Damien Kayat previews the round of 32 matches at the Olympic Games between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe as well as Aslan Kratsev and Jeremy Chardy.
2020 Summer Olympics
Men’s Olympic Tennis
Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan (Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 27th July
Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) (1/5) vs Frances Tiafoe (34/10)
Currently 2nd in the Race to Turin race, Stefanos Tsitsipas has been one of the most consistent players on tour this season. Victories in Lyon and Monte-Carlo were followed by his first Grand Slam final appearance in Roland Garros. But things seem to have derailed in the last month. He suffered a shock first-round defeat at Wimbledon (more on that later). He was then beaten by Filip Krajinovic in the Hamburg quarterfinals. When he was drawn to play the evergreen Phillip Kohlschreiber in the first round this year, many thought that he could be in for a nervy opener. And they were right. Tsitsipas looked lethargic at times, unable to come to grips with the very slow conditions. He was a break down in the 3rd before he managed to stage a character-building renaissance. Tsitsipas became the first Greek man since 1924 to win a singles match at the Olympics. He will next face the very man who embarrassed him at Wimbledon: Frances Tiafoe.
At 23 years of age, I think it’s fair to say that Frances Tiafoe is slightly behind expectations at this stage in his career (especially when you consider the likes of Tsitsipas and Auger Aliassime). His 2018 Delray Beach win made him the youngest American title holder on the tour since Andy Roddick in 2002. He then reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2019 Aussie Open. But since then, it has been a rollercoaster for the talented American. But things have taken a turn since the commencement of the grass-court season. He won a Challenger event in Nottingham before reaching the quarterfinals in Queens. He then pulled off perhaps the best victory of his career with a routine drubbing of Tsitsipas at Wimbledon (it was his first ever victory against a top 5 opponent). Tiafoe looked awesome in his opening match, winning 85% of his first-serve points against the hapless Kwon Soon-woo.
This will be the 3rd meeting between these two. While Tiafoe won easily at Wimbledon, Tsitsipas won their first encounter at the 2018 NextGen Finals. Tiafoe’s victory at Wimbledon was one of the biggest surprises this year. I never thought he had the discipline to take down a top 5 player over five sets. He generally offers much more value in these three-set encounters. He has a power-based game that veers from the brilliant to the absurd. I just think there’s value in backing him at these odds. Tsitsipas has had a long, successful season and he looks slightly jaded.
Aslan Karatsev (11) (39/100) vs Jeremy Chardy (39/20)
This has been a dream season for 27-year-old Russian Aslan Karatsev. He entered the year outside the top 100 in the ATP rankings. But a magnificent semi-final run at the Australian Open announced the arrival of a significant hardcourt presence. Karatsev would later go on to claim his debut ATP title at the Dubai Open. Perhaps more significantly, he beat undisputed World Number One Novak Djokovic in Serbia. Karatsev wasn’t able to replicate his form on grass. But his 2021 hardcourt record is beyond reproach: Karatsev is 13-3 on hardcourts this year. The aggressive shot-maker has the type of game that can blow opponents away in these three-set affairs. Just ask his first-round opponent Tommy Paul. He beat the American in 75 minutes, not facing a break off in the entire match.
French veteran Jeremy Chardy is currently sitting at 16-16 in the win-loss record this season. But his hardcourt form has been far superior (he sits at 11-7 in hardcourt tennis this year). The hard-hitting Frenchman started the season in impressive fashion, showcasing how dangerous he can be on this surface. He reached the semi-finals of the Antalya Open and the Melbourne 2 event. He also reached the quarterfinals in Rome and Dubai. His form completely plateaued during the clay and grass-court campaigns. But he looked back to his best in his first-round victory against Tomas Barios.
This will be the 3rd meeting between these two, with Chardy winning both of these encounters (though one of those matches was a qualifying match in Shanghai in 2019). I think it’s fair to say that Karatsev is not really the same man that Chardy beat at Wimbledon last year. I don’t think I can make the Tiafoe leap for this one. Karatsev to win in straight sets at 21/20.