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NBA Picks January 2017 (January 23-31)

It has been an up and down month for the NBA Picks but there are just nine days left of the month so I will collate all of the results in th...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 9 Picks 2017 (January 24th)

You have to give the layers a lot of credit for the way they had the markets priced up on Day 8, but I was fortunate to get on the right side of a 5-3 day which has kept the positive momentum going.

Both Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic missed the cover by a single game which would have produced another really big day, but I will take a winning record every time and look for this tournament to end with a successful return.

We have got to the Quarter Final Round of the tournament and I still think both men's and women's events are very open for all the players. I don't think anyone could pick the winner with any real confidence at this point and I am just looking forward to a few days of exceptional tennis to come.

Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 sets v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: There are four Quarter Finals being played on Tuesday and this looks by far the most intriguing of the four. Both Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have reached the Final at the Australian Open before, but it is Wawrinka who has managed to take the next step and actually bring home Grand Slam victories.

It was the Australian Open which was the first Slam Wawrinka won, but he has managed to do the same at the French Open and US Open and I think that gives him an edge in this match. While Tsonga may be a little edgy and wondering if he will ever get a better chance to win a Grand Slam title, Stan Wawrinka has to come into the Quarter Final knowing he has been there and done it before and that can ease any nerves going into the match.

Both players have played well here in the tournament and I am anticipating a really good Quarter Final between them. Tsonga has been serving really effectively which gives the rest of his game plenty of confidence, but Wawrinka has also been looking after serve well enough and looked to be getting stronger, like he does, when he reaches the business end of tournaments.

It is hard to discount the importance of the fact that Stan Wawrinka has also won their last three head to head matches, whilst also beating Tsonga in three of their four previous best of five set matches. That includes a convincing four set win in the Davis Cup Final in 2014 and a four set win at the French Open on his way to winning the title at Roland Garros in 2015.

If Tsonga serves well, he can be a very dangerous opponent and mentally grind down players, but the Frenchman is faced with plenty of aggression coming back at him from the other side of the court. Tsonga won't want to get into too many backhand to backhand rallies and has to show off his net skills to put some pressure on Wawrinka, but I think the Swiss man doesn't mind the match up and comes through in three or four competitive sets.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Mischa Zverev: I thought Andy Murray was being asked to cover a lot of games in the Fourth Round when going up against Mischa Zverev (9.5 game handicap) but I never anticipated he would be going out against the German. It was a stunner of an upset to sit right up alongside Denis Istomin's win over Novak Djokovic earlier in the tournament and Zverev has opened up the men's tournament completely.

The German showed plenty of self-belief in his win over Murray, but things don't get any easier as he gets to take on 17 time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer for a place in the Semi Final. The return of Roger Federer has been wonderful to watch and he has shown he is ready to compete for another Australian Open title after positive performances in wins over Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori.

Federer is clearly unworried about being pushed into five sets by Nishikori in the Fourth Round and his fitness seems to be exactly where he wants it. Unlike Murray, I expect Federer to be a lot more dominant behind his serve in this match which is going to increase the pressure on Zverev to be able to come to the net.

The former World Number 1 is also very comfortable at the net and I would not be surprised if he looks to take that away from Zverev by coming forward aggressively where he can too. Federer should be able to return well enough to have Zverev try and win points with incredible net play again and I simply cannot see that happening over a couple of hours they will be spending out on the court.

It won't be as easy as when Federer last played Zverev- Federer won 6-0, 6-0 in Halle on the grass in 2013- but I do think Federer wears down Zverev with his shot making, aggression and power and can come through with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 kind of win.

Venus Williams v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: When this Quarter Final had been set a couple of days ago, Venus Williams was the slight favourite to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who has already had two upsets to reach this Round. However there has been a drift in that time and now it is Venus who is the underdog, although a narrow one in what was always looking to be a pick 'em Quarter Final.

Both women will feel this tournament has opened up with the exits of Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber from the top half of the draw and both Williams and Pavlyuchenkova have to feel they have every chance of competing in a Grand Slam Final. For Venus it is the chance to reach a first Final since Wimbledon 2009 and she should be confident having reached the Semi Final at Wimbledon just last July.

However Pavlyuchenkova is a Junior Champion here and playing with a lot of power and aggression which is making it hard for opponents to fight back. Hitting deep balls with power and showing the consistency to keep the rallies going makes the Russian a really tough player to beat, but I do think Venus can use all of her experience to get the better of her in this one.

Venus has been serving well enough and she is a player who will be able to shorten the points where possible and try and get to the net to do so. I love how Pavlyuchenkova has been playing this week and having backed her twice as the underdog in back to back Rounds, I do feel a little guilty in going up against her this time.

However I think Venus Williams is going to be a little too good at the big moments in a match that should have some swings and roundabouts through the couple of hours they are out there. I did consider backing the match go into a third set or cover the total games market, but my overriding feeling has been Venus Williams will be a little too good and I will back her to win this Quarter Final.

Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 games v Coco Vandeweghe: If you like some big hitting tennis with huge serves and heavy groundstrokes, this is the Quarter Final for you when Garbine Muguruza takes on Coco Vandeweghe on Day 9 of the Australian Open.

