2018 BNP Paribas Open R2 Preview: Tomas Berdych vs Hyeon Chung


(12) Tomas Berdych vs (23) Hyeon Chung

Chung Looking to Rekindle Early Season Magic

Hyeon Chung made a name for himself at the Australian Open with an unexpected semifinal run. Since then, he’s been consistent, but not quite as spectacular as what we saw down under. He’s gone 5-2 since returning from his blister issues in Australia. That includes a first round battle against Dusan Lajovic in Indian Wells. Chung escaped the first round with a 6-7 (9), 6-3, 6-3 win. Chung worked over the Serb’s serve, seeing an incredible 23 break chances in the match. The 21-year-old would convert on eight of those as he took 48 percent of the points off of Lajovic’s serve. Chung’s serve wasn’t that great either. The South Korean was broken five times off 15 opportunities. He won just 65 percent of his first serve points and 52 percent off his second serve.

Berdych got his campaign at the BNP Paribas Open off to a blistering start as he dominated with a big first serve en route to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Maximillian Marterer. The 12th seed won 88 percent of the first serve points and was broken just one time on three break points seen by the German. His second serve was far less at just a 48 percent win rate. Berdych landed 59 percent of his first serves, a number he will want to repeat or better against a much better returner in Chung. The Czech took advantage of Marterer’s inability to consistently land his own first serve at just 40 percent. Berdych would win 56 percent of the second serve points and break the German four times.

The Formula

This is meeting number three between Berdych and Chung. Their last came on clay last year in Lyon, where Berdych prevailed 6-3, 7-5. Their first meeting was in 2015 in Miami where Berdych won 6-3, 6-4. Serve has been a huge advantage for Berdych in the past against Chung. His first has been particularly effective with a 77 percent win rate in the two previous meetings. Chung’s first serve win rate by comparison is just a shade over 66 percent. Where the South Korean really got into trouble was his second serve. Berdych has won 21/34 second serve points played against Chung. That’s an obvious key for this clash as well. Chung will need to avoid second serves at key points or he’ll be in trouble of Berdych taking him down in straights again.

I do think Chung has a bit more confidence now in return, but he will need to find his best against a power first serve. Watching some of the tape from their Lyon meeting, it was apparent that Berdych’s power bothered Chung, even on clay. Though Indian Wells is a slower hard court, that still doesn’t bode well for the 23rd seed. Berdych attacked the backhand return of Chung fairly consistently and went he went to the forehand side, he did a good job of stretching Chung wide. That left the other half of the court open for a quick finish quite a few times from the Czech. Overall, his power and precision are going to be a problem for Chung again if Berdych is in rhythm.

As for Chung’s serve, it should be a bit better than their last meeting as he’s worked on his footwork to enhance his power. He’s still inconsistent on serve though and that can get him into trouble against big hitters like Berdych. For Chung, avoiding second serves has to be a large part of the game plan. Berdych was very aggressive in return when Chung was forced to second serves, stepping inside the baseline and getting good contact. That often left him in control of the rallies from there, which were usually short and too much for Chung due to Berdych’s better court position and power off a weak second serve.

Some of Chung’s best work on serve in that match came when he targeted Berdych out wide from both the deuce and ad court. It didn’t matter if it was Berdych’s forehand or backhand side, the key was getting the Czech stretched in return. Chung will need to be very precise with his serves to achieve that consistently. When he was not in that last meeting, Berdych’s depth in return really bothered him and Chung was left backing up too much or off balance with bad footwork.

In the ground battle, Berdych has had few problems going baseline to baseline with Chung. His power off both wings has given Chung problems and left the Czech controlling quite a bit of the action from a neutral position on the baseline. For Chung to succeed, he’s got to change that and get Berdych on the move. A stationary Berdych from the baseline is going to kill him with the depth of his ground strokes. An in-motion Berdych will be challenged to make shots and Chung can try to enhance that struggle by hitting the ball lower to make him forced to stretch and make difficult running shots. Chung is certainly a better shot maker on-the-run for me in this match-up, so he’s got to do well in return if he’s going to bother Berdych and use that sort of strategy.

The Pig-nosticator

I do think this is a different version of Chung that Berdych will see versus the last time about ten months ago. His confidence is higher and I think his game all-around has certainly improved. The issue here is power. If you hearken back to the Australian Open and Chung’s first “big” win over Alexander Zverev – how did he neutralize the power advantage of Sascha? He kept the German running and running and running some more in rallies. That’s what he has to do with Berdych to have the chance to score the upset.

