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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (October 5th)

The rain did arrive in Beijing as expected on Tuesday which meant the schedule of play could not be completed as only one of the courts has a roof. It does mean Wednesday is a little more loaded than might have been the case, but there looks to be some quality matches to get through.

Unfortunately the rain looks set to affect the Tokyo tournament instead on Wednesday with showers likely to interrupt play through the day. They should at least have a chance to get all the matches played though, at least on the Singles side of things, in what is a pretty busy day in the Japanese capital too.

Tuesday was also a big day for Maria Sharapova who had her two year ban cut by around nine months which means she will be making her return to the WTA Tour in April 2017. Sharapova released a pretty rubbish statement where she was not as accepting of the blame for failing a drugs test as she was earlier in the year and there was also a vomit-inducing statement released by Head who almost acted like Sharapova had not failed a test in the first place.

All this rubbish of no clear evidence of the performance enhancing effects of Meldonium are not going to satisfy me because I simply don't believe all of these athletes using it have some massive heart issues and not doing it because of the benefits the drug gives. While it wasn't banned until earlier this year, I am not going to be naive enough to believe there was no scientific benefit for these top athletes to be using it.

Either that or I am guessing we should be screening for people who have allergies and severe asthma and get them playing sports because clearly they are the best athletes in the world... Once the medication is being used of course(!)

Personally I don't think the Grand Slam events of 2017 that Sharapova will be eligible to enter should be giving her a Wild Card, but that doesn't look like it will realistically happen. The rest of the 2017 season from April should see Sharapova being able to enter whichever event she likes, but I will be hoping she lands some awful draws unless she shows a little more humbleness in her ban being reduced for what doesn't look the best of reasons.

Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: There are plenty of points still to play for on the ATP Tour so Tomas Berdych won't be panicking about his Number 9 position in the Race for London. He is only 500 points behind Gael Monfils in the Number 6 spot despite missing the US Open and Berdych made a serious move towards getting back into the top eight by winning the tournament in Shenzhen last week.

He has been given a couple of extra days to get ready for the event in Tokyo which has plenty of Ranking points attached to it, although Monfils is also in the draw and moved through to the Second Round. With Dominic Thiem being beaten early in Beijing, Berdych could make big impact in the 400 points gap between them by having a big week in Japan.

The motivation is all there but coming off a long week which followed another solid run in St Petersburg could take its toll from a physical point of view. His opponent is Gilles Muller who can be very dangerous, especially when the serve is working at the top of its game, although his results have been inconsistent in the last few months.

Muller can ease through his service games at time, but I am not sure he is going to have a lot of joy against the Berdych serve. That can build the pressure in each passing game and I think Berdych can end up working his way to a 76, 64 win in this one.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Joao Sousa: Winning the title in Tokyo is always going to be important for Kei Nishikori, and he has managed that twice before and will be favourite to make it three times in 2016. Last season he was surprisingly beaten in the Semi Final by Benoit Paire, but Nishikori should be able to have a good run this time around.

I would expect him to be too good for Joao Sousa in this Second Round match with the latter struggling in the last few months of the season. Sousa is set to have fewer wins on the main Tour than in 2015 and the Portuguese player is going to have to out-rally Nishikori to win this one which doesn't seem like it is reasonable to expect.

There will be times Sousa is able to make the big shots, but more often than not I would expect Nishikori to win the rallies once they get going. Neither player is blessed with a huge serve so you'd have to think rallies are likely to be developing through the time these two are on court, and I think Nishikori makes a better effort in protecting his own serve.

This is a big number which is a concern in a best of three set match, but Nishikori and Sousa have similar styles and Nishikori looks to be stronger in almost every department. As long as Nishikori remains focused and doesn't drop too many silly breaks of serve, I think he will be good enough to come through with a 64, 62 win in this Second Round match.

Caroline Garcia - 3.5 games v Shuai Peng: There are times when you can watch Caroline Garcia and become very frustrated with her inability to find the consistency she needs in her game. While she be close to unplayable when hitting a purple patch, they rarely last through an entire match and Garcia can then be accused of going for too much which leads to errors.

Her mental fragility can also see Garcia lose a number of games in quick succession which can make it difficult to trust her to cover spreads. This is about as large a number as I would be comfortable in asking the Frenchwoman to cover and much of that is also to do with the fact she is playing Shuai Peng who is coming off a big win.

Peng dismissed Venus Williams in very impressive fashion in the First Round, but this is a player that has not been in great form since returning to the Tour. While she is experienced, she hasn't had wins of this manner of late and that might mean Peng finds it difficult to back up the success and someone like Garcia has the power off the ground to really get after Peng's weak serve.

I expected Venus to be able to do that, but she hasn't looked at her very best for a while. Garcia, on the other hand, had a solid win over Julia Goerges in the First Round and should be a little better than Venus was and give Peng more to think about. While I don't think Garcia can always be trusted to maintain her form, I do think she will have the majority of break points in this one and can work Peng over for a 75, 64 win in this one.

Madison Keys - 1.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: I was not very impressed with the way Madison Keys played in her win over Kristina Mladenovic in the Second Round a couple of days ago and I think the American needs to be much improved in the Third Round. Keys is currently on the right path to earn a place in Singapore for the WTA Finals despite only playing in her fourteenth tournament this week, but this is an important match in that regards when she takes on Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The American is currently in 8th place in the Race for Singapore but there are less than 300 points between Keys and Kuznetsova in 10th place who will be desperate to make the elite eight players in the world. Kuznetsova closed that gap by reaching the Semi Final in Wuhan last week, but she will have to deal with the Keys power if she is going to at least go a Round further than her this week.

That power can be difficult to contain and Kuznetsova will have to serve well to at least force Keys off balance and prevent her from hitting her deep returns. If Keys is to see a lot of second serves, you would think she would start dictating the rallies and taking away something from Kuznetsova's game in what looks to be a close match.

Keys' serve was not as effective as she would have liked against Mladenovic, a player who mentally is not as strong as Kuznetsova is. While Mladenovic missed her chances to win the match, Keys can't give those same looks to Kuznetsova who is unlikely to misread the situation and make the American scrap for every point she wants to win.

The Keys first serve is likely going to be the key, pardon the pun, to the match. If the American get enough in play, she should be able to stay ahead of the scoreboard and I do think Keys will get chances to break the Kuznetsova serve and thus can win this one 63, 46, 64.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Madison Keys - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-3, + 3.40 Units (16 Units Staked, + 21.25% Yield)

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