Berdych vs Tsonga 27.05.17

Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Lyon, Clay Courts, ATP

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Today will see two heavyweights of the mens game, Thomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga face off in the Final of the ATP 250 clay court event at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Lyon.

Berdych, ranked 14 in the world and Tsonga, ranked 13 in the world are no stranger to one another, in fact this will be their eighteenth meeting, but just their third on clay. Berdych leads the Head to Head 9-8, however it was Tsonga who won their last match in Rotterdam earlier this year, 6-3 6-4. They share a win a piece on the clay, with both meetings today being back in 2015.

Onto today, and both players have won three matches to get to the Final; Berdych beat Hyeon Chung in the opening Round, Giles Simon in the Quarter Final and Milos Raonic yesterday. The Czech is yet to drop a set and has been in impressive form this week, navigating through a tough draw. Tsonga’s draw has been easier on paper but the Frenchman has been made to work hard for his victories. He started off by defeating Carlos Berlocq in the opening Round, having dropped the first set on a tiebreak, Tsonga rallied to win the next two 6-2 6-3. In the Quarter Final he faced Karen Khachanov, and comfortably defeated the Russian 6-0 6-4. Tsonga was then pushed all the way again in the Semi Finals, this time by the dangerous Nikoloz Basilashvili. In a topsy-turvy match, Tsonga won the first set 6-2, dropped the next 3-6, before breaking the Georgian three times in the final set to take it 6-1.

Now this is a tricky encounter to call, but let’s try and make our lives a little easier by breaking down the serve and return stats for both men…

On serve this week Berdych has won 69% of his points and held serve 87% of the time. His recent clay court mean numbers are, 67% service points won and 86% service hold. So we can see that Berdych has been serving at his peak this week, i’m not sure he’s necessarily going to need to serve quite that well today in order to hold, as I think this match will be very serve-dominated. Tsonga this week has won 69% of his service points and held serve 88% of the time. His recently clay court mean are, 67% service points won and 85% service hold. You’ll notice that Tsonga’s recent clay court mean numbers are practically identical to Berdych’s, giving us further indication that this is unlikely to be a match awash with breaks of serve. Talking of which…..

Let’s look at the return of serve numbers now; this week Berdych has won 41% of his return points, 63% of his break point chances and his opponents have held serve against him 67% of the time. This compares to his recent clay court mean numbers of, 36% return points won, 39% break point converted and opponents holding serve 79% of the time. We can see from this that Berdych has been more clinical at converting break point chances this week. In a match today where one break of serve in each set may well be enough to win, if Berdych can keep that break point conversion % up then he may well be the one lifting the trophy. Let’s take a look at Tsonga’s numbers on return this week; the Frenchman has won 46% of his return points, 38% of his break points and opponents have held serve just 57% of the time against him. These numbers compare to his recent clay court mean of, 40% return points won, 37% break points converted and 72% opposition hold. Tsonga has been returning serve very well this week, however he has not faced anyone who has a serve anywhere near as big as Berdych, so we must take this into consideration. Tsonga’s recent clay court mean numbers do show that he is a better returner than Berdych, if he can start getting some returns into play and stop the Czech winning too many free points on serve then he stands a chance of breaking.

Off the ground, both players will be looking to take charge of the points, predominantly with their huge forehands. Neither player will be venturing into the net much apart from the occasional serve and volley, so expect plenty of hard-hitting baseline exchanges but not floods of long rallies.

This looks a very even encounter on paper; similar serve and return stats, similar styles of play, a tight Head to Head record and only one place between them in the rankings suggest this one could go either way. Tsonga will however be playing in front of his home crowd this afternoon, and that might just be enough to tip the balance in his favour.


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