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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2016 (March 9th)

I took a break from the tennis picks alongside the ATP Tour as the Davis Cup First Round matches were played between Friday and Sunday a few days ago. There really wasn't anything that appealed to me over those days and I think having a few days off during a quieter portion of the season was the right decision.

Since then the obvious big story in the tennis world was the news that Maria Sharapova had failed a drugs test at the Australian Open and is set for a long ban from the Tour. It was a stunning turn of events after the rumours that she was going to be calling time on her career and I don't think one person predicted that her 'major announcement' was going to be regarding a failed drugs test.

It was shocking to me.

The last couple of days has given everyone a chance to digest the news while we wait for the sanctions that will be given to Sharapova and the murky waters surrounding her case has seen the majority split into two camps regarding her guilt. Some will believe it is an 'honest mistake' while others may question whether Sharapova had just played by the rules and used those to gain an unfair edge over the last ten years during which time she has won four of her five career Grand Slams.

Personally I think the whole case of this being 'murky waters' makes it hard to really know where to stand on the whole situation. The absolute bottom line is that we are not in a position just yet, and may never be, to understand her medical history and whether she was taking Meldonium for the reasons she suggested or whether Sharapova understood all the positives it would give her on the court and was thus using it for nefarious gains.

That is going to be the question that the authorities will have to find a way to answer when determining her suspension and I think it is much wiser to sit on the fence on this case than perhaps rushing to condemn her like some people have done. Then again I don't think it is wise to praise someone for their 'honesty' if dishonest intentions were her goals.

I am not the biggest Maria Sharapova fan, so perhaps it is easier for me to separate from an emotional response like some have had, but it is a terrible mistake made by the most famous female sports star in the world (that is what I believe at least).

Until the full facts of the case are known, I am going to keep a key eye on the story and see where it develops.

Doping is a huge thing for tennis if Sharapova is proven to have been deliberately using her medication to give her an extra 1-2% on the court than her rivals. At the very top level of any sport, those small margins can make the biggest difference and I think this is going to be a huge eye-opener for tennis fans and fans of sport across the globe.

How many others are speaking to the top doctors in the world to give themselves even a slight edge by taking currently legal medications that are giving them a slight boost on the court?

It is a second huge scandal to hit tennis in the opening three months of the season and that little doubt in the spectator's mind can be a killer for any sport. The response from the tennis authorities to this case, and any other they may have in the future, has to be firm and show everyone that even a mistake has to be costly.

I would be surprised if Sharapova is not given at least a 2016 suspension after all the appeals are completed, but I do think the initial suspension will be two years and subsequently reduced as both Victor Troicki and Marin Cilic received. Even if it is an 'honest mistake', Sharapova has to take the fall for playing with a banned substance in her system and anything less than the rest of the season would really be a terrible message to send to future generations who are ready to enter the game.

The Maria Sharapova story is likely to dominate the early days at the Indian Wells tournament as I imagine every single big name player is going to be asked about the situation. The first Grand Slam tournament of the season was overshadowed early on by the match-fixing scandal and the first Premier Event/Masters will be overshadowed by a doping story which is simply not a good look for the tennis authorities who have been accused of perhaps shirking their responsibilities to weed out corruption.

I am looking forward to seeing what kind of responses the likes of Andy Murray have after being hugely critical of Victor Troicki when he was banned a couple of years ago, while Novak Djokovic will also be interesting considering how far he backed his team-mate. Djokovic will obviously know Sharapova through some mutual sponsorships they had so there are definitely some interesting days ahead although we have already heard from Serena Williams who refrained from putting the boot in to a rival she simply doesn't get along with.

Timea Babos - 1.5 games v Lesia Tsurenko: This is one of the more intriguing First Round matches in the women's draw on Wednesday and I thought Timea Babos would be a stronger favourite than she is coming into this one. While Babos has looked to be one of the improving Singles players on the Tour, Lesia Tsurenko has struggled for form in 2016 even if she comes in as the higher Ranked player of the two.

You can't ignore the fact that Tsurenko has lost every match she has played on the Tour this season although only one of the four losses could be considered an upset. The disappointment on her side has to be that Tsurenko has only won a single set in her four matches this season even though she wasn't a big underdog in a further two of those matches and confidence can't be in a great place.

There are a lot of points for Tsurenko to defend here having come through the Qualifiers twelve months ago before reaching the Indian Wells Quarter Final. Her heavy game might work well in the conditions at Indian Wells, but there is going to be plenty of firepower coming back from the other side of the court too.

Timea Babos has shown more on the court this season and she looks to be a player that will improve from her current Number 49 in the World Rankings. Consistency is going to be key for Babos who has generally seen off those she has been expected to beat this season and the Hungarian looks difficult to stop when she builds the momentum behind her.

Both players will put together some streaks of hitting winner after winner, but mentally Babos has to be in a much more secure place and I expect her to come through this test. Lesia Tsurenko is a dangerous opponent, but her run at Indian Wells may come to an end much quicker than last season and I like Babos to cover the games.

Danka Kovinic - 2.5 games v Samantha Crawford: A really strong run in Brisbane to open the 2016 season meant Samantha Crawford went into her first match against Danka Kovinic as a fairly healthy favourite at the Australian Open. It didn't really work out for as she was dismissed in the First Round for the loss of just six games and now the tables have turned when it comes to favouritism ahead of their First Round match at Indian Wells.

Crawford has struggled to find the consistency in her game, but the talent is there for the former Junior US Open Champion. However she is going to be given a really difficult test from Danka Kovinic who has also had a hard time finding consistency, but has been playing at a higher level than Crawford for much of the season.

The key to this one is going to be which of the players is able to keep a lid on their unforced errors the best as they can force mistakes from the other. Kovinic is the better player at this moment in time as she has made the transition to the professional Tour much earlier than Samantha Crawford so has been mixing with a higher calibre of player for longer.

Winning the battles against the second serve is going to be key for both players and Kovinic did protect that side of her game better than Crawford back in January. I am looking for her to frank that form with another win at Indian Wells on Wednesday although it will likely be closer than at the Australian Open with Crawford receiving plenty of backing from the stands.

Ultimately I still think Kovinic will come through with a 64, 46, 63 kind of win so I am backing her to cover the games.

MY PICKS: Timea Babos - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Danka Kovinic - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Final: 25-15, + 11.66 Units (78 Units Staked, + 14.95% Yield)

Season 2016- 45.94 Units (460 Units Staked, - 9.99% 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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