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Monday, 22 January 2018

Australian Open Tennis Day 9 Picks 2018 (January 23rd)

The Quarter Final Round in any Slam is going to see the pressure ramped up on the players who had made it this far as they begin to smell a place in the Final at the weekend. No one will want to lose at this stage, but having the conviction to play your best tennis in tense situations can be tough.

Most of the players that have got to this Round in the men's draw from the top half have had considerable success at Slams in the past, although Kyle Edmund does give us a new name. He is very likely to be the British Number 1 before Andy Murray is able to make his return to the Tour, but a maiden Grand Slam Quarter Final is a tough new experience to deal with and one that will give Edmund a boost to take into the rest of the season no matter if he wins or loses.

The women's bottom half is also one filled with experience of big matches, but there will be tension in the air. None of the players have won a Grand Slam tournament and the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Elina Svitolina may feel this is their best chance to reach the Final in what has always looked a draw they could dominate.

Both Elise Mertens and Carla Suarez Navarro have made their way through the draw in surprising fashion, but both will feel they have nothing to lose. For Mertens it is a new experience, while the veteran Suarez Navarro could believe this is the last time she has a chance to seriously compete for a Grand Slam title.

It is a big day with four of the Quarter Finals scheduled to be played including Edmund's opportunity which will get some big headlines back home.


Grigor Dimitrov-Kyle Edmund over 37.5 games: After reaching the Semi Final at the Australian Open last year and then finishing off 2017 with the ATP Finals success in London, Grigor Dimitrov would have expected to be at the business end of the first Grand Slam in 2018. More unexpected would have been the opponent Kyle Edmund who has really started to fulfil some of his potential this week.

This is not someone that Dimitrov will take lightly having played such a close match against Edmund in Brisbane. That is the second time Dimitrov has beaten Edmund over the last six months, but both times he has needed to come through a deciding set and the Bulgarian will be fully aware of the kind of threat the British player poses.

A heavy forehand backs up a serve that has been very effective and I don't think there should be too many concerns with the amount of tennis Edmund has had to play this week. While getting through in straight sets is obviously a better way to progress through the tough Grand Slams, Edmund will have benefited tremendously from winning close matches like he has to move into a maiden Quarter Final at this level.

Edmund needed five sets to see off Kevin Anderson and Nikoloz Basilashvili, while also needing four sets to beat Andreas Seppi in the Fourth Round. However the numbers have been good enough to give him the belief that he can go even further in the draw, while Dimitrov himself has had some tough and emotional battles himself this week.

Out of the two players it is Dimitrov who holds a significant experience edge which should prove to be a key to the outcome of this match. However Edmund should not be intimidated in facing an opponent he pushed all the way in their two previous matches including in Brisbane earlier this month and the serves are likely to be crucial for both men.

Both have strong numbers behind the serve, but I also think both Dimitrov and Edmund can be put under pressure at times which can lead to a sloppy service game or two. The Edmund forehand has to be firing to make this a match, but I think he is capable of at least winning a set against Dimitrov even if my overall lean is towards the higher Ranked player.

I did consider making this a small interest in Dimitrov winning this in four sets, but it may be more prudent to back the total games line to be surpassed. That makes sense when I look at the serving numbers of both players and there is also the possibility, albeit slim one, that the total games would be potentially covered in a three set win for either player.

Matches between these two have been tight and needed to go the distance so taking the over looks the right way to make a play on this Quarter Final.


Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Marin Cilic: There are always going to be tougher than expected matches during the Grand Slam for any player that wants to win the title. In seven matches you can't expect players to be at their very highest level each time and the key is to make sure you get through matches where you have to tough it out.

Both Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal had to do that in the Fourth Round but both have made it through to the Quarter Final and as former Grand Slam Champions they will know how to deal with the pressure that comes in the final few Rounds of a Slam.

The pressure is on Cilic to try and do something a little different against an opponent who has dominated him in their matches on the Tour. It can be tough for someone with Cilic's game to really change his approach as he will always feel that his best shot is to be aggressive and try and punch through his opponent behind a big serve and heavy groundstrokes.

However that has not really worked against someone who defends as well as Nadal and who is very capable of shifting the momentum of a point very quickly. They played each twice last season and while one match ended in favour of Nadal much more comfortably on the scoreboard than the other, it was the Spaniard who won all four sets these two players competed.

The numbers were comparable in both matches though as Nadal was able to win plenty of points on the return of serve and protected his own serve effectively. Someone like Cilic will force break points with the heavy shots he can produce and the aggressive return, but Nadal is someone who will find a way to break down the groundstrokes and he is capable of getting enough balls back in play to set up plenty of opportunities of his own.

