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-3, - 6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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