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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 21st)

I have to say I was really frustrated with the tennis picks on Monday as I missed one thanks to a retirement when in a strong position and then Diego Sebastian Schwartzman only secures 5 break points from 21 opportunities and somehow didn't cover in a match he dominated against Renzo Olivo.

The picks in Dubai were also hit with a couple of unfortunate moments and I have to say Monday was a really annoyingly disappointing day.

There are five tournaments being played this week and that means Tuesday is an incredibly busy day with the majority of those getting through their First Round matches and Dubai having their whole Second Round played in the same day.

Hopefully there will be better fortune behind the picks on Tuesday after the frustration of Monday.

Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: This is a very good Second Round match to open the play on Tuesday in Dubai and Dominika Cibulkova is hoping for a better tournament than she had last week in Doha when she did reach the Semi Final in a rain affected tournament. This won't be an easy match for Cibulkova who meets the player who beat her at the Australian Open as Ekaterina Makarova came through her First Round match to set up this match.

That loss in the Australian Open was a really disappointing one for Cibulkova considering the injury Makarova had been carrying and I am not sure the latter is at 100% for this one. An early loss in St Petersburg has been followed by three wins for Makarova which will have given her some belief, but Cibulkova is considerably better than any player she has played in those wins.

The problem in backing Cibulkova is clearly her own serve can be vulnerable and that has led to her dropping sets as she tries to back up the serve on the ground. It is a pressure on any player to have to do that over and over and I also think Cibulkova has been a little under the standards she usually sets for herself.

It is balanced out by the fact that Makarova has not exactly been in very good form and has not really produced her best tennis in either Doha or Dubai. She does have an awkward serve to deal with, but I think Cibulkova can have a little more success than she did in the Australian Open and I like her to win this match 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Ana Konjuh - 2.5 games v Samantha Stosur: Samantha Stosur only gave up six games in her First Round win in Dubai, but Ana Konjuh surpassed that by only giving up one game to a talented player in Shuai Zhang. That was an incredible performance from the young Croatian and I am going to back her to back that up with another solid win over this veteran.

The Stosur performances over the last couple of weeks has seen her snap a long run of losing matches and she might have had some confidence restored. However Stosur is going to need to serve at something like her best levels because I am not sure she is going to get a of joy attacking the Konjuh serve in this one.

It is the Konjuh serve that builds the confidence for the rest of her game and she is playing a returner in Stosur who is not at the top of the WTA in that regards. That should mean Konjuh is getting plenty of short balls and being able to dominate the rallies and I think that pays off with an impressive win.

Konjuh is only 19 years old and so it is no surprise she can have some ups and downs within a match as she perhaps still struggles to cope with the mental side of the game. However I actually think she may be the superior player by some distance at this stage of the careers of these players and I think Konjuh will have the majority of break points against Stosur and can cover this number.

Kristina Mladenovic + 4.5 games v Kristina Pliskova: Last week was further proof that Karolina Pliskova has not got into a position where she believes she can win any tournament she enters. Another title in Doha has added to that but backing it up in Dubai is a big ask for the World Number 3.

That isn't just because playing as much tennis as Pliskova has over the last ten days is tough for most players, but Pliskova is also facing Kristina Mladenovic in her first match in Dubai. I have been very critical of Mladenovic in the past because I have felt she has massively underachieved as a Singles player and I even doubted she would really 'get it' to make it to the very top of the women's game.

However I might be eating my words of late having seen Mladenovic win the title in St Petersburg with some very impressive performances along the way. She was surprisingly beaten by Timea Bacsinszky in the Fed Cup since then, but Mladenovic made easy work of Katerina Siniakova in the First Round thanks to a pretty big serve of her own.

Both players in this one will feel their serve is going to be key, so Mladenovic can't afford to throw in as many Double Faults as she did on Monday. She was still a fairly comfortable winner and the three previous matches with Pliskova have been very competitive with this one having the makings of another.

Pliskova is rightly the favourite, but I think Mladenovic can make a match out of this one and I will take the games with the underdog.

Alison Riske - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: It was Alison Riske who came through the all-American clash with Coco Vandeweghe in the First Round as the underdog, but I think this time she can get the better of Anastasija Sevastova as the favourite in the Second Round.

Sevastova had a very good win in the First Round too and I think this is going to be a very good match although I do think Riske has a few edges that can help her through.

2017 has been a solid season for Riske to this point as she finished as Runner Up in Shenzhen, the Third Round in the Australian Open and has helped the United States win their Fed Cup tie with Germany. The hard courts remain her favourite surface as Riske has a fairly decent serve and backs that up with heavy and consistent groundstrokes which I feel will give her the advantage over Sevastova.

