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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Tennis Picks 2020 (February 4th)

The Australian Open put a stamp on the first month of the 2020 Tennis season and if it is any indication of what we are going to see over the next eleven months then it is more of the same from the last couple of years.

The Women's Tour is Wide Open- all credit has to be given to Sofia Kenin for winning her maiden Grand Slam title and becoming the tenth different name to win the last twelve Women's Grand Slam titles.

However it is more of an indication that a void remains at the very top of the Women's game since Serena Williams has been unable to return to the heights she reached back in 2017 before having a baby. The American is no longer someone who inspires dread amongst the rest of the Tour, but there isn't one clear name leading the way.

Over the last couple of years we have seen multiple Slam Champions and a consistent changing of the Number 1 World Ranking, while I don't think any tournament going forward will have a consensus pick amongst the fans out there.

Sofia Kenin is going to have to show she can compete with the label of being a Slam Champion, but her overall numbers are not leaping off the page to think she will become the top player on the Tour on a consistent basis. At this moment I would suggest there are a dozen players out there who are capable of going on a two week hot streak which can see them win a Grand Slam and I do think there are many who are going to regret not taking advantage of the current vacuum at the very top of the WTA Tour.

The clay court and grass court seasons are perhaps a little more specialist, but Ashleigh Barty won in Paris and Simona Halep won in London which shows anyone is going to be capable.

Will Serena Williams catch Margaret Court let alone Overtake her?- When Serena Williams won her twenty-third Singles Grand Slam title in Australia in 2017 it would have been very short odds that she would end her career with more than the twenty-four titles Margaret Court picked up.

Of course at that time we did not know that Williams was expecting her first child, but even then most thought she would return to the Tour and get back to her dominating ways.

It was only a matter of time before she would match Court's record and then overtake it...

However things have not worked out as planned and I do think Serena Williams has lost some of the aura which made it so difficult for players to put her away. In reality she should have perhaps already overtaken Court having lost four Grand Slam Finals since returning and all of those as the clear favourite on the day.

All four losses have come at Wimbledon (twice) and the US Open (twice) so I do think it is premature to rule Williams out from winning at least one more Grand Slam. Even with that in mind you have to wonder if doubts are beginning to enter her game having found someone a little too good on the day.

I would still hazard a guess that Serena Williams will go into each Grand Slam as one of the top two favourites before a ball has been hit, but what was once almost impossible to think otherwise is becoming more and more realistic in each passing month. And that is that the Tennis world will not see Serena Williams overtake Margaret Court's Grand Slam Singles record.

The Next Gen on the ATP are not Quite There- Novak Djokovic recovered from 2-1 down in the Australian Open Final to make sure that for the thirteenth time in a row either himself, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal was standing victorious at the end of a Grand Slam tournament.

It means no one under the age of 31 years old has a Grand Slam title to their name, although Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem both pushed members of the 'Big Three' to five sets at the US Open and in Melbourne this past week.

That is a stunning issue for players on the ATP Tour and I do think Men's tennis is going to go through something similar to Women's Tennis when the likes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic slip.

Like Serena Williams, I think those three will always be amongst the favourites as I can't see any of them allowing themselves to hang around on the Tour when they know they can't win Grand Slam titles. And like the Women's game, it may mean we get into a position of seeing multiple different names winning Grand Slam titles as they get hot for two weeks in what is going to be a largely inconsistent performances from the top names.

Alexander Zverev was another who made a breakthrough by reaching a maiden Semi Final so will lead the challenge from the younger players along with Dominic Thiem when we head to Paris, but it feels those players are not quite ready in the best of five set situation. There are some quality names coming up on the Tour, but Men's Tennis needs one of them to break this run of the 'Big Three' while those are still competing at the top of their game.

It'll make a star of that player and also show the rest of the 'Next Gen' that their time is now.

The Three Greatest Men's Players of All Time- I have no doubt we are watching a blessed era when the three best Men's players of all time are competing and pushing each other along at the same time.

Novak Djokovic's eighth win in Melbourne means he has moved to seventeen overall Grand Slam titles and only trails Rafael Nadal by two Slams and Roger Federer by three Slams.

I do think the player that finishes with the most at the end of their career will have a real argument for being the best of All Time and it is stunning to think that only twenty years ago Pete Sampras winning fourteen Slams was considered unthinkable.

Some will say there isn't the depth of competition which has aided the 'Big Three' but I would take all of them over the greats of the past.

Rafael Nadal is without a doubt the best clay court player that has performed, while Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have strong records in Melbourne and London respectively.

Where I would find it most interesting is if these three players could be taken at their very best and compete with each other at the US Open- Federer has five Slam titles there, Nadal four and Djokovic three and it might be the surface where the true 'best' would be determined.

