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I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 7 Picks 2018 (January 21st)

We have entered the second week of the Australian Open and the women's draw continues to look wide open while the Number 1 and Number 2 Seeds in the men's draw remain the players to beat.

A lot can change in the next few days as we head towards the first Grand Slam Finals of the 2018 season and the quality of matches should also increase as the top names begin to face one another.

The Fourth Round will provide some good looking matches as we get into the meat of the draw and the match between Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios will be the one the fans look forward to the most on Sunday.

It is definitely worth noting that the weather is supposed to become a lot cooler this weekend in Melbourne and there is plenty of rain expected in the area on Day 7. That isn't a problem for the players with the three main courts in Australia all having roofs that can keep play going, but consider the conditions will be different for those who get to play under the roof.

With the way the weather is expected to turn, it is feasible to think that all of the Fourth Round matches scheduled for Sunday will be played under in indoor conditions.


Kyle Edmund-Andreas Seppi under 38.5 games: He may have had to beat a Seeded player in the First Round, but Kyle Edmund has to be excited by how the draw has opened up for him since beating Kevin Anderson. Playing Denis Istomin and Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the second week of a Grand Slam is not a bad path to trod and Edmund is a strong favourite to beat Andreas Seppi for a maiden Quarter Final appearance at this level.

A lot of this is going to come down to how well Edmund handles the pressure of expectation that he has to be feeling. I think that contributed to a tougher than expected Third Round match which was played in horrible conditions with the heat picking up in Melbourne.

At least Sunday will be cooler and even though Edmund had to go deep into a fifth set, his opponent Seppi had to go even further to knock out Ivo Karlovic having blown a two set lead in that match. That will have taken something out of both physically and I think that may also lead to a match which features quite a few chances for both to break serve.

Seppi also had a long week in Canberra in the week prior to the Australian Open where he won the title and at some point you would imagine all the tennis will catch up with him. On the other hand I think Edmund has to have left something out on the court emotionally having come from 2-1 down in sets to win a five setter for the second time already this week.

It does introduce a compelling angle to the match with some doubts over how both will be feeling, but I do think the returning that will be on display favours Edmund as he has the superior serve. I can see a situation where one of these players ends up running away with the match as the opponent perhaps drains their energy tank for the final time, while the sets could easily have swings with both Edmund and Seppi capable of producing a couple of breaks to win sets by comfortable margins.

Both are also capable of losing sets in that manner and I think this match may not reach the total games line unless it goes into a fifth set. Fighting back after the effort both put in on Friday will be difficult for whoever loses two sets first, and I would expect that player to win this in three or four sets. With the sets likely to see one of the players run away with things and the opponent looking to conserve energy, I will look for this total games line to be a little too high for the players to combine and cover.


Marin Cilic - 5.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: You have to credit the way Pablo Carreno Busta has played to reach the second week of yet another Grand Slam and for the second time in a row on the hard courts. This is not the favourite surface of the Spaniard, but he has found some real belief in his game which has made it very difficult to break him down.

That is something of a surprise when you consider how poorly Carreno Busta has played since reaching the US Open Semi Final. He hasn't just barely won matches since then, but he has also barely won sets and yet here he is through to another Fourth Round at a Grand Slam.

The early draw wasn't a bad one for Carreno Busta, while he was definitely on the edge in the Third Round win over Gilles Muller. The Spaniard stole the third set in a tight match which looked to be leaning towards his opponent and Carreno Busta was able to secure a late break in the fourth set too, although it has to be said that he will need to improve if he is going to beat Marin Cilic.

Cilic did not dominate on the scoreboard, but he was clearly the more convincing player in the Third Round win over Ryan Harrison and he has to be feeling good about his game. The serve is a big weapon, but Cilic also backs it up much more effectively than someone like Muller can, while he is also a far superior returning player and that will put a lot more pressure on Carreno Busta.

For all the competitive spirit and ability to rally with the best players on the Tour, ultimately Carreno Busta will try and out-hustle his opponents and look for them to make mistakes. However his game is one that can be attacked by aggressive players like Cilic and it will need a huge serving day for Carreno Busta to keep the Croatian off him.

He can do that for a while, but I would imagine this match is more comfortable for Cilic than the last one and he should be able to be in a position to put a lot more balls in play. Cilic was comfortable in the win over Harrison, but the latter was able to produce a strong serving day to help him through tough moments and that is not something that Carreno Busta can really rely upon.

Carreno Busta also looked a little fatigued at times in his over Muller, especially when it looked like all the momentum was with his opponent. He was unfortunate in having to play in the heat of the day which is going to be tough to recover from, while indoor conditions would favour Cilic significantly.

I expect the former US Open to start to break down the Carreno Busta game and I do like Cilic to win this one and cover the number.


