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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (October 4th)

The week has gotten off to a much better start than last week with the picks going 4-1 on Monday, but it is a long week ahead in Beijing and Tokyo where plenty of Ranking points are up for grabs.

It looks like being the last really big opportunity for the ladies chasing a place in Singapore for the End of Year Championships to earn the points to get them in the top eight spots. Venus Williams was beaten in the First Round in Beijing which is likely to prevent her getting into one of those places, but Petra Kvitova won the tournament in Wuhan and looks to be a late threat as she moved from Number 21 all the way up to Number 12 in the Race to Singapore.

The WTA Finals are less than three weeks away from beginning now but the ATP World Tour Finals are a couple of weeks later which means there are still plenty of players who will believe they can challenge for the top eight places.

That makes weeks like this especially motivating for all of those players looking for some momentum to end 2016 that they can take into the 2017 season.

While we will see some of the Second Round matches of the WTA Beijing tournament beginning on Tuesday, the bigger news for followers of the WTA Tour will be the outcome of the Maria Sharapova appeal regarding her ban from the Tour. The Court of Arbitration for Sport are expected to release their decision on Tuesday afternoon and it is going to be something that will have some big repercussions no matter which way they go.

My personal opinion is that they will decide to reduce the ban so Sharapova is able to make her return to the Tour in January, but I don't think any outcome will be a surprise for me including leaving the two year ban as originally decided to reducing the ban to the point where Sharapova could technically be playing next week.

As I have said, the picks went 4-1 on Monday to open this week in a much more positive manner than last week which had been the first since the US Open in which I had been making picks. I am looking for the momentum from Monday to help kick this week forward going into Tuesday where I am making six picks from the matches to be played in the three events taking place.

Beijing does look to be a tournament that could be affected by the rain, although they do also have a roof for at least the main court which will keep play going. It might mean some of the matches are forced to spill over until Wednesday when the organisers will be looking to get the tournament back on track, although the hope will be that there are enough windows of dry weather to ensure all of the Singles play is in the books by the end of Tuesday's day of play.

Dominic Thiem v Alexander Zverev: Two of the young, upcoming players on the ATP Tour meet for the fourth time in 2016 and so far it is Dominic Thiem who has gotten the better of Alexander Zverev in the three previous matches. It is actually the German who comes into this First Round match in Beijing as the favourite to win, but I think Thiem can be backed to come through against him.

Both have pretty good tournaments since the US Open with Zverev having a title to his name and Thiem finishing Runner Up at another tournament. The more impressive run was had by Zverev as he beat players of the calibre of Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka to win his title in St Petersburg and that does mean he is in better form of the two, but Thiem has that mental edge of winning three matches in a row against Zverev and doing it from a set down each time.

They have been competitive matches but this might be a match up that Zverev doesn't enjoy with Thiem capable of outlasting him when it comes to the extended backhand to backhand rallies. The Zverev serve might be the bigger weapon, but I am not sure he has still got the consistency behind the first serve and making sure he doesn't offer up too many opportunities on the second.

I don't doubt this will be another close match between two of the 'Next Gen' players on the Tour but Thiem at odds against to continue his winning ways against Zverev has to be backed.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Steve Johnson: It can be hard to trust Grigor Dimitrov when you see some of the performances he produces, but there have been more wins of late which have to be improving confidence. He should be able to take his Semi Final run in Chengdu into Beijing and I think he will be too good for Steve Johnson in this First Round match.

The American did have a memorable couple of months on the Tour, but looks to be slipping back to a more realistic level with a couple of disappointing performances in Winston Salem and at the US Open. This is the first time Johnson has been back on the Tour since his Second Round defeat in Flushing Meadows and he might be a little match rusty compared with Dimitrov who had that run last week.

Matches between the players has seen Dimitrov beaten Johnson the last time they met in Cincinnati to level the series 2-2 between them. This does have all the makings of a close match too with a few big points here and there separating the players, but I do believe Dimitrov has more about his game.

The key for him is to make sure he serves well because there are times when he has struggled on the return and Johnson has a decent first serve. However I think Dimitrov has the considerably stronger return of serve and he should be able to battle to a 76, 64 win in this First Round win.

