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Friday, 11 March 2016

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2016 (March 11th)

The tennis at Indian Wells continues on Friday and the WTA Premier Event introduces some of the biggest names on the Tour. All of the press conferences will be interesting in the coming days as the top players will all be asked their opinion on the Maria Sharapova situation and I am looking forward to how her peers will react considering the Russian has made it clear she has no friends on the Tour.

Andy Murray was someone who I expected to be black and white about the situation and he really was in his first press conference.

After criticising Victor Troicki for missing a test that he subsequently passed the next day and also talking about Marin Cilic needing to know better, a failed drugs test from a top player was never going to go down well for Murray. The fact he went as far as to criticise his own racquet company for their extension of their contract with Sharapova shows you how much disdain Murray has for those who are not playing by the rules.

It has been a mixed start to the week, but at least it is a winning start to the tournament although still a long way to go before we reach the Finals a week on Sunday.

A good day on Friday to move the picks forward would be much appreciated.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Ivan Dodig: It is going to be interesting to see how Alexander Zverev is feeling after losing the last Rubber in Germany's Davis Cup loss to the Czech Republic. After pushing Tomas Berdych all the way in his first Singles match last week, Zverev was blown away by Lukas Rosol in the Fifth Rubber.

He is a young player so I am expecting Zverev to put that down to a bad day in the office and not allow it to affect his coming weeks on the hard courts in North America. The First Round is not an easy draw for Zverev against Ivan Dodig who can be a dangerous Singles player even if his best tennis is reserved for the Doubles court.

Dodig is an attacking player though and will look to pressure Zverev by getting to the net as much as possible with serve-volley tactics a key for him. When they met in the US Open Qualifiers in August, it was Dodig's inability to convert the break points he created which cost him the match.

I have to say that Zverev does have a tendency to play the break points quite well, but he won't want to be under that pressure again in this First Round match. I also think Dodig is not quite as athletic on the Singles court as he was a few seasons ago and I am expecting the young German to battle through for a 64, 76 win in this one.

Michael Berrer v Juan Monaco: Michael Berrer has battled through the Qualifiers to reach the main draw and I am backing him to win this match against Juan Monaco who has struggled for fitness for a few months. Even his return during the South American Golden Swing was cut short after playing two full matches and I am not sure Monaco is going to be match ready to take on someone like Berrer.

The lefty is one of these players that can produce some really good tennis when he is on form and I think he can take advantage of the conditions with that serve. He will play with a lot of slice and that allows Berrer to get into the net and make Monaco hit shots rather than chipping the return back into play, something that can build pressure and extract more errors from his game.

Monaco has enjoyed his time at Indian Wells and Miami last season, but I am not convinced he is ready to dig deep to win matches with his fitness concerns. If he is still struggling with those problems, Monaco is going to find it tough to find the mental strength to keep Berrer from attacking the net and that should give the German the edge in the match.

It is likely going to be close if Monaco is healthy and good to go, but Berrer's two wins in the Qualifiers should have him ready for the conditions and I think he can come through and win this one.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Kateryna Bondarenko: The layers have this down as a pick 'em contest which is understandable considering Kateryna Bondarenko has won all three matches played in Indian Wells. On the other hand Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova hasn't been in the best form and missed Fed Cup duty with Russia to get herself ready for more Tour matches only to lose her next match.

Pavlyuchenkova has had a couple of Quarter Finals in 2016 and does generally play at the higher level than Bondarenko. That experience can be tough to bridge for Bondarenko, although she is a player that has played plenty of matches at this level herself and so that shouldn't be a critical factor in this one.

However I can't ignore the fact that Bondarenko hasn't had a lot of wins on the main Tour in 2016 and I do wonder if her three matches here have taken a bit of energy from her. She will have her chances behind a solid serve, especially if she can get Pavlyuchenkova on the move, but standing there and trading shots should favour the latter.

I do think Pavlyuchenkova is the better player in this Second Round match and I expect her to show that up here. It might need three sets, but I will back the Seeded player to find her way through to the Third Round at this Premier Event.

Venus Williams - 4.5 games v Kurumi Nara: When I saw Venus Williams going down limply to Johanna Konta at the Australian Open following a First Round loss in Auckland, I did wonder if the veteran American was winding down her career. She didn't look right in either of those losses, but fears for her future on the Tour might have been erased with her two Fed Cup wins as well as picking up the title in Kaohsiung.

For a long time Venus and sister Serena ignore the Indian Wells tournament having been treated badly here, but they are both back in the draw. For Venus this is her first time back in the draw since 2001 and I do wonder if that emotional factor will give Kurumi Nara a chance for the upset.

It would be a big upset for the Qualifier who has not really been able to match the very best players on the Tour. Her serve can be a weakness and Nara doesn't really have the power to match the top players and that has led to a number of very big losses in those matches.

In their two previous matches against one another, Williams and Nara have played the first set very competitively before the American has taken control. I can see the nerves of returning to Indian Wells playing a part here as Venus perhaps struggles a little bit early on in the match, but once she has settled down I expect her to come through with a 76, 62 win.

Yaroslava Shvedova v Lucie Safarova: Lucie Safarova struggled in her first match back on the Tour following an injury that prevented her opening 2016 as she would have wanted. Her first tournament was in Doha and I am sure Safarova would have wanted an easier introduction to Indian Wells than facing Yaroslava Shvedova.

The latter hasn't reached the heights of a few years ago as a Singles player, but she is still a very dangerous opponent. Shvedova has a decent serve and backs it up effectively while she will challenge the Safarova second serve, especially as the Czech player is still trying to find her match sharpness.

The mental edge goes to Shvedova too having won both previous matches against Safarova including at the Australian Open in 2015, although that went deep into a third set before it was decided. My one concern in backing Shvedova as the underdog is that she hasn't exactly set the world alight in 2016, but she has had plenty more tennis in her legs and might catch a raw Safarova having already won a match at Indian Wells.

This is another match that could easily need three sets to separate the players, but I do like Shvedova coming through for a victory at odds against.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Michael Berrer @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Yaroslava Shvedova @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-2, + 1.48 Units (10 Units Staked, + 14.8% Yield)

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