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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Australian Open Tennis Day 11 Picks 2020 (January 30th)

The final four players in both the Women's and Men's draws at the Australian Open have been set and Novak Djokovic has to be considered a strong favourite to defend the title he won here last year. The Quarter Final defeat for Rafael Nadal also means Djokovic will move to World Number 1 if he can win the Australian Open for an eighth time on Sunday and I would not be backing against that happening.

The Women's tournament remains wide open with three of the four remaining players having a serious case to make to add to Grand Slams they have won before. The outsider might be Sofia Kenin, but she looks a player who has a huge self-belief although beating two Slam Champions in a row with the relative inexperience she has would be a huge surprise.

Both Women's Semi Finals are played on Thursday and we also have one Men's Semi Final scheduled for Day 11 at the Australian Open. I am still not convinced it is fair to have one Men's Finalist having an additional day between matches to recover compared with the second Finalist, but the Australian Open is the last of the Slams to still have that occurring. At least there is a day between the second Semi Final and the Final to be played on Sunday unlike the US Open of years gone by which had no rest days between their Semi Final and Final before making the change to try and get things on a level playing field for the Finalists.

My Tennis Picks from Day 11 can be read below and I am looking to round out this tournament with the kind of strong form we have seen over the last week. It has turned a negative start into a real positive and I am hoping to kick on with the three selections made for Day 11.

Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Sofia Kenin: Dealing with the real sense of expectation might be the main reason we have not seen the best of Ashleigh Barty at the Australian Open so far in 2020. Even then Barty has made her way through to the Semi Final of her home Grand Slam and is looking to end the long wait for an Australian Champion in Melbourne Park.

She had to ride out some difficult moments in her Quarter Final over Petra Kvitova having recovered from dropping her second set of the tournament in the Fourth Round. While the wins have come, Barty has perhaps been a touch fortunate in the last couple of Rounds and will definitely need to pick up her level if she is going to win a second Grand Slam title within the last eight months.

Overall the hard court numbers over the last twelve months have been impressive from Ashleigh Barty and it is no surprise she is a fairly strong favourite in this Semi Final. While not blessed with a huge amount of Grand Slam experience at this stage of a tournament, Ashleigh Barty's win at Roland Garros last June means she has a lot more experience than Sofia Kenin who has made the second week of a Grand Slam for the second time in her career and is in a week of firsts having played a maiden Quarter Final and now Semi Final at this level.

The American has benefited from the way the draw has opened up in her section having yet to face an opponent Ranked inside the top 34 in the World Rankings. You still can't take away the run from Kenin, but she has not been a dominant winner in any of her last three matches and the level goes up considerably if Barty can produce anything near her best.

The Sofia Kenin serve has been a big weapon for her throughout this tournament and she is doing enough to keep herself on top of opponents. That is going to be key for her in this Semi Final, although Ashleigh Barty is the best returner she would have faced in this tournament so far.

These players have met five times before and it is the Australian who leads 4-1 which includes a win at a Grand Slam (last year's French Open) and also a 2-1 lead on the hard courts. Those previous matches have been competitive, but Barty has had the edge when it comes to the return of serve and I think that is going to be an important factor in this one too.

While Kenin has been consistent with the kind of success she has had on the return in the three hard court matches, we have seen Ashleigh Barty really hurt her in the two matches she has won. In those Barty has won at least 48% of the points played on the Sofia Kenin serve and I do think the Australian's Grand Slam experience will stand her in good stead in this first Semi Final.

The line looks a tough one for the World Number 1 here, but I am going to look for Ashleigh Barty to just find the breaks of serve she needs to move through to the Final with a cover.

Garbine Muguruza + 2.5 games v Simona Halep: For someone who has reached World Number 1 and who has won two Grand Slam titles it is perhaps a surprise to read that Garbine Muguruza is only playing in her eighth Grand Slam Quarter Final at the Australian Open this year.

The Spaniard converted that into her fifth Semi Final with a good win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and the little time spent on court over the last three matches should put Muguruza in confident mood. In her previous four Grand Slam Semi Finals, Garbine Muguruza converted the first three into an appearance in the Final, although two years ago she was beaten at the French Open at this stage by upcoming opponent Simona Halep.

