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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Australian Open Tennis Day 4 Picks 2020 (January 23rd)

The tournament might be back on track with half of the Second Round matches completed on Day 3 as well as the remainder of the First Round which had to be carried over.

That's the good news.

The bad is that there is heavy rain forecasted in the Melbourne area throughout Thursday until late in the day and I can see a lot of players being frustrated as they will have to come back on Saturday rather than having the rest day between matches as they would be accustomed to at these Grand Slam events.

Big names are rarely affected in these Slams these days as they are scheduled on the main courts and in Australia there are three with roofs meaning the conditions won't be stopping play for them. In the long run it may seem a little unfair, but I guess those big players are being rewarded for their successes over a number of months and years and it is what it is.

Day 3 wasn't a busy one for the Tennis Picks but did produce a winning return. On Day 4 there look to be a lot more plays that can be backed and you can see those below.


Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Nikoloz Basilashvili: You have to believe the winner of this Second Round match is going to be feeling pretty good about their chances of progressing into the second week of the Australian Open with the two Seeds in the section. The winner might be in line to play a top ten Seed, but Alexander Zverev is a vulnerable player at the Grand Slams and both Fernando Verdasco and Nikoloz Basilashvili will fancy their chances as long as they don't think too far ahead.

It took Basilashvili five sets and almost four hours to get through his First Round match and that has to be a concern for the Georgian. Over the last eighteen months he has played some of his best tennis of his career and he reached a career best Ranking of Number 16 in May last year.

Nikoloz Basilashvili finds a way to win matches without dominating and his numbers are largely pretty average on the hard courts. He is a player that can get very hot at times as he hits through the court, but Basilashvili has a vulnerable serve and his erratic play can be most noticeable in these best of five set matches.

He takes on veteran Fernando Verdasco on Day 4 of the tournament and the Spaniard was a much more comfortable First Round winner having come through in straight sets and taking just 97 minutes to do that. He moved through the gears as Verdasco dominated the second and third set in that win, but he will also know this is going to be a much tougher all around match.

Fernando Verdasco reached the Quarter Final in Doha earlier this month so I expect him to be confident, and his numbers on the hard courts over the last twelve months have been superior to Nikoloz Basilashvili. Both have similar ability on the return of serve, but Verdasco looks to have the stronger serve and the former Australian Open Semi Finalist should be able to come through this test against an opponent potentially dealing with some fatigue.

These two players met in Vienna at the back end of the 2019 season and it was Fernando Verdasco who largely dominated the match. On that day it was the superior serve that proved to be the difference maker and I think that will be the situation here as the veteran moves into the Third Round with a good looking win on the board.


Dominic Thiem - 7.5 games v Alex Bolt: Last year Australian Alex Bolt reached the Third Round at the Australian Open before finding a top ten opponent too much to handle. He came through the First Round at the tournament in five sets having spent over three hours on the court, but Bolt has not had a favourable draw as he is set to meet Dominic Thiem in the Second Round.

The World Number 5 dominated Adrian Mannarino yet again as he comfortably progressed to the Second Round and Dominic Thiem is a big favourite to win this match. The numbers out of that First Round match are very similar to what you would tend to expect from Thiem who dominated behind serve for long periods, although there are always some question marks about his return, especially on the hard courts.

In the First Round win Dominic Thiem was very strong on the return and took the break points he was creating, but he is not always that clinical when those chances are presented. It was the return side of his game which prevented the Austrian from having a stronger hard court record in 2019, but Thiem was in good form at the ATP Cup and I think he can put the pressure on Alex Bolt.

Much is going to depend on how well Alex Bolt can serve, but he was broken five times in the First Round against Albert Ramos and spent a lot of time on court in that match. When he has stepped up to the main ATP Tour, Alex Bolt has held in around 76% of the service games played, but he has taken some heavy defeats too with a limited return game being exposed at the very highest level.

The home crowd will help and that should at least give Bolt a boost, but effectively the talent difference between these two players is hard to ignore. Dominic Thiem is not the best to back to cover these big numbers, but I feel he is a suitable player to back for a second time in the tournament and to cover the same line.

I do like the way Dominic Thiem has been returning from the limited sample we have out of the 2020 season and he can find at least one set with a couple of breaks of serve which can see him in a position to cover.


