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Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2016 (March 15th)

This is looking a really good tournament for the tennis picks after a difficult start to the season. Monday was another solid day for the picks to keep the tournament trending in a positive direction, but there are still a number of days to go to ensure this is a good week at Indian Wells.

On Tuesday we get to see the full Fourth Round of the WTA Premier Event, while the Fourth Round line up for the ATP Masters is completed.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Steve Johnson: This looks a difficult match for Kei Nishikori on paper depending on what Steve Johnson turns up on Tuesday, but I think the conditions in Indian Wells should help the higher Ranked player get through to the Fourth Round. While the ball is flying, the courts are not the quickest so the extra athleticism that Nishikori shows on the court compared with Johnson could be the key factor of the match.

As easy as Johnson's win in the Second Round might not when glancing at the scoreboard, it has to be remembered that he was struggling to hold serve in the first set. That isn't going to help him beat someone of the quality of Nishikori who has won all three previous matches against Johnson.

Recent form hasn't been the best for Johnson and I am not sure he will be in the best mental state to beat someone like Nishikori. While the latter might have expected more from his 2016 season to this point, he is a player that protects his serve better than you'd expect against the lesser players on the Tour although Nishikori has yet to put it all together in Indian Wells.

The match up is one that Nishikori should be encouraged by though and I think he will battle through one set before pulling away for a 76, 62 win.

John Isner - 3.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: I backed John Isner in the Second Round to cover this same number of games against Andreas Seppi and it was only one poor service game when serving for the match that prevented him doing that. This match will have a similar feel to the last one for Isner and I think he will be able to cover the games this time around.

There is the difference that Adrian Mannarino will be serving left-handed which means it will naturally be going into the weaker backhand wing, but the serve is much like Seppi's in not being an overwhelming shot. While Isner's return is not amongst the best on the Tour, he should get to see enough of the ball on the return to have success and I expect he will find a way to break serve a couple of times in this match.

It will come down to whether Isner can get through the difficult moments on serve more effectively than he did against Seppi. There was no way he should have been broken when he was in that match, but the American was very good behind serve for most of that one and a similar level will be difficult for Mannarino to deal with.

Isner does have a strong record against Mannarino so should be aware of the approach that the lefty will bring into the match. I think he will get his chances on the return of serve to find the breaks at the right moment in this match and I like Isner coming through 63, 76 to cover these games at odds against.

Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: I do wonder what kind of emotional state Rafael Nadal is in after revealing he is now going to sue anyone who makes any suggestion that he has failed a drugs test in the past. This whole issue seems to be really revolving around Nadal over the last few days since the Maria Sharapova failed test and it has to be having an emotional impact on him.

He now has to face his Doubles partner from this week and the player who beat him in the First Round at the Australian Open in compatriot Fernando Verdasco who has won three of their last four matches. Verdasco has the heavy groundstrokes to put Nadal under some immense pressure, but I like the latter to come through this one as I am still of the belief that he should have beaten Verdasco at Melbourne Park.

Nadal will have to be more solid behind serve than he was in his Second Round win over Gilles Muller, but it was still a good win for him to build some confidence. He is also facing Verdasco who hasn't exactly set 2016 alight with the stand out win over Nadal being followed by a couple of disappointing losses.

His run to the Third Round has been helped by the Martin Klizan retirement in the Second Round and I think Verdasco will have to produce some exceptional tennis as he did Down Under to beat Nadal again. It might need three sets to separate them, but Nadal is the more likely to win a set with a double break and I think that is ultimately the reason he is able to come through and cover in a Third Round win.

Dominic Thiem - 1.5 games v Jack Sock: This looks a fascinating match on paper between two players that will feel they can make significant Ranking improvements this season. For Jack Sock the injury earlier in the season has prevented him from kicking on as much as he might have wished after reaching the Final in Auckland.

Sock had lost three straight matches before beating Michael Berrer in the Second Round here, but he will have to be a lot better to beat Dominic Thiem who has won two titles in 2016. I really think Thiem is on the right path to break into the top ten of the World Rankings for the first time, especially when you think his best tennis is usually reserved for the clay courts which is going to dominate the next couple of months after March.

