Three Little Pigs: ATP Barcelona 4-20-16

3pigs

It’s a full slate of matches in Barcelona at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Wednesday. Here are three with upset potential in this edition of Three Little Pigs.

(8) Viktor Troicki vs (q) Marton Fucsovics
This is a dangerous spot for the seeded Serb, who is not in great form recently. Since making the Sofia final in February, Troicki has tapered off greatly with just a 4-6 record. On clay, he might still be ruined for life by his choke against Federico Delbonis last year in Davis Cup play. Troicki blew a two sets to love lead there and lost his opener in Monte Carlo in straight sets to Gilles Simon last week. Overall, he’s just a shade above .500 at 58-57 for his career on dirt. Troicki has lost his only two career matches in Barcelona with the last coming in 2009.

Fucsovics will have momentum on his side as he has rushed through qualifying and scored an opening round win over Ernests Gulbis on Tuesday 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. He’s now 6-2 in main draw action on clay at the ATP level. It’s a rarity to find him in this position, so he really has nothing to lose by going all out against Troicki. Normally, this would be a chance for a confidence builder for the Serb. With his sketchy form however, this could be a real struggle.

Prediction
Fucsovics wins in three sets

(12) Fabio Fognini vs Mikhail Youzhny
On clay, this is a match-up one would usually expect Fognini to take. However, in their two career meetings, the Russian won the lone clash on clay. Youzhny defeated Fognini in three sets in Madrid in 2013. Fognini would even the series with a Rogers Cup win in 2014 on hard courts. That is pretty much the exact opposite of the results one would expect on those two surfaces between these two.

To Wednesday, where they meet up for a spot in the third round. Fognini is still coming around after an abdominal injury sidelined him for nearly two months. Whether it was that layoff or a lack of match fitness, Fognini put forth a disgusting effort against Paolo Lorenzi last week in Monte Carlo. He was crushed after winning the opening set, losing for the first time to his Italian counterpart 2-6, 6-1, 6-0. It’s not as if his form was great prior to the ab injury, which he suffered in Rio de Janeiro in February. He was 3-3 before the match that sidelined him.

Youzhny has been fighting for respectability this season as he took to the Challenger circuit early to build his ranking. He won three straight tournaments to get himself back inside the Top 100, but he’s scuffled trying to get wins at the ATP level. His victory over Rajeev Ram on Tuesday was just his third main draw win of the season. He has not won back-to-back matches at this level since last year’s Rogers Cup.

On paper, this screams Fognini. In reality, it screams who the hell knows. Reality bites, but so does an unmotivated and/or unfit Fognini.

Prediction
Youzhny wins in three sets

(14) Joao Sousa vs Albert Montanes
This is a tough spot for the 14th seed. Sousa is only 1-2 on clay this year and just 4-10 overall. He is 2-3 in three trips to Barcelona. His Spanish opponent has some great memories at this tournament, albeit from long, long ago. Montanes made the semifinals here more than a decade ago in 2004. He’s still shown some pride the last few years in Barcelona and will feel good about a 6-2, 6-3 win over Robert Carballes-Baena to open this week. The Spaniard has been in decent form on dirt this season with a semifinal run in Marrakech a couple of weeks ago.

Sousa beat Ivo Karlovic to open in Monte Carlo, but was swept aside by Benoit Paire after that to stall this Euro swing for the Portugese. He’s not bad on dirt, but has had better success in 250s. Sousa made the Geneva and Umag finals last year, but went just 4-5 in the Masters swing along with Barcelona and the French Open. With Montanes grinding out results, this has upset potential. Montanes isn’t the better player on most days, but he’s a competitor who is playing on home soil. That often does help off-set a talent gap.

The main problem is that Montanes hasn’t beaten anyone in the Top 50 since the Clinton Administration. Well okay, February 2015. Still, that’s a long time and Sousa is no slouch. Expect a competitive one, but I think the seed will sneak through.

Prediction
Sousa wins in three sets

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