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Monday, 14 March 2016

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2016 (March 14th)

Mikhail Youzhny didn't have anything left in the tank as I had suggested on Sunday and that meant him pulling out of his match against Roberto Bautista Agut before a ball had been struck in anger. That wasn't a big surprise, but it didn't make a difference on a day when all but one of the picks was a success and even the losing pick had a chance of winning.

That was because John Isner served for the match at 5-2 having not faced a break point in the entire match to that point- unfortunately he faced one in this service game to win the match, and the cover, but he couldn't save that break point that he faced and ultimately served it out a second time two games later to miss the cover by one game.

Frustrating as that was, it was a very good day for the picks otherwise and has gotten this Indian Wells tournament very much moving in the positive direction. I hope that is going to be a trend for the rest of the week and this can be another very strong week after a poor first seven weeks of 2016 for the picks.

There are still plenty of days to go before we can call Indian Wells a success or failure, but the platform is there to kick on this week and I do have a number of picks from the matches to be played on Monday.

Once again remember it is an earlier start than a few days ago thanks to the time change in the United States, but we should be used that in the United Kingdom for the next couple of weeks. It does mean the tennis is concluded at a more reasonable time which effectively means more tennis can be watched as the tournament begins to build towards the business end.

Richard Gasquet - 2.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: You never know what you are going to get from Alexandr Dolgopolov when he enters the court, but the erratic play he produces gives him some problems when faced with the better players on the Tour. There are times when Dolgopolov is simply unplayable and even the top players can struggle to put a lid on his game, but that isn't something he maintains through matches and I think someone like Richard Gasquet is solid enough to stay with him.

That might be the key to this match for Gasquet who is still finding his feet in 2016, although he has won a title already this season. The Frenchman has all the tools to be really successful although I think he can be found out when asked to run around the court.

It is the movement that Dolgopolov will look to expose in this one, although he hasn't beaten Gasquet in two previous matches. That last of those was five years ago so unlikely to play a part in this one, but Dolgopolov is still the mixed bag of shots as he was back then as he looks to entertain the crowd more than actually playing the right shots to win the match.

If Dolgopolov is on his game then he might blow Gasquet away, but too often he is not up to his highest standards and I expect the more consistent Frenchman to find his way through to the next Round.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: Marin Cilic earned some revenge for a loss in Acapulco by seeing off Ryan Harrison fairly comfortably in the Second Round and I think he will be too good for Leonardo Mayer in the Third Round.

A couple of solid wins have helped Leonardo Mayer through to this Round at Indian Wells and it is much better than the results he has had so far in 2016. The Argentinian Number 1 has a decent first serve and is quite solid off the ground, but the opponent he faces in this Round is a significant step up in class.

Aggressive returning should put Cilic in a position to break serve, but he will need to serve well himself if he is going to be able to see off Mayer. That has been an issue for him at some moments this season which has made matches more awkward than they perhaps should have done and Cilic has to be aware that he can't give Mayer any encouragement in this one.

Marin Cilic did beat Leonardo Mayer fairly comfortably at the French Open last season and I think he played well enough in the Second Round to think he can get something similar out of this match. It might need a couple of breaks of serve in a set to make sure Cilic takes that to get going and I believe he comes through 64, 64 in this one.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: This is an interesting Third Round match at the Masters today and I think the Frenchman Gael Monfils will have a little too much athleticism for Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The latter has really dug in deep to win his last couple of matches to move into the Third Round, and that should have given him plenty of confidence.

However Ramos-Vinolas had to save a whole host of break points in his win over Nick Kyrgios and I am not so sure he will be able to get away with that kind of serving again. There are times when Monfils frustrates the life out of his fans with the poor shot selection and perhaps allowing his opponents to dictate the play, but he can still make a lot of balls back in play and that should lead to some errors from Ramos-Vinolas.

Monfils will have to serve well to keep the Spaniard at bay, and his first serve is solid enough to get a few cheap points out of this one. He will have been boosted by a tough win over Pablo Carreno Busta and Monfils did have a couple of solid runs at the Australian Open and in Rotterdam to suggest he is on the right path with his play at the moment.

