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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 8 Picks 2018 (January 22nd)

The second week of the Australian Open got off to a flyer with some top matches on Sunday and that includes what was a really intriguing contest between Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios.

I am a fan of the Australian, although recognise many are not, and I think Kyrgios played a really good match and perhaps was a little unfortunate not to get the better of Dimitrov. On the other hand, Dimitrov deserves a lot of credit for the way he managed himself through a tough one and he will be a big favourite to make it back to the Semi Final at the Australian Open for a second season in a row.

Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic and Kyle Edmund round out the top of the men's draw as we get down to the business end of the tournament.

The bottom half of the women's draw does look to be a straight fight between Caroline Wozniacki and Elina Svitolina who are in two different Quarter Finals. Both play opponents who could make life difficult if the top names are off their games, but that Semi Final looks like it could be a really good match to watch.

Day 8 at the Australian Open sees the remaining Fourth Round matches to be played and it should be another fascinating day. I am hoping both Roger Federer and Angelique Kerber can make it four of five outright picks into the Quarter Final and both are big favourites to progress into the next Round.

That will at least put a positive spin on what has been a tough tournament with little going the way I would have hoped to this point.

Fabio Fognini-Tomas Berdych under 37.5 games: The Fourth Round match between Fabio Fognini and Tomas Berdych looks an interesting one on paper with the two veterans perhaps viewing this Grand Slam as the last real opportunity to have a big run at this level.

Despite the performances to get through to the Fourth Round, decline is clear from both players.

Fognini has always been something of a tough player to read with an ability to play the top players very close when feeling his tennis, but also just as likely to go on a stretch of games where he drops two sets in a blink of an eye.

Matches between these two have been close in the past with both having two wins against each other, but you would have to favour Berdych on the hard courts. The courts at the Australian Open have played fast this year and Berdych has the serve to set up a few more easy points, although there are more sloppy games thrown in than there would have been a few years ago.

Berdych has enjoyed playing at Melbourne Park too and I do favour him to win this match, but backing him to cover this number of games has become a chore these days. There is no doubt that Fognini can play good enough tennis to steal a set if feeling things, but he is also someone who could drop a couple of sets by a comfortable margin which makes me believe the total games line is a touch on the high side.

The lean is towards the Czech player on this surface especially as he should have a little more in the tank than Fognini who has had some tough matches to come through. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to me if Fognini slips away in the match once getting into a tough position on the scoreboard and I will look for this match to finish with thirty-seven games or fewer.

Roger Federer - 8.5 games v Martin Fucsovics: There were some sloppy moments in the Roger Federer performance in the win over Richard Gasquet, but he never looked in danger of losing the match. He is yet to drop a set in the defence of the Australian Open title he won last year and Federer will be a big favourite to go on and perhaps win yet another title in Melbourne.

He won't be taking anything for granted after doubting his position as the favourite at the start of the Australian Open despite playing some really good tennis at the Hopman Cup in preparation for the tournament.

While some won't know Martin Fucsovics that well, Federer has actually practiced with him before and that familiarity should help the former World Number 1 settle into the match. Fucsovics reached the Final in Canberra in the week before the Australian Open begun, and he has rode that confidence into the first Grand Slam of the season.

The draw has been kind to an extent, but Fucscovics still had to take advantage and has to be credited for that. The serve has been an effective weapon for him this week, but Fucsovics has been facing players with limited return games and I would expect Federer to exert a lot more pressure on him during this match.

A bigger problem for the Hungarian is how well Federer has been serving so far this week and that is another avenue through which the defending Champion can put some pressure on this opponent. 

It feels like this will be a relatively straight-forward match for Federer and he is playing in the first day session of the week which should mean the extra focus to try and get off court as soon as possible. Keeping energy in reserve is a huge key for Federer and I do like his chances to have the majority of the play in this one and use that to cover what is a big handicap.

So far this week I haven't had a lot of luck with the break point conversion rate of the players I have picked, and Federer is being asked to cover a very big number. However I do think this is a match that could be make Federer feel very comfortable and it will be difficult for Fucsovics if he can't get his teeth into the Federer service games.

I expect that to be the outcome and Federer should be able to get into a position where he can produce a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win to move into yet another Grand Slam Quarter Final.

