Look For Nishikori to Defeat Tsonga Tomorrow

The blogging itch has returned so I have decided to keep a good thing going.  Despite a mediocre 3-2 record yesterday (though I did pick the upset of Fognini over Robredo), we’re going to try to do better with our picks today.

There are several top level matches tomorrow in Shanghai and I expect one fairly significant and one minor upset.  Let’s get to it:

Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Tommy Haas

Delpo holds the significant edge in this head-to-head match-up with a 5-0 record, with all five wins coming on hard courts.  Their most recent tilt during this year’s US Open Series in Washington was actually their closest match.  The ultimate result was a 7-6 6-3 win for Delpo but in Game Score it was a 99-99 tie.  This comes after a whitewashing in both line and game scores at Indian Wells earlier in the year.

I think Haas might keep it close, but JMDP has too much fire power.  I’ll take Del Potro in two competitive sets.

Gael Monfils vs. Roger Federer

Federer holds the overall match-up edge 6-1, but their last meeting on hard courts was Monfils’ only win – 7-6 6-7 7-6 in Paris in 2010.  While Monfils was able to win the clutch points during the tiebreakers, Federer actually got the better of the play with a 101-97 game score.

Of course, Federer has not displayed the same form that he did in 2010 (neither has Monfils mind you).  I think that Federer is well rested and primed to make a run in Shanghai.  Monfils will keep it close, but I think Federer wins in 3 sets.


Japanese #1 Kei Nishikori will take on Frenchman Jo-Wilfrid Tsongo tomorrow in what should be an immensely entertaining match.  The oddsmen have installed Tsonga as the favorite though the series match-up is 2-0 for Nishikori.

Both previous meetings have come on hard courts with Nishikori prevailing in five tough sets in Australia in 2012 and in 3 competitive sets at this same Shanghai tournament back in 2011.  Particularly impressive for Nishikori was his ability to win 42% of return points in Australia leading to a fairly convincing 106-93 Game Score win.  (The 2011 Shanghai match produced a 99-99 Game Score tie).

I like Nishikori to continue playing good tennis, especially on his return of serve.  This match will be very close, but in my upset of the day, I’ll take Nishikori in 3 very tight sets.

Tomas Berdych vs. Nicolas Almagro

These two are very familiar with one another’s games as they have faced off an impressive 12 times.  Both have had blow-out victories against the other on hard courts, but Berdych has dominated the overall match-up 9-3.

Their last two tilts featured zero breaks for Almagro on Berdych’s serve – in fact, Berdych did not even face a break point in their 2012 Stockholm match-up.  Berdych dominated both of those matches and will likely do so again.

I’ll take Berdych in 2 easy sets.


Last, but not least, I was wrong about top Canadian Milos Raonic in today’s match-up against Verdasco, who he managed to defeat in a tight affair.  Tomorrow, the Missile takes on Stanislas Wawrinka, who he has only played once before.

In their previous match, Wawrinka converted his only break point of the contest, leading to a tough 3 set victory in Cincinnati.  Milos actually got the better of the play as is evidenced by his thin 101-98 Game Score victory.

I fear some fatigue from the big Canadian who has played a lot of tennis in the last few weeks, but this is a big match in terms of gaining entry into the World Tour Finals in London in November.

Maybe I’m a sentimentalist Canadian, but I’ll take Raonic in the mild upset, in 3 tight sets.

Other Picks:

Djokovic over Fognini in 2

Nadal over Berlocq in 2

Ferrer over Mayer in 2



Shanghai Preview – 10/9/2013

Well… it’s probably been over a year since I last posted.  I keep busy these days with a full time job as a lawyer and haven’t really been able to blog about tennis like I would love to do.  But,  every once in a while I send my friend Ryan my tennis picks of the day and figured why not actually post those picks in a blog entry?  I have no idea if anyone will read this, but here are my picks for tomorrow in Shanghai.

Feliciano Lopez vs. Tomas Berdych

These two veterans have faced three times in the past on hard courts with Lopez holding the surprising 2-1 series edge.  In reviewing the relevant statistics from the three matches, what jumps off the page is Lopez’s success with his 2nd serve.  In 2011 in Shanghai he won 75% of 2nd serve points in a victory in 2008 in Dubai it was 65% and in 2007 Basel it was 70%.  Usually I would call this stat a fluke, but since it happened three times, we must pay attention to it.

