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Monday, 16 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 2 Picks 2017 (January 17th)

It looks like the temperature is ramping up at Melbourne Park after a really hot day on Monday is likely to be surpassed on Tuesday.

That is going to play havoc as the 'x' factor that can't really be determined as to how players will react to the weather. At this time of the season there is always the likelihood of more upsets in the early Rounds of this Grand Slam with players only just settling into the 2017 season and some playing their first competitive match since October.

A few Seeds have already exited the tournament after Day 1, but the biggest names out of the tournament have come in the women's tournament. Simona Halep will be the headline player who is out, but two other top 20 Seeds also exited on a busy day at the Australian Open.

I am disappointed by the Daria Kasatkina defeat to Shuai Peng as I did think this was a tournament in which Kasatkina could really announce herself on the circuit to most fans. It does open things up at the top of the draw for Angelique Kerber, who had to come through in three sets, especially with Garbine Muguruza struggling with an injury in this Quarter of the draw.

The Day 1 Picks ended up 4-3 for me on Monday which is a solid enough start to the tournament, but it could have been a little better with slightly more fortune on my side. However I can't complain too much and a positive return is always something to be happy about and hopefully it is something I can build upon on Day 2.

The First Round is going to completed in some tough conditions on Tuesday and some of those players out there have to be thinking they will want to get through their matches as soon as possible to save some energy for the rest of the tournament. It is important to not rush things though and it should be another fun day as I look to avoid the upsets that are likely to be sprinkled around the tournament.

For anyone who is yet to read my preview of the tournament, you can find that here.

Daniil Medvedev - 4.5 games v Ernesto Escobedo: Two 20 year old ATP players will be looking to move into the Second Round of a Grand Slam tournament and believe this is a good opportunity to do so when they face one another on Tuesday. Ernesto Escobedo has reached the Second Round at the US Open in September, the first Grand Slam event he has played at this level, but Daniil Medvedev comes into this match considerably higher in the World Rankings.

While Medvedev did reach the Quarter Final of the Junior Australian Open and Junior French Open, the young Russian is making his debut in a Grand Slam event at this level having failed to come through the Qualifiers at Wimbledon and the US Open. However he has reached a career high World Ranking this week after reaching the Chennai Final to open this season.

That should give Medvedev some confidence and he was serving well in Chennai, while every time I have seen Escobedo play he does have a few issues in that department. Escobedo has come through the Qualifiers at the Australian Open and did the same in Brisbane which suggests he is getting some confidence at this level but this is another step up in the quality of opponent the American is facing.

Escobedo has had a habit of saving a number of break points whenever I have seen him, but I think Medvedev can use the confidence of the run in Chennai to give himself the edge in this one. It will likely to see both players have to fight the nerves at times with what is at stake, but I think Medvedev can come through with a 63, 36, 63, 64 win.

Joao Sousa - 1.5 sets v Jordan Thompson: There will be plenty of support for Jordan Thompson in his home Grand Slam as he bids to avenge a 2015 loss to Joao Sousa at the Australian Open. Thompson played well in Brisbane where he had a big win over David Ferrer to his name, but this is going to be a tough test for him against Sousa who reached the Final in Auckland.

That will give Sousa some confidence after a step back in 2016, but he has very little to defend in terms of World Ranking points over the next few weeks and could see the Number 37 World Ranking quickly improve. However one of the rare successes in the early part of 2016 was reaching the Third Round of the Australian Open and he did play well in the Grand Slams for the most part last season.

His best records in the Slams have come on the hard courts and Sousa is going to present a big challenge for Thompson who has had some difficulties protecting the second serve. His opponent in this one will try and wear down Thompson by getting plenty of balls back in play and it is up to the young Australian to overcome any nerves and play some fearless tennis if he is going to earn the upset.

Sousa also has an underrated service game against players of this level and I think he will be able to protect his serve for long enough to build pressure on Thompson. I do think Sousa is going to have a little too much on the day and can win this one in three or four sets as Thompson doesn't quite have the consistency to stay with Sousa.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 sets v Mikhail Youzhny: It is Mikhail Youzhny who leads the head to head with Marcos Baghdatis 4-3, but it was Baghdatis who won their most recent match on the indoor hard courts in 2015. While there are some doubts about the Baghdatis fitness going into the Australian Open, this is a tournament in which Baghdatis receives fantastic support from the stands and I think that fires him up enough to win this match.

