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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 16th)

Wednesday looked to be a much better day for the tennis picks, but some poor performances later in the day prevented the momentum from really getting behind those picks.

I had one retirement go for me and one against me on Wednesday too, but hopefully the remaining four days of the week can produce more winners and get the totals looking more respectable.

I know one of the players I backed, Jordan Thompson, made a point of mentioning some of the social media comments he received after his loss in Memphis. I find it embarrassing that people think it is 'normal' to insult these professional athletes because they feel slighted by them somehow.

Quick thing to always keep in mind- it bothers an athlete trying to reach the top of his profession way more than anyone else so try and be a grown up and NOT insult them on social media behind a hidden account. The same people who do that are usually the first to run up desperately looking for a selfie with these same players which just makes them out to be bigger tools than most would think.

It's something that won't go away and I am not of the belief that it is solely those who have lost money venting their disgust- Twitter is full of celebrities being insulted daily and I think it says a lot about where the human race has headed than anything else.

On Thursday it looks like another miserable day in Doha in terms of the weather and I am not sure this tournament is going to be able to avoid a Sunday finish. The next two days look like the rain is going to cause big problems and I can't see how the organisers will be able to get all the matches through despite the fact they have begun to put in some early starts.

The indoors events in Memphis and Rotterdam don't have those concerns and I am looking to have a much better day in the office than I have over the first three days.

Barbora Strycova - 2.5 games v Samantha Stosur: This Second Round match has already started in Doha and it is Samantha Stosur who held serve in her opening game before Barbora Strycova was at 40-40 on her own serve. While Strycova could be in danger of dropping her first service game and giving Stosur a break advantage, I still want to back the Czech player at this stage and look for her to come through this match.

There is a clear contrast in the form displayed by both Strycova and Stosur going into the tournament and I think the latter is short of confidence when the match potentially gets tight. Stosur's serve has been a big weapon for her over the years, but she is not getting as many easy points out of that as she is used to and someone like Strycova is capable of wearing her down in their time together on the court.

Strycova has had some solid runs in 2017 already and helped the Czech Republic move through to the Fed Cup Semi Final last weekend. She might not have anything that really stands out in her game, but Strycova is a solid player that won't give a lot away and I think having a chance to play this match after a rest thanks to the rain on Wednesday works to her favour.

She has won both previous hard court matches against Stosur including in Cincinnati a few months ago and Strycova can make enough balls back in play to see Stosur almost self-destruct in this one. I will back the higher Ranked player to find her way through to the Quarter Final behind a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 1.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: With all the rain forecasted for Doha, I am not sure this Second Round match is going to find the time to be completed on Thursday. The problem with picking matches that potentially could be spread over two days is that it can give a player a real opportunity to change the momentum of how things are going on court by getting in the locker room and having their coach indicate what tactics need to be changed.

On the basis of the rain not being an issue before this match is completed, I do think Agnieszka Radwanska can get the better of Caroline Wozniacki. It is Radwanska who beat Wozniacki comfortably in their last couple of matches, although my concern has to be the little tennis she has played since the Australian Open.

An early exit in that event means it will have been one month since Radwanska last played a competitive match and that is where Wozniacki's First Round win over Kiki Bertens could be very important. Prior to Doha, Wozniacki had not been on the Tour since her own Third Round exit at the Australian Open and so having a match under her belt could be a huge advantage.

It was Wozniacki who just about beat Radwanska in three sets in their first meeting in 2016 in Tokyo, but that was quickly followed by two very convincing wins for the Pole in Wuhan and Beijing. I will admit that Radwanska is the one player that can frustrate me as much as any in the top 20 of either Tours because she can be so good on one day and then struggle to get any kind of power on her groundstrokes on another.

The match up with Wozniacki should produce plenty of long rallies and it will likely be tighter than the last two matches. However I still think Radwanska can get the better of Wozniacki and will look for her to cover this small number.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 games v Richard Gasquet: I am of the belief that Tomas Berdych is on his slide down the World Rankings as he has hit 31 years old and the serve is not as potent as it once was. That will mean he is on my list as one of those players that might be a little over-rated in the coming months until the market readjusts, but I am backing him to beat Richard Gasquet in this Second Round match in Rotterdam.

The conditions on this surface may not be ideal for Berdych because of the slower nature, but he is facing an opponent who has spent a lot of time on the court over the last ten days. You have to be impressed with the way Gasquet came back to beat Victor Troicki in the First Round on Wednesday, but he was aided by the Serb and I am not convinced Berdych will be as generous.

