Indian Wells champion and world #6 Juan Martin del Potro takes on last year’s Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic for a place in the Miami Open quarterfinals. Del Potro is the form player on Tour right now, riding a thirteen match long winning streak. And after Federer’s surprise early exit, he is now the heavy favourite to go back-to-back in Indian Wells and Miami. Standing in his way is Serbian #2 Krajinovic who has caused some shocks at Masters-level before. Who will come out on top?
Krajinovic and del Potro have not yet met on Tour. Krajinovic spent most of his career before last season playing at Challenger-level, whilst del Potro’s injuries have cost him much time on court, so it is perhaps of little surprise that they are yet to meet. In spite of those injuries, it is del Potro who is vastly more experienced. The Argentine has 22 Tour-level titles and 403 match wins. Krajinovic is yet to win a title and has just 30 match wins to his name at Tour-level.
Path to the fourth round
Like all seeds, del Potro received a first round bye. That saw him begin his tournament against Robin Haase of the Netherlands. It was del Potro who made the better start, breaking the Dutchman midway through the opener and sealing it shortly after. But in the second set, a series of breaks left Haase on top. However, in the decider it was all del Potro as he broke twice to complete a 6-4 5-7 6-2 win. That set up a meeting with former top ten rival Nishikori. However, the Japanese is on the long road back from injury and offered little resistance to del Potro who triumphed 6-2 6-2.
Krajinovic, who also received a first round bye commenced his Miami Open against Britain’s Liam Broady, who was making his debut in Miami and indeed at Masters 1000-level. But despite the confidence gained from a straight sets win over Bjorn Fratangelo for Broady, he was dismissed by the Serb who won 6-3 6-2. Krajinovic was in similarly impressive form when he gained revenge for his countryman Djokovic by defeating Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3.
How do they match up?
Krajinovic is a fine mover and possesses solid ground strokes. The Serbian is in many ways similar to his more illustrious compatriot Djokovic. When Krajinovic is at his best he is able to grind opponents down from the back of the court with relentless depth and accuracy. That is not to say that Krajinovic plays with no attacking intent. His down the line backhand is a fine shot which the Serbian is well adept at using to open up the court.
He can also do damage with his forehand, and excels at finishing off midcourt balls. But he will have to keep the ball away from del Potro’s forehand. The Argentine has unquestionably the biggest forehand currently in the game, and there is an argument to be made that no one has ever hit the ball bigger from that wing. If del Potro is allowed to dictate with his forehand from the baseline then he can hit through any defence in the game.
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ also has good variety off the backhand side. After undergoing two surgeries on his left wrist del Potro was almost unable to hit over his backhand. That forced him to resort to using his slice the majority of the time. Though he is now able to hit his backhand with more power and confidence, the period where he was not has improved his backhand slice, which is now a useful shot indeed for the Indian Wells champion.
At the moment, del Potro seems in almost unstoppable form. Krajinovic is a fine player, but it is hard to see what he can do to defeat del Potro. The problem for the Serbian is that his natural style of play will play in to del Potro’s hands in this match by giving him rhythm. Del Potro’s power from the back of the court will simply be too much for Krajinovic to handle, and the world #27 doesn’t have enough weapons of his own to hit back effectively. Del Potro in straight sets.
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