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Monday, 1 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 1st)

It was as if the 2015 season had never ended for Novak Djokovic who picked up from where he left off and became only the second man to win six Australian Open titles. I don't think many people will be backing against him to make it number seven in 2017 as long as he stays fit with the Australian Open looking the perfect Slam for his game.

His victory will also have put the rest of the ATP Tour on notice that they still have a big gap to bridge to the World Number 1, a player who beat the two players immediately below in the World Rankings for the loss of one set.

Novak Djokovic has every chance of completing the calendar Grand Slam because I don't see many out there who can beat him over five sets. The likes of Kevin Anderson and Gilles Simon have pushed him to five sets in Slams over the last six months, but Djokovic has the kind of mental resolve to get through those tight matches as well as the physical strength to recover for further matches.

I really think Djokovic has a chance to sweep the Slams, but he has to stay fit and he would love to avoid Stan Wawrinka who has given him so much trouble in the best of five set matches in the past.

But however you look at it, Novak Djokovic looks a man who can put a serious dent in the six Grand Slams he needs to level up with Roger Federer at 17, while he will be favourite to win any tournament he enters this season.

Some might have felt they had gone back six months with Novak Djokovic dominating the men's tournament and Serena Williams looking like she was going to win the women's event without dropping a set. However for the second Grand Slam in a row, Serena Williams was beating in the late stages of the tournament, this time by Angelique Kerber, as she remains a single Grand Slam behind Steffi Graf.

You can't take away anything from Kerber and the performance she put together which has moved up her to World Number 2, but Serena Williams is capable of bouncing back and looks the player to beat. Williams will only get healthier you would think with another rest ahead of the two Premier Event tournaments in North America and it will take a huge effort like the one Kerber provided to beat her in the remaining Grand Slams.

The Australian Grand Slam was my worst performance picking matches at a Grand Slam through the years and has made it a disappointing first month of the season. That follows a really poor end of 2015, but I am not going to be too downhearted just yet.

It happens sometimes but this is a long season and hopefully the remaining three Slams will be much more productive.

This week the ATP Tour moves onto three different stops, although most of the biggest names will be resting from their Australian Open exploits, while the WTA Tour is not in action with this being Fed Cup week.

Monday can be a difficult day with most of the tournaments completing their Qualifying Rounds and limited main draw action.

Luca Vanni + 2.5 games v Alexander Zverev: The tournament in Montpellier will be played on an indoor hard court and it has been dominated by Frenchmen in the past. This First Round match doesn't have a home favourite to back as Alexander Zverev tries to show why there is so much hype surrounding his game in his contest with Luca Vanni from Italy.

It is far from an easy match for Zverev, but this is definitely the kind of match he has to start winning in a bid to improve his World Ranking and build some confidence. The serve is still erratic which is unsurprising considering his lack of experience at pressurised moments, and this is only the second competitive match he will have played after being given a lesson by Andy Murray at the Australian Open.

Zverev will have to serve well to give himself a chance, especially as his opponent possesses a pretty reliable first serve that will set up some 'easy' points for him. He is also very comfortable on the hard courts although his success has come off the main Tour, but Vanni also showed some of his inconsistencies when losing in the Australian Open Qualifiers to Dan Evans.

However, Zverev has only won one match since the US Open Qualifiers back in August and I think he will give Vanni some chances to break serve. I really wouldn't be surprised if this is a tight three setter that can be won by either player and I do think the young star is perhaps a little over-rated in this one. As long as Vanni can control things behind his first serve, he will have a chance for the upset, but I will take the games in what might be a third set decider.

Inigo Cervantes - 3.5 games v Pere Riba: Two Spaniards will meet on the fast indoor clay courts of Quito on Monday in a First Round match as Pere Riba looks to take advantage of his Protected Ranking. He is in for a tough match against Inigo Cervantes who won the Challenger Tour Finals at the end of 2015 and is very comfortable on the clay as many of his compatriots are.

There is every chance this is going to be a long match with a number of breaks of serve as neither player really possesses a serve that can earn them a lot of cheap points. Both Riba and Cervantes will set up shop a couple of metres behind the baseline and look to get the upper hand through their superior groundstrokes and try to grind down the other.

Riba is trying to rebuild his Ranking and that means taking in Futures tournaments in Turkey and Nigeria, courts that won't exactly be as luxurious as the Rod Laver Arena. He had to retire from a match again at the end of 2015 and Riba has lost both matches he has played to open the 2016 season, although he has already got accustomed to being on the clay courts compared with Cervantes.

His compatriot was playing the 'regular' Tour but getting back on clay courts is very important for Cervantes whose best results are unsurprisingly on this surface. I do think Cervantes will get more chances in this one once they get going and I think that edge is hard to ignore.

Like I said, I expect a number of breaks of serve in this one, but ultimately I think Cervantes comes through with a 64, 64 win and a place in the Second Round.

Alejandro Falla - 3.5 games v Giovanni Lapentti: Two veterans of the ATP Tour meet in this First Round match as the final match going onto court and Giovanni Lapentti will be looking for his home support to drive him forward. However, the Ecuadorian has had a tough opening to 2016 with back to back losses at the Challenger level on the clay and he was a First Round loser to a left hander last season at this tournament.

Thomaz Bellucci is ahead of where Alejandro Falla is when he beat Lapentti last season so this match could be much more competitive. However, the Colombian did have a very strong run in his first tournament of the year in Noumea where he reached the Final of that Challenger even if he has lost back to back matches coming into this one.

I don't think anyone will doubt that Falla is now on the road down from the peak of his career and that is highlighted by fewer wins on the main Tour in each of the last four seasons. Falla has begun to lose his consistency, but he is still the younger player going to the court for this one and he has a strong record against Lapentti in the past.

Falla won both matches against Lapentti in 2015 relatively easily and he has also won two of their three matches on the clay courts. The conditions in Quito should make the court play a little faster than other clay courts which should favour Falla and I expect him to get the better of Lapentti once seeing what is coming back from the other side of the court.

It won't be easy, but Falla can come through 76, 63.

MY PICKS: Luca Vanni + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Inigo Cervantes - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Alejandro Falla - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)

Australian Open Final30-48, - 36.10 Units (150 Units Staked, - 24.07% Yield)
Australian Open Outright: 2-2, + 4.90 Units (14 Units Staked, + 35% Yield)

Season 2016- 27.50 Units (224 Units Staked, - 12.28% Yield)
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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