Additionally, in all three matches Lopez won in a simple statistic I invented which I call “Game Score”.  Game Score is simply adding up the percentage of service points won plus the percentage of return points won.  The winner of Game Score doesn’t always win the match, but it is a great predictor of future matches.  In their three hard court match-ups, Lopez has won all three in Game Score, including the match he actually lost where he had a Game Score victory of 102-96.  In the other two face-offs, Lopez won 111-87 in Game Score (6-4 6-4 win) and 121-77 Game Score (6-2 7-5 win).

I’ll take Lopez for the upset in 3 tough sets.

Kei Nishikori vs. Jurgen Melzer

This is a rematch of a match played just last week in Tokyo where Nishikori delighted his home crowd with a 6-7 7-5 6-2 win over Melzer.  There were some statistical outliers in that match-up, the most notable of which was that Nishikori won 6 of 8 break points on Melzer’s serve.  That trend is very unlikely to continue in subsequent matches as such luck will clearly even out over time.  Despite the break point anomaly and the close actual score, Nishikori still managed a fairly decisive Game Score victory of 105-93.

In their only other hard court meeting, Melzer prevailed 7-5 6-2 6-1 in the 2009 Australian Open and dominated with a 121-77 Game Score.  Truth be told, Nishikori was a much different player in 2009 and I put very little weight into that meeting.

Give me Nishikori for the victory in 3 sets

Tommy Robredo vs. Fabio Fognini

While Robredo holds the overall edge in this head-to-head at 4-2, Fognini is actually 2-0 on hard courts including a victory just last week in Beijing.  Last week’s match, a 7-5 4-6 6-3 win by Fognini included a 105-93 Game Score for the victor.  The only statistical noise coming from that match was an uncharacteristic 8 double faults from the Italian, which he will almost assuredly clean up tomorrow.

In their other hard court match in 2011 in Vienna, Fognini won by a very close 7-6 5-7 2-1 (Ret) score and managed a 100-98 Game Score Victory.  Aside from the retirement, the Vienna match-up was fairly straight up in terms of statistics.

I like Fognini to continue his hard court prowess over Robredo in 3 sets.

Wawrinka vs. Anderson

Before delving too deep into the statistics, I was thinking that this might be a good upset special.  Anderson has not had the same form that he exhibited early in the season, but he is capable of playing some inspired tennis and could give a guy like Wawrinka a run.  That having been said, in looking at their previous match-ups, I am less than inspired with the possibility of an Anderson win.

Their most recent hard court match was in Montreal in 2011 where Wawrinka prevailed in 3 sets – 6-4 4-6 6-4.  Such a score line often will reveal a very close Game Score which could inspire me to choose the loser the next time.  Alas, in the Montreal match, Wawrinka actually enjoyed a fairly decisive Game Score victory at 105-93.  There was little statistical noise to waft through in that match-up as both won service points within their usual range.

Previous to that, Wawrinka prevailed over Anderson 6-4 7-5 at Miami and also produced a more than expected 109-89 Game Score victory.  Clearly, Wawrinka has dominated this match-up even more than the line score actually suggests.  I look for this trend to continue.

I’ll take Wawrinka in 2 relatively easy sets

Verdasco v. Raonic

These two have met five times before with Verdasco holding a 3-0 edge on clay courts and the big serving Canadian leading 2-0 on hard courts.

In looking at their hard court matches, they were both fairly tight affairs when looking at the score line.  Their first match-up was Raonic’s first title match where he prevailed 7-6 7-6 in San Jose in 2011 to win his first ever tournament.  In looking at the stats, Verdasco actually dominated the match but could not win the big points.  Most stunningly, Verdasco won 84% of points on 2nd serve, but could not close out Raonic.  All in all it was a decisive 107-91 Game Score victory for Verdasco despite his inability to win even a set.

