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Monday, 24 October 2016

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 24th)

This is a big week on the tennis Tour as the WTA Finals take place as well as two big ATP events in Vienna and Basel which could go a long way to deciding who the final players making it to the World Tour Finals will be.

The WTA Finals began on Sunday but the main draw in Vienna and Basel will begin on Monday and I am hoping for a decent week to back up the last two although the season has been something of a disappointment. I need to have a look back at what went wrong early in the season which meant playing catch up for much of the season, although I do feel the absence over the clay court season when I was very busy in my personal life did have a big impact on things too.

Those are thoughts heading into the 2017 season and something to analyse over the off-season, but for now I am concentrating on the final weeks of the 2016 season.

Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: The head to head might ready 12-4 in favour of Svetlana Kuznetsova, but I have very little idea how the Russian is going to be ready for this opening game in the Group. On Saturday Kuznetsova won the title in Moscow to earn the eighth and final spot in the WTA Finals but she had little time to rest as she caught an evening flight to Singapore.

That means a long journey followed by adjusting to a new time zone and that is going to be tough on the body and mind of Kuznetsova. With all the tennis Kuznetsova has had to play over the last three weeks to keep winning and staying contention for the WTA Finals and I think that has to play a part in this one.

Radwanska is also the defending Champion of the WTA Finals, although I am not reading too much into that. She actually doesn't have the best record in this event (4-5 in Singapore and 7-12 in full appearances in the WTA Finals) and even last year was only 3-2, but won her matches at the right time after struggling out of the Group. However she won't have too many better chances to beat Kuznetsova again having been in Singapore adjusting for a few days and definitely looking like she should have more in the tank both physically and mentally.

They did play in Wuhan recently and Radwanska should really have won that match. I expect her to get the better of Kuznetsova this time though with the factors in her favour on Monday and I think she will come through 64, 62 to put herself in a solid position to get through to the Semi Final for the fourth time in five appearances in the Final.

Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 games v Garbine Muguruza: For someone who has been fairly consistent on the WTA Tour it might be a surprise that Karolina Pliskova is making it to the WTA Finals for the first time. However Pliskova had regularly failed to make an impact at the Grand Slam level before 2016 and the US Open Finalist has had some big results to make it through to Singapore this year.

She might be considered one of the favourites to win the tournament with some doubts about the leading contenders and Pliskova can underline that status if she can beat Garbine Muguruza in her first match. The Spaniard might have won the French Open, but the second half of 2016 has been a struggle for her while her fitness might be questioned having pulled out in Linz during her Quarter Final.

Expect to see plenty of big hitting tennis in this one with both Pliskova and Muguruza producing plenty of power off the ground and behind the serve. The form certainly seems to point to Pliskova as being the more likely to find some consistency in her play and she has beaten Muguruza the last three times they have played including a very comfortable win in the Cincinnati Semi Final on her way to winning that tournament.

That has to give Pliskova confidence and if there is any limitation to the Muguruza movement it is going to be difficult for her to contain the power coming from the other side of the court. I have no doubt Muguruza will have her moments, but the steadier play should come from Pliskova who can win this one 64, 64 and get into a strong position to progress from this Group.

John Isner - 2.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: I am beginning to wonder if John Isner has hit his peak and is now going to be slipping down the World Rankings in the coming months. He comes into this tournament in Number 27 spot of the World Rankings and Isner would love to get a few wins under his belt to close 2016 and ensure he is in a good position to be Seeded at the Australian Open.

He might have hoped for a slightly more straightforward First Round match than facing Qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff who is very comfortable on the indoor hard courts. Struff has won plenty of matches recently including two in the Qualifiers in Vienna and those wins would have given him confidence, but dealing with the Isner serve is always a challenge.

I think it is the Isner serve that will make the difference because Struff can be guilty of throwing away his own serve at times. He faced a whole host of break points last week in Antwerp and while Isner is not the greatest returner on the Tour, the pressure brought by his own serve can see players make mistakes when it comes to the crucial points in matches.

I also think Isner's poor form is down to some of the draws he has received and Struff is not of the level of the likes of Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin Del Potro who have beaten Isner recently. The American does prefer to have a little more time on the ball, which won't be the case here, but I think he will earn at least one break of serve which might be enough for a 76, 64 win in this First Round match in Vienna.

Nicolas Almagro - 1.5 games v Damir Dzumhur: Playing on the hard courts has been a difficulty for Nicolas Almagro over the last couple of years with injury and loss of form on the surface making up his record. Almagro has had some poor results of late and struggles against opponents he shouldn't really be struggling against more than he should, but I think he can get a measure of revenge over Damir Dzumhur who beat him on the clay courts three months ago.

Dzumhur has had to come through the Qualifiers this week and I expect those two wins has to give him some confidence. However this has been a rarity for Dzumhur on the hard courts and outside of a really good run in Miami he has struggled for wins on the surface.

The Bosnian has been mixing indoor hard court events with clay court events, which is not always idea, while he couldn't continue in a match last week in Moscow. If Dzumhur is a little short of his very best, he is going to have a difficult time looking after his serve and that should give Almagro a chance to put together a revenge win after the defeat in Umag to this player.

Backing Almagro has not proved to be very effective on this surface, but I think this could be an occasion where he should be able to get the better of his opponent. He has to return better than he did when these players met in Umag, but I think Dzumhur is not the best on the hard courts where he finds it harder to defend and I believe the Spaniard will come through with a 75, 46, 64 win.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: There is still a chance for Marin Cilic to work his way into the ATP World Tour Finals, but he needs a big week in Basel to give himself an opportunity to do that. It is a long shot with Cilic perhaps more focused on the Davis Cup Final with Croatia than getting into the elite eight, but I do expect he can get off to a very strong start this week.

2016 might not have been a really special season for Cilic but he has been close in a couple of really big tournaments and winning the Davis Cup will give him something to remember. He is likely to surpass his number of wins on the Tour from 2015 which is something Cilic would perhaps had as a goal for the season and I think he can win this First Round match.

Cilic has a losing record to Mikhail Youzhny, but it is Cilic who has won the last three matches between these players with the last of those coming in 2013. Youzhny has had a recovery year after a poor 2015, but he has been struggling in the last few weeks with some heavy losses being suffered by the Russian.

I think it is a little bit of a worry for Youzhny that the last eight sets he has lost have come where he has failed to win more than three games in a set. That means he has failed to get within this number in each of those losses and I think Cilic has a big enough game to get the better of him. As long as Cilic is focused, I think he can be good enough to record a 63, 63 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Agnieszka Radwanska - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
John Isner - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.85 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.40 Units (4 Units Staked, - 10% Yield)

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