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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2017 (January 20th)

Day 4 has proved to be one littered with upsets in the men's, women's and both Doubles events too with a number of big name players exiting the Australian Open much earlier than most would have anticipated.

Usually the big story in the United Kingdom would have been the exit of Jamie Murray in the Doubles event that he and his partner would have been amongst the favourites to win.

However everything that happened in Day 4 has been overshadowed by the Novak Djokovic defeat which means the Australian Open will have a men's Champion not named Djokovic for the first time since 2014. Make no mistake of the magnitude of the shock that Denis Istomin created when you think Djokovic has won five of the last six Australian Open titles and the bottom half of the draw has been completely opened up.

It will also mean Andy Murray is a strong favourite to win the title here meaning he would be the French Open from completing the career Golden Slam and likely to hold onto the World Number 1 spot through to Wimbledon (if he wins the tournament here). The matches have to be played though and I can see a few players sitting up and believing they are in with a great chance to win the first Grand Slam of the season.

For Novak Djokovic there will be plenty of questions and likely some snap judgements that he is past his best and no longer the top player to beat in men's tennis. Pat Cash has already stated he believes that and many others may follow in an era where instant judgement is considered the be all and end all.

Back in 2009 at the Australian Open, not many would have been picking Roger Federer to win another Grand Slam after yet another defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Final of that event. However just months later he won the French Open for Number 15 and has won two more since so put a line through Djokovic at your peril.

This defeat could easily be the one that pushes the motivation back up to the level it has been and I would be surprised if Djokovic is not able to add to his Grand Slam haul at one of the three remaining Slams he will play in 2017. That isn't exactly a bold prediction, but I am surprised at the number of people questioning Djokovic considering where his standing was literally seven months ago.

Go home, recharge the batteries and rediscover some form, that is the plan for Djokovic even if his aura might have irretrievably be broken.


Day 4 had a number of upsets and more competitive matches than some may have thought and it has made it a difficult start for the picks. I can see that a number of people have been struggling at this tournament to find the angles to push forward with positive momentum so I am glad it is not only me, but I do want a bounce back day and start putting some wins on the board.

I have been guilty of overthinking things at times which hasn't helped me, but I also am looking for players to finish the job more effectively than they have been.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 sets v Jack Sock: This looks like one of the better looking Third Round matches in a Round where there are a few intriguing matches to be played. Both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jack Sock have a chance of going deep in this tournament and the winner of this match will certainly believe they are good enough to reach the Quarter Final at the very least.

It is not an easy match to get a read on because so much is going to depend on which of these players is able to serve the most effectively and get the big forehand into play as soon as possible. Both are also more than capable of getting to the net and shortening points, while the serve-volley play is not alien to them.

In many ways Tsonga and Sock want to get on the front foot and do things very similarly which should mean a close and competitive match. It is the American who has been producing some top tennis in preparation for the Australian Open by winning the title in Auckland in the days prior to this tournament beginning, but Tsonga should have a mental edge having beaten Sock twice in their head to head including at the US Open last September.

Tsonga returned well that day and it is his returning that might prove to be a little more effective in this one. The Frenchman is far from the best returner on the Tour, but I think he can get the ball back with length more consistently than Sock over the course of two and a half hours which should lead to a win on the day.

I considered backing Tsonga on the game handicap, which looks very reasonable too, but I won't worry about the margins in this one and look for him to simply win three of the first four sets and move into the Fourth Round.


Andreas Seppi - 1.5 sets v Steve Darcis: I am a big fan of looking to oppose players coming off big wins, but I am not sure whether that really applies to the Andreas Seppi win over Nick Kyrgios. Yes the Italian was the underdog, and a significant one, and he is far below in the World Ranking of Kyrgios, but Seppi would have believed he could potentially upset the Australian more than he would have been against many others in the top 20.

That is a personal feeling that I am getting and I could be completely wrong.

Even so, I do think Seppi can get the better of Steve Darcis in the Third Round even if I am surprised by the fact that the latter is higher in the World Rankings. Darcis has played well enough to get to the Third Round, but he has not been given the most taxing of draws and his successes have been a surprise considering the struggles the Belgian has had on the hard courts since 2012.