These two veterans should give the fans an enjoyable match to watch with some great shot making still within their grasp and the capabilities of putting together some strong sets of tennis. However that consistency that helped Baghdatis and Youzhny both have some memorable runs on the Tour are no longer with them these days which makes them vulnerable when playing the better players on the Tour.

Serving well is going to be very important to both men in this First Round match when you think of the conditions that are expected in Melbourne Park on Tuesday. The more running and tension in holding serve, the more likely that player will break down and I do think Baghdatis has a slight edge in that department.

The ankle issue that saw Baghdatis pull out in Doha is a concern, but he looked decent enough in Auckland and was serving well until running into Joao Sousa in the Semi Final. Youzhny did show some solid form in Chennai in his sole tournament ahead of the Australian Open and I do think he can play a real part in this one, but ultimately I think Baghdatis might be a little too strong.

This is a slightly dangerous pick with the way Youzhny can seem to raise his level for one or two sets, but I think Baghdatis can weather the storm with the support from his vocal fans and come through in three or four sets.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 games v Fabio Fognini: There has to be some concern about Feliciano Lopez' fitness heading into the Australian Open after pulling out in Auckland, but he has entered both the Singles and Doubles tournament here. That suggests his withdrawal in Auckland was more a precautionary measure, but the veteran Spaniard should be ready to go at Melbourne Park in this First Round match.

He faces the enigmatic Fabio Fognini who has personal things on the mind as he is getting ready to become a father for the first time. The Italian lost his only match played in preparation for the Australian Open and he has twice before come up short against Lopez in Grand Slam events including last year at Wimbledon when he blew a 2-0 lead in sets.

You do have to think the conditions could work to Lopez' favour in this match too with his ability to get to the net and shorten points a benefit in the heat. It takes away some of the pressures of holding serve and Lopez has a big first serve which should be able to fly a little more in the heat and take away some of the reaction time for Fognini.

On the other hand, Fognini is going to have to work much harder to look after serve and that can take a toll as you mentally and physically toil in the warm conditions that are much hotter than it has been in recent days. Fognini can sometimes be his own worst enemy and Lopez should be able to take advantage of any mistakes made by the Italian as well as being able to exert some pressure with deep slices and following those by forcing Fognini to make a number of difficult passes.

I did consider backing Lopez to win in three or four sets at what looks a huge price but Fognini can make a nuisance of himself in these best of five set matches and I think Lopez can win and cover the games. Fognini might take players into deep waters in the best of five, but he is just as culpable of losing a set or two by wide margins which should mean Lopez can cover this number even if it does head into a fifth set.

Fernando Verdasco + 7.5 games v Novak Djokovic: This is the type of awkward First Round match that screams out 'upset' and that would only have been underlined by the fact that Novak Djokovic needed to save five match points to beat Fernando Verdasco in Doha two weeks ago. Now they play one another again at the Australian Open and the question for Verdasco is whether he can produce enough of the top tennis he did in Doha to hurt Djokovic here.

It is going to be very difficult for Verdasco to maintain the type of level he produced in Doha for a best of five set match, but the veteran Spaniard is capable on his day. However I just don't think there will be enough in the tank for Verdasco to win the match, although I do think there could be a chance he keeps this one very competitive and can make use of the games he is being given.

They did play one another at the Australian Open in 2015 and it was Djokovic who came through with a standard straight sets win, but he would not have covered this number in that victory. You can never discount the fact that Verdasco might have a mental obstacle to overcome and could simply fall apart in this match with his style of play always on the edge and potentially producing a lot of errors very quickly.

I just think Verdasco can make use of Novak Djokovic not quite being up to full speed over the last few months and it is possible the Spaniard is capable of taking at least a set in this one. The Djokovic serve will give Verdasco the chance to go on the attack and if he is finding his groove, Verdasco could certainly make this a competitive match.

