We take a look at selected quarter-finals from the ATP Tour’s China Open taking place at National Tennis Centre, Beijing.
ATP Tour 2019 | ATP 500 Series | China Open
National Tennis Centre, Beijing, China
Selected Quarter-Finals – 4 October 2019
Dominic Thiem (4/9)
vs Andy Murray (7/4)
You have to admire the gumption of Andy Murray. Considering all the money he has accumulated over his career, it could have been very easy for him to sail off into the ether, or pick up a lucrative commentary gig. But the surly Scot has soldiered on in an event that holds some happy memories for him. The 2016 champion overcame a spirted performance from Cameron Norrie to reach his first quarterfinal in over a year. What was most impressive was the way he had to mix up his game, adopting a crafty net-orientated approach in the latter stages of the match. It marks yet another significant step in his rehabilitation. Now this will be the true litmus test, with what will be a huge encounter between top seed Dominic Thiem.
Nominally a clay-court specialist, Thiem has shown real improvement on the harder surfaces of late. His path to the quarterfinals has been serene, with the Austrian yet to drop a set. He picked up the biggest hardcourt title of his career earlier this year, beating Roger Federer in the final of Indian Wells. He then enjoyed a typically magisterial clay-court campaign, winning the Barcelona title prior to his second Roland Garros final. Since then it has been quiet for the Austrian, despite a routine victory in his home open. In fact, he was left slightly red-faced with a first round loss to Fabbiano at the US Open.
Head-to-head stats in a match of this nature probably offer little value. Murray leads the head-to-head 2-1, though Thiem won their last match in 2017 (which happened to be on clay). What this boils down to is how much Murray has left in the tank. Murray on his best day would simply outgun Thiem on a hard surface. But he said himself that he felt rather fatigued in the aftermath of that Norrie win. I just have a sneaking suspicion that Murray could cause a hue upset here. This could prove the victory that really re-establishes Murray as a presence on the tour.
Karen Khachanov (11/20)
vs Fabio Fognini (14/10)
Karen Khachanov really broke through with his maiden Masters 1000 victory at last year’s Paris Masters. It really established him as the de-facto Russian talent to watch, though Danil Medvedev has stormed past him in the interim. Khachanov’s year started in poor fashion: he entered this year’s French Open with a poor 10-12 win-loss record. So there was a part of me thinking that the Paris Masters may have served up yet another limp champion: Jack Sock anyone? But Khachanov completely dispelled that notion with a run to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. The fact that it came on clay was all the more remarkable. Since then his form has gradually improved, with a semi-final run at Montreal showcasing his potential. But then bang, three straight losses leading up to this event. Khachanov has won both his matches in straight sets but remains a fairly enigmatic figure in the betting stakes.
Fabio Fognini’s high seeding has really been cemented by his awesome victory at Monte Carlo. But let’s not beat around the bush-Fognini is a clay-court maverick, accumulating many of his points in the mid-point of the year. That’s not to say that he hasn’t got any guile for harder surfaces: he reached the semi-finals in Sydney last year. He actually opened the year with a decent 3rd round showing at the Aussie Open. He lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in a pulsating four-set match. But thereafter he went on a five-match losing run. Perhaps one ray of light for Fognini will be his quarter-final showing in Canada. He actually pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in an excellent display.
I was fairly surprised to discover that this will be the first meeting between these two. Perhaps in some way it’s a perfect reflection of their dichotomy as relative hardcourt and clay-court specialists. I have to opt for a Khachanov victory here. I think there’s some value in backing him to win in straight sets.