The trouble with the latter stages of the season is that so often we see favourites not really giving everything. With some of them it is simply down to the fact that it has been a long tough season and they can see the holiday at the end of it coming to within touching distance. Their injuries seem to hurt a little more and especially if they don’t have too much to play for in the remaining weeks a bit of time off must seem very appealing.
It also doesn’t help when we have tournaments in Moscow. There have been so many dodgy matches there in the past and we have had a few this week that you start to see fixes and conspiracies in almost every match which is of course ridiculous. Tennis can throw up some very odd score lines every week of the year with players losing the first set 6-0 or 6-1 and coming back to win.
Let’s see what today brings!
First up in Russia is Karlovic v Istomin. Karlovic had an easy win in the first round over American Kudla who didn’t put up much resistance. Istomin won 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 against Kuznetsov.
Istomin’s serve isn’t at the same level as Karlovic’s but then Ivo’s return game isn’t at the same level as Istomin’s. Denis needs to accept that he will see a lot of aces fly past him. This is the first time he has faced Karlovic so it might take a few games before he can even begin to read the serve.
I won’t be surprised to see the first set go to a tie break and as Istomin doesn’t have a good record in breakers Karlovic would be strong favourite ( although I have seen him play some shocking tie breaks! )
After that it’s down to whether Istomin can get enough points into rallies which he would be stronger in and I’d expect him to play onto the Karlovic backhand which is sliced 95% of the time.
There is also the issue of Karlovic’s back problem. If it’s still a issue he may be forced to take a little power off the serve after the opening set and that will tip the balance into Istomin’s favour.
Karlovic needs to get the job done in 2 sets otherwise it’s Istomin in 3.
Update: I didn’t expect 3 breaks in the first 4 games! Very tight match with karlovic saving match point in the third set tie break.
Karlovic won 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.
Verdasco played well yesterday in Stockholm to beat Dodig. He was very un-Verdasco-like on the big points too. Today’s opponent is Nieminen who almost threw the third set away against Becker when he made a pointless dive on match point and hurt himself. He was broken but won the set in a tie break.
Head to heads are 3-3 with Nieminen winning their only recent encounter in Indian Wells for the loss of just 1 game!
This is a tough one to call. I watched all of Verdasco’s match but only small parts of Nieminen’s. We can be certain that Verdasco will win more than 1 game this time!
Stats for the last 3 months give Verdasco the edge as do their stats against common opponents.
Verdasco starts at 1.64 but I will want at least 1.80 before backing him. Should be a great match with Verdasco winning in 3.
Update: Verdasco won 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Petkovic came through against Bouchard in 3 sets as predicted on here yesterday but not before having a shocker of an opening set. She starts at 1.36 against Knapp who also won in 3 sets.
They have played just once before back in 2009 which is pretty much irrelevant (Petkovic won in 2 sets). Petkovic should be too strong. Another slow start from her would be perfect. Both have shown they want to do well here by coming back from a set down and Knapp can often raise her game against higher ranked players before fading.
Update: Petkovic wasn’t happy right from the start. Knapp played a great match though and deserved the win.
Knapp won 7-5, 7-5
Rybarikova beat Halep in their only previous match which was in 2011. Both have improved a great deal since then.
This Halep’s first match after losing to Urszula Radwanska in Beijing. She went out at this stage last year having had to play the first round so she won’t lose out on anything by losing this one.
It is a pity though that Rybarikova seemed to be ill in her last match. She looked short of energy and her facial expressions were those of someone suffering from some sort of ailment.
Halep will probably come through this one but watch out for her not giving everything. If Rybarikova is feeling better she can put Halep under pressure.
Update: Halep won the first set and Rybarikova retired.
Halep won 6-2(ret)