The end of 2016 and start to 2017 has been more difficult for Sevastova and I do think she is perhaps lacking a bit of confidence which can be huge when it comes to the big points. She has a decent game herself, but Riske might just have a little too much off the ground and I do like her finding a way to get through this match.

Angelique Kerber - 4.5 games v Mona Barthel: She isn't the World Number 1 after failing to defend her title at the Australian Open and 2017 has proven to be a tough season so far for Angelique Kerber. An early loss in Doha to Daria Kasatkina for the second time this season was a blow for Kerber and she will be looking to have a really strong week in Dubai to get this season started.

This is a tough match to open against Mona Barthel who played really well at the Australian Open before finding Venus Williams a little too strong. It was a long tournament for Barthel having come through the Qualifiers to get into the main draw at the first Grand Slam of the season, but that tournament looks an outlier compared with the majority of her performances over the last twelve months.

There is some power behind the Barthel groundstrokes which will give Kerber some problems, while she will be able to attack the Kerber serve which has had issues all season. However I also think Kerber's defensive skills can extract mistakes from Barthel and I think ultimately the higher Ranked German can get the better of her compatriot in this evening match.

Kerber is only 4-4 so far in 2017 which is not what was expected of a player who reached three Grand Slam Finals last season and won two Grand Slam titles. She has covered this number in 3 of her 4 wins though and I will look for Kerber to do that in the Second Round here and try and build some momentum through the draw.

Andrey Rublev - 1.5 games v Illya Marchenko: There is so much to like about the potential Andrey Rublev has, but it is up to him to start producing the consistent performances to move up the World Rankings. His best recent performances have come in the Challenger events that Rublev has participated in, but the two wins in the Qualifiers has to give the Russian some confidence going into the First Round in Marseille.

It will certainly be more than can be said for Illya Marchenko who has lost 14 of his last 18 matches and that includes at the Challenger level. While there are times Marchenko looks very good, he can't maintain those levels and that has seen his opponents break him down.

Some of those losses have come against players who are far less talented than Rublev and I think the latter is someone who will believe he can overpower Marchenko. He has to be careful though as the latter will use all of his veteran know how to try and frustrate Rublev, but I can't help but think Rublev will be too good on the day.

I won't be surprised to see this one go into a third set, but Rublev might just believe in himself a little more at that point and he can come through with a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 win.

Paul-Henri Mathieu + 2.5 games v Aljaz Bedene: I am not going to say much about this match except I cannot understand why Aljaz Bedene has been set as the favourite to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu. 

I understand that Mathieu is not the player he once was and that he is on the downward portion of his career, but Bedene has not exactly been winning loads of matches. Bedene was beaten as a big favourite in the First Round at the Australian Open and his return game on the hard courts has a lot of room for improvement which will give Mathieu a chance to win this match outright.

The Frenchman will be the one receiving plenty of vocal support from the crowd and I think he will be able to do enough to win a set which will give him a chance of covering this number.

This might not be a lot of games for Mathieu, but he is good enough even at this stage of his career to make them count and I just have to back him when I still believe he should be the favourite to win the match.

Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 games v Donald Young: Over the last week, Donald Young must have become accustomed to playing some of the biggest men, and serves, on the ATP Tour. Last week he beat both Reilly Opelka and John Isner in his run to the Semi Final in Memphis, and Young has been drawn to play Ivo Karlovic in the First Round in Delray Beach on Tuesday.

To be fair, Young rode his luck hugely against Isner to snap his losing run to him, but he will likely need to do the same if he is going to beat Karlovic for the first time. The Croatian has won all three previous matches between these players, including at the US Open last season, and the big man has won all seven sets they have competed against one another.

Two years ago Karlovic won the title in Delray Beach by beating Young in the Final so there is plenty of mental confidence he should have coming into the match. 2017 has not produced a great start for Karlovic but he is still producing plenty of big serves and I think he will be a little more effective at the big moments than Isner was last week in his loss to Young.

Coming forward makes it tough for opponents to continuously pass him and the mental pressure of having to stay with Karlovic could see Young produce a couple of loose service games which the Number 2 Seed can take advantage of. I don't worry too much about Karlovic producing a big serving day and I think that sees him come through in a tournament he has enjoyed in the past.

MY PICKS: Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Ana Konjuh - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic + 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alison Riske - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andrey Rublev - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paul-Henri Mathieu + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-4, - 6.18 Units (10 Units Staked, - 61.8% Yield)

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