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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 5 Picks 2018 (January 19th)

There are a couple of incredibly hot days in Melbourne that the players at the Australian Open are going to have to deal with before cooler temperatures arrive over the weekend.

Dealing with the conditions have proven to be as much of a challenge for players as the actual tennis being played on the court and you do have to factor in how tough it can be to play in the soaring temperatures.

Friday looks to be the hottest day of the week and so the scheduling of matches is even more important than usual. No one will want to play the second and third matches on the courts when the heat will be at its most unbearable and the key for every player is to try and progress with the least amount of time needed to be out on the court.

On Thursday a number of the early matches, at the time of writing, had left Seeded players in tremendously poor spots and a number have likely fallen by the wayside. So far only Coco Vandeweghe has exited the tournament as far as my outright selections are concerned and I hope the four other players can make it through to the second week.

The Third Round begins on Friday and it would not be a surprise if the 'heat rule' is applied at some point with the temperatures that are expected.

Last night looked like it was going to be a dreadful one for the picks after seeing Tomas Berdych and Dominic Thiem miss covers in matches where they went through. Both players won their three sets comfortably, but a poor set or two cost them.

Add in the Anastasija Sevastova slow start against Maria Sharapova and the Garbine Muguruza upset and it was a downhill slide.

Thankfully the later matches turned that all around with four winners to close out the day, but I am looking for better consistency.

As I have mentioned, at least the outright selections have all progressed through to the next Round, although some big challenges await for the likes of Angelique Kerber and Roger Federer.

Kyle Edmund - 6.5 games v Nikoloz Basilashvili: There have been a lot of high hopes in British tennis that Kyle Edmund will be able to build and then take over from Andy Murray when the latter decides he has finished with the sport. While Murray shows no sign of giving up tennis unless his body lets him down, Edmund is a developing player and I think 2018 could potentially be a really big year for him.

I can be a little critical of Edmund who perhaps pushes a little too much when he doesn't need to as he looks for the flashy winner rather than the right shot selection. He does look to be making better decisions now and the five set win over Kevin Anderson in the First Round will have done wonders for him from a mental point of view.

He lost a fair few of those close matches last year and Edmund finding a way to get over the line, coming from a break down in the decider against a huge server, will only bode well for him going forward. That win over Anderson has also seen the draw open up for a strong run in Australia and Edmund took full advantage by dismissing Denis Istomin fairly easily in the Second Round.

Heat has been a problem for Edmund in the past, but he looks to have received a favourable opponent in the Third Round. Nikoloz Basilashvili can play some very strong tennis, but I do feel his best surface may be the clay courts and he has worked his way through to the Third Round thanks to the way the draw has been placed for him.

Beating Gerald Melzer and then Ruben Bemelmans still had to be done, but Basilashvili has to understand the significant step up in class that he is facing on Friday. The Georgian did not end 2017 in great nick and he was beaten heavily by Borna Coric in Doha in the only tournament he has taken in to prepare for the Australian Open and I would expect Basilashvili to be put under immense pressure in this one.

The Edmund forehand is the stand out shot and should be the one that helps the British pave the way for a place in the second week. He has beaten Basilashvili on the clay courts at Roland Garros before and this surface should favour the bigger hitting of Edmund a little more.

With the heat expected, I am going to look for the Brit to really come out focused and put a stamp on this match and I am expecting Edmund to progress with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win as he moves into the Fourth Round.

Alexander Dolgopolov - 1.5 sets v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: For a long time I have made it clear that I simply don't trust Alexandr Dolgopolov in matches because of his style of play and tendency to drop serve at random times. It was interesting to note that he was asked a few questions about a match he lost last year after some very strange moves in the market prior to it, although Dolgopolov came back firing at his critics.

That means I simply don't get involved in Dolgopolov matches outside of the Grand Slams unless he is playing in a Masters event against a top player.

And these days I rarely back him to win matches because of the distrust that has surrounded some of the performances he has produced.

In saying all that, I think Dolgopolov is in a good position to make the Fourth Round at the Australian Open when he takes on Diego Sebastian Schwartzman on Friday. The latter has to be respected for draining everything out of his game and his strong run at the US Open last September shows Schwartzman is a capable performer on the hard courts even if his game looks tailored for clay.

The serve can get some surprising pop, but the key for Schwartzman is the consistency he shows off the ground and his movement is also one of his stronger attributes. I imagine he will try and frustrate Dolgopolov into making errors in this match, but the Ukrainian should have a little more success behind his serve and is very much a capable performer when he has his mind firmly set on the task at hand.

It is expected to be a seriously hot day in Melbourne and that does make it a little more difficult to know how the two players will react. I am not too concerned that Schwartzman had to play a five setter in the First Round compared with Dolgopolov's serene progress through the draw, but I do like the how well the latter has been serving.

