Fine Swine: ATP Kuala Lumpur Semifinal Previews

TENNIS-ATP-MAS

Kyrgios Is Still Seeking His First ATP Title
Photo: Getty Images



Both Feliciano Lopez and Nick Kyrgios are seeking to make just their second finals appearances at the ATP level this season. For Lopez, his last final was in Quito, Ecuador in February on clay. Kyrgios’ last final also came on clay in Estoril, Portugal in April. Neither player has won a title in 2015. They start Saturday’s semifinal action in Kuala Lumpur.

(2) Feliciano Lopez vs. (7) Nick Kyrgios
Lopez made it through the quarterfinals unscathed as he battled back from down a set to beat Vasek Pospisil 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard was by far the steadier of the two throughout the course of the match. Pospisil started quick in the first, but his serve was failing him the rest of the way. That let Lopez dominate the final two sets by winning 41 percent of Pospisil’s service points in the second and a whopping 59 percent in the third. Through two matches against Mischa Zverev and Pospisil, Lopez has a combined 25 aces and has won just over 80 percent of his first serve points. The #2 seed has been broken just once in each match this week.

Kyrgios has been a shade better on serve through three matches. The Aussie has not dropped a set. He beat Santiago Giraldo in his opener 6-1, 2-1 when the Colombian retired from their match. He humbled Tatsuma Ito 6-3, 6-2 in the second round and slipped by third seed Ivo Karlovic in two tie breaks in the quarterfinals. He has yet to be broken on serve this week. The 7th seed’s serve has been even better than Lopez’s with Kyrgios winning right around 85 percent on his first serve in the last two rounds. In the injury shortened opener against Giraldo, he won 13 of 13 points on his first serve.

This will be the second clash between these two this season. The first came in Rome on clay in May where Lopez prevailed 6-4, 7-6. The Aussie had issues getting his first serve in that day at just 56 percent. His second serve helped bail him out, but not enough as Lopez broke him twice in the match. He also tossed in six double faults. The Spaniard himself allowed just one break opportunity with Kyrgios converting it. For the day, Lopez was simply a touch better as he won 70 percent of his service points while Kyrgios won 64.

Saturday’s semi figures to be serve-centric much like the Karlovic-Kyrgios battle in the quarterfinals. Any break chances will be massive as one break could make the difference in the entire match. Kyrgios seems to be playing with a focus he has lacked for long periods of time this season. That has come due to the reverence he has shown to this tournament in the homeland of his mother. Kyrgios has made no bones about wanting to win this title because of that. This is a big spot for both guys. Kyrgios is still seeking his maiden ATP Tour title, while Lopez at age 34 would love to add a fifth to his collection. A win gets either one of them a step closer to that goal. If there was a week to believe in Nick Kyrgios’ conviction towards a more mature attitude and focus on tennis, this seems to be it. This will likely be settled with a tie break or two on the way. Having already come through that sort of match against Karlovic, Kyrgios may have just enough of an edge to secure the win.

Prediction
Kyrgios wins in three sets.

 

(1) David Ferrer vs. Benjamin Becker
The top seeded Spaniard is clinging to the 8th spot in the ATP rankings this week. That is the final position that qualifies for the year-end ATP Tour Finals. That makes every tournament even bigger for Ferrer. He is set to pass Rafael Nadal for 7th and could have a nice 1,000 or so point differential between himself and Milos Raonic who is chasing in the #9 spot. So far this week, it’s been a perfect run for Ferrer with a pair of straight sets wins over Radek Stepanek and Mikhail Kukushkin. He gets another 30-something veteran in Becker in the semifinals. Becker has been the surprise package this week with upsets over the 6th seed Jeremy Chardy in the second round and the 4th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Kuala Lumpur just jives with the German who has made the semis two straight years here. Ferrer for his part is accustomed to this spot as well with three semifinal trips at the Malaysian Open in four tries. Neither man has progressed past that stage.

That means one of them will break that streak on Saturday. It is difficult to look past Ferrer in this match. His serving improved in his quarterfinal match against Kukushkin after a rather mediocre day against Stepanek in the second round. Ferrer increased the percentage of his service points won from 59 in the second round to 71 in the quarters. Becker has been steady, but not spectacular on serve as the tournament has progressed. The quarterfinal against Dimitrov saw him win his lowest percentage of points on his first serve (73) so far in three matches this week. Becker has been solid in saving break points this week and that figures to be handy against Ferrer. So far, he has saved seven of nine break chances this week. Conversely, Ferrer has broken his opponents seven times on ten chances.

This is meeting #2 between Ferrer and Becker. The other came in 2010 in the second round of the U.S. Open. Ferrer dismantled the German in straight sets. Ferrer was very good on serve in that match, winning 81 percent on his first serve and facing just two break points. He saved one. Becker was decent, but won just 60 percent of his serive points as the Spaniard put constant pressure on him. Ferrer crafted ten break opportunities that day and converted on four of them in the 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win.

The Pig expects something fairly similar to that meeting. Ferrer is still a very good returner and defender. That will force Becker into making some extra shots in rallies and trying to be more precise on serve. Both of those things should suit success for Ferrer being able to break him down eventually. The one area that can give some hope to Becker of course is Ferrer’s serve. While it was better in the quarters, it is still not a weapon that provides the top seed with all that many cheap points. As usual, Ferrer wins with determination and working harder than his opponent. As long as his serve does not completely fail him, expect the top seed to move on.

Prediction
Ferrer wins in straight sets.

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