Simona Halep took less than an hour to rip through Anett Kontaveit in the Quarter Final and she has maintained her run of at least five breaks of serve in every match played at the Australian Open. The Finalist here in 2018 looks to be peaking at the right time with her best performances being saved for the latter stages of the tournament and it is going to be very difficult to knock her out of her stride now.

This might be a different challenge for her though as Muguruza has proven to be a very confident player the longer she can stick around in tournaments. Garbine Muguruza also has two top ten wins in the Australian Open already and has been serving very, very well in making use of the conditions at the event.

It has allowed Muguruza to free her arm when it comes to the return of serve and she clearly does enjoy playing in Melbourne having produced her second most Grand Slam wins here. Her 3-0 record against Simona Halep on the hard courts will give the Spaniard some confidence, although it does have to be noted that these two have not met on this surface since August 2017 when Muguruza dropped one game in crushing Halep in the Cincinnati Final.

The match goes to show what Garbine Muguruza is capable of at her best, but she does not have the best hard court numbers over the last twelve months. In fact during that time it is Halep who has looked the more accomplished on the surface and so she is rightly favoured to win this match.

However I do think Garbine Muguruza is playing well enough to at least keep things competitive and she may have a chance for the outright upset if serving like she has been in this tournament. I would expect the return of serve to have success against this Simona Halep serve, although the key for Muguruza is using the conditions and not push too much towards the lines against an opponent who can play some superb defensive tennis.

There haven't been too many epic Women's matches at the business end of the Australian Open, but this may be one of them and I am taking the games with the underdog.

Novak Djokovic - 6.5 games v Roger Federer: Thirteen Australian Opens have been won by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer combined and there has only been one winner in the last ten years outside of these two players. This year Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer meet in the Semi Final and it is very difficult to see anything other than a win for the defending Champion and World Number 2 Djokovic.

There were one or two doubts about Roger Federer prior to the tournament having decided to skip the inaugural ATP Cup and make his 2020 debut on the Tour in Melbourne. Injury concerns or at least the fact that Federer was unlikely to be at full health was balanced out by what looked to be a very good draw through to the Semi Final.

Surprisingly it has been far from straight-forward for the former World Number 1 who needed to recover from 8-4 down in the Champions Tie-Breaker against John Millman in the fifth set in the Third Round. He followed that up with a four set win in the Fourth Round, but Federer was then in a life or death Quarter Final against Tennys Sandgren having saved seven Match Points and also overcoming what sounded like a groin issue.

Roger Federer himself admitted he was lucky to still be in the tournament and the numbers backed that up. The 38 year old has spent over nine and a half hours on the court in his last three matches which has to be a major concern knowing the physical test that Novak Djokovic is always going to offer and I am not sure there has been enough recovery time for Roger Federer here.

Novak Djokovic has won thirteen sets in a row at the Australian Open since dropping one in the First Round and he has only dropped serve once in the last four wins. At the same time Federer has been dragged into long matches, Novak Djokovic has spent just over ten hours on the court in total at the tournament and that freshness should give him a clear edge in the match.

You just can't ignore the fact that Federer has not been serving that well in the tournament and I do wonder if the injury he is dealing with is preventing from getting full extension on that shot. Now he has to deal with one of the best return players of all time and one who has been developing a stronger serve which has me favouring Novak Djokovic to not only win, but win well.

Unbelievably they are meeting in a Grand Slam match on the hard courts for the first time in four years when Novak Djokovic crushed Roger Federer at this tournament in the Semi Final. Novak Djokovic has won their last five Grand Slam matches overall and also the last five they have played in Slams on the hard courts so I don't think he will be short of confidence.

Roger Federer had snapped a four match losing run on the hard courts when beating Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals in London in November, but he looks fatigued and not at 100% for this Semi Final. You can't discount how competitive matches between these players have largely been, but Federer will need Djokovic to come off his level to have a chance in this one with the time spent on court and the healthier World Number 2 having the majority of edges.

Just looking at this tournament and you can't deny that Novak Djokovic has been a lot better than Roger Federer and it would be something of an upset if the latter can make this a really competitive Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 6.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 35-28, + 7.66 Units (128 Units Staked, + 5.98% Yield)

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