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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2017 (January 19th)

The headlines in the United Kingdom were stolen by Dan Evans on Day 3 of the Australian Open as he beat former US Open Champion Marin Cilic to move through to the Third Round. This is the third Grand Slam in a row that Evans has achieved that milestone and he has to be given all the credit in the world for managing that.

Now he faces a home hope in Bernard Tomic, a player he has beaten in a Grand Slam before, and Evans may feel he has plenty more left in the tank for this week.

Remember, Evans had match point against Stan Wawrinka at the US Open back in September and that would have prevented the Swiss player from adding to his previous successes at the Grand Slam level. That makes Evans dangerous going forward even if his game is far from one that you would expect to be featured in the latter stages of a Grand Slam event.

Most of the top names outside of Cilic avoided a big upset, although Nick Kyrgios will gain some more unwanted attention with yet another mental collapse in a big tournament. I am a Kyrgios fan, I think he is good for tennis, but I do think the young Australian needs to work out what he wants from the sport.

Does he want to be someone who will become very rich playing the game but never receiving the acclaim of the fans nor the accolades of winning Grand Slam titles? Or does he want to win the big titles and secure a legacy?

He isn't quite at a crossroads in his career, but Kyrgios has to start deciding which way he wants his career to go. I am always drawn to the charismatic players on the Tour (big fan of Marat Safin) or those who wear their heart on their sleeves (David Nalbandian) so I am always going to want Kyrgios to do well... I just hope he decides that is what he wants too and can then reach the clear potential he has to get to the very top of the men's game.

It has been a couple of frustrating days for the picks from the Australian Open which have had chances, but players have not been finishing the job.

I am still not sure how Jeremy Chardy did not win a set in his loss to Kei Nishikori having had a break lead in set two and set three, while John Isner went 1/13 in break points over the first four sets and still had a chance to cover. However he was broken at 4-2 in the fourth set when serving out would have covered and he took the absolute punishment of being knocked out of the tournament by Mischa Zverev in a long final set.

Those two matches alone being flipped the other way would have mean a winning record, but instead I had to take a narrow loss for the second day in a row. Hopefully that luck evens itself out in the coming days beginning with Day 4.

Gilles Simon - 7.5 games v Rogerio Dutra Silva: It might have been expected that young American Jared Donaldson would have been the one facing Gilles Simon in the Second Round on Thursday, but fitness let him down in the very hot conditions in Melbourne on Tuesday. That meant Rogerio Dutra Silva found enough to come back from 2-0 down in sets to win a five setter and surprisingly making it through to this Round.

Dutra Silva is going to have to raise his game significantly if he is going to get the better of the veteran Simon, although I will admit that I don't find it easy to back the Frenchman with a lot of confidence.

My problem for Simon is that his serve is far from a strength even when he faces some of the weaker players on the Tour and that should mean Dutra Silva has some opportunities to get to break point and keep himself in the match. However I do think Simon's returning ability will keep the pressure on Dutra Silva and Simon is unlikely to fold through injury and stamina concerns like Donaldson did.

It should be noted that Donaldson had won the first two sets against Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-0 and looked more than good enough to cover the 6.5 game handicap. The fact that Simon is only given a game more to cover looks wrong to me even if Simon beat Dutra Silva by a seven game margin at the French Open last season.

That came on the clay which is Dutra Silva's favourite surface, and the Brazilian doesn't spend a lot of time on the hard courts. He has had some solid wins over the last three weeks on the surface, but Simon might be a little too savvy on the surface and can extract enough mistakes to come through with a 75, 64, 62 win.

Milos Raonic win 3-1 v Gilles Muller: The head to head between Milos Raonic and Gilles Muller reads 0-2 to the player from Luxembourg, but the last time these players met was five years ago. Since then you can be sure that Raonic is a considerably improved player on the Tour and he is a big favourite to win this match.

I can't argue with that as Raonic is considered one of the outsiders to win the Australian Open and he did reach the Semi Final here last season which suggests the courts are to his liking. The Canadian has a big serve and that should put Muller under some pressure, but the flip side of the coin is he is playing against a dangerous lefty who is in form.

Muller won the title in Sydney last week and that will have given him plenty of confidence while the serve is a huge weapon especially against a returner who is as limited as Raonic. Tie-breakers have to be play and Muller is certainly playing well enough to take a set, although the layers are giving nothing away with the price on that.

I do think Muller is capable of taking a set, but Raonic should be a little too strong at key moments in this one. The most likely result in the match does look to be Raonic coming through in four sets and I will have a small interest in him doing that in this dangerous Second Round match.

David Goffin win 3-1 v Radek Stepanek: I was close to being tempted by the game handicap for this one in favour of David Goffin who should be winning matches like this fairly comfortably at this stage of his career. That is no disrespect to Radek Stepanek, but the Czech player's best days are behind him and it does feel like he has lost half a step around the court.

That can make all the difference for a player who wants to come into the net where possible and pressure opponents into passing him where Stepanek is very comfortable. Stepanek has played well here to come through the Qualifiers and enter the main draw, but he hasn't played an opponent to the level that Goffin can bring.

