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Friday, 19 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 6 Picks 2018 (January 20th)

In all honesty this has been a difficult week, but one filled with frustration as I continuously get let down when it comes to the big points in matches.

Day 5 proved to be another day of irritation with players getting into a position to win matches with some comfort, but then deciding to play what can only be described as awful tennis at the big moments.

All credit to Kyle Edmund for coming through in five sets in stifling conditions, but it was his poor play at the big moments in the first two sets that put him in such a difficult spot. He was so clearly the better player but completely lost his way and actually had won more 14 more points despite trailing 12-10 in games at the end of the second set.

I don't care what anyone will want to say, but those two aspects don't add up and underline that Edmund had blown opportunity after opportunity. That could be costly later in the tournament as the fatigue builds up, but it was also put my picks in a difficult spot again.

At least the likes of Elina Svitolina have moved into the Fourth Round in what looks an incredibly open portion of the draw. This is a huge chance for the Ukrainian to reach the Final and I think anything less would have to be seen as a poor tournament, especially with the way the draw panned out.

The Third Round is completed on Saturday as we get ready to move into the second week of the Australian Open. I might be asking for too much for the stats to be backed up on the scoreboard, but I will keep faith that things will start to fall as they should sooner rather than later.

Too many times the player I've picked has dominated in terms of points won and in all other aspects of the match except the most important one on the scoreboard.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5 sets v Hyeon Chung: There might be a bit of revenge on the minds of the Zverev household having see big brother Mischa go down to Hyeon Chung in the First Round. Now Chung has to go up against another one of the players tipped for a bright future in the tennis world when he faces Alexander Zverev in what should be a good looking Third Round match.

Both players are amongst the leading talents coming through the ranks on the ATP Tour, although it is Zverev who has made the more significant impact to this point. While he was able to take part in the 'Next Gen Finals' for the eight leading young players on the Tour, Zverev had also Qualified for the ATP Finals and so could not take his place in the draw.

His absence opened the door for Hyeon Chung who won the 'Next Gen Finals' in Milan and there will be a confidence in the play after beating Daniil Medvedev in the Second Round and doing that very comfortably. That was an impressive win for Chung, but the level of competition takes another step upwards which is not a surprise when playing at a Grand Slam.

The layers have this match closer than I expected as I believed they would place Zverev as a clear favourite. While he is still a relatively strong favourite, I anticipated numbers that may be asking Zverev to clear a wide range of games, but that is not the case as Chung as earned his respect.

Chung did push Kei NIshikori to five sets at the French Open in the Third Round last year, and this is a big obstacle for Zverev to overcome having only made it through to the second week of a Grand Slam once before. That might see a few nerves creep through at critical times in the match, but I do think Zverev will be able to battle through those moments and work his way through to the Fourth Round.

There wasn't a lot of form shown by Chung in the tournaments prior to the Australian Open to open 2018 and he is facing an opponent who has been serving well so far this week. I think Zverev will be able to ride that to a success in this one and I will look for the higher Ranked player to come through in three or four sets.

Dominic Thiem - 5.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: There are always questions about how a player will react when being forced to come through a fifth set decider in the previous Round. Those are magnified when a player is forced to come from 2-0 down to win a five setter and those have been directed at Dominic Thiem who is back in action on Saturday.

The match up with Adrian Mannarino has been one that Thiem has enjoyed in the past and there was a confidence in his press conference that he knows what he needs to do to win this match.

Without a doubt Thiem needs to show better player when getting into a strong position in games, especially on the return of serve. The lack of aggression is likely to cause a stumble as the tournament picks up, but the Austrian should be comfortable enough against Mannarino who does not possess the biggest serve on the Tour.

Anyone who is Ranked inside the top 30 has to be respected though and Mannarino has shown he is able to come through matches that he should be winning with some comfort. Both previous wins in the Australian Open this week have come behind strong serving displays, but Thiem is the kind of player who will be happy to take his heavy backhand into the Mannarino forehand and expect to come away with plenty joy.

You just can't always tell how players are going to play when the key points come up- the feeling is that Thiem is going to have a fair few more chances to break the Mannarino serve than the other way around, but it all depends on how well the Austrian is able to take his opportunities having allowed too many to slip away in his win over Denis Kudla in the Second Round.

When they met at the US Open back in September, it was Mannarino who missed chances to make it a more competitive match, but it was Thiem who had a significant advantage when it came to return points won. I would expect that to be the case in this Third Round match too, and hopefully the stats will be backed up on the scoreboard as I look for Thiem to go through with a cover of this number of games.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 1.5 sets v Tomas Berdych: This is now considered a match between two veterans of the Tour and expect to see plenty of big hitting tennis from Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berdych in this Third Round encounter. Out of the two players, it does feel like Del Potro has a little more in the tank with surgeries limiting the amount of tennis he has played in recent years and that has shown up in the results.

While Del Potro has improved and once again made it into the top 10 of the World Rankings, Berdych has been slipping down the charts. He has shown twice already this week why that is the case with a couple of sloppy sets dropped and in the general best of three set Tour, that has seen him lose more matches than he would like.