Their next hard court match was a few days later in Memphis in 2011 where Raonic prevailed 6-4 3-6 7-6.  Although the score line was even closer this time, Raonic actually played a much cleaner match this time around and won 104-94 in Game Score.  This stat actually represented a match with much less statistical aberration as Verdasco’s 2nd serve percentage points won were more in line with his career averages.

Despite the fact that Raonic comes in hot and despite the fact that he is a better player than he was back in 2011 (and Verdasco is no longer top 10), I like the Spaniard to prevail in 3 tough sets.


Tennis Preview – January 8, 2012

The first champion of 2012 was crowned today with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeating French compatriot Gael Monfils in straight sets in Doha. The next two champions will be decided tomorrow with two compelling match-ups in the Chennai and Brisbane finals.


In an extremely exciting match in Chennai, India, world #31 and rising star Milos Raonic of Canada takes on world #9 and one of the hottest players on tour, Janko Tipsarevic.  Both players have been in great form in this tournament, with neither having dropped a set.  Raonic has faced stiffer competition beating a top 10 player in Nicolas Almagro in the semifinals and also defeating two other players in the top 100.  Meanwhile, Tipsarevic has cruised to the finals without defeating a single player in the top 100.

These players have never faced each other, but it is a contrast of styles.  Raonic is known for having one of the best serves on tour, but also has a monstrous forehand and is fairly capable at the net.  His backhand stroke is average at best – it is an inconsistent stroke but can be quite heavy when it is on.  Raonic’s real bugaboo is his movement which is less than stellar.  He has worked hard at this aspect of his game, but he is still a big lumbering man with limited mobility.

Tipsarevic, on the other hand, is a great all court player who does not have as big weapons as Raonic, but does not have any glaring holes either.  His serve is above average, his movement is fairly good and he is quite capable off both of his wings.  Tipsarevic’s biggest weapons may be his second serve and his second serve return.  He wins 55% of 2nd serve points and 54% of 2nd serve return points – a good recipe for a winning player.

This matchup will prove to be tight, but I think that Tipsarevic’s 2nd serve and 2nd serve return will prove to be crucial.  Raonic is capable of winning this match, but he will have to have a first serve percentage in the 70s and hope to win a tiebreaker or two.  If he is not in tip top form, expect Tipsarevic to break a couple of times and prevail in the match.



In the other Sunday final in Brisbane, Australia, two top fifteen players square off with Scottish world #4 Andy Murray taking on Ukrainian world #15 Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Dolgopolov has a breakthrough year last year until tiring at the end of the season.  Dolgopolov is likely very satisfied with his performance in Brisbane to date as he has defeated two top 30 players in Radek Stepanek and Gilles Simon and has also reached his first career final on hard courts.

This is a tough match-up for Dolgopolov as he has a similar game to Murray’s but does nothing better than him – with the possible exception of a slightly bigger first serve.   These two have faced off twice before – once in 2006 on clay which Murray won in straight sets and much more recently in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open last year where Murray won in 4 sets.

What stands out most from their Australian Open match last year was Murray’s success against the Dolgopolov 2nd serve.  The Ukranian only managed to win 34% of his 2nd serve points and Murray was able to dictate play when Dolgopolov did not get his first ball in.

I expect that Murray’s potent returns and capable service game will once again be the difference in the Brisbane finals.  Look for Murray to handle Dolgopolov in two competitive sets.


Tennis Preview – January 7, 2012

Well tennis fans, it’s good to be back in the swing of things.  The 2012 season is kicking off and there are a number of top players in action in three different venues including the ATP Newcomer of the Year and six top 20 players.  Our first champion of the year will also be crowned tomorrow with the Doha finals scheduled.

Here are your previews for what should be a great day of action.



Two of the top three Frenchmen face off in what should be a thrilling match in Doha tomorrow as world #6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga takes on world #16 Gael Monfils.  Expect a competitive match between these two countrymen as both have been in good form recently – Monfils won Stockholm at the end of 2011 while Tsonga reached the finals of the last two tournaments of the 2011 season.

Monfils and Tsonga have met three times before – all in the semifinals of tournaments – with Tsonga holding a 2-1 edge.  Their last meeting was in Montpelier in 2010 with Monfils winning in three close sets.  A common trend in the matches between these two is Tsonga’s effectiveness with his 2nd serve.  He has managed to win over 60 percent of 2nd serve points in each of his meetings with Monfils.

