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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 23rd)

It was a mixed opening day for the picks on Monday, but there are a lot of tennis matches to come on Tuesday with very busy days in all the events taking place.

Hopefully this is the start of a solid week with the picks set to go.

Leonardo Mayer - 3.5 games v Thomas Fabbiano: Any time you see two South American players are going to meet during this time of the season, the assumption is that they are playing on one of the Golden Swing clay tournaments. However both Thomas Fabbiano and Leonardo Mayer are over in the Middle East this week in Dubai as they get set to face one another in the First Round.

You can't doubt that the scheduling seems to make more sense for the Brazilian Fabbiano who has been playing a number of the indoor hard courts in Europe. On the other hand, Leonardo Mayer took in his home tournament in Buenos Aires where he was hammered by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Second Round before heading to Dubai.

Fabbiano has come through a couple of Qualifiers but I can't remove the loss to Julien Benneteau in the Qualifiers in Marseille from my mind. To win just two games has to have been a really bad day in the office, but Fabbiano has lost to a number of players that are perhaps not as good as Mayer over the last month.

Having experience of the conditions is a plus for Fabbiano, but I think Mayer will be happy enough on the quicker courts we see in Dubai. He has a very solid serve on his day and and Mayer using that shot can build scoreboard pressure in what is ultimately a 64, 64 kind of win for him.

Sergiy Stakhovsky + 4.5 games v Stan Wawrinka: He isn't the most inspiring player to trust to produce his best tennis, but I am backing Sergiy Stakhovsky with what looks to be one too many games on the handicap. Of course Stan Wawrinka will be the favourite to win the match, but these two players have a history of close matches and last week in Marseille was no different.

It was a final set tie-breaker in which Wawrinka saved match points that had to be won by the Swiss man to see off Stakhovsky last week. That means these players have met four times and none of those matches have been completed in straight sets, while Stan Wawrinka can have a few issues when being asked to cover the bigger numbers.

The speed of the courts in Dubai might restrict the Wawrinka timing from getting off when it comes to the groundstrokes and that is huge if Stakhovsky is serving well. Little time means Stakhovsky's ability to get to the net could be an issue for Wawrinka, although it takes a brave player to close the net against Wawrinka's fearsome power.

This still feels a lot of games for someone who hasn't experienced some of the quicker courts on the Tour for some time and that might take Wawrinka some time to get his rhythm in. Stakhovsky was beaten easily by Philipp Kohlschreiber in Sofia, but generally has been very competitive in his matches and I think he can take advantage of the games even if he doesn't win outright.

Santiago Giraldo - 2.5 games v Marco Cecchinato: The only match from Sao Paulo that interested me enough to make a pick is between Santiago Giraldo and Marco Cecchinato and I do think the former is going to make it through to the Second Round.

While I have to credit Cecchinato for coming through Qualifiers in a couple of tournaments already this year, he is yet to turn that to wins on the main Tour. In fact the Italian was dropped to 0-12 in main Tour matches when losing to his compatriot Paolo Lorenzi last week in Rio de Janeiro.

That isn't to say that Santiago Giraldo has been having a lot of success himself, but he has won the matches expected during the Golden Swing and his two losses were understandable. He can be a little hit or miss thanks to his aggressive style, but Giraldo did slip down the World Rankings thanks to a pretty poor 2015.

I do think Giraldo's overall play from the back of the court is superior to Cecchinato's and I expect that will show up during this match. I hope the Colombian does bring his better serving days to the court on Tuesday which should see him edge past Cecchinato with a 75, 64 kind of win.

Timea Babos + 3.5 games v Sara Errani: After winning the title in Dubai last week, Sara Errani was pushed to a third set in a win over Tsvetana Pironkova in the First Round in Doha. After that tough match, Errani now faces the big hitting Timea Babos who has the power to take the racquet out of Errani's hands.

Only recently Babos took on Roberta Vinci and almost beat one veteran Italian player, a performance that has to give her confidence to take into this one. Errani is a better player off the ground than Vinci, especially off the backhand wing, and won't make as many errors as her former Doubles partner, but Errani's serve is a considerable weakness.

Having played a long week in Dubai is tough work for Errani with little rest to prepare for the tournament in Doha. That title win was something of a surprise considering how Errani has begun 2016 and I think this has all the makings of a close match between these players as long as Babos can keep an eye on the unforced errors she hands out.

Getting plenty of first serves in play is going to be a big key for Babos to try and keep Errani from dictating rallies from the back of the court. It was a reason she was able to hang with Vinci for as long as she did and I do think Babos battles to keep this one close.

Jelena Jankovic - 2.5 games v Monica Niculescu: This is a match that might feature a few breaks of serve, but importantly for Jelena Jankovic she has plenty of experience of playing Monica Niculescu in the past.