This will be a battle and the time Seppi has had to spend on court could come back to haunt him, but I do think he can back up his win over Kyrgios from the Second Round. Darcis lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Jan-Lennard Struff in preparation for the Australian Open and I think Seppi is arguably better than both on the hard courts and can come through in three or four sets in this one.


Andy Murray-Sam Querrey over 30.5 total games: The defeat for Novak Djokovic in the Second Round has opened the door for Andy Murray to become the strong favourite to win the Australian Open title for the first time. However he won't look too far ahead with his opponent in the Third Round arguably the player who began Djokovic's poor run of form when beating him at Wimbledon last summer.

I am sure the commentators will remind you a few times before this match begins, and during the match, of Sam Querrey's stunning upset of Djokovic, but I would be just as surprised if he can beat Murray in the Third Round here. It was a perfect storm for Querrey in SW19 when he knocked off Djokovic and he will need everything to work in his favour if he is going to beat the current World Number 1.

Querrey has a big serve and can hammer down the forehand, but his backhand is a weakness and the American doesn't have the consistency to hit through the court for long enough to penetrate Murray's defences. You have to think that shows up here as the match develops, but this still might total games might still be covered even if Murray begins to take control of the match.

Much depends on Querrey being able to serve big enough to put Murray in a tough position and we do know that the World Number 1 is capable of blunting these weapons. However I can see the American doing enough to take at least one set to a tie-breaker and that should mean this total number of games can be surpassed even if the match is completed in straight sets as anticipated. However there might be a chance for Querrey to take a set if Murray is still a little tentative on his ankle that he rolled in the Second Round and I will look for the total games to be surpassed.


Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Victor Troicki: After surviving a scare in the First Round, Stan Wawrinka may just have become the most dangerous player left to Andy Murray's chances of winning the Australian Open. We have seen Wawrinka build up his play to become very productive at the business end of these Grand Slam events and I do think Wawrinka can have a relatively comfortable Third Round win.

The match up with Victor Troicki is clearly one that Wawrinka has enjoyed having won all seven previous matches including when they played one another in Brisbane. That was a competitive match where Wawrinka almost dropped the first set, but Troicki has to be feeling the amount of tennis he has played recently.

The Serb reached the Semi Final in Sydney last week and has had to dig deep for two five set wins already at the Australian Open. Troicki has been serving well which does make him dangerous, but the second serve has proven to be vulnerable and I do think Wawrinka can exert his dominance the longer they spend out on the court.

It will be competitive for a while because of the Troicki serve and Wawrinka needing some time to settle into matches. However you would have to think Wawrinka will eventually start producing some big winners from both wings and that should mean he is able to come through with a 76, 64, 62 kind of win as Troicki just runs out of legs.


Bernard Tomic - 1.5 sets v Daniel Evans: One of the headline matches on Friday in the Third Round is between home favourite Bernard Tomic and Daniel Evans of Great Britain with fans in the United Kingdom looking to see if the latter can earn another upset at this tournament.

The layers are looking for a competitive match and Evans has beaten Tomic at a Grand Slam before when taking out the higher Ranked player at the US Open in 2013. That was after coming through the Qualifiers so the fact that Evans reached the Final in Sydney last week shouldn't be a concern for his fans.

However it was Tomic who earned revenge for that defeat by beating Evans in four sets in the Davis Cup in 2015 and he has played some of his best tennis at the Australian Open. It has taken some big efforts from some of the better players on the Tour to prevent Tomic going deeper into the draw and I think he is a player that can deal with all the variation that Evans plays with.

The sliced backhand shouldn't be a concern for Tomic and I expect the Australian to have the majority of break point chances. The key is taking those where Marin Cilic missed in the Second Round and I do think Tomic is good enough to do that even if he wasn't at his very best in the Second Round win over Victor Estrella Burgos.

Tomic did play well at the big moments to make sure there wasn't an upset in that one and I think the home favourite wins this in three or four sets. Roger Federer (twice), Rafael Nadal (twice), Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray have been the players to beat Tomic in his last six Australian Open appearances, but Tomic has won ten matches since the first of those losses and none have needed him to go the distance.

