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Friday, 5 January 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (January 5th)

It has been a tough start in the tennis season for my Tennis Picks with little luck attached to the selections so far. You have to accept it will be up and down, but I do want a better year than the last two as I have perhaps changed the way I have approached things, or, more likely, I have not evolved with the tennis seasons as much as I should have done.

I have still been solid enough at the Grand Slam events so I am looking forward to the start of the Australian Open, but I would love to end this week with a few winners just for a boost in confidence.

A bit more luck and that should be the case.

Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: I still can't get my head around Grigor Dimitrov being Number 3 in the World Rankings and he will have a few supporters in the outright markets in Melbourne in a couple of weeks time.

The Bulgarian should have been given a boost in confidence after winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals in London at the end of the 2017 season. That may have played a part in his three set win over John Millman in the Second Round in Brisbane, especially as Dimitrov had to come from a set down to win a second set tie-breaker before coming through the match in the decider.

I still question whether Dimitrov has the mindset to avoid the lulls in matches which can prove so costly, especially when being forced to play more tennis than is perhaps needed to win matches. While the serve is a good weapon, Dimitrov needs to make sure he is making the right shot selections behind it to keep Kyle Edmund under pressure in this match.

There will be big hopes that Edmund can see his career kick on in 2018 and he has played well this week to beat a couple of players that could be amongst those in the 'Next Gen' to take the ATP forward in the years ahead. Edmund has needed three sets to beat both Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung, and it will be interesting to see if he can keep the run going in this Quarter Final.

Edmund can cause problems for Dimitrov, but I think the latter's superior returning can prove to be a difference maker. It can be tough to trust Dimitrov not to throw in a sloppy game which could cost him a set and thus this cover of the games, but I think he should have enough success on the return to work his way to a 7-6, 6-3 win.

Anastasija Sevastova - 4.5 games v Aliaksandra Sasnovich: You have got to give Aliaksandra Sasnovich a lot of credit for the way she has battled through to the biggest Semi Final of her career, but there has to be something that has been left out on the court.

Sasnovich has come through the Qualifiers into the main draw, and she has now won four straight matches while coming from a set down. That has to have taken something physically and mentally from Sasnovich and I think Anastasija Sevastova is good enough to break her down.

The Latvian is inside the top 20 of the World Rankings thanks to a special run at the US Open last September, and Sevastova is perhaps playing with more confidence thanks to that performance. She has won all three matches this week without dropping a set and I do think Sevastova is going to be a little too good for Sasnovich on the day.

I would expect the Sevastova return and movement around the court to be an issue for Sasnovich and perhaps there will be some issues mentally as the Belarusian has to try and dig deep and come back again. Sevastova doesn't possess a great serve which should give Sasnovich a chance, but I do think the higher Ranked player is the fresher one on the court and that should see her move through with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 games v Elina Svitolina: If Serena Williams is not playing at the Australian Open, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina will be amongst the leading contenders to win the first Grand Slam of the season. They can set an early marker in this Semi Final in Brisbane and this has all the makings of a very good match.

Both players have decent serves, although the edge is given to Pliskova on this surface. However it is Svitolina who is the better defensive player and will believe she can earn the edge in the rallies which move past six or seven strokes.

The problem for Svitolina against an opponent like Pliskova is that a slightly under par serving day will allow her opponent to play some first strike tennis. That has been the issue when they have met in previous matches, although it was Svitolina who snapped a five match losing run against Pliskova by beating her last season in Rome.

That match was on the clay courts which are the weakest of the surfaces for Pliskova and instead this feels like a match that may follow the pattern of twelve months ago when the Czech player beat Svitolina in straight sets in the Semi Final in Brisbane.

It will likely be closer than it was that day, but I like Pliskova to win and cover the games in this one.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Gilles Simon: It has been a good start to the 2018 season for Gilles Simon who looked to have slipped irreversibly in 2017. He has almost dropped out of the top 100 in the World Rankings and I do wonder if Simon is going to be thinking about calling it a day, perhaps even as soon as after the French Open in June.

However performances like he has had this week will have offered the Frenchman some encouragement that he can rediscover his best form. Simon has yet to drop a set in his three wins in Pune and the return game has been working really well.

That will be challenged by Marin Cilic who has also won his matches without dropping a set in what has looked a weak field from the off. The Croatian would have expected to be playing in the Final this week having previously begun seasons with impressive results, although the one concern has to be the poor head to head with Simon.

It has come down to Simon being able to produce enough balls back in court and seeing Cilic break down as he tries to hit closer and closer to the lines. This may not be the case any more with Simon perhaps losing half a step around the court and Cilic should be able to take advantage of that with his heavier groundstrokes.

I do think Simon can cause some problems for Cilic if the Croatian is not at his best, but I think Cilic has been playing well enough this week to beat a player who is on the slide. The concern has to be the head to head and wondering if Simon is the kind of defensive player that can wear down Cilic, but I think the higher Ranked player is going to work his way to a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Andrey Rublev - 2.5 games v Guido Pella: The tournament in Doha usually produces a pretty good field for the opening event of the season, but this year it is perhaps lacking the same type of star power. That may have contributed to the first Semi Final to be played on Friday as Andrey Rublev takes on Guido Pella.

Rublev is a player who is likely to be amongst the best in the years ahead, but there is still some work to do for the young Russian to reach his full potential. He has played well in his Quarter Final win over Borna Coric, but Rublev rode his luck to beat Fernando Verdasco and he will have to make sure he is not having too many fluctuations in his play if he is going to beat a veteran of the Tour like Pella.

The Argentinian is only 27 years old, and he is back inside the top 100 in the World Rankings and looking to make a move into the top 50 at the end of this week. It has been a good week for Pella having dominated the last couple of matches he has played with strong returning numbers, but he was also a little fortunate to come through a match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas earlier this week.

The lefty serve should give Rublev a few issues to deal with and the Russian's own serve can be a little erratic as he continues to grow into his body.

Overall I do think Rublev is the better hard court player of the two and I think he can work his way to the win in this one. It won't always be easy with the way Pella has been returning in the last couple of Rounds, but I think Rublev can find a way to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win in this Semi Final.

Dominic Thiem - 2.5 games v Gael Monfils: The second Semi Final in Doha is the one the local fans are likely to be looking forward to a little more as the two players competing are much more well known names to the casual fans.

The early season form of Dominic Thiem continues to be a positive for a player who has tended to run out of gas at the back end of seasons thanks to a poor schedule for the year. The points earned early in the year have kept Thiem inside the top 10 of the World Rankings and he is a player that can produce some very good tennis on the hard courts.

The Austrian also has won all three previous matches against the enigmatic Gael Monfils who is now on the back end of his career. It's funny to think Monfils has hit 31 years old now, but he has made a positive return to the Tour this week after injury curtailed his 2017 season at the end of the US Open.

Monfils will have to step up his game a little more when he faces Thiem in the Semi Final, but he has played well this week. The wins have come against players Monfils would have expected to beat, but Thiem has proven to be a tough player for him to compete with considering the power and relative consistency the latter can produce.

He is also the better shot selector of the two playing in this Semi Final and has a serve that can keep Monfils under pressure and I think that shows up here. It will be closer than the 6-3, 6-2 win Thiem managed over Monfils at Indian Wells last March, but I do think Thiem will win and find a way to cover this number.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Anastasija Sevastova - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andrey Rublev - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-3, - 6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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