That is clearly the first place to start with both Vandeweghe and Muguruza in dominant form behind the serve which makes the rest of their game much easier to handle. When you know you're not going to give up too many breaks of serve, you can start teeing off on the return and not many players can serve as well as these two when they are at their absolute best.

The match does look a tight one on paper with both players showing good form during the first week of the Australian Open so the key is to work out where I think the difference can be made.

I believe Muguruza's previous successes at the Grand Slam level will help her, but Vandeweghe does not lack any confidence in her own ability at all and that kind of evens itself out. However I do think Muguruza is the better returner and has a definite edge when it comes to the backhand battles and that can see her just get the better of the American.

Both have shown they can come to the net and put away volleys so there will be some tennis played away from the big hitting baseline match that most will expect to see. However volleying will have to be at the very best to control the power that Muguruza and Vandeweghe will be trying to pass with and so I do think the key aspect will be the Spaniard's superior returning and stronger backhand.

I love the Vandeweghe attitude on the court and have a lot of time for her. But ultimately I think he may just come up short in this Quarter Final as Muguruza puts her stamp on enough rallies to pull through for a 7-6, 6-3 win and a place in yet another Slam Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Venus Williams @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 39-32, + 11.06 Units (137 Units Staked, + 8.07% Yield)

NBA Picks January 2017 (January 23-31)

It has been an up and down month for the NBA Picks but there are just nine days left of the month so I will collate all of the results in this one thread.

There hasn't been a lot of fortune behind the picks which has been frustrating and it just needed a couple of teams to lock down when holding a big lead in the final five minutes of games which would have put me in a much better position. Things can quickly change and hopefully this week will end up producing a winning one that can take the month into a positive.

Monday 23rd January
Houston Rockets @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The last couple of weeks have just seen the Houston Rockets lose some of the consistency that has seen them move into a position of being the third best team in the Western Conference. They head into this game having lost four of their last seven and a disappointing home loss to the Golden State Warriors in that time might just have highlighted the gap they still need to bridge if there are serious ambitions of winning the NBA Finals.

The trade deadline is fast approaching, but it is unlikely the Rockets will look to strengthen in there but simply try and get better on the court with the roster they have at their disposal. Defensively they have been a little erratic which does put pressure on a team on the other side of the court where they are very much reliant on the three point shot working.

That aspect of their game has been struggling of late and the Houston Rockets will try and get back on track when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks who are riding a five game losing run into this game. Things have been a little sour for the young Bucks with Jabari Parker benched for giving away details of a private meeting he had and Defensively this is a team that has not been making stops.

Milwaukee have allowed at least 109 points in each of their their last five losses and that issue has been magnified by the fact they have only scored more than 98 points once. They should have more success Offensively against the Houston Defense, but Milwaukee are going to have an issue winning if they cannot make stops against a powerful Offense that should have Ryan Anderson back.

The Rockets should control the boards in this one too and they can improve their 4-1 record against the spread in the last five in this series.

New York Knicks @ Indiana Pacers Pick: The New York Knicks have not really matched up very well with the Indiana Pacers in recent games between these teams, especially when the game has been played at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Recent performances have been heartbreaking for the New York Knicks who have found special ways to lose games that they perhaps should not be, and that has meant they are off the pace in the Eastern Conference Play Off picture.

Games like this are vital for the Knicks to try and get back on track as they visit an Indiana Pacers team who have lost back to back games, but have been much better at home than on the road. The Pacers have won five in a row at home which includes a 14 point win over the New York Knicks earlier this month, but this one should be a lot closer.

In the earlier win, the Knicks were dominated on the boards which is a big surprise when you consider the two rosters that will be out there. Joakim Noah may miss out for New York, but the Knicks have dominated the boards in the last four games which has allowed them to keep games competitive and now they face a Pacers team who have been struggling on the boards.

New York were blown out at the Toronto Raptors when shorthanded, but that is their only defeat of more than three points in their last seven outings. The Knicks do have the scoring power to stay with Indiana at the very least, especially with the Defensive problems the Pacers have been having, and they do have a winning record against the spread when visiting a team with a winning record overall.

The concern is clearly the 1-9 record against the spread in their last ten games in Indiana, but this can be a rare cover for the Knicks if they battle effectively on the glass and keep up the heavy scoring they have been providing.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Utah Jazz currently hold the second longest active winning streak in the NBA having moved to six in a row on Saturday and that means they have joined the struggling LA Clippers in numbers for the season. Finishing in the top four of the Western Conference will mean at least one home series in the Play Offs and the Jazz are more than capable of doing that over the next few months with trade rumours surrounding Gordon Hayward a little quieter.

Those might pop up again in the coming weeks going into the trade deadline, but for now the Jazz look settled and comfortable with what they are being asked to do. It should also be noted that four of their six wins on their current run have come against teams with a losing record so there are still some questions as to how good Utah are.

Those questions will be asked on Monday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder who have lost three of their last four games and could be missing Steven Adams for this game. The Thunder are well rested having last played on Wednesday, but the over-reliance on Russell Westbrook has become clearer and clearer in each passing week.

