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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (October 7th)

It was a shame that Sam Groth had to retire from his match with Jeremy Chardy when he was down a set and a break as that would have made it a very good start to the week, but two winners and one loser still means it is a positive beginning.

The matches in Beijing and Tokyo are taking place in the very early hours in terms of British time, but there is television coverage of the former tournament as the preparation for Shanghai continues which is the penultimate Masters event of the season.

That will mean the likes of Andy Murray and Roger Federer will join the big names who are out on the court this week with both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal winning in Beijing and Stan Wawrinka winning in Tokyo on Monday.

The WTA event in Beijing also has most of the top names out on court, but that is no surprise with the China Open being the biggest tournament left on the calendar ahead of the WTA Finals in Singapore which will begin at the end of the month. The WTA Finals might not be the huge event most would have expected because Serena Williams is out, and I wouldn't be surprised if Maria Sharapova soon joins her on the sidelines, while the likes of Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza and Lucie Safarova currently occupy one of the top eight places but have injuries that have restricted them on the court or kept them off the court altogether.

While the Finals might be a more competitive affair, I don't think Singapore will be too pleased they have paid the money to host the end of season event only to perhaps seen as many as six of the top eight missing through injury. It has led to talk of perhaps changing the calendar again, although the lack of injuries on the men's side is perhaps showing a deeper issue and perhaps the top female players will need to adjust training regimes to ensure they are still able to go at this time of the year.

It might just be a 'freak' year in terms of injuries to the top players and one that is not revisited in twelve months time, but definitely something to keep an eye on especially as the women don't play the best of five set matches at the Grand Slams yet seem to have been a lot harder in terms of injuries than the men.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Joao Sousa: I am a big fan of any player that gets the best out of their ability through sheer hard work so I have to admire Joao Sousa and the season he has had. He might not have reached his career high of Number 35 in the World Rankings, but Sousa has surpassed his best year in terms of wins on the main Tour and has certainly gone further than I would have imagined.

There isn't a lot in Sousa's game except a work ethic to use his speed and movement to try and defend effectively and force mistakes from opponents. The serve can be a weakness and he does have a really hard time matching up with the very best players on the Tour, and Sousa has reached three Finals this year which doubles his career total in just one season.

Sousa will look to exploit any tiredness that Feliciano Lopez may feel having played in the Final in Kuala Lumper on Sunday and then travelled to Tokyo for this First Round match on Wednesday. However, Lopez is in very good form and backed up a strong run at the US Open with the run to the Final in Kuala Lumper last week.

The Spaniard has a serve that can make life easier for himself by earning cheap points and I think that has been a big difference between these players in their two previous matches. If the first serve is working, Lopez will keep the scoreboard pressure on Sousa and he will know that he will get some chances to break serve through the match.

Fatigue is hard to judge and how much Lopez has in the tank with Shanghai next week, but I think a big first serve can see him steal the first set on a tie-breaker and then pull away from Sousa in this First Round match. I like Lopez to move through in this match with a 76, 64 win as he continues a strong end to the season even if a place at the World Tour Finals is likely beyond him.

Marin Cilic - 3.5 games v Donald Young: It has been a difficult 2015 season for Marin Cilic as he has struggled to shake off an injury earlier in the year and then to deal with the expectation that comes after winning a Grand Slam title. It is going to take a big effort in the last month of the season for Marin Cilic to return to the World Tour Finals where he made his debut last season, but it is not an impossible task just yet.

After reaching the Semi Final in Shenzhen last week, Cilic has to back that up with strong weeks in Tokyo and Shanghai to give himself an opportunity to get to London. The likes of Richard Gasquet, Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic are ahead of him in the 'Race' but all three have already lost this week so Cilic has a chance to make a move if he can see off Donald Young.

The American had a very good run at the US Open and has come through Qualifiers here so Young can be a dangerous opponent for Cilic. There is no doubting that Young has some natural talent that he is yet to harness into a consistent performance on the court, and his left handed serve could also cause Cilic some problems.

However, Cilic has a very strong record against left-handers through his career and his return of serve can give Young something to think about. While Cilic hasn't been as consistent with his aggressive returns as he was when he won the US Open in 2014, he can still push Young backwards and the latter doesn't protect his serve as effectively as he should.

The long week in Shenzhen might have taken something out of the Cilic tank, but I still think he has too much for Young and wins this one 64, 64.

Sam Querrey + 4.5 games v Kei Nishikori: Playing at home has proved to be very productive for Kei Nishikori who is getting close to returning to the World Tour Finals following his debut season last year. Nishikori has won two of the last three titles in Tokyo which have sandwiched a Quarter Final defeat and he will be very comfortable in these conditions.

Even with that in mind, he can't afford to take Sam Querrey lightly as the latter has given Nishikori plenty of challenging matches in the past. Nishikori has needed three sets to see off Querrey in their last two meetings and that might not be as surprising as it may initially feel to be.

As well as Nishikori returns serve, which should keep Querrey from too many cheap service games, his own service games can be inconsistent and give the American a chance to break serve. Giving Querrey that confidence can see him serve out a set and he is unlikely to give away too many breaks of serve which makes this number of games very appealing.

It might not have been a great season for Querrey who might have found his level these days outside of the top 40 in the World Rankings, but he can still be a dangerous customer when bringing his 'A' game. That doesn't happen often enough, but Querrey enjoys the match up with Nishikori and this number of games might be too many for the home favourite to cover even if I do expect him to move into the next Round.

Madison Keys + 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: Madison Keys had suffered a couple of very narrow losses to Agnieszka Radwanska in recent matches, none more so than the narrow defeat at Wimbledon. However, Keys finally broke through the mental barrier in a convincing win over the Pole at the US Open last month and I like her to keep this one competitive too.

You can't doubt the form that Radwanska showed to win the title in Tokyo last month, but she suffered an early loss in Wuhan and has had to dig deep to move into the Third Round here.

Madison Keys remains a little too inconsistent to really push up the World Rankings, but there is no doubting the talent she has at her disposal. The power will be on her side of the court and she can punish the Radwanska serve, but the key is to keep control of the unforced errors that Radwanska thrives upon by getting as many balls back in play as possible.

It has been those unforced errors that cost Keys in her early matches against Radwanska, but she played the big points really well in the win at the US Open. You can't always trust Keys to be able to do that, but she will have her chances to break serve and I think the American can take at least a set, if not win the match outright, which will give her a chance to cover even with a small number of games being given to her.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sam Querrey + 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Madison Keys + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-1, + 0.96 Units (6 Units Staked, + 16% Yield)

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