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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 24th)

This has been a better week for the picks compared with last week, which isn't difficult, but I am writing this post before the final two picks from Tuesday are played. Hopefully both David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov can do the business in those picks to produce a positive record for the week heading into the Wednesday matches.

The tournaments in the Middle East have both had a lot of their matches scheduled early in the week as they look for the Saturday finish which means there are plenty more on offer on Wednesday.

Both Sao Paulo and Acapulco also continue, although picks from the tournament in Mexico will be made on Wednesday lunchtime.

At that same point I will update the weekly totals once the results from the Ferrer and Dimitrov matches are completed.

For now I will get the picks out for the first three tournaments with the events in Doha and Dubai beginning early in the day British time compared with Acapulco.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 games v Hyeon Chung: If the ATP Tour suddenly decided that their World Rankings would be updated to reflect how 2016 has begun, Roberto Bautista Agut would be Number 5 and with a real chance of finishing this week as Number 3. The Spaniard is officially Number 18 in the World Rankings, but his form to open the season suggests he will be making a significant move upwards in the coming months.

Of course that is if Bautista Agut can maintain his level in the weeks ahead, but he has the game to be effective on all surfaces and so I wouldn't rule him out. A comfortable win over Simone Bolelli in the First Round suggests the week off he had last week was effective in restoring some of the energy levels after winning two titles and reaching two other Quarter Finals to open the season.

Bautista Agut has the movement to really give Hyeon Chung something to think about as the youngster has just found the daily grind of the Tour a little difficult to handle. A solid win over Andreas Seppi can't be dismissed, but Bautista Agut is a step up for a player who has struggled with a 3-5 record on the season and had a few heavy defeats.

The one to David Goffin is of particular interest as Chung is likely to be taken into the longer rallies in this one against a player that doesn't give up much easily. If Bautista Agut can control the unforced errors, I think he can give Chung a lot of mental pressure to hit deeper and closer to the lines and I like the Spaniard to find a way to grind him down with a 75, 63 win to move into the Quarter Finals.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: Two players that would love to put up the Ranking points that comes with a trip to an ATP 500 Quarter Final meet on Wednesday and I favour Marcos Baghdatis to get the better of Vasek Pospisil. I think the Baghdatis First Round win over Victor Troicki was the more impressive of the two players and he should be the more confident player having begun 2016 more positively than the Canadian.

One element where Pospisil could get the better of Baghdatis is the first serve percentage, behind which Pospisil usually wins plenty of points. Both have big first serves, but Baghdatis is regularly at 50% or fewer and the key for Pospisil is to try and pressure the Cypriot by attacking the second serve.

However it has to be noted that Pospisil has struggled mightily to protect his second serve through the season and I do wonder if he really believes he can out-rally players at this moment. His first serve does set up easy points with short balls or unreturned serves, but failing to back up the second suggests he might have an issue attacking Baghdatis' second serve effectively and consistently through this one.

These players split two matches in 2015, but I think a difference maker in this one is the better confidence Baghdatis should have. Pospisil had to dig deep to win his First Round match and that might have sapped something from him and I like Baghdatis to come through 76, 64 in this one.

Tomas Berdych - 5.5 games v Thomas Fabbiano: All credit has to be given to Thomas Fabbiano for beating Leonardo Mayer in the First Round, although I think that says more about the latter than the former. It will certainly be a much bigger test when he faces Tomas Berdych in this Second Round match, especially if the Number 3 Seed here can bring in the form that saw him dismiss Joao Sousa for the loss of just five games.

Berdych has reached the Quarter Final or Semi Final in each of the tournaments he has played this season, but he is yet to get over the hump and play for the title. That consistency will keep him in the top eight of the World Rankings, but Berdych has made changes in his coaching staff to win titles and so anything less has to be a private disappointment for him.

This is the kind of match that should be comfortable for Berdych against a player like Fabbiano who simply doesn't play at this level. Fabbiano did reach the Quarter Final in Chennai which has to be respected, but he will need Berdych to be off his game if the upset is really to be achieved.

The weight of shot coming from Berdych should force Fabbiano back and I don't think he will have much joy off his second serve as he did against Mayer in the First Round. The conditions here should only aid Berdych as the match wears on and I think he will come through with a 64, 62 win.

Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 games v Saisai Zheng: This is the first appearance on the Tour of Eugenie Bouchard since her Second Round exit at the Australian Open as she has made her way through to the Third Round.

