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Monday, 9 January 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (January 10th)

The early part of most weeks on the Tennis Tour tend to be a little quieter as the slow build into the tournaments is the usual formula applied. However there are a few weeks when the matches come thick and fast earlier in the week to make sure these events are completed ahead of the Grand Slams and give the participants time to head off to the next venues.

On Tuesday there are a lot of matches to be played across the four different draws and I have picks from some of those after Jiri Vesely got the week off to a solid start with a battling win on Monday.

Ryan Harrison - 3.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The poor end to the 2016 season has overrun into 2017 for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and I do wonder how his confidence would not have been knocked. It is now seven straight losses for Garcia-Lopez and the veteran has now won just three matches from the last twelve tournaments he has competed in.

All of that adds up and Garcia-Lopez has won one of the last thirteen sets in which he has competed and the layers have set Ryan Harrison as a pretty strong favourite in this one. The American had a disappointing loss in Brisbane last week, but he is back inside the top 100 in the World Rankings and he has won two Qualifiers in Auckland which means he should be very tuned up to the conditions here.

The poor form of Garcia-Lopez has obviously contributed to the price in this match and it has been added to by the fact that Harrison has won their previous three matches. That includes a solid straight sets win in Shenzhen in the final quarter of the 2016 season and I do think Harrison can back up his wins so far this week to move into the Second Round.

Harrison has a decent serve when he has found some confidence and I expect that to at least put in a position to increase the pressure on Garcia-Lopez to keep holding his own service games. That has been an issue for Garcia-Lopez through his career and only becomes more difficult in his current state of mind and I think Harrison earns a break more in each set to come through with a 64, 64 win.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: The WTA tournament in Sydney is loaded with some of the top names on that Tour and those who may be considered amongst the favourites at Melbourne Park in the next fortnight. That means many of the Second Round matches are already very competitive looking and this one of three picks I am making from Sydney.

Svetlana Kuznetsova is still the face of Russian women's tennis having had a really good 2016 which saw her reach the WTA Finals and come close to actually winning the tournament. The confidence would have really given Kuznetsova a shot in the arm in the latter stages of her career and she has begun 2017 in decent form.

Losing out to Garbine Muguruza in Brisbane last week is no disgrace and Kuznetsova will be confident she can get the better of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who had a mixed 2016. Pavlyuchenkova has the tools to get much higher in the World Rankings, but she has a few vulnerabilities that the top players expose, while the mental aspect of trying to beat a compatriot who has been one of the best players in the nation has had an effect on her.

Pavlyuchenkova can cause problems if she is playing as well as she was when seeing off Samantha Stosur in the First Round, but she has to raise her level again to match Kuznetsova. A strong serving display would give Pavlyuchenkova a chance, but I think Kuznetsova can get her moving around and break her down and I like the veteran Russian to come through with a 64, 63 win.

Barbora Strycova - 2.5 games v Roberta Vinci: The head to head might read that Roberta Vinci has a 4-3 lead over Barbora Strycova, but most of those wins came before the latter made a real impact as a Singles player on the Tour. In fact it is Strycova who has won the last three matches between these players that have been played since March 2014 and you can see why the layers have made her the favourite in this Second Round match.

Both players have to work hard for the points they win on the court with both having decent enough first serves but weak second serves that tend to be vulnerable. It would be no surprise at all to see Strycova and Vinci share out a few breaks of serve in this one, but I do think Strycova has a little more consistency in her game to earn a couple more than her Italian opponent.

The backhand wing is where Strycova should be able to exert more pressure around the court than Vinci and I expect that to be a difference maker in a close match.

At this stage of their careers I would expect Strycova to have the considerably stronger movement around the court and able to get herself into better positions in the rallies. There will be plenty of long rallies and both players can have their moments in this one, but I think Strycova can come through with a 75, 64 win in this match.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 games v Christina McHale: I am not the biggest fan of the Agnieszka Radwanska game, or at least nothing like close to what commentators seem to be, but I do think she can be backed to cover a big number in this Second Round match. She faces the American Christina McHale who Radwanska has been able to wear down and beat in all four previous matches.

None of those sets has see McHale win more than three games against Radwanska as she finds it tough to get over the mental obstacle of breaking down the defensive work that the Pole gets around on the court. With McHale always looking to be aggressive, being asked to play one more ball than she is accustomed to leads to mistakes and that is partly the reason I think Radwanska usually gets the better of her so comfortably.

Radwanska wasn't in great form in Shenzhen last week, but McHale was on the wrong end of a heavy loss to Alize Cornet in Brisbane and I think Radwanska can move through this match in relative comfort.

The first set might be a little more competitive, but I can see McHale just struggling to stay in this one from a mental point of view if she does fall behind. It could lead to another one sided win for Radwanska against this opponent and I will back her to cover this handicap.

MY PICKS: Ryan Harrison - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Barbora Strycova - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-0, + 2 Units (2 Units Staked, + 100% Yield)

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