The main draw of the first ATP 500 tournament on clay this season got underway on Monday at Rio and on the very first day, we witnessed the veteran Spaniard, the ninth-seed Fernando Verdasco tumbling out of the tournament against his fellow countryman Pablo Andujar in straight sets 6-3, 6-3. On the other hand, the third seed and title hopeful Cristian Garin survived a huge scare in his first-round encounter as he edged past Andrej Martin 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) in a thrilling contest that lasted for more than three hours at Quadra 1.
On Tuesday, while the top-seed Dominic Thiem will take on the little known Brazilian player Felipe Meligeni Alves, we have an interesting first round match-up among two clay court specialists as the second-seed Dusan Lajovic will take on the 2018 French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato in a contest that promises plenty of entertainment.
On the ATP tour, Lajovic and Cecchinato have just met once so far and it was the latter who recorded a straight-sets 7-6, 6-2 win over the former in their quarter-final clash at Doha, in early 2019.
The 29-year old Serb, Lajovic, let himself down at the recently-concluded Argentina Open as he succumbed to a quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual winner Casper Ruud, but nonetheless, he can draw positives from his wins over Karen Khachanov and Felix Auger Aliassime that he achieved at the ATP Cup last month as he aims for resurgence at Rio on his favourite surface, clay.
Lajovic’s only title on the ATP tour so far has come on clay when he won the crown at Umag last year, defeating Andrey Rublev en route his path towards the glory and was also a finalist at Monte Carlo Masters 1000 in 2019, losing to Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the final.
Also check out: Rio Open 2020 Schedule
Lajovic possesses an effective game from behind the baseline, a strong single-handed backhand coupled with swift court coverage which makes him a dangerous player on clay, and he would hope to turn things around at the ongoing Rio Open. If he manages to replicate the intensity that he showed at Umag and Monte Carlo last year, he would certainly be a player to beat at this year’s Rio Open as he fancies his first ever ATP 500 title win.
On the other hand, the Italian Cecchinato, who overpowered Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final at Roland Garros in 2018 in a four-set thriller, has gone off the boil for a while now after he won the title at Buenos Aires last February. Just as Lajovic and Fognini, Cecchinato relishes playing on clay and all his career titles (3) have come on clay.
After performing poorly not only on the hard courts, but also on the clay courts at the Cordoba Open and the Argentina Open recently, the 27-year-old Italian has been going through a disastrous 2020 so far and eyes redemption at Rio.
In an interesting and exciting opening round encounter on Tuesday at Rio, can the second-seeded Lajovic find his form to advance to the second round or will Cecchinato, the dark horse of the tournament, stun Lajovic and send him packing out of the tournament?
After an eventful first day, one can’t wait for the action to get underway on Tuesday at the Rio Open as two clay court specialists in Lajovic and Cecchinato battle it out to keep their hopes alive at the seventh edition of the tournament.
Prediction: Dusan Lajovic to win in three sets.
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