That is not to say Thiem can't perform very well on the hard courts too having won the ATP 500 event in Acapulco and I think he has the all around game to give Sock plenty to think about. He will have a real edge when it comes to the backhand battles and Sock will have to serve well to keep Thiem at bay and I do like the Austrian to progress.

In the Miami Masters of 2015, Thiem took advantage of the Sock second serve to beat him in straight sets as the underdog. This time around he goes into the match as the favourite and I think he deserves that tag and Thiem will be able to have enough success against the Sock backhand to come through in straight sets.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Nicole Gibbs: Injury and illness has really given Petra Kvitova problems in 2016 as she tries to find her best form, but I do think the two wins in Indian Wells might have restored some confidence. Kvitova had to battle deep into a third set on both occasions and those are the kind of wins that will help her get back on her feet in a difficult season, but I do think she is perhaps being under-rated in this match.

I have steered away from backing Kvitova until I felt she was back to her best, but I do like the way she has won her two matches this week despite being under immense pressure. That will help her mentally, but I also thought she would be asked to cover a couple more games in this one against the Qualifier Nicole Gibbs.

It has been two long weeks for Gibbs who reached the Quarter Finals in Monterrey ten days ago when coming through the Qualifiers there. She has already won five matches this week with a couple of Qualifying wins behind her, while Gibbs has impressive wins over Madison Keys and Yaroslava Shvedova in the last two Rounds.

The American will receive plenty of support here and this is all about whether she can weather the power that Kvitova will bring at times. It has proven to be a problem for Gibbs in her last two matches against the Czech player and I think Kvitova might be battle hardened for a strong week here now.

Expect some twists and turns, but ultimately I expect Kvitova to win this one 63, 57, 64.

Simona Halep - 3.5 games v Barbora Strycova: Simona Halep has had some really difficult losses in 2016 and she took time out to go and visit Steffi Graf in Las Vegas to see if she can get some help to recover mentally. It has seemingly worked as Halep has spoken positively about it off the court, and then beaten Vania King and Ekaterina Makarova very comfortably on the court here at Indian Wells.

Those wins will give Halep a boost in confidence as she looks to put up some big Ranking points following a Semi Final run and then winning the title at this event. It is clearly a tournament Halep likes and I do think she will be too strong for Barbora Strycova in this Fourth Round match.

Strycova has had some decent wins already this week and continues to be one of those players on the Tour that can beat the very best players if they are off their game. On the other hand, she struggles to match those players if they are on form and that has shown up with a couple of heavy losses to the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Sara Errani.

There will be some long rallies in this one as both players have an ability to play very strong defence, but ultimately I think Halep will get the better of things. It should lead to a 64, 64 win and a place back in the Quarter Finals at Indian Wells.

Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 games v Johanna Konta: I am a big fan of Johanna Konta but I think this might be too difficult a test for her in the Fourth Round as she faces Karolina Pliskova who has won all three previous matches between the two.

Both players have produced good wins to reach the Fourth Round and both Pliskova and Konta will look to get things going behind a strong first serve. The player who can win the higher percentage of points behind the first serve will be in a strong position to progress and I think both Pliskova and Konta will have their chances to get on the front foot.

It could be a streaky kind of match with both players having their moments and I would be surprised if we didn't get to see a decider between them. The last two matches have both gone into a third set and I think we will see both players have their success in this one too.

What will make the difference? I do think Pliskova, when on form as she has shown this week, is the more capable player of finding consistency off the ground and behind the serve to have the edge. While Konta's serve is under-rated, it isn't as dominant a shot as the one Pliskova possesses and ultimately that can prove to be the difference maker in a close match.

I am backing Pliskova to cover the games in a match I believed she would be a far stronger favourite than she is and I think she can win this one in three tough sets but will cover too.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
John Isner - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 20-10, + 16.90 Units (60 Units Staked, + 28.17% Yield)

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