Rafael Nadal - 8.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: What more can you say about Diego Sebastian Schwartzman than you have to have full respect of a player that is squeezing every ounce out of his game on the main Tour. The performances over the last twelve months has seen Schwartzman move into a position to be Seeded at Grand Slam level, which is very impressive, and he has every chance of surpassing his career high World Ranking at the end of the Australian Open.

Reaching the second week of another Slam on the hard courts is really good stuff from Schwartzman who was a Quarter Finalist at the US Open in September 2017. He came through a really tough First Round match and has played better and better heading into this Fourth Round match.

However Schwartzman will be the first to tell you how much better he will need to be if he is going to be Rafael Nadal.

The World Number 1 has been in dominant form at the Australian Open and any fears about his health have been pushed firmly out of the mind. Nadal continues to open matches with strong starts to put the pressure on opponents immediately and you have to think he will look to get on top of Schwartzman early in this one too.

Nadal should have plenty of respect for Schwartzman who pushed him to two tough sets when they met on the clay courts last season. Both players are very happy on that surface, but I do think Nadal is much more accomplished on the hard courts and Schwartzman can't expect to have as many chances to break serve as he did when these two met Monte Carlo.

It was a poor serving day from Nadal in Monte Carlo, but he did get on top of the Schwartzman serve and I would expect the Spaniard to do that again. I also have to believe that his serve will be much more effective on these hard courts in Australia and so far that has been a strong weapon for Nadal to ease him through the first three Rounds in the draw.

This does look the most testing match he would have faced so far but I am expecting Nadal to come through with another strong showing. While the number of games looks very big on paper, Nadal has a habit of dominating a set or two and his fast starts this week have been clear with two of his three opponents handed a breadstick in the opening set.

With Schwartzman having to work hard to protect serve, I would expect Nadal to have plenty of joy on the return as he dictates behind an all around heavier game. The diminutive Argentinian does get some pop off the ground that can't be underestimated, but Nadal is a very capable defender too and can wear down this opponent over three sets.

I love the way Schwartzman competes with players that he should not be able to, but I do think he may have troubles against a strong Nadal who looks to be peaking nicely. I don't think the scoreboard will reflect some of the close and tough rallies these two will play but Nadal should be able to convert enough of his opportunities to cover a big number.


Grigor Dimitrov-Nick Kyrgios over 40.5 games: This was the match that most would have been hoping to see in the Fourth Round when the draw was made and both Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov have made it through the draw to set it up. There have been a couple of scares for both players, although none more so than when Dimitrov was on the brink of going out of the tournament in the Second Round.

Coming through in five sets will have given Dimitrov a bit more belief that he is ready to win his first Grand Slam having won the ATP Finals in London to end 2017. He hasn't always convinced me that he is capable of doing that though and winning this match will be far from easy for Dimitrov, especially when you think he was beaten by Kyrgios in the Brisbane Semi Final already this month.

That might be part of the reason there has been a switch in favourite from that match to this one. Nick Kyrgios is someone I love to watch, but no one will deny he can be an erratic player although he has looked pretty happy so far this week.

Winning the title in Brisbane has given Kyrgios a boost and it has also led to a number of people tipping him to become the first home Grand Slam winner of the Australian Open for a long time. There is no doubting the talent he possesses with a booming serve putting plenty of pressure on his opponents, and it was that serve that helped him get past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Third Round despite losing more points than the Frenchman.

The Kyrgios serve is definitely a bigger weapon than the Dimitrov one, but it has to be said that the Bulgarian is perhaps the more effective returner. He will also look to get forward and use the slice to try and extract errors out of the Kyrgios game and Dimitrov has shown he is able to do that in the past with wins over the Australian in the two matches prior to this season.

Trying to factor in which of these players is more likely to handle the occasion is difficult. Yet that is likely to be a huge factor in the outcome of this match which has all the hallmarks of a really close one.

It could go very deep too and while I like Dimitrov as the value pick, I will look for the two players to combine to get over this total games line.


Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 games v Magdalena Rybarikova: 2017 proved to be a really good year for Magdalena Rybarikova who came from way outside the top 100 in the World Rankings and into the top 20 thanks to a huge run at Wimbledon. Rybarikova is on another good run at a Grand Slam as she has worked her way through to the Fourth Round here in Melbourne, but she is a big underdog to see that continue.

On Sunday Rybarikova takes on the Number 2 Seeded Caroline Wozniacki who has already come through one difficult moment in the draw. The Dane came back from 5-1 down and a couple of match points down to beat Jana Fett in the Second Round and she was much more comfortable in the Third Round as Wozniacki looks to take advantage of what looks like an incredibly open portion of the draw.

The extra aggression being used by Wozniacki is certainly helping her cause on a court which is playing pretty quick this year. She has been serving well enough to keep the pressure on her opponents, while the Wozniacki return remains the strength of her game.