Expect this trend to continue with Tsonga putting a lot of pressure on Monfils with his serve and booming forehand.  I think Monfils will come out strong but Tsonga will weather the storm and ultimately prevail to win the first tournament in 2012.




In the first semifinal of the day in Chennai, India, ATP Newcomer of the Year and Canadian #1 Milos Raonic takes on world #10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain.  Expect some fireworks in this one as Raonic usually dictates play with his feast or famine huge first serve and explosive forehand.

There is no history between these two men, as this is their first career meeting.  Raonic has certainly been playing better this tournament, dominating Romanian Victor Hanescu and then besting top Israeli Dudi Sela without dropping a set.  Meanwhile, Almagro faced three match points against Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita before rallying to win in three tough sets to reach the semifinals.

Although Almagro is the higher ranked player, this match-up certainly favors Raonic.  For one, the young Canadian has a good career record on hard courts, reaching both of his career finals on the surface.  Almagro, on the other hand, has never reached a final on the hard courts among his 14 career finals and has a losing record while playing on the fast courts.

Raonic’s serve will ultimately prove to be too much for Almagro who is not known as a great returner.  The Canadian will try to pick his spots on Almagro’s serve and will likely break once per set to reach his first final since last February.



Japanese journeyman Go Soeda has had a career week in Chennai.  After getting through qualifying, he has defeated a top 40 player in Ivan Dodig and a top 20 player in Stanislas Wawrinka to reach his first career semifinal.  Soeda, however, has never defeated a top 10 player and he will have to do so to get to his first career final as he takes on world #9 Janko Tipsarevic.

Tipsarevic – the tournament’s #1 seed – should thank the tournament organizers at Chennai for his remarkably easy draw.  If he defeats Soeda, he will make the tournament finals without defeating a player ranked in the top 115.

Although Soeda has played great this week, including really taking control of his match with Wawrinka, he does not have the weapons to compete with a great all-around player like Tipsarevic.

Look for the Serb to continue the great run that he had at the end of 2011 by reaching his first final in his first tournament of 2012.




In the day’s only battle between top 15 players, world #15 and Ukranian #1 Alexandr Dolgopolov takes on world #12 from France Gilles Simon in Brisbane, Australia.  This should be a grudge match between two talented players who track down a lot of balls, play a beautiful brand of tennis and can also hit with power when the time is right.

Dolgopolov and Simon have met once before in 2011 in Sydney, with Simon taking the match in two sets.  Simon’s 1st serve was particularly effective that match as he won 81% of his points off his first ball.  That usually is not a strength of Simon’s game as his 70% first serve points won in 2011 was the lowest among top 20 players.

Dolgopolov is an average to below average returner – especially off the first serve – but I expect him to find some more success with Simon’s first serve this time around.  Dolgopolov was wearing down at the end of 2011, but I think his one and a half months off have served him well.  He scored an impressive win against Radek Stepanek earlier in the tournament.

I think Dolgopolov makes his first final of 2012 with a victory over Simon.



Australian young gun Bernard Tomic takes on world #4 Andy Murray in the other semifinal in Brisbane.  Tomic should have a bit of a home field advantage, but that is the only advantage that he has in this matchup with the talented Scot.

Tomic and Murray have never met on tour – but this first meeting promises to be a good one.  Tomic is a talented and gritty young player, but Murray’s all-around weapons will likely be too much for him to handle.  The strength of Murray’s game is that he has potentially the best return of serve in the game (if Novak Djokovic is reading this – yes – you have an argument for that mantle as well).

Unfortunately for Tomic, his first serve is not a great weapon, with him winning only 71% of points off his first serve.  Additionally, Tomic’s first serve return, where he wins only 26% of points, also will not be enough to prevail against Murray.  Murray on the other hand wins 75% of first serve points and 37% of first serve returns – a good recipe for being a top player.

Murray should make the Australian home crowd go home disappointed as he easily dispatches the hometown boy.