The issue there is that Berdych’s first serve can negate a lot of that opportunity. A key stat to watch will be Berdych’s first serve percentage as well as his first serve win rate. If he’s landing his first serve close to 60 percent and winning at a rate in the high 70s or over 80 percent, I don’t think Chung has much chance. For Chung, a massive key will be not giving any breaks of serve right back. Against Lajovic in round one, he gave back a service break in the next game twice. He was fortunate to cancel that out by breaking back again in the next game. I don’t think he will get those sort of chances against Berdych.

I don’t see a ton here that says Berdych won’t again have too much power for Chung in this match-up over the course of three sets. This may not be as straight forward as their previous meetings, but unless Chung can find better results on serve and figure out how to consistently get Berdych moving east to west in the ground battle – I think Berdych takes this one.

Prediction: Berdych wins in three sets


2018 ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament QF Preview: David Goffin vs Tomas Berdych


(4) David Goffin vs (6) Tomas Berdych

Rotterdam Revival

This will mark the fourth meeting between these two and the first since David Goffin’s double bagel over Tomas Berdych at the Rome Masters in 2016. The result was so poor for Berdych that he fired his then coach Dani Vallverdu just a few days later. Berdych is now on his second coach since that time with Martin Stepanek as his current mentor. He replaced Goran Ivanisevic last Summer. The results continue to be hit and miss for Berdych with the 32-year old making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January after he exited the U.S. Open last Fall in round two.

This week, Berdych has been solid at a tournament where he is now 21-8. Berdych has beaten both Mischa Zverev and Viktor Troicki in straight sets this week with the latter result coming 6-1, 6-2 in round two. The Czech’s first serve has propelled him this week, winning at a clip right around 81 percent. His second has been effective at 60 percent through two rounds. He has been broken just once on seven chances against his serve. That is an area that of course will be key against a great defender like Goffin.

For the Belgian, he shook off a semifinal loss to Richard Gasquet in Montpellier last week and has won by identical 6-1, 6-3 scorelines over Nicolas Mahut and Feliciano Lopez. Goffin’s serve in the last match against Lopez was particularly magnificent, winning 92 percent of the first serve points. He has yet to be broken this week, with only three break opportunities against his serve. All came in his opener against Mahut. Goffin certainly will be challenged more by Berdych as the 4th seed’s depth in return was too much for Lopez, making it easier for him to control the rallies.

The Formula

There’s nothing positive that Berdych can take from that last meeting. He won seven of 30 service points and just had probably his most brutal day in the sport. He should look back to the encounter prior to that one against Goffin, where he straight setted him 6-3, 6-4 indoors in Marseille. Berdych also won way back in 2012 at the U.S. Open in straights, another that seems fine to toss out as it was Goffin’s USO main draw debut. So let’s focus on their battle in Marseille in 2016.

Berdych was dominant on serve, taking 82 percent of the points off his first serve and 70 percent off his second. He only allowed two break chances and saved one. Goffin was under constant pressure with the Czech crafting three breaks off of ten break opportunities. Goffin won just 68 percent of his first serve points and 43 percent off his second. Berdych did a great job in return, where Goffin stretched him wide, but the Czech showed good mobility and recovery to get back in good court position for the next shot. From there, he used his length along the baseline to overpower Goffin in a lot of the baseline exchanges.

For Goffin to avoid an upset in Rotterdam, I think he’s got to do a better job of pouncing on that return ball. He seemed to struggle with Berdych’s depth of return at times with the Czech;s power pushing him back a step or two. I think that forced Goffin into chase mode too early in some of the rallies and it was advantage Berdych most times. Berdych used both wings effectively with power and I think that’s a key edge for him in this one. I think he was just way more comfortable with the surface and its speed than he was obviously when they shifted to clay for double bagel day.

So where does Goffin turn it around then against that power? Second serve is the key element. The Belgian has eaten up the second serve of power players on this surface and he’ll need to see chances off Berdych’s second serve to survive this one. He’s much better at attacking those weaker second serves, while the power first serves are harder for him to break down. Berdych has been in rhythm this week, but is obviously up against a much better returner. He needs to bring power and placement on serve. He did a fantastic job in that Marseille meeting with those elements in stretching Goffin in return and then he was not afraid to move to net for the kill shot.

The Pig-nosticator

As a competitor, I would hope that Berdych is chomping at the bit for this match-up and felt that way since the draw came out. He has to want to exact revenge and I think any athlete who has failed spectacularly has a need for redemption. In this spot, I think Berdych needs to come out hot and get some easy service holds early for his confidence. You don’t want any doubts to creep into your mind or any memories from double bagel day to be in your head immediately due to a flat start.

First serve is always big for Berdych. When he’s got a win rate around 80 percent or better and he’s landing close to 60 percent or more on his first serve, he becomes so much tougher to break down overall. Goffin’s up and down with his serve, so it’s always difficult to predict what sort of day he is going to have in that regard. We saw that again last week in Montpellier. I think Goffin has to find a way to challenge Berdych differently with his own serve. Mixing in some more aggressive action to the net off of his serves would at least give Berdych more to think about in return.

