Fixture: (1) Benoit Paire vs Mikhail Kukushkin
Date: 29 October 2020
Tournament: Astana Open 2020
Round: Second round (Round of 16)
Venue: Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Category: ATP 250
Surface: Indoor hardcourt
Prize money: $273,345
Match timing: Not before 6 pm ALMT, 5.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Benoit Paire vs Mikhail Kukushkin preview
After getting a bye in the Astana Open first round, top seed Benoit Paire will clash with local favorite Mikhail Kukushkin in the pre-quarterfinals on Thursday.
Paire has not been at his best since the ATP tour resumed. He had a disastrous clay swing in Europe, as he crashed out of the Rome Masters and the Hamburg Open in the first round itself. The Frenchman was seeded 23rd at Roland Garros, but he couldn't make it past the second round of his home Grand Slam event.
Two weeks ago, Paire played his first indoor European hardcourt event of the season in Cologne. However, his fortunes remained the same as Austria's Dennis Novak beat him in straight sets.
Like Benoit Paire, Mikhail Kukushkin has also struggled to play with consistency this year. The Kazakh player crashed out of the Cincinnati Masters in the qualifiers itself. Although he did bounce back well by making it to the third round at the US Open, Kukushkin subsequently lost in the Italian Open qualifying round.
The 32-year-old then ousted Fabio Fognini in the first round of the French Open, even recording a bagel in the fourth set. But Pedro Martinez ended his Roland Garros campaign by taming him in the second round.
Two weeks ago, Kukushkin lost to Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the St. Petersburg Open. But he does have some momentum on his side right now, having beaten Federico Delbonis in his home tourney's first round on Wednesday.
Benoit Paire vs Mikhail Kukushkin head-to-head
Benoit Paire has never played Mikhail Kukushkin on tour before, so their head-to-head record currently stands at 0-0.
Benoit Paire vs Mikhail Kukushkin prediction
The recent form of both players has not been that great. However, Benoit Paire holds a slight edge over his opponent given his higher ATP ranking and greater big-match experience.
Paire's mental approach will be key to the outcome of this contest. On his day the Frenchman can outfox anyone in the world with his variety and court smarts. But he often struggles to maintain his focus over the duration of an entire match, gifting his opponents a bunch of free points through unforced errors and double faults.
Mikhail Kukushkin on the other hand showed plenty of focus in his first-round match, and he had a decent win rate of 79% on the first serve. If Paire doesn't play with greater discipline than he has of late, he is unlikely to get past the Kazakh.
Prediction: Mikhail Kukushkin to win in three sets.