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Monday, 27 January 2020

Australian Open Tennis Day 9 Picks 2020 (January 28th)

The plan for the day was all set up- I was going to watch the United FA Cup tie and by around 8, 8:30 in the evening I would have finished my research and been able to produce the Day 8 Picks for the Australian Open.

And then the news hit me.

Kobe Bryant was gone. Along with his 13 year old daughter Gianna as Kobe accompanied her to a basketball practice.

I'm not a Lakers fan, but I am a basketball fan and for a long time I could enjoy the PlayOffs for what they were as the New York Knicks have long failed as an organisation.

More importantly I am a fan of individual players in a sport where one player can carry a franchise and not many have done that better than Kobe Bryant.

A five time NBA Champion and his 'Mamba Mentality' saw Kobe come up big at the very biggest moments- he was the generational talent between Michael Jordan and LeBron James and he put his name alongside the very finest to play the game.

A legend who was certain to enter the Hall of Fame in 2020, Kobe transcended the NBA having had an impact on sportsmen and women around the world.

Everyone knows Kobe the same way everyone knows Michael Jordan and LeBron.

And in his post-basketball career Kobe continued to achieve things no one could have predicted with an Oscar win, while no one will ever doubt the devotion he had to his family.

I honestly can't believe he is gone.

Things like this put everything else into perspective and I will be honest that I couldn't feel the energy to pick the laptop up and write down thoughts for Day 8 at the Australian Open. The unexpected passing of a legend who I had grown up watching and reading about made it hard to focus on anything but feeling for his fans and his family.

Even now I can't quite believe he has gone, but time will begin to heal all. Replacing a husband/father and a daughter/sister is impossible for the family, and the NBA won't be the same going forward with the impact Kobe had on so many in the League.

It hurt very much on Sunday night hearing the awful news, but life does slowly begin to return to some normality. People can be guilty of taking things too seriously, but Kobe put it best- 'life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going... Just keep on rolling'.

After all this it does feel 'meaningless' to write down my thoughts on the Quarter Final matches at the Australian Open. However we have to keep going and appreciate the greatness we enjoy as sports fans around the world.

Ultimately this should be nothing but a bit of fun- there are more important things in life without a doubt. You can read my thoughts on the four Australian Open Quarter Finals scheduled for Tuesday below.

Sofia Kenin - 3.5 games v Ons Jabeur: This has to be the most surprising Quarter Final at the Australian Open in 2020 as Sofia Kenin and Ons Jabeur have put a number of upsets in the books to reach this Round of the tournament. Actually all of those upsets have been produced by Ons Jabeur who has been the underdog in three of her four matches at the event and that is the case for her again on Tuesday.

It should not be a big problem for her mentally, but the pressure is increasing on both players who are not used to being involved at this stage of a Grand Slam. Both will look at this match up as a wonderful chance to reach a Grand Slam Semi Final and I do think it could come down to which of the two players handles the occasion best.

I do think nerves are going to be at play on both sides of the court, although Sofia Kenin may have a mental advantage having won three previous matches against Ons Jabeur. That has to be important, while Kenin has also been playing at a superior level to the Tunisian who has done very well to reach the Quarter Final but also won some close games to just about edge past opponents.

The serve has been a big part of the successes for Jabeur and she has been able to just about keep herself in matches through some close moments to take advantage despite not having the best return numbers. Ons Jabeur has taken her chances when they have been presented which does make her dangerous, but I also like the way Sofia Kenin has been playing on the return.

For the most part in this tournament the American has also served well and I do think it is going to be the reason she edges through to the Semi Final. Her superior return game should also show up and was the reason Kenin was able to beat Jabeur in their sole previous hard court match and I will look for the favourite to cover the line.

Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 games v Petra Kvitova: In 2019 Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty became very familiar with one another having met five times on the hard courts over the course of the season. The first two of those matches were played in Australia where Kvitova was able to get the better of the home hope on both occasions including a thumping win at the Australian Open twelve months ago.

They met at the same stage of the 2019 Australian Open and that was the most one-sided of the five matches played as Kvitova perhaps took advantage of some of the Barty nerves.

Those should be easier to deal with, although not completely out of play, by Ashleigh Barty who has won a Grand Slam since that meeting twelve months ago. Perhaps even more important is the fact that Barty has won the last three matches between these players on the hard courts and there has been a real edge in the return numbers across those matches that will give the World Number 1 real confidence and rightly has her down as the favourite.