In running down Berdych’s losses in Rotterdam, it has been players who can equal his power that have caused him the most trouble. Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are his last three losses at this tournament since 2014. In each case, Berdych could do nothing against potent serves. He isn’t necessarily in that spot against Goffin and I think that is why he does have the shot for the upset. If he stays zoned in with his own serve and puts the pressure on Goffin to match, the Czech can pull this off.

Prediction: Berdych wins in three sets

2018 ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament Preview


Federer Takes Wildcard in Pursuit of #1 Spot

The big news this week ahead of the start of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam was the late inclusion of Roger Federer via wildcard. Fed made the decision as he chases the #1 spot in the rankings with a chance to become the oldest player to ever do so. Andre Agassi holds the current record when he hold the top spot at age 33 in 2003. At 36, Federer could dwarf that achievement if he makes the semifinals this week. This is the Swiss’ first trip back to the Dutch tournament since 2013. He is also the last top seed to win or make a final in Rotterdam, accomplishing that in 2012. Slotted behind Fed are Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and David Goffin to round out the top four spots.

Dimitrov is making his first appearance since the Australian Open, after skipping his home tournament in Sofia this past week to rest a sore shoulder. The Bulgarian had his best result in Rotterdam last season with a semifinal run to push his career mark to 8-6 at this tournament. Zverev is just 2-3 in three trips to this tournament with a pair of opening match losses. Goffin ended a losing skid in Rotterdam last year with a run to the final. He scored all four of his career wins at this tournament last year after losing his first match in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

The back half of the seeded field features two former winners in Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Tomas Berdych (2014), who are seeded 5th and 6th. Along with Federer, they are the only players in Rotterdam this week who have won the title previously. Fed won it twice in 2005 and 2012. Montpellier champion Lucas Pouille and Gilles Muller fill out the seeds. Muller slots into the final seeded spot after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury suffered at the Open Sud de France on Saturday.


The ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament has been a bit odd. The top seed has had a hellacious time being involved in the business end of the tournament, failing to even be in the semifinal mix since 2012. In spite of that, there have not been a large amount of upsets for seeds in their first matches over the last four years. A single seed has fallen in their opener three of the last four years with two going down in 2016. You have to go back to 2013 to find the biggest seed dump early when four seeds were taken down in the opening round.

In the current climate of seemingly interchangeable parts outside of Roger Federer, seeds seem to always have potential to be stung and taken out early. Let’s take a look at our weekly list of “The Eliminati” – the players who could pull of some seeded scalps in round one.

Tallon Griekspoor
The Dutch wildcard draws Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. The Swiss got a few needed wins in Sofia last week, but his legs looked a big heavy by the time he was upset in the semifinals by Marius Copil. The 21-year-old Dutchman has nothing in his brief history that says he should upset a top ten player, going 0-2 in his lone main draw matches. One of those came to Gilles Muller last year in Rotterdam. Still, Wawrinka has admitted that he’s short of being match fit after playing three matches in successive days last week. He’ll have had a couple days of rest, but given that he’s still working his way back into shape – stranger things have happened. Still, I’d rate this pretty low on possibilities.

David Ferrer
On paper and this surface, you would think that conditions would favor third seed Alexander Zverev in this match-up. History though shows that Ferrer has beaten Sascha in both career meetings, once on clay and once outdoors on a hard court in Beijing in 2016. That was their last meeting, ending 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-5 for the Spaniard. The positives for Zverev are that the Spaniard has not played here since 2011 and is 0-3 in this last three matches. Those losses came to Juan Martin Del Potro, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov. All play similar baseline power games, something Sascha does better than any of those three. Ferrer is always in a match if he can see enough second serves from his opponent, so this still is one that could happen if Sascha isn’t on top of his service games.

Daniil Medvedev
The Russian made it into the main draw through qualifying. His serve was decent, but will need to be steadier if he wants to pull off the upset against Gilles Muller. Muller won one and lost one last week in Sofia with Copil beating him in the quarterfinals. The big lefty has avoided losing early in Rotterdam in his previous three trips, but Medvedev might present one of his tougher first round matches here. The Russian is still very up and down as he tries to establish himself at this level – winning the Sydney title and then going just 1-2 since raising that trophy. I think Muller’s serve and volley plus bigger power could trouble the Russian, but again there’s still an opportunity for an upset.

