Kyrgios Continues March at Estoril Open 2016
Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
The semifinals were set at the 2016 Millennium Estoril Open, and Nick Kyrgios remains the star, as he extended his bid to reach the final of the tournament for a second straight year. The semifinals will feature a pair of clay court talents as Pablo Carreno Busta will face the wild Benoit Paire, while Kyrgios will face veteran Nicolas Almagro for the first time in his career.
(8)Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (3)Benoit Paire
Paire leads the clay h2h 2-1 with PCB and after a solid win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, he should be the favorite to secure a place in the final. But the Frenchman is highly volatile and unpredictable on a day to day basis, while Carreno Busta is always a solid competitor, who will force Paire to play a lot of balls and really test his resolve and consistency.
For Paire it’s the 4th semifinal of the year, 2nd consecutive after Barcelona last week, but he’s yet to reach a final after losses to Wawrinka in Chennai, Cilic in Marseille and Nishikori in Barcelona. Carreno Busta, on the other hand, is looking for a second career final after losing his maiden one to Cuevas in São Paulo this February. Estoril is usually happy hunting ground for him and having lost very close 3-set semifinals to Wawrinka in 2013 and Kyrgios last year, Busta will be eager to finally get to the final of this tournament.
Ultimately it will be a duel of wild firepower and variety vs relentless consistency, and the bookies agree that it’s pretty much impossible to call a winner with any sort of assurance.
Nicolas Almagro vs. (2)Nick Kyrgios
Almagro might be unseeded, but his claycourt credentials are well known: 12 titles on the surface and 10 finals lost, the last one of which earlier this year in Buenos Aires in a third set tiebreak against Dominic Thiem. Nobody currently active epitomizes the concept of ‘claycourt specialist’ as well as Almagro.
But despite all that Kyrgios is still a clear favorite to advance the final. For starters, by his own admission Almagro isn’t the player he once was, even if he’s showing signs of coming back to a high level. Even if he was still as his peak though, he always struggled against massive servers and hitters even on clay and that’s exactly what Kyrgios brings to the table. Almagro will stand far behind the baseline to try and get some serves back in play and from there it will be very difficult to contain Kyrgios’s onslaught.
Almagro will still have his chances here in any case; as mentioned before, few know their way around a claycourt as well as Almagro and that could potentially offset the vast different in overall current level between the two players. Kyrgios has been on the rise and has looked very dominant so far this week, but clay remains the surface that least suits his heavy hitting game; on any other surface, you’d expect this match to be a mere formality for the Australian, but on clay Almagro might have a word to say about it.