Damien Kayat previews selected BMW Open quarter-final matches between Alexander Zverev and Ilya Ivashka as well as the match between John Millman and Casper Rudd.
Alex Zverev (1) 3/10 vs Ilya Ivashka 24/10
World Number 7 Alex Zverev has seemingly lost some relevance since losing last year’s US Open. Unpredictable form coupled with severe domestic abuse allegations have seen him fall behind the likes of Rublev and Tsitsipas. His year started solidly enough, with a quarterfinal run in Melbourne. He even went on to defeat young rival Stefanos Tsitsipas when claiming the Mexico title. But his last two early exits in Miami and Monte Carlo have highlighted his issues. He has looked increasingly surly on court and has perhaps needed this trip to Munich to remind him of home comforts. The 2017 and 2018 Bavarian Champion clearly has an affinity for this arena. Zverev was in complete control of his Munich opener against Ricardas Berankis. He won almost 50% of his return points in what was ultimately a routine victory.
For his part, Belarusian Ilya Ivashka has actually been in decent form on the clay thus far this year. He reached the quarterfinals of the Andalucía Masters before remarkably taking a set off ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal. He has come through qualifying this week and will feel quietly confident going into this match. Ivashka is a player who generally thrives on faster surfaces. But it would appear that he has found something in his game that has made him more competitive on clay. The precision and power of his forehand is really what gave Nadal issues in Barcelona. This style of play could prove difficult for Zverev, who traditionally runs into problems on clay against bigger hitters.
Verdict: Zverev to win 2 sets to 1 at 26/10
This will be the first career meeting between these two. Clearly, Zverev is the player with far greater variety. His exceptional balance allows him to hit with authority from both wings of the court. Having said that, he is certainly not in the greatest of form at the moment. As I noted, Zverev can be outgunned on clay by the more aggressive opponents. Perhaps there’s some real value in opting for the upset here. I just can’t see it however, and may have to hedge my bets with a Zverev win in three at 3/1.
John Millman (8) 5/1 vs Casper Rudd (2) 1/8
31-year-old John Millman is the 8th seed here in Munich and is through to the quarterfinals of an ATP event for the first time since last year’s Sofia Open (gives you some impression about the depth of this year’s event). The World Number 40 beat Alexei Popyrin in three tight sets before Guido Pella was forced to withdraw from their Round of 16 encounter. Millman’s dogged determination actually makes him well suited to clay: he reached the final of the 2018 Hungarian Open. He also won a title in November, claiming the Astana Open on hardcourts. Millman hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire this year and he will need to up his game some if he is to compete in this quarterfinal.
22-year-old Norwegian Casper Rudd has been on a real fast track to success of late. Alongside the likes of Sinner and Humbert, he represents a new breed of player that has emerged on the tour. He is certainly a true clay-court specialist. Last year he claimed his one and only title at the Argentina Open (he would then go on reach the Chile Open Final). He also reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final in Rome. This year he has doubled up on that Masters 1000 count, reaching the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters. Rudd also looked threatening at this year’s Aussie Open- he had to withdraw at the 4th round stage. Rudd looks set for a brilliant career and this should be a procession.
Verdict: Rudd in straight sets at 41/100
The duo have clashed just once before, with Millman leading the head-to-head 1-0. The Aussie defeated Casper Rudd in straight sets in the Miami Open qualifiers. Rudd to win in straight sets at 41/100 looks a nailed-on result. He is a genuine clay-court aficionado who is on the rise. Millman is a pugnacious opponent but he just lacks the firepower to compete with Rudd.