Benoot Paire
Which version of Paire do we get this week? Last week he looked alternately dangerous and disinterested as usual all in one tournament in Montpellier. He draws David Goffin first though and he’s 3-1 against the Belgian. That includes a tough three set match last year indoors in Metz. Goffin’s lone win came in Shanghai in 2016. I mentioned earlier about Goffin’s track record before last year’s finals run, so there is a fairly good recipe for an upset in this one. The question is whether Paire can keep it together and win in Rotterdam. He’s just 1-4 in main draw matches at this tournament.

Andrey Rublev
Another young Russian (20) who has plenty of weapons to trouble the best. He gets Lucas Pouille, the seventh seed who just won the Montpellier title on Sunday. Pouille was lucky to be in that position after being blown off the court by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s power, until Tsonga suffered a hamstring injury in their semifinal match. That pushed Pouille into the final and he took full advantage as he topped Richard Gasquet for his fifth career title. Rublev is another guy who struggles to match pure power, but this isn’t that sort of match-up. The big thing for the Russian is finding groove on serve. Pouille has the quick turnaround to deal with and he’s only played one career match in Rotterdam, a loss.

Yuichi Sugita
Sugita faces Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round. Dimitrov spanked him when they met in Cincinnati last year after Sugita fought hard in a three set loss to this week’s second seed when they first met at the Rogers Cup in 2016. Sugita never really had a chance last week in Montpellier as he came off a lengthy schedule in Davis Cup play with heavy travel. This week should be a more realistic tell of his form. He’s a tough cookie and with Dimitrov needing to prove healthy, you have to at least acknowledge that Sugita has a chance

Singles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Roger Federer: 23-6 (W – 2005, 2012)
(5) Stan Wawrinka: 6-1 (W – 2015)

Federer opens with qualifier Ruben Bemelmans. The two have never met. Bemelmans isn’t a total schlep on this surface with four finals at the Challenger level over the last two years indoors, including one title. He also made the semifinals in Antwerp last Fall, beating Nick Kyrgios along the way. It’s a big ask, but he could catch Federer with some rust to start, so Bemelmans could push him the distance. You’d think once Federer finds his game though, that this is his match to win. The survivor gets either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Karen Khachanov. The Russian won their only previous encounter on clay. Kohlschreiber has yet to win in an abbreviated start to the season with only two matches under his belt. That should favor Khachanov who was playing last week in Montpellier. The German made the semis in Rotterdam in 2016 and beat Lucas Pouille last year. He’s not without a chance against Khachanov who has problems at times with finding his consistency.

The bottom half features Wawrinka who did score a couple nice wins in Sofia last week, his first action since the Australian Open. He had the Dutch wildcard Greekspoor to start. Again, you would think the Swiss takes that one unless his body is hurting from playing more matches last week than he’s been used to in a good while. If he wins, he’ll battle either Robin Haase or Thiemo de Bakker. The Dutchmen have split two career meetings at this level, but have battled four other times in Challengers and Futures play, also splitting those clashes. de Bakker is 3-8 in Rotterdam, while Haase is 4-9 and has lost his first match here in six of the last seven years.

With Wawrinka still not near his best, this quarter should belong to Federer and get the job done in his quest for the #1 rankings. His second match might be his toughest, but I think only if it’s Khachanov. Tough to call a match against Kohlschreiber tough for him considering that the Swiss is 12-0 against him. If he gets Wawrinka in the quarters, he will be looking for his fifth straight win against Stan and 21st in 24 tries.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Alexander Zverev: 2-3
(9) Gilles Muller: 4-3

Zverev is drawn into a tricky opener against David Ferrer, but I do think he will get through that one. Sascha should have added confidence from his Davis Cup heroics, handing the Germans their tie over Australian with two big singles wins. Should Sascha move on, he will face the winner between Joao Sousa and Andreas Seppi. Sousa is 2-0 against Seppi with his last win coming against the Italian indoors at the Paris Masters. Sousa went 1-1 in Sofia last week, while Seppi gets in as a lucky loser after falling to Martin Klizan in qualifying. Seppi is 7-9 all-time in Rotterdam and has lost his opener in three of his last four trips. Sousa is 0-2. It is a real toss up with both having some decent runs in their careers indoors. Both match-ups should favor Sascha, but they won’t be easy.

In the bottom half, it’s Muller against Daniil Medvedev in a potential upset spot. I think Muller has a bit more power and his serve and volley game could hassle the Russian. As such, I think he might avoid the upset bid. The winner will take on the survivor between Richard Gasquet and qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert. PHH lost a tough three setter to Gasquet last week in Montpellier. That was their first match against each other and outside of Montpellier where Gasquet rarely loses, Herbert may have a shot to exact some quick revenge. I think the Muller-Medvedev winner has a shot to make a run.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) David Goffin: 4-4
(6) Tomas Berdych: 19-8 (W – 2014)

Goffin has the potential difficult opener against Benoit Paire and the winner there could see former champion Martin Klizan in the second round. Klizan came through qualifying again this year and faces off against Feliciano Lopez in the opening round. Lopez looks to line up as a loser in his spot again. He’s lost eight of nine matches in his career in Rotterdam. Klizan definitely looks like he could make a move to the quarterfinals at least, especially if Paire can help him by eliminating Goffin. Goffin’s loss to Gasquet in Montpellier was somewhat puzzling to me last week as he looked ready to make a push for the title, but was shaky against the Frenchman. So much like Paire – which Goffin shows up in Rotterdam?

