In a rematch of their US Open semifinal last year Kevin Anderson of South Africa takes on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, with a place in the Indian Wells quarterfinals on the line. Both men had career best seasons last year. But, whilst Anderson has begun well this year, reaching back-to-back finals in New York and Acapulco to make up for an early loss in Melbourne, Pablo Carreno Busta had just four wins coming into this week and has had some struggles with injury. But who will make the last eight?
The pair, separated by five years in age, have met three times so far on Tour with Anderson winning all of them. Their first match came five years ago on the clay courts in Casablanca when Carreno Busta was still very much in the process of establishing himself in the game. Anderson had too much for him then, winning comfortably. He then defeated Carreno Busta twice during last year’s US Open series, first in Montreal in the round of 32 before recovering from a set down, in what was both men’s first Major semifinal, to win in four in Flushing Meadows.
Path to the fourth round
Anderson, seeded 7th in Indian Wells, received a first round bye. That saw him begin his tournament against Evgeny Donskoy, who had upset his higher ranked compatriot Karen Khachanov in three sets in the first round. Donskoy was unable to repeat his heroics against the big serving South African despite a valiant effort. One break separated the two men in both sets, with Anderson reaching the third round with a 7-5 6-4 win.
That set up a match with Argentina’s Nicolas Kicker, the 25-year-old world #95. Kicker had impressed in reaching the round of 32, defeating Jiri Vesely and 26th seed Damir Dzumhur. It continued what has been a good year for him after he also reached the third round at the Australian Open. He acquitted himself well against Anderson, forcing two tiebreaks against the world #9, but ultimately Anderson’s quality told as he won both to return to the fourth round in Indian Wells for the first time since 2014.
Carreno Busta, who also received a first round bye, opened in Indian Wells against Horacio Zeballos. The Argentine took the first set 6-3, but Carreno Busta levelled the match before winning a tight decider in a tiebreak. He was more comfortable against the unorthodox Russian Daniil Medvedev. Carreno Busta made a fast start, dropping just one game on his way to winning the first set. Though Medvedev pushed him harder in the second, Carreno Busta came through in straight sets 6-1 7-5.
How do they match up?
This promises to be a classic battle between offence and defence. Anderson, at 6’8” tall is one of the biggest men on Tour and is unsurprisingly an excellent server. However, his game is not reliant solely on a big serve. The South African has an excellent forehand and has developed a fine one-two punch combination with his serve and forehand. His backhand is also generally solid and he moves well for a big man, although he can struggle with sudden changes of direction.
Carreno Busta, who is six inches shorter, is a player in the classic Spanish mould. Most comfortable on clay courts, although not without his successes elsewhere, he is a grinding and consistent baseliner of the first order. Though not blessed with massive power, he is generally accurate with his groundstrokes and uses precision rather than raw pace to gain the upper hand in rallies. His backhand down the line is a shot of particular quality, and he would do well to utilise it to open up the court against Anderson.
It will be crucial for Carreno Busta to play on the front foot as much as possible in this match. He began with commendable intent against Anderson in their US Open semifinal, winning the first set as a result. But as the match worn he began to play more conservatively, giving Anderson rhythm and the chance to dictate with his groundstrokes. If he allows Anderson that time again in Indian Wells, the south African has the power and the form to punish him.
Anderson will pick up win number four against Carreno Busta in Indian Wells. The Spaniard has endured a disappointing start to the year and though he has found some form in Indian Wells, Anderson will simply have too much for him. The world #9 can rely on his serve to keep him out of trouble and his forehand to do real damage. It won’t be easy, it never is against Carreno Busta, but it will be Anderson in the quarterfinals.
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