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Friday, 10 March 2017

Indian Wells Tennis Picks 2017 (March 10th)

The big names on the WTA Tour will be in action on Friday as we move into the Second Round of the Premier Event being played in Indian Wells and the First Round of the Masters tournament being played at the same venue will be completed.

The early days of these tournaments are loaded with plenty of tennis matches for the fans to enjoy and the nature of the events of this size means there are a lot of very good matches early in the draw.

The one that will earn most attention in the United Kingdom will be the match between Johanna Konta and Heather Watson which opens the play on the main court. It should be a good match as Konta returns to the Tour following an injury lay off to prove her position as the Number 1 British player while Heather Watson is looking to move back up the World Rankings after a poor run has seen her move out of the top 100.

Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova are two of the favourites to win the title here in Indian Wells who will be in action on Friday too and it should be a decent day of tennis ahead.

Thursday was an irritating day with two picks going down and the one that was in line for a comfortable winner seeing the opponent pull out with an injury. That's the second time in three weeks I've had a player just four games from a comfortable win before an opponent pulls out, wouldn't be bad if a retirement or two went my way in the coming weeks too.

Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: You have to think there is going to be some mental obstacles for Daniil Medvedev to overcome when facing a veteran compatriot that he would have seen on TV. The young Russian will still believe it is his time to beat Mikhail Youzhny whose best days are behind him and who has not been in great form heading into Indian Wells.

I do still have to respect the fact that it won't be easy for Medvedev to cover this number because he is still inconsistent and can throw in a loose service game or two which is an area in which Youzhny will punish him. However injuries have been hurting the veteran and there have been a couple of retirements during matches already in 2017.

That hasn't happened in the last couple of tournaments for Youzhny, but both of those have ended in straight set losses and Youzhny is just as likely to throw in a couple of really shoddy service games. He is not as consistent off the ground as he once was, and he may have lost half a step around the court which can make the penetrating shots from Medvedev really count in this one.

Their sole previous meeting saw Youzhny crush Medvedev around fourteen months ago, but the youngster is an improved player since then. I am wary of some of the dropped sets he has had in wins recently, but I think Medvedev can get the better of his compatriot with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win in the First Round at Indian Wells.

Daniel Evans - 3.5 games v Dustin Brown: I think Daniel Evans might have been suffering with an illness in Dubai last week as he was beaten in the Second Round by Gael Monfils, but he should have had plenty of time to get over that. It would be a concern in the heat of Indian Wells if he is still feeling a little under the weather, but I would expect Evans is good to go.

He might be catching Dustin Brown at a pretty good time with a back injury hindering his opponent. That forced Brown out of the Quarter Final he reached in Montpellier last month, but his return to the court has seen him suffer two pretty one-sided losses since then.

A back issue will affect the serve and it did look like Brown wasn't getting the same pop from it in his losses to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Daniel Evans last week in Dubai. The loss to Evans can be franked here if Brown is struggling as much on that side of his game again because his return of serve is nothing short of erratic at best.

I might not be the biggest Evans fan in the United Kingdom, but I do recognise he has decent hands and will make enough returns to put some pressure on Brown. Of course the latter is able to get to the net and cut off any chipped returns, but the back issue might mean he is a step slower around the court as well as taking something off the serve and that can give Evans a little more room to force a tough volley in the initial phase of the return.

It might not be as comfortable on the scoreboard as it was in Dubai, but I do think Evans is going to have a little too much for Brown in Indian Wells and can come through 6-4, 6-4.

Donald Young - 3.5 games v Stefan Kozlov: There are a lot of high hopes for Stefan Kozlov and the 19 year old has been rewarded with a Wild Card into the main draw at the first Masters event of the season. The term 'high hopes' would have once been used for his opponent Donald Young who has made a living on the professional tennis Tour, but who has been aided by huge sponsorship deals before he ever made an impact.

Those deals put pressure on Young that he has struggled to cope with, but he is now 27 years old and able to fly under the radar a little more than he once did. Getting older and more mature will aid Young who has had a couple of Semi Final runs in Memphis and Delray Beach to get him ready for this tournament and build the confidence.

I do think Young will be a little too strong for Kozlov at this moment in their career and it has to be said the younger American has had some pretty comprehensive losses in 2017. Those have come against players who have produced as much as Young has to open the season, while Young also holds a big win over Kozlov from when they met in Newport last July.

It should be Young who generates the majority of the break points and even though he is prone to have a let down and drop a set, I think Young can win one, or two sets, with multiple breaks to get over this number. I do think Kozlov wins more than the four games he managed in Newport, but I am looking for Young to come through with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 kind of win.