In saying that, Goffin has to work hard for his points and that means he is always vulnerable to a sloppy set or two as was highlighted when pushed into a deciding set in the First Round. That did come against a big serving opponent Reilly Opelka and this is a match with a different feel for Goffin with a lot more rallies and a chance to make plenty of balls back in play.

Winning in straight sets at the Grand Slams has not been a common occurrence for Goffin whose serve can let him down at some critical points in a match. Only 5/17 of his last 22 Grand Slam matches have ended in a straight sets win for Goffin and Stepanek is certainly capable of making a few plays at the net to take a set. However I don't think he has enough to do more than that and I will back Goffin to win this one in four.

Dominic Thiem win 3-1 v Jordan Thompson: This is another player that I thought could have been capable of covering a relatively high handicap, but Dominic Thiem is still trying to maintain consistency over the course of these best of five set matches. While he is very good at times, he can have lapses of concentration which give opponents a chance to get back into matches against him.

It will take more than a slight lapse to allow Jordan Thompson to win this match after he took advantage of Joao Sousa struggling in the conditions to come back from 2-0 down in sets in the First Round. Thompson has had some solid performances in preparation for the Australian Open, but this is a big step up for him against a player like Thiem who will be expected to challenge for a top 10 spot in the World Rankings for a second season in a row.

Thompson will have all the support from the stands which can help him stay in this one mentally and he had some solid runs at the Challenger level to think he can put his tennis together for long enough to take a set in this one. However over the course of two and a half hours, I expect Thiem's quality will wear down the Australian and I would be surprised if Thompson can win more than a set in this one.

It took Thiem four sets to come through the First Round and I think he will need the same number of sets to see off Thompson and move through the Third Round.

Dominika Cibulkova - 5.5 games v Su-Wei Hsieh: There are 85 places in the World Rankings between these players and I would expect Dominika Cibulkova to display her higher Ranking on the scoreboard at the end of this one.

You have to respect Su-Wei Hsieh having won a title at the back end of 2016, but that came at a lower level than she will be facing in this one. She is also going up against the WTA Finals Champion even if Cibulkova has yet to show her best tennis in the opening weeks of the 2017 season.

There should be break points for players in this one with neither possessing the strongest of serves, but the majority of those have to be expected to be won by Cibulkova. She is the stronger player in the match and the experience of playing at a much higher level consistently than Hsieh has to show up at some point.

I won't be that surprised if the first set is a tight and competitive affair before Cibulkova takes complete control of the match in the second set. All in all it should lead to the top ten player winning and covering this number.

Alize Cornet - 3.5 games v Maria Sakkari: There were plenty of positives for Alize Cornet from the opening tournament she played in the 2017 season and she will be looking to take that into a solid run at the Australian Open. Cornet reached the Final in Brisbane playing some pretty good tennis, although she did have a tougher than expected test in the First Round.

The Frenchwoman will understand she needs to be better if she is going to beat young Maria Sakkari whose most memorable moment on the Tour so far is taking a set off of Venus Williams at Wimbledon. Sakkari was a comfortable First Round winner here and she won three pretty impressive matches when Qualifying for the main draw in Sydney last week which shows the kind of talent the Greek player has.

However she is still searching for the consistency that could see Sakkari massively improve on her current Number 94 World Ranking, but Cornet has to prepare for the best her opponent can offer. Anything else or a loss of focus from Cornet could see her taken into a dogfight and the upset would be on.

The form in Brisbane showed Cornet has a little more focus opening 2017 and I think she can continue that here. She will have to weather some big hitting from Sakkari but I don't believe Cornet will be overawed and instead will be looking to set up some big counter hitting using whatever pace she is given. It wouldn't be the biggest surprise if this does go into a deciding set, but I would expect Cornet to just have worn down Sakkari by that point and pull away for the cover.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Lucie Safarova: By all accounts Lucie Safarova should be out of the Australian Open Singles tournament having had to save nine match points in the First Round. That might make her dangerous now she has nothing to lose and playing with the house money, but Safarova will have to be a lot better to beat Serena Williams who was in magnificent form two days ago.

There were some doubts about Serena Williams heading into the tournament, but her performance in beating Belinda Bencic was arguably the best in the women's draw and she will have hardened as the favourite. Bencic was a challenge, but she has had a few injury issues which have seen her slip down the World Rankings and Safarova is another who has struggled for form in recent months.

The lefty serve is a dangerous weapon though and Safarova has used that to give Serena some problems in the past, but her current state of mind may make that difficult to do in this one. I also think there would have been some mental and physical energy taken out of Safarova in her win over Yanina Wickmayer two days ago and another slow start will be punished by the American former World Number 1.

If Safarova brings her best to the court she will be a threat for Serena Williams to deal with, but I think she will do well just to stay in the match. I expect Serena to earn enough break points to secure at least three or four of those and I think that will be enough to help her past Safarova with a 63, 62 win in this Second Round match.

MY PICKS: Gilles Simon - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Milos Raonic Win 3-1 in Sets @ 3.75 William Hill (1 Unit)
David Goffin Win 3-1 in Sets @ 3.80 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Dominic Thiem Win 3-1 in Sets @ 3.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Dominika Cibulkova - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alize Cornet - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 12-15, - 7.42 Units (54 Units Staked, - 13.74% Yield)

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