Murray vs Kuznetsov 30.05.17

French Open, Roland Garros, France, Clay Courts, ATP

Latest posts by Tennis Purist (see all)

Today we focus on the British and world number one, Andy Murray, as he takes on the Russian world number 73, Andrey Kuznetsov, in an eagerly anticipated Round 1 encounter at the French Open, Roland Garros.

Needless the say that the form of  both men going into this match has been stark in contrast. Murray has really struggled with this movement and timing on the clay, however this is not unusual for him as he transitions from the first hard court swing of the season. The Brit has suffered early exits in Monte Carlo, Madrid and more recently, Rome but will be hoping that the longer best of five set format can help him find some rhythm and form on the dirt. Kuznetsov, on the other hand has been playing some inspired tennis, a Quarter Final run in Budapest and a Semi Final run last week in Geneva, losing a close(ish) match to Wawrinka will have the Russian full of confidence going into today’s clash. This pair have met twice before, both on hard courts, Murray winning both matches in pretty convincing fashion. This however is not the same Andy Murray as back then, he’s short of confidence and on a surface that he’s least comfortable on, the same of which cannot be said for Kuznetsov. I think this might be a very interesting match, especially the opening set or two.

Let’s try and put some science behind that judgement by looking at the players recent clay court mean serving stats; Murray has won 59% of his service points and held serve just 70% of the time. To put this into context, the recent clay court Tour mean stats are, 62% service points won and 76% service hold. What’s even more interesting is, if you compare Murray clay court numbers to his recent hard court mean service stats of 68% service points won and 84% service hold, there is an even bigger disparity. It’s plain for all to see that Murray is really struggling on serve at the moment, Kuznetsov will look to go after the Brit’s vulnerable second serve, and if its not firing the Russian will certainly create chances to break. Kuznetsov’s recent clay court mean serving stats look like this; 65% service points won and 82% service hold. These numbers look solid and comfortably above the recent clay court Tour mean. The Russian will need to keep these numbers high today though, as we all know Murray’s biggest strength is his return of serve on any surface.

This lead me nicely onto looking at the return stats for both players; Murray’s recent clay court mean numbers show, 46% return points won, 53% break points chances won and opponents holding 57% of the time. As you’d expect, high numbers from Murray, especially against the recent clay court Tour mean of 38% return points won, 40% break points won and 77% opponents hold. Kuznetsov’s numbers look like this, 39% return points won, 37% break points won and opponents have held 77% of the time against him. The Russian looks pretty much on par with the Tour mean on return, however with Murray’s serve out of form, these numbers could quite conceivably rise today.

Off the ground Murray needs to find more depth and power on both the forehand and backhand sides, if he can do that and improve his serving percentages then he should win this match. Kuznetsov’s game plan will be clear from the off, he will attack Murray’s serve and look to be aggressive and dictate play, especially off the forehand wing. If the Russian can start well and take the opening set then he stands a chance, but a drop in intensity or concentration and Murray will pounce.

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