Westbrook is still producing stellar numbers, but he needs help and Defensively the Thunder have been having some issues which should be vulnerable to the size of the Jazz. Without Adams the rebounding battle is going to be edged by the home team and Utah have thrived as the favourite of fewer than eight points this season as they have compiled a 17-8 record against the spread.

Utah are also 5-2 against the spread in their last seven at home against Oklahoma City and I do think they can be a little too good at both ends of the court in this one. I like the home team to cover here.

MY PICKS: 23/01 Houston Rockets - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/01 New York Knicks + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
23/01 Utah Jazz - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

January 23-31 Update
January 16-22 Final6-7-1, - 1.42 Units
January 9-15 Final6-6, - 0.54 Units
January 2-8 Final4-3, + 0.68 Units

January Update16-16-1, - 1.28 Units
December Final19-23, - 5.51 Units
November Final24-25-1, - 2.92 Units
October Final8-9, - 1.72 Units

Season 201732-34-1, - 4.64 Units

Final Season 2016150-143-7, - 5.37 Units
Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 8 Picks 2017 (January 23rd)

The Australian Open has produced plenty of shocks down the years, but this might be a more erratic tournament than we have seen in a long time. Both favourites in the men's tournament, who were impossible to split a week ago, have been knocked out of the event before the Quarter Final while the Number 1 Seed in the women's draw has also been beaten.

Day 7 was an absolutely crazy day as Andy Murray joined Angelique Kerber as the two Number 1's being knocked out on the same day. The Murray loss is arguably a bigger upset than Novak Djokovic's earlier in the week, and it is a defeat that may haunt the British player who may never have a better chance to win the Australian Open where he has reached the Final five times before.

The defeat has opened the draw and it is a feel of the old guard trying to hold onto their positions at the top of the men's game as Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal have all won titles here before. However there are players like Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin looking to take the next step in their career by winning a Slam.

You can't discount the two veteran Frenchmen left in the draw either as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils look to add something they may not have expected to their careers at this stage of their lives, but it does make for fascinating viewing over the next few days.

The women's draw might have lost Angelique Kerber, but this has looked an open tournament all week with Serena Williams slightly above the other players in the draw. Coming out of the bottom half is not going to be easy for Williams who may have to beat Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova to get to the Final, while Garbine Muguruza is a quiet threat having won a Grand Slam title already.

I think the remainder of this tournament could be very good for the fans and there should be plenty of good tennis to come.

After a slow start to the tournament, I though the picks from the Australian Open may struggle for a winning record, but back to back strong days have turned things around. Day 7 proved to be another really good day for the picks with plenty of winners that has moved the record into a very good position.

Hopefully that momentum can be carried through to the second week of the tournament and help produce some very good numbers for the first Grand Slam of the season.

Dominic Thiem-David Goffin over 40.5 total games: These two players are amongst the next generation of players on the ATP Tour who are looking to announce that they are ready to challenge the old guard at the top of the World Rankings. Both Dominic Thiem and David Goffin have experienced getting through to the last eight of Grand Slams before so I don't anticipate nerves to be an overriding factor for either player.

In saying that, there will be some nerves because this might be the best opportunity either player has ever had of getting through to a Grand Slam Final. Novak Djokovic is out of this quarter already which means the winner will play either Grigor Dimitrov or Denis Istomin in the Quarter Final before a big Semi Final against, most likely, either Milos Raonic or Rafael Nadal.

With the way Thiem and Goffin have been playing this week, they will believe those are not insurmountable obstacles to them playing next Sunday in the Final. I also believe both players are in very strong form and can put together a competitive match which potentially goes the distance.

It is the third time in five Grand Slams that Goffin and Thiem are playing one another and it is 1-1 so far with the Belgian winning in four at the Australian Open in January 2016 and Thiem earning a measure of revenge with a four set win at the French Open in June 2016. This match failing to go at least four sets would be a huge surprise to me and their previous two matches in 2016 at the Slams have seen them come close to surpassing this total both times.

The layers are right in anticipating a close match as they have got Goffin as a narrow favourite which did tempt me to back Thiem as the underdog. However Goffin has played better to open 2017 so I am looking for four competitive sets to be played out at the least with every chance a decider is needed and so backing the total games to be surpassed is the call.

Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 games v Denis Istomin: The run to the Fourth Round has been very impressive from Denis Istomin who has shown he has plenty of resilience after coming through another five set match in the Third Round. After beating Novak Djokovic in the Second Round, it may have been difficult for Istomin to rise up again after an emotional win, but he managed to see off Pablo Carreno Busta in another long five setter.

Istomin will be looking to knock off a third Seeded player in a row when he faces the in form Grigor Dimitrov in the Fourth Round. With both Djokovic and Andy Murray out of the draw, Dimitrov may just begin to feel this is his time to fulfil the potential that many believed he had when labelled as 'Baby Fed' in his younger days.

I am not sure Dimitrov can ever really make that a moniker that was apt for him, but he won the title in Brisbane against some top players and has only dropped one set on his way through to the Fourth Round. The performance in the win over Richard Gasquet was particularly impressive and Dimitrov has been set as a big favourite to win this one.

