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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (February 22nd)

I have to admit I was beyond frustrated on Tuesday as once again I was on the wrong side of a player who was dominated when it came to the points won, but who still managed to keep ahead and turn one or two points into a very strong difference on the scoreboard. I've had that far too many times in the last ten days and I will admit that I needed a cooling down period to just compose myself a little bit.

I would much rather have seen players be completely outplayed where I could then say they were just bad picks, but looking like I am on the right side but not having the players I have picked play the big points any better is a little demoralising.

Wednesday is another day though and the last two days could have been a lot worse than they are.

I do want to put a winning day in the books though, if only to give me the feeling that I am getting things turned back around when it comes to the poor luck that has affected my picks, and hopefully I can catch a few breaks and get that in the books.

Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 games v Lauren Davis: The Third Round in Dubai is played through Wednesday and the opening match on the main court comes between two players with contrasting styles of play. Ekaterina Makarova is going to want to use her strong serve and powerful forehand to dictate play, while Lauren Davis has the edge in terms of movement around the court and ability to play defensive tennis to frustrate her opponent.

It should be a competitive match and one with some intrigue for the neutrals to enjoy. Both players have had some good performances so far this week which has helped them through the draw, but Davis is off the back of a big week in Doha and I do wonder if the amount of tennis she has played will come back to haunt her.

The head to head shows Makarova has been able to dominate behind her serve which is important as the Russian is likely to have break points against the weaker Davis serve.

Her win over Dominika Cibulkova has given Makarova the chance to see someone who has a similar game as Davis, although the latter is not as good as Cibulkova. That should mean that mentally Makarova should be able to cope with all of the defensive tennis she does see and I think the Russian is able to come through with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Ana Konjuh - 3.5 games v Elena Vesnina: Anyone who has seen Elena Vesnina play on any regular basis will know that this is a player that can produce a high level of tennis when she is feeling at her best. That is not something that we see regularly, but it always makes it a little dangerous to oppose Vesnina, even with someone as good as Ana Konjuh.

The youngster is still looking to build her consistency which will really get her moving up the World Rankings and both of the wins she has has this week have come thanks to some clutch serving in difficult spots. Konjuh has saved plenty of break points, but Vesnina does have the power to push her backwards and that makes this a tough match for the Croatian.

Vesnina has plenty of power on her groundstrokes and on the serve, but Konjuh has been solid on the return and I do think she can break through a couple of times in this one. If she continues serving as well as she has been, Konjuh should have enough of an edge in this match and should be good enough to win the match.

In 2017 Vesnina has been beaten five times and one of those was a retirement when on the road to a loss. The last three losses have each come in a situation where she would not have covered this number and Konjuh has won two matches impressively so far this week and can battle to a 6-4, 6-4 win in the Third Round.

Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 games v Qiang Wang: One of the players that has been good to me so far this week is Kristina Mladenovic who has covered in her two matches as I have backed her to do both times. The Frenchwoman had a really good win over Doha Champion Karolina Pliskova in the Second Round and she is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment.

She is a big favourite to beat Qiang Wang in the Third Round and it would be a surprise if Mladenovic is not able to win the match. The bigger question is whether she can cover this number and I am backing Mladenovic to be able to do that.

The Mladenovic serve has been a big weapon for her since she won the title in St Petersburg and it was the reason she was able to outhit Pliskova in the Second Round. She should be able to set up plenty of short balls in this one against Wang and I do think Mladenovic can hit through the court and put Wang on the back foot.

A lot of the Wang Ranking points have been built up off the main Tour and she has generally found the better players a little too much to deal with. The Wang serve is one that Mladenovic should be able to attack and I think her power is going to lead to a 6-3, 6-4 win to move through to the Thursday Quarter Final.

Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Christine McHale: One of the form players on the WTA Tour is Elina Svitolina who had to battle through the first set before comfortably coming through her first match in Dubai this week. That has followed a title win in Taipei City and winning a couple of Rubbers for the Ukraine in the Fed Cup and Svitolina has won eight matches in a row and only dropped two sets in that time.

