First-time Tour-level finalist Kyle Edmund will take on Pablo Andujar for the title in Marrakesh. Edmund has had a career-best start to the season after making the last four in Melbourne and now reaching his first ever final. Andujar won two of his three career titles at this event when it was played in Casablanca. Andujar came close to retiring after serious elbow problems, but is in great form and won the Challenger in Alicante last week. But who will win the title in Morocco?
Edmund and Andujar have never met at Tour-level. But the pair did face off in the first round of the China Open qualifying in 2016. Edmund won that match in straight sets, dominating the Spaniard 6-3 6-2. But Andujar does have more experience than the 23-year-old, having contested seven finals so far in his career, winning three of them. Edmund has previously struggled to take the final steps towards winning an ATP title, losing all his previous semifinals at Tour-level.
Path to the final
Edmund, seeded second in Morocco, began his tournament against Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic. Vesely has some big name scalps on his C.V., including a victory against then-world #1 Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo two years ago. But he was hampered by injury against Edmund and retired trailing 0-5. Edmund then faced Romania’s Radu Albot, dismissing the lower ranked man 6-4 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals.
There he faced Tunisian veteran Malek Jaziri, who recently upset Grigor Dimitrov in Dubai. But he was unable to repeat his heroics against the British #1, as Edmund advanced with a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 victory. That left him facing four-time former Grand Slam semifinalist Richard Gasquet, who was also the only other seed left in the draw. The Frenchman proved to be no match for Edmund as the Yorkshireman won through to his first final 6-3 6-4.
Andujar, playing in Marrakech on a protected ranking, began his tournament with a straight sets win over Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka. He backed that up with a crushing victory over another qualifier, Andrea Arnaboldi, dropping just two games. Andujar then emerged victorious from a three set battle with Alexey Vatutin, who had upset top seed Albert Ramos Vinolas in the previous round. A 6-4 6-4 win against Portugal’s Joao Sousa sent him into his first final since Barcelona in 2015 (lost to Nishikori).
How do they match up?
The key to Edmund’s game is his powerful forehand. The 23-year-old is able to both flatten out the shot and hit it with heavy topspin and has been using it too good effect all week on the clay. He has also improved his backhand of late, although it is still more functional than it is a weapon. His serving has also improved, but his second still looks vulnerable and Andujar would do well to put the Briton under pressure when he is returning it.
The Spaniard lacks an outstanding shot in the mould of Edmund’s forehand, but he is also without any real weaknesses. An excellent mover, particularly on the clay, one particularly impressive area of his game is how well he deals with pace. That will present an interesting challenge for Edmund who may well end up getting burned a few times when going for winners. Equally, however, Andujar’s defensive skills are sure to receive a stern examination.
As impressively as Andujar’s played in reaching back-to-back finals, he has not yet come up against a player of Edmund’s quality. At this very early stage in his injury comeback he will find the Briton a step too far, despite his arguably superior clay court nous. Expect Edmund’s power to be too much for Andujar to handle and the Briton to win in straight sets and lift his first ever ATP title.
Who do you think will win the title? Let us know in the comments below!