Marius Copil - 3.5 games v Horacio Zeballos: The first thing that has to be noted out of this match is the limited time Horacio Zeballos spends on the hard court compared to his favoured surface of the clay courts. His lefty serve is actually better than you may think, but Zeballos struggles with his timing and consistency and that can be fatal on the hard courts where it is more of a difficulty to recover breaks than on the clay.

The Argentinian will not roll over easily, but he has not played in Indian Wells since 2014 and I do wonder about the levels of motivation.

Facing a Qualifier would have been difficult for Zeballos anyway with the Qualifier being far more accustomed to the conditions, but facing one like Marius Copil who has been playing some good tennis over the last month increases the difficulty of this First Round match. Copil has two solid wins in the Qualifiers against players who would fancy their chances of beating Zeballos on this surface, while he has won nine of his last twelve matches.

He would have covered this number in eight of those nine wins and Zeballos has a habit of giving up a couple of breaks of serve without his opponent having to do too much. If Copil can serve as effectively as he has been, I can see him just getting the better of Zeballos at key times and coming through this test with a 7-6, 6-3 win behind him.

Belinda Bencic - 2.5 games v Kiki Bertens: There is no doubt that Belinda Bencic is beginning to get her feet back under her after a poor return to the Tour following injury. In all honesty she hasn't exactly been helped with the draws she has received prior to the First Round here in Indian Wells and there have been signs in some of her losses that she isn't that far from recapturing her best form.

The same can't be said for Kiki Bertens whose Number 20 World Ranking is artificially high thanks to the points she earned when reaching the French Open Semi Final in 2016. The Dutchwoman has quite a few points to defend over the coming weeks, but not here in Indian Wells.

The problem for Bertens is the lack of wins of late and she might be eyeing up a return to the clay courts already. She has lost six of her last seven matches and some of those have been tight defeats. That indicates a lack of confidence or belief at big moments in matches and I do think a player like Bencic, even at this stage of her return to the Tour, might actually hold the mental edge when the match gets close.

I think that will help Bencic make it back to back wins on the Tour for the first time since the US Open back in August and I believe she comes through a grinder with a 7-6, 6-4 win.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 4.5 games v Johanna Larsson: There should be a clear difference in quality that Svetlana Kuznetsova and Johanna Larsson are able to bring to the court for this Second Round match, but the Russian player has suffered some disappointing losses of late. That makes it a little harder to trust her, but Kuznetsova should have too much power and consistency off the ground for Larsson to deal with.

The Larsson serve can be a weapon though as she gets plenty of kick on it which is rare in the women's game. However it has been a problem backing that up with consistency and that does allow opponents to drag the Swede into difficult spots around the court.

Larsson had an impressive win in the First Round against Camila Giorgi, but will have to raise her play again if she is going to beat a top 10 player. She is facing an opponent who is a very strong front runner so Larsson can't give anything away, but Kuznetsova is likely to just have the answers to the majority of questions being asked of her on the court.

Her wins this season have all come in relatively comfortable fashion and I am looking for Kuznetsova to record a fairly comfortable win in this one. It might just take three breaks of serve to be in a position to cover this number which allows for a sloppy service game from the veteran player. When it is all said and done, I would expect Kuznetsova has had the majority of break points, and converted enough to come through 6-3, 6-4.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Monica Puig: Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament in Indian Wells after the draw was made, but with enough time to see Karolina Pliskova's name at the top of the draw. She isn't the top Seed here though, but Pliskova wil have ambitions to lead the big tournament draws as the top player in the years ahead.

Her title win in Doha is now three weeks ago and so Pliskova should be ready to make an impact in a big Premier Event where all the big names, aside from Serena, are taking part. The next two events are important for her to show she is going to be competing at the top level in the coming months ahead and Pliskova did have her breakthrough in Cincinnati last summer.

She backed that up with a Runner Up spot in the US Open and a Quarter Final at the Australian Open and I think Pliskova will serve a little too big for Monica Puig in the Second Round. Puig will always have the Olympic Gold Medal to fall back upon, but I have a feeling that will be her biggest moment in tennis with her style of play and little margin for error tough to replicate over six or seven matches against top opponents.

Her serve isn't too bad, but Puig is likely to throw in errors when backing it up which can be capitalised on by Pliskova, a Semi Finalist here in Indian Wells last year. It's not easy to recover a service break against the Pliskova serve and I don't think Puig returns well enough to do that which puts all the pressure on the Puerto Rican to make sure she stays with Pliskova early in this match.

Their three previous matches have all ended in relatively comfortable wins for Pliskova and I think she can get her Indian Wells tournament off to a 6-3, 6-4 win here.

MY PICKS: Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Daniel Evans - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Donald Young - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marius Copil - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 2.18 Units (6 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)

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