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Thursday, 22 April 2021

Tennis Picks 2021 (April 22nd)

There are always some difficult moments during the long Tour and that goes for players and those of us trying to make the right Tennis Picks.

I'm just having one of those trying times.

I have added at least two names to some of the others that are already on my list that have to be avoided at all costs- you can't really trust them to perform when you back them, but they will be unplayable the day you dare to oppose them (hi Kei Nishikori).

And no matter who I pick, it is never easy for them... At the moment the amount of break points and set points being missed or players serving for the match and then faltering massively that has been going on is laughable. If I pick an underdog though, they seem to a train-wreck that won't even think about competing.

I won't lie, it is nothing but frustrating when things like this happen and the worst thing part is you would prefer the train-wreck Pick rather than the one that is almost conspired against by the Tennis Gods.

I mean if your selection gets battered you put it down to one of those days- but what do you say when someone has a set and a break lead, fails to serve it out, misses match points and decides to lose six of seven games... Worst still, they will then win five in a row to win the match and miss the cover by one game (hi Filip Krajinovic).

Too often this has happened since the latter week of the Miami Masters and it has proved to be costly.

But how many times can it keep happening? I think Thursday will be a key day for me at least until the Madrid Masters.

If there are more of these types of weird things happening, I think I am going to take a short break and just hit the reset button. Over the last couple of days it has felt most of the big points have gone against my selections and that really is bad luck, because you can't keep picking players to get into a position where they are one point from crossing the line and falling short each time, just through sheer luck it won't keep happening.

BUT I am also not willing to have a bad run hurt me over and over- I regularly take those breaks between events to just settle things back to zero and then go again (just as I am writing this Diego Sebastian Schwartzman has lost the set 6-3 despite losing THREE more points- again that is almost statistically impossible seeing as you need two points more to win a single game). However, it is that kind of nonsense I refuse to accept as being a sign of a bad pick rather than a horrific turn of luck.

In saying that I have had some bad Picks too, but those are compounded by the others and I do need to be better.

Stefanos Tsitsipas - 5.5 games v Alex De Minuar: It has not been the most productive of seasons for Alex De Minaur up to this point and he is going to be entering what has regularly become a difficult portion of the Tour for him. The Australian did win a ATP Title early on in 2021, but he is just 4-7 since then and the win in the Second Round here snapped a poor run that the Australian had been on.

I have to say that he has not really enjoyed much fortune with some close losses before another narrow defeat in Monte Carlo last week, while Alex De Minaur will be going up against a player in confident form and one that has played some of his best tennis on the clay courts throughout his career.

Stefanos Tsitsipas missed a couple of opportunities for Titles already in 2021, but he is finally on the board with a Masters success in Monte Carlo. While Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will go into the French Open as the favourites, the Greek star may have overtaken Dominic Thiem as the player most likely to be successful if the top two clay courters do falter.

He isn't just winning matches at the moment, but Tsitsipas is blowing through opponents and it was more of the same in his Second Round win over a solid clay courter in Juame Munar. This opponent is not as comfortable on the red dirt and you do have to say that Stefanos Tsitsipas is deserving of his spot as a big favourite, even if the handicap mark is one that can be hard to surpass if playing a B or C level performance.

We just haven't seen any of those in short time back on the clay after reaching the French Open Semi Final last year and Stefanos Tsitsipas is arguably playing much better now. The serve has always been a big weapon for Tsitsipas, but he is most impressing with his bullying on the return and following that up by putting opponent's under significant pressure which has led to breaks in 47% of return games played since the start of the Monte Carlo Masters.

Stefanos Tsitsipas isn't just building his numbers against cannon fodder as half of his six wins on the clay have been against top 30 Ranked opponents.

Alex De Minaur is a player I respect, but he is just 2-7 on the clay courts since 2019 and his service numbers in particular have made for disappointing reading in those matches. In that time the Australian has won just 55% of his service points played and that has led to a hold of serve in less than 65% of his service games on the clay, numbers that a player like Stefanos Tsitsipas will feel he can exploit.

There will be an additional reason for that confidence as Stefanos Tsitsipas has won six of the seven professional matches played between these two players. In those matches, the majority which have been played on surfaces that Alex De Minaur would favour, Tsitsipas has won 42% of return points played compared with De Minaur's 31% mark and there has been a considerable edge in holds of serve off the back of that.

