Recent Wimbledon semifinalist Sam Querrey, the 2nd seed in Mexico, takes on young Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis in the final in Los Cabos. Kokkinakis may be ranked down at 454th, but that low ranking is largely due to injury, and his actual talent is far greater than his ranking suggests. Both are big shot makers with an affinity for hard courts, so an excellent match should be in store in Mexico.
The pair have met just once which came back in 2015 in Madrid. Querrey won what was a tightly contested first round match in three sets, coming out a 6-4 6-7 6-3 winner in the Spanish capital. Querrey has improved markedly since then, and 2017 is perhaps his best year yet on the Tour. He reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in 2017, upsetting the defending champion and world number one for the second year running. He is also a nine-time titlist on the ATP Tour and will be contesting his seventeenth final against Kokkinakis. The Australian, in contrast, has never before reached a final in singles on the main Tour, and has never gone beyond the third round at a Major (2015 French Open). The advantage in experience therefore clearly lies with Querrey.
Path to the final
Sam Querrey enjoyed a first round bye as the second seed and began his Los Cabos campaign against countryman Evan King. King qualified into Los Cabos and had never previously won a match on the ATP Tour. He changed that with a win over wildcard Manuel Sanchez. Riding high from the confidence gained by that win King split the first two sets with his countryman, and forced a tiebreak in the decider. There, however, Querrey’s quality told as he took it 7 points to 2 to reach the quarterfinals. There his opponent was 31 year old Vincent Millot, who Querrey dispatched comfortably, dropping just four games in a 6-1 6-3 win. In the semifinals, Querrey faced his first top 100 opposition of the tournament in the shape of Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur battled hard against the big American taking the first set. But Querrey fought back to take the next two sets 6-4 6-4 to reach the final after a tough week of tennis.
Kokkinakis, who entered Los Cabos as a wild card, began against Francis Tiafoe the eighth seeded 19-year-old. Kokkinakis came through a tight battle, winning two tiebreaks, to move into the second round in straight sets. There he faced Peter Polansky, last week a finalist in the Granby Challenger, and at a career high ranking of 115. Polansky tested the young Australian, taking the first set. But Kokkinakis levelled the match, before taking the decider in a tiebreak. He won his quarterfinal against America’s Taylor Fritz in straight sets, 7-6 6-2, to move into the semifinal. There he faced top seed and 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. When Berdych won the first set 6-3 most would have predicted the Czech to reach the final. But Kokkinakis hung tough in the second set, taking it in a tiebreak, his fifth of the week, to take it to a decider. He won that by a narrow margin, 6-4, to reach his first ever ATP Tour final.
How do they match up?
On his day Querrey’s serve and forehand combination make him almost unplayable. His backhand is also better than most of his countrymen’s, although it can break down under pressure. If he has a real weakness it is his movement, which is below par for the tour. Kokkinakis doesn’t quite have Querrey’s power on the serve, but he is still capable of firing down aces and stands only an inch shorter. His forehand is also a danger, and his movement is superior to Querrey’s. The two are in fact very similar players, and the match will likely be decided by whoever utilises the serve and forehand combination to the best effect.
Kokkinakis is almost certainly a future winner on the ATP Tour. Not for nothing did some consider him to be a more talented player than Nick Kyrgios. Injuries have caused him significant setbacks, but his game should make him a top 100 or even top 50 player soon. But Querrey should win this final. He’s been in terrific form of late, and the quick courts in Los Cabos suit his game. That, coupled with his superior experience, should be enough to see him over the line in Mexico.
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