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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 1st)

After a disappointing Monday to open the events being played this week, Tuesday was a lot better for the picks which ended 3-1 from the event in St Petersburg. It was almost a clean sweep for the picks, but Roberta Vinci couldn't quite earn the break early enough in her final set decider against Timea Babos, but at least this week has moved in a positive direction.

On Wednesday there are a number of Second Round matches taking place in the two tournaments being played, while we are a little closer to the First Round Davis Cup ties which will begin on Friday and be played over the weekend. I tend to find the opening Singles rubbers are priced up in time, but the Sunday Singles ties seem to be left alone by the layers until much closer to the time in which the players are going to be taking to the court.

That might have something to do with the fact that some of those Singles players are involved in the Doubles rubbers on Saturday, or because the layers don't know which players will be sent out on a Sunday when the Davis Cup Captains tend to make changes.

Once again I am focusing on the St Petersburg tournament on Wednesday where five matches are scheduled including the final First Round match between Doubles partners Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. It also means Venus Williams has not been scheduled to play until Thursday giving the Australian Open Runner Up as much time to decide if she is going to take part in the draw, although I am still surprised that is up in the air as I would have assumed she would have withdrawn the day after the Australian Open was concluded.

Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 games v Elena Vesnina: Nothing that Ekaterina Makarova or Elena Vesnina bring to the court should be a surprise to the other as they should have practiced with each other plenty over the years. They are good friends and Doubles partners so there shouldn't be anything happening on the court they would not have been expecting.

The edge has to be given to Makarova despite an issue with her arm at the Australian Open which might have affected her later in the tournament. She has won seven of the last eight matches against Vesnina with the one exception coming at Wimbledon last season in what was a tight win for Vesnina.

Makarova earned a measure of revenge for that defeat by beating Vesnina later in 2016 and Makarova has now won 15/17 sets competed by these Doubles partners. The majority of those sets have been won with some comfort and that is hard to ignore going into this First Round clash between the players.

Neither player was in great form before the Australian Open where they both perhaps overachieved. I think this might be an interesting match at times, but I think Makarova will be able to wear down Vesnina and come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Daria Kasatkina - 4.5 games v Natalia Vikhlyantseva: You have to be impressed with some of the performances Daria Kasatkina has produced on the main Tour and she was a very good winner against Belinda Bencic in the First Round. The return was working very well, but some of the shot making through the rallies was very impressive and Kasatkina will feel she can have a big impact in a tournament in front of her home fans.

Kasatkina should be familiar with Natalia Vikhlyantseva who is the same age and from the same country, although she is yet to make the same kind of impact on the Tour. Vikhlyantseva is taller than Kasatkina so she will try and use the serve to good effect, and she has already made use of the Wild Card she has been given by demolishing Yaroslava Shvedova in the First Round.

It would be wrong to dismiss Vikhlyantseva's chances out of hand because she has had some positive results over the last twelve months and she does train the same academy as Serena Williams these days. She also has some power and will look to hit through Kastakina, but I like the latter to wear her down over the course of the time they spend on court.

I think the Kasatkina return is going to be able to blunt some of what Vikhlyantseva is able to throw at her and that can see her force her compatriot into making some mistakes. It will be down to whether Kasatkina can serve as well as she did against Bencic when she was able to hit her marks and prevent Bencic from being able to overpower her.

After a battle through the first set, I think Kasatkina is able to pull through with a 7-5, 6-3 win and a place in the Quarter Final.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: The last match out on court in St Petersburg looks like it could be a really attractive one to watch between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daria Gavrilova. Both players should receive some support but you have to think the majority will get behind Kuznetsova who still represents Russia while Gavrilova has switched allegiance to Australia.

This has been a match up Kuznetsova has enjoyed with three wins against Gavrilova and I would be surprised if there isn't an additional motivation to beat someone who has defected from Russia. These players met twice on the Tour last season and the match on the clay courts was very competitive, but they also met on the indoor courts of Moscow and Kuznetsova crushed Gavrilova for the loss of just three games.

It wasn't the best month for Kuznetsova who reached the Fourth Round at the Australian Open but who will perhaps feel she should have gotten much deeper into the draw. Gavrilova did have another solid run at the Australian Open and she can thank her battling quality for being able to get past a couple of opponents there in tight matches.

Battling past Kuznetsova will be much more difficult as I think the older player has the more effective serve which can be used to good effect on the indoor hard courts. She should be well rested to challenge Gavrilova in the longer rallies too as both players look to hit the ball harder than the other, but I think Kuznetsova is still the better player at this point of their careers.

It won't be easy for Kuznetsova, but I do think she will come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

MY PICKS: Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Daria Kasatkina - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-3, - 0.76 Units (12 Units Staked, - 6.33% Yield)

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