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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 26th)

The WTA Finals continue on Wednesday as the line up for the Semi Final begins to take shape, although we are yet to get an official Semi Finalist. That might change on Wednesday when the White Group gets through their second round robin of matches after two tight opening matches in the Group.

We will also see the ATP Basel and ATP Vienna move onto the Second Round on Wednesday while also completing the First Round action with players who reached the latter stages of the tournaments last week given a little more time to prepare for these tournaments. It is another packed day of tennis which will be played through the day.

The picks on Tuesday might have had a decent day if Joao Sousa hadn't been the beneficiary of a Pablo Cuevas retirement. Sousa was only three games from winning the match when Cuevas pulled out, while the likes of Grigor Dimtrov and Lucas Pouille may have lost outright, but could easily have covered from the positions they had been in.

A bit more luck could really see the week developing very nicely and I am hoping that might be the case in the coming few days.

Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: I don't think Svetlana Kuznetsova would be able to explain how she managed to win her opening Group match against Agnieszka Radwanska which saw her save a match point in the decider. There has been a lot of tennis being played by Kuznetsova over the last month and it looked to have taken a toll when she was struggling for energy in the third set against Radwanska.

Another win on Wednesday would see Kuznetsova put one foot into the Semi Final before the second match in the White Group is played, but it looks a big task to knock off Karolina Pliskova. The Czech player had to dig deep to beat Garbine Muguruza in her first match having blown a big second set lead before finding herself 2-5 down in the decider and two breaks down.

Some how Pliskova managed to battle back for five games in a row to beat the French Open Champion and I think she will the better of Kuznetsova in the first match in Singapore on Wednesday. The Pliskova serve is a huge weapon that can just ease some of the pressure at the big moments and I can see that shot being a difference maker in this match as well as the fact that I am not sure Kuznetsova has had enough time to recover both physically and mentally.

That will make it difficult for a player who left a lot on the court emotionally on Monday and I think Kuznetsova is going to struggle against the weight of shot that Pliskova can produce. These two players met in Cincinnati in August and you can't disguise the importance of the Pliskova first serve and I believe that will be the decider in this one too. It also wouldn't be a surprise if Kuznetsova perhaps saves something for the final match if she gets behind and I like Pliskova to win this one 64, 62.

Garbine Muguruza + 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: Agnieszka Radwanska has an awful record against Svetlana Kuznetsova but that doesn't really work as an excuse for not beating the Russian in the first match in the White Group. There isn't any real need to panic though as Radwanska lost her first two matches in Singapore last year before going on to win the WTA Finals, although another defeat here coupled with a win for Karolina Pliskova in the earlier match would see Radwanska being the first player out of the tournament.

There is pressure on Garbine Muguruza too having blown a big lead herself against an opponent who has given her plenty of problems in recent matches. The second half of the season has been difficult for Muguruza since winning the French Open, but there has to be some encouragement from her performance against Pliskova.

It is a clash of styles between Radwanska and Muguruza with the movement and variation on the former's side and the power coming from the Spaniard's racquet. In all honesty most of the match will be dictated on the Muguruza racquet who will feel she can win the match if she can find her consistency on the ground as she should also have a slightly more comfortable time when serving.

These two players met in the Semi Final here last year and Radwanska was able to negate the Muguruza serve in the three set win. That snapped a run of four straight losses to the Spaniard and I think this will be a competitive match between these players which makes the games being given to Muguruza look appealing. She is capable of winning at least a set in this one which should give her every chance to cover and I will take the games at odds against.

Stephane Robert + 4.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: At this stage of the season and with the form as it has been, I am not sure Philipp Kohlschreiber should be favoured to beat anyone by this number of games. The fact that Stephane Robert is coming in off a Semi Final run last week should mean the veteran is able to make this a very competitive First Round match and I want to take what looks a lot of games in his favour.

It does have to be said that Robert had not been showing a lot of positive results before the Semi Final run in Moscow last week, a tournament where Kohlschreiber was also beaten in the Semi Final.

However it is the injuries that Kohlschreiber has been dealing with that left him coming up short in a couple of recent matches and he is going to be tested by Robert. Kohlschreiber does have the stronger indoor hard court form compared with Robert, but the latter has shown he can stay with opponents and certainly create some break point opportunities.

I do think Kohlschreiber will likely win the match, but I think Robert has every chance of winning a set and that would be enough for him to stay within this number. One of the issues Kohlschreiber has had in 2016 is preventing the sloppy drop of his service games and someone like Robert has enough quality to earn breaks here which could be all important in adding up the games to make sure the 4.5 game head start is enough to cover.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: For the third tournament in a row Fabio Fognini and Albert Ramos-Vinolas will meet on the Tour and it is the Italian who has improved his head to head to 9-0. I backed Fognini to cover last week and this time he is being asked to cover another game but I can't ignore the match up and how much the Italian has seemingly enjoyed it against Ramos-Vinolas.

