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Thursday, 15 November 2018

ATP World Tour Finals Day 5 Tennis Picks 2018 (November 15th)

The first Group at the ATP World Tour Finals will come to a close on Thursday and the situation is a little blurred with all four players still capable of making it through to the Semi Final on Saturday.

For two players things are much clearer than for the other two in the Group.

Dominic Thiem has to win and he then needs Kevin Anderson to beat Roger Federer in the second Group match to be played later in the day. The fact that Thiem has been beaten in straight sets in both matches played at the O2 Arena means he also needs to win in straight sets and hope Anderson wins in straight sets at which point the percentage of games won will be the only way to separate Thiem, Kei Nishikori and Federer.

Suffice to say that is a long shot considering the heavy loss Thiem was given on Tuesday.

Kevin Anderson is almost certainly through to the Semi Final, but his situation could come down to percentage of games won if he was to lose in straight sets to Federer and Nishikori wins in straight sets earlier in the day. The 12-1 victory in games over Nishikori means it would take something truly unbelievable for Anderson to fail to make it through.

That leaves both Nishikori and Federer who both sit at 2-2 in terms of sets won and lost so far this week. If either player wins in three sets on Thursday they will be vulnerable if the other has won in straight sets, while both players winning in three sets will leave Nishikori in a position to move through.

Things will certainly be clearer after the first match is in the books on Thursday when Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori play one another so I wouldn't worry too much about permutations just now.

Kei Nishikori - 2.5 games v Dominic Thiem: When you look at the performances that both Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem put in during their second Group match defeats it does put a bit of doubt in your mind as to how this final match will go.

In all honesty both Nishikori and Thiem were considerably below par in their defeats on Tuesday and you can only imagine both will be a lot better than they were after heavy losses.

Things can't get much worse for either and the defeat for Thiem puts him in a very difficult position to progress through to the Semi Final. He will need to win very big and hope Kevin Anderson is able to crush Roger Federer in the second Group match to have any chance and some of the body language on Tuesday suggested the Austrian doesn't really believe he can play his best tennis in the conditions at the O2 Arena.

The defeat to Federer means Thiem has dropped to 2-6 in the World Tour Finals played in London and his numbers since the US Open on the hard courts have taken a big step backwards compared to his overall numbers in 2018. There has been a regression in both the service percentage of hold and points won and that has also affected his return game, while I really do wonder how much fight and desire will be left if Thiem was to drop the first set in this one knowing he is about to go on a two month break from competitive tennis.

As poor as Kei Nishikori was in the defeat to Kevin Anderson, his numbers since the US Open have had an uptick and that has seen him hold serve 85% of the time compared with his 82% number for 2018 on the hard courts. Nishikori should have a lot more joy in returning the Thiem serve compared with the Anderson one on Tuesday and the comfortable win over the Austrian at the tournament in Vienna last month will stand Nishikori in good stead.

With Thiem struggling on the return of serve, I expect Nishikori to have the better of things on Thursday and I think he can beat out Thiem here. I will look for Nishikori to have the better response to the two sub-par efforts made in the Group defeats both players suffered on Tuesday and he can pull away from Thiem if the latter loses motivation once dropping a set.

Kevin Anderson + 2.5 games v Roger Federer: The hopes remain very much alive for Roger Federer to make it through to the Semi Final at the ATP World Tour Finals after a heavy win over Dominic Thiem in the second Group match. The pressure could be on the Swiss superstar if Kei Nishikori is able to beat Dominic Thiem earlier in the day, especially if Nishikori is able to win in straight sets in that match.

If that has happened, Federer is going to have to not only beat Anderson, but likely have to do it in straight sets to have any chance of progressing through to the Semi Final. It could potentially come down to percentage of games won which would really have the mathematics out there working overtime to figure out what Federer needs to do to progress, but the former World Number 1 cannot afford to be distracted.

There is enough on his plate when facing Kevin Anderson as these two stand opposite one another for the first time since the big South African came back from 0-2 down in sets to upset Federer at Wimbledon back in July. No one can dispute Anderson is having a career best year and he has produced two dominant wins in the Group Stage of the World Tour Finals to effectively book his place in the Semi Final.

Anderson doesn't strike me as someone who will allow himself to produce a sub-par effort with a place virtually assured in the last four. He is someone who has got everything out of the talent he possesses and Anderson has to be motivated when playing Federer against whom he snapped a four match losing record when beating him at Wimbledon.

That match is not going to be far from the mind of either player, but it could be argued that Anderson has been playing the better tennis since the US Open to give him further confidence. Federer exudes a real aura around him which always makes it tough and he can win matches when not reaching the high standards he generally sets for himself, but he has been someway down on his overall numbers in 2018 over the last six weeks.

This could certainly be a close match if Anderson continues to serve as effectively as he has done and is able to follow up that shot as he has been. Anderson is holding up at 93% since the US Open and has picked up a big title in Vienna in that time, and if he can maintain that rhythm I think getting a couple of games on the handicap with the South African could be enough as I expect him to be very competitive.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

ATP World Tour Finals: 5-4, + 3.84 Units (17 Units Staked, + 22.59% Yield)

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