Mikhail Kukushkin vs Richard Gasquet Expert ATP Picks Against the Spread - 6/13/2019
Mikhail Kukushkin vs Richard Gasquet
4 am EST, 13th June 2019
ATP Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
Gasquet proceeded into the next round, but not before a grueling encounter against Slovenian player Aljaz Bedene. He was actually in a very bad position at one point during the match, being set and a break behind. He somehow clawed his way into the second tie-break of the match, won it and finally broke the spirit of the gritty Slovenian player. From watching that match, I didn't really get a feeling that Bedene suddenly stepped up his grass court tennis and pushed Richard around by raising the level of his game. To me, it seemed like it was a mediocre performance by both of the players. No real juice, no pace... Like playing a regular clay court match on a grass surface. Some of the serve stats are revealing that clearly. Neither of them passed 69% points won behind their serve, while we could see in most of the other matches that number to be above 80%. Bedene did have 21 aces, but I believe that was more of an indicator that Gasquet is losing a step and his reactions are not as great as they once were when he was playing his best tennis. By the market, he is still treated as someone with 100 pro grass court matches and 3 titles on this surface. But, he is clearly overrated, because he is struggling physically, losing the step with the younger players. And after that becoming evident on other playingsurfaces, it seems the storyline is repeating on the grass.
His opponent in this round will be another very experienced player - Mikhail Kukushkin. He has put all of his experience to good use yesterday, fighting his way from behind and recording a nice win over talented Lorenzo Sonego. We rarely see someone winning on grass without posing a real threat with their serve. Kukushkin won a 3 set match, with 0 aces and 2 double faults. But rather than going for the power, he mixes up his serve well to keep opponent guessing and place it close to the lines, rather than hitting it with full power. It was good enough with 70% points won behind his serve, but the real difference was made with his returns. He was reading Sonego well and didn't leave many shots unreturned, winning 31% of the returning points.
I feel like he's being undervalued on grass courts because of the lack of athleticism and power in his game. But he compensates that well enough with his return, movement, tennis IQ, and shot placement. He doesn't put much topspin on the ball. Hits all his groundstrokes very flat with not much net clearance on them. Makes him a very tricky opponent for Gasquet. Flat shots are difficult to run down because they have more pace on them and a lower bounce. That is something Richard should struggle with. Yesterday, he had a completely different type of opponent. Bedene gets more shape on his forehand and backhand. He is not putting as much pressure on the opponent when playing on grass, because the opponent can get to the ball easily, set his feet and take a swing. That played perfectly into Gasquet's game, but vs Kukushkin it is going to be very different.
Betting odds & prediction
Frenchman opened as a -150 favorite, but that number was available only for a short period of time. That side took some steady action since the opening and pushed it all the way to -200. As you might have figured out by now, I am not really on board with that move. I don't have much faith in Gasquet's level of play at the moment and I don't think he deserves to be that big of a favorite.
Another very high total sitting at 23, which is a usual theme during the grass season. But I actually don't mind it here that much. Despite not having two powerhouses when it comes to serving the ball, these two will probably go a bit back and forth at each other throughout the match, and quite likely push this one into the third set.
Josh's Pick: Mikhail Kukushkin +2.5 (-110)
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