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Monday, 28 March 2016

Miami Tennis Picks 2016 (March 28th)

The Miami Open continues on Monday but the rest of the week looks like it will be disrupted by the weather.

On Monday we are expecting some rain delays later in the afternoon which might mean matches are postponed or pushed back until much later in the evening.

It has been a good tournament for the picks so far, but Saturday proved to be the first losing day of the week and I am hoping that is not the start of a negative trend. On Sunday I didn't have any picks from the host of matches being played, but Monday seems to be a better day on that front and I am looking for a positive return to get the week moving back in the right direction for the picks.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: This Third Round match looks like it could be a very entertaining one if both Kei Nishikori and Alexandr Dolgopolov are in top form. Both players can produce some exceptional winning tennis, but I am not surprised that Nishikori has won all three previous matches between them as he is the much more consistent player.

As much as Dolgopolov possesses almost every shot in the playbook, his shot selection can let him down with an inability to avoid playing those that gets the crowd gasping rather than those that will win points. There are times the Ukrainian puts it all together to be a very difficult player to knock off, but too often those sloppy shots make him vulnerable to protect serve and thus give his opponent a chance to take control.

I do sometimes wonder about Nishikori and whether he is able to take the next step in his career in the manner he plays. He is a very good player to watch, but I am not sure he has the firepower to really compete with the very best players, while the fitness concerns are still there for all to see.

However, Nishikori has the consistency to beat those lower down the World Rankings and I think he will knuckle down at the big moments to come through this one 64, 64. The Japanese star should be able to create more chances to break serve and that should result in the cover in this one.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: A strong start to the 2016 season from Roberto Bautista Agut should have given him plenty of confidence, but the Spaniard suffered a disappointing loss last week to Feliciano Lopez in Indian Wells. He will have to be at his best when he faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who had a strong week at the last Masters event and started in Miami with a convincing win over Santiago Giraldo.

This match is very much about two different styles that will be on display as Tsonga will look to play an aggressive brand of tennis and Bautista Agut will hope to use his defence to force the Frenchman to play a lot of extra shots.

The conditions in Miami might give Bautista Agut every chance to do that, and serving well will give him a real opportunity to win this match. However, I do think Tsonga is not that concerned about slower conditions as he can hit through the court with the power he has and it doesn't expose the movement issues he can have.

The backhand to backhand battle will be key for Bautista Agut if he is going to surprise, but I think Tsonga might prove a little too good on the day. Serving effectively will put the scoreboard pressure on Bautista Agut and I think Tsonga will win this one 76, 64.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: When these two players met at the French Open last season, it took five intriguing sets to separate them. This Third Round match in Miami should be interesting to watch, but I am a little more convinced that Gael Monfils can make this a slightly more routine day in the office.

Pablo Cuevas had a very productive Golden Swing in South America following the Australian Open, but the hard courts have been more of an issue for him. The serve is not the biggest on the Tour and it can be difficult for Cuevas to protect it on the hard courts, although the Miami courts might be the ones that suit his game the best.

However I have to say I like the way Gael Monfils has been approaching his tennis in 2016 with what looks a lot more motivation for success rather than merely entertaining. I think it will always be difficult for Monfils to separate the entertainer from the tennis player who wants to win titles, but he has looked better and more convincing with his performances.

If Monfils is serving well he should have a considerable edge in this one although Cuevas will have some success too just with the way he is able to extend rallies and use his consistency to wear down opponents. In this one I am expecting Monfils to just serve well enough to break down Cuevas' game and I will back him to move forward with something like a 75, 64 win.

Simona Halep - 4.5 games v Heather Watson: This has been a strong tournament for Heather Watson, but I can't ignore the way the draw has panned out for her. The first two opponents self-destructed in poor performances, but Yanina Wickmayer had so many chances to beat Watson before ultimately going down in three sets.

If you're making a report for the masses to read, you are of course going to focus on the battling qualities and the manner in which Watson came back to beat Wickmayer. On the other hand, I would point out the levels she needs to raise to beat someone as capable as Simona Halep who dropped just six games when these players last met in 2014.

The first two performances from Halep have been far from consistent, but she has been able to come through difficult moments while in others she has had full control of the matches. Confidence has been an issue for Halep but she might be turning a corner with the performances she has had in Indian Wells and Miami and I think she will have too much for Watson in this one.

I expect there will break point chances for both players who are not in possession of the biggest serves on Tour, but I expect Halep to eventually battle through with a 63, 64 win behind better consistency and more accuracy off the ground.

Ekaterina Makarova v Elina Svitolina: It has been a difficult few weeks for Ekaterina Makarova but her performances in Miami might have seen her turn a corner when it comes to her confidence. She will need to be at her best to beat Elina Svitolina who has won a title in Kuala Lumper this season and who battled past Caroline Wozniacki in the Third Round.

The edge definitely belongs to Svitolina when it comes to her current frame of mind compared with Makarova who hasn't had a lot of wins. However the latter looked strong in beating Petra Kvitova in the last Round and also has won all three previous matches against Svitolina.

All three of those wins came in 2015 including on the North American hard courts here in Miami and at the US Open and Makarova has yet to drop a set to Svitolina. The Russian has the lefty serve that can cause problems, especially when she is utilising that shot to the full and Makarova's previous experiences when facing Svitolina cannot be ignored easily.

I imagine this will be a close match and Svitolina might even take her first set from Makarova, but ultimately I think the latter will come through. It might be close throughout, but backing Makarova to move into the Quarter Final looks the call.

Timea Babos + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: The Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber has just had a difficult time backing up that big success. That alone isn't a big surprise considering the surprise that Kerber produced to win a Grand Slam title and the added expectation on her shoulders is not something that is easy to understand for any player that is placed in that position.

She has played well in Miami so far, although perhaps was fortunate to come through the Third Round match against Kiki Bertens who had to pull out during the match. Now Kerber is going to be given a big test from Timea Babos who has had three solid wins this week and should be capable of giving Kerber plenty to think about.

It hasn't been the case in the past with all three wins produced by Kerber coming quite comfortably and this number of games wouldn't have done enough for Babos. However, I think the two players are in a different place mentally at this moment in time and Babos can take advantage by making this a lot more competitive.

I really do think there is every chance that Babos can win this one outright, but I am anticipating a close match so the games being given to her look too many to me. Kerber still looks like a player that is not quite comfortable with the new target on her back from the other players on the Tour and I will back her lower Ranked opponent to cover if not win outright.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova @ 1.83 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Timea Babos + 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Miami Update: 10-4, + 10.14 Units (28 Units Staked, + 36.21% Yield)

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