Berdych has also begun to lose to players he would be expected to beat and so he may come into this match with some freedom in a rare position of an underdog. The serve is still a big weapon and should cause problems for a returner like Del Potro, although the key for Berdych is to make sure he gets plenty of first serves into play.

He has been doing that well enough this week to work his way through to the Third Round and the head to head between these two players is very tight. It is Del Potro who leads 5-4, but it is 2-2 on the hard courts and the last time they met in Cincinnati in August last year saw a three set match develop.

I imagine this match will be a tight one too and a couple of key tiebreakers are likely to be played to begin to separate them out. I can make a case for both players to progress, but my lean is towards Del Potro who has looked the stronger player this week and who reached the Final in Auckland to show he is in form.

Serving will be the order of the day and Berdych is capable of raising his game for a one off match, but I think Del Potro will be able to just get the better of him with his power off the forehand. The backhand has also looked a little better and I think Del Potro is going to get this done in three or four sets.

I have to respect Berdych for the way he has battled at times and the decent head to head with Del Potro which shows that there is generally little between these players. However I think Del Potro is perhaps getting up to his best tennis and Berdych is on the decline and that should show up during this match.

Novak Djokovic - 7.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: I don't know how much was down to nerves, but Novak Djokovic made a tremendously poor start to his Second Round match against Gael Monfils as he dropped the first four games of the match. The way he battled back to turn things around will have helped the confidence, but Djokovic may also have shown that he has the physical tools to compete at the highest level when coming back in the conditions that were in play.

In previous years the heat has been something that can slow down Djokovic and allow players to get the better of him, but it was Monfils who struggled to deal with the conditions. That saw the Frenchman collapse mentally in the middle of the match and his second wind came too late to prevent Djokovic moving through to the Third Round.

Now the former World Number 1 is a big favourite to progress to the Fourth Round when he takes on left-handed Albert Ramos-Vinolas from Spain. Ramos-Vinolas is a capable player on his day and he has been able to challenge some of the top players, but his favoured surface is the clay courts and the Spaniard has a serve that Djokovic will relish attacking.

However I don't think Ramos-Vinolas will collapse in the same manner as Monfils and that makes this a slightly tougher match for Djokovic. The latter has beaten him in all four previous matches including in a couple of Grand Slams, but Djokovic will be the first to admit he needs to step up his game against an opponent who will look to be very consistent from the back of the court.

Djokovic's serve has to be better than it was in the Second Round to make sure he isn't offering Ramos-Vinolas too much encouragement and I think that is going to be a key to the outcome of this handicap. I fully expect Novak Djokovic will find a way to move through to the second week, but it will be tough to cover such a number as this one if Djokovic is struggling as much as he did in the first set against Monfils.

While you have to respect any player that has made it through to the Third Round of a Grand Slam, Ramos-Vinolas did not show a lot of form prior to the Australian Open to think he can bridge the gap to someone as good as Novak Djokovic. He has yet to take a set off of Djokovic in their four previous matches and I will look for the Serb to exert his dominance in a fairly straight-forward victory after a tight opening set.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Richard Gasquet: He may remain amongst the very best players on the Tour, but gone are the days when Roger Federer would completely dominate opponents. With a slightly slower step around the courts, Federer will choose to conserve his energy a little more than aimlessly chase down every ball on the court and that can mean waiting for his opportunities to break serve.

In saying that, whatever works for Federer is fine as he did win half of the Grand Slams played last season despite choosing to miss the French Open. As the defending Champion in Australia, Federer is the favourite to go all the way again this year and perhaps have a better chance to end the year as the World Number 1 which would be a staggering achievement.

The match up with Richard Gasquet will always produce entertainment with the two players both looking to make their shots and that does tend to lead to some high class tennis. However it is Federer who has tended to have a little too much for Gasquet when they meet one another as his superior serve and much stronger forehand can dominate the rallies a little more.

Gasquet is coming off a difficult 2017 where injury didn't help his cause and he achieved his fewest number of wins on the Tour since 2009. However his two wins this week have been solid enough even if the Frenchman will be well aware of the competition level being significantly increased when taking on Federer under the lights.

If Gasquet serves well he will certainly be a dangerous opponent for Federer, but ultimately I do have to think the latter is going to be comfortable with the way the points are played out. It is a big number of games for Federer to cover if Gasquet is feeling his tennis, but I have a feeling that he may lose heart quicker than the layers expect and that could see Federer punish him.

This will be the fifth time Federer and Gasquet have met in a best of five set match and it is Federer who has won the previous four. He would have covered this number of games three times and I think he will come through a tight first set where Gasquet invests a lot of energy before Federer takes complete control and cruises through a couple of sets.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Lucie Safarova: Two compatriots who will be well aware of each other's games will meet in the Third Round on Saturday. For those that like big serving and big hitting tennis, Lucie Safarova versus Karolina Pliskova should provide the fireworks to be enjoyed.