The other half sees Berdych starting against Mischa Zverev. The German has a pretty good record indoors in recent years. Zverev does own a couple of wins in five tries against Berdych, but the majority of their meetings came before 2013, They met once last year on clay and it was Berdych who won. Zverev may contend well in this spot, so Berdych definitely needs to have his best from the opening ball. The winner gets Jan-Lennard Struff or Viktor Troicki. Struff went 7-5 indoors last year. Troicki made the quarters in Sofia last week, losing to Wawrinka in the quarters. The Serb has the experience advantage here, but is so inconsistent from week-to-week that I would not be surprised to see Struff win.

People don’t like to trust Berdych, but the Czech has good records against the contenders here at 2-1 against Goffin, 2-0 against Paire and 4-0 against Klizan. He could sneak through here and into the semis.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Grigor Dimitrov: 8-6
(7) Lucas Pouille: 0-1

Pouille arrives with the form after scoring a somewhat surprising title win in Montpellier against Richard Gasquet on Sunday. Dimitrov arrives with the health questions surrounding his shoulder. Dimitrov has the better draw in this quarter despite getting a potential road block in Sugita in round one. A win would net him an easier second round foe against either young Canadian Felix Augure-Aliassime or Filip Krajinovic. The 17-year old phenom from Canada is making his ATP debut in this spot. Krajinovic had the miracle run as a qualifier to the Paris Masters final late last season, losing to Jack Sock. It’s going to be tough for Felix to win, but interesting to watch.

Pouille has the more difficult half of this quarter with Andrey Rublev to open. The second round would pit him against either Sofia finalist Marius Copil or Damir Dzumhur. I think Rublev is the tougher battle to get through, but Dzumhur is a feisty sort who had some big success indoors late in 2017. Based on talent, this should be Pouille or Rublev’s half to push into the quarters. Rublev like many of the young Russians is having difficulty putting things together from match to match with his serve and he has a habit of letting his temper influence the proceedings too often. He needs early success I think and a win over Pouille would do that of course.

This is a quarter that could get flipped upside down and might show the most promise for an unseeded player to make their way into the semifinals. Keep in mind that an unseeded player has made the semifinals in three of the last four years.

The Pig-nosticator

Each tournament previewed, the Pig-nosticator will list out @tennispig‘s picks to sizzle and fizzle for the week. Don’t forget that if something you peruse through in the preview provides you with something helpful – a visit to the Tip Jar would be kindly appreciated.

Roger Federer
Martin Klizan

David Goffin
Lucas Pouille


ALl eyes will once again be on Roger Federer in his bid to become the oldest player to hold the #1 ranking on the ATP World Tour. Things should set up well for Fed to get that done, but he might run into trouble in the semis against Alexander Zverev. The bottom half of the draw looks more open to an unseeded player making a run. An unseeded player has made the final twice in the last four years and one of those guys is back in a similar position in Martin Klizan. Also keep an eye on Rublev and maybe Medvedev if either can find some consistency.

Bottom line – Federer is the rightful favorite and I think Zverev is a natural second choice after finding some confidence and form in Davis Cup play. Berdych is one I think you still keep track of because he could take advantage of some upsets in the bottom half.

Doubles Draw Preview

1. Kubot-Melo
2. Marach-Pavic
3. Herbert-Mahut
4. Rojer-Tecau

Top Half Breakdown
Kubot-Melo got away to a winning start on Monday in a dangerous spot against Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus. The top seeds prevailed 7-6 (2), 7-5. Kubot-Melo are in just their second trip to Rotterdam, having lost in the quarterfinals last year. The third seeds, Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut are also in this half. The French pair made the semifinals here last year. With the loaded field, Kubot-Melo will face tough tests all along the way. Their quarterfinal match comes against either Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram or the Zverev brothers, Alexander and Mischa. Dodig-Ram lost their first match together for this season in Montpellier last week.

