This will be the first match on clay for the former French Open semifinalist in Tomas Berdych, who enters this tournament as the 9th seed and will face the qualifier Kuznetsov to start. Tomas Berdych enters this encounter against Andrey Kuznetsov as the comfortable favourite, which his seeding suggests.
Tomas Berdych has been playing alright since the Australian Open with his best showing of the year coming when he made a semifinal run at the 500 level event Rotterdam before falling to the eventual champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In that tournament he enjoyed a great straight set win over Richard Gasquet, which was probably his best match in recent months. He lost second round in Dubai to Robin Haase and then had another disappointing result as he was knocked out in the third round of Indian Wells by Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round of Indian Wells. In Miami, he reached the quarterfinals and failed to close out the win after having match points against Roger Federer. Andrey Kuznetsov hasn’t been playing to well as he took 5 straight losses after the Australian Open to Martin Klizan in Sofia, David Goffin in Rotterdam, Malek Jaziri in Marseille, Federico Delbonis in Indian Wells and then Jared Donaldson at a challenger event. He finally got a win in Miami before falling to Ivo Karlovic in the second round but he did put up a fight against the big server. I think this will be on both of their minds but it won’t effect the result because they both aren’t very confident.
Berdych has played here 12 times since his first appearance in 2004 with a varied results over the years. His best result came recently when he reached the final before falling to Novak Djokovic in 2015, which is his most recent masters final. He has also fallen first round here twice, once to Jean-Rene Lisnard in 2004 (his first appearance) and then again in 2009 to Fabio Fognini. Last year he went down in the second round to Damir Dzumhur so he isn’t going in with pressure to defend points. Kuznetsov has played here twice before in 2015 and 2016, falling in the first round both years. In 2015, he fell to Gael Monfils and last year he fell to Jeremy Chardy and even though it means he is winless in the main draw here it also means he has no points to defend.
Head to Head Record
These two have played each other once in the second round of the 250 level event in Saint Petersburg on an indoor hard court, which Berdych won 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7-4) in a very tight battle. Berdych was not playing well that day but it was still a high quality affair despite the low quality play. I don’t think that this record favours anyone to much because whenever a deciding set tiebreaker is what decides a match it means anyone could have won.
Tomas Berdych will be all over Andrey Kuznetsov from the start to the end of the match and won’t show any signs of nerves or rust for his first match on the clay. Kuznetsov will be nervous because he will be playong on a big stadium for one of the first times and a lot of eyes will be on him as Berdych being a high quality and well-known player. Kuznetsov will get a service hold at the end of each sets and he won’t get many looks at the Berdych serve at any point throughout the match. I have Berdych to got through to the final this week so I will be very pleased if he looks strong and healthy in his opening match on the clay.