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All eyes on Kevin Anderson at Estoril Open

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Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Damien Kayat previews the Estoril Open selected quarterfinal matches between Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson as well as Ugo Humbert and Davidovich Fokina.

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Marin Cilic (6) (9/10) vs Kevin Anderson (87/100)

There’s something slightly retro about this match, with 2014 US Open winner Cilic and 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson preparing for battle. This match doesn’t exactly scream clay-court quarterfinal. But previous results in this event seem to suggest that hardcourt specialists can thrive here (Richard Gasquet and Pablo Carreno Busta have won here). Big-serving Kevin Anderson has struggled with injuries and poor form over the past two years. A semi-final run at Vienna towards the end of last season seemed to suggest an uptick in fortune. But he has barely played in 2021. Coming into this event, he had only played five matches, losing three of them. And his first match against Tiafoe turned into an epic duel, with the South African barely emerging victorious. His next win against Carballes Baena was much more routine. His serve was almost back to its best (he struck 12 aces and won 71% of his first serves). Anderson will be up against a similar opponent in the big-serving Marin Cilic. 

Marin Cilic clawed past 17-year-old rising star Carlos Alcaraz before battling through against the similarly unheralded Nuno Borges. The Croatian has really struggled to regain his previous form. He seems to be getting fewer cheap points on his once-imposing serve. Furthermore, his movement has looked languid and jaded for some time now. He never won a title in 2019 and he has steadily dropped down the rankings since then. It’s almost as if some of those agonizing Grand Slam heartbreaks have had an accumulative effect on the Croatian. His best result this year was a semi-final at a decidedly underpowered Singapore Tennis Open. He was also soundly beaten by Goffin in his first-round match at Monte Carlo last week. As I noted earlier, Estoril does have a history of rewarding hardcourt specialists. 

Verdict: Kevin Anderson 87/100

The Croatian holds a dominant 6-1 head-to-head record against the South African. However, he only just edges it 2-1 on clay. Furthermore, these two haven’t actually met since 2017. A lot has changed since then. Back then this would have been a blockbuster match. I’m opting for Kevin Anderson here, and not just out of patriotic pride. His service game was exceptional last time out and Cilic has struggled to get past wildcards and teenagers. 

Ugo Humbert (3) 39/20 vs Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (8) 38/100

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina certainly represents the future of Spanish tennis. The 21-year-old has been steadily improving of late. He has awesome power on both wings and just needs to temper some of his more overly aggressive urges. He got through Andujar in a tough three-setter before absolutely destroying Jeremy Chardy. What has impressed me about his improvement over the past eight months has been his all-court game. He reached the final 16 of last year’s US Open and the semi-final of Cologne 1. This year he was infected by Covid 19 but he managed to bounce back with a strong quarterfinal run in Monte Carlo (this included his first top 10 win against Matteo Berrettini). Fokina is an emerging talent who just needs to work on that consistency. Expect plenty of drop shots as per usual. 

The best of young Spanish talent goes up against the best of young French talent. Ugo Humbert has fast emerged as a star of the future. This will be his 3rd quarterfinal appearance of the season thus far. He reached the semi-finals in Marseille and the quarterfinals in Montpellier. Humbert has enjoyed most of his success on hardcourts, with titles in Auckland and Belgium last year. He hasn’t always found it easiest to replicate his form on clay. This should make this match a potentially thrilling encounter. As I noted earlier, Fokina loves to utilize the drop shot. Humbert is noted for his ability to volley. This should result in some tense net exchanges. Humbert did well to withstand a 3rd set rally from Cecchinato last time out. 

Verdict: Davidovic Fokina 38/100

This will be their first meeting on the tour proper (Humbert easily won an ITF tie back in 2018). Fokina is unpredictable but he was simply fantastic against Chardy. Humbert is still learning to ply his trade on clay while the Spaniard looked very impressive in Monte Carlo.

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