Saturday, August 1st: ATP Atlanta Fine Swine Spotlight #2

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Muller Seeks His 2nd Trip to the Atlanta Final



Gilles Muller is looking to make the Atlanta Open Final for the second time in his career. Marcos Baghdatis can make an ATP level final for the first time since 2011 with a win.

(5) Marcos Baghdatis vs. (7) Gilles Muller
Baghdatis continued his overall solid play this week with a 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over 2nd seeded Vasek Pospisil in the quarterfinals on Friday. This is his third semifinal of the season, having made it that far both in Nottingham last month and Zagreb in February. On both occasions, he was denied a spot in the final. Baghdatis has been good at denying his opponent break chances this week. Even though he has allowed them 13 looks at breaks, he has been able to save ten of those break points. His serve has been solid, winning right around 70 percent of his service points for the week.

Against Pospisil in the quarterfinals, Baghdatis took advantage of a sloppy opening set from the Canadian, breaking him in his first two service games. He would run out to a big 5-2 lead before he wobbled a bit. Baghdatis blew two set points trying to serve things out as Popisil broke him and then edged within a game at 5-4. Baghdatis was able to avoid a total meltdown though as he served out the set, 6-4. The second set was tit for tat with service holds exchanged to a tie break. Baghdatis rallied from down 4-1 in the tie break as he won six of the next seven points to secure the win. Baghdatis summed the match up nicely saying “I won the most important points and that made the difference.”

For Muller, this week has been an easy ride thus far. He has yet to drop a set in three matches as his power serve has been nearly unbreakable. In his quarterfinal clash with Go Soeda, Muller won 27 of 27 first serve points as he rolled to a 7-5, 6-1 win. In all, Muller won 82 percent of his service points against Soeda. For the week, he has seemingly grown stronger. He won 68 percent off his serve in a win over Donald Young, then increased that to 78 percent in the second round against Jared Donaldson. At the rate he has been elevating his serve, Baghdatis figures to have very few chances, if any, to break Muller.

The quarterfinal against Soeda was Muller’s first night match this week. He said “It was tough to get used to it. When I had the chance to be aggressive I did and I came out as the winner.” Expect that to be a similar recipe against Baghdatis. These two are familiar with each other despite never playing against each other at this level. Muller says the two are good friends and he is looking forward to the battle.
Strategy Session

If Baghdatis is to change his luck in semifinals this year, he’s going to have to find a way to secure some key points against Muller. For the week, Muller has not been broken a single time. Worse yet for Baghdatis, Muller has only given his opponents one break chance all week. Bagdhatis as laid out earlier, has given his opponents plenty of chances to break him. He has done well though to save the majority of them. Unfortunately, a single break against a power server like Muller could be the difference in the match. The plus for Baghdatis is that he did face too very good serves this week in Sam Groth and Pospisil. The bad though is that neither served at the level Muller has been at this week.

So where does Baghdatis crack the Muller armor? Certainly getting into some rallies and trying to expose Muller’s slower movement is one way. That means Baghdatis has to get his racquet on some of Muller’s serves. Easier said than done. Likely the best chances come for Baghdatis to match Muller service game for service game and hope that late pressure at 5-5 or in a tie break helps him find that opening to win a set. Tie breaks should favor Muller mostly still as he stands 22-10 in tie breaks in 2015. Baghdatis is 7-5 after yesterday’s tie break win over Pospisil.  The bottom line is just about every thing favors Muller in this clash, including a stellar 14-3 record at the BB&T Atlanta Open in his career.

Prediction
Muller in three sets

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