It won't be easy and Monfils will have to ride out some tough moments, but I think he will battle past Ramos-Vinolas with a 76, 63 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: This looks a big spread on the face of things, especially when you consider how Stan Wawrinka can be a little off the boil at times and struggles with these big numbers. However the Number 3 Seed looked in good shape in the Second Round and I think Wawrinka being asked to cover this number at odds against is appealing to back him to do so.

The match won't be straight-forward against Andrey Kuznetsov who has had two solid wins in Indian Wells while pushing the likes of Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils to competitive matches earlier in the season. The Russian has a decent serve and backs it up effectively with his play off the ground, but he will be having to deal with some special power that comes from the Wawrinka racquet.

The key to the match will be the second serve of both players and how well their opponent can challenge that shot. It is an area that I believe Wawrinka will be the stronger of the two and the Swiss player has to be feeling good after winning the title in Dubai a couple of weeks ago.

A good serving day from Wawrinka should put him in a strong position to win this match 64, 63 and I think he can be backed at odds against to cover these games against a solid opponent, but ultimately one that gives him a few more chances to break serve.

Karolina Pliskova v Ana Ivanovic: There really isn't a lot I am going to say about this match in the Third Round of the Premier Event at Indian Wells.

Both Ana Ivanovic and Karolina Pliskova look to play the same way with a big serve setting up powerful groundstrokes. I can't imagine either player will look to change their tactics, but it has worked better for Pliskova who has beaten Ivanovic all three times they have met since September 2014.

In that time Pliskova has only dropped one set against Ivanovic and I think it simply comes down to a more consistent serve that the Czech player possesses. While her serve is a big weapon, Ivanovic can be erratic with her ball toss and can crumble when she is struggling to get the first serve in play.

That is a key difference and I think Pliskova will get a lot more shorter balls on the return than Ivanovic and that eventually helps her breakthrough the Serb's defences for the win as the slight underdog.

Johanna Konta - 2.5 games v Denisa Allertova: This is the second time in 2016 that Johanna Konta and Denisa Allertova will be meeting and I expect the Great British Number 1 to come through for a second time. Both players will see this as a big chance to progress to the Fourth Round of a major WTA event, but Konta has experience behind her having done the same with a really positive run at the Australian Open.

For Denisa Allertova, she has to come through the emotional factor of beating the Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber in the Second Round. Backing up those big wins can be difficult for players who are simply not used to having that success on the court at this moment of their career and the match with Konta is one where a totally different mindset is needed.

Konta has a very decent serve that can put pressure on Allertova and she is fairly convincing at the back of the court which makes her dangerous when it comes to a return of serve. She also has an ability to get plenty of balls back in play on the defensive and Allertova made a whole host of unforced errors when these players met at the Australian Open earlier this season.

This will be much closer than the 2 and 2 win that Konta had in that match, but I still think she can get the better of Allertova. The latter trying to back up her big win over Kerber is going to be tough mentally and I think Konta will work through for a 75, 64 win.

Sam Stosur - 1.5 games v Christine McHale: This has not been a great tournament for Sam Stosur over the years, but her battling win over Yanina Wickmayer in the Second Round may give her some confidence. Facing Christine McHale looks to be a winnable match in the Third Round, although the American had a very impressive couple of wins to get this this stage over Caroline Garcia and Garbine Muguruza.

Those are the kind of wins that will give McHale plenty of belief in her game as she heads into this one, but another mental hurdle to overcome is the three previous losses to the Australian. It has been a couple of years since Stosur last beat McHale so isn't a crucial factor, but a bigger one is whether the American can keep a lid on her emotions after a couple of really good wins.

McHale has shown some good form in 2016 with a solid run to the Semi Final in Acapulco as well as a lower level title win. Her retirement last week in Monterrey was a concern but McHale has a big game that could cause Stosur so many issues, although I am looking forward to seeing how she deals with the return of serve in this one.

Stosur doesn't have a lot of tennis in her legs in 2016 but her battling win over Wickmayer as well as two Fed Cup wins should give her the belief to have a couple of good runs in North America. She will have to serve well, but doing that should give Stosur a chance to come through in three battling sets and I expect she has enough to cover these games. 

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 15-8, + 11.48 Units (46 Units Staked, + 24.96% Yield)

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