One of the great joys in sport is witnessing an athlete enter the most sacred of all places: the zone. 20-year-old Sebastian Korda is there right now. The huge-hitting American earned his first-ever Top 10 win on Tuesday night against Diego Schwartzman to reach the Miami Open quarterfinals. The win was also his third in a row over a Top 30 player in Miami, having beaten Fabio Fognini and Aslan Karatsev in the second and third rounds, respectively.
His next opponent, Andrey Rublev, can relate; the Russian has been in the zone for about 15 months now. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Russian is an astonishing 60-13 and owns a tour-leading six ATP titles. It is an undeniably enticing match-up, and fascinating from a betting perspective.
Bookmakers around the world have finished offering reasonable prices on Rublev; according to DraftKings Sportsbook, he is listed as a -435 favorite and projected to win by 4.5 total games. After Korda’s performances against Karatsev and Schwartzman, 4.5 games seems like too much, but playing Rublev is a different story.
According to Marcos Giron, who faced Rublev in Rotterdam, the Russian’s forehand is unlike anything he’s seen before. “His forehand is wild. He’s relentless. He doesn’t give up any ground on the baseline, but somehow he’s able to open up the court at the same time. It’s crazy.”
If there is an argument against Korda keeping it close, it’s that Rublev will force him to defend throughout the match. His forehand is instant offense whenever he wants.
But as good as Rublev has been, he’s shown signs of vulnerability in past weeks. In Doha he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 6-3. He then lost to Aslan Karatsev in Dubai, 2-6, 6-4, 4-6. If Korda can use his height and silky-smooth returns to initiate points, he could find success against the world No. 8.
Korda’s crosscourt forehand has been extremely sharp this week. If he hits it well, he should open up Rublev’s backhand corner for some crosscourt exchanges, where he will have the advantage.
While Rublev will likely win, a 6-3, 6-4 projected scoreline seems a bit aggressive given the American’s sensational level all week. You’re guess is as good as mine, but look for Korda to keep this one close, and cover his +4.5 game spread against one of the world’s very best players.
The Pick: Rublev to win, Korda to lose by less than 4.5 games