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Friday, 3 March 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (March 3rd)

The next two days after tonight are not going to be too busy on the tennis circuit and we will then have a few days before the Indian Wells event starts in the middle of next week.

Matches come throughout the day in the various tournaments taking place and the picks for the day are below.


Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Lucas Pouille: What can you say about Andy Murray's win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Thursday? The effort Murray had to put in to win an emotional second set tie-breaker was huge, but this is a Grand Slam Champion and I am expecting him to recover both physically and emotionally.

The second set tie-breaker took 31 minutes to be played out as Murray saved a number of match points before running through the third set to move into the Semi Final. He clearly looks the best player left in the draw in Dubai, although his biggest challenge may come in the Semi Final where he faces the only other Seed left in the draw in Lucas Pouille.

The Frenchman had to recover from dropping the second set before beating Evgeny Donskoy in a third set tie-breaker to make the Semi Final this week and Pouille also had a long week in Marseille where he reached the Final last Sunday. That is a lot of tennis to be playing in a short span of time and Pouille has also not matched up well with Andy Murray in their previous matches.

Murray and Pouille played three times in 2016 and all six sets were won by the World Number 1 and none of those sets saw Pouille win more than three games. The British player was broken the last time they met in Paris at the end of the season, but that's the sole break in three matches and I do think his superior groundstrokes will see him break through the Pouille defences in this one too.

There won't be many cheap points being won by Pouille and I think Murray will be solid enough to wear him down in this one. It is a big number considering the emotions Murray had to go through to win his Quarter Final match, but I think this is a great match up for him and I will look for Murray to record a 6-4, 6-2 win as Pouille struggles to stay with the consistency coming at him from the other side of the net.


Joao Sousa + 2.5 games v Federico Delbonis: I have little doubt that Federico Delbonis plays his best tennis, and most consistent tennis, on the clay courts, but he has not had a very productive Golden Swing so far this season. Two early defeats before this week as the favourite has to have knocked some confidence and I am looking for Joao Sousa to take advantage by keeping things tight in this one.

It was Sousa who beat Delbonis in Buenos Aires and I have to say I have been disappointed with some of the serving stats of the lefty in the past couple of weeks. He has been constantly under pressure and even his win over Casper Ruud in the Second Round here will not have hidden those issues.

The Sousa serve is far from a dominant weapon itself, but he is able to back it up effectively for the most part, although it has to be said on the bad days it can be really bad for him. You have to think Sousa will enjoy the support from the locals against an Argentinian and being from Portugal, and that might be enough to rally him through for another upset of Delbonis.

Sousa is definitely capable of taking a set which makes this number of games appealing and I am looking for him to cover with the games he is being given. Delbonis has covered this number in his two wins this week, but he has been erratic over the last month and Sousa's general steadiness can get him within the games.


Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 games v Guido Pella: Considering how close their match in Buenos Aires was at the start of this Golden Swing in South America, you may be forgiven for thinking this is too many games for Albert Ramos-Vinolas to cover against Guido Pella.

However I think the reason their match was so close was because Ramos-Vinolas was coming in off the awkward conditions in Quito and so was perhaps a little under prepared for a traditional clay court. That should not be the case now and I think he can get the better of his fellow lefty Pella who has not been at his best at the start of the 2017 season.

Wins in his two matches here this week will give Pella some belief, but he had to ride his luck at times against Carlos Berlocq in the Second Round and I don't think Ramos-Vinolas will be as loose at the big moments of this match. The Spaniard has won a lot more matches than Pella over the last month and he will be looking to make his third Semi Final from four tournaments on the clay courts since the Australian Open.

The key for Ramos-Vinolas is not to give too much away on his own serve because he will get chances to break the Pella serve. However that is easier said than done for Ramos-Vinolas who can sometimes find it tough to stay mentally focused in matches and make a few too many mistakes when looking to protect his own serve.

However I think he might be physically stronger than Pella at this moment in time and his opponent has crumbled under pressure in recent matches. I will look for Ramos-Vinolas to exert enough of that and come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win in this Quarter Final.


Pablo Carreno Busta - 2.5 games v Fabio Fognini: To put things simply, you don't know what is going to come from the Fabio Fognini from game to game, let alone match to match, and that makes him a hard player to really back or oppose. This month has been poor for the Italian since helping his country win their Davis Cup tie in Argentina with early, disappointing losses in matches he was favoured to win.

He won't be favoured to beat Pablo Carreno Busta who is making a good showing of backing up his run to the Final in Rio De Janeiro last Sunday. The Spaniard was also a Semi Finalist in Buenos Aires and will have the confidence of having beat Fognini in all three previous matches on the Tour including both that were played in the 2016 season.

