Jozef Kovalik to Face Guido Andreozzi in Pekao Szczecin Open Final

Guido Andreozzi
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Guido Andreozzi will try to become the first man to defend the Pekao Szczecin Open title. Together with Guillermo Duran, he also made the final in doubles last year. In the 2019 edition, Andreozzi partnered with Andres Molteni and managed to clinch the title. Winning both singles and doubles in the same year was only achieved once here, by Dustin Brown five years ago.

Facing him will be Slovak Jozek Kovalik, last year’s Hamburg European Open semifinalist.

The Spanish curse is alive

Guido Andreozzi has made sure that the sentence “no Spaniard has ever won the Pekao Szczecin Open” will remain true for at least one more year. In the quarterfinals, the defending champion defeated the fourth seed, Roberto Carballes Baena. A round later, the Argentinian proved to be too good for world no. 49 Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Andreozzi kicked off the match very well, taking all the advantage he could get from the Spaniard’s lousy start. Ramos-Vinolas is a player who made a living on clean, consistent ball-striking and he was missing far too much to win the first set.

The Argentinian fell behind a break early in the second set and went looking for a change of tactics. As he couldn’t take easy points from the baseline anymore, he started mixing it up with net play attempts and a lot of backhand drop shots. While that seemed to work for a while, Ramos-Vinolas needed just a game or two to adapt and took the second set six games to two.

The momentum seemed to be with the Spaniard but it was Andreozzi who made the first strike in the decider. The fifth seed chose to drop his ideas from the second set and instead focused on playing very close to the baseline and pushing Ramos behind as much as he could. That turned out to be the remedy for beating the world no. 49. Andreozzi played a brilliant set of offensive baselining and after exactly two hours of play, the match was over.

A boost of confidence

Jozef Kovalik’s road to the final shows that tennis is a game of very fine margins. The Slovak was three match points down to Lorenzo Giustino in the second round, only to fight back and win the decider 6-1. Kovalik has been playing brilliant tennis ever since defeating Pawel Cias, Constant Lestienne, and Marco Cecchinato in straight-set affairs.

The semifinal against Cecchinato was by far the toughest, although it might not seem so by the scoreline 7-6, 6-1. The Italian fought back from being 3-5 down in the opener and later held two set points in the tie-breaker. Kovalik was a little too up and down but managed to be more aggressive than his opponent in key moments and take the set.

The Slovak was brilliant in pushing Cecchinato far behind the baseline, not allowing him to use all the variety and the wide range of shots the Italian has. The world no. 66 was not able to play his game and became increasingly frustrated.

The Italian got a point penalty for throwing two balls out of the stadium and wasn’t in good mental shape. With an early break for Kovalik in the second set, the match was done. Cecchinato didn’t care anymore and started rushing between the points, wanting to get out of there as soon as possible. The Slovak didn’t blink and held all his service games until the very end.

Two crowd favorites

The crowd had probably hoped for a Ramos-Vinolas against Cecchinato final, one that could easily be the deciding match of an ATP 250 tournament. However, they won’t be too disappointed with this lineup. Andreozzi made a lot of fans with his stunning performances in Szczecin over the years. Slovaks are generally treated as friends in Poland and it helps that the language barrier is practically non-existent in that case – Polish-speaking people understand a lot of Slovakian and the other way round.

This is Kovalik’s first good result after a wrist surgery he had late last season. The Slovak didn’t play for six months after US Open 2018 and it has completely destroyed the momentum he had. As he said at the press conference, after this titanic win over Giustino, anything else here is a bonus.

Andreozzi mentioned feeling a lot of support from the crowd and he’s hoping that Polish tennis fans will help him again in the final tomorrow. The Argentinian couldn’t specify why he’s performing so well in Poland, but spoke highly of the hospitality of locals.

In the pair’s only previous meeting, Andreozzi won 7-5 6-4. It was a Challenger semifinal in Santo Domingo, back in 2016.

Main Photo credit: Pekao Szczecin Open