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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 4th)

It was almost another really good day for the tennis picks on Wednesday, but Lukas Rosol failed to serve out his match against Martin Klizan in the third set which means I had to settle for a 3-2 record on the day.

That keeps the week going in a positive direction which is all I would have asked for and I am looking at the remaining Second Round matches to be played in Montpellier, Quito and Sofia to help keep the week trending upwards.

Some of the big name Seeds that have agreed to play this week will be in action on Thursday after receiving byes in the First Round.

Other good news on Wednesday was hearing my favourite player Juan Martin Del Potro is returning to the Tour in around ten days time at Delray Beach. I really hope he is over the wrist issues that have crushed two years of his career, especially as Del Potro is one of the best players on the Tour when he is fully healthy and certainly capable of giving anyone, including Novak Djokovic, something to think about.

The 2016 season is all about getting comfortable back on the Tour and playing competitive tennis week in and week out for Del Potro. If he can get through the remainder of the season feeling healthy, Del Potro could be back to his best by the time 2017 rolls around and will hopefully have had a significant jump in the World Rankings.

There is no doubting the hard work that Del Potro is going to have to put in to get back to where he once was in the World Rankings, including playing in some tournaments he wouldn't have at his best, but I have faith a healthy Del Potro can once again reach the top ten in the World Rankings.

I can only wish the best of luck to the big man and hope things work out as he wants this time around. Another injury will surely mean retirement for him so fingers crossed he has more luck with his health.

Talking about health, it was announced that Roger Federer has had to undergo knee surgery which means he will be off the Tour until Indian Wells at the earliest. That means his absence in Rotterdam and Dubai, two tournaments he has enjoyed, and will be a big blow to his chances of overtaking Andy Murray for the World Number 2 position as he would have been favourite to do with the latter taking time off to spend with his wife who will shortly give birth to their first child.

Federer had already announced he would have a very short clay court season in 2016 and I do wonder if this injury has changed his plans in regards to those events in April and May heading into the French Open.

Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 games v Ruben Bemelmans: It was a pretty impressive display from Jan-Lennard Struff to beat Nicolas Mahut as comfortably as he did in the First Round. Backing that up is not going to be easy for a player that has underachieved in his career to date, but Struff has definitely enjoyed playing on the indoor hard courts more than most on the main Tour.

He is also benefitting from playing Ruben Bemelmans in the Second Round rather than Joao Sousa, especially as Bemelmans rode his luck at times to come through that match. His World Ranking suggests he is unlikely to be as effective saving break points as he was for much of the match with Sousa, although the lefty serve might give Struff some problems getting a read on the angles it is coming from.

Struff definitely has the bigger serve which can set up a few more cheap points for him to stay ahead of the scoreboard. He has to make sure the first serve is coming in at a high enough percentage to ensure that occurs, but I do think the courts he will aid Struff a little more than Bemelmans who is perhaps not as strong off the ground.

Neither player has had a lot of success so far in 2016 which makes the Quarter Final place on offer very important to improve Rankings, but I think the edge is with the Struff serve. After coming through a tight first set with a couple of breaks for each player, I think Struff wins a tie-breaker which is too big a mental blow for Bemelmans to overcome and the German wins this one 76, 64.

Benoit Paire - 2.5 games v Paul-Henri Mathieu: One of the players that can be very hard to trust on the Tour is Benoit Paire who seemingly has all the tools to be really make a significant move up the World Rankings, but also lacks the consistency to do so. He should still be too good for Paul-Henri Mathieu as the veteran Frenchman has struggled for wins on the main Tour in the last few seasons.

Mathieu did have an impressive win in the First Round which should have given him plenty of confidence to take into this match against an opponent who hasn't played since the First Round at the Australian Open. That defeat for Paire was a stunning one, especially after he went into his press conference and showed little respect for his opponent and instead trashed his own performance on the day.