Neither was on the clay courts which is the favoured domain of both players and I do anticipate that both will have their moments of success and failure during the course of this match. I don't think either player will see their serve as their biggest weapon, although I do have to say Carreno Busta perhaps can earn a few more shorter balls or unreturned serves from his.

The motivation of Fognini is always a question mark and he has only beaten two compatriots who are Ranked outside the top 100 so far this week. Neither win has come in dominating fashion either and Carreno Busta will provide a significant step up in class from the likes of Marco Cecchinato and Alessandro Giannessi.

There will be moments this match is really close, but I think Carreno Busta has the confidence behind him to win the bigger points more often than not and I will look for him to come through with a 7-6, 6-4 win in this Quarter Final.


Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: The last Quarter Final in Sao Paulo looks to be the pick of the days action with an in-form Diego Sebastian Schwartzman taking on Pablo Cuevas who has enjoyed so much success at this time of the season over the last couple of years.

It would have been an even bigger contest if Cuevas had been producing some top form over the last month, but his win in the Second Round snapped a run of four consecutive losses on the Tour. He was a dominant winner over Facundo Bagnis as Cuevas dropped just four games, but the Argentinian he faces in the Quarter Final has been in very good form over the last month.

Losses to Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem have stopped Schwartzman's progression through the draws in Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro and it has to be said that those two players could match any in the world on the clay courts. There is no disgrace for Schwartzman to have come up short in those matches, because he has plenty of impressive looking wins on paper.

Even his two wins this week have come for the loss of just six games and he is both protecting serve and returning well enough to cause issues for his opponents. The confidence for Schwartzman should only increase when noting he is 3-1 in the head to head with Cuevas which includes crushing him on the hard courts at the Australian Open in January.

Clay is a different story with Cuevas producing his best tennis on this surface, but Schwartzman is also very comfortable on the surface. In a match that might go three sets, I will look for the wins of recent weeks helping Schwartzman take a couple of big points in the decider and pull out a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win.


Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: With Novak Djokovic exiting the Acapulco tournament in the Quarter Final, Rafael Nadal has become the strong favourite to win the title here. The former World Number 1 looks to be on the right road back to the top of the men's game, but Nadal won't want to take anything for granted against a big serving opponent like Marin Cilic.

The Croatian should be well rested having received a bye through to the Semi Final after Steve Johnson pulled out prior to their match in the Quarter Final. That alone isn't going to swing the pendulum in his favour, but Cilic will come in with the ability to throw down some bombs from the serve which can put Nadal on the back foot.

However Nadal has been playing well here this week and has beaten a fairly big server in Mischa Zverev. The latter has a different style to Cilic, but Nadal's general play looks to be recovering to the kind of levels that helped him reach the pinnacle of the ATP Tour and I do think he will be able to break down the Cilic game over the time they spend on court.

Nadal's own serve can be vulnerable though and Cilic has had his eye in when it comes to the return of serve so far this week. While Nadal is improving his stats, I think Cilic will create some opportunities to break serve himself, although I do think Nadal is playing well enough to protect the serve for much of the match.

Matches between them have so far all gone in favour of Nadal and Cilic has had some really disappointing losses in 2017. Even the sets he has dropped this week suggests there is a vulnerability in the Cilic confidence at the moment and I can see Nadal's intensity being too much in a 7-5, 6-4 win for the Spaniard.


Nick Kyrgios - 3.5 games v Sam Querrey: Nick Krygios has beaten Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and can now add Novak Djokovic to his list which underlines the kind of talent the young Australian possesses. His two big wins over Federer and Nadal were not backed up though and it is up to Kyrgios to take the next step by beating Sam Querrey and reaching the Final here.

The Krygios serve was a huge factor in the win over Novak Djokovic and a similar level to that will make it very difficult for Querrey to break his serve. There are still times when Krygios can throw in a really poor service game and it will be tough for him to cover this number if he gifts Querrey a break or two in this match.

On the other hand, I expect Kyrgios to have some joy against the Querrey serve with his big reach likely able to get a couple more balls back in play that the American is perhaps not expecting. I really think Querrey can struggle if opponents can get through the first couple of shots of the rally, while Kyrgios has plenty of firepower of his own to force Querrey on the back foot off the return.

You always feel that Querrey will throw in a couple of loose service games though even if he has impressed with the way he has come through the draw this week. He can sometimes struggle under pressure and a strong display from Kyrgios at the service line will produce that pressure to force Querrey to crack.

This is a lot of games when you think how big Querrey serves, but I am looking for Krygios to back up his big win on Thursday and find a way to break down the Querrey serve on a couple of occasions. As long as Kyrgios can serve something like he has in his last two matches, I like the Australian to come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win to move into the Final.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Joao Sousa + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Nick Krygios - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 15-19, - 9.84 Units (68 Units Staked, - 14.47% Yield)

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