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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2018 (January 18th)

Now we have got one half of the Third Round in both the men's and women's draws lined up after Day 3 of the Australian Open, you will begin to see some really competitive matches being put together.

The first Grand Slam of the season is always a difficult one to get a read on because so many players are still undercooked going into the 2018 season and need a couple of matches to ease their way into the draw. That could be a real reason why it is the Slam with the most upsets in the early Rounds, or so the Australian Open has always felt like being that kind of Slam, and thus the draws can suddenly open up.

That may have happened in the bottom half of the women's draw, although this section already looked the weaker of the two halves of the draw.

Has that opened things up for Elina Svitolina? The current favourite for the women's title had a very difficult Second Round match, but she will have a couple of days to rest and try and deal with the heat better than she did on Wednesday. However the temperatures are expected to soar in the days ahead and it is going to be a physical battle for whoever wants to make their way through to the Finals which are played in ten days time.

On Day 4 the rest of the Second Round matches will be played as we start preparing for the second week of the draw.

Dominic Thiem - 7.5 games v Denis Kudla: Coming through in straight sets is always a bonus early in a Grand Slam tournament, but Dominic Thiem will also be pleased with the work out he was given by Guido Pella. The match was far closer than the three set victory would have suggested, and only eleven points ended up separating the two players in those three sets.

Thiem will have been happy with aspects of the performance, especially the way he served, but there are also areas of improvement that he can make. The key for any success will be a much better return game, although I do think the way Thiem approaches his return is less effective on the faster surfaces than on his favoured clay courts.

The Austrian has a tendency to take a big swing on the return and that can lead to a lot more errors and mistimed returns that are easy for opponents to put away. However in this Second Round match against Denis Kudla, Thiem may have a chance to see a few more second serves in this match which should give him a chance to attack the American Qualifier, but the wins Kudla has had this week will have given him confidence.

Coming through three Qualifiers before beating compatriot Steve Johnson in the First Round will take Kudla back towards the top 100 of the World Rankings having slipped closer to 200 in the last twelve months.

This is a significant step up in class for Kudla though and he is a player who has had difficulties finding consistency at the Challenger level. He is a player who can be very good on his day, but Kudla will be under pressure by the heavy shots that Thiem can pepper around the court and he will need the Austrian to be off his game if he has a serious chance of earning the upset.

Ultimately I am expecting Thiem to get on the front foot and have the majority of break points in this one. If he is playing those a little better than he did against Guido Pella, I would expect Thiem to win this one in straight sets and by a margin to clear this number of games.

Tomas Berdych - 6.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The first two sets were very close in the First Round between Tomas Berdych and Alex De Minaur, but it was the veteran who took complete control from that point and lost just a single game in the third and fourth sets. That will have given Berdych confidence having also won the Tie Break Tens last week, but I remain convinced that he will be an overrated player in the months ahead with little attention paid to an obvious decline.

In saying that, he is facing Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the Second Round who is another veteran of the Tour these days and who is coming off his fewest number of wins on the main Tour since back in 2003.

The preparation work for the Australian Open has not been as good as the Spaniard would have wanted, and it is clear that he is perhaps not quite good enough for the main ATP level and too good for the Challenger Tour these days.

Garcia-Lopez is a tough competitor who has decent movement and good enough tennis off the ground to feel he can give Berdych problems one the rallies develop. His problem throughout his career has been a vulnerable serve and one element of Berdych's game which has remained steady enough through his decline is how well he can protect his serve.

Berdych will try and use that to pressure Garcia-Lopez, but he also will have plenty of respect for this opponent having won four and lost three of their seven previous matches. The last of those did come back in 2015 and I think the Garcia-Lopez slip has been a little greater than the one Berdych has suffered in that time and I expect that will show up on the scoreboard in this one.

The Spaniard did dominate the erratic Frenchman Benoit Paire in the First Round, but this is a different test for him. I wouldn't be surprised if they split the first two sets or Berdych is able to win two tight ones before pulling away as the match develops and I will look for the former top ten player to come through with a win and a narrow cover of this number of games.

Novak Djokovic - 6.5 games v Gael Monfils: There has been one or two criticisms of the schedule the Australian Open have put together on Day 4 as Novak Djokovic, a former six time Australian Open Champion, has been asked to play in the heat of the day again. Most expected this match to be part of the night session on the Rod Laver Arena, but instead that honour has gone to the defending Champion Roger Federer again and some have not been happy about that.

