After an action-filled first four days in Bratislava, Friday is when the Challenger tournaments start to calm down. Just eight players are left in the Bratislava Challenger field. Top-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin and third-seeded Stefano Travaglia are still in play for the trophy. Who will make it to the final four?
Bratislava Challenger Quarterfinal Predictions
Egor Gerasimov vs Ilya Ivashka
Head-to-head: Ivashka 3-2 Gerasimov
Egor Gerasimov absolutely loves the European indoor season. This year, he made his maiden ATP semifinal in St. Petersburg, granting Daniil Medvedev a very tough test. He’s been in great shape in Bratislava this far, fending off Filip Horansky and Salvatore Caruso and blasting 20 aces combined.
Ivashka had a three-month injury break this season and had a string of bad losses lately. The Belarusian came to Bratislava hoping to build up his confidence and the decision has paid off. Ivashka is now through to the quarterfinals with wins over Eliot Benchetrit, Marton Fucsovics (3h15min) and Peter Gojowczyk.
In this all-Belarusian quarterfinal, Gerasimov should be the one to dominate the rallies. With a very potent serve, the 26-year-old is going to be constantly on the front foot. But that might not be enough against Ivashka. The Belarusian gave a beautiful display of counter-punching versus Peter Gojowczyk and his opponent doesn’t play tennis as offensively as the German. Gerasimov took a medical-time-out on his back in the second set against Caruso and if he’s anywhere not near 100 percent, it could potentially be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Ivashka in 3
Zdenek Kolar vs Lloyd Harris
Head-to-head: Harris 1-0 Kolar
Zdenek Kolar has been beating the odds from the very beginning here. Qualifying via Zsombor Piros’ second set retirement, the Czech went on to beat Constant Lestienne, Gianluca Mager and Kamil Majchrzak. Kolar has been getting better with each match, playing one of the best matches of his career to beat the Polish fourth seed.
Lloyd Harris managed to overcome a slow start to defeat Yannick Maden. The South African played a whole galore of spectacular and unconventional shots and somehow linked them together to get the win. While he might seem disinterested at times, Harris has a huge game that can be deadly when it clicks. Even Roger Federer would agree with that, having lost a set to the South African at this year’s Wimbledon.
Nothing is predictable in Harris’s case. Kolar will not fall below a certain level but also won’t suddenly hit ten full speed forehand winners from crazy positions. Harris might. In faster conditions, it certainly won’t be easy to break the South African. In the deciding set against Maden, he showed the ability to be patient when he needed to. That will prove itself useful against Kolar. The Czech got demolished the only time they played each other and although he’s playing much better now, Harris has the power to dominate him the way Majchrzak or Mager couldn’t.
Prediction: Harris in 3
Stefano Travaglia vs Dennis Novak
Head-to-head: Novak 1-0 Travaglia
Stefano Travaglia has had a similar breakthrough as Kamil Majchrzak this season. Two Challenger titles and a long-awaited top 100 debut. He’s also managing great results on other surfaces than his favorite clay, for example beating Reilly Opelka in Stockholm. So far in the Slovak Open, he has comfortably dispatched Sergiy Stakhovsky and Roberto Marcora.
Dennis Novak’s Bratislava campaign has been just as impressive. The Austrian managed to send packing Alexei Popyrin and Norbert Gombos. It’s been another solid year for the 26-year-old, who captured a Challenger 125 title in Taiwan in April.
Travaglia seems to have all the answers needed. The Italian’s court coverage is extremely impressive and he’s not lacking offensive arsenal as well. On the other hand, Dennis Novak is another guy who is considered under-ranked by virtually everyone. The Austrian has never been to the top 100, yet there are no major flaws in his game. Their head-to-head meeting back from 2015 won’t be of any help to us. I’ll go with Travaglia’s excellent defending to be the factor that will allow him to prevail in this exciting contest.
Prediction: Travaglia in 3
Mikhail Kukushkin vs Damir Dzumhur
The top seed, Mikhail Kukushkin, was forced to work harder than expected against local wildcard Lukas Klein. The Slovakian managed to keep up with the former world no. 39 and stood his ground. This was particularly surprising after Kukushkin’s even more than routine second round 6-0 6-2 win over Kimmer Coppejans. Against Klein, the Kazakh was visibly gassed by the time the second set rolled in, possibly suffering from a viral infection of some sort.
His opponent, fifth seed Damir Dzumhur, has been unable to perform on the same level as in the previous two years. The Bosnian took a set off Roger Federer at the US Open but reached only one semifinal (New Haven Challenger). Out of nowhere, the Slovak Open turned out to be one of Dzumhur’s best events of the year. The Bosnian defeated home-crowd favorite Lukas Lacko in the second round. His crisp and consistent ball-striking was on full display on Thursday, as Dzumhur survived in-form Emil Ruusuvuori.
Kukushkin’s flat and penetrating groundstrokes can do a lot of damage on low-bouncing surfaces. Dzumhur’s job will be not to get pushed around by the Kazakh. Lukas Klein showed that the top seed is vulnerable and can be forced to defend. As mentioned before, Kukushkin didn’t feel well and received a visit from the physio to check his general condition. The Bosnian will be there to take advantage if that happens again.
Prediction: Dzumhur in 3
Main Photo from Getty.
Disagree with our Bratislava Challenger Quarterfinal Predictions? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.