There have been plenty of times I have watched Paire and the word 'trash' pretty much sums up some of the tennis he produces. He has a big serve but that can still let him down as his shot selection helps his opponent come through to earn break points and take sets off of him.

Playing a compatriot at home should inspire Paire to bring in a better performance and I think he is capable of beating Mathieu for a third time within the last twelve months. The last match was a three setter that saw both players dominate the sets they won, but ultimately Paire does look the better player at this stage of his career and I fancy he will have too much for Mathieu in a 64, 64 win.

Gilles Muller - 3.5 games v Ricardas Berankis: It is almost exactly a year to the day since Ricardas Berankis and Gilles Muller met on an indoor hard court, but the venue has moved from Zagreb to Sofia this time around. Last year Berankis somehow came through a tight second set to level the match and go on and beat Muller, but I think the latter will have revenge in this Second Round match.

The courts in Sofia are perhaps not playing as quickly as some of the other indoor hard courts on the Tour, but Muller's big serve is not reliant simply on speed, but also on his very strong accuracy. He uses that serve to good effect for the most part during his time on the Tour, and it will be a big issue for Berankis to deal with considering he is not the tallest player on the Tour and has tougher angles to cover.

He played well to do that in his win over Muller last year and Berankis has to be respected as a player that can make all the shots off the ground you need. However, his serve is not the biggest and will put him under pressure at times and it can be difficult for Berankis to get a foothold in matches when he is as aggressive as he is.

If he is no quite on his game, Berankis is someone who can fall off in matches and I think Muller will have him under some scoreboard pressure which could help him break serve. Muller isn't the best returner, but he can make enough balls back against this serve and Berankis could easily buckle under the pressure of staying in the match in a 76, 63 defeat.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Renzo Olivo: After beating Rafael Nadal and putting in huge work to improve his physical fitness in the off-season, Fernando Verdasco has to be disappointed his Australian Open didn't extend beyond the Second Round. He now heads down to Ecuador to begin what is likely to be a number of appearances on the South American Golden Swing and I do expect him to be too good for the Qualifier Renzo Olivo.

The conditions in Quito should favour Verdasco's game with the speed of the courts making them play much faster than usual clay courts. That should aid Verdasco's big game, although he has to serve better and show more consistency off the ground than he did in his loss at the Australian Open to Dudi Sela.

Renzo Olivo might have the edge in terms of having had three matches here already, but Verdasco did reach the Semi Final here last season and he should have the more solid all around game. Olivo doesn't have the biggest serve so Verdasco should have plenty of time to get into rallies against him and the power should come from the Spaniard's side of the court which should prove to be critical under these conditions.

I do think Olivo will have his success too because he will extract errors from the enigmatic Verdasco by getting plenty of balls back in play. That will make this a fun match for the fans in attendance and those watching on television, but ultimately I would expect Verdasco to have too much in a 64, 75 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 games v Joao Souza: Last year Feliciano Lopez reached the Final in the inaugural tournament in Quito and he is back to try and go a step further this time around. Lopez comes into the tournament as the Number 2 Seed behind Bernard Tomic and the veteran Spaniard has shown no signs that he is ready to slip down the World Rankings.

A lot of that could be down to the style of play Lopez produces as he follows plenty of big serves by coming into the net and keeping points short, while not many players will be used to playing opponents like this these days. Lopez is likely to put plenty of pressure on Joao Souza who has come through the Qualifiers and was then a fairly comfortable winner in his First Round match.

However, I think Souza is going to have some issues reading the Lopez left-handed play and will also find the slice backhand the kind of variation that will see him make errors. The Brazilian has a decent first serve that should be more effective in these conditions, but I am not convinced his overall play will be enough with Lopez likely to bunt a few returns back into play and force Souza to win some longer rallies.

There is every chance we see a close first set as Lopez gets accustomed to the conditions again, but I think he will eventually prove too tough in a 64, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Muller - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-3, + 9.62 Units (24 Units Staked, + 40.08% Yield)

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