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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (March 2nd)

The tournaments this week are rushing through to the business end of their events as we head towards the first Masters event of the season at Indian Wells. That event isn't beginning until the middle of next week so I am not sure what the rush is outside of Dubai where Sunday tends to be the start of the working week, but the tournaments have pressed ahead.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: I am only willing to take Gael Monfils to cover this number at odds against because the Frenchman has to be one of the harder players to trust to bring his best to the court in every match. While I don't distrust Monfils to the point of not being willing to back him, his performances in the last two tournaments have been inconsistent to say the least.

Monfils has never actually made my blacklist though because I usually factor in some of the mental lapses he is going to have in matches. The oddsmakers rarely ask Monfils to cover too many games with that in mind too so Monfils is someone that is unlikely to ever reach the point of being placed on the blacklist.

One player who has likely made many a blacklist is Fernando Verdasco as he has regressed as a force on the Tour, but he has had some solid performances in 2017 which suggests he could be a dangerous opponent for Monfils. That will especially be the case if Monfils is playing as erratically as he did in his win over Daniel Evans on Wednesday, but Monfils might have the superior fitness on display after Verdasco had to dig deep over two hours to beat compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut.

Verdasco has not beaten Monfils on the Tour before and the last of those matches came in 2013 when he was much more consistent than he is now. The last two times has seen Monfils win as the favourite against Verdasco and he will need to serve better than he has in the last week if he is going to make it a third win in a row as the favourite against him.

If Verdasco is producing his best then this is likely to be a close match. However I think Monfils might have a little too much defensive skills for him and can come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win to reach a big Semi Final.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: A case of shingles might have slowed down other players, but the World Number 1 Andy Murray has responded very well to his surprise defeat at the Australian Open. With Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka already out of the draw, Andy Murray is a big favourite to win the title in Dubai this week.

A couple of years ago a match with Philipp Kohlschreiber might have been the biggest test left in the draw for Murray, but the veteran German is not quite at the level he once was. He can still produce enough good tennis to be a challenge for a while, but Kohlschreiber has lost the consistency that made him such a dangerous opponent in the past.

Nowadays Kohlschreiber is likely to fall away in matches when the pressure builds on him and Murray has the kind of return that will put that on him. However Kohlschreiber may also feel that he can get himself involved in the Murray service games better than the Brit's first two opponents have and that makes this a big number of games for Murray to cover.

However I do think there is a level difference between these players these days as the veteran Kohlschreiber has regressed a little bit.

As long as Murray doesn't give away too many service games, he should have enough to wear down Kohlschreiber in a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Lucas Pouille - 3.5 games v Evgeny Donskoy: There won't have been any better moments in his career than beating Roger Federer and I do wonder if Evgeny Donskoy can back up such a momentous victory. The Russian produced some tennis that far exceeds his current World Ranking, but these are the spots that players can struggle to rediscover their best tennis when having to return to the court twenty-four hours later.

Donskoy is also playing a confident Lucas Pouille who is backing up his run to the Final in Marseille last week with two solid wins here in Dubai. This is a really good chance to earn some big Ranking points for the Frenchman this week as the favourite to come through the bottom half of the draw, but he can't take Donskoy for granted having been beaten by him at the US Open a couple of seasons ago.

However I do think Pouille is significantly improved since that loss and the last few months on the Tour have seen him move up the Rankings week by week. There are still some improvements needed for Pouille to become a feature of the top 20 of the World Rankings, but he will be confident enough to win matches like this one.

The Pouille serve can be a vulnerability at times, but Donskoy is going to find it tough to reproduce the level of tennis he did on Wednesday. Pouille has to attack the backhand wing to open up the forehand side of the court, but he has looked intelligent enough to work out a good game plan with his team and I think the Frenchman comes through with a 6-4, 6-4 win in this one.

Pablo Cuevas - 3.5 games v Facundo Bagnis: This has been a miserable start to the season for Pablo Cuevas who has not even been able to turn the form during the Golden Swing in South America. Over the last couple of years this has been a very positive time of the season for Cuevas, but he has been upset in his first match at the last two tournaments as he tries to snap a three match losing run.

This should be a match that he feels he can win having faced Facundo Bagnis three times before and winning each of those matches including in each of the last two years here in Sao Paulo. Bagnis did win in the First Round to snap his own run of poor form, but mentally this is a tough ask to make it two in a row when out of form and playing an opponent who has seemingly got the better of you previously.

The lack of wins is a concern, but I think Cuevas hasn't been too far away from adding another to his only win in 2017 which came back at Sydney in early January. The loss last week was a real blow for Cuevas, but I do think he can recover mentally against someone he has had success against in the past.

This has all the feel of a 6-3, 7-6 kind of win for Cuevas as he battles through some difficult moments to earn the win and I will back him to cover this number.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 games v Joao Souza: This is the second time in two weeks that Pablo Carreno Busta will face Joao Souza in Brazil having overcome him in Rio De Janeiro last week. However he was beaten when he last met Souza here in Sao Paulo two years ago and Carreno Busta is off a long week in Rio when he reached the Final last Sunday.

However it does have to be said that Carreno Busta will have had a few days to rest since the Final in Rio De Janeiro and I do expect that will help him out. The win last week was behind a strong serving display and Souza did have some problems looking after his own service games and I do have to think that he can frank that win with another this week.

There haven't been a lot of wins for Souza on the main Tour over the last twelve months and the majority of his better performances tend to come at the lower Challenger level. That does play a part in proceedings and not having a lot of wins in 2017 should mean Souza is not feeling that confident heading into the tournament here.

It is a big number of games being asked of Carreno Busta to cover, but he is certainly good enough to do that and I think he comes through 6-3, 6-4.

Gerald Melzer + 4.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: Both of these players will feel they are too good for the Challenger level, but it is Diego Sebastian Schwartzman who has been able to transfer that form onto the main ATP circuit. On the other hand, Gerald Melzer has just struggled for consistency although a big week in Sao Paulo can take him back inside the top 100 of the World Rankings.

The one thing Melzer has done is remain competitive in matches and I do think he is getting too many games in this Second Round match against Schwartzman. As well as the latter has played in recent weeks with plenty of wins behind him, Schwartzman has a serve that Melzer can attack and I do think the Austrian is capable of pushing him to limit even if he is not quite able to get over the line.

Schwartzman did have a very good win over Thomaz Bellucci in the First Round which looks impressive on paper, but Bellucci was mentally away with the fairies on that day and couldn't serve properly at all. I think Melzer will be a little more focused and that should mean challenging Schwartzman who does have a serve that can be attacked.

It simply does look a lot of games for Melzer when you put things together and I think he will have enough to stay in the contest.

Adding the Picks from Acapulco below in the 'MY PICKS' section.

MY PICKS: Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Lucas Pouille - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Pablo Cuevas - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Gerald Melzer + 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Monica Puig - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 12-13, - 2.96 Units (50 Units Staked, - 5.92% Yield)

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