Fabio Fognini will look to resurrect the surprising form that saw him make the quarterfinals in Cincinnati last year. Aussie Thanasi Kokkiankis seeks his first ATP main draw win on hard courts since Indian Wells.
Fabio Fognini vs. (Q) Thanasi Kokkinakis
Fognini comes to Cincinnati on a cold streak after making the Hamburg final on clay earlier in the summer. Since then, he’s gone 1-2 including being thrashed by Gael Monfils last week in Montreal 6-3, 6-1. That isn’t out of the ordinary for the Italian who has dropped ten straight matches on outdoor hard courts. His last win came in the opening round of last year’s U.S. Open against Andrey Golubev. In the ten matches since, he has won just four sets out of 28 played. Outside of his run last year in Cincy, this traditionally has not been a time of year where Fognini has looked comfortable or particularly motivated to win. Dating back to the summer hard court swing in 2012, Fognini is just 9-10 with a third of those wins coming last year in Cincinnati.
Kokkinakis has unfortunately been embroiled in the blowback from Nick Kyrgios’ on-court “sledge” of Stan Wawrinka that was heard around the world. To his credit, the Aussie has not let that affect his on-court play. Kokkinakis worked through qualiying this week in Cincinnati and another controversy with American Ryan Harrison. During their three set match, Harrison took exception to Kokkinakis complaining about two over rules from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani. Harrison appeared to take it several steps too far by allegedly calling Kokkinakis a “prick” and then making comments after the match that he “should have decked the kid.” Most of that seemed to center around Harrison’s ire for Kyrgios’ comments that he wrongly took out on Kokkinakis. The Aussie was not flawless in qualifying play as his serve went in and out as it tends to do. He was broken six times in two rounds. He will need to be better in that area to pull off a main draw win.
Fognini has long been one of those ATP players who is difficult to gauge on a week to week basis. His career on hard courts goes in line with that. In his ATP career, he is just 52-88 on outdor hard courts. The ten match losing streak is somewhat puzzling though as he gets these odd runs like last year at the Western & Southern Open. He beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Lleyton Hewitt and Yen-Hsun Lu en route to he quarters. That’s where he was crushed by Milos Raonic 6-1, 6-0. Prior to that, he showed some competitiveness on hard courts in 2014 with a fourth round run at the Australian Open and made the third round both at Indian Wells and the Sony Open in Miami.
With his ranking over 100 to start 2015, Kokkinakis has been forced to play his fair share of qualifying to get into main draws of ATP level tournaments. Cincinnati is his seventh time playing qualifying and he has only won a main draw match in those tournaments once. That came in Delray Beach in February when he beat Filip Krajinovic. Otherwise, he is 0-5 in main draws after qualifying for a tournament. It has not been all rough draws as far as the reasoning why he has struggled to advance.
A big part of his problem has been an inconsistent serve that really can be attacked if the Aussie isn’t getting in a high percentage of his first serves. For the season, he gets in right around 60 percent of his first serves. When he doesn’t, the opposition is winning 53 percent of the points off his second serve. Kokkinakis also doesn’t do himself a ton of favors in that he faces a lot of break points. He has faced 169 break points this year in just 23 main draw matches. Fognini has his own issues there having faced 302 break points in 40 matches in 2015. That figures to be a key point in tonight’s match. Both save right around 60 percent of their break points, while both convert right around 40 percent of the break points they see.
This is a difficult match to predict between two players who seem fairly evenly matched on this surface. Normally, one would think that Fognini would have motivating this week to defend the quarterfinal points earned in 2014 at this tournament. Fognini rarely follows an expected pattern though. Kokkinakis definitely could use the confidence boost of a win in a main draw. He has more natural power than Fognini which is better suited to these faster courts. There has been some spotty rain already today though which could slow the courts a little bit and Kokkinakis’ inconsistency can negate that power advantage. Still with Fognini mired in a big slump on hard courts and Kokkinakis getting match play in this week, give the Aussie the very small edge in this one.
Kokkinakis wins in three sets.