Making it a closer match is the levels the two players have produced so far in this tournament with Petra Kvitova definitely operating at the higher level. The last Round was perhaps tighter than it should have been, but the Czech player will largely be very happy with the serving and that has allowed her to take big swings off the return to put herself in a strong position to win matches.

On the other hand Ashleigh Barty had a really difficult win over Alison Riske, although that has been a bad match up for her in the past. Finding a way to bounce back from a miserable second set has to give the World Number 1 further confidence as she looks to be come the first Aussie to win the home Grand Slam since 1978.

The return has largely been good enough too and over the last twelve months Ashleigh Barty does have a slight edge over Petra Kvitova. The fact she has found the win in the last three hard court matches between these players and has a considerable edge on the return in those three wins is another positive factor for the top Seed.

I do think we are going to see a top quality match, but I like Ashleigh Barty as the narrow favourite to progress to the Semi Final and earn a measure of revenge over Petra Kvitova for the defeat twelve months ago.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Tennys Sandgren: Two years ago Tennys Sandgren came out of left field to have a strong run at the Australian Open as he reached the Quarter Final. That was only the third time he had played in the main draw of any Grand Slam and since that run Sandgren has reached just a single Fourth Round in seven Slams played.

That all changed over the last few days as the American has once again managed to work his way into the Australian Open Quarter Final. Two years ago Tennys Sandgren was beaten in straight sets by Hyeon Chung, but this time the challenge is even tougher as he takes on Roger Federer.

The Swiss superstar has not been at his best in this tournament, but the performance in the Fourth Round was very encouraging and the hope is that Federer is peaking at the right time. There are clearly still some areas to improve if Federer is going to win the Australian Open yet again, especially when it comes to the serve and being in a position to prevent as many break points as he has been giving up.

Where Roger Federer has excelled is on the return of serve and that is going to be key for him in this Quarter Final to make things easier for himself. It does have to be said that Tennys Sangren possesses a serve that can be very difficult to break when at his best, and he has been able to play the big points very well in the tournament so far.

In each of the last three matches played by Tennys Sandgren it is the opponent who has managed a lot more break points than himself, but where the American has been clinical when chances are presented he has also been good enough to save the majority of break points being faced.

I would not be massively surprised if one set is very competitive in this Quarter Final, but ultimately you have to believe Roger Federer is going to eventually take command. I just can't see Tennys Sandgren continuing to raise his level when the break points come up as he has been so far at the Australian Open and not when Roger Federer has been knuckling down and playing those big points efficiently too.

This is a big spread without a doubt, but I do think Roger Federer can work his way to the cover.

Novak Djokovic - 5.5 games v Milos Raonic: This has been a big tournament for Milos Raonic who is looking to move back up the World Rankings with a solid set of results behind him. It has been something of a surprise when you think the Canadian was beaten in his only match prior to the start of the tournament, but he has been in monstrous form as far as his serve is concerned and that has put opponents under intense pressure to stay with Milos Raonic.

Even then it will take a special effort from Raonic to beat Novak Djokovic as the World Number 2 and defending Champion in Melbourne continues to make easy work of his draw. The Serb did drop a set in the First Round, but he has been largely dominant and Novak Djokovic has only been broken once in his last three matches.

You do have to say that Djokovic has perhaps not hit the heights you would expect from the return of serve, but he has managed to produce at least four breaks of serve in each of the matches played here. There is perhaps some room for improvement in the amount of points being won on the return of serve, but Novak Djokovic has been looking very good so far.

It will be interesting to see how he can do against the Milos Raonic serve which has yet to be broken in this tournament. In previous matches between these players Novak Djokovic has broken in 30% of return games played against the Canadian on the hard courts, although their last match up was eighteen months ago.

That was a very close match and Milos Raonic has continued to be a very strong server over the last twelve months on this surface. His return continues to be a little limited and that has shown up in the last couple of matches even though Raonic has found a way to earn the breaks he has needed to win sets.

Novak Djokovic has been very confident looking after his serve though and I do think he is going to be able to wear down Milos Raonic. When they met at the Australian Open in 2015 it was Novak Djokovic who won the match and he got stronger and stronger in a straight sets win.

This one might be closer, but I think the Serb will prove too strong and test the Milos Raonic to a level that has yet to be faced in this tournament so far.

MY PICKS: Sofia Kenin - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 29-26, + 1.34 Units (112 Units Staked, + 1.20% Yield)

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