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Friday, 6 January 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (January 6th)

Things could have turned around completely for this week if I had a little more fortune with the Aljaz Bedene pick on Thursday and he had covered in his win rather than throwing away a late break of serve.

Thursday still had a big impact on the earlier losses this week but I am looking to turn this week around completely over the next couple of days when the tournaments come to a close. We then head to a couple of events next week in the lead up to the draw for the Australian Open which takes place next week just a few days before the first Grand Slam of the season begins.

One of the news stories that did pique my interest on Thursday was the news that last year's Junior Boy's Australian Open Champion has been charged with fixing a match. It is all alleged at the moment, but it would be a real eye opener for the authorities who have spent a year really burying their head in the sands about events that seemingly have been happening regularly for anyone who follows the right people on Twitter.

There are some people out there flagging up the 'dodgy' matches, but nothing has really been done about it in my opinion and now it will be interesting to see the follow up to this story regarding Oliver Anderson who is now going to be tarred with the brush of being a 'match fixer'. That will be the case even if this case is eventually thrown out and makes it a tough career for him going forward with every match scrutinised more than most.

Anderson was a player that people had some solid hopes for, but that looks a long way away at this moment.

On Friday we move onto the Quarter Finals in the cases of most of the tournaments being played this week, although we have also got to the Semi Final in a couple of the events. That means there are some big matches out on the courts as players look to throw down their markers for the 2017 Australian Open.

Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: The way Stan Wawrinka recovered in his match against Victor Troicki and then took complete control of the match has to be a confidence boost for the Swiss player who will go into the Australian Open as the Number 4 Seed.

He has a chance to really lay down a marker for what he can achieve in Melbourne Park if he can go on to win the title in Brisbane. However Wawrinka has some big challenges to come even if I expect the first of those to be one that he can deal with relatively comfortably.

2017 could be a really big season for Kyle Edmund who is looking to take the next step in his career and was playing well before Lucas Pouille had to pull out of their Second Round match. Edmund will feel he can get a little closer to Wawrinka having played against him in Shanghai in a match that was closer than the final scoreline might have suggested.

He will need to have more success against the Wawrinka serve having struggled outside of one break of serve, especially as it may ease some of the pressure that Edmund will feel when trying to protect his own service games. I still think Edmund does play too many loose games on his own serve and someone like Wawrinka is good enough to take advantage of those lapses of concentration if he is not being taxed too much on his own serve.

I do think this match is still a little early for Edmund if Wawrinka can play to a similar level as he did in the win over Troicki. While Edmund can have more points won on the return, I still believe Wawrinka can come through with a 63, 64 win to match the score in Shanghai.

Rafael Nadal - 2.5 games v Milos Raonic: These players met in a pre-season tournament at the Mubadala Tennis Championships and it was Rafael Nadal who came through against Milos Raonic in three sets. Things are going to be a little different when they play in this Quarter Final, but I am going to back Nadal to come through with a victory and a cover.

The spread is a difficult one when you think of the way Raonic can serve and him bringing his very best in that department will make it very difficult for Nadal. However the Spaniard has tended to find a way to get himself into the points and will then feel he can out-rally Raonic, although the latter has been an improving player over the last twelve months.

My issue with Raonic is that he needs to be very close to his ultimate level if he is going to win these kind of events and Grand Slam events and that brings its own pressure. While we have seen Raonic produce some top tennis, notably at the O2 Arena at the World Tour Finals in November, that level is yet to be found consistently.

I also like the way Nadal has been playing this week having won the Mubadala Tennic Championships which will have given him confidence. The serve can still be a little bit of a concern for him, but Nadal has looked after that aspect of his game well enough to think he can win this match. It will be a battle, but I like Nadal to win a tie-breaker and use the momentum to find a break of the Raonic serve which helps him cover this number and move into the Semi Final in Brisbane.

Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 games v Alize Cornet: Anyone who saw the Alize Cornet win over Dominika Cibulkova in the Quarter Final in Brisbane on Thursday will perhaps have seen the Frenchwoman at her very best. She was serving effectively until the middle of the second set and put Cibulkova under pressure on the return with some very clever shot selection allowing her to keep the Slovakian off-balance.

It is going to be a different kind of test for Cornet when she faces Garbine Muguruza who is capable of producing some huge first serves which will be much more difficult to fight off than the Cibulkova serve. The one concern that remains with Muguruza is whether she is capable of backing up those serves without the errors that have blighted her game over the last six months.

An impressive win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Quarter Final might have given Muguruza a little more confidence in her ability to produce her best tennis when it matters. She will need to remain patient in this one against an opponent like Cornet who will look to redirect the pace back at the Spaniard and is also capable of making sure she gets more balls back in play than opponents expect.

Cornet has to show she has recovered from her tough Quarter Final which involved a lot of running around the court and both a physical and mental battle which she had to overcome. It can be difficult to do that without too much rest and I think that is a problem for Cornet in this one and I do think Muguruza will have a little too much for her.

I would imagine Muguruza is going to have the majority of break point chances in this one and she can come through with a 63, 64 win for a place in the Final in Brisbane.

