We take a look at the Australian Open second-round matches between Fabio Fognini and Alex De Minaur as well as Karen Khachanov against Matteo Berrettini.
Australian Open 2021
13 February 2021
Selected Third Round Matches
Fabio Fognini (16) (36/10) vs Alex De Minaur (21) (2/11)
Fabio Fognini’s last match against compatriot Salvatore Caruso sure had it all. The all-Italian slugfest was an epic five-setter that Fognini narrowly edged out. But perhaps the biggest fireworks were reserved for after the match, where the two players had to be separated after an ugly altercation. It will be interesting to see how Fognini- at 33- is able to physically and mentally rebound from that epic. He actually entered the Aussie Open in good form, making it to the final of the ATP Cup. That followed a dismal 2020 campaign that simply never got off the ground. Clearly Fognini is a clay-court specialist: eight of his nine ATP titles have come on clay. But the crafty baseliner is more versatile than you’d think. He reached two ATP hardcourt finals in 2018. He has also reached the 4th round here in Melbourne on three separate occasions. Will he be able to draw on all that experience and reach that point again?
We move from a temperamental veteran to a rising star. 21-year-old hometown hero Alex De Minaur has been on an upward trajectory for the past few years. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Speed Demon’, the indefatigable Aussie is a huge crown favourite who thrives on the rigours of hardcourt tennis. 2018 saw him breakthrough in his home country, when he reached consecutive semi-finals in Brisbane and Sydney. Incidentally, that made him the youngest man since Nadal to reach two consecutive ATP semi-finals. The following year he would win in Sydney, one of three titles in 2019. While 2020 never brought any further titles, he did show his mettle on the Grand Slam stage: he reached the quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows. Having already captured at Antalya Open this year, it would seem that De Minaur is perfectly poised to offer a plausible home challenge.
This will be the first ever career meeting between Fognini and De Minaur. Fognini probably possesses more natural weapons than De Minaur at this stage. But De Minaur’s crazy court coverage should give him a massive edge following Fognini’s epic 2nd set marathon. A straight sets victory at 9/10 seems the best bet.
Karen Khachanov (19) (31/20) vs Matteo Berrettini (9) (49/100)
In Matteo Berretini you have the ultimate two-punch king. Much like Del Potro, he utilizes his big serve and forehand to finish points quickly. Three of his ATP Finals to date have come on clay. This should come as no surprise when you consider that immense semi-final run at Roland Garros in 2019. But there have been glimpses of hardcourt form throughout his career. He achieved his best Masters level result with a semi-final at the 2019 Shanghai Masters. More importantly, the Italian was devastating in last week’s ATP Cup, picking up the scalps of Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils along the way. He has only continued with that level of aggression this week, with 93 winners racked up thus far. One area of concern for Berrettini will be the 2nd serve. Tomas Machac anticipated it quite well in the last game and his next opponent can return brilliantly on his day.
Karen Khachanov has come through a fairly easy draw (he did need four sets in a surprisingly difficult first round match). As I noted earlier, he will make an interesting opponent for Berrettini given his ability to return well. The problem for Khachanov lies in consistency. Since winning the 2018 Paris Masters he has struggled to match his undoubted attacking prowess with sound defensive tennis. He has no plan B. That’s why Vukic was able to pressure him in their opening round match, peppering him with groundstrokes. And we all know how devastating Berrettini’s groundstrokes can be. One thing in his favour was his form in the Adelaide precursor: he made it all the way to the semi-finals. Can he recapture some of the form that saw him land that coveted Masters 1000 title?
This will be the 4th time that these two will have met. And it certainly doesn’t make for pretty reading for the Russian. Berrettini won all three of their 2019 matches, only dropping one set in the process. This is really a no-brainer. Form and history don’t lie. I just don’t think that Khachanov can withstand the avalanche that the Italian will bring. Though opting for a straight sets victory appears tempting, I fancy the Russian to pinch a set. 28/10 for Berrettini in four.