After a week of high quality tennis, and with the Australian Open due to start on Monday, the latter stages of the ATP Cup provides the players involved a final chance to prepare for the first grand-slam of the year. Saturdays semifinal lineups promise to produce two close ties that could both be decided by deciding doubles matches. Here are my predictions for Saturdays semifinal lineup.
ATP Cup Semifinal Predictions
Italy vs Spain
The semifinal taking place on John Cain Arena promises to be another close tie. The first match of the day sees Fabio Fognini taking on Pablo Carreno Busta. Fognini had a disastrous start to the week, suffering a shock straight sets defeat to Dennis Novak. However, Fognini returned to court with Matteo Berrettini to win the deciding doubles against Austria, before going on to beat Benoit Paire in straight sets the following day. Carreno Busta has done well after coming into the team unexpectedly due to Rafael Nadal’s back injury. The Spaniard has looked in impressive form, recording straight sets over John Millman and Michail Pervolarakis. Both Fognini and Carreno Busta are similar in terms of their game-styles, and Fognini is always unpredictable, however I think this will go to three sets and I think the like all seven of their previous encounters, the Spaniard will get the win in three tight sets.
The second match of the tie should be another close one, as Matteo Berrettini takes on Roberto Bautista Agut. The Italian has had a great tournament so far winning both his matches against Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils, and the Italian has arguably the most lethal serve and forehand combination on tour. This match will be a clash of two different game styles, with Bautista Agut looking to make a lot of balls and looking to get the Italian involved in long baseline exchanges. On the other hand, Berrettini will be looking to shorten the points and overpower the Spaniard, giving him an opportunity to finish points off at the net. Although recording a comeback victory over Alex De Minaur, Bautista Agut has struggled with his serve this week, and it is this area of his game in particular that the Italian will be looking to exploit. I think Berrettini will get the win in two tight sets.
As far as the doubles rubber is concerned, Spain have got plenty of option with Marcel Granollers being a strong doubles specialist, however Italy also have strong options for the doubles, with the possibility of playing the 2015 Australian Open champions Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini. It’s difficult to predict without knowing the confirmed teams, but I think Spain may just pull through.
Match Prediction: Spain 2-1
Expected Singles Predictions:
Carreno Busta over Fognini in 3
Berrettini over Bautista Agut in 2
Germany vs Russia
The first match of the day on Rod Laver Arena features two teams, each of whom has seen the second-ranked players in particular step up to the plate. In the case of Germany, Jan-Lennard Struff has performed brilliantly, especially considering his slow starts to both of his singles matches. Against Raonic, the German struggled with his first serve percentage at the beginning of the match, giving Raonic break point opportunities to establish his dominance in the match. However, the Canadian failed to convert any of his opportunities, and the German began to find a read of the Canadian’s serve, and began to find his first serve, dominating the first set tiebreak, before going on to win in straight sets. Friday against Lajovic, the German again failed to establish himself at the beginning of the match, allowing Lajovic to begin to get a foothold in the match and dominate the rallies, and the Serbian took the opening set. However, it was the beginning of the second set where the match was decided, where Lajovic failed to convert from being 0-40 up on Struff’s serve. That gave the German the confidence needed to come from behind and get the win.
Saturday Struff faces Andrey Rublev, and the Russian has been in ruthless form, dropping only seven games in his two wins over Pella and Nishioka. Those matches allowed Rublev to showcase his aggressive, dominant baseline game. However, it is important to note that both the Argentine and the Japanese player, both are counter-punchers that look to get opponents bogged down in long baseline rallies. However, hey do not possess the consistent power to rush Rublev on his ground strokes. Struff has the power and the weapons to cause the Russian problems, and I am expecting this to be a long three setter. However, I believe that Rublev is more consistent on his backhand side and in his return game, so I am predicting him to get the win in three sets.
The second match of the tie sees a repeat of the Paris Masters final from last season, where the Russian showcased why he is one of the most tactically astute players in the game. Medvedev has not produced his best tennis this week, however he has still been able to win both of his matches in straight sets. 2021 could prove to be the biggest year of the Russian’s career to date, and I expect this to be the year where the Russian wins his first grand-slam title. In Alexander Zverev, the Russian has got his toughest opponent of the week so far. The German has had an impressive comeback win over over Denis Shapovalov and took the first set in a tight three set defeat to Novak Djokovic. The German has one of the best serves in the world and has the rare quality of both his forehand and backhand being weapons. I think this will be another tight three set match, but I think Medvedev is the player who’s ground strokes are least likely to break down under pressure and I think he will get the win in three tight sets.
As far as the doubles rubber is concerned, despite the Germans having an established doubles pairing in Krawietz and Mies, they have yet to play together this week. Russia are likely to play Rublev and Medvedev in a deciding doubles match, despite the fact that they have not played together this week, I just have the feeling that the Russia will get the win.
Match Prediction: Russia 2-1
Expected Singles Predictions:
Rublev over Stuff in 3
Medvedev over Zverev in 3
Main Photo from Getty.