Top 20 players Hubert Hurkacz and Frances Tiafoe are set to clash in the first round of the 2022 Erste Bank Open.
2022 ATP Tour
Erste Bank Open (Vienna Open)
Wiener Stadthalle,, Vienna, Austria (Indoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 25th- 26th October
Hubert Hurkacz (5) (58/100) vs Frances Tiafoe (27/20)
This should be a pulsating first-round clash between two players ranked inside the top 20 in the world. This has been a really frustrating season for 25-year-old Pole Hubert Hurkacz.
He really announced himself to the world last season, reaching his maiden Grand Slam semi-final and claiming his first Masters 1000 title in Miami. But this year has been all consistency and little heroics. Sure, he did claim the Halle Open title. But he failed to progress beyond the 4th round of any of the Slams.
Semi-final runs in Dubai and Miami hinted at his ability. But he needs to start delivering on the bigger stages more consistently. He has been a bit flat since a 2nd round exit at the US Open (a semi-final run at the Moselle Open was his best outing).
He lost to Dominic Thiem at last week’s European Open despite holding multiple match-points. Hurkacz is currently in 9th place in the Race to Turin standings and won’t want to depend on heroics in Paris next week.
You would have to argue that the erratic Frances Tiafoe probably arrives in slightly better form than Hurkacz. His year started in typically stop-start fashion. It wasn’t until a 4th round run in Miami that we got to see some of his best tennis.
He would go on to reach his first final of the year at the Estoril Open (losing to the red-hot clay-courter Sebastian Baez). His season then continued in fairly humdrum fashion (despite a 4th round run at Wimbledon and a semi-final in Atlanta).
Little considered him a US Open threat after a fairly dismal North-American hardcourt swing. But the occasionally wayward talent defied expectations with his maiden appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final. Since then, he helped Team World win the Laver Cup and reached his 2nd final of the year in Japan.
Like Hurkacz, Tiafoe is also coming off a quarterfinal defeat last week. He will need two deep runs if he stands any chance of reaching the end-of-year showpiece in Turin. But he should feel confident retuning to a venue in which he reached the final last year.
Verdict: Tiafoe to win in three at 39/10- This has proven to be a very even head-to-head rivalry. They currently share the spoils at 2-2, with Hurkacz winning their last encounter at last year’s Indian Wells.
The Pole needs his big serve to start singing this week. He currently ranks 4th on tour this year for service matches won.
But at his best, Tiafoe is one of the best returners in the world and he clearly loves this arena. I think that could the American the edge in this match. He just needs to get his first-serve percentage up a bit.
Danil Medvedev (1) (1/50) vs Nikoloz Basilashvilli (11/1)
This has been a fairly surreal year for Danil Medvedev. This week’s top seed has only won one title this year in Los Cabos (despite briefly displacing the inactive Novak Djokovic as World No.1). I don’t think he has fully recovered from the psychological impact of that Aussie Open final defeat to Rafa Nadal.
He would once again be defeated by Nadal in Mexico before a hernia operation essentially derailed his clay-court campaign. Wimbledon’s decision to exclude Russian players saw him miss out on Wimbledon. He then won that solitary title in Los Cabos in what was an otherwise humdrum North-American hardcourt swing.
He bounced back from a poor US Open defence with a decent semi-final run at the Astana Open (he was forced to withdraw from the semis due to an injury). There is a world where Medvedev doesn’t qualify for the ATP Finals. Djokovic became the 5th man to qualify for the ATP Finals last week despite not featuring in the top 8.
This is due to a Grand Slam champion provision that simply requires Djokovic to finish inside the top 20 due to his Wimbledon success. That means that Medvedev will be fighting for one of only three more places in the next two weeks.
This has been a tumultuous year for Nikoloz Basilashvili. He was immersed in a sports betting scandal earlier this year and was recently acquitted on charges of domestic violence against his ex-wife. All this turbulence has clearly contributed to a terrible dip in form for the 30-year-old Georgian.
He is one of the most mercurial players in world tennis at the best of times. And he did reach his 2nd successive Qatar Open final earlier this year. But it has been an absolute downward trajectory since then. He has six first-round exits in his last seven events.
But I’m hoping the enigmatic Georgian could feel galvanized after his courtroom victory. This is a man who won two titles last year and reached his maiden ATP 1000 final in Indian Wells.
Verdict: Medvedev to win in three at 46/10- This will be the first career meeting between these two. The fact that they haven’t met before always gives the underdog a bit of a chance.
As I said earlier, the Georgian might feel somewhat liberated after his courtroom victory.
He is a pure ball-striker who just has the capacity to go toe-to-toe with anyone on his day. And Medvedev has shown a proclivity for the odd shock bad performance. There’s real value in backing the Medvedev three-set win.