Her serving has left a lot to be desired this week, but the return game has been working for Bouchard and guided her through the draw which has been opened up by her opponent Saisai Zheng. The Chinese player stunned Angelique Kerber in the Second Round on Tuesday and there is a big question as to how she back up such an emotional win as that one.

Like many of her compatriots, Zheng will work hard around the court with her movement to make things awkward, but she is also pretty good off the ground even if the serve can be a weakness. Being able to beat a Grand Slam Champion like Kerber will give Zheng confidence after some mixed results through 2016 to this point, although I do think she will need to be fully focused to beat Bouchard.

I am not the biggest fan of the Canadian who I feel was vastly over-rated because she has the 'look' that commentators and fans can get behind. Bouchard certainly isn't as powerful as some may suggest and she can struggle from the mental side of things.

However, in saying all that, I think her opponent might have expended a lot of energy in her own win over Kerber and backing that up a day later is going to be very tough. The biggest name Zheng has beaten prior to Kerber was Petra Kvitova earlier this season (although in a second set retirement from Kvitova) and Zheng was duly crushed in the next match she played. I doubt she is beaten easily, but I think Bouchard can knuckle down and win this one 75, 64.

Timea Babos + 4.5 games v Garbine Muguruza: I backed Timea Babos with the games against Sara Errani and she didn't disappoint in a straight sets win over the Italian. Of course the level of opponent rises in this one when she faces Garbine Muguruza, while the style of play is going to be very different.

Errani is a solid player that will look to rely on superior movement and an ability to get a lot of balls back in play to win her matches, but Muguruza will be able to match the Babos power. In fact the Spaniard is the stronger player and that might be difficult for Babos to deal with as she tries to impose her own game on proceedings.

However I do like where Babos' confidence is at this point in time and she is facing a player that has struggled to open 2016. Muguruza will have to serve well, but she can sometimes be erratic off the ground, while the volleying is another aspect of her game that can let her down.

Expect a lot of big hitting in this one as both players try to trade from the back of the court and I do think Babos might be getting too many games in this one. Most will expect Muguruza to come through with the more familiar name to the casual fan, but I like the way Babos goes about things and she might even be able to spring the upset if she is returning effectively.

Roberta Vinci - 5.5 games v Cagla Buyukakcay: I raised my eyebrows when I noted that Doha had given Cagla Buyukakcay a Wild Card into the main draw considering the 26 year old is down at Number 161 in the World Rankings. However all credit has to be given to her for making use of the draw to win two matches here, although beating Roberta Vinci will need her to raise her game again.

Buyukakcay has some heavy shots off the ground, but I do think she can be forced into overplaying. That is an issue against someone like Vinci who will make her play plenty of balls off the sliced backhand and the Italian also has an under-rated first serve that might set up a few more cheap points than most would imagine.

Vinci is coming in off a very tough Second Round win when she had to break Daria Kasatkina in the final set when the latter was serving for the set. The Italian did recently win the title in St Petersburg and I think she is playing well enough to keep Buyukakcay playing until she eventually breaks through.

I do think Buyukakcay will keep one set very competitive, but I expect Vinci will show off the difference in their levels by the end of the match. A 64, 62 win for the Italian and a place in another Quarter Final is my expected outcome from this match.

Federico Delbonis - 2.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: A battle between two Argentinian players in Brazil takes place in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and I like the higher Ranked player to come through.

Take nothing away from Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who has had a couple of decent wins over the last couple of weeks, although it has to be said he has struggled to back those up. He was the beneficiary of a retirement in the First Round here and will have to be very strong from the back of the court against Federico Delbonis.

The latter might not have put together as many wins on the clay courts as he would have liked, but he was beaten by Nicolas Almagro in Buenos Aires and Pablo Cuevas last week. Delbonis might feel he wasn't that many points from winning both of those matches against players that went on to either reach the Final or win the tournament which suggests he is in better form than the results have shown.

It was a really tight match between these two last season in Rio de Janeiro that concluded in the final set when Schwartzman was forced to pull out with an injury. This one is likely to also be decided by a few points here and there, but I like the way Delbonis has been playing and I think he will have the majority of break points in this one in what is ultimately a 75, 64 win.

