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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Paris Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (November 3rd)

Last Wednesday has been the worst day I've had picking tennis matches for weeks, but I have to say the turn around since then has been very encouraging.

It has come full circle with the Wednesday picks from this week completely different to last week at the same time. Back then the picks went 1-6 on a difficult day, but yesterday it was a 6-1 record which has produced a lot of positive numbers and put this week in a very strong position.

I want to push on from Wednesday and make sure this week finishes with more positive results before the week away from the tennis picks before the ATP World Tour Finals begin.

There are some important matches to be played on Thursday as the WTA Elite Trophy starts moving towards the Semi Finals, while the Paris Masters has a few big matches that could determine which players can make it through to the World Tour Finals. Dominic Thiem's early exit means the door has been opened for players to make the top eight and the key match of the day might be Marin Cilic taking on David Goffin with those players currently in Number 8 and Number 10 in the Race for London.

Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga might feel they've been given opportunities by the early loss for Thiem and so Thursday should be a very interesting day for the players involved.

The race for the World Number 1 position will also continue after Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray came through awkward Second Round matches. The Murray match in particularly was surprising considering how Fernando Verdasco has been finishing his 2016 season, but he did get through and it is Djokovic who has the more difficult match on paper in the Third Round.

However it is Djokovic who gets to go on court first, although I don't think that is a big issue, and the current World Number 1 has admitted he is not thinking about Murray but worrying about making sure his own 'A' game is being taken to the court.

Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Elena Vesnina: After winning her opening match in the Group, Elina Svitolina can book her place in the Semi Final by beating Elena Vesnina. The Russian does come into the match having had the confidence boosted by winning the Doubles title at the WTA Finals in Singapore last week, but her Singles performances have not really been up to that standard in the latter part of 2016.

Vesnina has lost every match she has played since the US Open on the Singles side of things and a couple of the three losses have come in one sided fashion. Playing in the WTA Elite Trophy tournament should give her motivation to end 2016 on a high, but she is coming up against a player who might have been in the best form of anyone entering this tournament.

After taking some time to settle in, Svitolina proved to be too strong for Kiki Bertens in her first match and my only concern in ever backing her to cover these wide number of games has to be the inconsistent play from set to set. There are times when I really struggle to know how Svitolina has come as high as she has in the World Rankings, but others when I think she should be a comfortable top ten player.

It was Vesnina who won the first two matches between these players, but Svitolina crushed her in New Haven and I think she will be more comfortable with a match under her belt here. I do think Vesnina can be a solid Singles player, but Svitolina is in the better form on the Singles court and I like her to find her way to a 63, 64 win.

David Goffin + 2.5 games v Marin Cilic: This is an absolutely huge match for both David Goffin and Marin Cilic when it comes to fighting for the places at the World Tour Finals in London. A win for Cilic would actually be enough, if my maths are correct, to move ahead of Dominic Thiem and also knock out a main rival for the top eight places which would mean a place in the World Tour Finals.

That is a bit of pressure on Cilic's shoulders whereas David Goffin knows he needs to go very deep into the tournament in Paris to have a chance of making it into the top eight rather than as an alternate. The Belgian player had a solid win in the Second Round, but he will have to raise his game even more when he takes on Cilic, although Goffin holds the mental edge having won all three previous matches against Cilic in 2016.

It is similar to the way Kei Nishikori can give Cilic some problems, although the Croatian is in very strong form and won the title in Basel by crushing Nishikori who he had under constant pressure with his aggressive return of serve. Cilic is certainly capable of crushing the Goffin serve if the latter is serving as poorly as he was on Wednesday, but fatigue could be an issue after the long week in Basel.

This has all the makings of a real fight between these players and I would be surprised if Cilic is as easy a winner as the layers seem to think. I have been impressed with how Cilic has performed the last few weeks, but he was beaten in Tokyo by Goffin who made life awkward enough by getting plenty of first serves back in play. The head to head can't be ignored with the matches all coming in 2016 and each time it is the factor of Goffin getting the Cilic first serve back which has been so important for his success.

Taking a set will make it difficult for Cilic to cover this number, but there is every chance Goffin can win outright again and I will take the games on offer.

Grigor Dimitrov + 4.5 games v Novak Djokovic: I might be a fool opposing the World Number 1 for the second time in consecutive days, especially as backing Gilles Muller with the games was the only pick I got wrong on Wednesday. Novak Djokovic has been speaking with more confidence than I have heard for some time and he is clearly motivated or irked by the suggestions Andy Murray could take over the Number 1 mantle at the end of the week.

The first set against Muller was impressive from Djokovic who only lost one point against the serve in legitimate ways (the other two points came from double faults), but the second set saw Muller get closer. I remain convinced that Djokovic is not all that confident behind the serve and I do think the second serve is a concern for him, while Grigor Dimitrov looks to have his chances dismissed too easily.

2016 has been difficult for Dimitrov but he has shown improvement over the last three months and I definitely think he is on the right path back up the World Rankings. I don't think he will ever fulfil the 'Baby Fed' moniker he was given but Dimitrov is capable of hanging with the best players on the Tour and should be relishing the chance to take on a Djokovic who hasn't played a lot of tennis recently.