That coupled with a real opportunity to get involved in almost every Schwartzman service game could be key to the outcome and I think Dolgopolov will get this done in three or four sets. He should be good enough to cover the game handicap, but the better play may be looking for Dolgopolov to cover the set handicap at a big price.

Gilles Muller v Pablo Carreno Busta: I always try and think how I would price up a match before checking to see how the layers see it and I have to say I had Gilles Muller as the favourite to win this match. The layers have seen it someway the other way round as they have priced up Pablo Carreno Busta as a pretty strong favourite and so I think the big serving left hander could be worth a back in the Third Round.

He hasn't played that well this week to get through a couple of matches and Muller was almost guilty of blowing a two set lead when winning a decider against Malek Jaziri. That may have taken something out of the tank, but Muller will believe he is the better hard court player of the two taking to the court and his big serve could be a huge weapon in the conditions.

With the heat expected in Melbourne Park, Muller should be able to generate plenty more cheap points than Carreno Busta and exert a lot of mental pressure on his opponent. Muller is also facing an opponent who may be building some momentum, but who had been in shocking form prior to the start of the Australian Open.

Carreno Busta did reach the Semi Final at the US Open back in September so is capable of playing on the hard courts, but he could not have hand picked a much better draw. He also rode his luck at times to get through some of the matches in New York City and the Spaniard had lost nine of his last ten matches going back to the Semi Final defeat at Flushing Meadows.

He came through a more difficult test in the First Round than some would have imagined and Carreno Busta has then benefited from a Gilles Simon withdrawal. While that means he has more in the tank than Muller, I also think it has perhaps seen the layers put too much stock in the fact that Muller had to come through a five setter in the Second Round.

I would expect Muller to have enough about him to force Carreno Busta to win his service games from the back of the court as he gets plenty of balls back into play. That has seen the Spaniard break down on this surface with players able to hit through his defences and Muller is capable of doing that and also getting up to the net for volleys when putting Carreno Busta under pressure.

It will be a close match, but I do think Muller is very much capable of winning it with his serve proving decisive at key moments of the match.

Grigor Dimitrov-Andrey Rublev over 38.5 games: We have seen many times in the past when an eventual Grand Slam winner has been able to come through a match in the early Rounds where they have been on the brink of going out of the tournament. That is the comfort Grigor Dimitrov can take into the rest of the event having struggled in the Second Round against an unheralded opponent, but the positives has to be that it is a match that he would have lost in the past.

At the end of the day Dimitrov is still very much alive in the draw even if he knows he will have to play significantly better to beat Andrey Rublev in the Third Round. The young Russian has shown a strong temperament in his career and 2018 has started very well for him with a run to the Final in Doha, while his two wins over David Ferrer and Marcos Baghdatis here in Melbourne shows a player producing strong tennis with a confidence behind him.

It is Rublev who may hold the mental advantage in this one too having seen off Dimitrov in straight sets at the US Open in 2017. That was a day where there wasn't a lot between the players and I think an improved Rublev is likely to make this a very competitive match too.

Dimitrov may also have improved having won the ATP Finals in London and that is the kind of success that will make someone believe in the work they are putting in. The Bulgarian has the quality to win a match like this one, but he will know how much better he has to be than in the Second Round if he is going to secure his place in the second week of the tournament.

After beating Dimitrov in the Second Round in New York City, Rublev did manage to work his way through to a Quarter Final before running into the buzzsaw called Rafael Nadal. He is still a young player who can go away in matches, especially when his own aggressive brand of tennis is not working, but I do like the way Rublev has played over the last few months.

There are areas to improve, but that will come with experience and a big hitting game will cause Dimitrov some problems. It would be a big surprise to see either player win this in straight sets and the way both have been serving and returning suggests there will be some ebbs and flows in the match.

The heat of the day could see one of these two melt away if they fall a couple of sets behind, which is a concern for me, but I am expecting a tight match especially early on. I can see this match going into a long fourth set and possibly a fifth before being decided and I am going to look for the total games to be surpassed.

They played thirty-six games in New York City in what was a straight sets win for Rublev, but the feeling we will see at least one more set here, and possibly two, means I will look for the total games number to be a little on the low side.

Marin Cilic - 6.5 games v Ryan Harrison: The 2017 season was a big one for Ryan Harrison who has found himself back inside the top 50 in the World Rankings after a few seasons in the wilderness. The American will have high hopes that 2018 will be another successful year on the Tour for him and winning a couple of matches in the main draw at the Australian Open will help his Ranking points.

Add in the fact that Harrison managed to reach the Final in Brisbane in preparation for the Australian Open and you can see why he will have his backers to perhaps upset Marin Cilic in the Third Round.

The key for Harrison is always going to be how well he serves as he looks to get a big forehand into play as early as possible. He is also not afraid to follow in big groundstrokes in a bid to put away volleys and Harrison is the kind of player who can be very dangerous when producing his absolute best.

