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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 15th)

It hasn't been a great week for the tennis picks over the first two days of the events that have been in action, but it has been better for me than for the organisers of the WTA Doha tournament. I don't think I have ever seen as much rain during the Middle East tournaments as I have in Doha this week with the first two days being brutalised by the showers that have been taking place through the day.

I did tweet out that I would be surprised if no one had the foresight to start the day's play earlier than they have in the last couple of days despite the obvious weather warnings. On Wednesday there are a few hours of play available during the day and so the tournament is opening at 11am for play rather than waiting until 3:30pm as they did on Tuesday which was a baffling decision when you consider the rain that was forecasted.

Of course the organisers have to make decisions that don't affect the spectators so perhaps there are reasons why they have begun play as late as they have, but it also means there is a significant backlog of matches that need to be completed. Quite a few players will have to play twice on Wednesday (as long as the weather holds out) and there is a full schedule in Doha as we only have one Second Round match set after two days of play.

It does mean I have three picks that have yet to be completed from the first two days and I am hoping all three will be in the books by Wednesday evening.

Buenos Aires has also been affected by rain in the first couple of days, but they are on schedule although there are more adverse conditions to negotiate in the remainder of the week. Thankfully both Rotterdam and Memphis can continue regardless as they are being played indoors, although I have gone a disappointing 0-4 so far in Rotterdam over the first two days.

All in all it has been a tough week, but there are plenty of days to get this turned around which I hope to begin on Wednesday.

Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: I am not going to say anything disrespectful about the way Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has played over the first six weeks of the 2017 season with the strong run at the Australian Open likely to give her plenty of confidence.

I am not sure if that has put her in a position where she is perhaps being over-rated in a match up against Dominika Cibulkova who has got the better of her in four of their six previous matches. As well as Pavlyuchenkova played at Melbourne Park and in her win over Jelena Jankovic in the First Round here, the Russia also has had losses to Eugenie Bouchard and Julia Goerges behind her in 2017.

The serve is the big weapon for Pavlyuchenkova but I am not the wet conditions in Doha are going to aid her and that is where Cibulkova will feel she can wear down her opponent. I do think Pavlyuchenkova has the edge when it comes to the power she can produce, but Cibulkova has plenty of pop too and is the better mover which might be a key in an event where the ball is a little slower coming through the court.

I do think it will be a close match and I think the Cibulkova serve continues to be an issue if Pavlyuchenkova is given the time to tee off on it. Their previous matches have been close and competitive affairs too which may make this number of games appealing on the underdog, but I think Cibulkova might just be a little stronger at key moments which gives her the edge.

There is every chance this match does not get onto court on Wednesday with the rain forecasted, but I am looking for Cibulkova to hold the edge and come through with the cover thanks to a couple of late breaks of serve.

David Goffin - 3.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: Reaching the Final of a tournament a few days ago can be an issue for players with fatigue a potential factor, but David Goffin has been given a couple of days to rest before the First Round match in Rotterdam. That should be sufficient time to get ready to face Andrey Kuznetsov, although Goffin has to be right on his game immediately.

Going up against this opponent can be difficult because Kuznetsov is willing to take every chance on the court and looks to hit the ball as hard as possible as soon as he can get an opportunity to do that. There can be times when he is virtually unplayable, even against the top players, but keeping the consistency going off the ground can be difficult for Kuznetsov.

If Goffin can weather some of the storm that Kuznetsov brings to the court, I do think he will find chances to break the serve. That is because the all or nothing kind of game Kuznetsov plays is behind both return and serve and once he makes a few misses he tends to give away a game or two that he shouldn't be.

My one issue has to be how vulnerable the Goffin serve can be at times because he isn't getting a lot of cheap points off the first serve. That means he is under pressure to keep his own consistency going, but Goffin produced some solid wins in Sofia last week and should have a little too much all around for Kuznetsov.

Richard Gasquet - 3.5 games v Victor Troicki: There are a couple of players who reached the business end at the Sofia and Montpellier tournaments last week who have their First Round matches in Rotterdam on Wednesday. Another one is Richard Gasquet who came up short against Alexander Zverev in the Final in Montpellier and will be looking to bounce back immediately.

This is far from a straight forward First Round match for Gasquet as he goes up against Victor Troicki who reached the Quarter Final in Sofia last week before going down to Grigor Dimitrov. It has been a decent but unspectacular start to 2017 for Troicki who still has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes that can make him very dangerous when he is fully focused.

That focus can be inconsistent though and Troicki can sometimes have a few issues with Double Faults which hurt any player. He did reach the Quarter Final in Rotterdam last season though and this is not a tournament in which Gasquet has been able to produce his best tennis in previous visits.

Gasquet and Troicki will both need to serve better than they did last week, but I do think the better groundstrokes will come more consistently from the Frenchman's racquet. He has been one of the better indoor players over the last couple of years and I am looking for Gasquet to just edge out Troicki with a 6-4, 6-4 win to move into the Second Round.

Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 games v Mischa Zverev: Grigor Dimitrov did his best to almost blow the Sofia Final against David Goffin in the second set when getting very tight, but ultimately he has secured his second title of the 2017 season. Add in a run to the Semi Final at the Australian Open and the improvements in form over the last six months is sending the Bulgarian back towards the top ten of the World Rankings.

This is a big tournament for Dimitrov with the Ranking points on offer this week but following up a title win is one of the tougher tasks on the Tour. Tiredness can be a factor as well as the mental and emotional battle of recovering and getting ready for another big week on the Tour, but Dimitrov is a player with plenty of confidence behind him.