Tennis Preview – BNP Paribas Masters Semifinals

Despite the fact that the BNP Paribas Masters lost a quarterfinal match today with Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal, it was a terrific day of tennis.  Andy Murray finally lost a match in a three set epic to Tomas Berdych.  John Isner scored a stunning upset against Spaniard David Ferrer, proving that he is more than just a big server. Finally, Roger Federer had the easiest go of it with a hard fought straight sets victory over Argentine Juan Monaco.

The semi-finals are now upon us and Baseline Rally’s picks to make the finals are still alive.   I still expect a Federer vs. Tsonga final, although it certainly won’t be easy.


In the first semi-final of the day, 16-time grand slam champion Roger Federer meets Czech #1 and world #7 Tomas Berdych.  These men have met 13 times in their career with Federer holding a 9-4 edge.  However, in recent history, Berdych has been able to overcome Federer, winning three of the last four meetings between the two.  Moreover, the only Federer victory in their last four matches needed a final set tiebreaker to decide the contest.

In looking at their recent history, it is clear that Federer has trouble with Berdych’s big first serve.  At the Masters tournament in Cincinnati earlier this year, Berdych had a relatively easy 6-2 7-6 victory in which he won 86% of first serve points.  In that match, Federer won only 25% of his 2nd serve points, a number which is not sustainable for Berdych, and which is not a trend that we can expect to continue.

The most recent match-up where both players played to form was in Toronto last year when Federer won 6-4 5-7 7-6.  In that match, Berdych captured 77% of first service points, while Federer won 49% of his 2nd service points.

If recent form is any indicator, Federer holds a slight advantage.  Federer has not lost a match since bowing out at the US Open with his tournament victory in Basel last week and his semi-final appearance this week.  Berdych recently won the tournament in Beijing before two early round exits in Shanghai and Basel.

I expect both men to hold serve quite easily for the majority of the match, with Federer coming up bigger in the big points.  While Berdych recorded a big victory over Andy Murray today, he struggled converting break points and set points.  If this trend continues, Federer will take advantage.  Look for Federer to win a tight match.

PREDICTION: Federer 7-5 4-6 6-3


In tennis’ equivalent of a heavyweight fight, two of the biggest hitters in the game face-off in the semi-finals as American John Isner takes on local hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.   This is only the second meeting between the two players with Isner winning their only previous match-up in Washington in 2009.  While Isner won the match in three sets, Tsonga actually won more points and Isner needed tie-breaks to win both his sets.

In looking at the numbers from their previous match-up, it should come as no surprise that both players held serve quite easily.  In fact, Isner was unable to break Tsonga’s serve at all in the match (and Tsonga was only able to break once).  Tsonga was able to win 86% of first serve points back in Washington while Isner took 78% of first serve points and 62% of 2nd serve points.

While Isner has been playing fairly well from the baseline in this event, it is still clear that Tsonga’s all-court game is far superior to Isner’s.  He will likely have trouble breaking serve since his return game is not his strength, but I expect Tsonga to do just enough with his returns to win the match.  This may be a marathon but I like Tsonga to win.

PREDICTION: Tsonga 6-4 6-7 6-3

Djokovic withdraws from BNP Paribas Masters

Clearly, Novak Djokovic was trying to ruin my beautiful plan of watching tennis all day by withdrawing from the BNP Paribas Masters with a right shoulder injury.

Hopefully the world’s best player will be alright in time for the tour finals in London at the end of the month.  At the very least, we certainly hope to see Novak back by January for the Australian Open.

This leaves Andy Murray and Roger Federer as the clear favorites to win this season’s last Masters tournament.  Murray, however, is in tough with Czech Tomas Berdych (that match is currently on serve in the first).


Tennis Preview – BNP Paribas Masters Quarterfinals

If you are a tennis fan, you can’t ask for a much better day than tomorrow, with six of the top eight players in the world in action at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.   Baseline Rally sees a couple of upsets and a couple of favorites making the final four at the final Masters event of the year.


Fifth seed and world #7, Czech Tomas Berdych takes on #2 seed and world #3 Andy Murray in the first match-up of the day.  Tennis fans (and readers of this blog) know that Murray has not lost since the US Open, but a match-up with Berdych has always presented problems for the Scotsman.

