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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 11 Picks 2017 (January 26th)

We have our Semi Final line up at the Australian Open and all eight players left in the men's and women's tournaments have to be feeling good about their chances to win the first Grand Slam of the 2017 season.

Historically the Australian Open has been the most erratic of the Grand Slam events coming so early in the season after a number of weeks between competitive matches for players returning from a two month off-season. There have been plenty of surprise names who have come through the men's and women's draws and competed in the Final and this year it looks like being no different.

However the one difference that I do see from the 2017 tournament and those played in recent years is that you could argue at least five of the eight remaining players were not that fancied to get to this stage when the tournament began. I can't remember the last time I saw that, but if you take out Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and arguably Rafael Nadal (who was the favourite to win the third quarter of the draw prior to the tournament), then you'd have to admit there were questions about the other five players still competing.

Roger Federer has the name power, but he has admitted himself that he has been surprised with how well he has been able to negotiate the draw here. His section of the draw to simply make the Quarter Final looked riddled with big obstacles, while most would have expected Andy Murray to at least be waiting in the last eight, but Federer has made it through and is now the favourite to win the event.

Grigor Dimitrov had been in good form in Brisbane where he won the title, but he was in Novak Djokovic's quarter of the draw and his recent lack of success at the Slam level would have meant there were questions to answer. The Bulgarian looks good, but he will be a significant underdog against Rafael Nadal in his own Semi Final.

In the women's draw, Venus Williams and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, particularly the latter, have shown age is no hindrance to heart and desire. The Lucic-Baroni story has really got the emotions pumping in Australia but it does look like one that will not have the fairytale ending with Serena Williams in her path.

Last but not least, Coco Vandeweghe has made a surprising run through the draw by beating top five players on the way to a maiden Singles Semi Final at this level. The American has a lot of confidence, but she was a massive price at the start of the tournament and hadn't really shown the form that suggested this run was in the making.

There is so much to like about the potential Finals we could see, but let's face facts and admit that the Federer vs Nadal and Williams vs Williams permutations are perhaps the one that the organisers and fans would love to see. I will admit that they are not only the two Finals I would like to see, but also what I think will be the outcome of the four Semi Finals.

The Day 10 Picks had a clean sweep on Wednesday to put this tournament in a very strong position and one that is going to end with a winning week. However I don't want to give anything back as Day 11 is the last one with multiple Singles matches to be played on the same day and I would love to put an exclamation point on this event with five more winners if possible.

It is the challenge I have set myself as Day 11 brings the first three Semi Finals onto the court. Between Day 4 and Day 10, the picks have been firing as they have turned a big negative yield into a big positive one, but I'll only feel good about this if I can finish on a high.

Venus Williams v Coco Vandeweghe: This is a match that I went back and forth about as soon as the Semi Final was set, but each time I came back to the fact that I thought Venus Williams would be a favourite. I was expecting the layers to ask Venus to cover around 2.5 games on the handicap, but to my surprise it is Coco Vandeweghe who goes into her first Grand Slam Semi Final as the favourite to beat the veteran seven time Slam winner.

The last of those titles did come in 2008, but don't think for a second that Venus Williams is just having one more big run in the Indian Summer of her career. After recovering from a debilitating illness, Venus Williams has reached two Quarter Finals and one Semi Final in the Grand Slams over the last two seasons. She may not have won the Australian Open before, but Venus has reached the business end of this tournament before and she has been playing very well.

Of course you have to accept this has arguably been the best tournament Coco Vandeweghe has ever put together with some big wins over the likes of World Number 1 Angelique Kerber and Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza to reach the Semi Final. The younger American is serving very big and cranking up the groundstrokes which makes her dangerous, but the lack of experience can't be ignored.

Vandeweghe is also playing an idol and that can be tough, even if this is their second match against one another. She is going to be dealing with some heavy shots coming back at her too and this is one of those prices you may look at and just simply think the layers have got it the wrong way around.

At some point Vandeweghe has to feel the pressure of expectation when she is hitting her shots freely through the court, and I think Venus Williams is playing well enough to put her under that pressure. The Venus Williams serve is going to be important as she can't allow Vandeweghe to get clean looks at the second serve too often, but I do think she can use all of her experience at this level to win this match as the underdog.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: The Mirjana Lucic-Baroni story has been a memorable through the Australian Open as she gets set to play in her second Grand Slam Semi Final. As most will know, the first Semi Final came in the last century and Lucic-Baroni has had many ups and downs in her life since then.

There will be many neutrals hoping Lucic-Baroni can go all the way and win the title on Saturday, but I am not sure that Serena Williams is going to be one of those people. And the way Serena was playing against Johanna Konta in her own Quarter Final on Wednesday, it is going to take something special for Lucic-Baroni to beat her.

Serena Williams can match, and surpass, the power that Lucic-Baroni will bring to the court and I think she will enjoy the rhythm that the Croatian will give to her. Lucic-Baroni does have a decent serve which can be a big weapon, but she does offer up some cheap games and that should give the American a chance to breakthrough and from there it will be difficult to peg her back.

It isn't plain sailing for Williams because she has had some issues with her serve, but she is still able to hit the big first serves when she needs them and can just keep the pressure on Lucic-Baroni in this one. I also think there is little doubt that Lucic-Baroni is feeling the amount of tennis she has had to play and she admitted that she is feeling a little sore on Wednesday and there isn't a lot of rest between the Quarter Final and this Semi Final.

For Williams it was a much more comfortable day in the office with her dismantling of the Konta game, and I think she is peaking at the right time. She should enjoy the match up as Lucic-Baroni tries to out-hit Serena Williams and I think it will lead to a 6-4, 6-2 win for the favourite for the women's title.

Roger Federer - 1.5 sets v Stan Wawrinka: The first of the men's Australian Open Semi Finals will be played between two good friends and compatriots Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. This should be a really good Semi Final and I think the layers have got it right by picking Federer as the favourite.

Both players have come into the Semi Final in strong form, and Federer has been particularly impressive considering his long lay off. Federer hasn't come through an easy path to suddenly get here, but wins over the likes of Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori shows that Federer is confident of where he is at mentally and physically going into the Semi Final.

You have to be wary of going up against Stan Wawrinka who has shown numerous times that he is an absolute threat to win a Grand Slam title when he reaches this stage of a tournament. He has produced some huge wins at the Australian Open over the years with victories over the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on his CV, but Wawrinka has to overcome a mental hurdle in this one having a 3-18 head to head record against Federer.

None of those wins for Wawrinka have come off the clay and Federer is also 5-1 against his compatriot in Grand Slam tournaments. I think Federer has been serving a little better than Wawrinka in this tournament and his ability to get forward and use his aggression to get to the net and put away points certainly gives the former World Number 1 the edge in this one.

I did consider backing Federer to cover the small spread in this one with the game handicap set at 1.5 games, but instead I will take the odds against quote that he can win this match in three or four sets. There hasn't been a lot of momentum shift when these players have met in Grand Slam events with only one of the six matches needing four sets and the other five completed in straight sets.

That includes a one sided win for Federer in the Semi Final of the 2015 US Open and I think Federer is able to get this done in three or four sets.

MY PICKS: Venus Williams @ 2.50 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 46-33, + 22.64 Units (153 Units Staked, + 14.80% Yield)

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