The Zverevs have a good history of being factors when they play doubles together. They went 10-7 as a combo last year, including a title in Montpellier and a finals trip in Halle. They only lost their first match of a tournament twice in eight tournaments played, but one was here in Rotterdam. If the Zverevs win, they would face Kubot-Melo for the third time in the last two seasons. They’re 0-2, but took the top seeds to a super tie break in both previous meetings. Herbert-Mahut open against Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The French should prevail. The winners get the winner between Lucas Pouille/Karen Khachanov vs Rohan Bopanna/Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV are 4-2 on the season and seem the likelier winners.

The Pig-nosticator

The top seeds have not been involved in the final in this tournament since Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic won the titles in 2010. That doesn’t bode well for Kubot-Melo. Nicolas Mahut however has had a magic touch at this tournament with multiple partners. He won with Vasek Pospisil in 2016 and with Michael Llodra in 2014. Herbert-Mahut might have a shot, but the danger for them could be Bopanna and Roger-Vasselin. I like the survivor of that potential match to push through to the final.

Bottom Half Breakdown
This half includes 2018’s unbeaten pairing of Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. The top ranked duo is 14-0. This is their first run in Rotterdam. This half also includes Rojer-Tecau as the other seeds. Rojer-Tecau have the most experience as a duo in this tournament, having gone 11-3 in their careers together. They won the title in 2015. Marach-Pavic will need to be alert against Dutch qualifiers Thiemo de Bakker and Sander Arends. Arends teamed with Antonio Sancic last week in Montpellier to make the semis. Having match play already, they could be a bit dangerous. The survivors get Damir Dzumhur and Filip Krajinovic. They beat Andrey Rublev and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-3 in round one.

In the other part of this half with Rojer-Tecau, the fourth seeds play Marc and Feliciano Lopez in round one. Rojer-Tecau have dominated the Spaniards 3-1 in head-to-head matches, including a 6-4, 6-4 win last year in Rotterdam. A win and they could be looking at Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop in the quarters. The Dutch pair have been hot early this season with titles in Pune and Sofia. They take on a pair of young Dutchman in the opening round and should get through. Haase-Middelkoop will be a dangerous duo if they face the fourth seeds and they could pull off the upset.

The Pig-nosticator

As long as Marach-Pavic don’t get caught cold in round one, this again looks like their half of the draw to take. A clash with Rojer-Tecau would be mouth watering with the teams splitting two matches in 2017. Marach-Pavic winning indoors in Vienna, while Rojer-Tecau won outdoors in Shanghai. Hard to go against Marach-Pavic who were hot indoors late last season too.


If you believe the top seed curse here, you take Kubot-Melo out of the mix. Marach-Pavic have to be the favorites until they lose, but there are plenty of dangerous teams in this loaded field, including the vets Rojer and Tecau. Herbert-Mahut have the magic #3 seed that has belonged to the Rotterdam title holders three times in the past five years, so you have to look at them as well. If we’re talking unseeded outsiders that could snatch the titles, look no further than Haase-Middelkoop or perhaps Bopanna-ERV.

I think when it’s money time though, a seed is going to take the victory this week. For me, it’s a toss up between Marach-Pavic and Herbert-Mahut. I have a gut feeling this is the spot where Marach-Pavic may finally lose a match this season.


2018 Australian Open QF Preview: Roger Federer vs Tomas Berdych


(2) Roger Federer vs (19) Tomas Berdych

Veterans Mix It Up For 26th Time

It’s been an expected romp for defending Australian Open Champion Roger Federer so far in Melbourne. The Swiss has not dropped a set through four rounds and is now the last member of the “Big Four” still standing after the exits of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Fed overcome a solid performance from Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in the fourth round 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2. The Swiss was not broken in the match, the second time in four rounds that has happened. In fact, Fucsovics did not get a single look at a break point with Fed winning 83 percent off his first serve and a stout 76 percent off his second. The Swiss had an okay day on the ground with 34 winners and 28 unforced errors.

Federer broke the Hungarian three times on ten chances, giving him 15 breaks of his opponents’ serves this week on 42 chances. Fed came through his first day match in good spirits and said having played practice sessions with Fucsovics in Switzerland helped him in this match. The win was Federer’s 91st at the Australian Open, tying his record at Wimbledon for the most matches he has won at one Grand Slam. This match against Berdych will be his 52nd Slam quarterfinal. At 36, he is the oldest player to reach the quarters at a Slam since Jimmy Connors in 1991, when he was 39.

Berdych has sailed through the last two rounds in straight sets over Juan Martin Del Potro and Fabio Fognini. In the fourth round, the Czech cruised past Fognini 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Berdych did have trouble landing his first serve at just 47 percent. He was able to win 57 percent off his second serve and 76 percent off his first serve. Fognini did break the Czech two times on nine chances. Berdych’s ground game was crisp with just 20 unforced errors to go with 37 winners. The win sent Berdych into the quarters for the seventh time in the last eight years in Melbourne.