There is so much to like about Svitolina's game and I do think she is someone who can win Grand Slams, but there is still some inconsistency in her game. The serve can either be unplayable or Svitolina can really struggle to back it up, but she is still young and I think that will only improve the more matches she can win.

I do think she has a very good chance of doing that against Christine McHale in the Third Round in Dubai despite the American producing two very good wins already this week. While McHale can serve big when she has that feeling around her game, I do think she can struggle on the returning side of the game and that is where Svitolina should have a considerable edge in the match.

In both of McHale's wins so far this week, she has given up plenty of break points but has been very strong at protecting herself in those spots. I don't think it will be easy for her to that against Svitolina who has been efficient when the break points have come her way and I think she will be too good for McHale in this one.

I think one of the sets will see breaks of serve going both ways, but then Svitolina should take control and come through this one with a 7-6, 6-2 win behind her.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Monica Puig: While 2017 has been a difficult season for Angelique Kerber so far, the win over Mona Barthel in the Second Round in Dubai saw the German at close to her best. There has been too many inconsistent performances from Kerber which have worried her fans, but she looked a little more solid in her win over Barthel and will need to produce a similar level to get the better of Monica Puig in the Third Round on Wednesday.

The match with Puig in the Olympic Gold Medal match was one of the few disappointments in 2017 for Kerber as she was beaten in three sets by the Puerto Rican. It was a day when the big hitting of Puig was consistent enough to break down the Kerber defences and I imagine this match is going to have a similar feel.

It will be one where Puig will look to play her aggressive brand of tennis to try and dictate the play and Kerber will try to weather the storm and use her defensive skills to extract errors from her game. That was where Caroline Wozniacki was successful in beating Puig last week in Doha, but it will be up to Kerber to make sure she doesn't allow her opponent to control things and get on a roll.

I have little doubt it will be a tough match for Kerber who has not been at her very best in 2017 so far, but when she wins she has tended to cover this kind of number. I think the German can build on her win in the Second Round and a similar level of performance to Tuesday will give Kerber a chance to back up a win for just the second tournament of the season.

After some back and forth, I think Kerber can come through with a 7-6, 6-3 win which will give her a little more confidence to take into the rest of the tournament.

Gilles Simon - 3.5 games v Julien Benneteau: Two French veterans meet in front of a home crowd in Marseille for a place in the Quarter Finals in a couple of days time and I do think Gilles Simon will get the better of Julien Benneteau. The head to head does read 6-4 in favour of Simon, but I think Benneteau has slipped a lot more from his prime than Simon.

Benneteau did play well in his win over Denis Shapovalov in the First Round here and it was the serve that proved to be very effective. I have little doubt that Simon is going to put Benneteau under a lot more pressure than the young Canadian did although the Simon serve is vulnerable too and so this is a match that may feature a number of breaks of serve.

I do think that Simon will enjoy the conditions here having won the title in Marseille in 2015 and he did get the better of Benneteau when these players met at the Paris Masters back in October. That did go three sets, but Simon was able to wear down Benneteau during their time on court and I can see a similar situation in this match.

Backing Simon to cover this kind of number can be tough when you think how opponents are able to get into his service games, but I do believe he is the stronger player in this match. It might take a bit of time for Simon to get a real hold of the match, but I think he can come through with 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 kind of win.

Richard Gasquet - 4.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: These indoor tournaments in his homeland have proved to be very good for Richard Gasquet who was the Finalist in Montpellier earlier this month and is one of the favourites in Marseille. The way Gasquet came from behind to beat Robin Haase in the First Round was impressive and I think he is significantly better than Mikhail Youzhny is these days.

This is the first time Youzhny and Gasquet have met since 2013, but both will be familiar with what the other is bringing to the table. The backhand to backhand battle will be one most neutrals will enjoy watching, but Youzhny does break down in the rallies a little more than he used to.