All credit to Evans for reaching the Third Round of a Grand Slam for the third Slam in a row, but I think the run ends here as he can't save enough break points in a defeat to Tomic.


Roger Federer - 1.5 sets v Tomas Berdych: As soon as the Australian Open draw was made, the first thing I wanted to see was where Roger Federer landed in the draw. His World Ranking and thus Seeding for this event has dropped over the last six months since Federer last competed on the Tour and that meant he was almost certainly going to have a really big Third Round match.

He has been paired with Tomas Berdych as both have reached the Third Round as expected and neither has been troubled on their run to this Round. It should be a fantastic match in the night session at the Australian Open and one that should be very competitive.

Berdych has previous against Federer having beaten the 17 time Slam Champion at Wimbledon and at the US Open but is Federer who has won 5 of their 7 Grand Slam matches which includes 3 times at the Australian Open. That includes a straight sets win in 2016 and I like Federer's chances of getting the better of Berdych in this one even if he is not quite at his best so far this week.

That should change on Friday as Federer picks up his play and he has won 5 matches in a row against Berdych since being upset by him in Dubai in 2013. He has won 11 sets in a row against Berdych and I expect that mental edge to show up in this Third Round match, while Federer is also more aware of the potential conditions having already played in the night session at the Australian Open this season.

Federer has to serve better than he did in the last two sets against Noah Rubin in the Second Round, but he is more than capable of raising his level for this match. As well as Berdych played against Ryan Harrison in the last Round, this is a player who will give Federer some chances to break the serve and I can see the former World Number 1 winning the key points at the big moments.

Only 1 of their Grand Slam matches have gone the distance, although that was here, and I think Federer comes through in three or four sets in this one. He holds the mental edge with the matches and sets won in succession against Berdych and beat him here last season fairly comfortably and I like Federer in this big Third Round match.


Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 3.5 games v Elina Svitolina: This is an intriguing Third Round match between two players who may feel the second quarter of the draw has opened up with the exit of Simona Halep. There are some big matches to be played before any Semi Final appearance and both Elina Svitolina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova can't overlook the other in this one.

There is enough to like about both players and I can see this one being a very competitive Third Round match to the point of liking the games with the underdog. I am not convinced Pavlyuchenkova can win this match outright on the current form that Svitolina is displaying, but this has all the makings of a match that could easily go deep into a deciding set before giving us a winner.

Previous matches between the players have been competitive with the last two matches decided by a grand total of ONE point between these players. They both won 90 points in a Pavlyuchenkova win in 2015, while Svitolina beat the Russian for the first time in Beijing in October having won 71 points to 70 in the match.

Pavlyuchenkova's first serve is definitely the biggest weapon in this match, but Svitolina should have an edge in the movement around the court. However Pavlyuchenkova can set up her points without the running if she is serving well and I think there is every chance she can take a set in this one.

As much as Svitolina has improved as a player, she is seemingly never far away from being dominated in a single set and that should give Pavlyuchenkova a chance to stay within this number. I will back the underdog with the games in this Third Round match and look for a tight, close match to develop.


Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 games v Coco Vandeweghe: Two North American women meet in the Third Round of the Australian Open and both Eugenie Bouchard and Coco Vandeweghe will be confident of their chances of securing a morale boosting win. I am giving the edge to Bouchard who was playing well in Sydney last week and I think she will have just enough to come through and cover this number.

Bouchard has a decent game and she has been putting that together while serving pretty well which means she has been able to control rallies. The difference she is facing in this one than she has in the earlier Rounds is the power which Vandeweghe brings to the court and how devastating she can be.

However it should be noted that Vandeweghe had not been in great form in the back half of 2016 and I am not sure the confidence would have been fully restored. The American does have a big serve which can provide quick points, but I think Bouchard can get enough of those back in play and will also be able to target the backhand which can produce far too many errors.

The backhand battle should be won by Bouchard and I do think she will be able to control her unforced errors better than Vandeweghe in this one which should prove to be a key to the match. After a couple of battling sets, I will be looking for Bouchard to find the big points at the big times and just get ahead of Vandeweghe in a 75, 64 win.


