Kicker vs Sandgren 08.06.17
Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, Clay Courts, Mens Challenger Tour
For the first time in a fortnight we break away from previewing matches at Roland Garros, and instead turn our attention to the mens Challenger Tour, specifically the Czech Open clay court event played in Prostejov, Czech Republic. The tournament was first played at Tour level in 1994 and has seen eleven previous Czech-born winners, including Jiri Vesley who has won it twice in the past three years. Last years champion was Mikhail Kukushkin, however the Kazakh willl not be successfully defending his title, as he was defeated in the opening Round on Monday by Nicolas Jarry in straight sets. Two players hoping to get there hands on the trophy though are Argentine world number 87, Nicolas Kicker and American world number 117, Tennys Sandgren.
This will be the first meeting between the pair, however both players have posted some strong results on the dirt this year. Both lost in the opening Round of the French Open, but prior to that qualified for the 250 event in Lyon, France. Kicker went all the way to the Quarter Finals, where he eventually succumbed to Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets. Sandgren drew Carlos Berlocq in the First Round proper, also losing out in straight sets, 6-2 6-4. The American did win a title in Savannah, USA just last month though and reached the final in Sarasota, USA in April, losing to Frances Tiafoe. So both are in decent form, and i’m expecting a well-contested match here.
Czech Open Results So Far…
Kicker opened his campaign with a routine straight sets victory against Guido Andreozzi 7-6 6-2, losing his serve just the once. His second Round encounter was far more of a challenge though, with the Spaniard, Roberto Carballes Baena taking him to three sets. The Argentine took the first set 6-4, before being broken three times on his way to losing the second 2-6. Kicker made hard work of the decider, dropping his serve in the second game, before recovering his composure to take it 6-2.
Sandgren drew Basilashvili in Round 1 and surprisingly out-hit the Georgian on his way to a straight sets 6-2 6-4 win. The American then followed this up with another highly impressive display in Round 2 against the German, Kevin Krawietz, dispatching him in just over an hour, 6-2 6-1.
In his opening two matches Kicker won 59% of his service points and held serve 74% of the time. These compare to his recent clay court mean numbers of 61% service points won and 72% service hold. Kicker will need to serve consistently today, as Sandgren will put plenty of balls back in play off the return.
Sangren so far this week has won 63% of his service points and held serve 88% of the time. These compare to his recent clay court mean numbers of 63% service points won and 81% service hold. The American has only been broken twice so far in his opening two matches, and if he can get the ball into Kicker’s backhand off the serve, then he should win plenty of free points.
Kicker this week has won 44% of his return points, 69% of his break points and his opponents have held serve 61% of the time. These compare to his recent clay court mean numbers of 40% return points won, 41% break points won and 75% opposition hold. The Argentine has been returning well this week, and he’ll need to continue to be aggressive in order look to gain a foothold in the Sandgren service games.
Sandgren this week has won 52% of his return points, 53% of his break points and his opponents have held serve just 44% of the time. These compare to his recent clay court mean numbers of 40% return points won, 46% break points won and 73% opposition hold. The American makes a lot of balls off the return, and if he can keep his break point conversion % high he’ll certainly get plenty of chances off the Kicker serve.
Kicker hits a big forehand, but his backhand can be a real weakness. Sandgren is solid off both sides, and will look to counter-punch using Kicker’s pace off the ground. Kicker will look to keep the points as short as possible, with Sandgren more than happy to work his openings from the back of the court.
Based on stats and performances so far this week i think Sandgren stands a great chance today. He will also hit a lot of inside-out forehands, which will be going straight into Kicker’s weaker backhand corner and I can’t help feeling like this alone will make it a tough ask for the Argentine today. If Kicker is to give himself the best chance of winning he needs to be extremely aggressive and look to end points in under 5 shots.
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