There should be plenty of eyes on this match after Mischa Zverev earned favourable headlines at the Australian Open where he beat the current World Number 1 Andy Murray, but he is yet to follow that up. Since that win over Murray, Zverev has lost to Roger Federer, Ruben Bemelmans and Kenny De Schepper and all in straight sets as opponents perhaps knuckle down a little harder against him.

Zverev does have a decent serve and his attacking intentions do make him a threat as he will look to get to the net and force opponents to pass him consistently. However that might not work to the best effect on this surface in Rotterdam and Dimitrov is certainly playing well enough to think he can dictate rallies and make Zverev play some very awkward volleys.

The key for Dimitrov will be serving well and making sure his opponent cannot just rush the net by attacking the second serve. If Dimitrov can do that, I think the Bulgarian will earn a break more in each set and come through 6-4, 6-4 in this one.

Gilles Muller + 2.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: It was a little disappointing seeing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga just have a few problems with the conditions in Rotterdam as well as his young opponent Stefanos Tsitsapis. Some of the credit has to be given to the youngster, but Tsonga did not serve as effectively as he would have liked and that led to three breaks against him.

He will need to be better in the Second Round when Tsonga takes on big serving Gilles Muller who made much lighter work of a Wild Card opponent on Tuesday. Muller has also challenged Tsonga in their previous matches and actually has a winning record against the Frenchman which should give him confidence.

While the conditions might not be that quick here in Rotterdam, a lot of what Muller does is based on the accuracy of the first serve and Tsonga has limitations on the return. He can't just chip the ball back into play because Muller is very comfortable coming forward and looking to put away volleys.

The slower surface does make it harder to come forward, but Muller relies on accuracy which stretches opponents out and doing that to Tsonga should see him get to the net without too much fear. The slice will also be important for Muller to try and attack on the return of serve where possible and I think Muller can make use of the games he is being given.

Much is going to depend on which of these players can serve best, but tie-breakers are in play and I think Muller can keep this one close enough to make the games handed to him count in the overall scheme.

Jordan Thompson - 2.5 games v Nikoloz Basilashvili: There isn't much between these players in the World Rankings, but Jordan Thompson has to take heart from the way he played in Australia over the first month of the season. Thompson looks like a player who could make a significant move up the World Rankings in the next few weeks, but he can't underestimate Nikoloz Basilashvili who reached the Semi Final in Sofia last week.

That was a big improvement on the performances earlier in the season for Basilashvili, but he has already been beaten once by Thompson this season and I expect the Australian can frank that win.

Thompson will have to serve a little better than he did in the win over Basilashvili because I have little doubt we will see more from the latter who struggled with that aspect of his game. However I do think the two Davis Cup wins representing Australia will really have given Thompson a boost of confidence to take into the draw in Memphis and that can help him overcome this challenge.

Wins over Dominic Thiem and Martin Klizan will certainly make Basilashvili feel better about himself too with both of those coming in Sofia last week. However he has lost some disappointing matches to open 2017 and the Georgian does not have the best record on the indoor hard courts.

I will look for him to have a setback from the tournament in Sofia and will back Thompson to come through while covering this number.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 1.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: Injury and a loss of form has seen Leonardo Mayer slip down the World Rankings and he comes into his home tournament outside of the top 100. A win in the First Round will help, but Mayer is in for a big challenge to go deeper in the draw when he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Wednesday.

Over the years this has not been a great event for Mayer despite the home support he receives in Buenos Aires. He has yet to get beyond the Second Round and has a losing record in the tournament including a previous loss to Ramos-Vinolas and the lack of match fitness may also play a part in this Second Round match.

It has been far from a dominating start to 2017 for Ramos-Vinolas but he is at his best on the clay courts and did reach the Semi Final in Quito last week. An impressive win over another home favourite Guido Pella in the First Round will have given him confidence and I think Ramos-Vinolas could be the stronger player the longer this one last on the court.

The win over Pella was a long match for Ramos-Vinolas and he is not having a day of rest between that three hour epic on court compared with Mayer who played his First Round match on Monday. I think that is a strong reason why the oddsmakers are setting this as a fairly tight match, but I do believe the Spaniard is in a better place mentally of the players and can back up his success on Tuesday.

Physically he has to have left something out on the court, but Ramos-Vinolas can do enough to move through to another Quarter Final on the clay during this South American swing. I like him to come through in three sets, but do enough to earn the cover of this number.

Federico Delbonis - 1.5 games v Joao Sousa: This has all the makings of a pretty good clay court match between two players who will feel they can go very deep in the draw in Buenos Aires this week. Both Federico Delbonis and Joao Sousa arguably play their best tennis on the clay courts although the latter has had some pretty good runs on other surfaces too.

This is going to be a battle with both returning from a lay off from the Australian Open, although Sousa won his first match in Buenos Aires yesterday having previously lost in the First Round on two appearances here. The win over Horacio Zeballos will have prepared Sousa for another lefty in the Second Round, but Delbonis is a better player than the veteran Zeballos these days.

His record in Buenos Aires is not the best either, but Delbonis has fallen to some of the top clay court names in recent seasons in those defeats here. This will feel like a much more winnable match for him than against the likes of Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro who were favourites to win those matches, but Delbonis can't underestimate Sousa.

Sousa is a player that gets every ounce of his ability out of himself, but he can be broken down behind a vulnerable serve and a strong serving day from Delbonis is the key to success for him. I do think there will be some long, gruelling rallies that will see both players have the momentum at times, but I think the Argentinian can come through in three sets.

Delbonis has covered this number in all of his wins in Buenos Aires in the past and I will look for him to battle past Sousa in this Second Round match.

MY PICKS: Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units) Already Advised
Timea Bacsinszky - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units) Already Advised
Shuai Zhang - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units) Already Advised
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Gilles Muller + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Jordan Thompson - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis - 1.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-5, - 10 Units (10 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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