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Friday, 3 February 2017

Davis Cup Tennis Picks 2017 (February 3rd)

The Davis Cup First Round World Group ties begin on Friday and there are a couple of ties being played in Australian and Japan that will take place during the night. The Davis Cup covers the world so it is a long day of tennis when you think during the majority of the day in the United Kingdom we will have matches being played around Europe before we will then see the attention shifted to North and South America where Argentina, Canada and the United States will all be hosting ties.

Add to that we have reached the Quarter Finals of the tournaments being played on the WTA Tour and this is a busy Friday of tennis to match the intensity of the Grand Slam events in the middle of those events.

I will be adding picks from some of the later Davis Cup ties first thing in the morning as long as the markets are appealing as they potentially could be. I have some numbers I like but it will depend if those are matched as to whether I will go on and make those picks or not.

Sam Stosur + 2.5 games v Shuai Peng: The Sam Stosur serve is not working as well as it once did and that has a big affect on the rest of her game and may have been a contributing factor to her run of losses prior to this tournament. There have been some really disappointing losses since the middle of the 2016 season, but Stosur should have gained some confidence from her two wins in Taipei City including one in the Second Round which was decided in the final set.

That should toughen up the Australian, but she has to find more success behind the first serve whether that is by using serve-volley tactics or even going into the net after the first big forehand she is able to hit. Stosur should definitely have a chance to attack the Shuai Peng serve in this one, although Peng has been winning a lot more matches than Stosur which should give her the belief that it is her time to beat this opponent.

All six previous matches have been won by Stosur but they haven't played one another since 2013 so Peng should believe she is facing the Australian at the right time. However that head to head will also play a part in this one and may allow Stosur to keep the match competitive and perhaps force a final set decider again.

I actually thought Stosur would go into this match as the narrow favourite so being able to get some games behind me to back the higher Ranked player is hard to ignore. The next few months are important for Stosur's World Ranking as she has a lot of points to defend at the French Open, but I still think she is capable in a match like this one and I will take the games on offer.

Roberta Vinci v Kristina Mladenovic: I am a little disappointed with myself that I picked Venus Williams to beat Kristina Mladenovic in the Second Round because I wasn't sure of her health. It turned out that Venus didn't have much in the tank and the veteran can now have a well earned rest after the busy last couple of weeks, but Mladenovic moves through to the Quarter Final.

A lot of what I said about Mladenovic yesterday still applies and I think a more confident player would have been able to beat Venus Williams without dropping any games if I am being perfectly honest. The Frenchwoman allowed Williams back into the first set and she is going to have to be better when she plays Roberta Vinci.

The Italian is the defending Champion here and she has had a couple of solid wins behind her already. Vinci is capable of blunting the big power that Mladenovic plays with and she will use variation to perhaps extract more errors than her opponent will be able to get away with.

Their sole previous match came on the hard courts at the US Open in 2015 and it was Vinci who came through in a tight three set match as the slight underdog. Vinci is clearly happy in the conditions in St Petersburg and I think she can once again come up trumps against Mladenovic but this time as the favourite.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: This is the first time Svetlana Kuznetsova is playing in St Petersburg and the home fans are going to be fully behind her to come through and win the tournament in her home nation. Her performance in the Second Round showed a player who is very comfortable on the clay courts and I think she will get the better of Yulia Putintseva in this Quarter Final.

As much as I should be giving credit to Putintseva, I also think it should be noted that she has been the beneficiary of a favourable draw which has helped her reach this Quarter Final. This has been the best run she has been able to manage so far in 2017 and all of her three defeats in January came in one-sided fashion which would not have seen her cover this number.

For the most part in 2016, Putintseva proved to be a very competitive player that could give the biggest names on the Tour some trouble. She has plenty of energy around the court and there is some power to her game which may give Kuznetsova something to think about in this one. However I do think Kuznetsova is going to have plenty of success in the return game against a vulnerable serve and I do think there will be a few chances to break serve through this match.

I think this match will have a similar feel to Kuznetsova's match with Daria Gavrilova in the Second Round with plenty of games being tight and decided by a couple of points here and there. There should be chances for both players to break serve, but I think Kuznetsova is going to be able to get out of a few more jams with her superior serve and that can help her overcome this challenge with a 7-5, 6-2 win.

Richard Gasquet - 7.5 games v Taro Daniel: France go into their Davis Cup tie as big favourites against a Japan team missing Kei Nishikori and Richard Gasquet can get them off to a very good start. He played well in Australia before running into Grigor Dimitrov and Gasquet has performed well for France when he has been called upon by France to play a Singles rubber for them.