Berdych has a 2-1 career record against Murray with Murray’s only win coming all the way back in 2005.  Their most recent match came in 2010 at Roland Garros with Berdych winning in straight sets.  The most telling statistic from that match is that Berdych won an astounding 92% of first serve points against one of the best returners in the business – on clay no less.  While that number of first serve points won by Berdych is unsustainable, it does suggest that Murray has trouble picking up that weapon of Berdych’s.

That having been said, Murray has been playing so well that it is hard to pick against him.  Moreover, his potent return game which may be the best in tennis (although Djokovic fans would argue otherwise) could pose problems for Berdych if he does not get enough first balls in.

This match is too close to call, but based on a hunch and the overwhelming amount of first serve points that Berdych won in their last match-up, I’m going with the upset.

PREDICTION: Berdych 4-6 6-3 6-4


The second quarterfinal of the day pits two gentlemen who made finals last week as #3 seed and world #4 Roger Federer takes on world #34 Juan Monaco.  Last week, Federer won his home country tournament in Basel, while Monaco lost the finals in Valencia, Spain in heartbreaking fashion to Marcel Granollers.

These two have met twice this year, both times on hard courts, with Federer winning both in dominant fashion.  Fed fans will likely remember that the Swiss maestro steamrolled Monaco 6-1 6-2 6-0 at the US Open a few months back.  A look at the stats from that US Open match shows that Federer won 65% of 2nd serve points – an unsustainable number against a good returner like Monaco.  He also won 60% of points on Monaco’s 1st serve which also won’t be duplicated.

That having been said, when these two played a more realistic match in Miami earlier this year, Federer still won in straight sets 7-6 6-4.  In both matches, Federer won 84% of first service points and I expect that trend to continue.

While Monaco has a nice game, he has no weapons to challenge Federer who is better than him in all areas of the court.  In order for Monaco to even stay competitive he will have to attack Federer’s 2nd serve and have his first serve percentage over 70%.  Even in that scenario, I can’t see Monaco winning the match.

PREDICTION: Federer 6-3 6-4


World #1 Novak Djokovic takes on local hero and world #8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next quarterfinal match in Paris.  These two have played many classic matches against each other with Tsonga leading the overall series 5-4.   However, Djokovic prevailed in both meetings this year with Tsonga retiring in Montreal and Djokovic winning a tight match in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The numbers from their last few matches show that we can expect Tsonga to win about 67% of first serve points and about 47% of second serve points.  Usually, numbers along these lines would not be enough for a player with a middling return game like Tsonga to win a match.   On the other hand, Djokovic typically wins 73% of 1st serve points and 58% of 2nd serve points against Tsonga.  Looking at these numbers, and Djokovic’s form this year, he would be the overwhelming favorite.

That having been said, Djokovic has not looked at his best this tournament.  He struggled to get going in his round of 16 match-up against countryman Victor Troicki before taking over in the 3rd set.  Couple that with Kei Nishikori dismantling him last week in Basel, and I think that Djokovic’s historic season is starting to take a toll.

Tsonga, who will be riled up by the hometown crowd, will play his trademark attacking style, and I believe that it will be enough to beat a tiring Djoker.

PREDICTION: Tsonga 7-6 3-6 6-4


The last quarterfinal has world #5 David Ferrer taking on world #25 John Isner.   Ferrer typically feasts on big serve, big forehand players like Isner (he went 4-0 against Milos Raonic this year), and his history against Isner suggests more of the same.

Ferrer has played Isner three times in his career, all on hard courts, and has won all three.  In reviewing their match stats, it is clear that Isner’s trademark, his serve, does not work as well against Ferrer.  The Spaniard is an expert at putting balls in play, and the more balls put in play against a guy like Isner, the better your chances are of victory.  Against Ferrer, Isner only manages to win about 68% of first service points and his return numbers are actually worse than usual as well.

Expect Ferrer to frustrate Isner at every turn with his shot variety and tremendous defensive tennis.  Isner likely will not have any answers unless Ferrer is fatigued by his recent intense schedule.  Ferrer should win handily.

PREDICTION: Ferrer 6-3 6-3