After a week of intriguing grass court tennis, the semifinal lineup has finally been set at the ATP Viking International in Eastbourne. With a number of seeds falling by the wayside, the tournament is very open, with any of the four players remaining having a great chance to win the title. For Soowoo Kwon and Max Purcell, winning the title this week could change the trajectory of their careers, taking their rankings to new heights. For Lorenzo Sonego and Alex De Minaur, winning the title provides the perfect opportunity to build momentum and take confidence heading into Wimbledon next week, potentially setting themselves up for a good run. Here are my thoughts on the semifinals.
ATP Eastbourne Semifinal Predictions
Alex De Minaur vs Soonwoo Kwon
Head to Head: First Meeting
Alex De Minaur has had an up and down 2021 season. The Australian got off to a good start, winning the first ATP Tour event of the year in Antalya. This was followed by a run to the third round of the Australian Open, where he fell to the unpredictable Italian Fabio Fognini. However, since then De Minaur had struggled to consistently have deep runs at tournaments, and he had a particularly difficult clay court season.
The grass court season has shown positive signs for the Australian and him re-finding his form. De Minaur had a strong run at Queen’s last week, reaching the semifinals. That included a particularly impressive win over Marin Cilic, who won the first grass0-ourt event of the year in Stuttgart. The Australian is an exceptional mover and is great at making his opponents play the extra ball. What he lacks in firepower, he more than makes up for with his intensity and movement.
Soonwoo Kwon is enjoying the most successful week on the ATP Tour. This is his first Tour-level semifinal. The South Korean is making the most of getting into the draw as a lucky loser, and has shown his potential. In the quarterfinals, Kwon impressively defeated Ilya Ivashka. He was effective in returning the Belorussian’s serve and was the better player from the back of the court, as he effective neutralied Ivashka’s firepower and drew unforced errors.
Kwon is very much cut from the same cloth as De Minaur. Both players use their movement and consistency from the back of the court to draw unforced errors from opponents. I expect this match to be a three-set battle filled with long exchanges from the back of the court. However, I think De Minaur is the more comfortable player on this surface, and in the big pressure moments, I expect him to perform better than Kwon.
Prediction: De Minaur in 3
Max Purcell vs Lorenzo Sonego
Head To Head: First Meeting
Max Purcell has enjoyed a breakthrough week for his singles career on the ATP Tour. Up until now, the Australian had struggled to qualify for Tour-level events and had primarily been focusing on doubles. He reached the Australian Open doubles final in 2020 with Luke Saville. Purcell took advantage of being a lucky loser this week. He lost to Ilya Ivashka in the second round of qualifying, following an impressive win over Kevin Anderson. What has impressed me most about Purcell is the variety he has in his game. He uses the backhand slice effectively during the rally to build the point and then looks to get his forehand into play. He won’t overpower players off the court, but he is a smart player who is patient and effective in wearing down his opponents. Although he doesn’t possess the biggest serve, the Australian makes up for this with a technically sound service motion that is effective in hitting its spots.
Lorenzo Sonego is one of a group of Italian players that is enjoying great success this year. Sonego won the ATP 250 event in Sardinia prior to Roland Garros. However, he is perhaps best known for his performance in Rome, where he defeated Dominic Thiem in an epic three set-battle before falling to Novak Djokovic in a tight three-set match in the semifinals. However, the Italian had a disappointing Roland Garros, which ended in a first round defeat. Sonego is somewhat of an unknown quantity on grass, but this week he has showcased why he will be dangerous at Wimbledon. Sonego possesses two main weapons in his game, the serve and the forehand. In his quarterfinal win over Bublik, the Italian showed his mental strength and focus when the Kazakh began hitting underarm serves and engaging with the crowd.
I think the Italian will have too much firepower for the Australian. Although Purcell is a consistent player from the back of the court, Sonego is just too strong.
Prediction: Sonego in 2
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