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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 20th)

I don't think you can doubt it has been one of those weeks when the little bit of luck needed to make it a much more positive one has seemingly deserted me at big moments. A number of players have made life tough for themselves by giving up the first break of the match and I was only half joking when I suggested every player I have picked has been in broken first.

That happened in four of five matches yesterday, but even then I am disappointed that Stan Wawrinka didn't get the job done against Benoit Paire having missed numerous chances to break serve in the final set. It might not have shown up on the scoreboard, but missed opportunities at 15-30 at critical times as well as a 0-30 situation has to be a body blow.

If Wawrinka had gone on to win the match as it was looking, the picks would have had a winning record on Friday, but instead they went 2-3.

It looks like another horrible week to add to a 2016 season which hasn't gone to plan in any way, shape or form to this point.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: I have to say I was very impressed with the way Nick Kyrgios went about his business in dismantling Richard Gasquet in the Quarter Final. The serve has definitely been on form this week and the young enigmatic Australian has had his game face on for most of the week as he isn't giving too much away.

He will need to produce that kind of level again as he plays Tomas Berdych for a second time in 2016. Berdych is a regular name in the top eight of the World Rankings and has a steady game, but one criticism of him is the failure to win more titles despite regularly being at the business end of the tournament.

Berdych will come into the weekend as the favourite to win the title here in Marseille, but this is a big test for him from a mental perspective. The big man has to know that Kyrgios is likely to fire a number of big serves past him but Berdych has to bide his time and make sure he looks after things on his own side of the court if he is going to come through this.

He also has to ignore some of the antics that Kyrgios does bring to the court, even if the latter has looked more focus than usual this week. I love Kyrgios and think he could be a huge star in the years to come, but I think Berdych's play is more steady at this moment of time and I like the Number 2 Seed here to book his place in the Final behind a 76, 75 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 games v Rajeev Ram: This is the kind of tournament that Grigor Dimitrov has to be think of going on and winning if he is going to start the trend back up the World Rankings after a poor 2015. He should be far higher than his current Number 28 in the World Rankings and the points he can win here will also give him the confidence to take into some big events upcoming.

It is more strange to see someone like Rajeev Ram at the business end of this tournament, although this wasn't the strongest of draws in Delray Beach. Ram stunned Bernard Tomic in the First Round and has then won a couple of final set deciders to move into the Semi Final, while the American might also hold the mental edge having won all three previous matches against Dimitrov albeit the last of those is almost four years ago.

A lot of this match is going to come down to Dimitrov's mindset and whether he can remain focused. That wasn't the case in his Second Round win over Damir Dzumhur as Dimitrov mentally lost his way for a set and a half and was fortunate to have had the time to turn it around.

We know Ram has a decent serve which Dimitrov might have some difficulty reading at the beginning of the match, but Illya Marchenko and Benjamin Becker combined for twenty-one break points against that shot. If Dimitrov has winning this title on his mind, he should be too strong and I think he wins this one 63, 64.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 2.5 games v Sam Querrey: Anyone who is anything but impressed with Juan Martin Del Potro's return to the Tour have unreasonable expectations. It really is as simple as that!

The first two wins for Del Potro might have been expected in the manner they were achieved, but the former Grand Slam Champion was very impressive in beating Jeremy Chardy. Yes, he was helped by some really sloppy play from the Frenchman but Del Potro's confidence has to be improving especially as he began to show a little more with the backhand in his Quarter Final win.

No one can deny the power that is coming off the forehand and the serve seems to be working for the most part and both of those can put a lot of pressure on Sam Querrey. The American came through a long, tough Quarter Final and it has to be said that Querrey doesn't protect his serve as well as he should with him being an underdog to win the points that go into a fourth, fifth and sixth shot.

Querrey did show against Kei Nishikori that he is still a threat when he is feeling things and that has to be a problem for Del Potro. However, I think the latter is in a very good place both mentally and physically at the moment and I believe he extracts enough errors from the Querrey game to come through 76, 64.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Guido Pella: This isn't the first time in his career that Dominic Thiem has played brilliantly in back to back weeks on the clay courts and that experience has helped him here. Winning in Buenos Aires was a huge achievement for Thiem who is looking to develop a little more this season and take the next step in his career as he looks for potentially a top ten World Ranking.

It would have been easy for Thiem to perhaps be a little fatigued for this tournament in Rio de Janeiro but the ATP 500 level means more points and he has dug deep to move into the Semi Finals. For the most part Thiem has been very good too and his win over David Ferrer in the manner it came about in the Quarter Final was very impressive.

Now Thiem will come into this tournament as a big favourite to progress to another Final on the clay courts and I do think he will have too much for Guido Pella. The latter has had a strong tournament too but he has had to spend a lot more time on the court and Pella is also not as strong a clay court player as Thiem.

I do fear the lefty serve, but Thiem played Rafael Nadal last week so should be aware of what is going to come at him from the other side of the court. He will have to be more focused than when he played another Argentinian earlier this week as Thiem didn't serve that well against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, but the Austrian has only dropped serve twice in matches against Pablo Andujar and Ferrer combined.

I just think Thiem will be mentally a little too strong for Pella who will enjoy some success, but is ultimately beaten 75, 63.

Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: I have made it clear that I believe Pablo Cuevas is one of the stronger players on the clay courts in South America and he showed that last season when pushing Rafael Nadal into a final set here. On that day Cuevas might have won in straight sets with a little better luck, but he fell apart in the final set and he has to be careful not to lose his way mentally in this one.

On that occasion Cuevas wasn't helped by the fact the match went into the very early hours of the morning, although this season might be similar if the rain in Rio de Janeiro continues to play havoc on the schedule.

The Uruguayan has been in good form this week and he also played well last week, although it has to be said that Federico Delbonis kind of let the match slip against Cuevas yesterday. On the other hand Rafael Nadal is likely to be very fresh having needed to win two matches to get through this Semi Final thanks to Alexandr Dolgopolov's withdrawal on Friday.

I do have to say that Nadal hasn't looked at his best though and Cuevas can have his opportunities, but I also think the Spaniard is mentally stronger and that is going to be a difference maker. It would be good for Nadal to serve better than he has to make life easier for him because chances on the Cuevas serve might not be as frequent as they have been in his last couple of matches here.

I expect a battle, but I think Nadal's freshness can pay dividends and I think he will come through this one 75, 62.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 10-15, - 15.24 Units (52 Units Staked, - 29.31% Yield)

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