It might not look so good by the end of the Evening Session, but Verdasco getting this number of games looks enough for the underdog to stay within the number.

Johanna Konta - 5.5 games v Kirsten Flipkens: The British Number 1 comes into the Australian Open in much stronger form this season than she did last season when reaching the Semi Final. Now Johanna Konta is considered a threat to actually win the tournament when her run came as a surprise twelve months ago and the question is whether she can deal with the new pressures she may be feeling.

If the performance in Sydney is anything to go by, Konta is more than capable of dealing with an additional pressure and she could go very deep in this tournament. There is the small matter of Serena Williams who could be in the way before the Quarter Final, but Konta can't overlook any match and has to take it day by day.

She should be too good all around for Kirsten Flipkens in this First Round match with Konta holding a distinct advantage when it comes to the serve and the power in the rallies. Flipkens can be awkward and change the variation of her shots as well as the rhythm by attacking the net, but Konta should be able to keep her on the back foot for much of the match.

I think that will see Konta wear down Flipkens in this match and I expect her to create enough break points to secure a fairly comfortable win. I will look for Konta to come through with a 64, 62 kind of win and move through to the Second Round while covering this number of games.

Sam Stosur - 1.5 games v Heather Watson: It is common knowledge that Sam Stosur has a poor record at her home Grand Slam and there isn't a lot of time for her to reverse that as the veteran player is on the decline. She did reach the Semi Final at the French Open last season, but she has gone 9-14 on the Tour since that success and Stosur has a difficult First Round match here.

She faces Heather Watson, who I consider to be massively over-rated in the United Kingdom with a couple of stand out performances hiding the facts that those are the exception rather than the rule for Watson. She has been overtaken by Johanna Konta in Britain and maybe that will ease some pressure on Watson who might have been carrying too much pressure before the emergence of Konta.

The Watson Grand Slam record is incredibly poor having not been beyond the Third Round of any of those tournaments, while she has been beaten three times in a row in the First Round here. Watson has also shown that she can struggle in the conditions that we are likely to see in Melbourne on Tuesday and Stosur's experience of that should hold her in good stead.

Stosur's serve has not been working as well as it should be over her 9-14 run on the Tour, but she was close to beating Garbine Muguruza when they met in Brisbane a couple of months ago. The home favourite has only been beaten four times in the First Round at the Australian Open in fifteen previous experiences and I think she can do enough to get past Watson in this one.

It is possible that Watson will have a few breaks of serve in this one, but her own serve can be attacked and I think Stosur will grind her down in a 46, 64, 64 win.

Ana Konjuh - 1.5 games v Kristina Mladenovic: At one point it looked like Kristina Mladenovic may have the tools to reach the top of the women's game but I think there is a lot more chance of a deep Doubles run than a Singles one. Mladenovic did reach the Semi Final of one event and a couple of Finals over the 2016 season, but there were plenty of early losses scattered in too.

Perhaps returning to the Grand Slam level will be an inspiration with Mladenovic saving some of her best Singles tennis for these events. She has only suffered one First Round exit in the last two seasons, but Mladenovic could have hoped for a much better draw than facing Ana Konjuh who so much is expected from.

Konjuh is a player on the rise on the WTA Tour and reached the Final in Auckland a couple of weeks ago on a surface which is supposed to match what we will see in Melbourne. She had three decent wins there before being upset by Lauren Davis in the Final, but that will have given Konjuh the confidence to take into the Australian Open after reaching the Quarter Final at the US Open a few months ago.

She has the power to match what Mladenovic will bring to the court and I also think the Frenchwoman can be guilty of perhaps throwing in the towel mentally which I don't expect to see from Konjuh. The superior form on the Singles Tour over the last few months has to make Konjuh believe she can overcome this challenge and move through to the Second Round and I think she will win a tough match 46, 64, 63 as Mladenovic perhaps falls away in the hot conditions.

MY PICKS: Daniil Medvedev - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Joao Sousa - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco + 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 5.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Sam Stosur - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ana Konjuh - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 4-3, + 2.78 Units (14 Units Staked, + 19.86% Yield)

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