Gael Monfils-Ivo Karlovic over 41.5 games: The best days of Ivo Karlovic might be behind him, but that hasn't stopped the big Croatian from just about holding his form to get into the Australian Open as a direct entrant. He has actually slipped out of the top 100 in the World Rankings and I would not be surprised if the soon to be 41 year old is playing his final few tournaments in his professional career rather than dropping his level to the Challenger circuit.

His win in the First Round against Vasek Pospisil is a boost for Ivo Karlovic, but he is a significant underdog when facing Gael Monfils in the Second Round.

Gael Monfils dominated his First Round opponent who was coming off significant injury problems, but the World Number 10 knows he will have to pick up his level as this tournament develops. The Frenchman has always been comfortable on the hard courts and his numbers show that in each of the last couple of years, although he has played very little competitive tennis so far this season.

Much of this match is going to be about the focus Monfils has when he faces Ivo Karlovic whose own serve continues to be a huge weapon for the Croatian. He has held at least 92% of the service games played on the hard courts in each of the last three seasons and Ivo Karlovic faced just a single break point in the First Round which underlines that side of his game.

Of course Karlovic continues to struggle with his own return and that is declining rapidly, but Gael Monfils has to make sure he doesn't give too much away knowing sets can disappear quickly if that happens. Gael Monfils has a 5-2 head to head record against Ivo Karlovic and he is 3-1 when those matches are played on the hard courts so the Frenchman can have no excuses as to what he has to deal with in this Second Round match.

Even with the head to head advantage, Gael Monfils has held 91% of his service games on this surface against Ivo Karlovic compared with 93% for the latter. Unsurprisingly there are a lot of Tie-Breakers involved and I do think if this match goes into a fourth set then we will see the total games market surpassed.

I would be surprised if Ivo Karlovic can't at least give Monfils something to think about and the players can get together to surpass this number.


Gilles Simon + 5.5 games v Nick Kyrgios: This is the one underdog I feel can make most noise in the Men's Second Round matches scheduled to be played on Thursday and I do think Gilles Simon can at least keep this one competitive. It won't be easy against home favourite Nick Kyrgios, especially not in what are likely to be indoor conditions when they take to the court, but the veteran is off a strong win and can challenge the fans favourite.

Nick Kyrgios was a very good winner in the First Round, although the last two sets were perhaps a little tougher than he would have wanted after winning the first 6-2. He won't mind as long as he can keep putting the sets on the board and the Australian also looked in good form at the ATP Cup, while playing with a lot of motivation to try and heal a country ravaged by the bushfires.

A motivated Nick Kyrgios is very dangerous and he has the kind of game that should be very comfortable on the hard courts. His serve can be one that takes the racquet out of the hands of his opponents, although the reason Nick Kyrgios has yet to take the next step in his career is the limited return game.

That aspect should look better against Gilles Simon who is not blessed with a big serve, but who should be happy after a comfortable First Round win. The veteran is some way away from the peak World Ranking which was earned eleven years ago, but Gilles Simon is happy on the hard courts where his return of serve continues to be very effective.

The strengths of the two players match up with the weaknesses and I do think Nick Kyrgios deserves the favourite tag with youth and power on his side. However this is not a player that is used to covering big lines as his return game can be below average when Nick Kyrgios perhaps looks to conserve some energy through matches.

When these two met a few months ago on the hard courts of Washington, it was the Australian who won in two closely fought sets. The serve proved to be the key for Kyrgios on the day, and I think that is likely going to happen again although Gilles Simon played well enough to believe he will keep things competitive.

He only produced a single break despite creating more break points than Nick Kyrgios and I do think Gilles Simon can steal a set in this one which will make this a difficult line for the favourite to cover.


Anett Kontaveit - 5.5 games v Sara Sorribes Tormo: Both of these players were unfortunate enough to have to play their First Round matches on Day 3 of the Australian Open and that means having to return on Day 4 to get through their Second Round match. Both Anett Kontaveit and Sara Sorribes Tormo had strong wins on Wednesday although the latter had to come from a set behind before dropping two further games.

The Spaniard will be looking to frustrate another big hitting opponent in this match, but Sorribes Tormo can't keep expecting to win games in which she is constantly taken to deuce. That was the case when she beat her First Round opponent, while Sorribes Tormo will also understand she is going to have to be a lot better when taking on Anett Kontaveit.

Anett Kontaveit has dropped down to World Number 31 having reached a career best World Ranking last year, but she was in fine form in dismissing Astra Sharma in the First Round for the loss of just two games. She did enjoy a strong year on the hard courts in 2019 and I would not be overly concerned by a slow start to 2020 considering the way the draws have panned out for her.