Dominic Thiem to win 3-1 v Tennys Sandgren: The Fourth Round always brings a couple of surprises with players making an unexpected run in a Grand Slam event. Tennys Sandgren, whose name I think I am in love with, has worked his way up the Rankings to make a direct entry into his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open and taken full advantage to say the least.

It has been a tough road for Sandren since turning professional and for the most part he had struggled to really assert himself on the Tour. 2017 proved a good year as he got to grips with the Challenger level to the point of making his way into the top 100 of the World Rankings and the American is set for another big leap forwards.

Sandgren has won three matches to get into the Fourth Round including an upset of Stan Wawrinka in the Second Round, although it has to be noted that the Swiss player is returning off a tough injury. The win over Jeremy Chardy also saw the American impress, but it is a different ask against a top 10 player like Dominic Thiem.

The hard courts might not be the greatest of surfaces for Thiem but he has shown resilience and an ability to turn matches in his favour. Another solid run at the Australian Open and now Thiem is focused on working through to his first Quarter Final at a Slam outside of the French Open where he has been a Semi Finalist twice.

That experience edge should help Thiem, but I do think Sandgren will have his moments in the match too. He has played with the confidence to take a set and force the Austrian to dig deep to win this match although Sandgren will have to bring his best form to the table to do that.

The most likely outcome is a Thiem win in straight sets in this match, but I think his game does offer up chances and I am looking for Sandgren to take a couple that come his way. This is the best surface for Sandgren to try and do that and he was good enough to win a set from Marin Cilic when playing him at the US Open.

Dominic Thiem has been serving well enough to win this very comfortably, but I do think Sandgren will fancy his chances in this match too. I like the American's own performances on serve this week and I will look for Thiem to have a lapse in one set and allow Sandgren to leave Melbourne with his head held high.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Hyeon Chung: There are some questions about the Novak Djokovic health having needed to use a medical time out in the Third Round win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The former World Number 1 dismissed any concerns and put it down to simply being off the competitive circuit for six months, but Djokovic can't afford to have a lull in his play when he meets Hyeon Chung in the Fourth Round.

The 'Next Gen' Finals winner in Milan looks like he can make a big impact on the Tour this season and beating Alexander Zverev in the Third Round having been down 2-1 in sets was an impressive performance from Chung.

Lots of people have had Chung down as potentially the best of the young talent on the ATP Tour, but he will have to show he can handle the pressure of a big occasion. Facing a six time former Australian Open Champion in the night session of the Fourth Round is a huge test for Chung, but one that will have his backers believe has come at the right time.

Chung is a tough competitor as he showed in the win over Zverev and he won't lose heart if he falls behind. The serve has been working magnificently so far this week and Chung will be hoping that can put him in a position to win the match, although the Djokovic return looks to be in great shape as long as the moment is not limited by the issues he has been having.

I imagine both players will have their chances to break the serve and it will be down to how well each player can try and impose themselves on this match. The experience edge is clearly in favour of Djokovic, and he did crush Chung here in the Australian Open two years ago, but the much improved youngster will feel the boost that the win over Zverev has given him.

However I can't help but feel the match has come slightly early for Chung and this is the biggest match he would have played in his young career. The temperament looks a good one, but Djokovic should exert enough pressure from the return to take down Chung who was beaten by Kyle Edmund and David Ferrer in events prior to the start of the Australian Open.

I do tend to believe Djokovic when he says he isn't feeling too bad about how his body has reacted to the tennis played this week. Now he is in the second week of the Australian Open, I can see Djokovic feeling a lot better about things and the return has been as effective as ever so far to lead him through to the Fourth Round.

That return may prove to be a difference maker in a close match and I will look for Novak Djokovic to just pull away as the match gets away from the youngster in this one.

Madison Keys - 2.5 games v Caroline Garcia: Two players who have long been considered as Grand Slam Champions in the making meet in the Fourth Round at the Australian Open. Both Madison Keys and Caroline Garcia have had success at this level in the past, but it was Keys who may have broken through with a run to the US Open Final even if she ultimately came up short against Sloane Stephens.