It also has to be noted that Rybarikova took a medical time out in the Third Round and she has been pushed to three sets in each of her last two matches. That can take a toll on a player and I do wonder if Rybarikova is completely fit to play a match where Wozniacki will be happy to keep her out on the court as long as is necessary to break her down.

Rybarikova will need to improve massively from the last two Rounds to be competitive against Wozniacki as far as I am concerned. The serve has been erratic, while her return game has also been a little up and down and I can see Wozniacki wearing her down over the course of a couple of sets.

The Wozniacki numbers have been the more impressive of the two in the tournament and the Number 2 Seed is also in better form coming into the Australian Open. I imagine one of the sets will be very competitive as you can get after Wozniacki's serve at times, but overall her aggression and superior conditioning is likely to be a factor that sees her beat Rybarikova by a comfortable margin on the scoreboard.


Elise Mertens - 3.5 games v Petra Martic: The bottom half of the women's draw looked incredibly open at the start of the Australian Open and that is underlined by Petra Martic taking on Elise Mertens for a spot in the Quarter Final of the first Grand Slam of the season.

In fairness to Mertens, she did win the title in Sydney prior to this event and she does look to be one of the improving names on the Tour. Her opponent is also making a positive move in the World Rankings, but Martic has perhaps had the 'easier' route through to the Fourth Round and I am not sure how well she is playing.

Both players have had issues behind the serve, but both have also returned effectively enough to make sure they have gotten through the Rounds. Mertens wins over Daria Gavrilova and Alize Cornet are quality ones and she has shown the confidence that comes with winning a lot of matches to get through some difficult moments in both of those matches.

The Belgian is also yet to lose a set in the tournament and so the mental edge may just be given to her, although both Mertens and Martic have to deal with the occasion. Neither player has ever reached the Quarter Final of a Grand Slam, but Martic did at least play in a couple of Fourth Round matches at the French Open and at Wimbledon in 2017.

On the other hand this is already the best Grand Slam performance from the younger player and I can imagine plenty of breaks of serve in this match as the tension rises. Both players have had some difficulties on the serve and solid returning numbers suggest it will be the returner having plenty of joy in this one.

The winning feeling Mertens is having at the moment could prove decisive. At critical moments in this match I can feel her playing the right tennis to get into a position for a vital hold or a late break to win sets and I like Mertens to begin fulfilling the potential that so many believe she holds.

That feeling has helped Mertens come through some tough examinations and I will look for her to get the better of Martic with late breaks in a straight sets win.


Elina Svitolina - 5.5 games v Denisa Allertova: There are always a couple of crazy runs in the Grand Slam events that are played throughout the year in a tennis season, and one of those is taking place a little under the radar at the Australian Open. Now we have reached the Fourth Round, Denisa Allertova won't be able to do that anymore, but she has to be feeling good about her game with the number of wins it has taken to get to this stage.

Allertova began in the Qualifiers and she has won six matches in a row without dropping a set to reach the Fourth Round. The run hasn't been against the very best on the Tour, but it is still worthy of respect to win so many matches without dropping a set and Allertova also has the confidence of having beaten Elina Svitolina in their one previous match.


That came on the hard courts of Doha in 2016, but I don't think it is a big stretch to say that the Ukrainian is a much improved player since then. Elina Svitolina came through one tough test already this week in the Second Round against Katerina Siniakova, but this is a confident player and one who has to understand the opportunity in front of her.

Of course that means a different pressure of expectation on Svitolina with what looks a clear path towards a first Grand Slam Final. You can't always know how someone will deal with the spotlight being shone on them, but Svitolina has handled the favourite tag going into the Australian Open and so it would be a big disappointment if she suddenly got really tight.

Svitolina has previously reached the Quarter Final twice at the French Open, but she can break through to that stage for the first time outside of Roland Garros. The serve has been working well enough and the conditions in Melbourne should be cooler on Sunday which will be music to the ears of the Ukrainian.

She can't overlook Allertova who does possess a big game which can be tough to contain when she is feeling her tennis. It is clearly the case this week in Melbourne and I can see her being very competitive in one of the sets played, but ultimately I would expect Svitolina to put pressure on Allertova like no one else has done this week.

The higher Ranked player has to make sure she doesn't give Allertova a lot of encouragement in this one by playing too many loose games. At the moment I don't think Svitolina is going to be doing that in the form she is in and I can see her pulling away from Allertova during the course of this match.

MY PICKS: Kyle Edmund-Andreas Seppi Under 38.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 8.5 Games @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov-Nick Kyrgios Over 41.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Elise Mertens - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 22-26, - 8.24 Units (98 Units Staked, - 8.41% Yield)

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