Gael Monfils - 5.5 games v Yuichi Sugita: There is absolutely no doubt that the goal for Gael Monfils has to rubber stamp 2016 as his best season on the Tour by reaching the World Tour Finals in November. He is currently 6th in the Race to London, but there is still work for Monfils to do who makes his first return to the ATP Tour since reaching the US Open Semi Final.

It had been an impressive summer culminating in that run in New York City and Monfils should be confident he can put together some wins in Tokyo to take another step towards the World Tour Finals. The opening match with Yuichi Sugita should be one that is to Monfils' liking with the home player likely to offer all he has but not really matching what Monfils can bring to the court.

Playing at home might help Sugita but he is just 1-8 in Tokyo through his career and has gone 0-4 in the main draw matches he has played. A couple of those losses have been one-sided and much of this match is going to be played on Monfils racquet with his athleticism and movement around the court likely to give Sugita some real problems.

That was the case when they played at the Australian Open and Monfils won in convincing fashion in three sets. The way the Frenchman has been playing over the last couple of months makes it hard to see how Sugita will make it much more competitive this time and I think Monfils moves through with a 63, 63 win.

Karolina Pliskova - 2.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: This is one of the more interesting matches scheduled for Tuesday in Beijing and I think both Karolina Pliskova and Daria Kasatkina will play their part in what could be a fun match to watch. The difference is likely to be made from the first serve Pliskova possesses as well as the fact that Kasatkina might be hitting a wall after a long season.

Kasatkina did play well in Wuhan, but that came after having to snap a 4 match losing run on the Tour. She was also found out a little by the power of Madison Keys and Pliskova can match that which is going to give her problems in this match.

If Pliskova is serving well, she will keep Kasatkina under pressure and I do think the heavy groundstrokes will mean the higher Ranked player is capable of hitting through her on the return of serve too. That makes it difficult to see how Kasatkina can repeat her success over Pliskova on the clay courts earlier this season, although I do think Kasatkina is going to come on leaps and bounds over the next couple of years on the WTA Tour.

At the moment I don't think she has enough to stay with Pliskova on the hard courts and I am looking for Number 5 player on the Race to Singapore leaderboard to come through with a 75, 63 win.

Johanna Konta - 4.5 games v Timea Babos: I like Timea Babos and think she has made big improvements as a Singles player on the Tour, although I will also be looking for another step from her next season. She has a decent serve, is clearly a capable player at the net and just needs to find a way to bring in the unforced errors to start becoming a real threat on the WTA Tour.

Those improvements will be worked upon through the off-season in time for the 2017 season, but for now Babos' main focus could be on the Doubles where she looks set to be competing in Singapore at the WTA Finals. That is unlike her opponent Johanna Konta who is battling to be one of the eight Singles players involved in Singapore and who needs a big week to try and get into a position to do that.

Konta ran into the buzzsaw that was Petra Kvitova last week in Wuhan, but she was arguably one of the most competitive players against Kvitova. The British player was a comfortable winner in the First Round and will be in a good position in this match if she can serve well and keep Babos from taking too many swings off the second serve return.

Babos' serve is a threat when she is on top form, but I also think the motivation might not be as high for her as it is for Konta and she could easily slip away in this match. When on top form Babos can make life difficult for anyone, but I think Konta can win this one 75, 63 and move a step closer to earning a place in Singapore.

Shuai Zhang - 2.5 games v Alison Riske: Playing at home has to give Shuai Zhang plenty of motivation and she has enjoyed being back on her home continent in recent weeks. She has played well in reaching the Semi Final in a couple of events although Zhang is looking to make up for an early exit at Wuhan last week.

She hasn't played well in Beijing in the past, but Zhang is having her best year on the Tour and I think she will be able to get past Alison Riske. The American has come through a couple of Qualifiers and had a solid win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the First Round, although Riske hadn't been in the best of form before that.

I do think Riske needs to be respected having secured what is likely to be her best year on the Tour in terms of wins. She can be very positive on the court and hit plenty of winners when she is feeling her tennis and having three wins behind her makes Riske a threat to win this one straight up.

However I do think Zhang will have plenty of confidence considering the form she has displayed recently and her victory over Sam Stosur in the First Round was very impressive. The serve can let her down at times, but I think Zhang can put her tennis together for long enough to win this one 63, 46, 64 in three tough sets.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 5.5 Games @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 2.5 Games @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Shuai Zhang - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-1, + 4.90 Units (10 Units Staked, + 49% Yield)

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