10:00 – Chardy v Kukushkin
Rankings are 49 and 74. They haven’t played before.
This could be a tough match for Chardy. He has been playing some great tennis this season and has increased his consistency. He serves well, holding serve 84% of the time over the last 3 months.
Kukushkin has been moving up the rankings in the last 12 months and loves playing indoors. He reached the semi final here last year so will be motivated to defend those ranking points. Also playing in front of his home crowd will give him a boost. He has proved difficult to break down at times and also serves well. He holds serve 71% of the time.
Chardy has better stats for return of serve although Kukushkin has a better conversion rate for break point opportunities.
This match will come down to how motivated Chardy is. If he comes here with the right attitude then he will win as he has all the tools required. He will need to be at his best as the Russian crowd will get behind their man.
Watch the opening couple of games to let them get warmed up properly on serve. Both player should be ok to back on serve and we could see a very close first set and possibly a tie break.
I give a slight edge to Chardy but it will be a close run thing.
Update: Kukushkin won 6-2, 6-4.
13:00 – Marchenko v Istomin
Rankings are 76 and 46. Head to heads are 3-2 to Istomin.
Marchenko has beaten Istomin twice indoors. He did well in this tournament last year and I think beat Istomin at the same stage of the tournament as today’s match.
Istomin can serve extremely well and holds serve 78% of the time but he can be a choker and can let leads evaporate.
Neither player has beaten anyone of note recently.
I think Istomin could struggle to break down the Marchenko serve and will need his own serve to be firing well to have a good chance of a win.
This is definately a match to wait for 2 or 3 games before getting involved but I have a sneaky feeling the underdog will win this one.
If Marchenko starts out serving well then back him on serve. We should be able to see pretty quickly if Istomin is serving well. If he is then backing him on serve is also an option.
Update: Istomin won 6-7, 6-2, 6-2.