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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 14th)

The Tennis Tour is put together to make sure that the events avoid the poor weather conditions as much as possible so it is a surprise that both the tournaments in Doha and Buenos Aires look like they are going to be heavily affected by the rain throughout the week.

Both have had delays already and I am expecting a few more with the late start at both events not helping matters.

That may mean a number of the tennis picks are going to be delayed through the week too and that was already the case on Monday as Shuai Zhang's match with Timea Babos was postponed until Tuesday. That is the third match on the third court in Doha and I do think there is every chance that it may even be postponed through to Wednesday with conditions looking like they are going to be pretty poor all week.

There are two indoor events this week too in Rotterdam and Memphis which will be unaffected by the weather, but I will be looking for better fortunes at the big moments than I got on Monday. Feliciano Lopez was comfortably the better player on the court against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and didn't face a break point throughout the time spent out there, but was somehow beaten 7-6, 7-6.

Lopez had all the chances and clearly looked the superior player, but he couldn't quite get over the line and had to settle for winning the battle of total points won, although losing the war and going out of the tournament.

Daria Kasatkina - 4.5 games v Irina-Camelia Begu: I am very much of the belief that Daria Kasatkina has the game to get to the top of the WTA Tour and I think she can get the better of Irina-Camelia Begu when they meet in the First Round in Doha. It is actually Begu who comes in with the higher World Ranking, but I am expecting that to change in the coming weeks.

Kasatkina is a young player so is still going to have her inconsistent moments which was shown up in her loss in St Petersburg in the Second Round there. An early defeat at the Australian Open was another disappointment for Kasatkina, but there is much to like about her game with the accuracy and depth of her groundstrokes likely to be a problem for Begu to deal with in this one.

The confidence levels for Begu have to be in a difficult place too as she ended 2016 and opened 2017 with plenty of losses to her name. A defeat in the Fed Cup last weekend means Begu has lost seven of her last eight matches and four of her last five defeats would not have seen her cover this number.

Those losses add up and puts additional pressure on a player at those big moments you find in every tennis match. That is one issue for Begu and Kasatkina will also hold the mental advantage having beaten the Romanian 6-3, 6-3 earlier this season in Brisbane. That was a dominant win for Kasatkina and she is likely to be a little too good for Begu in this one too and I would look for the younger player to set up the points with her serve and dominate the rallies for the most part.

The conditions should mean Kasatkina is able to get her teeth into this match and I like her coming through with a 6-4, 6-3 win to move through to the Second Round.

Timea Bacsinszky - 1.5 games v Yulia Putintseva: This looks an interesting First Round match between two players who have had some solid moments already in 2017. Both Yulia Putintseva and Timea Bacsinszky might have hoped for a better run at the Australian Open, but both have shown some decent form since that tournament.

For Putintseva that came in St Petersburg where she reached the Final, and for Bacsinszky it was in the World Group Fed Cup tie against France where she helped Switzerland move into the Semi Final after winning both Rubbers she played last week. That should mean two confident players are going head to head on Tuesday in Doha, but I do think Bacsinszky can get the better of the match.

She holds the mental advantage having won both previous matches against Putintseva including here in Doha last season. While I am fully expecting both players to have to defend a number of break points, I do think Bacsinszky has the stronger serve and is more likely to find a way to get out of trouble at those big moments which should give her the edge in the match.

I am expecting a lot of rallies between these players and both should have their success at times. However I can see Bacsinszky just being a little more solid when those key moments at the end of sets come around and I will look for the Swiss player to move through with a couple of late breaks to secure the match.

Gilles Simon - 3.5 games v Nicolas Mahut: Last season saw Nicolas Mahut make a surprising run to the Semi Final here in Rotterdam and that is a surprise when you consider this is not one of the faster indoor courts out there. He will be looking for another big run this year, but faces Gilles Simon who is a three time Semi Finalist in Rotterdam and looks like he could be much happier in the conditions than Mahut.

The higher Ranked Frenchman has a strong 5-2 head to head record against Mahut although they haven't played one another for a couple of years. Simon's game is one that can be problematic for Mahut because he will make plenty of returns and put the latter in some awkward positions when he comes forward to try and get his serve-volley game going.

That serve-volley game is one that can pressurise opponents, but Simon should be very aware of what to expect from Mahut and I think that pays off for him here. I do love the way Mahut plays and the volleying is a very strong aspect of his game, but Simon will be looking to make sure he is not being put away by the first volley and should have time on this court to make his returns and follow up from there.

