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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (October 9th)

The WTA Finals are fast approaching and this tournament in Beijing might be the key one in determining the top eight players that will take part in Singapore. I am still not convinced that Maria Sharapova will play in the tournament which means there will be an additional space, perhaps another if Simona Halep makes the same decision.

However, there are a number of players chasing the eight positions to be filled and players as low down as Ana Ivanovic in Number 21 in the Race for Singapore could find themselves in a great position to qualify by earning the 1000 points for winning this event.

It makes the last two weeks on the Tour exciting and Venus Williams has become the first of a number of players who will likely take Wild Cards into events to earn the points they need.

We have reached the Quarter Finals in the WTA China Open and the same in both ATP events in Beijing and Tokyo. All twelve matches have been scheduled for Friday and will be played through the day as we get set for the business end of the tournaments this weekend.

Angelique Kerber - 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: Matches like this Quarter Final may determine whether Angelique Kerber or Agnieszka Radwanska will be playing in Singapore in the WTA Finals. The points to be earned at this stage of the season in the last big event on the WTA Tour can't be ignored especially as there are just 300 points between these two.

The fact is the winner will earn at least 180 more points than the losing player so this is a huge match when it comes to determining those best eight places for the WTA Finals.

It will be close as shown by the fact that the last ten matches Kerber and Radwanska have played against one another have been split five apiece, although it is the German who has won three of the last four. Radwanska won the title in Tokyo recently, but I would say Kerber has also been the more consistent in recent weeks and I do like her chances in winning this match.

I believe the Kerber serve is the stronger of the two that will be taking to the court and that can prove to be the difference maker in these WTA matches. Both have very strong movement around the court, but the recent form suggests Kerber can keep her run going against Radwanska which includes a tight three set win in Stanford a couple of months ago.

Three sets wouldn't surprise me again, but I like Kerber battling through 57, 64, 63.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 4.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: After fighting through the cramp and an injury time out in the final set, Ana Ivanovic moved through to the Quarter Final at the WTA China Open on Thursday. She still has a chance of making it to the WTA Finals if she can win the tournament and the 1000 Ranking points it comes with and Ivanovic has had a strong run so far this week.

The big question for her is how quickly can she recover from what was ailing her on Thursday? This match has been scheduled less than twenty-four hours after she was on the court and the big hitting Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova should be full of confidence having beaten the US Open Champion Flavia Pennetta from a set down.

Of course Pavlyuchenkova has to overcome the fact she has lost six of seven previous matches against Ivanovic and the sole win came when her opponent had to retire on the brink of defeat in Wuhan last year. That can be mentally tough especially as some of those matches have been very one-sided towards Ivanovic and has to be a concern for me.

However, I like her with this number of games because I am not sure Ivanovic is fully healthy to compete and Pavlyuchenkova has shown some battling qualities to come through her matches this week. She has served effectively and has the power to pummel the return of serve if Ivanovic continues to struggle with that aspect of her game as she did against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Kuznetsova is another Russian who has struggled in past meetings against Ivanovic which played their part in her defeat on Thursday as it was a match she should really have won. However, she managed to cover this number of games and I like Pavlyuchenkova in this underdog spot to do the same.

Gilles Simon - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: If Gilles Simon can end the season with three or four deep runs at some of the ATP 500 and Masters events yet to be played, he potentially can get into the running for the World Tour Finals in London. It looks unlikely but a Runner Up spot in Metz two weeks ago has been followed by a run to the Quarter Final in Tokyo and the Frenchman is the favourite to see off Gilles Muller.

He beat Muller during the run to the Final in Metz and that was thanks to a very good serving day for Simon as he protected the second serve very effectively. He'll know what to expect from Muller and his left-handed serve having seen this only two weeks ago, but Muller can be a difficult opponent to get a really good read on.

Muller does have a big serve in terms of speed, but his biggest weapon is the accuracy of the serve that can make it very difficult to return effectively. Most professionals might be able to get the ball back if that was their sole aim, but an effective return is more difficult, although Simon did do that very well on an indoor hard court.

