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Saturday, 11 November 2017

ATP World Tour Finals Day 1 Pick 2017 (November 12th)

A long tennis season is coming to a close over the next couple of weeks with the ATP World Tour Finals, Fed Cup Final and Davis Cup Final all that is remaining. My own tennis season took a break at the conclusion of the US Open until these Tour Finals in what was a pretty disappointing year in terms of the picks that were made.

Looking back over the year I could see a couple of really terrible months which had a big impact on the season results and I will have to sit down and analyse what to change in the 2018 season to get back to winning ways in a sport that I have been pretty good in previously. That's the only way to make sure an improvement is made after a rough season.

This past week we saw the Next Gen ATP Finals which saw a change in scoring with sets limited to the first to four games and with a few other rule changes like no let cords on the serve as well as one point at deuce to decide the game.

Some of the players were not convinced with how things were working and I have to say I do think the shorter sets makes it tougher for the swings and roundabouts which makes tennis such a fun sport to watch match to match. However it is absolutely correct for the tennis authorities to try and find a way to make the sport more appealing although I am not convinced with the way the Next Gen Finals are being played.

The ATP World Tour Finals has a slightly less familiar look in 2017 than previous years with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka all missing this year. Even Rafael Nadal looks like he is not at full health which has left Roger Federer as the clear favourite to put an exclamation mark on what has been a tremendous 2017 for him.

Nadal is likely to play this week but not being at 100% means he will have to accept finishing the year with two Grand Slam titles as well as finishing the year as the World Number 1.

It may also open the door for the likes of Alexander Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem to make their first big impact at the Tour Finals. Marin Cilic, Jack Sock and David Goffin make up the numbers at the O2 Arena this week with the tennis being played over an eight day stretch to conclude the ATP Tour for the 2017 season.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Jack Sock: The opening Singles match at the ATP World Tour Finals is played between Roger Federer and Jack Sock with the latter making his way into the tournament with a Masters win in Paris last week.

The American himself has admitted that he didn't think it was possible to finish in the ATP World Tour Final places and that he had begun to think of the break from tennis when trailing Kyle Edmund in the French capital. Being down two breaks of serve saw Sock decide to hit out and see what happens, but he found a hot streak and rode that all the way to the first Masters title of his career.

It was a big effort made by Sock and the change in the schedule which puts a week between the Paris Masters and World Tour Finals will have helped him in his recovery. He can be a dangerous player with nothing to lose in London this week, but I am not sure the conditions will be to Sock's absolute liking.

Sock is a decent indoor hard court player, but raising his game against the elite on the Tour has been a struggle for him in recent years. The American did snap a seven game career losing run to top 5 players when beating Kei Nishikori in Indian Wells back in March, while Sock is also 2-3 against top 10 players this season.

His numbers do take a hit when playing the best players as the limited backhand becomes exposed, although Sock can be dangerous if serving well and getting his forehand into play as quickly as he would like. He will need to be at his very best against Roger Federer who won the title in Basel a couple of weeks ago before deciding to rest instead of playing at the Paris Masters with the World Number 1 Ranking beyond him at that point.

Federer is well rested now and he remains one of the best indoor hard court players in the world, while the confidence would have been restored after a surprising Quarter Final loss at the US Open. Since then Federer has won back to back titles in Shanghai and Basel and the Swiss superstar has been in tremendous form on the hard courts throughout the 2017 season.

He is 5-0 on the indoor hard courts and Federer is 37-3 on the hard courts in general, while going 9-1 against top 10 players in that time. His own numbers have looked stronger than Sock's across the board with a superior serve and better returning suggesting Federer will prove to be too good for his opponent in this one.

Federer also holds a 3-0 head to head record against Sock which includes a win over him at Indian Wells earlier this year. He has won all of those matches while covering this number of games and I think he should be a little too good for his opponent on Sunday.

This feels like a match that has all the makings of a 6-3, 6-4 kind of win for Federer and I will look for him to cover the games.

Alexander Zverev v Marin Cilic: Most people will be expecting Roger Federer to come out of this Group to make the Semi Final, but trying to decide who will finish behind the Swiss player is more of a challenge. The general feeling I have is that this match is going to be a big deciding factor as to who moves through with Federer with the winner between Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev the player who would be in the best position to get to the Semi Final.

There are a few question marks about Zverev and whether he is perhaps feeling all of the tennis he has played in 2017 in what was a breakthrough year for the young German. The lack of experience of playing at this time of the year has go against Zverev, while he has reached just one Semi Final in his last seven tournaments since winning the title at the Canadian Masters.

Out of the two players it does feel like Marin Cilic is coming in with a lot more momentum with three Semi Final appearances and a Quarter Final in the four tournaments since the US Open. Winning all of those matches will give Cilic plenty of confidence to take into London, although actually listing the players the Croatian has beaten does highlight that he has perhaps not had to travel through the most daunting of paths.

The numbers are leaning towards Cilic over the last couple of months, but this has all the makings of a very close contest. One factor that may give Zverev the edge is the head to head with Cilic which he leads 3-1 including having won the last three in a row with all of those coming in the last two seasons.

Zverev has also produced some of his best tennis when facing the best players on the Tour over the last twelve months. In that time he is 6-2 against opponents in the top 10 when playing them on the hard courts and the return numbers have really improved which makes Zverev a threat in this tournament if he has enough gas left in the tank.

On the other hand Cilic has not found it as easy to compete with the top 10 players he has met in 2017. He is 0-2 on the hard courts in that situation and 2-4 in 2017 in all surfaces against the top 10, while Cilic's numbers on the return have been disappointing in that time.

His poor record against Zverev has to play a part and I think backing the younger player as the narrow underdog looks to be worth a shot here.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

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