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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Miami Tennis Picks 2016 (March 23rd)

The big news around tennis this week is once again the pay given to the players on the WTA and ATP Tour and it feels like this is a non-issue that keeps rearing its head every few months.

Ray Moore was the catalyst for the latest discussion thanks to some ill-advised comments made, comments that have cost him his job as tournament director in Indian Wells. Most correctly criticised Moore for his comments especially when you consider the position he was in as a tournament director of one of the big events below the Grand Slam level.

However the story developed when it seemed Novak Djokovic also believes he and his fellow professionals on the ATP Tour should be paid more than his counterparts on the WTA Tour. Since then the World Number 1 has sought to clarify what he was trying to say during an 'emotional time' but notably Djokovic has not actually backtracked from his initial response.

For me it is a boring story because I do agree that equal prize money is the right move, even if at this moment the ATP Tour is the stronger of the two. However I know the late 90's was more about women's tennis in terms of the entertainment value, while the ATP Tour does currently offer more prize money as we go down the level of tournaments being played where there aren't shared tournaments taking place.

It is little surprise that so many of the top WTA players have come out and shown their disappointment not only with Moore and his initial comments, but also of Novak Djokovic's response. I am also not at all surprised that Andy Murray has been critical of Djokovic's comments considering the strong female voices he has in his camp, but I imagine many of the ATP Tour probably agree with the best player on their Tour.

Tennis seemingly can't avoid the controversial issues opening up 2016, but this is a story that has gained legs despite it not really being one that deserves it. If Djokovic hadn't said what he had, I am sure the story would have ended with Moore's resignation as it should be, but I have a feeling that Djokovic's comments have just highlighted what so many on the ATP Tour might be feeling.

Hopefully the rest of the Miami Open tournament will be focused on events on the court rather than those off it.

The opening day of the tournament proved a good one for the picks with both on Tuesday coming in as winners on the day. It took Margarita Gasparyan and Danka Kovinic to dig in deep in the second set of their outright wins on Tuesday to get the week off to a positive start after a very good ten days at Indian Wells.

Hopefully Wednesday can keep the positive trend going as the ATP Masters First Round gets underway as well as the conclusion of the WTA Premier Event First Round matches with some of those matches being played on Tuesday.

Rajeev Ram - 1.5 games v Evgeny Donskoy: Neither one of these players has enjoyed too much success at this level of the ATP Tour, but Rajeev Ram has definitely produced more positive results than Evgeny Donskoy in 2016. There have been some decent runs at the Challenger level from Donskoy, but nothing that matches Ram reaching the Final at Delray Beach.

The layers are on the right track in believing there isn't much between these players and I can see a few big moments here and there making the entire difference between winning and losing. I won't be surprised if we do see this match going into a deciding set, but ultimately I believe Ram's better successes on the main Tour will help him battle through this First Round.

I am not sure the conditions in Miami will really suit Ram's game with the courts a little slower, but his first serve is still strong enough to set up the points for him. There isn't a lot about the Ram game that would really impress outside of that, but he can make enough returns to give Donskoy something to think about especially if the Russian is not in top form.

There have been some close losses suffered by Donskoy this season and I think he will have a full belief that he can win a match like this in the conditions in Miami. However the fact that he has lost those close matches might mean Ram has the edge when things are tight and I will back him to come through with a 63, 36, 64 win.

Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: It has been a pretty miserable 2016 for Vasek Pospisil on the Singles Tour although that has yet to reflect in a considerable drop in the World Rankings. He has done a lot of losing in the opening weeks of the season although it has to be said that the majority of his losses have come in matches he was 'expected' to lose.

The Canadian has to bring a big serving day to the office if he is going to come through this First Round match against Diego Sebastian Schwartzman. The Argentinian had an early exit at Indian Wells, but he did play well in a Challenger tournament in Irving where Schwartzman beat someone as capable as Gilles Muller.

The conditions in Miami should suit Schwartzman as the slower hard court will give him a chance to play the match like a clay court. Obviously Miami is faster than the clay courts Schwartzman will usually play on, but this is a tournament where the ball won't fly through the court and the ability that Schwartzman has to defend should help him make this very competitive.

However I do think Pospisil's first serve is going to be a key for him as well as an ability to get to the net to prevent Schwartzman from simply chipping the ball back into play when under pressure. The way Pospisil has been playing makes it hard to believe he will win this in straight sets, but I do think he can get the better of Schwartzman who was beaten handily by Robin Haase in Indian Wells and I think the Canadian wins this one 63, 67, 64.

Christine McHale - 2.5 games v Misaki Doi: We might see Christine McHale lower down in the World Rankings than Misaki Doi, and the latter might have won the tournament in San Antonio last week, but I still think the American can come through this First Round match.

McHale will have earned some confidence from her run at Indian Wells where she beat the likes of Caroline Garcia and Garbine Muguruza before coming up short against Sam Stosur. The two wins were very impressive and she will be well rested while Doi has to hope she has had enough time to prepare for another tournament off a title win.

It wasn't a surprise that Doi decided to make the trip to San Antonio having been beaten in the First Round at Indian Wells. It wasn't the deepest draw in Texas for Doi to deal with although she did have a couple of strong wins and that makes her dangerous.

However she has lost all four previous matches against McHale including a fairly straight-forward loss in Auckland earlier this season. The power of McHale has been a factor with her serve being difficult for Doi to handle, but the slower Miami courts might make sure that this is a closer match than the last one.

Even in saying that, I do think McHale will have the majority of the break points in this one and I can see her taking her chances to cover this number and book her place in the Second Round of another Premier Event.

MY PICKS: Rajeev Ram - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Christine McHale - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Miami Update: 2-0, + 3.48 Units (4 Units Staked, + 87% Yield)

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