The bigger tournaments have mainly been successful but getting married during the clay court season didn't help as I took a month off from the picks during the time that I seem to enjoy the most. I am hoping to end the next few weeks with a winning record which at least will give me some momentum to take into the 2017 season and there isn't a long 'off-season' for the players before they all go again and the Australian Open begins.
This week is a big one for players on both Tours as players chase the points that can see them play in the Tour Finals. The WTA Finals in Singapore are only a couple of weeks away from beginning, but there is a bit more time for the players chasing a place in the ATP World Tour Finals in London and plenty of points up for grabs in the coming weeks.
The players chasing the WTA elite eight have a little more pressing matters to attend to and there really isn't a lot of points that separate Garbine Muguruza in Number 6 and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Number 11 and that makes this a big week. In all honesty, it would take something special for Muguruza to not find the points to make it through, while Kuznetsova needs a lot to go for her to keep her alive including perhaps seeing Serena Williams withdraw from Singapore.
Madison Keys, Johanna Konta, Dominika Cibulkova and Carla Suarez Navarro are the four players who are most likely battling out for two players. All of those players are in action this week and I think it is going to be interesting to see how it pans out although I am sure these players will all be taking Wild Cards into the final events of the season next week to try and pick up the points they need to enter the tournament in Singapore.
Federico Delbonis + 3.5 games v Kyle Edmund: The British Number 2 Kyle Edmund came through the Qualifiers after a really strong week in Beijing and he is a big favourite to see off Federico Delbonis in this First Round match in Shanghai. I can't help feel he is too big a favourite against a player who is going to be trying to impress so he can represent Argentina in the Davis Cup Final and who has a game that can be very effective on the hard courts.
There is a lot to like about the Edmund game although it is no surprise that some of the 'experts' in the United Kingdom seem to be much higher on him than I am at this moment in time. While I see the positives in his game, I also have seen the negative side with shot selection sometimes not being the best and his serve can also be a little vulnerable.
The forehand is a huge weapon and will be going into the Delbonis backhand naturally, but it is the Argentinian's forehand going into the Edmund backhand that could cause problems. The Delbonis serve can also be very effective when he is feeling his game and I think he is capable of making this a very tough opening match for Edmund.
One real area of concern has to be the fact that Delbonis has lost ten of his last eleven matches and is facing a confident Edmund. However the youngster has been playing a lot of tennis of late and Delbonis is capable of winning a set which makes this an appealing number of games as long as that doesn't come in a tie-breaker win and I will take those games.
Mikhail Youzhny - 2.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: These two players are veterans of the ATP Tour who have seen better days, but you have to respect the fact that both Mikhail Youzhny and Nicolas Almagro still want to compete. Neither is going to be hungry in their retirement, but clearly enjoy the competitiveness of playing tennis and you are a long time retired as an athlete so credit to both players.
I have been particularly impressed with Youzhny who looked like he had finally slipped too far to compete on the main ATP Tour in 2015. He has bounced back very effectively in 2016 and while not likely to ever hit the heights of his peak, Youzhny is a dangerous player when he is feeling his tennis.
Youzhny has won two Qualifiers to get into the main draw in Shanghai and he has a 5-0 head to head record over Almagro although the last of those matches was back in 2013. Both players have had some poor losses to their names but I think Youzhny has at least won a few more matches on the hard courts recently and that could give him the edge.
The backhand to backhand rallies are going to be beautiful to watch, but I think Youzhny is the mentally stronger player and can find a way to edge out Almagro who is just 5-6 in hard court matches in 2016. It might be a match where both players have some issues when it comes to holding serve, but Youzhny can come through with a 46, 63, 64 win.
Laura Siegemund - 2.5 games v Viktorija Golubic: This is an interesting First Round match between two players who have had some decent results in 2016 but are not really threatening the very best players. For Laura Siegemund it has been a career year in terms of wins and her World Ranking, but Viktorija Golubic will also look back fondly having won a title on the main Tour.
In recent weeks we have seen Golubic win more matches compared with Siegemund, but it has to be noted that they have been competing at different levels. While Siegemund has played in big events in Wuhan and Beijing where it took losses from good quality opponents to prevent her having a deep run, Golubic was playing in Osaka and Guangzhou where she didn't really meet the very best players on the WTA Tour.
There is going to be chances for both players in this match with the way they play- I do think Golubic arguably has more talent, but Siegemund is not someone who will throw away matches but will give all she has to try and turn things in her favour.
That makes it a tight match, but I do think Siegemund has played at a higher level for the majority of the season and that should make her a little more tested at critical moments. That can be a key difference maker when the big points are played in this one although Golubic should have the power edge and can take the racquet out of Siegemund's hands.
I do think that Siegemund can have enough success with her defensive ability and able to turn the points from defence to attack to win this match. I think that leads to a 63, 46, 75 win for the German and a place through to the Second Round.
Sorana Cirstea + 3.5 games v Kiki Bertens: It feels a long time since Sorana Cirstea was seen as one of the bright prospects on the WTA Tour and he has struggled over the last three seasons to find her consistency. When you think Cirstea won over 60 matches on the main Tour in 2012 and 2013, it is hard to imagine she has won just 20 matches between 2014 and 2016.
There are still things you can like about the Cirstea game which has seen her serve well and use plenty of power to penetrate defences of opponents. However the inconsistency has really hurt her chances to get back amongst the best players on the WTA Tour and it is no surprise she is an underdog in this First Round match.
In saying that I am not sure Kiki Bertens can really be as big a favourite to win any match at the moment when you think she has lost 6 matches in a row since losing in the Final in Gstaad. This is the first time Bertens is back on the Tour since losing in the First Round at the US Open and I do wonder if there is some sort of physical ailment that has prevented the Dutchwoman from ending 2016 in really strong fashion.
She is the rightful favourite considering how big the Bertens game is and the form she has generally shown over the last few months. My concern is that she is not quite at 100% and Cirstea is certainly a player that has the ability to expose any vulnerabilities and at least win a set by a wide margin which makes this number of games very appealing.
It is hard to really have faith in Cirstea considering her rather poor form on the main Tour since 2014, but Bertens might not have a lot left in the tank for 2016 so I will take the games.
Johanna Larsson - 1.5 games v Misaki Doi: The Asian swing probably means more to Misaki Doi than for many other players on the Tour and she might be a little disappointed by the lack of wins she had over the last month. Now she returns to Europe as the 2016 season comes to a close and takes on Johanna Larsson who already has the most wins on the main Tour in a single season in her entire career.
The edge in this match on the serve has to be given to Larsson who has a big kicker and can earn plenty of short balls from that which allows her to dictate the points. She is not as strong as Doi when it comes to the extended rallies so Larsson will have to make sure she can get in a big first strike on the return against a serve which is not one of the biggest on the Tour.
That serve has allowed players to really attack Doi and I am not surprised she has a 9-17 record on the hard courts in 2016 as it can be tougher to recover breaks on this surface. Being indoors should only aid Larsson a little more and I do think the layers have got it right by setting her as the favourite in this match.
Misaki Doi hasn't won a lot of matches on the Tour over the last couple of months and I think that has to be sapping some of the confidence. In this one I can see Larsson being a little too strong as the match goes on with an ability to get a few more cheaper points off the serve and I will back the Swedish player to cover the games in a win.
MY PICKS: Federico Delbonis + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Mikhail Youzhny - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Laura Siegemund - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sorana Cirstea + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Johanna Larsson - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Season 2014: + 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)