As the ATP St. Petersburg Open enters Day 3, there are a host of intriguing matches to look forward to, including the all-Italian affair between Salvatore Caruso and Thomas Fabbiano. Former champion Mikhail Kukushkin will be in action, as will the young Norwegian Casper Ruud, who will play for the first time since losing in the first round of the US Open. He faces Alexander Bublik.
ATP St. Petersburg Open Day 3 Predictions
Joao Sousa vs Jozef Kovalik
Head-To-Head: Sousa 1-0 Kovalik
Joao Sousa is attempting to end a four-match losing streak dating back to the Swiss Open at the end of July. The Portuguese scored his last win on the main tour when he beat Roberto Bautista-Agut in the quarterfinals. Sousa would later make first round exits in Cincinnati, Winston-Salem, and the US Open. The 30-year-old’s season was a slow burner which came to life at Wimbledon. He equaled his career-best achievement in a Grand Slam when he made the fourth round at SW19, beating former finalist Marin Cilic and local hopeful Dan Evans en route. Although Sousa elevated his play play post-Wimbledon during the brief summer clay-court season in Europe (reaching the quarterfinals Bastad and semifinals in Gstaad), he has been winless since then.
Sousa’s task to end that drought might extend a little longer as he faces off a man in high spirits coming to St. Petersburg. Exactly one year ago, Jozef Kovalik was forced to call it quits on his 2018 season due to a debilitating wrist injury. A week ago he celebrated his first post-surgery title at the Pekao Szczecin Open – A Challenger tournament in Poland. Despite the difficult transition from clay to indoor hard courts, the Slovak is carrying a lot of momentum. But could he be a victim of his own success this week? I think so. Sousa is a workmanlike and dangerous player who will naturally test Kovalik’s weary legs. I can see the Portuguese throwing a wrench in the works here.
Prediction: Sousa in 2
Mikhail Kukushkin vs Damir Dzumhur
Head-To-Head: Kukushkin 1-3 Dzumhur
Matches between Mikhail Kukushkin and Damir Dzumhur have always been tight affairs and this one is likely to follow trend. The Kazakh got off to a strong start as he brushed aside Italy’s fast-rising talent Jannik Sinner in the first round in straight sets. Kukushkin’s lone ATP tour-level title came at this very event nine years ago.
Meanwhile, Dzumhur benefited from a retirement by Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic to reach the second round. Both these players are former champions of this tournament . Dzumhur can be a pesky customer and if he is allowed to hang around he can be difficult to shake off. Kukushkin on the other hand does not have explosive firepower, but tends to be very aggressive at every opportunity especially on the forehand wing. That said, this one will be decided by a few points and that is where I think the Kazakhstani is a solid pick.
Prediction: Kukushkin in 3
Thomas Fabbiano vs Salvatore Caruso
Head-To-Head: Fabbiano 0-1 Caruso
Every Top 10 player would want to avoid Thomas Fabbiano in a Grand Slam from now on. The 30-year-old Italian caused the shock of the first round at the 2019 US Open by stunning fourth seed Dominic Thiem in four sets. Although Fabbiano would go on to lose to Alexander Bublik in the next round, it marked a second high profile win in a Major for the Italian. Fabbiano also beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round at Wimbledon to earn his first career Top 10 win. However, he has failed to consistently produce those kind of performances at smaller events. Fabbiano peaked at a career-high ranking of World No.70 a couple of years ago after a spectacular season on the Challenger tour, but he has not hit those heights on the main tour.He is 8-9 overall on hard courts in 2019 and had arrived in New York on a four-match losing streak on the surface.
Salvatore Caruso will battle his countryman in the second round. In fairness, his record on hard courts is even more dreadful. In fact, Caruso dusted his socks off pretty quickly and played in three clay-court Challengers after losing in the second round of qualifying at the US Open. This will definitely put him at a disadvantage in St. Petersburg.
Prediction: Fabbiano in 2
Casper Ruud vs Alexander Bublik
Head-To-Head: First meeting
The last of Wednesday’s action will be an intriguing encounter between two bright prospects on the ATP tour. Casper Ruud achieved a personal milestone when he won consecutive matches in a Major for the first time at the 2019 French Open. The young Norwegian played with distinction throughout the clay season. He reached the semis in Sao Paolo and quarterfinals in Rio. Then in Europe he made third round of a Masters 1000 in Rome, benefiting from the infamous meltdown by Nick Kyrgios, and the third round of Roland Garros. In between his South American and European stints, he made his first tour-level final in Houston.
Ruud’s success on the dirt has not exactly mirrored his performances on hard courts. He has lost in the first round in four of his five hard court tournaments. Alexander Bublik will look to inflict more misery for the Norwegian young gun as he is the more accomplished of the pair.
Prediction: Bublik in 3
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