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Sunday, 23 October 2016

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 23rd)

The WTA season officially doesn't end until the week after next when the Elite Trophy tournament is completed, but for all intents and purposes it is going to end with the WTA Finals played in Singapore this week. I have no idea why the organisers of the Tour have decided their season should not be concluded by the WTA Finals like the ATP does with their own World Tour Finals and this is surely going to change in the coming years.

It wasn't until Saturday that the final eight players were officially decided as Svetlana Kuznetsova defended her title in Moscow to finish above Johanna Konta and take her place in Group B. There were some critics of the way Kuznetsova has earned the points over the last three weeks of the season, but I would love to ask those people why they feel the need to act so idiotic? The Tour is not over until every tournament is concluded so it is well within the rules for players to take their place in draws with the aim of getting into the WTA Finals and I have no idea why that would bother people?

We will see the same thing on the ATP Tour over the next three weeks as players chase the remaining spots in London. Rafael Nadal withdrew from the rest of the season to make sure he is ready to go in the 2017 season and that means there are a number of players who are chasing the remaining three berths in London. The tournaments this week have some big Ranking points attached and we still have one more Master event to come so there is room for a surprise face or two to reach the World Tour Finals.

The picks have had solid performances the last two weeks and I am looking to use that momentum to push forward into the remainder of this season. I will begin this week on Sunday when the WTA Finals get underway from Singapore, while we also will see the Finals of the three ATP events played on the same day.

Simona Halep - 2.5 games v Madison Keys: This will be the fourth time Simona Halep and Madison Keys will have played since Wimbledon and the last three times has seen the Romanian come through by just being a little better at the big moments. Halep has found a way to get into the Madison Keys service games and take away the big weapon that the American has which has allowed Halep to out-rally her and eventually wear down her opponent.

We haven't seen Halep since Beijing while Keys took in an extra tournament to make sure of her place in Singapore. The manner in which Halep was beaten in her last appearance in Beijing might have had an influence on her price, but I do think she is capable of getting off to a winning start in the Group.

The return game has been good enough to force Keys to earn her points and the Halep movement has made it difficult for her opponent to play her favoured serve to heavy forehand for easy points on the court. The power Keys has still makes her dangerous and she can hit purple patches where no player will be able to live with her, but those don't really last long enough to affect the Halep game.

You would think Keys would have more success in the return games, but I think she is guilty of overplaying on the return when I have watched her play. Too often Keys goes for too much and that leads to mistakes or being in awkward positions on the court when trying to hit winners and I like Halep to win this match in a very similar fashion as she has when these players have met in the last few months.

I will just look for Halep to be a little more solid at the big moments of this match and that can see her come through with a 64, 64 win.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Dominika Cibulkova: It was Dominika Cibulkova who won the first four matches when her and Angelique Kerber, but the World Number 1 has turned that around by winning the last four in a row. This is still a fascinating match as Kerber had just struggled for consistency down the stretch, while Cibulkova won the title in Linz which allowed her to finish in the Number 7 spot for a place in the WTA Finals.

This does look a very difficult Group to predict, but I think Cibulkova might be the player that ultimately comes up short. I think she will in the opener against Kerber who should be mentally fresh for this tournament and who has admitted her shoulder injury was part of the reason for her issues in the last Asian swing of 2016.

Kerber has come to Singapore and spoken about being in much stronger shape and looking to make up for her Group Stage exit at the WTA Finals in 2015. Her record against Cibulkova will certainly inspire confidence in her own game as she has been able to use her movement and solid defensive skills to force mistakes from the Cibulkova game.

I am a big fan of Cibulkova and think she can be very dangerous when she is in the kind of form she showed in winning the title in Linz. Reaching the WTA Finals for the first time is a big achievement for Cibulkova and one she would love to extend as long as possible, but I feel she will be playing from behind in the Group against an opponent she has found difficult to read.

I expect to see a few breaks of serve for both players, but eventually Kerber can come through with a 75, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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