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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Paris Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (November 1st)

It was interesting listening to the Novak Djokovic interview this week which seemed to suggest that the current World Number 1 might have rediscovered some of the fire and motivation that has been lacking from his game since winning the French Open. I don't know Djokovic, but clearly something in his personal life has thrown things around where perhaps tennis was shown not to be the priority in his life, but I do think he sounds happier than he has in months.

Even when reaching the Final at the US Open there was always this feeling that Djokovic wasn't fully engaged as he has been over the last three seasons. Maybe the threat to his World Number 1 World Ranking to a player that I actually don't think Djokovic has ever felt inferior to has got him refocused as he heads into this big event in Paris where Djokovic needs to reach the Final at least to hold off Andy Murray.

You have to credit Murray for how close he is to reaching the top of the ATP World Rankings, but he has to win the tournament here to move above Novak Djokovic and I am not sure how much will be left in the tank with all the tennis he has played lately. Murray is right to say that the World Rankings are all that matters as to where a player should be Ranked, but I don't think many will accept him as the best player in the world even if he is the Number 1 for a few months.

I think it will be similar to when Andy Roddick became World Number 1 in 2003 for a few weeks but without ever really being considered better than Roger Federer at that time. Even if Novak Djokovic was to lose the World Number 1 Ranking, I expect him to go into the Australian Open as the favourite to win the tournament.

The picks went 1-1 on Monday with one coming back as a void pick when Robin Haase pulled out with an injury. I was a little lucky with Haase not being able to challenge Fernando Verdasco, but hopefully I will have some completed winners on Tuesday.

This is also the day the WTA Elite Trophy tournament gets underway with the four Groups drawn on Monday and the top player in each going through to the Semi Finals which are played later this week.

Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Kiki Bertens: There are three matches being played at the WTA Elite Trophy event on Tuesday, but the only one I am focused on is the second match due to come out on court. It is hard to know the motivation of the players heading into an event played after the WTA Finals and considering it is only being played for the second time.

Out of the two players in this match, Elina Svitolina has ended 2016 in much stronger form than Kiki Bertens and I do think this plays a big part in this one. I am sure Svitolina wants to get back to producing her best tennis having been targeted with threats and online abuse in her last tournament in Moscow where she reached the Semi Final.

That run came despite not feeling absolutely safe in the Russian capital and I think Svitolina has been playing just about as well as anyone on the Tour in the last six weeks. Compare that with Kiki Bertens who might have reached the Semi Final in Luxembourg, but who had lost seven matches in a row before that and I wonder if she is looking forward to the end of 2016 more than Svitolina who would likely wish this season was extended a few more weeks.

It is a match in which Svitolina is capable of getting enough serves back into play and then look the stronger player in the rallies. The Bertens game has plenty of power, but I don't think her focus is going to be as good as Svitolina's and that should see the Ukrainian player come through with a 63, 64 win.

Nicolas Mahut - 1.5 games v Martin Klizan: Last week was a disappointing tournament for Nicolas Mahut as he was beaten in the First Round for the second event in a row. However he is backing playing in his native France this week in Paris and reached the Quarter Final when playing in Metz a few weeks ago.

Mahut will be hoping he can bring that kind of form into the Paris Masters having lost in the First Round in his last two appearances here. The confidence will have to be there that Mahut can win this match when you think Martin Klizan has lost six matches in a row and surely wants to call it a day when it comes to the 2016 season and recharge the batteries over the next few weeks.

The Slovakian did steal a set off of Andy Murray last week which is impressive considering how well Murray has been playing, but Klizan has rarely reached those levels in recent weeks. In fact Klizan is just 2-13 in his last fifteen sets contested on the Tour and for all the solid attributes he has, you can't fix confidence issues and mental issues as quickly as the physical ones.

I think there is a lot to like about the Klizan game and Mahut hasn't exactly been winning a lot of matches. However I think the lack of competitiveness in the recent Klizan performances indicates a player whose motivation or confidence is not in a good place at the moment and I think Mahut comes through with a tough 76, 64 win.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Joao Sousa: Over recent seasons Tomas Berdych has become a familiar face in the World Tour Finals, but he needs a big week if he is going to head to London in the main draw and not as an alternate. He had a tenuous hold of the final place at the World Tour Finals until Marin Cilic won the title in Basel and Berdych can't afford another early loss this week in the final open tournament of the season.

