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Dominic Thiem in Madrid in May 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Dominic Thiem in Madrid in May 2019. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)|Associated Press
Tennis

Austrian Open Kitzbuhel Wednesday: Abrams picks Lajovic vs. Chardy, Thiem vs. Ofner, Ramos-Vinolas vs. Munar, Ruud, Verdasco and more

Matches start at 5 am EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Generali Open

Kitzbuhel, Austria

Men’s Second Round

Dusan Lajovic over Jeremy Chardy

Jeremy Chardy seems to be playing nice tennis on the clay. He had an impressive first round win over Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in two tough sets, 7-6, 7-5, which realistically could have gone the other way, but the Frenchman pulled it out. Normally I’d pick Dusan Lajovic to win this match, because he’s had a good year, is playing well, and is ranked way ahead of Chardy (#26 vs. #74). But they’ve played five times, going way back to 2011 in Russia, and both times they’ve played on clay the Frenchman won. That’s not always a “tell”, but in this case it gives me pause to think that Lajovic could pull off his first clay-court win over Chardy right now.

Pablo Cuevas over Dennis Novak

I like Pablo Cuevas in this match, although they’ve never played so there’s no personal history to use as a guide. But Novak has played very little ATP Tour tennis this year, with only seven matches under his belt, including his first round win here. Cuevas has played 35 matches this year, has a winning record, and is ranked over 65 places higher than Novak, all of which I think are important stats.

Fernando Verdasco over Jozef Kovalik

Fernando Verdasco may be 35-years-old now, but on the tennis court he can still bring it. Jozef Kovalik has done pretty well this year in Challenger events, but had lost in 10 consecutive first rounds in ATP Tour events before he finally got off the schneid and beat winless wild card Jurij Rodionov (ranked #280) in the first round here. Frankly, I don’t give Kovalik, a home-grown wild card himself, much of a chance in this match. Verdasco is just too smooth.

Dominic Thiem over Sebastian Ofner

Sebastian Ofner is another Austrian wild-card who came through with a close first round win over Lucas Miedler, an Austrian qualifier. Ofner doesn’t have the game to hang with an elite player like Thiem, and I don’t think this match should be very competitive. But for these young guys on the cusp of the Tour, these matches are a good barometer as to where they are in their development and what they have to do to get to the top. More often than not, it’s unattainable.

Casper Ruud over Matthias Bachinger

Norweigian 20-year-old Casper Ruud is making a name for himself around the Tour, and is now considered both a tough draw and a good win. He should beat German journeyman Matthias Bachinger, ranked #125, who is only 2-3 on the Tour this year. Bachinger is pretty much a Challenger player, although he had a nice week back in February in Marseille, France when he won two qualifying matches and two main draw matches before succumbing to Ugo Humbert in the quarters. Nonetheless, Ruud is the real deal, and may be known internationally as the guy who was playing Nick Kyrgios in Rome back in May when the man from Down Under had a Bobby Knight-level explosion and threw a chair on to the court. That made more highlights than the wins Ruud had before that match, over Miomir Kecmanovic and Dan Evans. The win over Kyrgios got Ruud a Round of 16 match with Juan Martin del Potro, which Ruud lost 4-6, 4-6.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas over Juame Munar

I thought that Juame Munar was having a pretty good year, but his stats belie this. He’s only 16-19 going into this tournament. Ramos-Vinolas, however, is on a roll, coming off last week’s wonderful triumph in Gstaad where he ran through five really good clay courters, including Fernando Verdasco, Roberto Carballes Baena, and Pablo Andujar. Interestingly, the Spaniard had beaten both Verdasco and Carballes Baena the week before also, that time in Bastad at the Swedish Open. I don’t really understand why these guys insist on playing in clay court tournaments when the U.S. Open is just four weeks away, but my guess is because that’s where they feel most comfortable and believe they can win ranking points to ease their draw in New York City. One thing’s for sure, Ramos-Vinolas sure feels good on the dirt. Oh, one other thing; Ramos-Vinolas is 3-0, lifetime, against Munar, all on the slow stuff.

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