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Friday, 17 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 17th)

I bloody hate weeks like this one where I have seemingly got the magical touch of zero luck coupled with bad picks which has meant rather than splitting those and have a small loss, I have been hit with the perfect storm of both things going against me and seeing me in a big hole after four days of the week.

It has been a 'punch a wall in a hole' kind of week which has begun with Feliciano Lopez dominating Pierre-Hugues Herbert and somehow still losing that match. Thursday was another example as both Marin Cilic and Steve Johnson were broken serving to stay in a set.

They still won their matches, but annoyingly both breaks of serve to drop sets meant they missed the cover by a single game. They were the right picks, but I didn't get a break with them, while Barbora Strycova somehow failed to not only cover, but even beat Samantha Stosur outright despite looking the superior player in the last two sets.

It all means that the season totals have once again looked like to move into a negative position as I have somehow moved into a 20 unit hole for the week. Just thinking about how I have got into that position bothers me massively, so I decided to take some time out before making the picks for Friday. This week has become all about signs of recovery to take into next week, but I do need a lot more fortune at the big points than I have got to this point of the week.

Those breaks of serve look like they hurt a lot more now don't they?(!)

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Shuai Zhang: The tournament in Doha has been really badly affected by the rainy weather that there are three Quarter Finals and two Semi Finals scheduled for Friday, although good luck getting them all through with plenty of rain forecasted for Friday.

If they do get through the Quarter Final line up, I do think Karolina Pliskova is going to have too much for Shuai Zhang especially with the way in which she has been serving all through 2017.

That serve was a big reason she was able to see off Caroline Garcia in the Second Round and Pliskova will now be a little more aware of the conditions at play. She is facing an opponent off a big upset as Shaui Zhang beat Garbine Muguruza in her Second Round match, but Zhang was very much reliant on being able to break serve.

Her own serve was well attacked by Muguruza and it is a different pressure when the opponent is serving as big as Pliskova is. The stop-start nature of the week may have affected Zhang even more than most with the mental affect it can have on players having come on and off court. There are times when Zhang can serve very well, but she is going to be under siege by the Pliskova serve and I think that will lead to a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Martin Klizan: The defending Champion has made it through to the Quarter Final with an up and down week to this point, but Martin Klizan has to be very confident. There must be something in the water in Rotterdam that Klizan really enjoys, especially as he has been on the right side of 'Lady Luck' over the last couple of seasons.

He will need more of the same, but also needs to raise his level if he is going to beat Tomas Berdych who has had a couple of decent wins here. As I said yesterday, I do think Berdych is a declining force on the Tour these days, but he showed against Richard Gasquet that he is still a capable player and I do think he is stronger than Klizan.

Opposing Klizan with this many games being laid is not an easy choice but at odds against I am happy enough to go against him. He might like the conditions in Rotterdam, but you would perhaps only consider the win over Gael Monfils as being one of a player of a similar level as Berdych.

The Klizan serve can be dangerous too when he is firing and he hits the ball very flat and very hard, but mentally the Slovakian is not always in the match. He has lost all his previous matches against Berdych who hits a pretty heavy ball himself and I will look for the former Champion here to beat the current defending Champion 6-4, 6-3.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 games v Marin Cilic: The head to head might be dominated by Marin Cilic, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has been playing the better tennis in 2017 and I think he can break his run of losses to the Croatian in this Quarter Final. It is Cilic who has won four in a row against Tsonga including a straight sets win over Rotterdam, but the last of those came in September 2015 and Cilic has been a little vulnerable this week.

The poor losses he has suffered to open this season has to have had an affect on his mentality and you could see that in his win over Borna Coric in the Second Round. Cilic mentally checked out in the second set and you can't do that against someone as strong as Tsonga who can serve big and use heavy groundstrokes to set himself up.

I have to note that the last four matches have been won by Cilic and each time he has been the underdog so I don't want to underestimate him in this Quarter Final. However the 2017 season has not really produced too many memorable moments and Tsonga has been serving well and reaching the business end of tournaments.

The one negative for Tsonga has been he has not been able to win one of the big matches against players that were expected to challenge him. Losses to Tomas Berdych, Stan Wawrinka and Alexander Zverev are not bad ones, but I do wonder if he believes he can win a match of this magnitude which is a worry.

However I think the pieces are there for Tsonga to do that in this Quarter Final and I am looking for him to come through in two tight sets.

Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 games v David Goffin: A few days ago it was David Goffin versus Grigor Dimitrov in the Sofia Final and it was the Bulgarian who won which means he has won all six previous matches against Goffin. Two of those have come this season as Dimitrov has won all five sets they have competed in against one another.

I am looking for Dimitrov to frank those two wins with another in Rotterdam as he has made his way through the draw with a little more comfort than Goffin and has looked physically strong. Dimitrov has tremendous confidence having won two titles already and reached the Semi Final at the Australian Open and I do think the match up with Goffin does work for him.

Dimitrov will know the kind of rhythm that he will get for Goffin and that will allow him to settle into his own game which is a little stronger than the Belgian's. However the conditions are a little slower here in Rotterdam which means Dimitrov will have to work a little harder to win his points, although he has no fear coming forward and taking the ball over which is going to be important.

