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Saturday, 9 November 2019

ATP World Tour Finals Tennis Picks (November 10-11)

The final Singles tournament of the 2019 Tennis season begins at the O2 Arena in London for the penultimate time before a move to Turin in 2021.

The ATP World Tour Finals is played a couple of weeks after the WTA Finals concluded that side of the Tour and I do think the placement of this event should be considered being changed in future years. After a long season we see many withdrawals from tournaments following the US Open and that has happened on a regular basis in the Finals too as players don't want to suffer a long-term injury that may see the start of the 2020 season affected.

Opening a season with the best eight players from the previous year looks a great way to improve things, although I also know the Tennis calendar is plenty packed as it is and moving things around would not be easy. I also expect most players would say they would rather play the event at the end of the indoor part of the schedule rather than a couple of weeks before the Australian Open takes place, but it does seem unfortunate that these Finals are not as strong as they perhaps should be.

In saying that I still expect to see a very good event being played in London this week as the battle for the World Number 1 spot in the end of year Rankings goes down to the wire. Unfortunately it sounds like Rafael Nadal is not anywhere near where he wants to be health wise and I am not sure he is going to be able to last the entire event.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the leading contenders and look to be in the perfect Group to at least make the Semi Finals. Daniil Medvedev was playing the best tennis at the end of the season and looks the big threat, while Alexander Zverev is the defending Champion having beaten Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in back to back matches twelve months ago.

It will hopefully be a good event as I also say goodbye to another very strong Tennis season for the Picks which have produced a very positive return. I haven't had a lot of selections following the US Open as I wanted to get reset for the 2020 season, but I should have Picks from most days at this tournament this week.

The first two days will be under the same thread with the first four Group games taking place within that time, but it will hen be a daily thread through the remainder of the tournament.

Novak Djokovic - 4.5 games v Matteo Berrettini: Any season in which you win a Grand Slam title has to be seen as a positive one and Novak Djokovic has to be happy with the two he won in Melbourne and London. However his rival for the end of year Number 1 World Ranking also won two Grand Slam titles and Novak Djokovic is going to have to hope Rafael Nadal is not able to get out of the Group Stage to have a realistic chance of overtaking him and earning that distinction for the sixth time in his career.

The title win in Paris earlier this month has put Djokovic in a strong position both in terms of points and with the momentum he earned. The courts in Paris tend to be very similar to the ones we are going to see in this part of London so the form Djokovic displayed will be very encouraging to his supporters.

Novak Djokovic has also won the title in Tokyo since his surprise exit in the Fourth Round of the US Open and while his season numbers on the hard courts have been very, very impressive, the performances since the US Open have been stunning. The serve has been working particularly well for Djokovic who will always believe he has the return game to hurt any opponent he plays.

That is going to be tested by debutant Matteo Berrettini who has been improving steadily over the last eighteen months and fully deserves his place in London this week. The Italian reached the Fourth Round at Wimbledon and then the Semi Final at the US Open to boost his profile and his game is very much based around a monstrous serve that has seen Berrettini hold almost 89% of service games played in 2019.

His hard court numbers have been impressive for the most part and shows an ability to play on all surfaces, although the big question mark around Berrettini is whether he can return well enough to take the next step in his development. He has broken in 17% of return games on the hard courts in 2019, but I think Matteo Berrettini will be well aware that number needs to hit the 20% range to really start becoming a threat to win a major title.

Matteo Berrettini has had a couple of solid runs in Shanghai and Vienna since the conclusion of the US Open, but he has also lost some surprising matches too. The early defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Paris means he hasn't really had a lot of experience playing on this surface and certainly not to the level that Djokovic will have had.

I do have to respect the fact that Berrettini has the kind of serve that can make it very difficult to earn the breaks that Novak Djokovic will need to cover this mark. However I also think he will find it difficult to retrieve breaks and Djokovic was returning well enough in Paris to believe he can put his younger opponent into pressurised situations.

A lot is also going to be about how Berrettini deals with a new experience- he struggled at Wimbledon when reaching the Fourth Round of a Grand Slam for the first time and that may be the case here too. The much better all around performances in the latter stages of the US Open shows this is a player with a tough mentality, although I think Novak Djokovic is a man on a mission this week and can use the superior returning to eventually find the breaks to pull clear of Matteo Berrettini in this opening Tour Finals match.

Roger Federer - 3.5 games v Dominic Thiem: He has become a familiar face in the ATP World Tour Finals, but there has long been a question mark about Dominic Thiem's schedule which means he has struggled when reaching the end of the season. Winning the title in Vienna might have changed the narrative somewhat, although the early defeat in the Paris Masters will have been a blow for the Austrian.

He has been placed in a tough Group alongside two of the favourites and Thiem will know he has to make a fast start. For a long time Thiem has looked like a player capable of performing on the hard courts, but inconsistent results means his level remains just above average on the surface.

Dominic Thiem did win the Master tournament at Indian Wells and he has beaten Roger Federer twice already this season including in that Masters Final which will give him confidence, but beating Federer here in London is a big test.

