In a match that pits the defending champion against a man looking to claim his first title at Tour-level, Leonardo Mayer of Argentina takes on Georgian #1Nikoloz Basilashvili for the title in Hamburg. Mayer has played the best tennis of his career in Hamburg, where he has won the only two titles of his career, including at last year’s event. But Basilashvili has shown himself a capable player over the past few seasons and will be eager to lift his first trophy. Who will come out on top?
Somewhat surprisingly, despite both being well-established Touring professionals, Mayer and Basilashvili are yet to meet competitively. But Mayer does have the edge in terms of experience. As mentioned above, he has twice won the title in Hamburg and has 160 career victories to his name, out of 322 matches played. Basilashvili, five years younger, has won 53 of his 119 matches on Tour and has lost his two previous finals, including in 2016 in Kitzbuhel on the clay.
Path to the final
Mayer began his German Open campaign with a dominant 6-3 6-2 win over the out of form Spaniard Albert Ramos Vinolas, who last year reached the Monte Carlo final. He backed that up by defeating the mercurial Gael Monfils, winning 6-1 7-5 with the Frenchman unable to recover from a slow start. He then battled past his compatriot Diego Schwartzman 6-3 4-6 6-3 to set up a clash with qualifier Kovalik, who he scraped past 6-7 6-4 7-6 after saving a match point.
Basilashvili had to qualify into the main draw, which he did by defeating Tobias Kamke 7-5 6-2 and Jurgen Melzer 6-4 4-6 7-5. He then bested German #2 and fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round 7-5 1-6 6-4 before beating Pablo Cuevas 7-6 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. There he ousted Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets 7-6 6-4 on a day of upsets. In the semifinals he faced Nicolas Jarry, and he overcame the Chilean in a seesawing encounter 7-5 0-6 6-1.
How do they match up?
Both Mayer and Basilashvili are fine ball strikers, but it is the Argentine that is blessed with the greater power, particularly when stepping to the line. His serve has been a valuable weapon for him so far this week, and he struck eight aces past Kovalik and won 85% of the points behind his first serve, which he landed a respectable 66% of the time. His forehand is his other major weapon and Mayer is comfortable stepping into the court to dictate proceedings with it.
He will need to play at his aggressive best against Basilashvili, however, who is a fine mover, particularly on a clay court. Though far from an elite defender in the mould of Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, the Georgian will make Mayer play. He is also capable of hurting opponents with his own weapons. Like Mayer, he favours his forehand, but his backhand is a useful enough shot. His concentration under pressure can, however, fail him.
Mayer seems to have a special relationship with Hamburg with his record of 14-2 at the event speaking for itself. Those positive memories are surely of considerable assistance to him when the chips are down as shown by his fine recovery from match point down to defeat Kovalik. But so far this week it’s been Basilashvili who has played the better tennis, and his semifinal victory over Jarry was more comfortable than Mayer’s. Basilashvili in three.