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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 25th)

The first set of matches in the round robin of the WTA Finals have been completed and I have to say it has been strange to see the up and down nature of some of the performances we have seen. That really came out on Monday as Agnieszka Radwanska completely choked away a winning position in her loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Following that was Karolina Pliskova who should have won in straight sets but who perhaps then should have been beaten in three sets by Garbine Muguruza who blew a final set 5-2 lead. Both players are going to look at that match as one they could have easily won or lost and the long matches on Monday could have an effect on how these four are able to produce later in the week.

On Tuesday Group A is back in action as we could potentially see one Semi Finalist and one player exiting the tournament at the end of the second round robin of matches. The layers have basically made both matches pick 'em contests and I imagine both are going to be tight affairs.

Tuesday also sees the ATP events in Basel and Vienna really get going, but Tomas Berdych was beaten on Monday and has seen his chances of making it to the World Tour Finals severely reduced even with Rafael Nadal out of the running. Five places have been confirmed already, but the other three spots are still up for grabs with a number of players in the running for London playing this week in one of those two events.

Angelique Kerber v Simona Halep: This is going to be the fifth time Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep meet in the 2016 season alone and so far it is Kerber who has managed to produce three wins compared with Halep's one. The matches have been close and it might be a little surprising to note that Halep was actually favoured in their two hard court matches in Canada and Cincinnati.

This time it is the World Number 1 Kerber who is given the slight advantage at most of the layers, and I don't think I can argue with that as she has been able to dig in and beat Halep. The concern has to be the effort Kerber had to produce to beat Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday in what was a very long match and whether that has sapped some of the energy ahead of this match.

There should be a number of break points in this one and I think both players will have their moments, but Kerber looks to be a little more solid behind the first serve. She won't overpower Halep and both players rely on their movement which means some gruelling rallies are due to take place, but the mental edge belongs to Kerber and that has proven to be quite a difference maker already at the WTA Finals when the big moments have come around.

I think that mental edge helped Kerber overcome Cibulkova when they played a couple of days ago and the three wins over Halep might play a similar part in this one. It wouldn't surprise me if this is yet another match that goes the distance in the WTA Finals, but I am going to simply back Kerber to win this one.

Madison Keys v Dominika Cibulkova: Every player in the WTA Finals has won a set through the first round of matches except for Madison Keys, but I think she can do more than win her first set in this match. I was surprised to see Keys as the underdog in the match against Dominika Cibulkova and I think the American can use her power to penetrate the Cibulkova defences in this win.

Keys was beaten very easily by Simona Halep as her serve was negated, but I think that has proven to be a very difficult match for her. This one might be a match up she enjoys more as she has beaten Cibulkova in all three previous matches and I think Keys has to try and make use of any mental tiredness Cibulkova feels after losing a tight match against Angelique Kerber on Sunday.

Both players have some solid power off the ground and it is Cibulkova who has the edge when it comes to the backhand to backhand battles. The forehand battles will be great to watch, but Keys has a significant edge when it comes to the serve and can use Cibulkova's aggressive nature against her.

While Halep is quite happy to get involved in long rallies and wear players down, Cibulkova will go for her shots too and that might give Keys the kind of pace she can enjoy. I think Keys can enjoy success on the return of serve and she can put herself in a strong position as long as she serves well as it will be difficult for Cibulkova to use her aggression from the off.

It should be another solid match to watch for the fans in Singapore, but I like Madison Keys in the underdog spot in this match to give herself a chance of making it through to the Semi Final with a win.

Lucas Pouille - 2.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: The rise of Lucas Pouille has been something of a surprise this season and it is his runs to the Quarter Finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open that have seen him move inside the top 20 of the World Rankings. He has got a very slim chance of still making it through to the World Tour Finals if he can win the tournament here in Vienna and then the Paris Masters, but 2016 will still be seen as a potentially breakthrough season for Pouille.

He will need to bring his best to the court immediately with a First Round match against Feliciano Lopez first up for the Frenchman. This is a tough match for anyone on the indoor hard courts if Lopez is bringing his best serving into the match, but the Spaniard has been struggling at the close of 2016 and Pouille's form should give him the edge.

Since reaching the Final in Los Cabos, Lopez has gone 4-5 in main Tour matches and some of the defeats have been very disappointing. That has potentially seen Lopez move into a position where he might not be Seeded at the Australian Open in January, but Pouille will have to make sure he can make enough balls back into play and force Lopez to make the errors that he can begin to make when not on top form.

Winning the title in Metz and following that up with a run to the Third Round in Shanghai shows that Pouille is looking to end 2016 with plenty of momentum. He can have a few issues behind serve from time to time, but I think Pouille is capable of putting Lopez under pressure with his return and movement around the court and I think he can battle through to a 76, 64 win in this First Round match.

Joao Sousa - 1.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: This has been a difficult 2016 for Joao Sousa and he is under some pressure to end it with a few wins under his belt or see his Number 34 World Ranking take a significant hit before the end of the season. This time last season Sousa was surprisingly winning the title in Valencia on the indoor hard courts but he has just come up short in the First Round of the last two tournaments as wins have been tough to come by.

Sousa might not have a better chance to at least snap his three match losing run than when he faces Pablo Cuevas in the First Round in Vienna. Cuevas has had a lot of difficulty finding his form on the hard courts and he has a poor recent set of results as a lot of tennis in 2016 has perhaps just worn him down physically and mentally.

