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.


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