This is not the same as facing players like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Kiki Bertens who can have the power to match Kontaveit and then take the game to her. In this one I would expect Kontaveit to dictate the points even if it is a wet and windy day in Melbourne, while she has a clear advantage in the head to head which cannot be ignored.

These two players met twice on the hard courts last year- once at the Australian Open and once at the US Open and Anett Kontaveit crushed Sara Sorribes Tormo on both occasions. The Sorribes Tormo serve was having no impact on the match and she won just 30% of the return points played while failing to break the Kontaveit serve and I think that is going to give the Estonian a big mental advantage in the match.

Sara Sorribes Tormo has some solid return numbers on the main WTA Tour in hard court matches, but this has been a tough serve for her to read and I do think Anett Kontaveit will move into the Third Round with a good looking win behind her.


Angelique Kerber - 5.5 games v Priscilla Hon: A strong win in the First Round might have eased some of the injury concerns which are surrounding Angelique Kerber, but the competition is also going to pick up the further she gets into the Australian Open. That may not be the case in this Second Round match against Priscilla Hon, although the latter will be benefited from playing in front of home support and that can be a real inspiration.

I respect the Kerber game, but she is someone who can struggle against the biggest hitters who are able to penetrate her defensive game. She has a decent serve, but the main success comes from the return as she pressures opponents into trying to push too hard and the former Australian Open Champion will always believe her game is good enough to add to the Grand Slams she has won already.

Her return is going to be tested by Priscilla Hon who has served pretty well even when it comes to playing in main WTA tournaments on the hard courts. At 21 years old Hon will be hoping she can quickly start moving up the World Rankings, but she has yet to crack the top 100 in her career and you have to believe the difference in level that these two players operate at will eventually show up here.

Priscilla Hon is not that accustomed to playing opponents of the level of Angelique Kerber and I think the German will start pulling away once she figures out what is coming from the other side of the court. The defensive skills should frustrate the home hope, and Hon is 1-7 in her career playing top 50 Ranked opponents on the hard courts.

In those matches Prisiclla Hon has seen her second serve being punished and not getting enough out of the return to stay competitive. I think that could potentially be the outcome of this one and Angelique Kerber can grind down the Australian for a 6-4, 6-2 kind of win.


Elina Svitolina - 5.5 games v Lauren Davis: It was a tougher than expected opening match at the Australian Open for Elina Svitolina, but ultimately all that matters is that she has made it through to the Second Round. She is a big favourite in this match too when facing Lauren Davis, a player she has dominated in previous meetings and who should be a relatively comfortable match up for the favourite.

There isn't much we can say about the early season form of Elina Svitolina who was crushed by Danielle Collins in a pre-Australian Open tournament before narrowly seeing off Katie Boulter. She had another strong year on the Tour which means Elina Svitolina goes into the tournament as the World Number 5, but most important to the Ukrainian were the breakthroughs earned in Grand Slam tournaments.

Before 2019 Elina Svitolina has played in three Grand Slam Quarter Finals despite being a regular name in the top ten in the World Rankings. Nerves had perhaps affected her performances, but in 2019 Elina Svitolina reached one Quarter Final and two Semi Finals at the four Grand Slams played, although there was a slight slip in the numbers on the hard courts.

However those numbers are still considerably stronger than Lauren Davis', although the American has a lot more wins on the board in 2020 than her favoured opponent. Lauren Davis was a strong winner in the First Round which will keep the confidence going, but she is just 2-12 in her last fourteen hard court matches against players Ranked in the top 50 and that is a major concern.

The 26 year old does hold a top ten win on the hard courts in her career, but that came back in 2014 and Davis is 0-4 in those matches since then. More of a concern has to be the 0-4 head to head record against Elina Svitolina where she has struggled to have an impact on the Svitolina serve.

At the same time Lauren Davis has only just won over 50% of the points played behind serve and that makes it no surprise that the majority of the Elina Svitolina wins against her have been in one sided matches. This one might be a touch closer considering the slow start made by Svitolina in 2020, but I think she can produce a relatively strong win in this one.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 7.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gael Monfils-Ivo Karlovic Over 41.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gilles Simon + 5.5 Games @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Anett Kontaveit - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Karolina Muchova - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Danielle Collins - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Laura Siegemund + 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 11-10, - 0.76 Units (42 Units Staked, - 1.81% Yield)

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