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Friday, 8 April 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (April 8th)

To say it was a hectic few days in Vegas and then on to Wrestlemania 32 in Arlington, Texas would be an understatement and it has taken a couple of days since returning to London to get back on track.

There is still some partying to shake out of the body, while the next few weeks will be busy for me too meaning a couple of breaks in between making picks.

I am joining the tennis late this week having only just returned, but the business end of the first clay court events of the season should be interesting as we begin the build towards the French Open at the end of May.

Irina-Camelia Begu + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: Winning the Australian Open is probably something that Angelique Kerber was not really expecting deep down inside and so the struggles since then is not a big surprise. However the last two tournaments suggest Kerber is beginning to deal with having a target on her back and the confidence looks to be returning in her game.

While that is a strong reason she is favoured to win this Quarter Final, Irina-Camelia Begu has given her some tough outings in the past.

In fact it is Begu who has won two of the last three matches between them while they played out two tie-breakers here in Charleston last season in a match that Kerber eventually won. Begu hasn't had the best start to 2016 but she has looked better in the last two tournaments and will be boosted by her own battling qualities in coming through some tough matches already this week.

Of course Kerber is the more likely winner, but I can see Begu making this a battle until the end and this looks a lot of games she is being given with a chance to cover.

Sara Errani - 3.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: I know she won the title in Dubai, a big event, but Sara Errani has not had the best 2016 overall. Now we have begun the clay court season, perhaps we are going to see the best of the Italian who has come through the draw in Charleston fairly comfortably so far.

She will have to be at her best to beat Yulia Putintseva who has a big win under her belt when coming through in three sets to beat Venus Williams in the Third Round on Thursday. That is the second consecutive time Putintseva has needed three sets to get through and Errani will test her physical well-being in this one with the extended rallies and ability to make Putintseva play plenty of balls.

The big issue for Errani has always been the ability to get the most out of her serve and protecting that shot has been a problem over the years. She will allow Putintseva to get a chance to hammer a return of either first or second serve, although I think Errani is used to protecting this shot much more on the clay courts.

It will be a battle with the way both players go about their game as they can both put together strong movement, but I think Errani will find a way to break down Putintseva. That should lead to a 64, 64 win for the higher Ranked player and a place in the Semi Final.

Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 games v Tim Smyczek: The clay courts in Houston are unlike most around the world in that they seem to play much faster, as many in North America seem to do. That has led to some surprise Semi Finalists and Winners of this tournament in the past and someone like Feliciano Lopez may appreciate this type of clay court more than the ones he will see in the coming weeks.

On this surface, Lopez should be able to get plenty of free points behind the serve as well as being able to attack the net as he plays the match very much like a hard court. He hasn't had the success here Lopez might have liked in the past, but I think he will be surer underfoot than Tim Smyczek and can beat the American on the way to the Semi Final.

Smyczek has shown some form over the last few weeks and his confidence should be in a good place having reached the Quarter Final. However he will have to serve well to stay with Lopez and one sloppy service game could cost the American the set if Lopez is playing up to the standards he can produce.

The key for Lopez is to build pressure on the scoreboard by putting plenty of first serves in play and and forcing Smyczek to keep with him. I think that will see a couple of late breaks of serve to help Lopez move through to the next Round behind a 75, 64 win.

Marcos Baghdatis + 2.5 Games v Jack Sock: 2016 has been a season in which Marcos Baghdatis has looked revitalised and that has seen him re-enter the top 40 in the World Rankings. He will be looking to push on further, although the clay court season is perhaps his weakest portion of the season and the Cypriot will look at the tournament in Houston as his best chance for big points in this part of the season.

His win over Fernando Verdasco on Thursday was an impressive one, although the standard might have gone up when Baghdatis faces Jack Sock in this Quarter Final. The American reached the Quarter Final in 2014 before winning the title in Houston in 2015 and Sock has the kind of game that should work well on the clay courts in the build up towards the French Open.

Sock reached the Fourth Round at Roland Garros last season and clearly can produce some of his best tennis on clay, although it was Houston where he really shined. The court plays faster than the European clay courts and that should suit both players in what looks like a close match to me.

That makes the games being given to Baghdatis look very appealing and I think he can steal a set to make it possible to cover even in a losing effort. Personally I also think Baghdatis has restored some confidence and can give Sock plenty to think about in this one as the defending Champion tries to take the title home again and I am backing the Cypriot to cover in this one.

MY PICKS: Irina-Camelia Begu + 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sara Errani - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis + 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)

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