Scheduling is not the concern for Novak Djokovic who dominated Donald Young in his first competitive match since retiring with an injury at Wimbledon back in July. The match up with Young was one that Djokovic was always likely to enjoy though and this is a much sterner test to judge where he is with his fitness when taking on Doha Champion Gael Monfils.

The Frenchman cut his 2017 season short with an injury too and so the title win in Doha was pretty unexpected. Monfils was also a straight sets winner in the First Round against an opponent he was expected to beat and this has all the makings of a really good match between two players whose movement around the court is a sight to behold.

The problem for Monfils has always been trying to find the balance between entertaining the crowd and playing winning tennis. Fourteen straight losses to Djokovic won't have improved the confidence going into this match either and I think that is going to be part of the reason that Monfils is perhaps going to fall away in this match.

Monfils is more than capable of upsetting Djokovic if he is able to serve to his full capability and remain focused on the task at hand. However that has tended to be a weakness for Monfils in the big matches in his career and I am leaning towards Djokovic laying down something of a statement to the rest of the field with a dominant win.

I won't rule out Monfils stealing a set as Djokovic is still in his early return to the Tour, but I also think the former World Number 1 is able to win a set with a couple of breaks of serve and that should help him cover in a win in the Third Round.

Alexander Zverev - 6.5 games v Peter Gojowczyk: The leading player from the 'Next Gen' on the ATP Tour is Alexander Zverev who put together a strong 2017 season that ended with an appearance in the ATP Finals for the first time. A number of contenders are coming up behind him to take over as the new name to win a maiden Grand Slam event, and Alexander Zverev has to make a big impact in a Grand Slam in 2018.

That is clearly the next stage of the development for Zverev who perhaps underwhelmed at the Grand Slams in 2017 despite the mostly positive steps he took. He made harder work of his First Round match than it was perhaps needed, but Zverev has moved through to the Second Round and remains a leading contender to take the title home in Melbourne over the next ten days.

He has to face a compatriot in Peter Gojowczyk in the Second Round after the latter had a completely dominant win over Mikhail Kukushkin in the First Round. The preparation for the Australian Open hadn't been bad either with a couple of Quarter Final runs in Doha and Auckland but Gojowczyk did find the better players in those draws a little too much to handle.

That is the feeling of this match and I do think he will have a tough time keeping up with Zverev who has plenty of power off both wings and the kind of return which will put Gojowczyk under pressure.

The Zverev serve perhaps needs to be in better form than it was when facing Thomas Fabbiano in the First Round, but I think he is building into this tournament as he looks to breakthrough for an impact run in a Grand Slam. While I can see at least one tiebreaker to be needed by Zverev, I also think he will exert enough pressure to produce break point opportunities and he should take enough of his opportunities to cover what could be a big number of games if Zverev is not firing on all cylinders.

However I do think Gojowczyk is a player that can just struggle to stay with the best players and over the longer distance that should show up a little more. I will look for Zverev to dominate a couple of sets on his way through to the Third Round and cover the games in the process.

Maria Sharapova-Anastasija Sevastova over 21.5 games: The big name is Maria Sharapova, but she should have a healthy respect for Anastasija Sevastova after two big time matches they played against one another last season. The first saw Sevastova come from a set behind to beat Sharapova at the US Open in September, but Sharapova gained a measure of revenge in Beijing as she beat Sevastova in a final set tiebreaker.

Everything is pointing to another battle between these two players and I think there is every chance we are going to need another final set decider between them.

The favourite is Sharapova who had an easier First Round win than Sevastova, but their battles alone over the last six months is enough to make me wonder if she is as strong a favourite as the layers think. The preparation for the Australian Open saw Sharapova go down against Katerina Siniakova who has a similar powerful game as Sevastova, although the latter is superior mover.

It is that movement that can give Sharapova problems and has in their previous matches with Sevastova capable of making the Russian have to hit one more ball and attempt to tire her out. Sevastova will also look to be aggressive on the second serve return to keep Sharapova under more pressure, although Sharapova is clearly someone with the power to hurt a vulnerable Sevastova delivery too.