You have to believe that mental and physical tiredness is going to affect the Istomin game at some point, but he will be dangerous early in this match. That is when the adrenaline is pumping and Istomin can produce some big serves and heavy groundstrokes which may trouble Dimitrov.

However I have to think that Istomin may just struggle to maintain the level and Dimitrov may just exert enough pressure to win a set by a couple of breaks which helps him move through and cover this number of games.

Milos Raonic - 5.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: There have been plenty of people out there who have believed Milos Raonic is capable of winning Grand Slam titles despite a limited return game and I will admit that I was not one of those. However the Canadian might not have a better chance to win his first Grand Slam title than here at the Australian Open where the top two Seeds have been beaten already.

This time last season Raonic reached the Semi Final and came very close to knocking off Andy Murray before falling to the same player in the Wimbledon Final. His performances at the ATP World Tour Finals in November showed Raonic is capable of producing his best tennis against the best players, but there is a feeling that it will take the perfect storm for him to win a Grand Slam.

That has occurred here in Melbourne with Murray and Novak Djokovic out, but that might also mean increased pressure on Raonic to deliver the goods. I do think there are going to be big tests ahead for Raonic, but I am not sure the ultra consistent Roberto Bautista Agut is the man to do that.

Consistency is a strong point, but Bautista Agut is not going to get a lot of rhythm from the Raonic game if the latter is serving as big as he can. The serve was not working perfectly against Gilles Simon in the latter two sets, but Raonic builds pressure when he is serving well and that can see Bautista Agut just overexert himself when it comes to looking after his own serve.

Raonic has the mental advantage of having won all four previous matches on the Tour and while a couple of those have been competitive, I think he is going to be too strong in the current conditions. His opponent had a really tough and gruelling Third Round win over David Ferrer which might have sapped some energy and the mental burden of holding serve may be too much for Roberto Bautista Agut in what I think will be a relatively serene progress for Raonic.

Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Gael Monfils: The Third Round win over Alexander Zverev says a lot about where Rafael Nadal feels his game is at this moment. That is the kind of match that Nadal has been losing at the Slam level in recent seasons and winning should mean the Spaniard is feeling very good about his chances through the rest of the week.

There is no doubt that Nadal has been a player who has been very open about how his confidence levels affects his game and I think he is in a better place mentally than he has been for many a month. That makes him a dangerous player in an open draw to win the Australian Open and I do think he can get the better of Gael Monfils despite how well the Frenchman has played here.

Monfils has looked healthy after a premature end to his first appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals In November and he has only dropped a single set despite an awkward looking draw. However it should be said that none of his opponents can produce the kind of tennis Nadal can and this is a big test for Monfils who mentally has an obstacle to overcome with a 2-12 head to head record with Nadal.

You know that Monfils has a big serve when he has it working and his athleticism should make him very dangerous, but he can be a little passive in these very big matches. That will give Nadal the chance to dictate the rallies if Monfils brings his usual attitude to the court and that should give him the chance to dominate the way the match is played.

Nadal has been serving pretty well too in this tournament and I think it will be a surprise if he is not able to win this match. It might go four sets if Monfils puts a purple patch together, but Nadal should still have a chance to cover this number and I will back him.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Barbora Strycova: With Angelique Kerber out of the tournament, Serena Williams has become a strong favourite to win the Australian Open and also has a chance to close in on the World Number 1 Ranking. It would be wrong for Serena Williams to overlook any opponent she faces in the very difficult bottom half of the draw, but I do think she has looked focused all week.

I have to say we have yet to see the big moment in a Grand Slam where Serena Williams has to dig deep and come through a match she looks like she could potentially lose. Overall she has been fully on as soon as the First Round which might have something to do with a very tough draw she has had to negotiate to even get into the Fourth Round.

This match presents a different challenge than the ones Williams has faced so far in this tournament as Barbora Strycova is capable of getting plenty of balls back in play and can pack a punch on the counter. Her serve is a little vulnerable and I think that is where Serena will prove too strong on the day with the feeling that she is going to put a lot of pressure off the return which may have Strycova scrambling around to stay in rallies.

Strycova has played well this week, but she did take a couple of one-sided losses in the tournaments prior to the Australian Open and heavy defeats have been a feature for her. Over the last twelve months, Strycova would have gone 10-12 when covering this number in a loss and Serena Williams is playing well enough to be backed to do the same at odds against.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: This time last season Johanna Konta beat Ekaterina Makarova 8-6 in the final set of the Fourth Round at the Australian Open and the players meet again at the same Round in 2017. Last season it was an upset when Konta managed to get through and win that match, but she comes in as a healthy favourite this time around.

Konta has won all three previous matches with Makarova but both matches in 2016 were very competitive and so some will look for the Russian to keep things close again. It is a big spread, but that has much to do with how well Konta has been playing as well as factoring in the issues Makarova had with her arm in the Third Round win over Dominika Cibulkova.

Performances prior to the Australian Open were not exactly inspiring for Makarova fans and she will need to be at her best to slow down the British player who has won 11 of 12 matches in 2017. Konta has won eight in a row very, very easily and she would have covered this number each time and I am not ready to get off the bandwagon of a player who has won twice for me in the Australian Open already.

