The last clay tournament of the season! Kitzbuhel, in Austria, is a medieval town not far from Innsbruck. Two all court players meet in the final of the ATP 250 tournament in the shape of Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and Joao Sousa of Portugal. Both men are comfortable on the ‘terre battue’ and an excellent match should await.
The pair have met on three occasions, with Sousa prevailing twice. Two of the three meetings were on hard courts, one indoor and one outdoor. Sousa prevailed in both. The latest meeting was on the grass of Halle just this year, with Kohlschreiber clinching his first win against Sousa in three sets. This will be their first meeting on clay, and with Sousa preferring clay and Kohlschreiber having won here once and runner up once as well, and Kitzbuhel being Kohlschreiber’s residence, it’ll be an interesting matchup.
Path to the final
Kohlschreiber started with the Argentinian Facundo Bagnis. He was pushed to three sets. Kohlschreiber made several unforced errors in the second set, which led to him squandering an early break and being broken right after. However, Kohli won the next set comfortably. He next faced Jiri Vesely from Serbia. While many expected this to be a tough match, it was not to be. Kohli won in two comfortable sets to set up a quarterfinal clash with Dusan Lajovic, which turned out to be a thriller of a match. With the last set pushed to a tie break, Kohli came back from 5-2 down in the tiebreak to win the set and the match 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(7-5).
Fognini awaited him in the semis. Fognini, a clay court specialist fresh off his victory in Gstaad seemed like a player who could knock him out, especially since Kohlschreiber retired in Hamburg against Mayer in the semifinals, citing an injury. Nevertheless, Kohli won in straight sets to reach the finals. Fognini displayed his expertise as a clay court specialist with some spectacular drop shots and winners. However, his on-court outbursts and frustrations led to several errors that could have been avoided. Kohlschreiber’s consistency won the day.
Sousa faced “The Colonel”, Mikhail Youzhny in the first round. While Youzhny managed to edge him out in the first set in a tie break, Sousa recovered well to win the next two sets. His next two matches were the same, with him losing the first set, only to win the next two. His semifinal against Ofner was a tight two setter, with both sets being decided in a tiebreak. Sousa has had a tough tournament, and with the clay being faster than usual, it seems that Sousa has struggled due to it. That being said, he has shown excellent fight to battle through to the final.
How do they match up?
Sousa has a big serve and a giant forehand. The clay this year has been playing surprisingly quickly, which suits Sousa’s serve. Kohlschreiber, on the other hand, is an all court player. His only problem is the smash, and while he isn’t amongst the best returners, Sousa’s serve won’t bother him too much. The forehand will likely be the key shot in the match. Both players, particularly Sousa, like to use their forehands to dominate points. Whoever is able to deploy their forehand most effectively will likely walk away with the title.
Sousa has won 2 of their three meetings. This is their first meeting on clay. With Sousa liking the clay and Kohlschreiber having won here once, it is a tossup. However, the clay suits Sousa’s game and he will be looking to win his first clay court title. If his serve and forehand are solid, Kohlschreiber will find it very difficult to overcome the Portuguese player. Sousa in three.
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