A player that uses so much variation off both wings and is not that reliant on hitting through the ball poses so many different questions for players on the WTA Tour. Players are simply not used to seeing someone like Niculescu on a regular basis and so when playing her for the first time they can be surprised and take time in working out the best way to approach the way.

That shouldn't be the case for Jankovic who plays Niculescu for the seventh time, although the first for a couple of seasons. I do think Jankovic has slipped as a player since then with her movement not as strong as it used to be, but Niculescu has not really kicked on from her current position of World Number 37 and I think the difference in talent will be shown up in Doha.

Jankovic hasn't had back to back wins on the Tour in 2016, which is a big concern, but neither has Niculescu and I think the former World Number 1 is going to be a little too good on the day. The Jankovic serve is a little more reliable than Niculescu's and that can certainly make the difference in a 64, 64 win.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Ryan Harrison: Marin Cilic is flying to Mexico from Marseille so won't have had a lot of time to get over any jetlag considering he was in action on Sunday. That means he has had a day at best to get himself ready for his match in Acapulco and that is a big ask for any player on the Tour, although the match up with Ryan Harrison should be one he can enjoy.

I think Harrison has underachieved in his career as he looked to have the tools to get inside the top 50 of the World Rankings on a consistent basis. Instead the American looks likely to be overtaken by some of the younger compatriots coming through the ranks and Harrison has been stuck outside the top 100 of the World Rankings.

Harrison has come through a couple of Qualifiers which means he should be in tune with the conditions here, while Cilic is coming in off an indoor hard court tournament to now play outside in hot conditions. That does give Harrison a chance to perhaps get into a position to earn the upset, but his style means he will give Cilic rhythm from the back of the court to get into a comfortable position in the match.

The long journey from France to Mexico bothers me as does the fact that Cilic played in the Final in Marseille on Sunday. However I think he is the better player on the court and can battle through to a 76, 63 win.

David Ferrer - 4.5 games v John Millman: I think David Ferrer has to be feeling the disappointment of his last couple of tournaments on the clay and that says a lot about the standards that has been set by him. For most a Quarter Final and Semi Final in back to back tournaments would be considered a decent run, but Ferrer went into those tournaments looking to win them and so will likely be a little down on those runs.

I have said for a few months that Ferrer might be coming to the end of his run as a top eight player in the World Rankings and early form in 2016 suggests that could be the case. However, Ferrer has still got the talent to get deep into events and I do believe he will be too good for John Millman in this First Round match in Acapulco.

You have to give Millman plenty of credit for getting the most out of his game as the Australian has moved up to Number 61 in the World Rankings. He has a limited serve which is likely going to give him some trouble against a returner like Ferrer who is going to be fit enough to go deep into rallies and look to wear down Millman in this one.

There is still a talent gap for Millman to bridge in this one and I don't think that will be easy for him. Of course the move from clay to the hard courts might worry some, but I think that is an easier adjustment for players to make than the other way around so I do like Ferrer coming through this one 63, 64.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Denis Kudla: Last week has to be seen as a really disappointing tournament for Grigor Dimitrov having lost out in the Semi Final at Delray Beach to Rajeev Ram. Losses like that are not going to help Dimitrov fulfil the promise he had as a youngster and I have looked at 2016 as being a big year for him to start putting consistent results together.

That hasn't happened so far in 2016 and Acapulco becomes a big event for him and he did win this tournament two years ago before a relatively early exit last season. The First Round match against an out of form Denis Kudla should represent a strong chance for Dimitrov to make it through, although it is up to the Bulgarian to keep his focus in the match.

It has also been a tough 2016 for Kudla so far and that has seen him slip to Number 64 in the World Rankings. Not many wins is one thing, but the losses have come very comfortably for the most part which has to be a big concern for him.

The issue for Kudla is that he has to work hard for everything he achieves on the court. When he is not in form that becomes all the more difficult for him as Kudla won't get a lot of cheap points off his own serve and that might be a problem against Dimitrov if the latter is playing anything near his best. I can see it being tight for a while, but Dimitrov breaking through in the middle of the match for a 75, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Leonardo Mayer - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Sergiy Stakhovsky + 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Santiago Giraldo - 2.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Timea Babos + 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-2, + 0.42 Units (8 Units Staked, + 5.25% Yield)


  1. Fabbiano is not South American, just for the record. He´s Italian :) Tricky match, I was thinking about Fabbiano +1.5 set or over 21 games, but if Mayer is up there and ready, he is too good I reckon

  2. Fabbiano is not South American, just for the record. He´s Italian :) Tricky match, I was thinking about Fabbiano +1.5 set or over 21 games, but if Mayer is up there and ready, he is too good I reckon

  3. Thanks Asger, I'll blame it being a late night for getting a little confused... Good pick too, well done