ATP Daily Hitter: Khachanov vs. Kohlshcreiber in Rome First Round

Damn, tough match for Dominic Thiem — our hitter on Sunday — as Sascha Zverev was simply too good in the Madrid final. The German won 83% of his first-serve points and played stunning tennis for the duration of their match.

Moving on to another week of clay tennis, this time in the Italian capital, Rome, home to perhaps my favorite tournament on Tour.

Unlike Madrid, which — because of altitude — plays uniquely quick (by clay standards) and causes the ball to fly through the court, Rome tends to play very slow, especially during the night sessions. For that reason, we must treat this tournament as a completely separate entity.

With 13 matches on tap, let’s get right into Monday’s hitter.

YTD: 46-43, +11.23 units


Karen Khachanov (+140) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (-160)

Where: Rome
Surface: Clay
When: Not before 6:30 a.m. ET
H2H: 1-1

Khachanov has slumped somewhat of late, dropping six of his past 11 matches since winning his second career title indoors at Marseille. After a first-round defeat in Madrid against Dusan Lajovic, the Russian desperately needs a big win to regain some confidence.

And Monday should present a good opportunity for the big fella to get back on track. Kohlschreiber has logged a lot of miles while making decent showings in his past three tournaments.

I think Khachanov will be the hungrier player — and I’m not sure Kohli can match his level (after all the tennis he has played recently) if the Russian is firing on all cylinders. While many assume that big boppers like Khachanov play their best tennis on hard courts (like Marin Cilic, for instance), I feel that Khach — at this point in his career — is most suited to the clay.

Clay courts give Khachanov extra time on the defensive end to run down balls and pick his spots. His results prove this. Surprisingly (well, not if you read our hitters last year — we faded Khach quite a bit on hard courts post-French Open), Khachanov had just a 6-18 record on hard courts at the Tour level last season, compared to 14-9 on clay.

With Khachanov winning the only clay clash between these two in straight sets (2016 Kitzbuhel) — I can’t pass up the value at +140. In that 2016 match, Khachanov feasted on the Kohlschreiber serve, breaking the German five times in just two sets. I expect a similar result in Rome.

Gimme the Russian.

THE PICK: Karen Khachanov +140

 


Photo via Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

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