Karolina Pliskova - 2.5 games v Elina Svitolina: On Thursday I had Elina Svitolina on my shortlist to use the games she was being given to keep things close against Angelique Kerber, but I ultimately felt she needed at least one more game to do that. I was wrong considering Svitolina managed to upset the World Number 1 in their Quarter Final and backing up that victory is going to be a challenge for her.

Mentally it was a big win, but Svitolina has beaten Kerber while the latter has been World Number 1 in Asia after the US Open last season and did win her next match so that aspect isn't a concern. However Svitolina is 0-4 against Karolina Pliskova in their head to head and I do think the Czech player is going to take another step forward in her career in 2017.

Reaching the Final at the US Open in 2016 would have given Pliskova another dose of belief and she has the big serve and heavy forehand which is going to take her deep into tournaments through this season. Mentally she will be stronger with that run too as well as helping the Czech Republic to win the Fed Cup and I do think she has the power to give Svitolina a lot to think about and work out in this one.

I do think Pliskova could be a little better off the backhand and has to learn to deal with players extending rallies, but this is a shoot out and I expect Svitolina to break down a little more. Her serve is not as good as Pliskova's and at big moments I think Svitolina could find herself struggling to cope with the pressure at those times whereas Pliskova can get out of trouble with a big serve.

The head to head gives Pliskova a little more of a mental edge and I think she will battle through to a 75, 64 win and set up a big Final.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 games v Dudi Sela: The run to the Quarter Final for Dudi Sela has come as a surprise when you consider he was an underdog in both of his first two matches in Chennai. Being an underdog in this Quarter Final won't bother Sela, but I do think Albert Ramos-Vinolas can get the better of him in this one.

It has been a good start to 2017 when you consider that Sela has generally spent his best moments on the Tour below the main ATP level and he only had 10 wins at this level through the whole of 2016. The hard courts are his favourite surface so Sela will have plenty of confidence to take into this match, especially in the manner he has won the last two matches.

The level does go up considerably when Sela takes on Ramos-Vinolas who is coming off a career year. The Spaniard might have his best results on the clay courts, but he has shown he can be effective on the hard courts when he has his lefty serve working well and I do think Ramos-Vinolas is going to be able to use the superior level he has been playing at to his advantage.

Ramos-Vinolas has had some solid results on the hard courts even if he did not have a great start to the 2016 season and I think this is a good chance to reach another Semi Final on the hard courts. Both players can have issues on the serve which the other has to look to expose, but I do think Ramos-Vinolas is the better player overall and he can show that over the course of three sets.

In his last eight wins on the hard courts, Ramos-Vinolas would have covered this number on six occasions and I do think he is the more likelier winner. Therefore I will look for him to cover the number in the win and move into the Semi Final.

Benoit Paire - 1.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: I will be the first person to tell you that backing Benoit Paire isn't an easy proposition because you don't know when he will suddenly decide that he will throw in terrible shot selections and give away games without much effort.

There were moments in his Second Round win when it looked like Paire was on the brink of throwing away his serve, but he knuckled down at big moments and has to look at this tournament as one he can win. After saving all seven break points he faced on Thursday, Paire is yet to be broken in this tournament and he has to have the confidence to produce his best tennis when he needs it most in this Quarter Final.

There is also a chance that Aljaz Bedene could be a little fatigued having spent a lot longer on court on Thursday than he may have anticipated. While his two wins this week have been impressive, I would argue the level of competition is raised by at least a level in this one and Bedene can't continue to throw in a poor service game or two per set if he is going to upset the Frenchman.

I do think there will be moments when Bedene looks the better player, but I also believe he will give Paire a few opportunities in this one and I like the latter to eventually wear him down and come through. Bedene won a tight match between these players last year at Queens but that was on the grass which is not a surface Paire has shown much appetite for in the past.

The hard courts should favour Paire more and I think he can get the better of Bedene with the narrow cover also achieved.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: The final pick of the day also comes from Chennai and I thought Roberto Bautista Agut might be at least a game bigger favourite to win this match against Mikhail Youzhny. I expect a margin of five games between these opponents over the course of this match so I will back the Spaniard to get the better of the veteran in this Quarter Final.

There is no doubt that Bautista Agut and Youzhny are at different points in their career even if the latter had a better season in 2016 than most would have expected. Youzhny's wins this week have come against players he would have been expected to beat and so there is a different pressure on the Russian when going up against Bautista Agut.

Youzhny can still play some very good tennis and he is a fighter which means he should give Bautista Agut some problems against a serve which is not amongst the best on the Tour. However the style that Bautista Agut employs will mean he is going to believe he can out-last Youzhny when it comes to the rallies on the court and there should be plenty of those for the Spaniard to get his teeth stuck into.

The serve has been well protected by Youzhny so far this week, but I think Bautista Agut is the best returner he has faced and I expect there to be break point chances for the latter. I do think think Youzhny will have some opportunities too in a good looking match, but I do think Bautista Agut eventually comes through 64, 63.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 11-11, - 1.10 Units (44 Units Staked, - 2.5% Yield)

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