New world #3 Juan Martin del Potro will look to continue his US Open preparations when he takes on Nick Kyrgios in Cincinnati with a place in the quarterfinals the reward for the victor. The Argentine has enjoyed the best season of his career since 2009 when he won his lone Grand Slam in New York but has been struggling with a concerning wrist problem of late. Kyrgios has had more than his fair share of injury trouble of late, but remains a dangerous foe for anyone. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first meeting between Kyrgios and del Potro. In terms of experience, it is del Potro who holds the advantage, perhaps unsurprisingly when it is remembered that he is nearly seven years Kyrgios’ senior. The world #3 has won 22 titles, including in Indian Wells earlier this year, and has won 420 of the 585 matches he has played in his career. Kyrgios has claimed four titles so far, and has a career record of 125-71, and last year finished as runner-up in Cincinnati.
Path to the third round
As the fourth seed in Cincinnati, del Potro received a first-round bye and thus began his tournament against the talented young Korean Hyeon Chung. Chung reached the Australian Open semifinals earlier this year, but he has struggled with an ankle injury lately. It forced him out of both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as Toronto last week. And though he impressed in beating Jack Sock 2-6 6-1 6-2 in the first round, del Potro proved far too strong, winning 6-2 6-3.
Kyrgios has had to fight his way into the third round. He opened his campaign against Denis Kudla of the United States and found himself on the precipice of defeat, down match point and having missed his first serve. He responded with a 134 mph ace and went on to win 6-7 7-5 7-6, triumphing 11-9 in the deciding set tiebreak. He then ousted Coric Borna 7-6 0-6 6-3 despite ‘tanking’ by his own admission in the second set.
How do they match up?
There should be no shortage of winners in this match. For del Potro the majority will likely come off the forehand side. No one is more powerfully equipped on that wing than the Argentine and he used it to hammer through the defences of Chung with relative ease in the second round, although the Korean did not help his cause with a number of poor errors. But he was not striking his backhand with the same confidence he has shown in the shot in recent months.
That suggests his left wrist may still be troubling him and that he will thus rely for the most part on his slice. Kyrgios would do well to attack into that wing as much as possible, and may also benefit from approaching the net as, without the topspin drive, del Potro will have difficulty passing him. But the most important shot for Kyrgios will be his serve. It is one of the best in the game and provides him with the platform he needs to win matches.
Chung’s performance in the second round was so poor that the scoreline arguably flattered del Potro somewhat. But there is certainly reason for him to take confidence from that win. His forehand and serve were firing, and he was able to protect his backhand. He may well find the going tougher against Kyrgios, who presents a very different challenge. But with weapons as powerful as those he possesses, he should have enough to hit through the Australian. Del Potro in three.