The Dimitrov serve is the stronger of the two and I think he can produce a similar win to the Sofia Final which will see him cover this number.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: This has been a strong week for Pierre-Hugues Herbert and a surprising one too when you think of the conditions he is playing in here in Rotterdam. Herbert was more than a little fortunate to get through his First Round match against Feliciano Lopez and I do think he will need 'Lady Luck' behind him if he is going to knock off Dominic Thiem.

It hasn't been the best start to 2017 for Thiem even if he is playing in his third Quarter Final already. Some of the losses have been disappointing and he has made some of his wins a little harder to come by than they perhaps should have been. That does mean it is dangerous to back him to cover a big number in this Quarter Final but he is the better player on the slower conditions and can get the better of the big serving Herbert.

Everyone should have the memo on what the Number 1 Doubles player in the world is going to want to do- there will be plenty of serve-volleying on display, but Thiem has to avoid getting himself worked up as much as Lopez did. Keep your returns low at the net from the first serve and out-rally Herbert from the back of the court when you do get a chance to see a second serve by attacking it immediately.

Thiem is certainly a better all-around player than Lopez in my opinion, but he can sometimes be over-aggressive which leads to more errors and that is going to be costly against Herbert. Instead it is better to look to take something off the ball and make sure the accuracy is there to put pressure on the Frenchman who has played a lot of tennis here already this week.

I do think Herbert will be plenty confident having won four Singles matches to reach the Quarter Final, but physical tiredness could be a problem. I am looking for Thiem to wear him down with a break late in the first and early in the second to move through 6-3, 6-4.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 games v Gerald Melzer: There is no doubting it can be a difficult task to trust Alexandr Dolgopolov to win matches in comfortable fashion because he is more of a showman than someone who cares about knuckling down to win matches. No one can doubt the talent he possesses from his racquet, but you can doubt the shot selection at times as Dolgopolov goes for a flashy winner than the percentage shot.

That also makes Dolgopolov an exciting player to watch, but I make a point of not watching him when I have picked him to win a match. I have no need to become frustrated when Dolgopolov decides to make a random decision at a big point that can prove so costly, although his performances so far in Buenos Aires suggests he is focused on picking up some vital Ranking points.

Dolgopolov is far better than his Number 66 World Ranking suggests, but he can't afford to overlook Gerald Melzer just because he is higher in the World Ranking. Melzer has had two solid wins so far this week and he showed in Doha when taking Andy Murray to two tight sets before losing that he is capable of handling himself on a tennis court with the clay being his favoured surface.

Someone like Dolgopolov is much more talented than Melzer, but the Austrian will put in the hard work which makes him dangerous. He isn't often beaten easily and Melzer can be tough to break when he is on top form, but I do think Dolgopolov gets the better of him. So far it has been a very good serving week for Dolgopolov too and I can see some flashy winners on the return games can lead to a couple of breaks and a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Joao Sousa: I will admit it was something of a surprise to see Kei Nishikori take his place in one of the Golden Swing tournaments down in South America rather than the hard court event that is taking place in Rotterdam this week. However I also think Nishikori is a very confident clay court player and I am expecting him to win the title in Buenos Aires this week.

Joao Sousa may have something to say about that as a pretty handy clay court player himself, although he has struggled when facing the best players in the world. Sousa is now 2-23 when facing a player in the top ten of the World Rankings and one of those wins is when Nishikori retired from their match in Tokyo last season.

The Portuguese player has had two impressive wins this week and he is probably at his best on the clay courts which makes him a danger to Nishikori. However Sousa is not going to overwhelm you with big serves and a lot of the points will be decided in rallies where you would expect Nishikori to win a majority of them. That should lead to break points and I do think Nishikori has the stronger serve which means he can at least dictate the rallies a little more than Sousa will be able to.

Nishikori did take his time to get used to the conditions in his win in the Second Round, but he will be much better for having that match under his belt. I have a lot of respect for Sousa who seems to get plenty out of himself to be in the position he is on the Tour, but I think Nishikori is going to be a little too good for too long and can win this match 7-5, 6-3.

John Isner - 2.5 games v Donald Young: There are a couple of players at the top of the Tour who have regressed over the last twelve months and I do think one of those is John Isner. I don't think Isner is able to play like Ivo Karlovic and look to serve-volley every time, while the serve seems like it is being broken more than it used to be.

The stats don't completely back that up except for one really big area and that is the percentage of break points being saved by Isner in 2016. It is down by around 5%, which might not seem a lot, but it is when you think of the relatively poor return game he has.

Going down a break is not an option for Isner because he generally won't retrieve those sets which means backing him to cover any number is difficult. However I do think he can do that against Donald Young in this Quarter Final, a player he has beaten four times previously and would have covered this number each time.

Young is enjoying his best tournament of 2017 so far and he has experienced playing someone like Isner when beating Reilly Opelka in the Second Round. The left handed American served really effectively in that match, although I do think Isner is more experienced than Opelka and may get a few more balls back in play to try and extract errors from Young.

The concern for me is that Young has broken Isner in their last two matches and so could be a threat if the big American is not serving as well as he has in the past. However I think the mental edge plays a part in this one and I am looking for Isner to come through 7-6, 6-4 and move into a Semi Final in Memphis.

MY PICKS: Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Coral (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
John Isner - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-15, - 21.22 Units (40 Units Staked, - 53.05% Yield)

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