Right now I am leaning towards Novak Djokovic- I think he has more time to surpass the total Roger Federer has and he is a threat at three of the Slams where Rafael Nadal has long had his issues in Australia and in Great Britain.

The Serb will turn 33 years old in May, but I think he has the best chances of winning multiple Slams before the 'Next Gen' begin to not only get closer, but start to take some of those titles away too.

No matter which may you lean, you have to be grateful for the greatness we have been given over the last twenty years as I don't believe we will see a time like this again.

So the first Tennis Picks of the season are in the books at the end of the Australian Open and it turned out to be a very good start to the 2020 year, although not as strong as last season.

In fact I ended with about ten units fewer than the 2019 Australian Open, although that was an exceptional one for the Tennis Picks and the 2020 tournament was simply a strong one.

Novak Djokovic's win proved to be key with the five pre-tournament units recommended on him at odds against, while the daily picks recovered from being in a ten unit hole to finish with a strong profit too over the two weeks in Melbourne.

I have a couple of Tennis Picks from the ATP Cordoba First Round matches to be played on Tuesday and underneath that I have updated the weekly totals as well as the season totals.

Monday proved to be a difficult day with the three selections all losing, but there is time to bounce back in a long week.

Roberto Carballas Baena - 2.5 games v Pedro Martinez: The Golden Swing has begun in South America and this is the first tournament in the run over the next month.

For these two Spaniards it is the first clay court event they are taking in during the 2020 season and both Roberto Carballas Baena and Pedro Martinez have to be happy that they are back on their favourite surface.

Pedro Martinez may have a slight edge as he had to come through a couple of Qualifiers to reach the main draw and so has some feel for the surface again. On the other side his compatriot will play his first clay court match of the 2020 season, but I expect Carballas Baena to be relatively comfortable quite quickly on a surface on which he would have played the majority of his tennis throughout his life.

It is the older Spaniard who has had the better of the numbers on the clay courts, but Martinez is still only 22 years old and showing signs of improving. The level of competition will be increasing for Martinez if he wants to make a career for himself on the main ATP Tour and much is going to depend on how much he can get out of his serve.

I am not going to read too much into the two wins in the Qualifiers when Pedro Martinez was serving well as he has been winning 58% of his service points on this surface in each of the last two seasons. Those have come below the main ATP level too and I would expect Roberto Carballas Baena to challenge that side of his game as he has when beating him four times in a row on the clay since 2018.

Roberto Carballas Baena has had the more reliable serve and similar return numbers to Pedro Martinez in the last couple of years on the clay courts. That has shown up in the head to head where Carballas Baena has held 82% of his service games played against Martinez compared with 52% for the latter.

There should be breaks of serve in the match, but I think Roberto Carballas Baena is the stronger clay court player at this time and should be able to settle into the match before pulling away for the win.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 games v Facundo Bagnis: Two southpaws meet in the First Round of the tournament being played in Cordoba and Albert Ramos-Vinolas is a pretty big favourite to make it through to the Second Round.

The first match back on the clay courts might be the biggest factor going against Ramos-Vinolas in this one, especially as he is playing someone who is entering his second tournament on the surface.

Last week Facundo Bagnis reached the Quarter Final of a Challenger event and he has won two Qualifiers to get into the main draw here. He is very comfortable on the clay courts and spends the majority of his time on the surface, but his numbers have long taken a hit when he has stepped up to take on the main ATP Tour.

That has been the case for his opponent in recent times too, but Ramos-Vinolas has also made hay at the Challenger level. The Spaniard is off a strong season on the clay courts as he got back to basics following a tough year on the main ATP Tour in 2018, and the Spaniard also has a long history of wins over Bagnis which should give him an edge.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas has won all three previous matches against the Argentinian he faces on Tuesday and he has not lot more than four games in any of those wins. The first two came early in their careers, but the most recent was last year in Sao Paulo and I do think the head to head is relevant with that in mind.

Where Albert Ramos-Vinolas has been strong behind serve, Facundo Bagnis has struggled massively to the point where he has held less than 50% of the service games he has played against the Spaniard. At the same time he has barely dented the Ramos-Vinolas serve and I do think it is going to be difficult for things to change drastically even when accounting for the fact that Ramos-Vinolas is playing his first clay court match of the season.

This time last year Ramos-Vinolas did need three sets to win his opener in Cordoba, but this has been a good match up for him. The home support may be with Facundo Bagnis, but I think Albert Ramos-Vinolas is too good for him on the day and can cover this mark.

MY PICKS: Roberto Carballas Baena - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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

Season 2020: + 13.78 Units (149 Units Staked, + 9.25% Yield)

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