Berdych won the title in Shenzhen and reached the Quarter Final in St Petersburg having seen injury prevent him from taking his place in the US Open draw. Those results put Berdych in a strong position to finish in the top eight places, but the Czech player has had three opening match defeats since those tournaments mentioned.

This does look a decent chance for Berdych to snap that run and give himself a chance of playing in London for the seventh year in a row. While I have to respect Joao Sousa for getting as much out of his game as he has, Sousa is also someone who struggles to hold his serve and will have difficulties dealing with the big Berdych serve which gives the latter a real edge in the match.

That has happened in their two previous matches against one another with Berdych winning in dominant fashion. The last two losses have been disappointing for Berdych, but Sousa's own form is sketchy to say the least and I think Berdych can put himself into a position to move into the Third Round behind a 63, 64 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: A lot of Singles players will be chasing the final places at the ATP World Tour Finals in the tournament in Paris, but Pierre-Hugues Herbert will be heading to London to take part in the Doubles tournament. Before that he has come through a couple of Qualifiers to make the main draw of the Singles event in Paris which should keep his World Ranking in a strong enough position for automatic entry into the Australian Open in January.

There is quite a bit to like about Herbert's game on this surface as he has a decent first serve and his Doubles skills means he is very comfortable getting forward to the net. That could help this become something of an 'old school' kind of match with both Herbert and Feliciano Lopez very happy to play some serve-volley tennis to try and pressure the other into making mistakes.

The chip and charge off the second serve is likely to be an effective tool for both players who are going to be in the World Tour Finals Doubles tournament and the player winning the higher percentage second serve points likely wins this match. In that regard you have to favour Lopez who has produced better results as a Singles competitor than Herbert.

The Frenchman will have the home support and won a title on the indoor hard courts at the Challenger level recently as well as having two wins in Paris in the Qualifiers. That will give Herbert confidence for the upset, but I think Lopez will weather the storm and come through a first set tie-breaker before seeing Herbert make a couple of errors on his own service games to lead to a 76, 64 win for the Spaniard.

Jack Sock - 1.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: He might be up to Number 24 in the World Rankings, but I am still looking for more consistency from Jack Sock to really start proving he can be the face of American men's tennis. Sock has a solid game, but I think he has too many mental lapses at the moment and there are also some concerns about his physical strength when going deep into tournaments.

He does have some solid results since reaching the Fourth Round at the US Open and I definitely think Sock has shown a little more form than Philipp Kohlschreiber in that time. The Jack Sock loss to Marcel Granollers last week is a concern, but I am going to say that had something to do with reaching the Final in Stockholm before that and he should give a much stronger showing against Kohlschreiber.

It has been tough for Kohlschreiber in recent weeks with a lot of surprising losses as the German has recovered from an injury but perhaps not at full confidence closing out the season. Kohlschreiber is 3-4 in his matches since coming back from a withdrawal at the US Open and I think some of the performances have seen him struggle to deal with the consistency needed off the ground.

The Kohlschreiber serve can be dangerous, but he has not been getting enough first serves in play and that is where Sock has to find a way to take advantage. Sock's own serve is decent and I think he will be able to back it up a little more than Kohlschreiber and come through in a tight three set match with a 76, 46, 63 win for the American.

Milos Raonic - 3.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: It has been a really solid end to the 2016 season for Pablo Carreno Busta who must now have the confidence to know he is more than a clay court specialist. That is what I have thought of the Spaniard so far in his career, but he is beginning to win more matches on the hard courts and taking the title home in Moscow would have boosted the confidence even more.

I still think Carreno Busta struggles to match the very best players on the Tour and I think someone like Milos Raonic is capable of breaking him down a couple of times over the course of a match. That can be critical when you think of Raonic's serve and the difficulty of having to recover a break deficit, although it does have to be said that the the Canadian has had a tough couple of weeks since withdrawing from the tournament in Beijing.

It was another early loss for Raonic in Basel last week as he was upset by Ricardas Berankis and I have to think he is going to be looking for some form to take into the World Tour Finals by producing a strong run here. He should receive plenty of support from the locals having come from Montreal in Canada and that can inspire Raonic here.

I respect the Carreno Busta game and his ability to fight for points and the wins in Winston Salem and Moscow will have boosted his confidence. However Carreno Busta can throw in a couple of really sloppy service games and that is the moment where Raonic can take control of this match and come through with a 76, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nicolas Mahut - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jack Sock - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-1, - 0.18 Units (4 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)

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