Jelena Jankovic + 3.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: This is already the best run Svetlana Kuznetsova has had at the Australian Open since reaching the Quarter Final in 2013 and she will believe she can keep it going. The form at the back end of 2016 and Kuznetsova has only dropped four games in her two wins at the Australian Open which is a solid reason she goes into this Third Round match as the favourite.

It has looked like Jelena Jankovic is on the decline in recent months, but she has recorded two tough wins here in Melbourne already. Over the last two seasons Jankovic has reached the Third Round of a Grand Slam only once in eight attempts and that has to be playing on the mind, but it may also mean the Serb is feeling close to her best as she gets ready for this tough match.

She had not shown a lot of positive form in preparation for the Australian Open which makes it hard to trust Jankovic, but her head to head record against Kuznetsova should give her the mental edge. They didn't meet in the entirety of 2016, but Jankovic won their last match and that has to give her the belief that she can make a real match of this one.

The layers are expecting Kuznetsova to come through handily enough, but I do think Jankovic can make it a competitive match as the underdog in this one. If Jankovic can keep up the battling qualities she has shown already this week, she can extract enough mistakes from the Kuznetsova game to make this a close match on the scoreboard and I will take the Serb with the games.


Venus Williams - 3.5 games v Ying-Ying Duan: It is hard to know what the motivation is for 36 year old Venus Williams to still put in the hard yards to be a factor on the WTA Tour. However I do think she will call time on her career when she feels she can no longer win the biggest tournaments and I do think Venus has gone to Melbourne with a real belief she can win the Australian Open.

It is a big ask for someone who has lost a little bit of the attributes that made her World Number 1 and who changed the face of women's tennis when breaking onto the scene. Of course Serena Williams has taken that on again, but Venus was a top level player in her time.

Nowadays I think the serve is a little more erratic and Williams has lost a little bit of speed around the court which made it possible to close to the net much quicker in her prime than it is now. Venus Williams is still dangerous and she should have enough experience and power in her game to match the power that Ying-Ying Duan will bring to the court.

The problem Duan has is that she is not always making the best shot selection on the court and simply looks to hit the ball harder and harder when put under pressure. That almost cost her in the Second Round and mindlessly ball bashing is not going to be enough to beat Venus Williams in the Third Round.

This is the best run Duan has had in the Grand Slams and she has had some positive results on the Tour, but mentally this is a big test for her. This is Venus Williams standing on the other side of the court and I think that may lead to Duan pressing more than she needs to which isn't a good combination when looking to hit the ball as hard as possible every time it lands on your racquet.

Mentally it can be hard to sustain the level needed and Duan may make too many unforced errors in a 64, 64 defeat.


Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 games v Mona Barthel: This is a dangerous handicap to ask the favourite to cover when you think of the erratic displays that Mona Barthel can produce, but I do think Ashleigh Barty is playing well enough to win this match in the Third Round.

Barty's return to the Tour after deciding to quit tennis to pursue a cricket career will be making the headlines Down Under as one of their own moves into the Third Round. That will put some pressure on Barty but she has been handling herself very well and is in a portion of the draw where the likes of Simona Halep and Monica Puig have been knocked out to open the door for a deep run.

The serve has been working well and I expect that to be the deciding factor in whether or not Barty is able to win this match. Serve well and I can see Barty building enough pressure to beat Barthel fairly comfortably, but if she is slightly below her best and the German has enough firepower of her own to upset the odds.

It is Barty who is in the better form of late though and I think she will create break point chances of her own with the power off the ground a real threat to Barthel. I was surprised the latter was able to see off Monica Puig in the Second Round, but I am not sure she backs that up here if she is serving as inconsistently as she was in that match.

With the home support behind her I do think Barty will find the edge in this one and I am looking for her to come through with a wide enough margin to cover this handicap.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andreas Seppi - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Andy Murray-Sam Querrey Over 30.5 Total Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Bernard Tomic - 1.5 Sets @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jelena Jankovic + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 14-20, - 11.02 Units (65 Units Staked, - 16.95% Yield)

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