Last season’s US Open finalist and sixth seed Kevin Anderson begins his French Open campaign against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, a clay court veteran. Anderson recently reached his first ever Masters 1000 semifinal in Madrid as he continued what has been by a country mile the best period of his career. But he will have his work cut out for him against Lorenzi, who never makes life easy for his opponents. Who will come out on top?
Anderson and Lorenzi have met four times previously on Tour, and Anderson has won them all. Their first meeting came in 2012 in Atlanta where the South African was a comfortable straight sets victor in the first round. Their next meeting came a year later at Melbourne Park in the first round. Lorenzi played some fine tennis to win the opening set, but he was unable to keep it up in the face of Anderson’s considerable power, ultimately losing in four 6-3 6-7 3-6 4-6.
They also met twice last year. Their first meeting of 2017 came on the clay courts in Geneva in the lead up to the French Open in the first round. Anderson won a tightly-contested match 7-5 7-6, demonstrating an impressive ability to play his best tennis when it mattered most. They then met in the fourth round in New York which was the 36-year-old’s debut in the second week of a Slam. But despite some late resistance in the third set, the result never looked in doubt as Anderson advanced 6-4 6-3 6-7 6-4.
Last time out
It has been a clay court season of mixed results for Anderson. After solid, if unspectacular performances took him to back-to-back quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Miami, he will have been disappointed to lose in his first match in Estoril, although he is not the only big name to have been beaten by Tsitsipas. He rebounded to reach the semifinals in Madrid, as mentioned above, although he was well-beaten by Thiem. He then withdrew when trailing by a set to Aljaz Bedene in Rome.
Lorenzi, who began his clay court in Mexico at the San Luis Challenger, has played a lot of tournaments without picking up a huge number of match wins. He lost first round in Mexico, and in Marrakesh, Monte Carlo, Budapest and Madrid. He did, however, make the quarterfinals in Istanbul, defeating Turkey’s Cem Ilkel and Marco Trungelliti of Argentina in straight sets before losing to Serbia’s Laslo Djere 7-6 5-7 6-7 in a match that might have gone either way.
How do they match up?
Anderson is one of the biggest servers on Tour, which is unsurprising at his considerable height. The South African is also generally a solid baseliner, with his forehand his major weapon off the ground. His backhand is less of a danger to opponents, but unlike some of his fellow big men such as John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, it is also not a liability. That wing rarely breaks down except under the most severe pressure. Anderson would do well to move into the forecourt as often as he can in this match.
The reason for that is that Lorenzi will make him play a lot of balls. Players like Djokovic and Murray are sometimes inaccurately and rather pejoratively labelled grinders. But for Lorenzi the term should be worn as a badge of pride. He has forged a fine career that has taken him close to the world’s top 30 by force of will and hard work alone. Lorenzi can run for days and rarely misses, making up for his lack of power with grit and determination. That can count for a lot on a clay court.
As hard as Lorenzi will work in this match, it's hard to see what he can do to consistently hurt Anderson. And he will need to if he wants to win because if he allows Anderson to dictate throughout the match there will only be one winner. Unfortunately for Lorenzi, despite his commendable willingness to chase down balls and make opponents earn every point, he is short of a plan b. Eventually, expect Anderson’s power to make a telling contribution. The South African in four.