The way Konta has been serving and hitting the ball off the ground is going to be tough for Makarova to deal with if the backhand is limited by the injury she has been carrying. Konta's consistency has been at a very high level too and the experience of reaching the Semi Final here in 2016 has to stand her in good stead.

Konta should find a way to get into break point chances too with the way she has been reading the returns and I think she can come through with a 64, 63 win and move into what could be a huge Quarter Final against Serena Williams.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni - 2.5 games v Jennifer Brady: There are a couple of players who will look back at the Australian Open of 2017 and consider it a high point of their careers. That might not apply to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni just yet having reached a Semi Final at Wimbledon before, but her run here has been stunning to say the least and very unexpected.

Let's put it like this, Lucic-Baroni has only once before won a main draw match at the Australian Open before this tournament and it is clear she has been given a real confidence boost by the way she has been playing. Having to battle through three sets on two occasions already might mean the 34 year old is a little fatigued, but that can be cancelled out by her opponent having to win three Qualifiers just to get into the main draw.

Jennifer Brady is another surprise name in the Fourth Round and four of her six wins over the last ten days have come in final set deciders including a 10-8 win over Heather Watson. She has been clutch at the big moments when on the brink of defeat and Brady will feel she has a real chance of making it to a maiden Grand Slam Quarter Final, although Lucic-Baroni won't be any less confident.

I do think Lucic-Baroni is the better server in this match and she showed some decent form prior to the tournament. It also feels like Brady might just have been taking advantage of a favourable draw- while she deserves credit for that of course, I do think it is hard to ignore that Brady has suffered some poor losses prior to the Australian Open and may not be able to control her nerves as well as an experienced player like Lucic-Baroni should be able to do.

That should see Lucic-Baroni making some big plays at the big times in this match and I will back the favourite to cover the number.

Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 games v Daria Gavrilova: The big question for Karolina Pliskova is whether two days are enough to overcome the physical and emotional effort she needed to put into turning around her Third Round match from a surefire loss into a big win. It is definitely the kind of match Pliskova has lost in Grand Slams in the past, but reaching the US Open Final would have helped her have the belief that she could win a match that looked out of her control.

The serve is a huge weapon for Pliskova and she is able to stand at the line and rain down big shots which gives her a chance to hold serve a little more comfortably than many others. It also means Pliskova can exert some pressure on her opponents and that win in the Third Round is one that many others can point to when going on to win their own Grand Slam titles.

There is still plenty of tennis to be played before Pliskova can win a Grand Slam title and she has to deal with the fiery Daria Gavrilova who has thrived when playing in front of the Australian crowd. Gavrilova has shown the heart and the fight that Australians love in her three wins at the Open this season, but she will have to dig deep to win this one.

Unlike Pliskova, Gavrilova doesn't have a serve that will offer plenty of cheap points, although she is capable of hitting a big ball and trying to move her higher Ranked player off the spot. It hasn't been something that Gavrilova has been able to do in her two previous matches against Pliskova which have both been won by the latter easily enough.

The serve has proved to be a big difference maker in those matches and I think Pliskova will use that shot to do the same on Monday. I will look for Pliskova to silence the noise opposing her with some big shots helping her past Gavrilova and covering this number of games on her way through to another Grand Slam Quarter Final.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem-David Goffin Over 40.5 Total Games @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 6.5 Games @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 34-29, + 8.70 Units (121 Units Staked, + 7.19% Yield)

NFL Play Offs Championship Game Picks 2017 (January 22nd)

We are down to the final three games of the NFL season and this weekend we will find out which two teams are heading to Houston to compete for the Super Bowl in two weeks time.

Both AFC and NFC Championship Games look very good on paper and I think both will be very good on the field. With the spreads the way they are, I do think both underdogs will play a big part in their games, but overall I just hope there is a lot of drama like we saw in the Dallas Cowboys versus Green Bay Packers game last week.

If any of these games are better than that one, we are in for a treat on Championship Weekend.

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The NFC Championship Game is the final game to be played at the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons hosting the Green Bay Packers. Both had impressive wins in the Divisional Round and the Green Bay Packers are looking for a repeat of their last Super Bowl when they ran the gauntlet of road games in the Play Offs before a Super Bowl win.

They are arguably the hottest team going into the Play Offs with improvements on both sides of the ball and the Green Bay Packers won't fear anyone having knocked off the Number 1 Seed in the NFC in the Dallas Cowboys. One concern might be the flu bug that has swept through the Packers locker room over the last week which saw Aaron Rodgers a little sore too, but at this stage of the season there cannot be any excuses.

An injury to Devante Adams was a blow to the Green Bay Packers last week and he is going to be held out of practice all week to make sure he can go in this one. Adams might be listed as 'questionable' but he will play, although it is less likely that Jordy Nelson can return from the rib injury he suffered in the win over the New York Giants which saw him miss the win over Dallas last week.

As much of a blow as it would be for the Packers to miss Adams, they still have Aaron Rodgers at Quarter Back and he has shown he can extend plays and make others around him look better than they are. That throw to Jared Cook which helped the Packers win the game last week is going to be one that is replayed down the years if Green Bay can go on and win a second Super Bowl with Rodgers at Quarter Back and I don't think there are too many in his position who can make that throw.

