The 23 year old Soon Woo Kwon will take on local favorite Alexander Bublik on Saturday afternoon in the Astana Open semifinals.
Kwon is attempting to reach his first ATP level final on the indoor hard courts in Kazakhstan. The South Korean had a good season, although he still seems to need a little bit more in his game to really take the next step and start winning against the top players. His best results this year include a title at the Biella Challenger in February and a semifinal at ATP Eastbourne in June. Here in Astana, Kwon got past Donskoy, Lajovic and Djere, losing just one set (in the QF’s).
Bublik had some issues in his opening match here against Kecmanovic, prevailing 7-5 in a tight third set, but has raised his level and is coming off a solid 6-3 6-4 victory over Taberner in the quarters. Bublik played just two matches in this tournament and has been impressive on serve. He was not broken in the QF’s by Taberner, and he served an incredible total of 35 aces in the five sets he played.
Bublik leads the H2H 1-0, winning the only meeting in two sets right here in Kazakhstan. However, that was in 2017, so it holds little relevance.
Kwon is playing good tennis, but Bublik will be a step above in terms of quality, and I don’t know if the South Korean has the weapons to defeat players like these at the moment.
He won 26 matches this year, and out of those, only three were against players ranked inside the Top 80. It’s true that two of those wins came this week (Lajovic, Djere), but Lajovic and Djere are not exactly monsters on indoor hard. It just seems like Kwon, with his moderate and flat style of tennis, has a ceiling at the moment. He’s not going to come up with anything special to hurt the top level of opposition.
Kwon’s serve is also a factor of concern in my eyes, especially if you put it in antithesis with the way Bublik has been serving. While Kwon owns a pretty good first delivery, he only managed 8 aces in three matches. In the quarters against Djere, he served zero aces and got broken five times. Now put that in contrast with Bublik’s 35 aces in two matches, and the two breaks of serve he conceded throughout the tournament – which were both in the first set he played, against Kecmanovic, and he was not broken since.
With that in mind, I would expect Kwon to be under pressure, as he shouldn’t get too many looks on the opposing serve, while his own is not formidable enough to give him security and peace of mind.
Bublik is looking good, he seems to enjoy the home crowd, and I just don’t think Kwon has enough for him. He’s solid, but we could also see his weaknesses on full display against Djere in the quarters, where he lost 6 games in a row when his opponent raised his level in the second set. Kwon came back to win the decider 6-0, so that was impressive, but it was also facilitated by Djere’s complete collapse. The attacking Bublik will put that kind of pressure on Kwon with interest, and if the South Korean doesn’t handle it better, he will get blown off the court and left with very few opportunities to get back into the match.
I’m backing Bublik pretty confidently. Prediction: Soon Woo Kwon – Alexander Bublik 4-6 7-6 2-6.