Both players are likely to have their moments and I would expect to see two competitive sets at the very least. However there is every chance that this could need a decider between these two players again with the way the match is likely to ebb and flow.

The heat is a concern, but I think Sharapova and Sevastova are coming out early enough to not have to overly worry about that and instead focus on their tennis. Picking a winner is not going to be easy and I am just looking for another competitive match to develop which surpasses the total games line that has been set.

Garbine Muguruza - 5.5 games v Su-Wei Hsieh: It is a little strange to almost see Garbine Muguruza flying under the radar at the Australian Open considering she won the title at Wimbledon a few months ago. This is a player most have tipped to take over from Serena Williams as the next truly dominant woman's Champion, but Muguruza does have her struggles when it comes to the consistency to have taken over in the absence of Serena.

I am not convinced the conditions in the Australian Open are to the liking of Muguruza- while the court should take her game very well, the heat has been something she has struggled to deal with. On Thursday the temperatures are certainly going to be soaring, but the match up with Su-Wei Hsieh should be a comfortable one for the Spaniard.

The bigger serve and the heavier groundstrokes will come from Muguruza and she should be too good for Hsieh as long as she doesn't melt in the heat. A player like Hsieh will try and increase any frustration by running down every ball and making sure Muguruza is having to play one more shot to finish off any points.

However it will need a huge defensive effort from Hsieh to keep Muguruza from attacking her serve and getting on the front foot in the rallies and I am expecting the latter to dictate the way the match develops.

Muguruza does have some questions about her fitness having pulled out mid-match in Brisbane and then before another match in Sydney. She was a fairly comfortable First Round winner and Hsieh is a player that can be outhit from the back of the court as she has shown throughout her career.

You should be able to tell fairly early on how this match will develop and I think Muguruza can hit hard enough and use her serve to good enough effect to make sure she wins and covers this number of games.

Lucie Safarova - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: This is one of the better looking Second Round matches that are due to be played on Thursday and I think both Lucie Safarova and Sorana Cirstea will believe they can make it through to the Third Round.

Both players will be looking to use the serve to set themselves up to dominate on the ground, but I am leaning towards Safarova to have a little more overall game than Cirstea.

The latter is a player who has not really hit the heights of 2012 and 2013 when she looked to be one of the most improved players on the Tour with a bright future ahead. While still having a solid career, Cirstea's inconsistencies have meant the majority of her successes have come against weaker fields than the ones she tends to run into at the Grand Slam level.

A solid win over Zarina Diyas will give Cirstea confidence, but she didn't play that well in the preparation tournaments for the Australian Open. The left handed Safarova should have the more consistent play from the back of the court, while her ability to get up to the net and put away volleys will also give her an extra dimension to win this match.

The serve is also going to give Cirstea a few problems and I think Safarova can cover a big number as she quietly makes her way through another Grand Slam draw.

Ashleigh Barty - 2.5 games v Camila Giorgi: It might not have been a winning pick, but I was still impressed with the way Ashleigh Barty battled back to win her First Round match against an opponent with a bright future. She will have to ride out the storm in this one too when she faces Camila Giorgi who is more than capable of hitting purple patches at any time in her matches.

The Italian may be a player that has not reached the heights that were tipped for her, but she is a very capable player on her day and far better than the World Number 79 Ranking she currently holds. Reaching the Semi Final in Sydney after coming through the Qualifiers shows what Giorgi is capable of on her day, but she is just as likely to crumble in a match.

That is a problem for her against the more consistent Barty and the Australian should be able to make that count in this Second Round encounter. She beat Giorgi twice last season so Barty won't get too down if the Italian starts hitting some huge winners, but Barty can stay with her at those moments and then show she can turn things around in her favour.

Expect to see a match with some big winners and some strong rallies, but Barty should hold the edge even if she needs three sets to get this done.

I do think Barty is a better match player of the two and I can see her getting the better of the return games to earn her place in the Third Round. While it will be close with a few breaks shared each way, I do think Barty can come through with a cover of these games in the Second Round as she keeps the home hopes alive in the women's draw.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 6.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova-Anastasija Sevastova Over 21.5 Total Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 5.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 12-14, - 5.68 Units (52 Units Staked, - 10.92% Yield)

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