The Falcons Defensive Line have managed to find some pressure up front which rattled Russell Wilson in the win over Seattle last week, but Green Bay's Offensive Line have protected Rodgers well enough. There is no doubt that Rodgers reads Defenses as well as anyone does and he is capable of moving in and out of the pocket to find the time to make his throws downfield.

That should negate the Atlanta pass rush to a point and I would expect Rodgers and the Packers to have more success against this Secondary that Seattle seemingly could. Moving the ball shouldn't be a big problem, but Green Bay could be under pressure to make sure they finish drives with Touchdowns rather than Field Goals if they are going to win this game.

Scoring points is going to be important for the Green Bay Packers as their banged up Defensive unit try to slow down the best Offense in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons perhaps don't receive the same plaudits as others because they are marshalled by Matt Ryan, a Quarter Back with two Play Off wins in his career, but there is no doubt he is playing at a high level.

Ryan will be ably supported by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman as both players are capable of running the ball effectively and have a good match up here. I would expect the Falcons to be able to establish the run as the Packers will be concerned in stopping the pass and both Freeman and Coleman are also threats coming out of the backfield to make catches and big gains in open space.

Julio Jones is a little banged up, but the Wide Receiver will play on Sunday and he will be a match up nightmare for the Green Bay Secondary with his size and athleticism. Even a limited Jones will take some of the attention away from capable Receivers and the Falcons should have plenty of success moving the ball and scoring points too.

A key factor that can be hard to determine is going to be turnovers with Fumbles and Interceptions to earn extra possessions likely to make all the difference in the Championship Game. You can't really predict with confidence which team will win the turnover margin, but the Packers Defensive unit have looked stronger than their play by making sure they do earn the turnovers to give Aaron Rodgers a chance to pull away.

Both Quarter Backs have looked after the ball pretty well, but you have to favour Rodgers in the clutch with his experience and the way he is playing at the moment. He might not be able to pull Green Bay over the hump as he needs the Defensive unit to step up, but Rodgers can make sure this is competitive, and perhaps as close as the one point win for the Atlanta Falcons in their regular season meeting here.

The illness that has spread through the Green Bay camp has to be a worry as well as the banged up Receivers, but I like Aaron Rodgers with the points to make the plays to keep this one within the number.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots Pick: I have no affiliation with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the only reason I wanted them to get into the Play Offs and progress to the AFC Championship Game is because I feel they have the best chance to give the New England Patriots a competitive game before the Super Bowl. I do dislike the Patriots as a Divisional rival to the Miami Dolphins, but anyone who doesn't respect what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been able to do for their franchise has to not be a true fan of the NFL.

The New England Patriots are the 'gold standard' of the NFL according to Ben Roethlisberger and any team that beats them will be a genuine Super Bowl contender. They are a big favourite to see off the Pittsburgh Steelers against whom they have a very good recent record, but I do think the road team can test the Patriots more than most.

The Patriots Defensive statistics are hard to get a real feel for because they have not exactly played the best teams in the NFL this season. The question is then whether the Patriots as good as the stats say, or whether they are a product of the level of opponent they have seen and I think it is something in between both extremes.

The Defensive Line is very good and they can give Le'Veon Bell something to think about despite how well the Running Back is playing. Bell has been creating new moves for Backs in the NFL and he is arguably the best player in his position and I do think he has been aided by a very good Pittsburgh Offensive Line that should open some holes for him.

Bell is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and makes some plays from there and he has been a key to the Pittsburgh run through the Play Offs. It has eased the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger although the Quarter Back won't be happy with his own play as turnovers have been an issue for him. Big Ben has to be careful with the ball in this one as losing the turnover battle will likely mean the end of the season for the Steelers even if he has a very good target in Antonio Brown to throw to down the field.

It does feel like Pittsburgh are going to be able to move the ball as Brock Osweiler had success last week despite his own limitations at Quarter Back. Roethlisberger is much better and should have the time to make his plays especially if Bell is proving to be a threat coming out of the backfield.

That means it will be up to Tom Brady and the New England Offense to try and match the output from the Steelers and Brady has to be a lot better than he was in the Divisional Round. Brady was guilty of two bad Interceptions which kept the Houston Texans alive in that game despite being clearly second best and it does have to be said that the whole New England performance was a little flat against an overmatched opponent.

You have to believe Brady is going to be much more focused on Sunday against a much better opponent, but the Steelers Defensive unit have been improved over the course of the season. Historically Brady has bamboozled the Defense of the Steelers, but this current group have managed to get a lot of pressure on the Quarter Back down the stretch and Brady has shown he can be rattled when Defenders are bringing him down.

The Pittsburgh Defensive Line have also shown improvement over the last couple of weeks in the Play Offs so they will feel they can slow down ex-Steeler LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis who had a huge game last week. Lewis may be more of a problem as a pass catching Running Back, but Pittsburgh have been fast around the line of scrimmage which has also helped protect the Secondary.

Brady should be helped by an establish running game from Pittsburgh, but he may have to loosen things up front by making a few more throws earlier in the game. That will allow the Steelers to try and get their pass rush ramped up, while the Secondary have made some big plays during games to shift momentum.

