ATP Tour: China Open Selected Ro32 Matches Preview

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Damien Kayat Previews Gael Monfils vs Fernando Verdasco and Roberto Bautista vs Alex Zverev in the Round of 32 at the 2018 China Open. 

Gael Monfils 15/20 | Fernando Verdasco 1/1
This should be an exhilarating match between two born entertainers. Enigmatic Frenchman Monfils has flown slightly under the radar this season, though there have been some decent results along the way. He won the opening event in Qatar and his season started to show some potential on the South American clay-courts, culminating in a semi-final appearance in Buenos Aires. He then reached the final 32 in Indian Wells before reaching the same point at Roland Garros. He then reached the semi-finals of Antalya, which was a precursor to an excellent run to the final 16 at Wimbledon. He hasn’t played too much tennis since then but he did recently win a Challenger event in Taipei. He will be hoping that event holds him in good stead for this closing salvo of the season.

34-year-old veteran Fernando Verdasco is a 14-time winner on tour and a former Aussie Open semi-finalist. He has had an exceptionally busy year, showing little signs of the ageing process in his schedule. His season really kicked into gear with a run to the final in Rio. He would then have a fairly productive ‘Sunshine Double’, reaching the final 32 at Indian Wells and the final 16 in Miami. He then followed that up with another excellent Round of 16 run at Roland Garros. He would go on to a quarter-final at Rosmalen and a semi-final at Bastad. He is coming off a strong showing at the Shenzhen International where he reached the semi-final. He beat Andy Murray for the second time in quick succession following an initial victory at the US Open.

Monfils actually leads the head-to-head 3-1, though a slightly closer look at that statistic reveals it may be slightly misleading. The last time Monfils won was at Winston-Salem in 2013. Verdasco won their last meeting on the Dubai hard-courts last season. Both of these guys tend to love long, dramatic matches, so perhaps a bet on a two sets to one victory is worth it. I’m backing Verdasco to win in three at 34/10. 

Roberto Bautista Agut 21/10 | Alex Zverev 7/20
Roberto Bautista-Agut is a Spanish player who certainly bucks the trend. 12 of his 15 ATP Finals have come on hard-courts, debunking the myth that all Spaniards are clay-court specialists. He has had yet another extremely consistent season. He won his opening event in Auckland before a slightly disappointing opening round loss in Melbourne. He then burst into form again as he claimed the Dubai title on similar courts to these. He reached quarter-finals at both the Munich and Barcelona event before labouring to the rd round showing at Roland Garros. He would still go on to reach semi-finals at both Halle and St Petersburg, as well as a final in Gstaad.

21-year-old German wunderkind Alex Zverev has really battled with the burden of leading the so-called ‘NextGen’ into Grand Slam contention. In fact, Zverev reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final this year at Roland Garros. Outside of that, he has been simply incredible. He won titles in Munich and Washington while he reached two hugely significant Masters Series finals this year. He pushed Nadal all the way on the clay of Rome while John Isner accounted for him in the Miami final. There have been further semi-finals in Mexico, Monte Carlo and Madrid. His form of late has dipped to some extent and it will be interesting to see how he is able to physically endure this final stretch of the season. Many of his greatest critics point to a perceived lack of durability as one of his greatest weaknesses.

These two share the spoils with two victories apiece in their head-to-head encounters. Zverev has won the last two, although they came on Grass and clay. Bautista-Agut is the kind of indefatigable opponent who has the ability to frustrate Zverev. The Spaniard has a great chance of creating an upset should he keep his unforced error count down and force Zverev to the extremities. Bautista-Agut to win at 21/10 looks quite attractive. 

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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