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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 11th)

It has been a terrific week for the tennis picks, but it could have been even better if Richard Gasquet had completed his win over Kenny De Schepper when he had a chance to serve for the match at the end of the second set.

Even with that defeat, the majority of the picks did enough to come into the winner's enclosure on Friday and that has really put some solid numbers on the board this week. It makes up for a really poor week after the Australian Open and hopefully that will give me some momentum to take into the rest of the month with plenty of tennis and big tournaments to be played.

The remainder of February sees the first ATP 500 events of the season taking place as well as the Golden Swing to South America. The WTA Tour also has some of their own Premier Events before March is occupied by the two big Masters events in North America and it does look like a fun few weeks ahead with some of the biggest names on the Tour ready to return to the court.

Richard Gasquet - 3.5 games v Benoit Paire: I have to consider it a mental lapse in concentration that Richard Gasquet was unable to finish his Quarter Final in straight sets. That meant he had to spend more time on court than necessary and found himself in a precarious position at times, but the defending Champion has moved through to the Semi Final in Montpellier.

He will be playing compatriot Benoit Paire in the Semi Final and Paire should be well rested having played just a handful of points before being the beneficiary of Dustin Brown's back injury. It was a shame for the fans because that would have been a fun match to watch, but it does mean the home fans know there will be at least one Frenchman in the Final on Sunday.

Picking the winner isn't straight forward because Paire has opened 2017 in good shape and I am still not convinced Gasquet is at 100%. However I think Gasquet is the more consistent player and should have the better game plan going onto the court than Paire who can go wandering mentally which leads to some strange shot selection.

I am anticipating Paire will use plenty of slices, drop shots and serve-volley plays to move Gasquet out of his rhythm, but the latter has shown he can handle that with three wins out of three against Paire on the Tour. I imagine both are very familiar with what the other wants to do on the court and I am looking for Gasquet to execute better over the two hours they are likely to spend out on court.

This has been a good run in the draw for Paire who is a previous Finalist in Montpellier, but this is a tournament that Gasquet has thrived in. I think he can improve the head to head on the Tour and I am looking for Gasquet to be a little stronger mentally to come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win over his compatriot and move into another Final at this event.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 games v Alexander Zverev: I have little doubt that Alexander Zverev is a potential Grand Slam winner and a player that will spend a lot of his time in the top ten of the World Rankings in his career. He continues to display the talent that is going to help him get to the top of the men's game, but I still think Zverev needs to improve the fitness and I do wonder if the last week has sapped some energy from his reserves.

He represented Germany in three Davis Cup Rubbers last weekend and the young man has had to battle through two Rounds to get into the Semi Final in Montpellier. In both matches this week Zverev has needed three sets to come through and he is going to have to raise his level by a couple of gears if he is going to have enough to beat home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga has had two very impressive wins already this week having missed the France Davis Cup tie which has given him more time to get ready for this event. The Tsonga serve has been a monster weapon so far for the Frenchman and neither Pierre-Hugues Herbert nor Daniil Medvedev have come very close to breaking the Tsonga serve.

Serving big will put pressure on Zverev even if this opponent is a better returner than the two players Tsonga has played so far this week. While I expect Zverev to get a few more balls back and find a way to get into the weaker Tsonga backhand, when Tsonga is serving this big he is going to be able to play first strike tennis more often than not. From there he will look to build pressure to get into the Zverev service games and I do think Tsonga is going to win this match.

A tie-breaker is likely to be in play from where Tsonga can break the Zverev belief and I will look for the higher Ranked player to come through with a 7-6, 6-4 win and a place in the Final on Sunday.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Nikoloz Basilashvili: This has been a memorable week for Nikoloz Basilashvili already having beaten Dominic Thiem and reached the Semi Final of the ATP Sofia event. Of course he will want more, but I do wonder if there is a lot of energy left in the tank and now Basilashvili has to take on home favourite Grigor Dimitrov.

Basilashvili had to come from being given a bagel in the first set of his Quarter Final against Martin Klizan before moving through in three sets. He will have to be playing a lot better all around if he is going to challenge Dimitrov, although this week has looked like an exception rather than the usual standards Basilashvili is able to produce on the indoor hard courts.

Beating the likes of Thiem and Tomas Berdych on the indoor hard courts shows Basilashvili has something about his game, but there are plenty of disappointing losses in that time too. Now he is facing Dimitrov who is off an impressive looking win over Victor Troicki and who has opened 2017 with a new found belief about his game.