Nadal has played some solid tennis in the draw to get through to the Quarter Final too and he is a far better player than Pablo Carreno Busta who gave Marin Cilic unnecessary troubles in the Fourth Round. This is a much different test for Cilic who has to wipe out previous experiences against Nadal and I think it is going to be another tough day for the Croatian in this one.

Since beating Nadal in their first meeting back in 2009, Cilic has won one of the next twelve sets these players have competed. That includes a straight sets defeat at the Australian Open in 2011 and I think Nadal is going to be the dominant player in this one with the numbers favouring him too.

While Cilic could cause problems for a while, I think he may lose some heart if he falls behind and I think Nadal is going to win this match and cover the number of games he is being asked to.


Carla Suarez Navarro-Caroline Wozniacki over 19.5 games: Both Caroline Wozniacki and Carla Suarez Navarro have shown some tremendous character to get through to the Quarter Final with both players having to come through some difficult moments on their way to this Round.

There has to be a question mark about Suarez Navarro who has won three consecutive matches in a final set decider and needed 14 games to beat her last opponent 8-6 in the third set. That will have taken something out of the tank both physically and emotionally for the Spaniard who has had a splattering of Quarter Finals at Grand Slam events through her career.

This is as far as Suarez Navarro has reached in these Grand Slam tournaments and the worry for her fans has to be the number of times she has been blown away in those previous Quarter Finals. 5 times Suarez Navarro has played a Grand Slam Quarter Final and 4 of those have been incredibly uncompetitive which has to be playing on her mind.

Concerns could be eased by the fact that Suarez Navarro has played Wozniacki tough in their career meetings and beat her on the clay courts last year. That is a surface that should favour the Spaniard over Wozniacki, but she may also be able to use the pace of the court to be an effective challenger to the Number 2 Seed.

Much will depend on the mindset coming into this match and whether Suarez Navarro can forget about her past Grand Slam Quarter Final nightmares. There also has to be some recovery from three tough matches in a row compared with Wozniacki who has come through her last two matches relatively comfortably with her aggressive style suiting the courts here.

Wozniacki has reached this stage of a Grand Slam 9 times and moved through to the Semi Final 6 times which means she has a significant experience edge. However I do think Wozniacki's game blends well with the Suarez Navarro one and I am expecting a tighter Quarter Final than the layers are thinking.

My problem with Suarez Navarro is having seen her enough times go completely awol in these huge Grand Slam matches, especially behind the serve. Doing that here will be a very tough spot for the Spaniard to recover with the way Wozniacki has been playing, while the tennis in the legs could cause fatigue to set in.

However this is the kind of opponent who should match up well for Suarez Navarro and I will look for her to keep this relatively competitive. There is every chance she can take a set off Wozniacki despite the performances the latter has been producing and their last two matches against one another on the hard courts have gone the distance.


Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Elise Mertens: There have been some quality performances from some of the top players that remain in the Australian Open, but one of the best came from Elina Svitolina in the Fourth Round. She demolished Denisa Allertova after a difficult start and the Ukrainian does look like being the player to beat in the women's draw.

There is a confidence that is in evidence when you hear how Svitolina refuses to downplay her chances of going all the way in the draw and I favour her to come through what could be a difficult test in Elise Mertens.

The young Belgian has yet to drop a set in the tournament and wins over the likes of Daria Gavrilova and Alize Cornet do sit very well. Mertens has shown she is more than a competent returner and the last serving performance in the win over Petra Martic will give her confidence.

However it has to be said that now she faces a consistent player with plenty of power from the back of the court who will be looking to put Mertens under some significant pressure. The Svitolina serve can sometimes be one that is vulnerable, but there have been little signs of that at the Australian Open and her numbers behind the serve have actually been very impressive.

This might be the toughest returner she has played since her win over Katerina Siniakova in the Second Round though and so I would expect Svitolina to be more challenged than she has in the last two Rounds. However the free flowing, heavy hitting is providing plenty of dividends on the return too and that makes Svitolina dangerous when you think of how Mertens has had her serve attacked by the likes of Gavrilova and Cornet.

It was a real problem for Mertens when these two met on a clay court in a Final last year as Svitolina dominated on the return to secure an easy win. The feeling is that this Quarter Final is going to go in a similar fashion with Mertens likely to put under pressure and trying to fight off the break points that Svitolina will be creating.

She will likely have some success on the Svitolina serve to stay competitive, but I think a few more bigger points will be won by the Ukrainian and that can see her come away with the cover and a place in the Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov-Kyle Edmund Over 37.5 Games @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro-Caroline Wozniacki Over 19.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 28-34, - 11.40 Units (125 Units Staked, - 9.12% Yield)

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