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Friday, 9 March 2018

Indian Wells Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (March 9th)

It has been a mixed first couple of days for the Tennis Picks and would have been a lot better if I had seen a couple of players take the chances that had come their way.

The conditions in Indian Wells have to be factored into any Picks being made and I am looking to get this week back on track on Friday when the WTA Premier Event moves into the Second Round and the ATP Masters tournament concludes the First Round matches.

Marcos Baghdatis - 3.5 games v Yoshihito Nishioka: There is a lot of potential in Yoshihito Nishioka, but injuries have curtailed some of the progress he was making on the Tour.

His return in 2018 has been mixed with some positive results at the Challenger level, but I still think there are some fitness concerns surrounding Nishioka. It also should be noted that his best results have come against players Ranked outside the top 200 and someone like Marcos Baghdatis is far superior to that level.

No one can ignore the fact that Baghdatis is not the same player he once was, while the Cypriot will sympathise with Nishioka having had a number of injury setbacks throughout his career.

However Baghdatis has played some decent tennis in 2018 and winning a couple of Qualifiers in Indian Wells to get into the main draw should give him a little more confidence. Baghdatis has been serving well and that has seen his return game improve too and I think he can get after Nishioka's serve in this First Round match.

I do have to respect how well Nishioka has been able to return throughout his career and that element of his game still looks to be in decent shape. The numbers show some difficulty for Nishioka when he has played the higher Ranked players on the Tour though and I think Baghdatis will work his way to a win and a cover in this one.

Joao Sousa - 2.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: The main reason that Joao Sousa has not had more wins in 2018 is simply down to underperforming when it has come down to the big points. He isn't far away, but confidence could be an issue at the moment as Sousa searches for wins.

He has lost four matches in a row, but Sousa could have easily won all four of those matches if he had taken the chances that had come his way.

Sousa has maintained some decent numbers, but he will be looking to be more effective when the break point opportunities come his way. He will have to do that against Mikhail Youzhny who is not the player he once was, but who can still produce some very good tennis when he is feeling at his best.

I do wonder how Youzhny is feeling considering he withdrew from the Challenger event held in Indian Wells last week, while the return numbers have not been as strong as the Russian would have liked in 2018. Youzhny will cause some problems for Sousa if there is a lack of confidence in the way the latter plays the big points, but the numbers are pointing to the favourite to be too good in this one.

Sousa deservedly beat Youzhny on the clay courts last year, and the conditions should not be too much of a concern for him here. I will look for Sousa to outwork Youzhny in this First Round match and have enough to win and cover the games.

Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 games v Felix Auger Aliassime: Two Qualifiers and compatriots Vasek Pospisil and Felix Auger Aliassime meet in the First Round of the main draw at Indian Wells and it is the older player who is the favourite.

Both players did well to win a couple of Qualifiers and make their way through to the main draw, and I don't believe Auger Aliassime will be overawed playing Pospisil. He should be familiar with the game that he faces, although the ten year gap in age does mean Pospisil could have been one of the players Auger Aliassime looked up to as he was growing up.

That can play a part in the mental approach to a match, but the bigger issue for Auger Aliassime is he is coming up against an opponent who has been flying in 2018. The majority of the successes Pospisil has had have come on the Challenger circuit as he looks to rebuild after a couple of tough years, but an 18-3 record will also have given the veteran Canadian a lot of belief in his game.

Pospisil has won a couple of titles at the Challenger level and he has also reached the Semi Final in the Indian Wells Challenger last week. His serve has been a key for Pospisil, while his return game has been in good shape with the only criticism being that he is not as effective at converting break points as he would have liked.

I expect he is going to have the majority of the play in this one and Pospisil should be able to keep Auger Aliassime under some pressure. The return of Auger Aliassime should see him have some success, but his own serve has been a little erratic at the moment and I would expect Pospisil to have too much for him in this First Round match.

Both players could be better at converting the break points they have generated and it may come down to which of them is able to do that more effectively. However I think the Pospisil serve can get him out of a few more jams and I will back the veteran Canadian to get past his young compatriot and cover the games.

Johanna Konta - 2.5 games v Marketa Vondrousova: 2018 has not begun in the way that Johanna Konta would have liked, but she is perhaps playing better than her results have suggested.

The loss to Bernarda Pera at the Australian Open was a disappointment for Konta, but otherwise she has been chugging along quite nicely and won the matches she is expected to. The defeat to Daria Kasatkina in Dubai would have hurt because Konta should have won that match, but her numbers remain decent and I think she can get the better of the talented Czech Marketa Vondrousova.

Vondrousova was a good winner in the First Round in Indian Wells and she has shown she is progressing by beating those players she is expected to. However the step up to the level that Konta is playing at has proved difficult with Vondrousova's return game perhaps not at the standard she would have liked.

I expect she will have some chances against the Konta serve which has not been as strong as I would have expected, even when playing those players outside of the top 50 of the World Rankings. However Konta is able to look after the second serve quite effectively in those matches and I think that is going to be the key in helping her get past a tough opponent.

Konta has to make sure her return is taking advantage of the second serve of Vondrousova in this one, but I do think she is capable of doing that in a win on Friday.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Irina-Camelia Begu: This is the second year in a row that these two players are meeting at Indian Wells and Irina-Camelia Begu did ride her luck in a narrow loss to Karolina Pliskova. On another day Pliskova would have won very comfortably and I am looking for Friday 9th March 2018 to be another day.

I have enough faith in Pliskova's serve to at least keep Begu under pressure especially as the latter has struggled when she has moved up to face the best players on the Tour. Her return numbers against top 50 Ranked players is not really up to the standard needed to win those matches and it is going to be more difficult if Pliskova is up to par in this one.

The key to the cover of this amount of games will be how well Begu serves as she is a very capable player on that side of the court herself. Those numbers haven't slipped at all when playing the best players on the Tour and Pliskova can be criticised at times when analysing her returning numbers.

However I do think Pliskova matches up well with Begu who has not served as well as she would have liked in the last couple of tournaments played. Pliskova's return numbers have been impressive when facing players Ranked outside the top 20 in 2018 and I do think she will have the time to try and get into a strong position on the courts of Indian Wells.

There are times when Pliskova can be way short of the level expected of her, but I think she will have enough break points in this one to have a chance to cover. I will look for better efficiency than when these two met here last year and I think Pliskova can cover in a win.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Joao Sousa - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Vasek Pospisil - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Johnna Konta - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 7-9, - 5.30 Units (32 Units Staked, - 16.56% Yield)

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