Between our own personal bang with Cristian Garin's win and the most unlikely loss of Novak Djokovic's career, there have been plenty of surprises this week in Vienna. The only seeded player left in the tournament is Andrey Rublev who continues to impress. The Russian beat local hero and #2 seed Dominic Thiem in straight sets yesterday. Now Kevin Anderson awaits in the semifinal as the South African eliminated #4 seed Daniil Medvedev as an even bigger underdog.
Demolition of Djokovic
If tennis fans considered this a shock, they would not have believed their eyes later on. It surely was one of the biggest surprises in recent history when Lucky Loser Lorenzo Sonego demolished world #1 Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-1 and gave under bettors their much expected sweat-free win. The Italian was a +1900 underdog and you could have even gotten odds of +3900 or better if you bet him to win in straights. In the biggest win of his life, Sonego played some great tennis and finished with 26 winners and only 12 unforced errors.
No one wants to take anything away from him, but we also have to talk about Djokovic here for a bit. The Serb secured the year-end world #1 with his win over Borna Coric and admitted that it "had an effect on [him]“ yesterday. The feeling that he didn't look too interested is subjective, but let's check some key stats of yesterday's beatdown. Sonego won 5/6 break points and saved all 6 of Djokovic's chances, meaning the world #1 went 1/12 on break points for or against him. That's not the clutch Novak we all know and the fire in his eyes was just missing entirely. Maybe that also had something to do with the passing of Amfilohije Radovic, a bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Djokovic stated that it was "a very sad day" and that he "didn't feel like playing too much" after catching the sad news.
Again, it would be unfair to ignore Sonego's superb performance yesterday, but some slight concerns remain as to whether he can reproduce the same today against a very different player in Daniel Evans. The Brit defeated Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinal and already proved his good indoor form with a semifinal appearance in Antwerp last week. Writing this sentence still hurts as he blew 4 match points in said semifinal when we backed him on the outright market.
However, we move on and give Evo a second chance today. He's by far the more experienced indoor player and as I mentioned in the Antwerp preview, these are the courts he thrives on, especially since Vienna looks a bit faster than Antwerp. His slice and tricky play will present a difficult task for Sonego. Let's also not forget that the Italian got into the draw as a lucky loser, having lost his final qualifying match against Aljaz Bedene, and only had one ATP main draw win on indoor hard courts heading into this week.
The match after a career best win often means an even bigger challenge as players have to handle their emotions and keep focus. Evans has been there before and I just think his game will be too much for Sonego today. Hats off if the Italian can make it one step further, but I rely on a potential letdown spot and take Dan Evans at the -2.5 games handicap in today's semifinal.