On the face of it, the encounter between the world number one Novak Djokovic and the world number fifty seven Taylor Fritz seems like a non contest. In their only previous meeting at this year’s Monte Carlo Masters, the American had got a real drubbing from the Serbian.
However, this may not be as straight forward a match as it may seem. To begin with, Djokovic has been surprisingly not in the best of form, possibly even out of form, since that epic Australian Open title. Make no mistake, he is a great player on all surfaces, but clay is certainly not his best surface.
He has begun his clay season in the best possible manner, though. He may have had an easy match at the Monte Carlo Masters against Fritz, but his other two matches there were two-setters. He barely scrapped through in his first match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, and fell to Daniil Medvedev in the quarter finals.
Moreover, the string of early losses means that Djokovic is certainly a bit short on match practice. On the other hand, Fritz has made a conscious effort to play as many clay court tournaments as possible. He has played in two tournaments after his impressive show at Monte Carlo Masters. Among others, he has got the better of more experienced and accomplished players such as Tsonga and Schwartzman on clay.
At Madrid masters, he has looked impressive so far. He played a very intelligent game, where he mixed aggression with caution. Djokovic showed remarkable fortitude in coming back from not just a game down in the first set, but also when he seemed down and out after going 0-3 down in the tie break.
His tie-break records this season has been fantastic and it did not come as a surprise when he won both the tie-breaks. However, against Djokovic, he will need to raise his bar a bit. His flat back hand shots may look good, but he can come under pressure from a relentless Djokovic.
If he can withstand the early pressure from the Serbian and can somehow find a way to take the sets to tie-breaks, it can be anyone’s game.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in three setsPublished 07 May 2019, 09:48 IST