He shouldn't underestimate Taro Daniel who reached the Final at a Challenger event in Hawaii last week, although Daniel was beaten very comfortably in two sets when trying to Qualify for the main draw at the Australian Open. That defeat came to the veteran Jurgen Melzer and I think Daniel will have some issues trying to match the level that Gasquet can bring with the majority of his successes coming at the Challenger level.

Daniel hasn't played that well on the hard courts and although he has performed well for Japan in the Davis Cup, the majority of recent matches have come against players who are not as good as Gasquet. He will have the support of the home crowd which should give Daniel plenty of motivation and confidence to bring his best tennis to the court, but at the end of the day it is a one on one contest and Gasquet will be used to playing in front of big crowds that may or may not be supporting his cause.

Winning matches on the indoor hard courts has been something Gasquet has been able to do in the last few seasons and I think he is going to be too good on the day. It is a big number being asked for Gasquet to cover, but I think he will break down Daniel with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 win.

Gilles Simon - 6.5 games v Yoshihito Nishioka: I will admit that it can be hard to trust Gilles Simon at times because he is someone who has to fight for every point he earns but is simply not quite up to the level of other players on the Tour who play that style when it comes to the movement around the court.

The bigger issue might be the defensive mindset that he uses unlike players like David Ferrer who are looking to be aggressive as well as make as many balls as possible and wear down opponents. Being less aggressive means Simon gives his opponent the chance to dictate points and that is what Yoshihito Nishioka has to try and do in this one.

The young Japanese player has produced some solid results on the Challenger Tour, but he is yet to really get it going on the main Tour. His defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open shows there is some way to go for Nishioka and Gilles Simon has the same kind of game that will extract plenty of errors from his opponent.

Nishioka has to use the lefty serve to try and get himself into a strong position in the rallies, but I expect Simon will be able to get enough balls back in play in awkward positions to wear down his opponent. It should be noted that Simon does not have the greatest record in live Singles rubbers, but when he does win these matches he seems to do so with some comfort on the scoreboard and that may be the case here too.

It could put France in a commanding position on Day 1 of this First Round tie and I like Simon to find a way to win this one 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Guido Pella-Paolo Lorenzi over 39.5 total games: The Argentina vs Italy Davis Cup tie looks to be finely balanced as the defending Champions are missing key figures that helped them win the Davis Cup last season. Playing on clay against an Italian side who have their full complement of players and who are very much suited on the surface makes this the most difficult tie to call in the First Round in my opinion.

The opening Rubber is between Guido Pella and Paolo Lorenzi and the layers are having a difficult time separating them. The form of Lorenzi is certainly better going into the match and he does have a strong 4-1 record in Singles ties for Italy although the last two live Rubbers have gone to five sets.

There is every chance that Pella and Lorenzi will combine for a long match in this one too as both are comfortable on the clay and there should be plenty of break point opportunities both ways. Pella played an important role in the Davis Cup success last season even if he did not play in the Final and he too has a winning record playing for Argentina in Singles ties in this competition.

It does make for a fascinating opening Rubber and I think it will be one that surpasses the total number of games being asked.

Fabio Fognini - 5.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: I really don't know which way the first Rubber will go in this Davis Cup tie but I have a feeling it is more important to Argentina than Italy who should win the second Rubber. It has to be said that Fabio Fognini can be a hard player to trust on the Tour because you simply don't know which player is going to turn up on any given day, but he has been strong for the Italian Davis Cup team.

Fognini now has a 17-7 record in Singles Rubbers for Italy and that record becomes 13-2 on the clay courts which is his favoured surface. Playing away from home is something that should motivate Fognini who can thrive in these big match atmospheres and I think Carlos Berlocq may not be at 100% for the tie.

He is an awkward and irritating opponent at times who seems to get under the skin of the player he faces on the other side of the court and I do worry that Fognini will bite against the antics Berlocq can bring to the court. However Fognini has experienced playing Berlocq in Argentina in the Davis Cup before and won that match in four sets in 2014, although he was beaten 6-3, 6-0 when playing this opponent in Buenos Aires in 2015.

That might have been a healthier Berlocq though and I think that is a big factor in this match. As much as Fognini might not have been in great form during the opening month of the 2017 season, he does love the Davis Cup role he plays for Italy and I have him winning this match 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 as he wears down Berlocq over two and a half hours.

MY PICKS: Sam Stosur + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Roberta Vinci @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 7.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Guido Pella-Paolo Lorenzi Over 39.5 Total Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-7, - 5.28 Units (24 Units Staked, - 22% Yield)

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