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ATP Tour: Serbia Open Selected QF’s Preview

Selected quarter-finals preview from the 2021 Seribia Open.

Aslan Karatsev - ATP Tour Serbia Open Preview
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Taro Daniel takes on Federico Delbonis before Gianluca Mager and Aslanm Karatsev face off in Serbia Open quarter-final action.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Taro Daniel (7/4) vs Federico Delbonis (2/5) *forecast odds

This should be a fascinating clash between two of this week’s surprise packages. Of the two, you would have to agree that Delbonis is the more likely contender this week. The 33-year-old Argentine is a wily old pro on the clay. His only two titles have come on the sticky stuff- one in 2014 and one in 2016. His other two ATP Final defeats have also been on clay. But the last couple of years have been fairly dismal for the lefty, whose erratic serve has often left him exposed. But there have been some signs of life this year (if only on this surface). A semi-final run in Chile was hardly remarkable given the depth of the field. But his Round of 16 victory this week over hometown favourite Dusan Lajovic recalled some of his best clay-court form. He ground down the Serb with his relentless depth of shot and pinpoint accuracy (that serve did seem a little finicky in the second set though). Delbonis will see this as a guilt-edged chance to reach his 2nd ATP semi-final of the season.

If Delbonis’ run has been unlikely, then Taro Daniel’s has been vaguely unbelievable. The 28-year-old American entered this event with virtually no form to speak of. He has had to ply his trade on the lower circuits, with three first-round defeats when entering the top tier. And that trend looked set to continue this week. Daniel lost in qualifying and only made the grade this week as a lucky loser. But victories over Sousa and John Millman have rocketed the 28-year-old Japanese into the quarterfinals. How do we quantify this? The first thing to say is this: there is a clay-court precedent in Taro’s career. His only ATP title was a clay-court victory at the 2018 Istanbul Open. He also has a litany of clay-court successes to his name on the lower levels. He has won seven ITF and Challenger clay-court events and reached a further nine finals.

Verdict: Delbonis win in three sets 3/1 *forecast betting

This will be the first top tier meeting between these two. Three of their four respective matches thus four have gone to three sets. I think it’s a safe assumption that this may go all the way. I just have to ultimately go for Delbonis in three at 3/1. That Lajovic victory was extremely impressive and shows his class on this surface.

Gianluca Mager (7/4) vs Aslan Karatsev (2/5) *Forecast betting

Another one of those pesky clay-court specialists- I say that with the deepest possible affection. It’s just amazing how these seemingly offbeat character actors can become stars in these events. Mager has very little history on the tour to speak of: he is yet to progress past the first round of a Grand Slam. But he did manage to reach the final of the Rio Open last year. The clay-court aficionado has played 14 Challenger and Future Finals on clay. He currently holds a 12-6 record this year, reaching the final of the Marbella Challenger event on clay. Impressive straight-set victories over Dere and Popyrin speak to his current fluidity on this surface. But can he raise his game that little bit extra for this intimidating encounter?

Aslan Karatsev used to be a highly competitive clay-court player on the Challenger Tour. The jury is still out as to whether he can replicate that form on the tour proper. He looked slightly out of his depth against Tsitsipas at Monte Carlo. His hell-for-leather approach perhaps lacks the necessary subtlety to get the job done on clay. But then again, Gianluca Mager is not exactly Stefanos Tsitsipas. Karatsev has enjoyed a breakthrough season, reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne before claiming the title in Dubai. The Russian once again showed signs of clay-court fragility in his first match. He needed to dig deep to eventually emerge victorious against Aljaz Bedene. It’s hard to see the Russian moving too far away from his ultra-aggressive approach. This could make him susceptible to a sneaky quarter-final upset.

Verdict: Karatsev in straight sets 11/10 * Forecast betting

These two met earlier this year in Melbourne, with the Russian obviously coming through in emphatic fashion. Dig a bit deeper, however, and you find that Mager has a clay-court victory over Karatsev on the Challenger Tour. Despite this nugget, I’m convinced that Karatsev could just blast Mager off the court. The Russian will feel more relaxed on this surface and should find a victory in straight sets at 11/10.

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