That was shown at the Australian Open where Dimitrov reached the Semi Final and he also has a title won in the early weeks of the new season. Winning another title here might suggest Dimitrov is going to find the consistency to challenge the very best players on the Tour and he can be a very good player when playing with the confidence he has at the moment.

2016 wasn't a great season for Dimitrov in terms of results on the indoor hard courts, but that had much to do with the difficult early draws he was given. He has played at a higher level than Basilashvili who would not have covered this number in his last six losses on the indoor hard courts in 2016. I will look for Dimitrov to earn a break more in each set to come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win and a place in the Final on Sunday.

Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 games v Barbora Strycova: An injury has blighted the start to the 2017 season for Garbine Muguruza, but she should be well rested and ready to go in the Fed Cup this weekend. Her performances have helped Spain head back into the World Group and Muguruza is unbeaten in Fed Cup action for her nation having won all six previous Rubbers and she has a 4-0 record on the indoor hard courts.

None of that will intimidate Barbora Strycova who helped the Czech Republic win the Fed Cup again at the end of last season and she did beat Muguruza when they last played at the Australian Open in 2016. Strycova does have the unenvious task of filling the Petra Kvitova boots for her nation, but she has shown she is capable of matching the best players on the Tour when she brings her best to the court.

It will be interesting to see how quick the conditions are on this indoor court- while it would help Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza's big game would also be aided and put Strycova very much on the defensive for much of this match. The Muguruza serve has not been working as well as it can and she remains a little up and down with the groundstrokes, but being able to get first strike tennis in this match will give her a big edge.

I like the way Strycova competes, but she is not going to get as many cheap points from the serve as Muguruza can and I think that makes a difference in this opening Rubber. It won't be a one-sided match because that is not what a battle hardened player Strycova will allow to happen, but I do think Muguruza has a break more in each set to come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win for Spain.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: Two clay court specialists meet in Quito's first Semi Final, but both Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Paolo Lorenzi may have needed some time to get used to the conditions here. The altitude in Quito makes this clay court faster than most others and that can take some getting used to, although both players have won a couple of matches now and should be accustomed to what they are going to see on the court.

The extra matches that Paolo Lorenzi had to play at the Davis Cup last weekend could be a factor in this one, but I am not going to put too much stock into that as a decider.

Instead I have to say that Ramos-Vinolas has played with plenty of belief over the last six months and that showed up in his win in the Quarter Final. Pressure points have not bothered him as much as they used to and he has been good at the key moments. However he has to respect Lorenzi who is arguably playing his best tennis of his career over the last twelve months which has helped him become the Italian Number 1 and Lorenzi has two very good looking wins already here.

Both came against players who are perhaps not as comfortable on the clay courts as Ramos-Vinolas and I think the added quality the Spaniard brings will help him reach the Final here. The last two matches have been won by Ramos-Vinolas between these players and I like him to battle through with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Victor Estrella Burgos + 2.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: If Quito was the only tournament ever played on the Tour, Victor Estrella Burgos might be the World Number 1 player. That is obviously a tongue in cheek suggestion as the top players on Tour would pitch up here, but is making a point that the two time defending Champion remains unbeaten in Quito despite showing little to go deep in other tournaments through the season.

He isn't outside the top 100 in the World Ranking for any other reason.

However Estrella Burgos continues to find his best form here and is looking to beat Thomaz Bellucci for a third time in a row in Quito. Those wins have come in the Semi Final in 2015 and Final of 2016 so it isn't like Estrella Burgos has caught the Brazilian cold, and it makes the games appealing for him this season despite the Dominican being a year older.

Bellucci looked very good in his Quarter Final win, but he battled past Janko Tipsarevic in the Second Round and hasn't looked that comfortable on the court in 2017. He has plenty of power and a solid lefty serve which makes him dangerous, but Estrella Burgos has found a way to negate his strengths and turn matches in his favour.

It has all the hallmarks of another tight match between them and I can imagine plenty will be backing Estrella Burgos as the big underdog to keep the winning run going. I am not so sure that Bellucci doesn't find a way to win this match over three sets this time around, but I think the games being given to the underdog could be useful and I will take those and look for a close and competitive match even if Estrella Burgos is finally defeated in Quito.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Victor Estrella Burgos + 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 14-4, + 16.40 Units (36 Units Staked, + 45.56% Yield)

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