This 26th meeting between the two brings Federer on court with an eight match winning streak in the series. Berydch last beat Federer in Dubai in 2013. Since then, Fed has lost just two of the past 21 sets they have played. At Slams, the Swiss is 7-2 against Berdych with four wins over the Czech coming in Melbourne. Only one of those did not end in straight sets. They met three times last season with Federer winning in straights sets in Australia and at Wimbledon. Berdych took a set off of Fed in Miami, but lost in three.

The Formula

So where does Berdych go to find success having won just six of 19 against Federer? Return has been a major issue for the Czech against Federer. Last year’s Australian Open was a clinic in which Fed won 95 percent of the points off his first serve. At Wimbledon, Federer was slightly less dominant with an 84 percent win rate on first serve. Berdych broke Federer just once on six tries – all of which came at Wimbledon.

The difference in Miami was a better return game for Berdych and Fed at less than his best. Fed won just 71 percent off his first serve and the Czech did secure two breaks on four chances in that 6-2 3-6, 7-6 (6) win. Federer had to save two match points in the deciding tie break and it was Berdych who tightened up with a double fault to seal the win for Fed. That has always been the big question with Berdych – mentally in big moments against the top tier guys, more often than not he has had trouble closing the deal.

To get to having that chance, he will have to find a way into Federer’s service games this evening. The good thing is that Berdych’s return game has been pretty solid this week, but Fed is always a different beast to face. We know what Fed wants to do – hit his serve with power, pace and precision. He doesn’t need aces to dominate, he simply needs to make sure he’s throwing Berdych off balance to move in and finish off those quick 1-2 punches for easier points. Berdych’s job is to try and get Federer away from that and into rallies. Both his forehand and backhand are solid and come with power.

In stationary positions, where he can set his feet – Berdych is a clean and powerful ball striker. Look for Fed to keep him on the move to avoid that and he’ll do that in a variety of ways with his ability to come to net as a big difference maker. Berdych moves decently, but has much less power and precision on the move. As usual with tall players like Berdych, it’s also a good bet that Federer will look to play the ball low to stay out of the Czech’s strike zone. Making Berdych stretch to hit low balls saps him of his bite off both wings and makes perfect sense.

When they go toe-to-toe from the baseline, Berdych has to try and avoid the Federer forehand. The backhand has been pretty steady, but is usually the side Federer can break down on in those rare occasions these days when he struggles. One of Berdych’s best weapons in those exchanges will be the double handed backhand down-the-line, especially if he can craft it into a backhand to backhand exchange.If Federer is running around to his forehand, I think it is smarter for Berdych to stay with his backhand instead of trying to run around to his own forehand. That usually backfires and gets you in bad court positions.

The Pig-nosticator

The last two rounds look good on paper for Berdych, but keep in mind that Del Potro was obviously compromised from his match against Karen Khachanov in the round prior to that. Fognini also appeared a bit hampered with a leg issue, so this will be a big step up for Berdych. That much would have been obvious regardless and the big issue for him really to start is mental. You lose to a player that many times and in recent times, barely win any sets … it takes its toll. I think it’s imperative for Berdych to go toe-to-toe with Federer early on.

Starting with a blowout set would really test his mental fortitude. It’s how Federer started against him in last year’s Aussie meeting and Berdych could do little to recover in the 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 defeat. It’s also a no brainer that Berdych would love to put some scoreboard pressure on Federer by taking an early set. In five Slam matches last season where Federer lost one of the first two sets, he was beaten once and taken to five sets three times. If you stretch it back another yeat to 2016, there were four other Slam matches where Fed lost at least one of the first two sets with two losses and a third stretched to five sets.

The formula is there. Start well enough and force Federer to feel some pressure. This has been a comfortable match-up for Federer both before his injuries and after, so it’s difficult to imagine Berdych stepping up in this spot. Berdych is healthy and that is a plus, but I think he will need some help from Federer to push him in this match. Nadal’s injury yesterday probably only focuses Federer more in his quest for Slam title #20. I can see Berdych taking a set, but hard to see anything more than that if Federer’s game plan is up to snuff.

Pig’s Bottom Line: Federer wins in straight sets


2018 Australian Open R4 Preview: Tomas Berdych vs Fabio Fognini


(19) Tomas Berdych vs (25) Fabio Fognini

Berdych Seeks Another Aussie Quarterfinal

Without a ton of fanfare, Tomas Berdych is in position to make his 7th Australian Open quarterfinal in the last eight years. Berdych powered past Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. DelPo was obviously compromised from the previous round with low energy, but Berdych also played a solid match. The Czech slammed 20 aces and sported a 77 percent win rate off his first serve. His ground game was relatively clean with 52 winners and 28 unforced errors. Berdych was into Del Potro’s serve routinely, winning an astounding 26 of 34 points off the Argentine’s second serve and taking a solid 38 percent off his first serve. The 19th seed would convert on seven of 18 break points. Berdych saved seven of nine against his serve.