Since Dimitrov was humiliated at the US Open in a heavy loss to Andy Murray he has played Murray, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro. While he has lost two of those big matches, Dimitrov would have covered with this number of games each time which suggests he is being competitive and Dimitrov has the quality to hurt Djokovic if the latter has lost faith in the second serve's ability.

The bigger problem for Dimitrov might be holding onto his own serve, but another odds against quote with a fair few games on the board is hard to ignore for me.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga + 1.5 games v Kei Nishikori: Both Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ended up as Runners Up in Basel and Vienna respectively last week, but both seem to have rounded into some nice form to close out 2016. The wins they have earned on Wednesday looked in impressive fashion and that makes this a very good Third Round match for those who will be watching.

It is Nishikori who has gotten the better of Tsonga in previous matches including a really dominating win over the Frenchman at the Australian Open. However these courts might suit the Tsonga game a little more with the heavier serve and big forehand likely to find some penetration on a court which is still on the faster side of the Tour.

Tsonga has plenty of motivation this week as he tries for one last ditch attempt to make it to the World Tour Finals, especially in light of Dominic Thiem potentially being another player who has to withdraw from the event in London. That can be coupled with the court they are playing on as to give Tsonga a chance for the upset win here, although Nishikori's movement and ability to rally into the backhand is part of the reason he has been able to get the better of this opponent in the past.

Nishikori also holds two wins over Tsonga at the Paris Masters, but both have been incredibly close matches that have needed final set deciders. Those matches were played in 2013 and 2014 and while Nishikori is improved, I think Tsonga might show a little more fight to turn things in his favour and I will back the underdog with the games.

Tomas Berdych - 1.5 games v Gilles Simon: There are some head to head match ups that surprise you when you see which player is winning- one of the ones that always comes to mind is the way Fabrice Santoro used to baffle Marat Safin and ended with a 7-2 head to head against him. While not to the same level of dominance, Gilles Simon having a 7-5 record over Tomas Berdych has to be considered a surprise.

You would think Berdych would be able to overpower Simon, but the Frenchman has to be one of the most irritating defenders on the Tour with an insane ability to make hundreds of balls without seemingly tiring. Someone like Berdych wants to hit out and having to make that many shots sees him break down and eventually make too many mistakes.

Berdych will have to serve a lot better than he did on Tuesday, but that day off could be crucial as Simon was battling in the evening on Wednesday. We know Berdych will have chances to break serve with even an average returning day, but he didn't play well in the win over Joao Sousa for long periods and that has to be a concern for him.

I think Berdych is better than he showed on Tuesday and having more time to recover than Simon could be critical as the Czech player tries to extend his run of reaching the World Tour Finals. This will be a battle as it always in when Simon is playing but I can see Berdych getting the better of him over three sets and coming through with a 63, 46, 76 win.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v Lucas Pouille: There is plenty of motivation for Andy Murray heading into this tournament, but you cannot ignore the huge amount of tennis he has played in recent weeks to get into a position to earn the World Number 1 Ranking. Murray was pushed to the limit by Fernando Verdasco in the Second Round on Wednesday, but you can see how strong he is still feeling by coming through against an opponent who was playing close to his best tennis.

Murray will be battling the fans and Lucas Pouille on Thursday in the Third Round but this has been a good match up for him and I expect the same in Paris when they meet. For all of the improvement made by Pouille over the course of 2016 to finish in the top 20 of the World Rankings, I still think the Frenchman is trying to find the consistency in his game to take the next step forward.

He has particular trouble against Andy Murray in their two previous matches this season and the most games Pouille has won in a set is three games, although that only happened once in four sets competed. The problem for Pouille is that he is not going to get a lot of cheap points from Murray and has some difficulty penetrating the Brit's defences.

That forces Pouille to go closer and closer to the lines and ends up with some errors in his games that only helps Murray keep control of the match. With Murray's serve working effectively enough, it is no surprise he has been able to dominate the rallies and Murray has broken the Pouille serve four times in both matches. Doing that here should give him every chance to win this one 64, 62 and I will back Murray to cover the games.

John Isner - 2.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: This is the second time in consecutive weeks that John Isner and Jan-Lennard Struff are playing one another on the Tour and I backed Isner to win and cover last week. This week he is being asked to cover a game less than last week which isn't a surprise when you consider how close Struff came to beating the American in Vienna.

However I think it might be a difficult spot for Struff to get over the hump this time because of the emotional win he had on Wednesday evening over Stan Wawrinka. That match came late into the Paris evening and Struff had to come from a set down to win two tough tiebreakers and that has to have taken something from the tank.

His problem remains avoiding the sloppy service games that can cost him sets and matches and I think that will be an issue here. Struff might have some joy from the Isner serve because the latter is not serving up to his standards and having seen this shot at first hand just a week ago, but I think it will be difficult to break the serve with his limited return game.

Backing up a first win over a top ten opponent is going to be tough for Struff and I think Isner is able to get the better of him again and I will back him to win this one 76, 64 nd move into the Quarter Final in Paris.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
David Goffin + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov + 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga + 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
John Isner - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 10-5, + 8.54 Units (30 Units Staked, + 28.47% Yield)

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