Bernard Tomic - 2.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: He might have bristled when it was put to him what Roger Federer said about his top ten chances, but Bernard Tomic has to prove on the court that he is capable of reaching that milestone. Too often the Australian puts in a really shocking set of results, but this looks a tournament in which he can go deep into the draw if he can get past Adrian Mannarino.

I am not entirely sure what I think of Mannarino- sometimes he looks a player that will make a significant leap in the World Rankings, at other times he looks like he has overachieved already.

After winning a Challenger event to open 2016, Mannarino has been consistent enough to beat the players he should for the most part, although losing to those he is expected to be defeated by. Someone like Tomic makes enough silly errors to give Mannarino a chance and their two matches in 2015 both needed a third set decider including here in Acapulco.

That is a concern for me as Tomic has a habit of tanking sets when things are not going the way he expects and someone like Mannarino is more level-headed with his play. However, I think Tomic is looking for a big week here and a focused Tomic should be too good for Mannarino whose serve can be something of a liability at times. That despite coming from a left-handed player and I like Tomic to break him down in a 63, 36, 63 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Donald Young: It took Grigor Dimitrov a little time to get his mind on the tournament after struggling in the first set against Denis Kudla. He was much more convincing in the second set and I do think he will have the edge over Donald Young who surprised me earlier this week when upsetting Gilles Muller in the First Round.

However this is a different challenge for Young who has had his ups and downs in 2016 as he tries to mix it with the best players on a more consistent basis. Talking about ups and downs also brings me to Dimitrov who seems to drift in and out of matches, but I do think he looked better once he got in front against Kudla.

Both players are better as frontrunners than chasing the match and I think that will be key here. I think neither player can really say they back up their serve as effectively as they should and there should be break points for both Dimitrov and Young in this one.

When saying that it might be hard to understand why I like Dimitrov's chances to cover a big number in this one- the main reason is I think Young has a tendency to fall away in matches and Dimitrov could win one set with a double break of serve that should give him every chance of getting over this number. It should be a fun match for those watching the match, but I think Dimitrov will take over in the middle portion and come through 64, 62.

Sam Querrey + 4.5 games v Kei Nishikori: After winning the title in Delray Beach, Sam Querrey made a very strong start to his bid in Acapulco when dropping just two games against Dudi Sela. Now the American gets set to take on a familiar foe in Kei Nishikori in the Second Round and I have a feeling he is getting too many games on the handicap in this one.

The layers are taking no chances with the juice limited with this number, but not many have gone with a handicap of one game fewer, something that would have interested me too.

Nishikori is clearly the better player from a technical standpoint, but Querrey's power has given him issues in the past and it has to be remembered that while the higher Ranked player has won four in a row, he is yet to cover such a big number. Querrey's serve can be tough to break and Nishikori also has a serve that will offer up some chances even to a limited returner like Querrey.

The confidence from consecutive strong tournaments will help Querrey who won the title last week and was also a Semi Finalist in Memphis. On that occasion it was Nishikori who beat him in three sets and I think this could be a competitive match for the fans to enjoy despite the odds very much favouring Nishikori to come through. I believe it is too many games for Nishikori to cover and I will back Querrey to at least remain within this number even if he is beaten on the day.

Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 games v Victoria Azarenka: This Second Round match looks like it could be a classic as the Number 1 Seed in Acapulco takes on Dominika Cibulkova. It has been a few weeks since Azarenka was on the Tour so the slow start she made in the First Round might have been expected, although another one will see her in big trouble against the 'pocket rocket' Cibulkova.

I am not discounting how well Azarenka has played to open 2016 and even her surprise defeat to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open can be forgiven considering the latter went on to win the tournament. Winning in Brisbane in dominating style suggests Azarenka is going to head back to the very top of the women's game in 2016 after injury troubles, but someone like Cibulkova is going to test her to the very limit.

The movement Cibulkova brings to the court and her aggressive style of play means she will give Azarenka all she can handle and matches between these players have been very competitive in the past. I would be surprised if this one is any different with every chance of seeing a final set decider between them.

I do think the match up is one that Cibulkova enjoys with Azarenka not offering the biggest serve and a nice rhythm that can be built up. The movement should aid Cibulkova to get out of trouble at times and I do think this is at least one too many games being given to her on the handicap.

MY PICKS: Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 5.5 Games @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Timea Babos + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberta Vinci - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Federico Delbonis - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sam Querrey + 4.5 Games @ 1.61 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-5, + 2.50 Units (24 Units Staked, + 10.42% Yield)

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