The Kremlin Cup in Moscow comes to a conclusion as sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzegovina takes on the unseeded Lithuanian Ricardis Berankis. The 25-year-old Dzumhur is in the best stretch of his career and has been in terrific form since the summer. That good form saw him win his first Tour-level title in St Petersburg last month. Another title for him in Russia would be another fine achievement to add to his growing list. The unassuming 27-year-old Berankis is on the road back from hip surgery and entered the tournament with a protected ranking. This year has already seen seven first-time titlists, including Dzumhur. Will Berankis become number eight or will Dzumhur pick up title number two?
The pair have met four times with Berankis holding a 3-1 advantage. The first of these encounters saw them clashing in the first round of the 2014 Brisbane Open qualifiers with the Lithuanian defeating Dzumhur 6-3 6-4. Their second meeting came in a 2014 Davis Cup tie between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Lithuania in Group Two of the Europe/Africa zone. Berankis was a straight sets winner on that occasion, winning 6-4 6-4 6-4. Berankis was again comfortable in their third meeting and first at Tour level when the pair met again in the round of 16 at Memphis in 2016. Berankis was again a 6-3 6-4 winner over the Bosnian. The duo met again in the first round in Delray Beach but this time it was Dzumhur who came out on top with a 6-4 6-2 victory to record his first win against the Lithuanian.
Dzumhur may go into the final with some confidence despite his poor head-to-head record, however. The reason for this is that he has amassed much more experience than his opponent. Berankis has never won a title before, and has not made a final for five years. Indeed, in is only previous title match he won just two games as Sam Querrey crushed him in Los Angeles. Dzumhur, however, is competing in his third final and won his last. He has also become a far more regular fixture on the ATP Tour than the injury-plagued Berankis.
Path to the final
Dzumhur began his week with a 6-3 0-6 6-2 win against Italian Thomas Fabbiano. The second set saw Dzumhur lose his concentration completely, but in truth, he never looked in real danger of losing the match. He next met Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri in the round of 16. It was a tight encounter that saw the Indian break Dzumhur’s serve twice in winning a hard-fought first set 6-4. However, in the second set, both players held serve until the eleventh game when the Bosnian struck. He broke Bhambri and served out the set in the next game. In the third set, Bhambri took a lead of 3-1 but Dzumhur fought back to win the set 6-4 and seal the match. In the quarterfinals, Dzumhur again had to come back from a set down to defeat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 4-6 6-2 6-4 but managed to do so.
The semifinal was a historic one as qualifier Mirza Basic made it the first ATP semifinal between players from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dzumhur raced through the first set taking it 6-0 and looked on course for an easy win. However, Basic wasn’t there just to make up the numbers and fought hard to turn the second set into a contest. It went to a tiebreak, but Dzumhur’s experience ultimately told as he sealed his place in the final with a 6-0 7-6 win.
Berankis upset the Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-3 7-6 in the first round. He backed it up with a 3-6 7-5 6-4 win over another Serbian Filip Krajinovic who had stunned Andrey Rublev in the first round. In the quarterfinals, it was the turn of Alexander Bublik to fall at the hand of Berankis who came through 7-5 6-1. Berankis continued his dream run by battling back to topple the third seeded Adrian Mannarino 3-6 6-4 6-1 in the semifinals. Berankis saved three of the four break points he faced in sets two and three to avenge the straight sets defeat Mannarino handed to him at this year’s US Open.
How do they match up?
Dzumhur’s baseline play has been the key to him making the final. He is not one of the biggest hitters on Tour, but his depth is typically excellent and his defence is of a very high quality. He has also been serving well this week, although it is not a particular strength of his game. That being said he has maintained a high first serve percentage throughout the week and will look to do the same against Berankis. The Lithuanian is also most comfortable at the baseline, and will need to be at his best to match Dzumhur’s baseline consistency. Neither player will likely be able to hit through their opponent so keeping unforced errors to a minimum will be essential.
An interesting battle will be between the second serves. Neither man is particularly tall, indeed both are under 6’0″ at 5’9″. This is reflected in fairly weak serves by the standard of the Tour. If they give their opponent too many second serve returns they will surely be punished. It is quite possible that first serve percentage will decide this final.
Berankis may be ahead in their head-to-head but Dzumhur won their most recent meeting and is in great form. Berankis looked fairly comfortable on serve throughout his final against Mannarino who returned poorly, particularly in the second and third sets. Dzumhur is unlikely to be so lenient. Back the Bosnian to pick up his second ATP title in straight sets.
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