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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (October 20th)

Now we have reached Thursday in another week on the Tour it is that time when there are plenty of matches to be scheduled in the various tournaments across the Tour.

Many players are now looking towards the end of the 2016 season and that means putting in one final big effort to end this season on a high and I think that brings in plenty of motivation for the players left in the tournaments. That is especially the case for those players on the WTA Tour which is effectively ending for most at the end of this week, while the ATP Tour still has a couple more weeks to go before they get to their World Tour Finals.

This has not been the greatest week so far for the picks, but there are a lot of matches of interest for me on Thursday and I am looking to get this turned around going into the weekend.

Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v Jurgen Zopp: There have been signs Grigor Dimitrov is getting back to something close to his best and he is looking to finish 2016 in a manner that will give him confidence to take into 2017. Getting used to the conditions in Stockholm might take Dimitrov a little time, but I expect he will be too good for Jurgen Zopp.

I do have to say that I have seen Zopp produce some big serving days in his career and he has won every set to come through the Qualifiers and First Round in Stockholm this week. Zopp has been in tremendously poor form before the last couple of weeks when he has put some wins on the board as he had lost 10 matches in a row while a number of those losses have come in very one-sided fashion.

There is no doubt that Zopp is a dangerous player on the indoor hard courts if he is serving up to the standard he can reach. However there haven't been enough signs of that in recent months and Zopp is facing a player in Dimitrov who is significantly stronger than the players he has been playing in that time excluding a pretty impressive win over Sam Querrey earlier this week.

Even Querrey isn't quite as good as Dimitrov when he is producing something near his best tennis and I think the latter is going to win the majority of rallies. The key will be getting enough balls back in play, but I think Dimitrov will be able to start reading the serve and that can see him come through with a 75, 62 win and a place in the Quarter Final.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: I was wondering if Juan Martin Del Potro had a lot left in the tank after his exertions over the last few months on his return to the Tour, but he looked solid in a win over John Isner in the First Round. That won't have sapped too much energy from a physical standpoint and I think Del Potro is going to get the better of Nicolas Almagro in the Second Round.

The Spaniard had to battle from a set down to move through to the Second Round, but Almagro has struggled to find his best tennis on the hard courts, be it indoor or outdoor, over the last couple of seasons. You might expect better from Almagro who has a decent serve and heavy groundstrokes, but I think he prefers having a little more time to wind up his shots and that is not likely to be forthcoming in this Second Round match.

Instead Almagro will likely have the ball moving quickly through the court from the power that Del Potro has and I also think he will have some difficulty dealing with the big Argentinian serve.

That serve should build the pressure on Almagro and I do think he doesn't protect his serve as well as he should on this surface. I feel that is going to be a key to this entire handicap and I can see Almagro throwing in around three terrible service games which is going to lead to Del Potro coming through with a 63, 64 win as he continues earning the points to move back up the World Rankings.

Gael Monfils - 5.5 games v Gastao Elias: There are still two really big weeks on the ATP Tour to come so Gael Monfils knows there is still work to do if he is going to make it to London for the World Tour Finals. This is a chance for him to put some additional points in the bank in a week where the majority of his main rivals for a top eight place are not in action and that should be motivation enough for the Frenchman.

Monfils has played a fair amount of tennis over the last three weeks but he has mainly been producing some very good results on the Tour. He has certainly looked stronger than his opponent Gastao Elias who snapped a run of six straight losses before beating Ivan Dodig in the First Round.

Elias' three previous losses before the win over Dodig have come in one sided fashion and I think his serve is very vulnerable on the hard courts. There won't be a lot of cheap points won by Elias which means having to out-rally better players consistently and I simply don't see the Portuguese player being able to do that against Monfils on Thursday.

On the other hand the Monfils serve can be a big weapon for the top ten player and I think that will help build the pressure in this match. His strong movement around the court should give Monfils enough time to wear down Elias over the course of this match and I think he will produce a 64, 62 win in this Second Round match.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 games v Timea Babos: Svetlana Kuznetsova is the defending Champion in Moscow and winning the title again will give the Russian a place at the WTA Finals which are due to begin in Singapore next week. She battled past Alize Cornet in the Second Round, but the matches are only going to get tougher for Kuznetsova with the pressure of also trying to reach the WTA Finals likely to be on her mind.

The Russian has tried to play down the fact she might be looking too far ahead and instead is looking to take this week one match at a time. Kuznetsova faces Timea Babos in the Quarter Final after the latter got the better of Kristina Mladenovic, but this is a much more difficult match for her.

I think Babos has been underrated for much of the season with plenty of matches against the big names on the Tour being very competitive. However before this week Babos had just been having some difficulties on the Singles Tour and that might have something to do with her qualifying for the WTA Finals Doubles tournament.