Last week showed Fognini is the stronger player when it comes to the rallies and he has a good read of what Ramos-Vinolas wants to do on the court with the serve. Negating that lefty serve and forcing Ramos-Vinolas to beat Fognini in the rallies has proven to be a huge edge for the Italian whose only serve is then backed up effectively by being the stronger player off the ground.

Fognini did reach the Final in Moscow where he came up short and he can't always be trusted to put in back to back big weeks on the Tour. That is especially the case on the hard courts where he is not at his best, but he has had a few days to recover from Moscow and Fognini's match up here can't be ignored in the First Round.

I'd be surprised if Ramos-Vinolas doesn't make this more competitive than the four games he won when they played last week. However I still think Fognini comes through with a 64, 64 win and move through to the Second Round while making it ten out of ten against Ramos-Vinolas.

Feliciano Lopez v John Isner: I have to credit Feliciano Lopez for playing the big points as well as he did in the final set win over Lucas Pouille on Tuesday. He did come close to falling out of the tournament, but I can see Lopez using his fortune to good effect by booking a place in the Quarter Final by beating John Isner on Wednesday.

We all know what is coming from Isner and what makes him so dangerous is the huge serve he possesses that helped him get out of trouble against Jan-Lennard Struff just in time on Monday. Coming back from 0-40 when trailing by a set already to hold serve and then break in the next game helped Isner turn the momentum of that match, but it doesn't disguise the fact that he has not been at his best over the last few months.

Someone like Lopez will take his time and be patient enough to try and stay with Isner and has the serve and the game to do that. He has previously shown he can keep himself in the moment even when a host of serves go flying past him and I do think the Spaniard can earn the upset in this one.

The key here for me is that Isner was regularly someone you could trust in tie-breakers with his 62% win record over his career in these shoot outs. That is an impressive number when you think he would have played plenty of the top names in those too, but in 2016 it has actually dropped to a 47% win record in tie-breakers. Recently Isner has lost a lot more than he has won with a 4-11 record in the last 15 tie-breakers he has played and Lopez is more than capable of adding to those numbers in the upset.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: The place at the ATP World Tour Finals has already been booked by Kei Nishikori and he is simply looking for some form to take into the tournament in a couple of weeks time. Having a strong showing in Basel would be a good start to that end and Nishikori was an impressive winner in the First Round.

The match up with Paolo Lorenzi should be a good one for Nishikori to continue to build his rhythm to take to London as that is what the Italian will give him. The first serve is actually working very effectively for Lorenzi, but he is facing a very solid returner in Nishikori and I don't really like his chances of winning a lot of the extended rallies against the Japanese star.

The issue for Lorenzi is going to be getting enough first serves in play to earn some short balls where he can begin to dictate the rallies from the beginning. The second serves will be much harder to protect against Nishikori and I do think we will see Nishikori get into a position where he will break serves around four times.

A key to this entire spread is Nishikori serving well enough to keep Lorenzi at bay and I think that has been an issue for him through his career. There are too many times sloppy service games means Nishikori is having to expend more energy than he would like to, but I think he should have enough to protect serve for long enough to record a 64, 62 win in this match.

Robin Haase + 4.5 games v Juan Martin Del Potro: It is so much fun to see Juan Martin Del Potro not only enjoying his tennis again, but getting back into a position to challenge the very best players on the Tour. A first title since 2014 was won on Sunday in Stockholm and Del Potro has every chance to end 2016 by adding to his Silver Medal from the Olympic Games with a Davis Cup win.

Del Potro is back as the Argentinian Number 1 and is likely going to be used for two Singles rubbers in the Davis Cup Final while he is back up to Number 42 in the World Rankings. He might not have enough to be Seeded by the time the Australian Open comes around, but Del Potro has nothing in terms of points to protect for a while and that would be a great achievement for him if he can do that.

It is going to be interesting to see how much he has in the tank both physically and emotionally having won the title in Stockholm. The organisers in Basel have been good enough to give Del Potro a few days to prepare himself for this First Round match against Robin Haase who had to come through the Qualifiers.

Haase has been putting together plenty of wins on the Challenger circuit on the clay courts to help him move up the World Rankings, but he is still very inconsistent. He should have a serve that offers him more, although the problem remains backing it up with the right plays at the right times and the Dutchman can sometimes collapse in matches.

I do think Haase might be facing Del Potro at the right time though and he can stay with the Argentinian. As long as Haase serves well, he can potentially steal a set if Del Potro is not completely focused in his opening match here and that might be enough for him to make these games count.

MY PICKS: Karolina Pliskova - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza + 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stephane Robert + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Robin Haase + 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-6, + 2.64 Units (28 Units Staked, + 9.43% Yield)

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