Roger Federer has perhaps not had the season he would have liked and especially not after coming so close to winning Wimbledon and having to settle for a Runner Up spot. However his love for the game has not lessened at all and Federer should be fresh after deciding to skip the Paris Masters following a title win at home in Basel.

Over the course of the year Federer has continued to show he is a very effective hard court player and the slight improvement when it comes to the return numbers has been important for him. It has led to a reversal of the sliding trend when it came to percentage of return games in which he found a break and that should be important in this match for Federer despite the two losses to Thiem in 2019.

It can be difficult to break down the Dominic Thiem game if the Austrian is at his very best, but he has been holding 85% of service games on the hard courts compared with Roger Federer's 91% number. I do think Federer is going to have the majority of break point chances in this one too, as Federer did when losing the Indian Wells Final to Thiem.

Twelve months ago Federer dominated this match in the Group Stage here in London- while I am not sure it will be as easy as it was that day, I do think Federer can find the breaks of serve he needs to just edge over this line. As I've said all season, it is a line that is just low enough for me to be interested as I still believe backing Federer on the 4.5 line in these best of three set matches is very risky in a lot of situations.

Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 games v Stefanos Tsitsipas: After yet another fairly exit at a major tournament, Stefanos Tsitsipas suggested the younger players on the Tour are struggling to match the intensity of the big three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

One player stepped to the fore and refused to let reputations bother him and Daniil Medvedev is playing about as well as anyone in the men's game going into his maiden ATP World Tour Finals. I have no doubt that this is the first of many appearances Medvedev will have in the end of season event and the US Open Finalist has recovered from that disappointment to win two titles since then.

The early exit at the Paris Masters won't really be a major concern for Medvedev who might have to be the favourite to get out of this Group. The opening match against Stefanos Tsitsipas is going to be an intriguing watch because to say these two players don't see eye to eye is a huge understatement.

You wouldn't really call it a rivalry when you think Medvedev has won all five previous matches played on the pro Tour. However everyone of those matches has been highly competitive and I do think it is entirely possible that is the direction this match is heading in on Monday afternoon.

I can understand why Daniil Medvedev is favoured to win when you consider the record against his opponent, but the stats have very much backed that up. He is a far superior returner than Tsitsipas and has the powerful serve to back up and consolidate those breaks of serve too.

When you put these players together you can see that Medvedev has been slightly more productive when it comes to protecting his serve, but the big edge on the return has to be the key to the outcome of this one. When they met in Shanghai last month it was the slightly better returning which proved to be the difference on the day, although it was the first time in five matches that Tsitsipas earned more break points than Medvedev.

However it was Medvedev who did win more return points and he has been in better form since the end of the US Open than his Greek opponent.

Out of the two players I do think Tsitsipas will be more appealing to the crowd with the greater shot-making and the mercurial way he approaches his tennis. Daniil Medvedev is more down the Novak Djokovic route of being very strong all around, but perhaps a little robotic in the way he plays which is not something which warms up the crowd.

I don't think Medvedev cares one bit about the way the crowd may react judging by the way he was trolling the US Open crowd after wins in New York. It propelled him to the Final in that tournament and I think the superior play of Daniil Medvedev will ultimately show up on the day.

Alexander Zverev + 3.5 games v Rafael Nadal: There were one or two doubts about whether Rafael Nadal was going to take part in London at the ATP World Tour Finals, but I think the ambition of finishing World Number 1 has been motivation for the Spaniard. An injury in Paris meant Nadal was not able to take to the court for his scheduled Semi Final in the one tournament he has played since winning the US Open, and that makes his participation in London a touch surprising.

At this stage of the season Nadal has decided he can invest all he wants to with a two month break between the end of the season and the Australian Open beginning. I am not entirely convinced he is close to being fully fit though and Alexander Zverev has to look to take advantage.

This has been a difficult season for Zverev who won the ATP World Tour Finals twelve months ago but has not kicked on in any kind of way that was anticipated. Being back in London at the O2 Arena should give Zverev a boost, but he has continued to play below the kind of level we would have thought he would be operating at.

The German has played pretty well since the end of the US Open, but I do think the confidence is not in a great position. Even then I have to believe that Zverev knows there is a big opportunity in front of him despite losing all five previous matches against Rafael Nadal.

If Rafael Nadal was at 100% I think he would be a strong favourite to win this match considering how well he has played on the hard courts. His serve has been a big weapon for him, but that injury and his poor performances in London in this ATP World Tour Finals in previous years has to be a concern for those backing him in this opening match.

He has been considerably stronger than Zverev in the previous five matches between these players, but Nadal might have to play to the moments in this one rather than every point as hard as he would like. That could give Zverev a chance to rattle through some service games and I would not be massively surprised if the underdog is in a position to win this match outright.

However instead of that, I do think taking the games with the underdog is worth a play in this Monday evening match. My feeling is that Nadal might end up winning when all is said and done, but I think Zverev can take a set and he can push his higher Ranked opponent on a court where the youngster has beaten Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer before.

The two previous hard court matches between these opponents have been competitive, and I will look for the underdog to use the games to keep this one close too.

MY PICKS: Novak Djokovic - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Daniil Medvedev - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Season 2019: + 97.43 Units (1619 Units Staked, + 6.02% Yield)

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