They do tend to play some close matches and the head to head between these players shows Berdych is only slightly ahead with 8 wins to 7 over Gasquet. That includes in their last couple of matches to get back in front and I think it will be the physical strength of Berdych that allows him to come through this one.

Over the years Gasquet has not always enjoyed the conditions in Rotterdam himself and I think both players will be able to get into the rallies and try to dictate proceedings from the back of the court. I wouldn't be that surprised if we did need a third set to separate these players, but the Berdych tank should be a little fuller having had a day of rest and not having reached the business end of a tournament a few days ago like Gasquet.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Borna Coric: This has not been a great start to the 2017 season for Marin Cilic who has suffered some really disappointing losses and the top Seed in Rotterdam is looking to get things going in the new season. The losses to the likes of Jozef Kovalik, Dan Evans and Dustin Brown does not give me a lot of confidence in Cilic, but I do think he can get the better of his compatriot Borna Coric in the Second Round.

As tough as it has been for Cilic, it has been really difficult for the talented youngster Coric who is coming off a long injury lay off. In fact his win in the First Round is the first Coric has had since beating Rafael Nadal at the Cincinnati Masters although his injury surfaced in the next match against Marin Cilic.

That means Coric had lost six straight matches coming into the tournament in Rotterdam and some of the ways he has been defeated to the likes of Hyeon Chung and Aljaz Bedene is a real concern. The win over Karen Khachanov in the First Round will give Coric some confidence, but he will have to be a lot better if he is going to beat someone like Cilic who can serve big and also has plenty of aggression on the return.

Playing an older compatriot can be a tough test for players on the Tour as they would have looked up to them growing up and that would have been a problem for a healthy and confident Coric. While I think he is physically ready to go, mentally I still believe Coric is finding his way back into things on the court and I think Cilic will prove too good in this match and find a 6-4, 6-3 success to move through.

David Goffin - 4.5 games v Robin Haase: This is a home tournament for Robin Haase with his birthplace not too far from Rotterdam, although he hasn't had the best success in the event. A win over Florian Mayer in the First Round means Haase is now 4-8 in Rotterdam and he has had two days to rest and get ready to face David Goffin in the Second Round.

The Haase World Ranking does fluctuate as the Dutchman is capable of putting in a few strong weeks on the Tour at the Challenger level once he slips away from the main draw entries into ATP events. Aside from a win over David Ferrer as the underdog, Haase has mainly gone about beating those players he should be and losing to those he shouldn't in 2017 and one of those losses came to Goffin in Doha.

Goffin is off a long week where he reached the Final in Sofia, but he looked solid enough in his win over Andrey Kuznetsov in the First Round on Wednesday. The Belgian player will look to be a little better as he moves through the draw but the conditions in Rotterdam should suit him as long as he isn't feeling physically tired from a week of tennis last week.

The reason Goffin is as high in the World Ranking as he is can be down to backing up his big weeks on the Tour and I do think he will be too good for Haase. 5 of the 8 losses Haase has had in Rotterdam would have seen him fail to cover this number of games and Goffin was able to punish the Dutchman's second serve when they met in Doha.

Doing that again should help the Belgian move through with a 6-4, 6-3 win in this match.

Steve Johnson - 3.5 games v Tim Smyczek: When these two American players last met in 2014, Steve Johnson was beaten fairly comfortably by Tim Smyczek but he is a much improved player these days. While I do think Johnson needs to work on his returning game, he is playing an opponent that doesn't have the biggest serve and I think Johnson's own serve can put plenty of pressure on Smyczek.

Only Davis Cup action has been on the schedule for Johnson since his Second Round loss at the Australian Open, but he was also a Semi Finalist in Auckland. This is a match against an opponent who spends the majority of his time below the main ATP level of tournament and I think Johnson will be too strong for Smyczek.

Asking Johnson to cover spreads can be difficult when his return game is a little loose, but I think Smyczek is going to have to feel the pressure if the former is serving as well as he can. That will mean Smyczek is pushing to win the points he needs to and that can lead to mistakes, while Johnson has a bigger forehand if the groundstrokes go in that direction.

Johnson can't give Smyczek any encouragement with loose service games, but if he can look after that aspect of his game, I think he will come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Smyczek in this Second Round match in Memphis.

MY PICKS: Barbora Strycova - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Goffin - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Steve Johnson - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-10, - 13.04 Units (28 Units Staked, - 46.57% Yield)

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