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Friday, 10 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 10th)

The Quarter Final matches in the three ATP tournaments are set to be played on Friday while the Fed Cup matches are to be played from Saturday.

On Thursday we did hear that both Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal have pulled out of the big event in Rotterdam next week. It has weakened the first ATP 500 event of the season, but it still looks a very strong field and should still be a very good event for the fans attending.

Both Wawrinka and Nadal have been told to rest themselves for the bigger events that are to come in the next few weeks, but I do hope it is just a precautionary action rather than one with deeper consequences for the 2017 season.

The tennis picks went 2-2 on Thursday to keep the week in a positive position, although I would have much preferred to keep the winning momentum behind them. Hopefully Friday proves to be a better day with picks from the Quarter Final matches in Montpellier, Quito and Sofia.

Like I have all week, I will add any picks from Quito on Friday if any appeal.

Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games v Kenny De Schepper: He took his time to get the better of Malek Jaziri in the Second Round, but Richard Gasquet may be all the better for having had some difficulties in that match. The defending Champion got stronger as the match progressed after losing focus in the middle of the first set and he was a fairly comfortable winner on the day.

The rhythm of this Quarter Final is going to be different as he faces the big serving lefty Kenny De Schepper who has made a surprise run through the draw. De Schepper won both Qualifiers and he has come through two Rounds in the main draw as the underdog which should give him confidence, but this is a big step up for the big man when he is facing a compatriot who has a much higher profile.

Both previous matches have been won fairly easily by Gasquet but a lot will always depend on how he handles the big serve that De Schepper has. From what I have seen over the years, De Schepper is certainly a player that can have trouble holding himself in rallies and Gasquet getting enough balls back in play is going to give him a significant advantage in the match.

He should be much superior when it comes to the rallies that get past the fourth and fifth shot and I think Gasquet will serve well enough to prevent De Schepper getting a look in as long as Gasquet doesn't make too many errors. There will be some games that go by in a flash, but I do think Gasquet will have chances to create break points and I expect he is going to be too good for De Schepper in this one.

At the end of the match, I am expecting Gasquet to come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: When I was considering the prospective spreads for the matches to be played on Friday, I thought Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's impressive Second Round win would have meant he was being asked to cover the same number of games as he was in that match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

That is not to say that Daniil Medvedev is not considerably better than Herbert as a Singles player, but Tsonga's performance would have him as the big favourite was more the line I was thinking.

Medvedev is one of the young guns on the Tour who is trying to take the next step in his development and he had a very good win over Fernando Verdasco in the Second Round. That should ease concerns about Medvedev's injury at the Davis Cup which forced him to pull out of his match against Novak Djokovic in the fourth set, but facing Tsonga is now a considerable step up to facing Verdasco.

Unlike the Spaniard, Tsonga is not going to lose as many points behind the first serve and that should put some pressure on the youngster. Medvedev is a tall man whose serve should enjoy the conditions indoors on a hard court and that has shown up with considerable success on the surface at the Challenger level.

This is a big step up for him though and I think Tsonga's own serve will build the pressure and see Medvedev break down in a couple of games that allows the home player to step up and pull away. Break points could be at a premium on Friday, but I like Tsonga to take the chances that do come his way and win this match 6-4, 6-4.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: On the face of things you would think that Gilles Muller is going to be much happier on the indoor hard courts than a player like Roberto Bautista Agut. However it is the latter who has had the better results over the last couple of years on the indoor hard courts and it is Bautista Agut who is the defending Champion in Sofia.

These players met in a tight match last season here in the Semi Final and Bautista Agut was able to frank than win when beating Muller in Rio at the Olympic Games a few months later.

The form guide shows that both players have made similar starts to the 2017 season with both Muller and Bautista Agut winning a title already. While the Muller serve is the big weapon, Bautista Agut has shown he has been able to blunt it for just long enough to take the lead in the matches and manage to stay in front of this opponent on the court.

I expect the return game and movement of the Spaniard to be a key to this match too although Muller can take a match out of an opponent's hands if he is serving as well as he can. The Bautista Agut serve can be a weakness against the very best players on the Tour, but I think he can get Muller on the move and defend the aggressive actions Muller takes on the court which can help the Spaniard come through in this one in a very similar manner as the last two times these players have met.

Both of those matches have ended with a 7-6, 6-4 scoreline to Bautista Agut and I will back him to find a way to cover this number too.

David Goffin - 3.5 games v Steve Darcis: Two players who will likely be friends off the court having spent a lot of time together with the Belgium Davis Cup team will be meeting in the Quarter Final in Sofia. You have to give Steve Darcis some credit for the way he has been playing over the last week which included two big wins in the Davis Cup tie in Germany before two more here in Sofia.

