The 2020 Maharashtra Open has seen some breakout performances so far and it will only be fitting to have a first-time ATP winner at the end of the week-long action.
Roberto Marcora's big win over Benoit Paire, the resurgence of Jiri Vesely, the dominance of the Bulgarian team in the early week have all been highlights so far, and coming out of the last of those is the title bid for 27-year-old Egor Gerasimov.
The Belarusian has been on a surge of late, one that began with a few big wins in the latter half of 2019, which saw him win his Grand Slam main draw match and upset the likes of John Isner and Matteo Berrettini in other ATP events to break into the top 100.
To continue that rise, he will need to get over the challenge posed by Australian sixth seed James Duckworth. The Aussie has quietly made his way through a simplistic looking draw and hasn't attracted too much attention yet.
An unheralded run to his first career finals of a tour event might not have been his ideal pick, but he wouldn't mind as long as the wins keep coming. The competition for him hasn't been exactly top brass, but he has still managed to stay strong against the threat posed by the relative greenhorns at this level.
Duckworth has won a lot of matches on the Challenger circuit coming into the Maharashtra Open and that is probably one of the reasons why he is comfortable against the sort of competition he is facing here, which is quite similar to the kind that he has gotten the better of on many occasions in the last few months.
Now that he will be playing against a top 100 opponent for the first time in the week, it will be interesting to see if he manages to step up his own game to match that of the big-serving Gerasimov.
The Belarusian has been impressive on serve, having won a good 65% of the points behind both first and second serve. His forehand had also been lethal and has only gotten better with every match.
Gerasimov's game-plan has worked well this week and he will continue in pretty much the same fashion. It will then come down to Duckworth to try and rise up to the occasion and do a few things differently if he wants to stand a chance against a confident-looking opponent on Saturday.
Prediction: Gerasimov to win in three setsPublished 08 Feb 2020, 15:20 IST