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Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (October 6th)

The headlines have been dominated by Maria Sharapova for the last twenty-four hours and I am going to say one final thing on the matter and then I am not going to want to discuss it again (at least until April 2017 when she returns to the Tour).

Sharapova is a huge star in the tennis world and has plenty of fans who will back her to the hilt- in saying that, I would have hoped she would have come out like a role model should and accepted the CAS decision with some grace. Unfortunately she has decided to go on the rampage and blaming the ITF for almost blowing this out of proportion while some of her sponsors, notably Head, have decided to lay some of the blame on WADA's door.

Both seem to think Sharapova should have been informed individually of all the changes that were being made, but that is a disastrous way of thinking. You would also be forgiven to believe that Sharapova had her ban overturned instead of being given a 15 month ban from CAS with the way she has come out and suggested they were impartial compared with the ITF who tried to 'make an example' of her.

It's a terrible lack of responsibility from Sharapova over the whole affair and all of her publicity seems to be trying to overshadow the fact the CAS decision was that she should serve a fifteen month ban for failing a drugs test. That is the important matter here- CAS didn't buy the excuses she has been serving for several months and suggested she does take a pretty long ban, longer than Marin Cilic had to serve.

Fans of Sharapova will believe her version of events, people who dislike her will always see her as a cheat. I do think it was a genuine mistake in taking Meldonium past December, but Sharapova has to take responsibility rather than blaming others for not telling her it was going to be a banned substance- I mean has everyone forgotten that very few people knew Sharapova was taking the medication including having some of her closest team members unaware so I am not sure who she believes should be telling her that the substance is going on the banned list.

I also have no doubt Sharapova didn't know the potential positive effects Meldonium would have, although it was legal until December 2015 so I am not going to say much more than that. The increased use around big matches is all the evidence I need that Sharapova did think it was having some effect on her abilities on the court, but again I will say it was legal so you can't attack her for that.

I am surprised by the amount of ex professionals and coaches who seem to want to sweep this whole issue under the carpet and I can sympathise with Andy Murray who has made his feelings very clear on the whole lackadaisical attitude the tennis authorities seem to have when it comes to catching those cheating the rules with PEDs.

There is actually some tennis still being played on the court rather than off it between Sharapova and the ITF and the events in Beijing and Tokyo move into the business end of the week. I had a poor week last week but I am looking for a bounce back over the next few days before the ATP Tour moves onto another Masters event in Shanghai.

Marcos Baghdatis v Gilles Muller: All credit has to be given to Gilles Muller for seeing off Tomas Berdych in the manner he did on Wednesday, but this is another difficult test for him. There is no doubt that Marcos Baghdatis is not at the same level as Berdych, but he has proven to have the right game plan to break down Muller and has won all three matches played against him over the last thirteen months.

That will give Baghdatis some confidence that he can make it through to the Quarter Final in Tokyo in what looks an open tournament now that both Berdych and Kei Nishikori have been eliminated from the draw. It has been a good season for Baghdatis who is two wins away from setting the most wins in a single season since 2012 and he had a battling win in the First Round which could give him some confidence.

The first serve percentage has always been a weakness for Baghdatis but he still can produce some big time tennis when he is feeling things. The matches with Muller have been competitive though and there hasn't been much between the players although Baghdatis has been a little better at winning points from the second serve which can make a difference at big moments.

I think it will be close again and could easily go into a third set for the third time in four matches between these players and it has happened each time they have played best of three set matches. I think Baghdatis has been in better overall form over the last couple of months and will hold the mental edge having won all three previous matches against the big-serving lefty and I will back Baghdatis to move into the Quarter Final in this pick 'em contest.

Karolina Pliskova v Johanna Konta: The layers have actually picked Karolina Pliskova has the underdog in this match with Johanna Konta and I have to feel that has something to do with Konta 'chasing the Ranking points' more than Pliskova who will be playing in Singapore.

I simply can't see the reasoning behind the prices otherwise as this has proven to be a very difficult match for Konta in the past. She has lost all five matches against the big serving Czech player including twice in 2016, although it does have to be noted that those matches both needed three sets to be decided.

One of them did come on the grass courts where I would have expected Konta to perhaps favour her chances compared with the hard courts. This surface should allow Pliskova a chance to dictate behind her big serve and I do think she has the power to take advantage of the Konta second serve.

There won't be much between them, but I am surprised Pliskova is the underdog and she has played well in her first couple of matches and showed she is willing to battle for the win. She has come from a set down in her first two matches which might have taken something away physically, but Pliskova can make up for that by serving big and keeping Konta under pressure at the big moments to lead to another win over the British player.

Caroline Wozniacki + 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: These players are meeting for the third week in a row on the Tour and they have split the first two matches 1-1. The first was won by Caroline Wozniacki in three tough sets, but Agnieszka Radwanska earned some revenge in Wuhan when comfortably dismissing the challenge of the Danish former World Number 1.

There was something not quite right with Wozniacki in Wuhan and I do wonder if the exertions of winning the tournament in Tokyo had just taken something from the gas tank. That shouldn't be the case in Beijing and Wozniacki should be plenty motivated to end 2016 in strong form to make sure her World Ranking is in a decent enough position to take into the 2017 season.

It is almost certain that Radwanska will be playing in Singapore at the end of the month but this is still a player I don't particularly rate that highly. While she is heavily reliant on her movement and defensive skills, I do want to tip my hat to Dan who runs the @tennisratings Twitter account.

He had a brilliant article which showed how poor Radwanska can be in final set deciders and I do think someone like Wozniacki is likely to finish this match stronger than the Pole if they get into that position. The head to head shows Wozniacki has been able to handle the Radwanska game with both players looking to grind down their opponents.

I did back Wozniacki with the games last week and it didn't work out, but I am going to go back to the well this time around and look for a much more competitive performance from the Dane.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-6, + 3.42 Units (28 Units Staked, + 12.21% Yield)

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