Lucas Pouille of France and Kyle Edmund of Great Britain are two of the three unseeded players who have made it to the last four in the Austrian capital. Edmund had a fine season last year, making it into the world’s Top 40 but has struggled for consistency this year. Meanwhile, after a breakout season in 2016 which included ousting Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the US Open Pouille has looked to establish himself in the upper echelons of the Tour this season. He won titles in Budapest and Stuttgart but has been struggling since Wimbledon. He will be hoping to turn those struggles around with a big result in Vienna. But which man will make it to the title match?
The duo are currently tied at 1-1 in their previous career meetings. The first of those meetings saw Edmund win at the Brisbane International earlier this year when Pouille retired when trailing 6-3 3-1. An injury to his right foot curtailed Pouille’s participation but he had been struggling to deal with Edmund’s monstrous forehand throughout. The Frenchman got his revenge in the Davis Cup quarterfinal when he defeated Edmund 7-5 7-6 6-3. The first set was tightly contested with Pouille taking advantage of the lone service break. Edmund should have levelled the match after he led 5-2 in the second set tiebreaker but lost his way to lose the set. The third set finished was more comfortable for Pouille as he wrapped up the win.
Path to the semifinal
Pouille started against local hope Sebastian Ofner and was largely untroubled in a 6-3 6-4 win. He then squared up against the Spanish veteran Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Pouille was in charge early on and took the first set 6-3. But, Garcia-Lopez fought hard and took the second set to a tiebreak. Eventually, Pouille’s quality told and he won the tiebreak 10-8 to reach the quarterfinals. There he met his countryman Gasquet. Gasquet was in fine form having eliminated second seed Thiem. But Pouille had the better of it the quarters. It was his serve that made the difference throughout with nine aces as he recorded a 7-6 6-1 over his Davis Cup teammate.
Edmund started with a 6-2 7-6 win over Spanish veteran David Ferrer in performance that displayed his growing maturity. The world #63 opened with two service breaks in the first set and held his own throughout to win through. The Brit had to endure a tough match next up against Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak that went to three tie-breaks, to win 7-6 6-7 7-6. Edmund recovered from being break down in the first set to win it in the tiebreak but Novak levelled the match in the second set tiebreak. The decider was a hard-fought affair but a poor drop shot in the tiebreak proved costly for Novak as it handed Edmund the crucial minibreak and ultimately the win. Edmund then maintained his fine form storming to a 6-2 7-5 win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. The Brit dropped just two points on his first serve and won it in 75 minutes to reach his third ATP semifinal of the year.
How do they match up?
Both men will likely rely on their big first serves and forehand to dominate proceedings. Maintaining a high first serve percentage could well prove crucial. That being said, neither man is known for his return game, so second serves could escape the punishment they would receive against one of the Tour’s better returners. An interesting battle will likely be between the two player’s backhands. Pouille has a fine two-handed backhand but he can occasionally be drawn into going for too much with the shot and consequently missing. Edmund’s backhand has improved significantly since he first arrived on Tour, but is still lacking as an offensive weapon. Whichever man is able to better compliment his forehand with his backhand could well win the match.
The two are having a dream tournament so far and it is hard to separate them. There is little to choose between them but Pouille has the advantage in both experience and form. Edmund is yet to win a Tour-level semifinal, whereas Pouille has already made five finals, winning three titles. That should tip the match in his favour. Expect him to win through in two tight sets.
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