Youzhny's fitness is always in question these days and he came through a tough First Round match against a player that is not of the level of Gasquet. There are still times Youzhny is able to produce some huge serving days where he can be close to the level he had in his prime, but those are less and less common and someone like Gasquet is much more consistent.

As long as Gasquet doesn't give anything away by serving under par level, I think he will find a way to earn a few breaks of serve and that should be enough to get the better of this number. Gasquet has put together plenty of impressive wins of late and I like him winning this match with a 6-3, 6-4 kind of win.

Federico Delbonis - 1.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: The last time these two compatriots met came in Istanbul on the clay courts last season and it was Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who got the better of Federico Delbonis for the first time in the Semi Final there. He will be confident he can do the same again in this Second Round match in Rio de Janeiro, but much will depend on how Delbonis is feeling the ball.

It does feel that Delbonis has the bigger serve, but Schwartzman is the better mover and arguably has the greater patience that you need on a clay court. However that does mean his balls will sit up a little more and allow Delbonis to dictate the play and the question then becomes whether he can get into rhythm and ensure he is not giving up too many unforced errors through the match.

There will be times when Delbonis tries to push a little too hard where he will give up those errors, but I think he should have his chances to break the Schwartzman serve too. The latter can back up his serve effectively, but he is someone who has to work hard to win his points and that can lead to the pressure that a player like Delbonis can put on him being important to the outcome of the match.

I won't be surprised if this needs three sets to separate the two Argentinian players and it wouldn't surprise me if I am on the wrong side of a huge number of break points again. That's a little bit of frustration with the lack of chances being taken when they are there, but breaking this match down, it should be Delbonis who has a little too much firepower when it matters and comes through 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Fabio Fognini - 2.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: No one beats Albert Ramos-Vinolas ten times in a row as he snapped a nine match losing run to Fabio Fognini in their most recent match. However this is clearly a poor match up for the Spaniard and I am looking for Fognini to have a little too much and beat the second player from that nation this week.

It has not been a great start to the season for Fognini on the court, but his personal life looks to be in a good place. That hasn't calmed him down on the court though and Fognini can still be so inconsistent from day to day that he is hard to really trust.

However he has played well in Davis Cup action for Italy and Fognini also looked good in his win over Tommy Robredo. There is little doubt he will have to be better against Ramos-Vinolas who has reached a Semi Final and a Quarter Final in the last couple of weeks which should mean he is feeling very confident about his game.

The same problem for Ramos-Vinolas that he has always faced against Fognini still is in play. The latter can rally with him and outlast Ramos-Vinolas, while he gets a pretty good read on the serve and makes sure plenty of balls are returned in play. I am also not convinced Ramos-Vinolas is 100% at full fitness at this moment either and I like Fognini to battle past him with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: I have little doubt that Dominic Thiem has the talent to maintain a standing in the top 10 of the ATP Tour over the next few seasons, but he has to get some help with his schedule. I am not sure who decides the tournaments he is playing, but they are going to exhaust Thiem over the course of a long season and the decision to play in Rotterdam last week and then travel across for a clay court tournament in the next is baffling to me.

Thiem did battle through his First Round match against Janko Tipsarevic and it should be said that the Austrian is arguably at his best on the clay courts. I expect that win will have got Thiem settled down in the current conditions in Rio de Janeiro and I think he can get the better of the Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

This is the best surface for Lajovic too, but he has had a tough start to the new season and an early loss in Buenos Aires was a disappointment for him. That has seen Lajovic move down the World Rankings and he is on the brink of falling out of the top 100 which makes this an important week for him.

His serve is not the strongest and I don't think Lajovic will want to get involved in too many long rallies with Thiem who has the stronger backhand and should have a little more pop on the groundstrokes. That should see him dictate the rallies and I think Thiem will win this Second Round match with a slightly higher margin than he did in the First Round and I will back him to cover this number of games.

MY PICKS: Ekaterina Makarova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ana Konjuh - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kristina Mladenovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-9, - 10.70 Units (26 Units Staked, - 41.15% Yield)

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