This has all the makings of another close game between teams who will feel they can score the points which will take them to the Super Bowl. The 'Killer B's' of the Pittsburgh Steelers all have to be at their best for the upset, but the Steelers might have been the team that matched up best with New England in the entire Conference and showed their character in winning at Kansas City last week.

Taking the points with the underdog in what could be a close game looks the best way forward and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers can do that. I just hope Ben Roethlisberger has his cleanest game in weeks and avoids the turnovers which could allow New England to pull away, but I will look for the two-time Super Bowl to show his experience and make this another competitive Championship Game on Sunday.

MY PICKS: Green Bay Packers + 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Divisional Round: 2-2, - 0.28 Units (8 Units Staked, - 3.5% Yield)
Wild Card: 2-2, - 0.28 Units (8 Units Staked, - 3.5% Yield)
Week 17: 5-2, + 5.36 Units (14 Units Staked, + 38.29% Yield)
Week 16: 2-4, - 4.36 Units (12 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)
Week 15: 6-1, + 9.06 Units (14 Units Staked, + 64.71% Yield)
Week 14: 4-5, - 2.36 Units (18 Units Staked, - 13.11% Yield)
Week 13: 4-3, + 1.62 Units (14 Units Staked, + 11.57% Yield)
Week 12: 6-5, + 1.46 Units (22 Units Staked, + 6.64% Yield)
Week 11: 3-4, - 2.54 Units (14 Units Staked, - 18.14% Yield)
Week 10: 2-6, - 8.46 Units (16 Units Staked, - 52.88% Yield)
Week 95-2-1, + 5.54 Units (16 Units Staked, + 34.63% Yield)
Week 85-2, + 5.34 Units (14 Units Staked, + 38.14% Yield)
Week 75-3, + 3.36 Units (16 Units Staked, + 21% Yield)
Week 63-3, - 0.46 Units (12 Units Staked, - 3.83% Yield)
Week 52-3-1, - 2.36 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19.67% Yield)
Week 45-5, + 0.26 Units (19 Units Staked, + 1.37% Yield)
Week 32-3-1, - 2.27 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.70% Yield)
Week 25-5, - 0.70 Units (20 Units Staked, - 3.50% Yield)
Week 14-3-1, + 0.29 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.93% Yield)

Season 201672-63-4, + 8.22 Units (274 Units Staked, + 1.03% Yield)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Australian Open Tennis Day 7 Picks 2017 (January 22nd)

You remember I said I was disappointed about Day 5 despite finishing with a winning record on the day because I felt I should have had at least a couple more winners? And that would get this tournament back on track after a poor few days? Well it all came together on Day 6.

I can still point to Milos Raonic blowing a very strong position in his non-cover against Gilles Simon, but had fortune on my side with Dominic Thiem which cancelled that out. The two set scoreline I picked both failed to materialise, but it was a day full of winners other than that.

That has helped move the week from a pretty big hole back into a positive and now I am looking to build on that in the Fourth Round.

The matches should become even more competitive in the business end of the tournament and there are some top matches taking to the court on Sunday as the second week begins.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Andreas Seppi: It was a dominant win for Stan Wawrinka in the Third Round once he weathered an early storm from Victor Troicki and I think he should have too much for Andreas Seppi in the Fourth Round. The Italian needs to be given credit for reaching this Round having seen off Nick Kyrgios in the Second Round in a long five setter, but he can't expect Wawrinka to have the same mental collapse as the Australian.

It has been a tough path through the draw for Seppi and you have to think that will have worn on the veteran a little bit.

Seppi can still produce some moments of class and Wawrinka cannot overlook him, but the Swiss player is very dangerous once he gets into the second week of a tournament. There is every chance he can win his second Australian Open next weekend and I think Wawrinka will work out the Seppi game and start controlling things the longer this goes on.

They haven't played each other since 2014, but Wawrinka was a dominant winner the last time they met. I can see a situation where Seppi perhaps even steals a set in this one, but Wawrinka can win one or two sets by a wide margin which helps on his road to the cover.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 games v Daniel Evans: This has been a memorable tournament for Daniel Evans who has reached the Fourth Round of a Grand Slam event for the first time in his career. After playing so well in reaching the Final in Sydney, Evans is playing the best tennis of his life, but he might not have enough to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Frenchman has been in great form all week and he is serving very well which makes him a big threat for Evans. The British player has managed to look after serve just well enough to manage his way past the likes of Marin Cilic and Bernard Tomic, but I am not sure he will get away with it in the form Tsonga is in.

The conditions seem to suit Tsonga very well in Melbourne and I am looking for him to not allow Evans to earn enough break points of his own to stay in the match in the manner he has been able to do in the whole tournament. Gilles Muller broke down Evans in the Sydney Final and I think big-serving Tsonga can exert enough pressure with quick holds to force mistakes from Evans.

All respect to Evans for the run he has had, but I will look for Tsonga to find a 76, 64, 63 win.

Roger Federer-Kei Nishikori over 40.5 total games: This is the best Fourth Round match of the day as Roger Federer looks to prove he is fully over his injury from six months ago with a win over Kei Nishikori. Federer has already shown something special in a convincing win over Tomas Berdych, but this one is going to be a bigger challenge with Nishikori capable of exerting some pressure off his return and movement around the court.