The last two opponents have created eleven break points against Muller without breaking through, so Simon will know the chances will come his way if he sticks to his task. I do become concerned with Simon's own service games which can need a lot of work to protect, but he has played well in recent weeks and I like his chances to find a 76, 64 win in this Quarter Final.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: Both of these players are chasing a berth at the World Tour Finals in London for a second consecutive season having debuted there last season. It is strange to think that this time last year saw these two coming off a Grand Slam Final against one another, but that win for Marin Cilic has been a rare occurrence when facing Kei Nishikori since the 2013 season.

In fact it is the only win Cilic has had in that US Open Final in 2014 in their last five matches and Kei Nishikori has worn down the Croatian once he begins to get a read on the serve. Cilic does possess a big shot on serve, but it can be predictable and an effective returner like Nishikori can certainly begin to get the better of both first and second serve returns.

The home tournament should inspire Nishikori as he looks to win his third title in four years at this event in Tokyo and there have been some solid performances to think he can win this match. As much as Cilic has been able to put some wins together in recent weeks, there is no doubting that he hasn't got anywhere near the level that took him to the US Open title on a consistent basis.

All four wins Nishikori has recorded over Cilic since 2013 has seen him cover this number as he wears down Cilic and eventually breaks through a couple of times in a single set. The Nishikori serve is never too far from being put under pressure as he has to work hard to win points when the first serve deserts him, but I still believe he will be too good for Marin Cilic and record a 75, 63 win.

Rafael Nadal - 2.5 games v Jack Sock: The end to the 2015 season, which was a disappointment for Rafael Nadal, could give him the kind of momentum to take into the 2016 season that Nadal would desire. A strong end has been used by some of the top names to give them a spark going into a new season and winning a tournament in Beijing which includes Novak Djokovic would be a great start for Nadal.

At the moment he is still on the edge of the World Tour Finals so Nadal needs some more points to ensure he is going be back in London having missed out last year with an injury. The indoor hard court season might not be to his liking, but for now Nadal will focus on Beijing and Shanghai where 1500 points are available.

Nadal beat Jack Sock's Doubles partner Vasek Pospisil in the Second Round with an impressive performance and I like his chances to knock off the American in this Quarter Final. Sock is perhaps slightly under-rated overall, but Nadal looks a bigger price than I expected and so the handicap is at least two games lower than I may have thought.

We know Sock can serve well and has a heavy forehand, but the backhand is a weakness that a left-hander will look to oppose. The second serve is not as effective as the first either and Nadal was in fine form in the Second Round, although his consistency is not as it was eighteen months ago.

Both of Sock's wins have been very straight-forward this week, and he has been serving well enough to have only faced two break points in two wins. However, Nadal did enough damage to Vasek Pospisil's serve, which I consider better than Sock's, and I like the Spaniard to move into the Quarter Final behind a 64, 64 win.

Fabio Fognini - 2.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: Fabio Fognini's girlfriend might have been knocked out of Beijing and that might mean his focus is on going sight-seeing with her, but I think he would much rather have another crack at Rafael Nadal.

If Nadal has won, Fognini would meet him in the Semi Final if he can win this match and I think that will inspire a big performance from the Italian. He has two solid wins this week and Fognini has a decent record against Pablo Cuevas including beating him at the US Open in September.

You do have to respect the two wins Cuevas has had over Tomas Berdych and Ivo Karlovic, although the former had as much to do with Berdych playing a delayed Final in Shenzhen. Beating Karlovic in two tie-breakers is solid enough, but Fognini presents a completely different challenge with the Italian dragging Cuevas into long rallies.

We all know that Fognini is a bit of a wild card with the way his performances can dip below club level but then reach the heights of someone who could challenge the very best on Tour. I think that potential match with Nadal will have Fognini focused and I think he breaks down Cuevas in a 62, 46, 64 kind of win.

MY PICKS: Angelique Kerber - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 6-4, + 1.48 Units (20 Units Staked, + 7.40% Yield)

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