They did play a competitive match Down Under in the ATP Cup, but that was on a hard court and was still won by Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-5 a couple of months ago. On a surface that favours the Greek significantly more than Alex De Minaur, I do expect that gap to be slightly bigger at the end of this Third Round match.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 games v Bernabe Zapata Miralles: After dominating the first set, Bernabe Zapata Miralles may feel he was robbed of the biggest win of his career by Fabio Fognini's outburst that saw the fiery Italian Disqualified in the Second Round. He has never beaten a top 50 Ranked player on the clay courts and the 24 year old will be taking aim at that in the Third Round when taking on a compatriot in Barcelona.

This is a tough looking match for Bernabe Zapata Miralles as he gets set to take on Pablo Carreno Busta who has already won an ATP Title on the clay courts this season. It will perhaps surprise some to hear that I don't think the clay courts are Carreno Busta's best surface having had decent success playing on the hard courts, but the Spaniard is comfortable on the red dirt and his performances over the last couple of weeks have been encouraging.

He only needed a little over an hour to crush Jordan Thompson in the Second Round and Pablo Carreno Busta has produced some solid numbers in his limited time on the clay courts this season. Pablo Carreno Busta didn't play badly on the clay last season either and he has been a solid, if unspectacular, performer on the surface.

The level shown is certainly one that is going to test Bernabe Zapata Miralles, although the Qualifier has a number of wins under his belt that will mean he is confident. I also think the return game has to be respected in this match and Zapata Miralles will know that his opponent is one that can offer up chances on his own serve when he is not at his best, although Pablo Carreno Busta will also believe he can pressure someone who has won less than 60% of service points played on this surface in 2021.

That has largely come in matches against players Ranked outside the top 100 too and his numbers are dented when facing those players inside that number in the World Rankings. Bernabe Zepata Miralles might find the pressure produced from the other side of the net very difficult to deal with and if Pablo Carreno Busta is able to serve as well as he has been in his short time back on the clay he should have a real edge against his younger opponent.

I do think one of the sets will be quite competitive, but Carreno Busta should be able to create the majority of the break point chances and eventually wear down this opponent.

John Millman - 1.5 games v Taro Daniel: Neither of these two players has had a lot of success on the clay courts, but it is a good opportunity to earn a Quarter Final spot and put some vital World Ranking points in the bag. Both John Millman and Taro Daniel are likely to be very happy with the draw after solid First Round wins.

Both victories came in straight sets for these two players, but John Millman made arguably lighter work with his opponent than Taro Daniel. However, the latter is a Lucky Loser so Daniel will feel pretty comfortable in the conditions and also that he has nothing to lose having been beaten once already in Belgrade.

Even then it is hard to make much of a case for Taro Daniel who has long struggled on the clay courts and who has lost all three matches played against top 100 Ranked opponents on this surface in 2021. Taro Daniel has struggled to protect his serve in those three defeats and that has put pressure on his return game, one that Daniel has not been able to handle as the Japanese player has been beaten pretty routinely.

He has held just 71% of service games played on the hard courts in 2021, but that number dips to 54% when only considering matches against top 100 Ranked opponents.

John Millman may not be one of the elite clay courters in the world, but he is a top 100 Ranked player and I think the Australian will also lean on his past successes against Taro Daniel to give him some confidence. The veteran is a fairly steady player overall and John Millman has similar numbers as Taro Daniel both behind serve and return, although four of his five clay court matches have come against top 100 Ranked opponents compared with three of ten for Taro Daniel.

That has to be factored into the numbers, while Millman has a 3-1 lead over Daniel in the head to head. None of those matches have been on the clay courts, but John Millman has had a significant edge in the returning numbers and has created more break points than Taro Daniel in all four matches.

I expect that to be the case again in this Second Round match and I do think John Millman can get past Taro Daniel. His lack of feeling for the clay courts may make this closer than some of their previous matches have been, but I think John Millman should have the majority of chances and in general has been the better clay courter of the two and I expect that to show up by the time it is all said and done.

MY PICKS: Stefanos Tsitsipas - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
John Millman - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Aslan Karatsev - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-13, - 11.52 Units (42 Units Staked, - 27.43% Yield)

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