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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (April 25th)

You are never far away from a reminder of what really matters in life and missing out on two tennis picks from Barcelona is so insignificant to other events one may have to deal with.

Those picks could have easily gone my way on Monday but it was not to be with Jeremy Chardy having the majority of the better play but unable to break the Kyle Edmund serve, while Thiago Monteiro was up a set and a break before falling apart in the second set against Daniel Evans.

For a brief moment it still looked like Monteiro could potentially cover as he moved 4-0 up in the third, but it was not to be and all credit to Evans for fighting back from that deficit to win the match, his first Tour win on a clay court.

On Tuesday the majority of the other tournaments being played this week get going including in Stuttgart where the big story is the return of Maria Sharapova this week. Players and fans have been split about the Sharapova return and I am interested to see the reaction she gets on Wednesday, although her showing a little bit of contrition rather than playing a 'victim' would mean she is received with more sympathy by the majority of people.

That's for another day now and this thread will focus on the Tuesday tennis picks from the three tournaments I am focusing on today. I didn't really like anything from Istanbul and the WTA matches there, but I have picks from the other three events in Stuttgart, Barcelona and Budapest.

Barbora Strycova - 3.5 games v Jennifer Brady: This tournament in Stuttgart is one of the few on the Tour that is an indoor clay court event with the majority of the events at this time of the spring being played outdoors. The indoor element does change the feel of the court but you would still expect Barbora Strycova to get the better of Lucky Loser Jennifer Brady.

That has nothing to do with the fact that Brady has already been beaten here this week because she played well in the Qualifiers before finding Jelena Ostapenko a little too good. It has more to do with the fact that Brady has not played a lot of clay court tennis at this level and is going up against someone who is very comfortable on the surface.

In saying that, Strycova has not played here in Stuttgart since 2015 when she was beaten very easily by Garbine Muguruza and this is her first foray onto the clay courts in 2017. That will take an adjustment period and perhaps Brady has a chance to cause an upset with familiarity with the conditions in Stuttgart having played those three Qualifiers.

Last season was the first time since 2012 that Strycova was able to win her first match back on the clay courts coming out of the hard court swing. The Czech player performed well in Biel last time she was on the court a couple of weeks ago, but she will have to quickly get used to playing on the clay.

Her serve can be a weakness which is exposed on this surface, but big hitting Brady does not have the same level of movement and I would expect Strycova to work her way into a positive position in rallies. There will be breaks of serve, but I expect Strycova to come through with a 7-5, 6-4 win in the First Round.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: After being described as a 'journeyman' by Maria Sharapova's agent earlier this week, you have to think Agnieszka Radwanska is more motivated than usual to try and set up a potential Second Round match with the Russian who is back from her drug ban this week.

It will be interesting to hear Radwanska's take on Sharapova's agent's statement, but she has to focus on matters on the court to get her 2017 season going. It has been a really difficult first four months of the season for Radwanska who looks like she is going to miss reaching at least 50 wins for only the second time in six seasons.

Radwanska is just 4-5 in her last nine matches and has not won back to back matches in a tournament since January when reaching the Final in Sydney. All of her losses have come when she has been a considerable favourite to win which has to be really alarming for her fans, and she hasn't had much success in Stuttgart in her career nor on the clay courts in general over the last two seasons.

While it has been a tough season for Radwanska, Ekaterina Makarova has had a difficult time too. Her game doesn't really feel like it should work effectively on the clay courts and for the most part it hasn't, while Makarova has lost six of her eight matches against Radwanska in the past.

It is hard to trust Radwanska when you know how poorly she has played in 2017, but that motivation to potentially play Sharapova could inspire her. The match up with Makarova is one that she has enjoyed and I like Radwanska to work her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win after recovering a few breaks of serve over the course of a couple of hours.

Dominic Thiem - 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: On Monday I opposed Kyle Edmund and I was a little unfortunate not to be rewarded in backing underdog Jeremy Chardy to win that match. Over the course of two sets, Edmund won a total of just 5 more points than Chardy, but somehow that equated to 5 games and the British player will need to ride his luck to that extent to beat Dominic Thiem.

This is a rare situation for Thiem in that he should be well rested having had short weeks in Miami and Monte Carlo and that might see him produce a big week in Barcelona. The clay courts are the favoured surface for Thiem who will go into the French Open as something of a dark horse to win the title if he can build up some form in the coming month.

