It’s been a bit different in Sydney this week with six of the eight seeds alive still for the tournament. That’s a strong turnaround from the last few years where you’d be lucky to see two seeds in the semifinals. This year, it’s a guarantee that at least half the semi slots go to seeds. All four quarterfinals take place on Thursday at the Apia International Sydney, which of course is still Wednesday for a lot of the rest of us.
Here’s a quick look at the match-ups.
Apia International Sydney Quarterfinal Preview
(2) Pablo Cuevas vs (6) Gilles Muller
Muller has been a strong competitor at this tournament the last two season with consecutive semifinal showings. This could be tricky though for him against Cuevas, who survived a rollercoaster three set match against Nicolas Mahut in his opener yesterday. Cuevas won their only previous meeting last year on grass in Nottingham 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Muller has been blasting aces this week with 36 combined in two matches and he’s been broken just once. Cuevas predictably was a tad rusty in his 2017 opener, broken twice on four chances. He should improve and won’t see a great returner across the net. Seems strange to say a #2 seed could sneak into a semifinal, but that is kind of how this feels with Muller more highly regarded on this surface due to his thunderous serve.
(3) Viktor Troicki vs (5) Philipp Kohlschreiber
Troicki has now won 13 straight matches in Sydney after fighting off Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-4 in his opener. The two-time defending champion was rarely troubled on serve, winning a stout 91 percent of the points off his first serve. He would save his lone break point. Kohlschreiber took care of Aussie Jordan Thompson 7-5, 6-4 to post back-to-back wins for just the second time in his last ten tournaments played. Kohlschreiber has beaten Troicki four of six times they have met, but only one has come since 2013. Troicki won the last one in straight sets in Sofia, Bulgaria on an indoor hard surface. Kohlschreiber is good enough on serve to make this interesting, but Troicki is just so comfortable here that another win looks to be on tap.
(4) Pablo Carreno Busta vs Andrey Kuznetsov
Carreno Busta was in action for the first time this season on Wednesday. He outlasted qualifier Mischa Zverev 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3. He was solid, but unspectacular, and will need to be better. Kuznetsov has now benefited from a pair of retirements to get to the quarters. In his opener, Martin Klizan retired after trailing Kuznetsov 3-0 in the deciding set. On Wednesday, Australian wild card Alex De Minaur dropped the opening set 6-2 and quit with an abdominal injury. PCB won their only hard court meeting last year in Winston-Salem as he went out to win his first ATP title. Kuznetsov has beaten him twice prior to that on clay. PCB has shown some chops on this surface, but he’s also not enjoyed sustained success on it just yet. Kuznetsov is capable and this definitely has some upset potential if the Russian can find some rhythm after the two retirement victories.
(1) Dominic Thiem vs Daniel Evans
The capper to the evening features top seed Dominic Thiem. He struggled to put away pesky qualifier Gustao Elias in his opener yesterday. Thiem had to go the distance to pull out the 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5 win. His serve wasn’t particularly popping consistently, which led to four breaks of serve. I’ve long looked at Thiem’s main issue in losses directly related to his first serve. His numbers yesterday showed a win rate of just 68 percent on his first serve. That’s a danger area for him. He was fortunate Elias was worse and seemed to wear down in the third.
Evans has found success in Sydney after being swept in three matches at the Hopman Cup. He’s won against Thiago Monteiro and 8th seed Marcel Granollers in three sets this week. The Brit is generally more grit than wow factor, but he did win over 80 percent on first serve against Granollers. That sort of control could put him in position to contend deep in sets with Thiem. I touched on the lack of success for the top seed traditionally at this tournament in the preview and this is that spot where you might see a scalp for Evans because it seems unexpected. That’s been the Sydney moniker in the past that we have yet to see this week.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO …
I get the feeling that at least one of the unseeded players left is going to pull off the upset today. Kuznetsov might rate a slightly better chance, but don’t sleep on Evans doing the deed either. The only thing that has been certain about this tournament the last couple of years is finding Viktor Troicki in position to win the tournament. That again looks like the best bet for the evening.