ATP Tour: US Men's Clay Court Championship - Selected QF Preview

Tennis player stands with racquet in hand

We preview selected quarter-finals of the US Men's Clay Court Championship taking place over the weekend. 

Ivo Karlovic 21/10 vs Nick Kyrgios 7/10
This is an intriguing contest of youth vs experience, with 39 tear-old veteran Ivo Karlovic looking to upset 22-year-old Aussie hothead Nick Kyrgios. The veteran Croatian is looking to extract as much juice out of his career as possible. The simplicity of his serve-based game makes that possible, though it has been a tough year for Karlovic. He had a decent Aussie Open, losing in a marathon five set match against Andreas Seppi in the third Round. Since then he has struggled, with a Quarterfinal appearance in New York the best he has offered- which includes back-to-back first round exits in the ‘Sunshine Double’. But his defeats are usually knife edge affairs, due to his gargantuan serve, and one can never fully discount him.

Kyrgios has had to battle his way through various injury concerns over the course of a year that started with so much promise. After winning the Brisbane Invitational he narrowly lost a gruelling Round of 16 clash with Dimitrov in Melbourne. That’s where injuries started to dominate his season, and his run to the final 16 in Miami showed some signs of encouragement for the Aussie. He did battle somewhat Fratangelo in the opening match here and he will be looking for a fast start against a man he knows all too well.

Nick Kyrgios leads the head-to-head against Karlovic by a healthy 4-0 margin. Two of those meetings came on the American hardcourts last season, in Cincinnati and Miami. Those figures are somewhat deceptive though, as both of those matches were extremely tight three set affairs. Secondly, Kyrgios was a somewhat different player last season, less beset by injury doubts. Karlovic’s huge serving does test the temperament of players, and perhaps a slightly match-shy Kyrgios is exactly the sort of player who Karlovic could overcome, especially at that price of 21/10. 

Guido Pella 4/10 vs Tennys Sansdgren 18/10
Tennys Sandgren was the name on everyone’s lips in Melbourne, for a vast array of reasons. One of those reasons was the tremendous tennis that he produced. He went on to lose quite comfortably in the Quarterfinals, and he hasn’t quite managed to recapture that magic as the season has progressed. The American only won one match in the ‘Sunshine Double’, though he may find the clay courts here more to his liking this week. He manged to beat Kavcic before dismantling Nicklas Kicker- which was a match that I thought he may struggle in. And in the quarterfinals, he will come up against a man responsible for the biggest shock of the event thus far.

Nobody- and I mean nobody- saw that one coming. Yes, Guido Pella fits the mould of your South American clay-court specialist, but to beat second seed Sam Querrey in Houston took a lot of guts, especially when you consider the indifferent form that the Argentine left-hander brought into the match. The best result that Pella had managed this year was a quarterfinal appearance in his home event- the Argentina Open: he lost to clay-court aficionado Dominic Thiem in that one. He also lost to Thiem in the first major of the year. But Pella has clearly shown that he is aiming to exploit the time of the year that is made for him and his ilk.

Pella leads the head-to-head 1-0, though it’s impossible to read anything into that. The last time that these two met was in a 2012 US Open qualifier, which Pella won in straight sets: to contextualise that, Obama was just about to win his second term in office, so it’s a lifetime ago. But he looks way too short at 4/10, and I’m going to opt for the enigmatic American Grand Slam quarterfinalist at 18/10. 

Written by Damien Kayat for

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