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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (January 13th)

It has been an 'almost' kind of week for the tennis picks with a little misfortune at critical moments costing me the chance to really start kicking on.

Ryan Harrison missing a cover on Wednesday by a single game despite going into a third set was disappointing, while yesterday I picked the Steve Johnson-John Isner match to go at least eleven games in the first set.

Unfortunately Isner was broken in the eighth game of the set when both had been comfortable on serve and that only led to frustration when thinking their set two had twelve games and set three needed a tie-breaker to separate them.

I never really stood a chance backing Eugenie Bouchard as an underdog when you think of the manner in which she was beaten, but at least Joao Sousa was a very easy winner in his Quarter Final.

Jack Sock - 1.5 games v Steve Johnson: This is another battle between two of the biggest hopes for the America's men's tennis as the Australian Open as Jack Sock and Steve Johnson meet for the seventh time on the ATP Tour. You have to think both players are very much aware of what the other brings to the court and a close encounter is expected by the layers.

For the second season in a row, Sock has played really well in Auckland having reached the Final here last season before an injury meant having to pull out and go to the Australian Open carrying an issue. This time around he looks fully healthy and Sock had an impressive showing at the Hopman Cup and has carried his form through to Auckland.

Sock created an unbelievable 25 break points in his three set win over Jeremy Chardy in the Quarter Final and that returning will give him his chances against Steve Johnson. The latter had an impressive win of his own when eventually seeing off John Isner in three sets and Johnson has been serving at a high level this week which makes that battle between himself and Sock in the serve-return games fascinating to see who can take control.

It has to be said that Sock is not a slouch when it comes to his own service games, but that is definitely a department that is stronger for Johnson. However if Sock can negate some of the big first serves and get into the rallies, he will feel he can pressure Johnson enough to extract mistakes from a game that can be erratic at times.

I will be surprised if this is an easy match for either of these players and have to expect it will go into a third set. I do feel the conditions are enjoyed by both too, but Sock has past solid experiences here in Auckland and I think he can use his superior return game to just about battle past Johnson in a 75, 46, 64 win.

Victor Troicki - 1.5 games v Gilles Muller: It isn't too often that Victor Troicki has been asked to defend a title, but he is making a good effort to do that in Sydney and has to be considered the favourite of the four Semi Finalists left in the draw. This might be the toughest match he will have to negotiate when Troicki faces Gilles Muller who has battled through the three Rounds here to reach the Semi Final.

It has been far from plain sailing for Muller so far in Sydney having needed three sets to win his first two matches before winning enough of the big points to beat Pablo Cuevas in the Quarter Final. The lefty serve has been working very well so far this week and that will always make Muller a dangerous player when he is hitting his marks, but Troicki is a tall man and will expect himself to at least force the Luxembourg Number 1 to hit a few tough volleys to win his points.

The mental side of the game has always been something of an issue for Troicki at this level and how he deals with trying to get into the Muller games will likely determine the outcome of this match. Troicki isn't as battle hardened having needed to win one match to get through to the Semi Final, but he was serving pretty well in Brisbane last week. The only concern for Troicki backers has to be the host of Double Faults he has littered his matches with in Brisbane and you don't want to give Muller too many free points to make a success of a return game.

The second serve stats will likely decide the winner of this one and I do have to believe that Troicki is the superior mover on the court at this stage of their careers. I also think the Serbian has to be considered the better player once the rallies get underway and I think he can use that to get the better of this tough opponent.

Of course if Muller serves lights out it will be difficult, but I expect Troicki to get involved in enough of the return games to beat this opponent in Sydney for the second time in three seasons. I can see Troicki moving through to the Final in a 76, 64 win.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 games v Johanna Konta: A strong field had gathered for the WTA Sydney tournament in preparation for the Australian Open and the Final is going to be competed between two top ten players in Johanna Konta and Agnieszka Radwanska. Both may feel this can give them a real shot in the arm heading into the first Grand Slam of the season which looks very open in the women's draw after both Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams made stuttering starts to 2017.

Both will be keen on seeing the kind of draw they receive at the Australian Open on Friday, but first things first will be trying to take care of business in the Sydney Final. It is a chance for Konta to show how far she has been improving as a player after losing both matches to Radwanska in the last six months in fairly one sided fashion once the Pole got in front.

The last four sets competed have been won by Radwanska since Konta took a tie-breaker in the first set they played against one another and those four sets have been won for the loss of just ten games. It does seem the match up could be a problem with Radwanska's defensive abilities able to frustrate a consistent Konta who perhaps can't keep that going when she looks to up the power level to penetrate the Pole's defences.

The Konta first serve is the key for her chances in this one- it is a big enough shot that it can help the British player earn a short ball which will give her the ability to shorten the rallies and finish Radwanska off before the long, gruelling rallies can begin. The longer the rallies go, the more you would have to favour Radwanska finding a way to extract errors from Konta.

Radwanska's serve is far from the biggest on the Tour, but she does protect it well enough, while both players have been in decent form this week. However I think Radwanska has shown she can handle the way Konta likes to play and I think that will show up here in what might just be a poor match up for the British player. After a battle, I can see Radwanska just grinding down Konta in a 64, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Jack Sock - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Victor Troicki - 1.5 Games @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-4, + 1.02 Units (18 Units Staked, + 5.67% Yield)

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