Damien Kayat previews the round of 16 matches between Benoit Paire and Casper Rudd as well as Denis Shapovlaov and Ilya Ivashka on18 May 2022.
2022 ATP Tour
ATP 250 Series
Tennis Club de Geneve, Geneva, Switzerland (Outdoor Clay)
Selected Round of 16 Matches- 18th May
Benoit Paire (5/1) vs Casper Rudd (2) (1/8)
This is a clash between two players at opposite ends of their careers (both chronologically and competitively). 33-year-old Benoit Paire has been in a downward spiral for some time. Formerly a top 20 player in the world, the enigmatic Frenchman has never been able to pick up the success that his talent deserved.
He sometimes seems too intent on playing exhibition tennis at the top level. And 2022 has just been more of the same. The current World No.73 is currently 6-15 for the year. His best result prior to this week was a round of 64 showing at Monte-Carlo. But Paire does have some previous success on clay, with all three of his ATP titles coming on this surface. And he is probably coming into this match fresh off his best performance of the season.
He just overcame the steadily improving Emil Ruusuvouri in three extremely tight sets. His Harlem Globetrotters approach can make him something of a dangerous wildcard in these early rounds.
23-year-old Casper Rudd has really defied my expectations over the last year. I saw him as a talented clay-court operator who perhaps never had the weaponry to advance too far up the rankings (see Diego Schwartzman). But he has evolved into one of the most consistent all-court players in the world over the last 12 months.
Sure, six of his seven ATP titles have come on clay (including victory here last year). But he has also made huge strides on the quicker surfaces, winning the title in San Diego last year before an exceptional Miami final run this year. But his form surprisingly dipped since that amazing Miami run.
I felt it strange that the switch to European clay would see a notable drop in his form. He was 4-4 on the European clay leading into last week’s Italian Open. But the real Rudd came to the party in Rome, beating Nadal’s conqueror Shapovalov in a solid semi-final run. He will be going into this match as the huge favourite.
But there have some been ups and downs for Rudd on this surface recently.
The Verdict: Rudd to win in three sets at 3/1- Rudd leads the head-to-head with Paire 3-0. But look a bit deeper at those results. They were actually involved in a tight three-set match in this event last year. Rudd also won a pretty pulsating four-set match at last year’s French Open. This would suggest that Paire has some knowledge of how to tackle Rudd. His unpredictability and irreverence are the complete anthesis to Rudd’s metronomic baseline play. So, I think there’s value in backing Paire to play one mesmerizing set of tennis here. But I think Rudd’s relentless play will wear the Frenchman down.
Denis Shapovlaov (3) (37/100) vs Ilya Ivashka (2/1)
Current World No.3 and 3rd seed Denis Shapovlaov started this season in magnificent fashion. He helped guide Canada to the ATP Cup before reaching his 3rd Grand Slam quarterfinal at Melbourne (that off the back of a semi-final at Wimbledon last year).
But the absolutely unpredictable Canadian has been in schizophrenic mood since the Aussie Open. He has been 9-7 since the Aussie Open. However, there was a victory in Rome last week that is arguably more significant than winning a title. He beat clay-court god Rafa Nadal in three sets to advance to the quarterfinals. Sure, Rafa did reveal that he has injury concerns that may lead to his withdrawal from this year’s French Open. But there’s still something symbolically powerful about beating Rafa on clay.
Shapovalov is a two-time Masters 1000 semi-finalist on clay and he is improving steadily on this surface. Furthermore, Shapovalov was the beaten finalist in last year’s Geneva Open. But he will need to serve to take the title this week. His first-serve percentage against Rudd in Italy was poor and he only won 55% of his 2nd-serve points to boot.
28-year-old Belarusian Ilya Ivashka is coming off a really hard-fought victory against American Marcos Giron. It was amazing to see the discrepancy between his first-serve success and second-serve success (which isn’t entirely dissimilar with Shapovalov’s general stats). He won 83% of his first-serve points against Giron but lost an incredible 58 % of his points on his 2nd delivery. The Belarusian has tended to produce his best tennis on quicker surfaces.
His huge forehand helped to guide him to his maiden title at last year’s Winston-Salem Open. But he does have some clay-court cred to his name. He picked up the biggest win of his career in Munich last year, taking down the high-flying Alex Zverev to reach the semi-finals. But he has struggled to reaching that consistency this year, with just three wins on clay in six events this year.
The Verdict: Ivashka to win at 2/1- Shapovalov holds a commanding 3-0 head-to-head superiority over the Belarusian. That included a three-set victory in Miami last year. But this will be their first-ever meeting on clay. I think that Ivashka could be good pick for an upset here. Shapovalov is mercurial at best and always tends to throw in a few random early defeats (he does love to spray those unforced errors). He may also struggle with the expectation of taking down Rafa last week. I also think that Ivashka will have benefited from that extended time on court against Giron.