ATP Dubai Semifinal Predictions Including Hubert Hurkacz vs Andrey Rublev

Hubert Hurkacz ATP Cup
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The quarterfinals in Dubai brought us the shocking upset of 2022, after Round 2 brought us the other major upset of 2022. And both at the hands of the same man. Abnormalcy like that makes picking winners a challenge, but we do our best below for the semis, including a more expected matchup between Hubert Hurkacz and Andrey Rublev.

ATP Dubai Semifinals Predictions

Jiri Vesely vs Denis Shapovalov

Head-to-head: first meeting

Vesely!

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times…and I would pick Jiri Vesely to win even if he went solo against a Nadal/Djokovic doubles team.

Vesely reminds me of the grown-up version of the kid who beat you up in school and stole your lunch money. And all week now, he’s been pushing the best players in the world up against the lockers and stealing their lunch money. The win against Djokovic is the cream of the crop, but it should be noted that Vesely beat Cilic (#24) at an upswing in the Croat’s performance, and he beat Roberto Bautista Agut (#15) amidst the Spaniard having the best start to the year of almost anyone on tour. And he’s done it all in straight sets!

This is all a necessary preamble for picking the #123-ranked player in the world in a semifinal of an ATP 500. There is nothing in Vesely’s recent history to suggest that he should be playing this well. Much of the last half year has been spent building his game back up after a severe car accident. But it’s not like he had been lighting the tour on fire before that. 

Shapovalov has played well this year, but he hasn’t reached a final of a 500-level event or higher since the Paris Masters two-and-a-half years ago. And though he has some good victories this year (over Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta, and a run to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open), it’s hard to get a bead on how he’s playing this tournament, as he has not had a difficult draw. His one higher-ranked match (Fucsovics, at #36) gave him trouble.

Power vs Power

How do they stack up, and where are the openings against each other? Neither player has a good opening on serve. Serving down the T from the deuce court just goes to the opponent’s forehand. Serving out wide from the ad also goes to their forehand. The lefty advantage is neutralized for each player. And both serve hard, but should be able to handle the other’s pace well (when they can catch up to it).

Shapovalov’s main rally tactic is to overpower, but he shouldn’t be able to overpower Vesely, and vice versa. Both forehands should offset, because they are both lefty power forehands hitting to each other. And each backhand is hit with power, though Vesely’s is a little flatter and faster.

Pace of Play

Vesely had some difficulty when Djokovic attacked, when he was able to send the ball deep and at the Czech’s feet (Vesely doesn’t have the best reaction time). Shapovalov, on the other hand, has quick reflexes and likes a faster pace of play, although he’s hindered a little in this by the longer setup time of his loopy strokes. I think Shapovalov could trying running Vesely all over the court; he has the attacking mentality to do that well, and hits hard enough to put Vesely on the run. A third set could favor the spry young Canadian over the big man. If Shapovalov tries the wear-out tactic, look for Vesely to attempt some drop shots as he did against Djokovic.

If Vesely hadn’t just downed three great players, I would side with Shapovalov. But Vesely is the hottest hand in the world right now.
Prediction: Vesely in 3

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Hubert Hurkacz vs Andrey Rublev

Head-to-head: Hurkacz 2-0 Rublev

Hurkacz has now picked up his game after a month of uninspiring tennis, getting past Sinner in a quick two sets. The Pole can be streaky like that, but that bodes well for him, because the streak is on an upswing. In Rublev, he gets a more aggressive and powerful form of Jannik Sinner, albeit one he has vanquished twice in the past. And the Russian has recently confessed to being extremely tired, after arriving just before the tournament started and battling through a couple three-setters. But Rublev has played well all year, and he may smell blood now that Djokovic is out of the draw.

Offense vs Defense

This should be a good match. Rublev will put an opponent under pressure the whole match, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Pole. Hurkacz likes to react, and he moves well for a 6’5” player, and the wall that he creates can be frustrating for an attacking player. Everything comes back. The aggressive players are trying to hit for winners, and to be repeatedly rebuffed in those attempts causes frustration to mount and leads to over-aggression, which induces errors. Hurkacz executes this strategy just about as well as anyone in the world, while the Russian executes aggression just about as well as anyone in the world. That should make for exciting moments.

And Rublev not only hits hard, but he reacts quickly. I can see this being a problem for Hurkacz’s forehand, which is a bit of a slow-moving stroke. And if he can’t get a lot on his forehands, Rublev will make him pay with his own.

Big Serves, But a Vulnerable Second

I see the serve favoring Hurkacz. Rublev has a powerful first serve, but the Pole’s length and defensive abilities should help him to handle it. He should have no trouble with Rublev’s second, and despite not being an attacker, he may want to go after it, as one of Rublev’s few vulnerabilities. Hurkacz himself has a big first serve, and Rublev is more skilled at attacking than defending. The Pole could come away with more points on both first and second serve.

In the end, if Rublev is indeed as tired as he says, energy could be the difference. But it should be a close match.
Prediction: Hurkacz in 3

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