Eating into a 0-4 head-to-head chasm against Kevin Anderson in Miami represented a big step forward for Pablo Carreño Busta.
Carreño Busta also needs to eat into 0-4 head-to-head against Nadal
26-year-old Carreño Busta will no doubt have to eat into another 0-4 head-to-head if he is to exceed expectations at the French Open 2018.
It’s fellow Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, who is undoubtedly the current benchmark on clay. In his latest defeat to Nadal, at last year’s French Open, Carreño Busta had to withdraw at the beginning of the second set. Therefore, it will be good to see how a fully fit Carreño Busta fares against the clay maestro.
A Solid Start on Clay for Pablo Carreño Busta
Making the semifinals in his first clay event in Barcelona is a sturdy start. Continuing the momentum from the hard-court season, where he made the semis in Miami. This consistency is something that the Spaniard will seek to build upon, given the increasing need for surface versatility in the men’s game.
However, Carreño Busta will be disappointed with the tame nature of the straight sets defeat to rising Grecian Stefanos Tsitsipas in Barcelona. In that match, Carreño Busta was not allowed to settle into his baseline building rhythm. He shrugged this disappointment off and made his third semifinal in a row in Estoril a week later. Again, it was a tame defeat that thwarted his title chances, with Frances Tiafoe the benefactor this time. The two semifinals on clay have been lost to players unfamiliar to the Spaniard, in the fact that he had never played either of them before.
Carreño Busta needs to work on figuring out new opponents in-match, as he likes to follow a plan. This is easier to do when you are familiar with the opponent.
A Coric Blip in Madrid
Just when you thought a first-round exit was not likely for Carreño Busta, he goes and throws in a pitiful performance. He won just six games in a straight-sets defeat to the rising Borna Coric in Madrid. It was a lesson in ground strokes tennis. Previously, you’d have thought the Spaniard would have dished such a lesson out rather than received it. This was their third meeting, but first on clay and Carreño Busta trails the head-to-head 2-1. Coric is a potential banana skin at Roland Garros for the World #11, but he can’t play that poorly again.
This underlines the nature of the punishing red clay. If you don’t find your rhythm early you can be made to look amateurish.
Steadying the Ship in Rome
The response from Carreño Busta to the Coric faux pas was to avoid successive defeats heading into Roland Garros. Against his Italian Open 1st round opponent, Jared Donaldson, it was an effective rather than impressive victory, in three sets. The Spaniard adopted a bold approach. He went for it on first serve. Consequently, his first serve percentage dropped to 60%. This was his lowest in nine matches. On the plus side, it shows his willingness to mix things up. It’s something that is vital when the next tournament is a Slam.
Another effective three-set victory over a second American, Steve Johnson, is the sum of the Spaniard’s latest toils. Whatever Carreño Busta’s fate is in the remainder of this current tournament, it means he doesn’t go into Roland Garros on the back of morale-sapping, back-to-back first-round defeats. He’s showing that ability to win, whilst only playing at around 65%.
Carreño Busta can Continue his Improved form in Slams
A maiden Slam semifinal appearance at the US Open 2017 and a 4th round appearance at the Australian Open 2018 shows Slam consistency. Merrily going about business, doing what’s required against whoever comes next. This worked particularly well at Flushing Meadows last season. It’s not a bad approach to take into Roland Garros, either.
Now that the Kevin Anderson hoodoo has been lifted, there’s only Nadal and Alexander Zverev really to fear. Well, them and unknown opponents. However, fear can become a positive energy for Carreño Busta at the French Open 2018. He might surprise a few people.
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