Berdych has maintained his best weapon well through three rounds this week, his first serve. He is winning just over 80 percent of the points played off his first serve. His second serve does remain an issue with the Czech winning right around 44 percent for the tournament. He has done a solid job on saving break chances against his serve, saving 14 of 21 break chances during the first week. His ground game has been a bit up and down, but he is coming in with confidence off of his best performance – even if Del Potro wasn’t up to snuff.

Fognini Secures Best Finish in Melbourne

The 25th seed from Italy survived a stern test from Julien Benneteau in the third round. Fognini won the back and forth match 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. It was typical Fognini with a lot of winners (57) and a lot of unforced errors (51). As per usual, Fognini also faced a lot of pressure on his serve. The 25th seed was forced to face 14 break points, saving all but three of them. He did a solid job when he saw break chances from Benneteau, converting on seven of 12. For the week, Fognini has done a masterful job of pressuring his opponents. He has crafted 40 break chances and converted 18 times.

The win marks the second time in Fognini’s career that the 30-year-old has made the fourth round in Australia. The last came back in 2014. This traditionally had been the Italian’s worst Slam with first round exits in seven of his previous ten trips down under. This is just the fourth time in his career that he’s made round four at a Slam and only once has he progressed past this point. That came at the French Open in 2011 when he beat Albert Montanes 11-9 in the fifth set. Fognini would withdraw from the tournament following the match due to a leg injury.

The Formula

This will mark the fifth time that Berdych and Fognini have met with the series split at 2-2. Berdych won their lone Grand Slam meeting in straight sets at the 2011 U.S. Open, where he bageled Fognini in the last two sets. Their last meeting was on clay in Rome in 2015. Berdych prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2). Three of the four meetings were on clay with Fognini winning twice. The hard courts in Melbourne might favor Berdych’s power advantage, but the Italian is a shot maker who can use quick conditions to his benefit as well.

A big difference maker in this one could be serve. Berdych has done a better job through three rounds of landing his first serve consistently. It’s a huge plus when he does this with his second serve being problematic. When the Czech is in rhythm with his first serve, he’s getting quick points. Berdych’s best success this week have come when he’s used his power and precision on serve to push his opponent back or wide with that first serve. In turn, the second ball is usually an easy put-away for the Czech. That’s a winning formula against most players.

For me, Fognini is going to have to try and be aggressive on return. When he hit solid returns against Benneteau, it got him into the rallies right away. The Frenchman’s best success came in targeting Fognini’s backhand. I went back to the tap from the Sydney International earlier this month when the Italian faced a power player in Daniil Medvedev. The Russian also had success going after Fognini’s backhand side on return, both down-the-T and into the body. I’d expect Berdych can find similar success if he follows that pattern to get into positive court position.

I think a more aggressive posture from Fognini on return would also allow him to get to net more often, an area where he thrives from his doubles experience. When Berdych is forced into second serves, that is where Fognini should pounce. In the ground battle, Fognini isn’t going to be reserved. He goes for winners and let’s the chips fall where they may. His forehand is probably the more consistent power, but his two handed backhand isn’t bad either. For Berdych, getting around to the forehand is paramount. He’s been using the slice off his backhand to do this and the more forehands he hits, the better his chances to create winning rallies.

The Pig-nosticator

The court plays to Berdych’s strengths, but that doesn’t mean Fognini isn’t without a chance in this one. His grip it and rip it style can cause nightmares for anyone. I think the big thing to watch in this one is how many times Berdych is forced to go to the second serve. The higher that number climbs, the better the chances that Fognini gets the upset win. For Fognini, I think his serve needs to provide purpose. Too often, he seems to just be happy to get it into play to get a rally going. He needs better consistency with precision to force Berdych into poor court positions.

Fognini is a more experienced and better hard court player since that meeting over six years ago in New York. It will be interesting to see if he can paint enough lines with those power ground strokes to bother Berdych. He’s one of those guys who can lock in and frustrate the hell out of an opponent by doing this and it’s always his best chance on this surface. Mentally, Berdych has to be prepared to deal with periods where Fognini could be in the zone. He’ll need to continue to take care of his serve and hope that the Italian can’t keep that up consistently.

I do expect that Fognini will push Berdych some in this match, but I think the Czech power on serve will be the edge here as long as he can land that first serve with consistency. He’s been 59 percent or better in that category through three rounds. If he hits around that percentage again, I think he gets it done.

Pig’s Bottom Line: Berdych wins in four sets