Aslan Karatsev’s breakout season continued with a dominant first-round victory over Lorenzo Musetti in Monte Carlo.
At first glance, it appears the Russian’s ultra-flat strokes aren’t conducive to clay, but in 2020, he went 17-2 on clay on the Challenger circuit, with his only losses coming to Stan Wawrinka in Prague and Sebastian Korda in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying.
If you hit the ball this hard, it doesn’t matter what surface you are playing on.
But Karatsev’s next opponent, Stefanos Tsitsipas, will present him with a far more difficult set of challenges than the Italian teenager.
An otherwise fantastic clay court player, Musetti was unable to impart enough spin and power to trouble the Russian. And despite his undeniable talent, he covers far less court than the supremely athletic Greek.
Karatsev’s signature shot has to be his crosscourt backhand. If he hits it well, he could certainly elicit some short replies from the Tsitsipas one-handed backhand. Karatsev goes for huge returns, and hits more clean winners off his opponents’ first serves than anyone in recent memory.
But hitting a clean winner off Tsitsipas’ serve is another story; Karatsev ought to apply pressure on the return, but best not gift the Greek too many free points.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Tsitsipas is listed as a -230 favorite and projected to win by 3.5 games. So much of the outcome will depend on Tsitsipas’ level, but after a blistering three weeks in Australia and Doha, Karatsev came crashing back down to earth in Miami with a 3-6, 0-6, dud against Sebastian Korda in the Miami Open third round.
By now, Tsitsipas is fully aware of Karatsev’s dangerous game, and should provide enough power and variety to both win the match, and cover his -3.5 game spread.
The Pick: Stefanos Tsitsipas