Philipp Kohlschreiber gets his Indian Wells campaign underway against the trickster, Alexandr Dolgopolov. “The Dog” got his tournament started right with a relatively simple 6-1, 6-4 win over Viktor Troicki in round one.
(28) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Alexandr Dolgopolov
Kohlschreiber arrives in California after making the quarterfinals in Dubai last week. He had eventual champion Andy Murray on the ropes in the second set, but could not convert on multiple match points. He eventually fell in the third set 6-7 (4), 7-6 (18), 6-1. It will be interesting to see how that plays on his mind this week. The 33-year-old German has a solid record of 13-10 all-time at Indian Wells. Despite that, he has not made it past the second round since 2011. He’s lost his opener twice in the past five years in 2013 and 2014.
Dolgopolov was on point in round one in dismantling Troicki. He crushed nine aces and controlled things with a solid first serve that saw him win 84 percent of the points. He was broken just once on five break chances. It was a good start for “The Dog” after he looked dog tired late in his opening loss to Marin Cilic last time out in Acapulco. In that one, Dolgopolov was bageled in the third set. Dog has been in good form on clay, winning the title in Buenos Aires of Kei Nishikori and then running to the semifinals the next week in Rio before a hip injury forced him out of action. That likely was from wear and tear from a lot of tennis in that span and doesn’t seem to be a chronic affliction.
Fourth Career Clash
This will be the fourth time the two players have met with Kohlschreiber taking two of three in the previous encounters. Both his wins came on grass, while Dolgopolov won indoors in Paris in 2015. The two wins for the German came in home tournaments in Stuttgart and Halle, where he has been comfortable and very successful in his career. So those don’t hold much bearing on today’s match. The Paris match in 2015 saw Dolgopolov win 6-3, 7-6 (6). Kohlschreiber’s serve was much less effective on that surface, where Dog saw ten break chances. The German only saw three off Dolgopolov’s serve.
When Dolgopolov is at his best, his serve has been a solid weapon. The first serve usually tells the story for the Ukrainian. If he’s winning a high percentage of points off his first, 75 percent or better, he gets much tougher to beat. Kohlschreiber will have had the advantage of playing Dolgopolov’s off-beat style, so he’ll know to expect the unexpected. Does that help? Not much against “The Dog” whose shot selection can best be described as unorthodox. Quite frankly, there is usually not much rhyme or reason to his shot choices. When he’s hitting the ball clean and making those odd choices, he can beat anyone on any given day.
Kolhschreiber would love to draw Dologpolov into baseline battle where he can wear him down physically in rallies. If Dolgopolov is playing intelligent tennis as he’s been doing the last month, he won’t let that happen often. An obvious key for Kohlschreiber is to serve well and control what he can control. If he isn’t serving particularly well, then facing the trickster and his odd variety of ground stroke choices becomes a daunting task if he wants to win.
The Pig’s Bottom Line
As outlined in the preview for this week’s BNP Paribas Open, seeds have had a rough time of it in their openers over the last five years or so. Kohlschreiber was one of the seeds I highlighted who might have trouble escaping a first round exit. The slower conditions jive well with Dolgopolov as evidenced with a semifinal run here in 2014 where he beat Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic, before losing to Roger Federer. If Dolgopolov has his serve working again and can keep Kohlschreiber off-balance with his shot selection, this match will have upset potential.
Prediction: Dolgopolov wins in straight sets