There hasn't been a lot of tennis played by Keys since that defeat in New York City but she has looked in fine form so far in the Australian Open as she has been able to fly under the radar to reach the Fourth Round. The American is yet to drop a set in the draw, but Keys will know the challenges pick up now she has reached the second week of the draw.

The first of those is Garcia with the Frenchwoman showing some battling character to come through a couple of final set deciders already this week. There had been some concerns about the Garcia fitness having retired in her one match prior to the Australian Open, but coming through the matches in the manner she has will have given Garcia the confidence to think she can go very deep into the draw.

Garcia's serve is the weapon that will give her a chance for success in this match, but she has to find a much better return game if she is going to have her chances. Both players will be heavily reliant on the serve, but I think Keys transitions into the return game more effectively.

You'll be able to see how this match is going to go very early on- Keys is a confidence player who needs the serve to be firing to get the rest of her game going. If she is feeling comfortable, she will take the chances to break the Garcia serve and I think that this match is very much on the racquet of the American despite how well Garcia can play.

Fitness is also a key and Garcia has had back to back long matches which could have taken something out of the tank. On the other hand Keys has made serene progress through the draw and I think she can get this done in straight sets.

Simona Halep-Naomi Osaka over 21.5 games: No one will dismiss the heart and character Simona Halep displayed in an incredible Third Round win over Lauren Davis which matched the longest match in terms of games at the Australian Open. Winning 15-13 in the final set is a huge boost in confidence, but is tough on the Halep body whose ankle was already sore prior to that match.

It has to have some effect on the gas tank for Halep going into the second week and I think the challenge Naomi Osaka provides in the Fourth Round is a tough one.

Osaka has big potential and she may be a dark horse in a loaded top half of the women's draw. The wins this week have been very impressive and there will be plenty of support for Osaka in this match, while she has also pushed Halep in a couple of previous matches they have played against one another.

The questions about the Halep fitness is a concern considering that could see Osaka overpower here without the defensive skills that the Romanian usually brings to the court. However I think there will have been the time for Halep to make sure she is ready to go in a big match for her as she tries to justify her position as the World Number 1 and also to hold onto that through the Australian Open.

I have to say that Osaka have been serving very well in the tournament and could use that shot to pressure Halep from the off in the rallies. She will feel she can power back a few returns too and I would not at all be surprised if we have to see Halep in another final set decider in this one.

There wasn't much between them when they played in Miami last March and I think this is another that will be very close. I like Osaka's chances of the upset, but I can't rule a line through Halep completely and instead will look for this match to be either a tight two setter or one that needs a decider in the final set.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Barbora Strycova: The tour of beating her Fed Cup team mates continues for Karolina Pliskova as she takes on Barbora Strycova in the Fourth Round after beating Lucie Safarova in the Third Round.

Some toughness was shown in beating Safarova who had been serving so well throughout that match, although I was also a little critical of the way Pliskova approached the return. She certainly won't be faced with the same type of firepower that Safarova brought in the Third Round, although Strycova can be very tough on her day.

Strycova has been a comfortable winner through the first three Rounds of the tournament but this is significantly the toughest challenge she would have faced. Looking after the serve as well as she has so far has been a big foundation for Strycova but I would imagine Pliskova is going to be able to at least present a much bigger challenge than the previous opponents have.

However Pliskova will be aware of how well Strycova can play having been stunned by her on the grass courts in 2016. That surface may not be one that Pliskova is as comfortable with compared with the hard courts and that is perhaps underlined with the way the Czech Number 1 was able to handle Strycova when these two played in Miami last March.

Pliskova's serve has been a big weapon so far this week and I think that is going to set her up for success in this one. While the return was not as effective as Pliskova would have liked against Safarova, I do think the additional time she will have to get a good look at the Strycova serve can help Pliskova to be much more dangerous on the return in this one and I do think she will be too strong.

A fast start will be needed to put Strycova under pressure to play keep up, but I would expect Pliskova's power to be a telling factor in the match as she heads into another Grand Slam Quarter Final.

MY PICKS: Fabio Fognini-Tomas Berdych Under 37.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 8.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem Win 3-1 @ 3.75 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Novak Djokovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Simona Halep-Naomi Osaka Over 21.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 25-30, - 10.22 Units (112 Units Staked, - 9.13% Yield)

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