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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 19th)

Most of the tournaments that are set to begin and be played over the next week will begin main draw matches on Monday, but that is not the case in the WTA Dubai event which is concluded on Saturday so will get their First Round matches underway on Sunday.

At least the weather looks better in Dubai than it was in Doha last week and the whole tournament should get through on point without the need for players to have to play twice on the same day.

I will have a couple of picks from the First Round matches in Dubai on Sunday whichI will include in the weekly totals for this week as the three Finals in Rotterdam, Buenos Aires and Memphis are also played to round off the tournaments from last week.

Caroline Garcia - 3.5 games v Johanna Larsson: The First Round in Dubai begins with 12 matches scheduled for Sunday and I am going in with the first of those scheduled for the main court. That sees the young Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia try and move through to the Second Round at the expense of Johanna Larsson and I do like Garcia's chances of doing that.

I was a little surprised to see that Garcia is still as high as Number 24 in the World Rankings because I do tend to notice when she is beaten early in draws and that has seemingly been the case more often than not in 2017. This is a player that has a lot more potential than being outside the top 20 of the World Rankings, but it does feel her best tennis is reserved for the Doubles circuit at the moment.

Garcia has a very good serve when she is feeling it and she should cause Larsson plenty of problems with the latter not one of the better returners on the Tour. Larsson has struggled with the returning aspect of her game to open the 2017 season and solid serving from Garcia should give her the real edge in the match.

I also think Larsson has not been serving as well as she can do, but that has more to do with backing up what is an effective first delivery. Garcia should have the edge when the rallies do develop and the key for her to win this match with relative comfort is making sure she takes advantage of when she puts Larsson under pressure and convert the break points that com her way.

I think the Garcia serve will build the pressure on Larsson anyway and I am looking for Garcia to move through with a 6-4, 6-4 win after a few twists and turns in the contest.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 5.5 games v Ons Jabeur: Any player that has won back to back matches to come through the Qualifiers has to be respected as they have a superior knowledge of the current conditions in a tournament. That is what Ons Jabeur is hoping to take advantage of in this First Round match, but she will have to bridge a considerable difference in the level of quality that she and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova bring to the court.

In saying that, Jabeur has been plenty competitive in her matches this season and pushed Elina Svitolina to three sets in a loss to her in Taipei City. Jabeur really hurt Svitolina on the return of serve that day, but she is going to have to deal with a very decent Pavlyuchenkova delivery which has been important for the Russian in her last two events.

The one issue that Pavlyuchenkova is never that far from is losing a bit of focus mentally which leads to plenty of errors off her racquet. She can also be frustrated if players are able to get a lot of balls back in play and that is what Jabeur will try and do.

However I think Pavlyuchenkova's power and shot-making will prove too hot for Jabeur to handle. The latter will look to get into position to use her drop shots and short angles to catch out Pavlyuchenkova, whose movement can be an issue for her, but ultimately this could be the day when the power is able to zip through the court and force Jabeur on the back foot.

The courts in Dubai tend to be some of the fastest on the Tour and I think Pavlyuchenkova can use that to her advantage and come through with a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 games v David Goffin: The Final in Rotterdam looks a good one between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin with both players making the start to 2017 which has them believing this could be a very good season for them. Both had impressive Semi Final wins on Saturday and I am anticipating a close match but one where I favour Tsonga a little more than Goffin and enough to want to back the Frenchman.

You cannot underestimate the importance of the Tsonga serve to the whole performance that he will bring into the match. When Tsonga is serving well, you can see the confidence flow through him and he has been doing that very well in his wins over Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych where he also displayed solid mental strength to beat two opponents in straight sets who have dominated against him of late.

The serve is going to be important to Tsonga again as he will want to earn plenty of cheap points and short balls from David Goffin, a player that Tsonga won't want to allow to get into long, gruelling rallies. The shorter the points, the more likely Tsonga will win the point as he looks to dominate behind the serve and forehand rather than allowing Goffin to get into this backhand wing.

Goffin has been on good form considering he reached the Final in Sofia last week, but Tsonga can take heart from the way both Robin Haase and Grigor Dimitrov played against him. The Belgian might have won both matches, but both Haase and Dimitrov may have won on another day and Tsonga will feel his power and shot making this week is going to prove to be a little too good for Goffin.

Both Haase and Dimitrov took a set from Goffin, but I will look for Tsonga to have a little bit more in the tank and come away with the title in Rotterdam to underline his impressive start to the 2017 season.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Alexandr Dolgopolov: When Alexandr Dolgopolov gets on a roll like he has in Buenos Aires he can be very difficult to stop. However he has lost all five previous matches against Kei Nishikori and he has yet to win a set against him which is going to be some mental obstacle to overcome.

Nishikori let me down by not covering against Carlos Berlocq in their Semi Final here on Saturday, but he had his chances to do that before being dragged into a really tough match. That might have taken a toll physically, but Nishikori got through and he will feel he can weather any storm that Dolgopolov produces.

It has been a really good tournament for Dolgopolov, but he will have to be even better if he is going to take the title home. The run to the Final has seemingly come out of left field as Dolgopolov hadn't shown a lot of form earlier in the season and was beaten by Rajeev Ram last week, but like I say he can be really dangerous once he has built that momentum behind him.

The head to head with Nishikori has to be a concern though and I do think the Japanese star is capable of blunting the serve and can then out-rally Dolgopolov enough times to get his opponent looking to show off the big time winners. That can lead to errors and that will give Nishikori the edge.

Nishikori does have to serve better than he did on Saturday, but he has covered this number in three of his five wins over Dolgopolov and I will back him to have a little too much quality and consistency in the Final.

Ryan Harrison - 2.5 games v Nikoloz Basilashvili: The Final in Memphis looks a good one between Ryan Harrison and Nikoloz Basilasvili who have both been in good form and should have plenty of confidence coming into this one. Neither player is a regular title winner at this level of the Tour so nerves are sure to play a big part in things, but the opponent they are facing is no more experienced so that should see both settle into the match.

Both Harrison and Basilashvili have come through the draw without dropping a set and both have had a couple of strong weeks of tennis behind them. Basilashvili reached the Semi Final last week in Sofia, while Harrison has moved onto nine straight wins and eighteen straight sets won in a row.

The power hitting is going to be on clear display in this match as both have shown they can punish opponents through the court, although Harrison is perhaps a little more proactive at getting to the net. I do think Basilashvili hits the ball harder from the baseline than the American, but he is also capable of recognising when he has an opponent in trouble and getting to the net.

Harrison and Basilashvili both possess decent serves with the first delivery all-important, but I do give a slight edge to the American overall. I love the way Basilashvili plays, but I think he doesn't have as much margin for error as Harrison does and he has to be feeling his rhythm from the first ball. While he has looked confident and is hitting through the court off both wings really well, Harrison is the player in the best form that Basilashvili has played this week.

This is actually the toughest test either has faced, but I do think Harrison is playing with some real confidence at the moment and is proving too good for opponents. Harrison will have to weather some of the incredibly big hitting that Basilashvili can produce, but I think he will be able to shorten points coming to the net and that can help him win this Final 7-6, 6-4 and take another move up the World Rankings.

MY PICKS: Caroline Garcia - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ryan Harrison - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-20, - 11.74 Units (70 Units Staked, - 16.77% Yield)

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