The Czech Republic Fed Cup team are very close having achieved plenty of success together, but I don't think friendship will be on the minds of the players with a place in the Fourth Round up for grabs. The layers having Karolina Pliskova down as the favourite is the right call and this may be the tournament where Pliskova finally gets her hands on a Grand Slam trophy as she flies under the radar.

That may have changed after a couple of dominant wins though and Pliskova has got the better of Safarova on her favoured hard courts with three wins outdoors and one indoors. Of course you have to say that Safarova can be a very dangerous player when the lefty serve is working as well as it can be, but it will have to be better than it was in the Second Round to keep Pliskova from getting on the front foot.

The serve is the dominant shot for Pliskova and she uses that to exert plenty of mental pressure on her opponents. That is always going to be the key shot for her in any match she plays and you can tend to get a feel about Pliskova's emotions depending on how well the serve is firing.

She will look to keep Safarova behind the baseline and that is important with Safarova a quality Doubles player that won't mind having to hit a few volleys to increase the pressure on her opponent.

However I do think Pliskova is playing on a surface that will really merge well with her game and I believe that makes a difference in this match. At times Safarova will roll through service games, but Pliskova can put a lot of pressure on opponents with her own delivery and she can win the mental battle in this one. I would expect the Safarova serve to have a few issues when she is having to put in a few more second serves and at that point I can see Pliskova pouncing in two sets and moving through with what looks a comfortable win on the scoreboard.

Angelique Kerber - 1.5 games v Maria Sharapova: The win over Anastasija Sevastova in the Second Round was a rare success for Maria Sharapova in beating a top 20 player since returning to the Tour following a ban. It is the kind of match that will have given the former Australian Open Champion a boost in confidence, but the Third Round sees her take on the other former Champion in the draw when she faces Angelique Kerber.

This is a step up in class against the in form German and the match looks to be the stand out one at the Australian Open so far. Everyone knows the Maria Sharapova name, but it is Angelique Kerber who had shown she was in great form with a couple of big time appearances in tournaments in the lead up to this one.

Kerber won the event in Sydney last week and she has been a comfortable winner through the first couple of Rounds here, but will also recognise the challenge that is in front of her. When Sharapova is on her very best game, she is capable of hitting through any player in front of her (bar Serena Williams) and so Kerber has to make sure she does better than Sevastova with her defensive side of the game.

Putting that pressure on Sharapova to rally for points and not get too much cheaply is going to be the way that Kerber wins this match. She has beaten Serena Williams in Australia for her maiden Grand Slam title so the pressure should be nothing as great as that and I would expect the best Kerber to come out and perform.

Her defensive skills should be able to rattle Sharapova into mistakes, while the Kerber serve has been working better than expected so far. That will obviously be tested by a player like Sharapova who can crunch the ball off both wings and I can see this being a match that is closely contested with Kerber's 'big match' experience in the last two years helping her overcome a huge name on the WTA Tour.

Kerber has beaten Sharapova at Wimbledon as the big underdog and she is a far better player than the one which won three games in a 2012 loss here to Sharapova. While the big hits will come from Sharapova, I am looking for Kerber to make her play enough balls to begin wearing her down and overcoming the Russian in three sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Su-Wei Hsieh: The biggest upset in the Australian Open so far might be Su-Wei Hsieh's win over Garbine Muguruza in the Second Round. She will be looking for another big name on the record when she takes on Agnieszka Radwanska in the Third Round, but backing up big wins can be difficult for those players lower down the World Rankings.

The match up with Radwanksa may not suit Hsieh either with a lack of pace coming from the other side of the court not the best thing for the lower Ranked player. It will be asking Hsieh to make her own pace and the cat and mouse game she enjoys on the court will be right up Radwanska's alley.

I am not a big fan of Radwanska who I think is one of the more overrated players on the Tour, but she does find a way to feast on competition of this level. The Pole will feel she can play all day on the court and she won't be overpowered so will feel very comfortable in everything Hsieh has to offer in response.

There is a lot of finesse about the Radwanska game which should mean she is in a good position to make it through to the second week of the Australian Open. Without Hsieh suddenly finding plenty of power to hit through the court, this is going to be a long, drawn out match with lots of long rallies.

Radwanska is capable of hitting a few winners now and then, but I think she will find the match up comfortable enough that she won't want to take a lot of risks. Her serve is slightly better than Hsieh's which should mean Radwanska can produce a few more holds and I would expect her to get past this opponent with relative comfort.

Both wins this week have come in three sets, but those were against aggressive big hitters and this is a much more comfortable match up for Radwanska. There is no doubt that Radwanska has slipped from the standards she once set for herself, but she should be still be good enough against an opponent like Hsieh who may struggle to pick herself up emotionally from a huge win.

MY PICKS: Alexander Zverev - 1.5 Sets @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 1.5 Sets @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 7.5 Games @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 19-22, - 8.66 Units (82 Units Staked, - 10.56% Yield)

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