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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 18th)

After a really tough week, Friday proved to be a much better day for the picks with a solid record bringing the negative totals down from a very poor number.

It may have been better if Grigor Dimitrov had held onto the momentum he had earned in the second set against David Goffin, but that wasn't to be and I won't complain too much about that. At the time of writing this post, John Isner is yet to take the court against Donald Young and I am hoping the big man can bring home another winner to wrap up a solid day.

We are down to the last two days of the tournaments being played this week, but Saturday will also produce the draws for the five events that will begin next week. The WTA Tour moves on to Dubai and Bucharest with the former the main event of the week, while the ATP Tour has three more events in Rio de Janeiro, Delray Beach and Marseille.

The event in Rio is the second ATP 500 event of the season and the first to be played on the clay courts. We still have two more ATP 500 tournaments to be played this month before the first Masters event of the season and that means plenty of big names and big tennis to be played.

Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: Both Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Wozniacki had to win their Quarter Final and Semi Final matches in Doha on Friday as rain made a backlog of matches in the tournament. Both had one tough match and one relatively straight forward one and that should mean they are in a similar position from a physical stand point.

The mental edge might be with Wozniacki having won all three of the previous matches with Pliskova, but the latter is a much improved player since they last met in 2014. It also should be noted that Pliskova had a really poor record against Dominika Cibulkova before beating her in the Semi Final and I really do think the Czech player has a lot more belief in her own game than she even did six months ago.

Pliskova has already won a title in 2017 and she has the serve that will make her very dangerous in every tournament she will enter. It is that serve that should give her the edge in this match with Wozniacki despite how well the Danish former World Number 1 has been playing in Doha to this point.

The serve for Wozniacki has been pretty effective this week and she is one of the better defenders on the Tour which she will feel can blunt the Pliskova aggression. However we saw Johanna Konta tear through Wozniacki at the Australian Open and Pliskova is more than capable of doing that herself if she is at her best.

There will be times when Wozniacki extracts errors from Pliskova, but the serve will allow the Czech player to tee off on the Wozniacki delivery. I am looking for her to have a little too much for Wozniacki over two sets and I will look for Pliskova to win another title in 2017 with a break more than her opponent in each set.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: You have to say that both Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were very, very impressive in their Quarter Final wins on Friday and the winner of this Semi Final is going to be a favourite to win the title in Rotterdam. The oddsmakers are finding it difficult to separate the players, but I quite liked Tomas Berdych and am surprised that he is not being asked to cover a bigger number than the one he is.

The layers have placed Berdych as the slight favourite over Tsonga and the key for both players is going to be the serve and who can bring their forehand into play the quickest. I do think Berdych has the edge off the backhand wing, and I do think the Czech player can get into the Tsonga backhand wing and earn errors from that wing or at least earn a short ball or two.

It is Berdych who has a pretty dominant head to head advantage over Tsonga, but their match earlier this season in Doha was much closer than the final score indicates. It was Berdych's efficiency at taking his break points which won him the match, but Berdych will come in with the mental advantage.

Of course Tsonga snapped a poor run against Marin Cilic in the Quarter Final but I do feel he had to invest more in that match both physically and mentally than Berdych has at any time this week. That can take a toll on a player and Berdych certainly plays well enough in Rotterdam to take advantage of that if Tsonga is a little flatter than he was on Friday.

It will likely be a close match between these players in their current form, but I will look for Berdych to just break down the Tsonga backhand enough to come through with a three set win as he moves through to the Final.

David Goffin - 3.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: I am 0-2 backing against Pierre-Hugues Herbert this week, but I am going to go in against the Doubles expert one more time. His win over Dominic Thiem was very impressive in the Quarter Final and David Goffin is at the back end of a second long week on the Tour so this might be a dangerous spot to go against the Frenchman.

However I can't help think Herbert has overachieved massively to this point and this is a player who hasn't had a lot of success as a Singles player this level on the Tour. His overall statistics over the last year highlight that feeling and I think someone like Goffin is a superior returner to anyone Herbert has played so far this week.

Of course I am concerned about the amount of tennis Goffin has played over the last two weeks as well as the long match he had with Grigor Dimitrov in the Quarter Final. His return game is going to cause Herbert some problems in this one if he is feeling physically up to the battle and I think Goffin can have the success that others have lacked when it comes to converting the break points that head his way.

If Goffin is returning up to his ability, he should find the breaks to win this match in straight sets and I will be looking for him to do that and end a run that will take Herbert back inside the top 100 of the World Rankings.

Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: The Mikhail Kukushkin run to the Semi Final in Memphis has really come out of left field when you think he had lost nine of his last eleven matches on the Tour. That included early losses in the Challenger tournaments held in Dallas and San Francisco over the last two weeks and neither against opponents of real note.

Partly Kukushkin has been the beneficiary of a good draw and I think Nikoloz Basilashvili is the toughest opponent he will have played. The Georgian reached the Semi Final in Sofia last week which has clearly given him some confidence and he is yet to drop a set here.

The serve for both men is going to be very important as both have been returning effectively so far this week. I was a little concerned for Basilashvili that he had a long week in Sofia before heading to Memphis and whether that would take a toll on him, but he has been really focused and looking strong.

There have been times over the years where I have looked at Kukushkin and expected him to make a real move in the World Rankings with some of the talent he has. This week might be the start of his recovery having slipped outside the top 100 of the World Rankings, but I am expecting Basilashvili to have a little more confidence at the big moments and continue his own fine run here.

Ryan Harrison - 2.5 games v Donald Young: Ryan Harrison is moving back up the World Rankings ad has followed up his title win at the Dallas Challenger by reaching the Semi Final in Memphis. Harrison has now won eight matches in a row and has won all sixteen sets he has played in that time, while only two of those sets has seen an opponent get to five games.

The wins this week have been impressive and you can't discount the confidence Harrison should have coming into this Semi Final. He will need to produce some of his best tennis to win this match, but he has shown he is in a hot vein of form and I do think he will get the better of Donald Young.

Not for the first time this week, Young became a player who won a match in which he lost more points than his opponent and he was a touch fortunate to get the better of John Isner. I was impressed with some of the big time tennis Young played in the clutch, but Isner should have won that match.

This match is a different feeling for Young than his last two as there should be more rallies involved between the players. The last two matches have been against big servers where Young had to stay in the match mentally, although he will also need to adjust to the fact that Harrison is a far better rallier than Isner or Opelka.

Harrison has won four of their last five matches and I do think he will get the better of Young in this one. Young has won two matches here where his opponent has won more points than him and I think Harrison is serving and returning well enough to capitalise on the chances that Adrian Mannarino and John Isner allowed to slip through their fingers and Harrison can win this one 6-4, 6-4.

Alexandr Dolgopolov + 1.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: The first Semi Final in Buenos Aires looks a very good one between two players who have produced some solid tennis this week. Both Pablo Carreno Busta and Alexandr Dolgopolov have to feel they have produced enough good quality tennis to get to the Final here, but I like the underdog with the games.

Dolgopolov has been serving really well this week and won at least 70% of the points behind serve in all three matches played. He has not prevented the breaks of serve, but that can happen on the clay courts and won't concern me too much as reaching that percentage of points won does put a lot of pressure on the opponent.

The win over Pablo Cuevas has been particularly impressive from Dolgopolov and that form makes him a dangerous opponent for Carreno Busta on Saturday. To be fair to the Spaniard, he has played well too and looked after his serve for the most part, but someone as flashy as Dolgopolov can be very difficult to read.

Carreno Busta will hope his steady attitude will be enough to see him through, but I do think Dolgopolov might have the edge in the serving department and has shown he can hit through the court here. We might see these two go deep into a third set, but I will take the games and look for Dolgopolov to earn the potential upset.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: This is not going to be an easy match for Kei Nishikori because he will be playing against the crowd as well as his opponent in the first Semi Final in Buenos Aires. Over the years Carlos Berlocq has managed to get under the skin of many an opponent, although I think Nishikori is not going to outwardly shown any real emotion, and the crowd will cheer every error from the top Seed which can also begin to frustrate players.

However you have to think Nishikori is going to be significantly stronger in the rallies than Berlocq and I think it will be a big surprise if he is not able to control this match. I do think Berlocq will create a few break point chances of his own because of the lack of cheap points that Nishikori is going to get, but this is easily the best opponent the home favourite will have faced so far.

This is also the same Berlocq who only a couple of weeks ago was dismantled over the first two sets by Andreas Seppi and I think Nishikori is going to be too good for him. The question with this number of games is whether Nishikori is going to have too many sloppy service games to cover, but he hasn't served badly since the opening set here this week.

It will be a grind at times, but Nishikori should be able to wear down Berlocq with his quality from the baseline and I expect the top Seed to reach Sunday's Final with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Karolina Pliskova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
David Goffin - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nikoloz Basilashvili - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Ryan Harrison - 2.5 Gams @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov + 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 10-18, - 17.16 Units (56 Units Staked, - 30.64% Yield)

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