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Friday, 6 January 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (January 7th)

The tennis tournaments that have opened the 2017 season get down to the business end of the week as at least three Finals are played on Saturday with two other events completing their Semi Final matches.

Friday was a little disappointing when you think Stan Wawrinka had a chance to serve out the match at 5-2 in the third set that would have produced a cover and Rafael Nadal was seemingly completely in control of his match until the eighth game of the second set.

I was a little irritated with my Albert Ramos-Vinolas pick, but those things happen over the course of an eleven month season and it is no point being too annoyed by it.

Ana Konjuh - 2.5 games v Lauren Davis: The Final in Auckland is being played by one player who has big things expected of her in her career and another who is perhaps surpassing all expectations already. Ana Konjuh has been labelled a future star of the WTA Tour and she is in a position to win her second career title this week having previously won the event in Nottingham.

That was over eighteen months ago and Konjuh is a better player these days coming off her best year on the Tour. At 19 years old there is an expectation that she can take another step forward and her performances in Auckland will certainly have given her some confidence to do that.

It won't be an easy match against Lauren Davis who has the experience of playing in Finals on the Tour in 2016 although she is yet to win a title. The American does have to work a little harder behind the serve without being blessed with the power to earn too many cheap points and that is where Konjuh should have an edge with the chance of overturning the result between these players in Auckland three years ago.

Back then both were much more inexperienced, but I think the upside in the Konjuh game is bigger at this moment. She should be able to use the first serve to set herself up in the points in this one and I think Konjuh will have the majority of the break points while coming through with a 75, 64 win and taking the title home.

Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Alize Cornet: While Karolina Pliskova had to win a tough Semi Final, Alize Cornet was the beneficiary of a Garbine Muguruza retirement and has had longer to prepare for this Final. That might be the only reason that she is considered a shorter priced underdog than she was in the Semi Final because I do think Pliskova has been in better form than Muguruza over the last few months.

I was backing Muguruza to cover a slightly bigger number than this one against Cornet in the Semi Final and I do think some of the same factors apply here.

Pliskova is arguably serving better than anyone on the WTA Tour at this point of her career, and I include Serena Williams who had a tough time in testing conditions in Auckland this week, and that gives Pliskova an edge in this Final. Even when she drops a couple of points on serve, Pliskova has the power to hammer through her opponents and she showed all of those skills in the win over Elina Svitolina on Friday.

There is little doubt that Cornet is going to offer some chances to break on her own service games and I do feel Pliskova might be the big threat to win the Australian Open title when that tournament begins next week. Pliskova has proven to be a very effective front runner and I think she is going to have a little too much for Cornet and level up the head to head having lost their previous match.

I expect a lot of the positive shots to be coming from Pliskova's side of the court and Cornet playing reactive tennis, and that should eventually lead to a 64, 63 win for the favourite in Brisbane.

Andy Murray - 1.5 games v Novak Djokovic: When I watched the ATP World Tour Finals conclusion for a second time, I found it hard to predict how long it would take Novak Djokovic to get his aura back. All of the conditions looked right for him to not only beat Andy Murray but finish the season as the World Number 1 yet Djokovic was beaten fairly comfortably on the day.

That was a concern and potentially a real shift in the dynamics between these two players, but Murray has to underline that by winning this title in Doha by beating Djokovic in the Final. I think he is capable of doing that with Djokovic not quite looking up to full speed in narrow wins over Jan-Lennard Struff and particularly in the Semi Final against Fernando Verdasco who should have beaten Djokovic.

I do think Murray has room for improvement in his own service games, but he looked like he was peaking at the right time with an impressive win over Tomas Berdych in the Semi Final. Murray will have to serve well in this one to keep Djokovic at bay, but I do think the Serb is not at full confidence with his own serve and I do think Murray will be able to attack him.

Murray should have the edge in the rallies as his confidence has to be in a lot stronger place than Djokovic at this moment and it could be a huge mental blow ahead of the Australian Open. You can't ever rule out Djokovic, but I think that is thinking back to how he was playing this time last year and not the more recent performances we have seen from his racquet.

It will take some time for Djokovic to rebuild his confidence to those levels, but Murray is playing at a higher level at the moment and I expect he won't miss the opportunities that Struff and Verdasco had against the former World Number 1. I like Murray to win this one by a convincing margin which will only harden him as favourite to win the first Grand Slam of the 2017 season.

MY PICKS: Ana Konjuh - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 1.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 13-15, - 5.68 Units (56 Units Staked, - 10.14% Yield)

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