The clay courts give Thiem a little more time to get his big swing coming through the court and it certainly makes him feel comfortable. He can be a little loose behind serve at times, which can be a problem for him, but I do think he will be too good for Edmund in the Second Round in Barcelona.

Edmund is a decent player on the clay courts, but I am not sure Thiem should be favoured by three games less than Rafael Nadal was when he faced Edmund last week in Monte Carlo. I am not suggesting Thiem is better than Nadal on the clay courts, but he can certainly challenge the Spaniard these days and I think he will show the level of difference he should have over Edmund at this moment of their career.

As long as Thiem is more clinical than Chardy when the chances come his way, I think the Austrian comes through Edmund with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

Alexander Zverev - 4.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: There was an important lesson learned by Alexander Zverev last week in Monte Carlo as he was blown away by Rafael Nadal, but there is no doubt the German is going to enjoy a bright future in the sport. I don't think the Nadal loss will be a damaging one long-term and I am looking for Zverev to beat the veteran Nicolas Almagro in this First Round match.

I am also expecting Zverev to win with a level of comfort on the scoreboard despite the clay courts being the best surface for Almagro. However I think the latter is still finding his feet back on the Tour after being absent for a couple of months following the Australian Open and he was dismissed by David Goffin fairly easily despite a strong start.

Zverev himself is comfortable on the clay courts and I don't believe he will make as slow as start as Goffin did last week against Nicolas Almagro. The youngster has a decent serve and some heavy shots from the ground which will give Almagro something to think about, while I also think the Spaniard is lacking a bit of consistency with his play at the moment.

I do anticipate Almagro having his moments at times in this one too, but I think that lack of consistency could cost him at key moments.

The home support will help Almagro, but I think Zverev will break down his game and just have a little bit more all around which sees him move into the Second Round behind a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 games v Andreas Seppi: These two players met on the clay courts in July 2016 and it was Pablo Carreno Busta who won the match in two sets as a narrow favourite. He was pretty dominant in key statistical areas on that day and it says something about his improvement in that time that he is a much bigger favourite when they meet in Barcelona in April 2017.

I also think that says something about where Andreas Seppi is at this moment in his own career as the veteran Italian looks to be on the slide. His performances on the clay courts have become more inconsistent too and even his First Round win against Mikael Ymer is going to be needed to be improved upon if Seppi can challenge Carreno Busta.

I do think Carreno Busta showed enough in Monte Carlo to believe he is going to have a big week in Barcelona and the narrow loss to Novak Djokovic shows this Spaniard is well worth his top 20 World Ranking.

He is serving well enough and feeling confident with his groundstrokes and I think that becomes tough for Seppi to deal with. The Italian can be decent in the rallies, but I think Carreno Busta will get some real joy from attacking his serve, particularly the second delivery and that can see Carreno Busta win this one with relative comfort on the day.

You have to accept that Carreno Busta is likely to be broken in this match too, but I think he can hold onto enough serves and create plenty of break points of his own. That can help him come through with a 7-5, 6-3 win to move past the veteran into the Third Round here in Barcelona.

Borna Coric - 2.5 games v Jiri Vesely: Any time a youngster makes their breakthrough on the Tour, you have to imagine that it is something of an eye-opener for them and it can be tough to find the consistency that people outside the camp would want. There is still plenty to like about players like Borna Coric who are finding their feet amongst the best players in the world while still growing into their bodies.

His title win in Marrakech two weeks ago could be the turning point on the season for Coric as he has been struggling for form and he will feel he can get his run off to a good start in Bucharest on Tuesday. Facing Jiri Vesely is far from a straight-forward match for anyone on the clay courts, but Coric has beaten him three times on the Tour and twice on the clay courts including in Marrakech just a few days ago.

That is the second time in a row that he has beaten Vesely in Morocco, but this season Coric's win was better from a statistical point of view. It was a tight match again, but Coric had the majority of break points and he won a higher percentage of return points and he can frank that win by being the stronger player at critical points in this one.

It will take a few points here and there to make all of the difference but I do think Coric comes onto the court with more overall belief in what he wants to do than Vesely. Out of the two players I think it is more likely that Vesely will make a couple more big mistakes at big moments and that can prove to be enough for Coric to come through a tough encounter.

I will be looking for Coric to frank his win in Marrakech by recording another one against Vesely by a very similar margin here in Budapest. Covering the spread won't be easy but Coric can do that with a 7-6, 6-4 win and I will back the Croatian in this First Round match.

MY PICKS: Barbora Strycova - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-2, - 4 Units (4 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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