Babos will need to serve well if she is going to get the better of Kuznetsova as it feels much of her confidence is based on that shot. However I think Kuznetsova is an aggressive returner who can challenge that serve and she should be the better player in the rallies with the power forcing Babos backwards. I expect that will help Kuznetsova win two tight sets and have just enough to cover this number.

Kiki Bertens - 2.5 games v Denisa Allertova: The poor form of the last few months has been forgotten this week by Kiki Bertens who has managed to win her first two matches in Luxembourg very easily. The matches do get tougher for her going into the Quarter Final in this tournament, but I think Bertens can get the better of Denisa Allertova in this match.

Allertova has had to come from a set down twice already this week and I do wonder if that will have taken something from her physically. She has been in good form over the last couple of weeks with a Semi Final and Quarter Final to her name and she plays with plenty of aggression which will give Bertens some issues.

However I think Bertens has the slight edge when it comes to the serve and she has plenty power of her own. Getting in the first strike in this tennis match will be important for both players and I think it will be a competitive match that might need a deciding set to separate the players.

With the ease of her progress I think Bertens can batten down the hatches in the final set and she can eventually see off Allertova with a 63, 36, 63 win and move through to the Semi Final here in Luxembourg.

Petra Kvitova - 5.5 games v Johanna Larsson: The WTA Finals are out of reach for Petra Kvitova but she will be heading to the WTA Elite tournament which is played a week after that event. The form has most definitely improved in the final weeks of the season which included a title win in Wuhan and Kvitova showed her mental strength by coming through her Second Round match after dropping the first set.

This is a tough Quarter Final for Kvitova against Johanna Larsson who has a decent serve and that can pose problems.

The Swede has a great kicker, but Larsson can struggle to deal with the power that comes back and Kvitova has plenty of that for this match. They did play a tight match in Indian Wells earlier this season which was won by Kvitova in three sets, but it perhaps should have been easier as Kvitova had more than double the break points and won 44% of the points against the Larsson serve.

Similar numbers will make it difficult for Larsson to stay with Kvitova who looks to be in much stronger form now than she was back in March. While this does look a lot of games on the face of things, Kvitova has been dominating opponents in wins over the last month and I think she can wear down Larsson and record a 63, 63 win for a place in the Semi Final.

Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 games v Monica Niculescu: Any talk of an impending retirement have been put to the back burner by Caroline Wozniacki's recent form which has taken her back inside the top 20 in the World Rankings. The former World Number 1 is ending the 2016 with the kind of momentum that should give her confidence to take into the 2017 season and I think she looks strong for a position in the Semi Final in Luxembourg.

The Quarter Final match up against Monica Niculescu should be one that Wozniacki enjoys having beaten her in all seven previous matches on the main Tour. Wozniacki hasn't dropped a set in those matches and she would have covered this number in all seven matches too as she can handle the variation that Niculescu brings to the court.

There are enough areas on the court where Niculescu will struggle to hurt Wozniacki and that has proven to be the case in the past. Even in defensive positions Wozniacki knows she can go to the forehand and it will almost neutralise her position and give her a chance to get back into the rally.

That is so important and Wozniacki should have enough success through this match to move through with a relatively straight-forward 63, 63 win. I thought the layers would have asked for Wozniacki to cover at least another game especially as Wozniacki is in very good form including winning the title in Hong Kong last week. I don't mind though and will take the Danish player to cover on Thursday.

Andrea Petkovic - 2.5 games v Lauren Davis: The last few months have been filled with injury issues and some poor performances from Andrea Petkovic, but she has won two matches here and that should give her some confidence. She is not going to have things easy against Lauren Davis who works hard on the court, but Petkovic should have enough of an edge when it comes to the power behind the groundstrokes to break down the American in this Quarter Final.

The Petkovic serve should provide a few more easy points than Davis' who has to work hard to win her games, but the form is certainly behind the latter.

Davis has already won five matches in Luxembourg to get to the Quarter Final and she had to battle hard to come through her Second Round match in three sets. That is a lot of tennis to be played but Davis has shown a couple of times over the last three months that she can be difficult to stop once she has built up some momentum. That has led to reaching the Final in Washington and Quebec City before falling short and it makes Davis a dangerous opponent for Petkovic in this Quarter Final.

However I think Petkovic is the stronger player and her two wins this week will have given her some confidence. She should have enough of an edge behind the serve to battle through this match and win 63, 57, 64 for a place in the Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Svetlana Kuznetsova - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kiki Bertens - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Andrea Petkovic - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-4, - 2.70 Units (14 Units Staked, - 19.29% Yield)

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