Damien Kayat previews Jordan Thompson vs Ivo Karlovic and Thomas Kokkinakis vs Denis Kudla from the round of 32 at the Delmar International School.
ATP Tour 2021
ATP 250 Series
Los Cabos Open
Delmar International School (Outdoor Hardcourts)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 20th July
Jordan Thompson 21/100 | Ivo Karlovic 33/10
Jordan Thompson will be secretly disappointed that the grass-court season has come to an end. The 27-year-old Aussie bounced back from a horrendous clay-court campaign, reaching a quarterfinal in Mallorca prior to last week’s semi-final run in Newport. Thompson will now be hoping that some of those slick grass-court skills can be transferred over to the hardcourts. Thompson already has a hardcourt quarterfinal to his name this year: he reached the quarterfinals of the Melbourne-1 event. Thompson is actually going through one of the best periods of sustained form in his career. It was pretty much kickstarted by his excellent run to last year’s US Open 4th round. This highlights his hardcourt pedigree. Furthermore, his victory over Maxime Cressy in last week’s Newport event showcases his ability to defuse a gargantuan serve. This is a skill he will need in abundance against the 42-year-old veteran Ivo Karlovic.
Croatian Ivo Karlovic is clearly not in his prime anymore. However, the 42-year-old is still able to pick up surprising victories due to that ridiculous serve. The man possesses over 13,600 aces in his ATP career. Due to the pandemic, Karlovic has played very little tennis over the past year and a half. His win-loss ratio over that period stands at 4-10. But he appeared to be back to something resembling his best in Newport last week. The former Newport Champion pushed top seed Alexander Bublik all the way. He will once again be looking to succeed on familiar turf this week (Karlovic won the inaugural staging of this event in 2016). The eight-time ATP title winner hasn’t won a title since that 2016 victory. He did reach the final of the Maharashtra Open in 2019. But Karlovic will always be a dangerous competitor on these hard surfaces. It will be interesting to see how the Aussie looks to combat this barrage of heavy artillery.
Verdict: Thompson in three at 47/20
Thompson leads the head-to-head 2-1, though Karlovic also has a victory at Challenger level. This is intriguing. Karlovic is exactly the sort of player one hopes to avoid in these ATP 250 events. But I think that Thompson’s form is telling. Perhaps there’s value in a three-set Thompson win at 47/20, with the ageless Karlovic more than capable of stealing one set off his service.
Thomas Kokkinakis 58/100 | Denis Kudla 13/10
It’s perhaps unsurprising that 25-year-old Aussie Thomas Kokkinakis has received a wildcard for this year’s event. He is a former finalist here, losing to Sam Querrey in the 2017 final. Much like compatriots Kyrgios and Tomic, Kokkinakis is an Aussie player yet to realise his true potential. The talented Australian has endured a torrid time with injuries over the past few years. He never played a single competitive match in 2020 due to a right shoulder injury sustained in the wake of the 2019 US Open. This was further exacerbated by the pandemic. The former World number 69 won his 4th Challenger title in Biella earlier this season. But his form on hardcourts has been fairly abject throughout 2021. The highlight of his season came at the Aussie Open, where he pushed Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in a heroic loss (ala Rocky).
Denis Kudla will be looking to dispel the notion that he is purely a grass-court specialist. Just take a look at this stat. Prior to this year’s Wimbledon Championships, Kudla had a tour-level record outside grass of 53-99. That’s rather telling. The 28-year-old is bidding to re-enter the world’s top 100. He reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon, actually giving Novak Djokovic a pretty stern three-set test. In comparison to other Americans, Kudla actually has a pretty awful hardcourt record. He did however reach a Challenger final on the Orlando hardcourts earlier this year.
Verdict: Kokkinakis to win at 58/100
These two have only met once before, with the American winning in straight sets in Memphis. Despite his own personal struggles, I think that Kokkinakis will feel fairly confident going into this match. He has played some encouraging tennis on the Challenger Tour and he is returning to the site of his sole ATP Final.