Last year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato has been struggling for his form lately. The Italian failed to repeat his biggest achievement and lost 710 ranking points, dropping a first-round match in Paris to Nicolas Mahut. Between the beginning of May and the Pekao Szczecin Open, Cecchinato won just two matches in 14 tournaments.
So far in Szczecin, he has managed to come through Manuel Guinard, Alexey Vatutin, and Taro Daniel. None of the matches were particularly impressive on his part, but he seems to be getting better each day.
Against Guinard, the Italian struggled mightilu to return the Frenchman’s first serve. If it wasn’t for some open court forehand misses, the match could have easily gone to a decider. Vatutin plays a Davydenko-like game and many predicted he can be much tougher to beat. However, the Russian had issues dealing with Cecchinato’s high topspin and couldn’t keep up his hard-hitting game. Just like his aforementioned compatriot, he had only two-game plans – hit hard and hit harder.
A nervy beginning for Cecchinato
The seventh seed Taro Daniel managed to take the first set in an exciting tie-break. The Japanese first led 5-3 and missed three chances to win on Cecchinato’s serve. The Italian managed to fight back and even held two set points of his own, before finally succumbing to Daniel nine points to eleven in the tie-breaker. He got a point penalty for breaking his racquet, having previously thrown a ball out of the stadium and repeatedly slammed another one into the fence.
However, as the match went on, Daniel was getting physically weaker. It allowed Cecchinato to start attacking more freely and regain control.
Brilliant shot selection
It was a fun match between two contrasting playstyles in the quarterfinal at the Pekao Szczecin Open. The Japanese plays a deep, consistent ball and mostly tries to outlast his opponent in baseline rallies. Cecchinato has a lot of variety and wins the points in many different ways.
One thing the Italian has absolute belief in is his dropshots. He can play a perfect short ball from any position on the court, especially from the forehand. Even though he used that shot a lot today, none of them were particularly easy to read.
The one-handed backhand down-the-line is still a huge weapon for Marco. The Italian has no problem going for it in important moments. However, what’s perhaps most impressive in Cecchinato’s game is his point construction, the anticipation of the opponent’s movement and shot selection. It’s impossible to count how many times the Italian’s dropshots or well-placed shots left Daniel wrong-footed. Against an opponent with so much variety and well-developed court intelligence, you never know what to expect.
A tough match ahead
The Italian talked at the press conference about how last year’s success put a lot of pressure on him and how disappointing it was not to be able to do it again. The reason why he’s playing the Pekao Szczecin Open is to find some match rhythm and confidence. Last four months it has mostly been one match for a tournament and he’s very glad to have found a way to win three matches here already. He’s not too worried about his ranking dropping to no.66 as it’s still a good position.
Cecchinato will play Jozef Kovalik in the semifinals. There are some similarities between the two – the Slovak has also had a brilliant last season, peaking in July when he reached Hamburg European Open semifinals. A disappointing summer has brought Kovalik down to a position in the fourth hundred of the ATP Rankings. However, the Slovak is also getting stronger with each match and in two great wins the past few days (over Pawel Cias and Constant Lestienne), he has shown glimpses of his previous self.
Should he come through, it will only get tougher as waiting in the finals would be either last year’s champion Guido Andreozzi or the top seed, World no. 49 Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Photo credit: Pekao Szczecin Open