However he will also need Marin Cilic to play ball and underperform in this match and that looks a tall order considering how dominant the Croatian has looked early in the tournament. The aggressive returns have been on point and allowed Cilic to breeze through Vasek Pospisil and Joao Sousa, although he will know this is an opponent who is playing a little better than those two and is especially comfortable on the hard courts.

Even with that in mind, I always find Harrison is a player who gives the top players the kind of rhythm they will enjoy and his one sided losses to Tomas Berdych at both Wimbledon and the US Open last season highlights that. Marin Cilic is a superior player to Berdych these days and possesses all of his strengths while adding a better return and better movement around the court.

That makes this a tough match up for Harrison and that has been the case when they have played in the past as Cilic has won five of six meetings between them. The sole Harrison win did come on a hard court in Acapulco in 2016, but since then he has been beaten three times by Cilic and lost every set they have played while failing to earn more than five games in a set.

I imagine some moments in this match will be tight, but I also think Cilic is capable of pulling away in a set or two and I think that will lead him to cover a big number of games. Ryan Harrison will need a lot to go for him to make it much closer than that and I don't think Cilic is in a forgiving mood at the moment which should see the Croatian win by a decent margin on the scoreboard.

Nick Kyrgios-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga over 37.5 games: The first thing that sprung to my mind when I saw the prices for this match was that Nick Kyrgios was a little overrated but a lot of stock has been placed in the fact that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed five sets to come through his last match.

There is no doubt that Tsonga invested a lot into that match as he broke Denis Shapovalov when the latter was serving for the match and did the same in the next return game to move into the Third Round. The numbers showed how close things were and Tsonga's poor returning stats may be contributing to the price against a huge serving home hope.

However I think it is missing the point that Tsonga has a very good serve of his own and it may be difficult for Kyrgios to really get to grips with it. As well as Kyrgios did to beat Victor Troicki in the Second Round in straight sets, it can't be ignored that he 'only' won 33% of the points on the return and now faces a significantly better serve and a better player.

Fatigue could be an issue on a hot day in Australia, but Tsonga will appreciate being on the night session and this is a player who has plenty of experience of winning five set matches and performing the next time he is out on court. Having a booming serve helps and Tsonga will know he will be a difficult out for Kyrgios if he can improve his first serve percentage from 49 in the Second Round to closer to 60 in this one.

Both players will truly expect to be dominant behind the serve and that should mean we are in for a match that could go pretty long. With both Tsonga and Kyrgios struggling with their return games against the weapons they will face, tiebreakers are a real factor while I would be surprised if either player falls away in straight sets.

It has a similar feel to the Shapovalov match for Tsonga although I was surprised with the early breaks in the first three sets which almost meant the total games mark was not going to be hit. Again I do feel the serve will dominate in this match and I am expecting at least four sets to be played which should be enough to cover this total games line.

Kiki Bertens + 5.5 games v Carolina Wozniacki: In all honesty Caroline Wozniacki should be on her way home after trailing Jane Fett 5-1 and down two match points in the third set decider in the Second Round. The battling character was on full display as Wozniacki was able to turn that around and come through, and now some may feel Wozniacki is a good thing to take advantage of a weak second half of the draw.

However drawing a line through Kiki Bertens in the Third Round may be dangerous when you think of the kind of tennis she is able to play. The preparation for the Australian Open had not gone the way Bertens would have hoped and her best tennis is perhaps reserved for the clay courts, but a win over Catherine Bellis shows what Bertens is capable of producing on the faster surfaces.

Much of this match will depend on how much Bertens can exert her game on Wozniacki- there is no doubt the bigger hitting will come from Bertens but dealing with the mental pressure of the strong defence Wozniacki plays is going to be the key to the outcome of this match.

Wozniacki has been in very good form over the last few months and winning plenty of matches which would have helped her turn around the Second Round match with Fett. However there are signs that someone who will take the groundstrokes to her will have success as Julia Goerges showed in the Auckland Final and Fett showed here.

I have little doubt that is the best way for Bertens to try and win this match against an opponent she has not beaten in two previous matches against her. Both of those losses have come in one sided fashion as Bertens has struggled to stay with the defensive skills of Wozniacki, but the Dutchwoman should be able to have enough success on the return in this match to at least keep it relatively close.

I am not anticipating the upset, but Wozniacki may have to battle a little harder than the layers think and I will take the games with Bertens and look for a big display from her.

MY PICKS: Kyle Edmund - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Alexandr Dolgopolov - 1.5 Sets @ 2.37 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Muller @ 2.37 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov-Andrey Rublev Over 38.5 Total Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Nick Kyrgios-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Over 37.5 Total Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens + 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 16-18, - 5.86 Units (68 Units Staked, - 8.62% Yield)

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