Look for both players to have some big moments in this one and I was leaning towards Kei Nishikori having a little too much in the match and come through in a battle. However going up against Federer in the form he was in two days ago is a big ask and instead I am looking for these players to combine for another games to cover this line.

It would be a big surprise to me if Nishikori or Federer are able to win this match in straight sets and their last match against one another at the ATP World Tour Finals in 2015 was a very competitive three set match. My concern about the games is that Nishikori has the potential to lose a set very easily as his serve can be a vulnerable part of his game, but he is the kind of returning talent that will test Federer far more than Berdych was able to do.

I expect to see four sets in this one with a tie-breaker in one of them and it should mean we see enough games to cover this line.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 2.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: I am not going to put too much stock into the incredibly long and gruelling Third Round match that Svetlana Kuznetsova battle through as a factor in this one. For most players I would say being out on the court for near enough five hours would be a real problem, but Kuznetsova won a lot of matches in a short space of time to get into the WTA Finals a few months ago and tiredness was seemingly not an issue for her.

A bigger problem for her in this match is the form of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who managed to weather the Elina Svitolina storm and power her way through to the Fourth Round. When she is serving and hitting the ball as well as she is, Pavlyuchenkova is a dangerous player and she crushed Kuznetsova when they met in Sydney just last week.

It is Kuznetsova who has won five of the seven previous matches and I think that is the reason she is favoured in this one, but she has not produced her best in the Grand Slams over the last couple of years. The first strike in the rallies is going to be huge for both of these players, but I do think Pavlyuchenkova is serving well enough to keep her compatriot under pressure.

A fast start will be needed by Pavlyuchenkova just to stay in this one mentally, but she does have every chance of the upset in my opinion. I will take the games with the underdog in case it is a tight match and a narrow defeat is the outcome for Pavlyuchenkova.

Venus Williams - 3.5 games v Mona Barthel: This has been a really good tournament for Mona Barthel who has had a tough couple of years on the Tour and needed to Qualify for the main draw. Her performances will give her confidence, but now she faces veteran Venus Williams who still produces a big enough game to win matches like this one.

The serve is the key for Venus Williams- serve well and the rest of her game operates much more smoother and will give her an opportunity to win fairly comfortably. I do think Barthel will have some questions for Venus to answer, and she can hit the ball very well which makes her dangerous, but the German does not have as consistent a serve and I think that makes a difference in this match.

It has already been a long tournament for Barthel and you have to think she will feel that in the legs at some point, while the mental aura of playing one of the Williams sisters can also play a factor.

The feeling I have for this match is it is going to be very close in the first set, but Venus Williams will start exerting some pressure which she can take into the second set. Barthel will have some opportunities to break serve herself, but eventually I do think Venus Williams prevails 75, 63 and moves into yet another Grand Slam Quarter Final.

Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: Over the years it was considered that Sorana Cirstea would be the next player who could breakthrough and really have an impact on the WTA Tour. There was a lot to like with her game, but mentally I think the pressure may have worn her down and she has been on the outskirts of people's minds in recent seasons.

It has been a long time since Cirstea had a run like this in a Grand Slam event and she was beaten in the First Round of all three Slams she played last season. In fact this is her best run in a Grand Slam since reaching the Quarter Final of the French Open in 2009 and matching what Garbine Muguruza is going to bring to the court is going to very difficult.

Cirstea has some power, but Muguruza has even more and a little more consistency with it. All week I have been watching the Spaniard who seems to have looked better in her last two matches after some health scares going into the Australian Open. I don't think they have full cleared up but the Spaniard could have a big serving day to ease the pressure on her and shift it all to Cirstea.

I have little doubt that Cirstea can hit with Muguruza through a set, but doing it for over an hour might be a little too much to ask for her. Eventually Muguruza should be able to wear down her opponent for a 75, 63 win and I will look for her to cover this number.

Coco Vandeweghe + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: When Coco Vandeweghe is hitting the ball as hard and as consistently as she was in her match against Eugenie Bouchard, it can only be the very best players on the Tour who can stop her. Unfortunately she is going up against the World Number 1 in this Fourth Round match at the Australian Open and I think Angelique Kerber will win the match.

In saying that, I only believe in Kerber because I think she will make enough balls to extract errors, but I also think this is going to be a very close match.

Vandeweghe can serve very big which means she should have chances to end rallies on the short ball much quicker than opponents usually have a chance to do against Kerber. Volleying skills at the net also help the American, while Kerber's own serve has been vulnerable this week and will give the big hitting Vandeweghe a chance to tee off on it and bring up some break points.

I imagine Vandeweghe has enough break points to stay within the number in this match as long as she takes those chances when they come her way. After a classic match up style of Vandeweghe's aggression and power against the counter punching and defensive skills of Kerber, I think the American player penetrates the defences enough times to stay within this number.

MY PICKS: Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 5.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roger Federer-Kei Nishikori Over 40.5 Total Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe + 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 28-28, + 0.56 Units (107 Units Staked, + 0.52% Yield)