2017 Italian Open R16 Previews: Alexander Zverev vs Fabio Fognini, Marin Cilic vs David Goffin


Two match previews for Thursday. These are the ones that pique The Pig’s interests the most. Fabio Fognini will be center stage once again after pulling off the upset of Andy Murray earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Marin Cilic will be looking to turn his recent run of good form on clay into a rare win against David Goffin in the other featured preview. Bon appettit!

(16) Alexander Zverev vs Fabio Fognini

Fognini comes in off a momentum builder after taking down top seeded Andy Murray in straight forward fashion 6-2, 6-4. Poor serving plagued Murray again as it has for large portions of 2017. The Scot was broken four times and won a pathetic 37 percent of his second serve points. Fognini looked solid all-around, saving four of five break chances against his serve and winning solid percentages at 74 percent and 55 percent respectively off his first and second serves.

Zverev continues his strong play on clay as he ousted Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4 in his second ound match. The win was Sascha’s 11th on clay this year against just three losses. Zverev was much improved from his opening three set win against Kevin Anderson. The German phenom won 85 percent of his first serve points and 71 percent off his second serve. Both numbers were up from that first round clash against Anderson. Zverev did not face a single break point and was a beast from the baseline.

Keys to Victory

This is the first meeting between Zverev and Fognini, so there will be some feeling out to do for both players. I think it’s more dangerous for Sascha here with Fognini’s repertoire that can surprise players at-times. The Italian is not the biggest guy around, but he hits with tremendous pace and power from the baseline and excels on this surface. A huge key for Fognini as always is serving. When he serves well, he can beat anyone if his ground strokes are firing and painting lines. Fognini’s forehand is the big weapon.

Zverev should have the service advantage with more raw power from his bigger frame, but he’s not always consistent in that category. Sascha should enjoy the match tactically as Fognini is unlikely to come unglued from the baseline, right where Zverev prefers to do his damage as well. From a movement standpoint, both have wheels and can do damage on the run. Zverev has the better reach obviously and can hit some shots Fognini cannot. Still, Fognini has a bit more speed and agility and could cause issues for Zverev if he moves him consistently around the court.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

It’s always impossible to tell if Fognini is going to catapult himself forward off a big win or return to his usual brand of inconsistency and often temperamental tennis. I think the confidence is there for an upset with how close he was to beating Nadal in Madrid coupled with the win over Murray, albeit a continued piss poor version of the Scot. Fognini seems like the kind of player who can trouble Zverev as long as his movement is good and he moves consistently well all match.

Prediction: Fognini wins in three sets

(6) Marin Cilic vs (9) David Goffin

Cilic is in a run of good form on clay, something you don’t often think jives with the tall Croat. The 6th seed won the Istanbul Open earlier this month and also made the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo. Cilic got off to a bright start in Rome by crushing Ryan Harrison 6-3, 6-2. He won a solid 80 percent of his first serve points along with 60 percent off his second. Cilic saved both break points faced and converted on three breaks in ten chances against Harrison.

Goffin has been pushed to three sets twice already, beating Thomaz Bellucci in round one and then Fernando Verdasco in round two. In both cases, he dropped the opening set before rallying to come back for the victory. In both cases, his serving got better as the match wore on to become a big factor in the turnaround. In set ones this tournament, the Belgian has been broken four times. In sets two and three, he has been broken a total of just three times in those matches.

Keys to Victory

Goffin has won three of four previous matches against Cilic. The last three have come on hard courts with the first clash back in 2016 in Davis Cup play as the sole match on clay. Goffin won that one 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Cilic’s lone win came at the Paris Masters last Fall 6-4, 7-6. In that match, Cilic managed four breaks against the Goffin serve. That was twice as many breaks as he secured in the prior two matches.

As usual with Goffin, his serve is a big starting or stopping point. He’s not a power guy, so he has to win with solid placement and consistency. When he does that, it allows him to get into good court positioning to play rallies where he excels. His ground strokes are solid off both wings and his movement is a huge plus against Cilic. His return ability also should be a key. Cilic must serve big to have a shot to win. Easy points mean less running for the Croat and a better chance for success.

The Pig’s Bottom Line

You wouldn’t think Cilic would have an advantage capable of beating Goffin on this surface, considering that the Belgian has beat him on hard courts twice and clay for a third win. Still, Cilic does have some confidence right now and Goffin seems to be tempting fate a bit with his willingness to start slow and have to dig out of a first set hole.

If Cilic can control the match with his serve then he has a shot here. It’s precisely what he did against Harrison, but this will be much tougher. Goffin’s ability to defend and get to balls that others cannot will be a challenge for Cilic. I won’t be surprised if Cilic reverses the trend on Thursday, but my guess is that Goffin still gets it done. He’s had more issues with players who are more similar to himself with quickness and agility, whereas power players in the same vein as Cilic have not yet consistently been able to beat him on this surface.

Prediction: Goffin wins in three sets


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