The wins over Philipp Kohlschreiber and Alexander Zverev will have given Darcis the confidence to take on David Goffin, but I do think the consistency of the latter makes him the most dangerous player Darcis has played over the last week.

Goffin did have his difficult moments in the Second Round win over Radu Albot, but I think that has more to do with a loss of focus than anything else. You would imagine that Goffin is well aware of how good Darcis can be and that should mean we see a more focused effort throughout this match while this isn't the first time they have played one another which means any distraction from the friendship is going to be able to be dealt with.

There should be plenty of long rallies in this one with neither player possessing a dominating serve, although I do think Goffin has an edge in that department. I also think Goffin is the more effective player from the baseline and I would expect him to have a little too much for Darcis the longer this match goes, although I won't be surprised if there are breaks of serve for both players.

However I do think Goffin will eventually come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win and move through to the Semi Final.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 games v Roberto Carballes Baena: It has already been a very good tournament for Roberto Carballes Baena who has come through the Qualifiers and won two matches in the main draw to reach the Quarter Final. Both wins in the main draw have come in very comfortable fashion which will have given Carballes Baena the confidence to take into this match, although it is always a different feel when taking on a compatriot who has the edge in terms of experience and World Ranking.

That is what is in front of Roberto Carballes Baena on Friday when he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the first of the Quarter Final matches in Quito. While Carballes Baena has had to win four matches to get to this Round, Ramos-Vinolas was a solid winner over Alejandro Falla in the Second Round to do the same.

The clay courts are very much the favoured surface for both players, but the altitude in Quito does make this a different kind of tournament. It gives both players a little more opportunity to hit through the court but I do think Ramos-Vinolas will have the edge considering the higher level he generally plays at. Ramos-Vinolas has also won three of four previous matches against Carballes Baena including a fairly comfortable victory at the clay event in Bastad in 2016.

The younger Spaniard is playing well enough to keep Ramos-Vinolas on his toes, but I do think the experience and better play will be with the higher Ranked player. That should lead to a 6-4, 6-4 win over a couple of hours on the court.

Paolo Lorenzi - 3.5 games v Rajeev Ram: In most cases you would expect Paolo Lorenzi to have a significant edge on the clay courts against Rajeev Ram, but I do think the altitude of Quito does give the American a chance to play his own game effectively. On most clay courts it is hard to win points solely with aggression without the patience to build rallies, but Ram might have a chance to hit through Lorenzi in this one.

Even with that in mind, Lorenzi should be a little too good for Ram whose record on the clay courts is nothing to really write home about. Ram played here last year and found clay court specialist Albert Ramos-Vinolas a little too good over three sets and I anticipate something similar could happen here.

Tiredness would then become a factor as Lorenzi has shown he is capable of spending lots of time out on the court on this surface despite the Italian being 34 years old. His serve can be a little erratic which gives Ram a chance to get on the offensive, but I still think Lorenzi can outlast Ram the longer the rallies go and that should eventually wear down his opponent.

I can see a few breaks of serve for both players, but Lorenzi to be a little too good at the back end of each set to come through with a 7-6, 6-3 win.

Victor Estrella Burgos - 3.5 games v Federico Gaio: A long Second Round win over Ivo Karlovic has kept Victor Estrella Burgos' unbeaten run in Quito going for one more match. The question is whether that has taken something out of the Estrella Burgos tank even if the match is more of a mental battle against Karlovic than a physical one.

It is going to be a much different kind of match in the Quarter Final when Estrella Burgos faces Italian Qualifier Federico Gaio. There should be a lot more rallies being contested in this match and the rhythm will be much different than when the defending Champion faced Karlovic whose booming serve is a huge weapon.

Both Estrella Burgos and Gaio have had some long matches already this week and at some point that is going to catch up with them. As solid as Gaio's wins have been this week, this is another step up in competition when you think he is facing someone who has been very happy in the conditions and I think that is going to give Estrella Burgos a significant edge in the match.

Gaio has to be respected considering the successes he has had at the Challenger level on the clay courts and he is facing someone that he would perhaps be expected to beat in most events outside of this one in Quito. The two do usually play in a similar level which is shown up by their World Rankings being very close, but Estrella Burgos could be the fresher player having played two matches and six sets fewer than Gaio over the course of the week.

This could help Estrella Burgos come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win to continue the winning run in Quito.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 4.5 Games @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Paolo Lorenzi - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Victor Estrella Burgos - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-3, + 8.04 Units (22 Units Staked, + 36.55% Yield)

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