The clay courts are where Cuevas builds his points with more than half of his main Tour wins coming on that surface throughout his career. Losses in recent weeks have shown that he continues to find the faster surfaces difficult to produce his best game and Cuevas also has lost twice previously to Sousa on the hard courts including indoors in Valencia in the Quarter Final in 2015.

The concern in backing Sousa is the amount of third set deciders he has lost with four of his last five defeats coming in three sets. However I think he still has more belief in what he can do on the hard courts than Cuevas and this time I believe Sousa can come through in three competitive sets with a 63, 57, 64 win.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 4.5 games v Benjamin Becker: It can be a bit of a struggle whenever you back Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to cover any big spread because he doesn't have the best returning ability on the Tour. His backhand can be a real liability at times, but I think Tsonga is still a far superior player to Benjamin Becker at this stage of their careers.

I really don't know how much longer Becker is going to keep going on the Tour at age 35, but he still has the competitive fires burning as he came through two Qualifiers to make the First Round. Becker has spent a fair bit of energy on the court to get into the main draw, but he will need every ounce he has left if he is going to upset Tsonga who will still believe he can potentially make the World Tour Finals.

Regardless Tsonga is looking to put some wins up as he closes 2016 which has seen injuries end his run in a couple of the Grand Slams. Tsonga's serve remains a big weapon and he will try and use that to put the pressure on Becker who has been spending most of his time on the Challenger circuit these days.

Becker has taken some one-sided losses in his most recent main Tour matches and it might only take a couple of breaks of serve for Tsonga to get into a position to cover this number. There have been times Becker has been able to produce some huge serves to get himself out of trouble and he can be dangerous, but I think those levels are more and more infrequent these days and Tsonga should be good enough to win this one 63, 64.

Nicolas Mahut - 3.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: These two veteran players have produced a solid 2016 as they get set to meet in the First Round and it is Nicolas Mahut who is favoured to beat Paolo Lorenzi in Basel.

The indoor hard courts should favour Mahut who has won all four previous matches against Lorenzi although they will be playing one another for the first time in four years. Neither player will really look to any recent form with any confidence, but the conditions should suit the big serve that Mahut brings and his ability to get to the net will put the pressure on Lorenzi who does prefer the clay courts.

Lorenzi's first serve is actually not too bad and will be tough for Mahut to win a lot of points against, but if he sees the second serve Mahut can get into the net and try and pressure Lorenzi into mistakes. It all depends on how well Mahut is serving as well though as that shot gives the rest of his game the confidence to kick on and win matches.

I imagine the big points are going to be very critical in this one as both players should get a few chances to break serve. I just feel the conditions are going to favour Mahut's style a little more than Lorenzi's and I think that can see him come through with a 76, 63 win.

Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Gilles Muller: The last couple of months have seen some big improvements from the Grigor Dimitrov game although he is still not quite up to his very best. That hasn't stopped him getting to the business end of a number of tournaments in the back half of the 2016 season which could see Dimitrov finish inside the top 20 of the World Rankings.

He had slipped down to Number 40 in the World Rankings before the recent recovery and Dimitrov is expected to beat Gilles Muller in the First Round. Muller has reached the Quarter Final of a couple of tournaments since the US Open and the lefty's big serve is dangerous on the indoor hard courts even if he was beaten very surprisingly by Dustin Brown in three sets in Stockholm last week.

The serve will always make Muller a dangerous opponent that most would prefer to avoid in case he is firing on all cylinders. However it shouldn't be on that intimidates Dimitrov who played big serving Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin Del Potro last week and the Bulgarian has to feel he has the edge if he can take rallies into four shots or more.

The Dimitrov serve is not as strong as Muller's and he can still be guilty of throwing in a really poor service game which can cost him breaks of serve. Those will be harder to retrieve against someone like Muller, so Dimitrov has to be careful and stay focused but doing that should give him a chance to get enough balls back in play to force mistakes from Muller.

It might take Dimitrov coming from behind to win this one, but I think he can come through with a 46, 63, 64 win.

Stan Wawrinka - 5.5 games v Marco Chiudinelli: A disappointing Shanghai tournament won't take away from Stan Wawrinka the fact that he can return to Switzerland as the US Open Champion. He also had a strong run in St Petersburg, but Wawrinka will want to produce his best tennis in Basel having lost his previous four matches here in the First Round.

Wawrinka can't have asked for too many better chances to snap that run of losses in Basel when he takes on compatriot Marco Chiudinelli who surprisingly has been given a Wild Card into the event despite being 35 years old. It would be less of an issue if Chiudinelli hadn't have suffered some disappointing losses in Challenger events recently and if he had a better record on the main Tour.

There have been times I have seen Chiudinelli and been impressed with how he has protected his serve and facing someone like Wawrinka who is actually not a very aggressive returner could work to his favour. The danger for Chiudinelli is that he can sometimes want to predictably come to the net and giving Wawrinka a target to pass from either wing is not always the most productive way to try and win points.

The key for Wawrinka is to make sure he serves well himself to keep the pressure on Chiudinelli who is also on a four match losing run in Basel. He has to put aside any friendship he has with his compatriot and focus on the task at hand and doing that should mean Wawrinka is capable of producing a 64, 62 win in this First Round match.

MY PICKS: Angelique Kerber @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Madison Keys @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lucas Pouille - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Joao Sousa - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-3, + 1.12 Units (14 Units Staked, + 8% Yield)

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