We all should know the Simon serve can be something of a vulnerability in his game, but I am not sure Mahut is the best returner to take advantage of that. Instead I think Simon will be able to have his way in the rallies and can wear down Mahut who will have to make more balls than he would want on this surface.

If Simon can take the chances when they do come his way, I think he can earn a break more in a straight sets win and move through 6-4, 6-4.

Fernando Verdasco - 1.5 games v Martin Klizan: The points that Martin Klizan earned by winning the tournament in Rotterdam last season have come off and that has seen him slip to Number 73 in the World Rankings. That should highlight how much of a surprise his run through to winning this ATP 500 event in 2016 actually was, and I think it would arguably be a bigger surprise if he is able to do the same and defend his title in 2017.

Klizan showed some signs of life last week in Sofia by reaching the Quarter Final there and snapping a run of nine consecutive First Round losses. He had a couple of decent wins there, but none of three players he faced are of the level of Fernando Verdasco, even at this stage of his career.

There have been some tight losses for Klizan in his run of losses and that makes him dangerous when he faces Verdasco in the First Round here. Both players have shown they can be effective on the slower surfaces so I don't anticipate the conditions being an issue for them and I do think that there will be some swings in momentum in this one with both Klizan and Verdasco being very inconsistent in their play.

The Klizan serve can be very effective when he is feeling it and that is another reason he is a dangerous opponent for Verdasco. The Spaniard has had some solid performances this week but Verdasco can be up and down himself and I think Klizan will give himself a chance if he can get in front in this one.

Both players will be reliant on the serve and look to dominate behind that shot, but I do think all of the losses Klizan has suffered since the US Open has to have an impact mentally. Even his two wins last week might not be enough to change that and I think Verdasco may get the better of him over three sets. The reason for the tight spread on the handicap has to be because of Verdasco's inconsistencies, but I will look for the veteran to find a way past Klizan in this First Round match.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 games v Stefanos Tsitsipas: The tournament in Montpellier didn't quite end as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would have hoped, but he has shown enough in the early part of the 2017 season to think this could be a big season for the Frenchman. Tsonga has reached at least the Quarter Final of every tournament he has entered so far this season and he is a big favourite to beat the Wild Card Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rotterdam.

This is a big challenge for Tsitsipas who is making his debut on the main Tour and the 18 year old is currently Ranked outside the top 200. He is a tall player and gets some pop off the serve, but Tsitsipas won't have played too many players of the level of Tsonga in his young career.

While the Tsonga serve is not the greatest strength, he does find a way to get enough balls back in play and he should be comfortable with the time he should get on this surface. It could lead to Tsitsipas pushing a little harder to try and get into a position to win points and that should give Tsonga a chance to extract some errors while also putting plenty of pressure on his opponent with his own serve which has been working well for the most part in 2017.

I am not anticipating Tsitsipas having a lot of joy on the return of serve and the key to this number is whether Tsonga can break the serve two or three times. I expect he will have the chances to do that as the youngster is given a little lesson about what is required to take the next step in his development.

Tsonga has won four best of three set matches in 2017 and he would have covered this number each time. With the difference in current levels of these two players, I am looking for Tsonga to show that on the scoreboard in a 6-2, 6-4 win.

Frances Tiafoe - 2.5 games v Tim Smyczek: Two compatriots meet in the First Round in Memphis and I think the youngster Frances Tiafoe can frank his recent run of wins over Tim Smyczek with another in Memphis. Tiafoe has won all three matches between these players over the last twelve months which includes a come from behind win in the Australian Open Qualifiers last month.

In all honesty Smyczek has been a limited player in his time on the Tour and he has lost a lot of matches to this kind of level of opponent. There is much potential in Tiafoe that people are expecting him to fulfil and that means he should be winning matches like this one.

He has shown he is the superior returner in this match up and I think that is obviously very important when it comes to putting pressure on an opponent. Tiafoe should be able to put Smyczek under pressure on the return and also serves better which should mean he is able to contain the damage his opponent is able to do on the return.

Smyczek has always been a little inconsistent off the ground too and I do think Tiafoe will be able to control his own errors better than the more senior player in this match. It all adds up to a 6-4, 6-4 kind of win for the young American and I will back him to do that and cover this number.

MY PICKS: Daria Kasatkina - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Timea Bacsinszky - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Shuai Zhang - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units) Already Advised
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 Games @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Frances Tiafoe - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-1, - 2 Units (2 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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