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Marco Cecchinato vs Lukas Lacko Nature Valley International tennis live: Can in-form Cecchinato reach first grass-court final in Eastbourne?

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 28 Jun 2018
  • Marco Cecchinato vs Lukas Lacko is live from Eastbourne around 2.30pm local time/BST on Friday
  • First career meeting between the pair
Marco Cecchinato (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato continues his bid for a second ATP World Tour title of 2018 when he takes on the experienced Lukas Lacko in the Nature Valley International semi-finals in Eastbourne on Friday.


Before this week, Marco Cecchinato had never won a professional grass-court match at any level (ATP, Challenger or Futures). Now, following his sensational run to the French Open semi-finals, the Italian is one win away from competing for an ATP World Tour grass-court title in Eastbourne. It’s been a phenomenal rise for Cecchinato, and he’s showing no signs of a letdown after his heroics in Paris. Standing in his way on Friday is Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko - the current World No. 94 who is playing his first ATP semi-final since 2012. Cecchinato and Lacko take to court around 2.30pm local time/BST on Friday.

Is another glorious chapter being written in the Marco Cecchinato story this week in Eastbourne? The Italian’s amazing run of form has continued onto the lawns of the Nature Valley International this week, with Cecchinato - playing just his second professional grass-court tournament - advancing into the semi-finals courtesy of a pair of three-set triumphs, firstly overcoming Denis Istomin 4-6 6-4 7-5 in his opening match before coming from behind again to conquer John Millman 5-7 6-3 6-2 in a repeat of the Budapest final - where Cecchinato won his maiden ATP World Tour title as a lucky loser back in May.

Nobody would have predicted this kind of rise for Cecchinato, especially after match-fixing allegations threatened to derail his career last year (and indeed they still could, with investigations reportedly ongoing as the Italian was granted a return to the tour on a quite absurd technicality). Nevertheless, Cecchinato has played some tremendous tennis over the last couple of months, starting with his first ATP title as a lucky loser in Budapest and hitting another level altogether with his magical run to the French Open semi-finals, where he came back from two sets down in his opening round to beat Marius Copil 10-8 in the fifth before wins over Marco Trungelliti, Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin and Novak Djokovic. Dominic Thiem proved too strong in the semi-finals, but Cecchinato had all of a sudden rise from No. 72 before the tournament to No. 27.


Indeed, after starting the season outside the top 100, Cecchinato is now seeded at Wimbledon - which, before this week in Eastbourne, would have been a great draw for his first round opponent at The Championships. However, Cecchinato - who had never won a match at any professional level on the lawns before Eastbourne - has translated his great form over to grass and is looking very good as he prepares for his semi-final showdown on Friday.

Lukas Lacko (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Lukas Lacko has come from out of nowhere this week to advance into his first ATP World Tour semi-final since 2012. Lacko had never been to the final four of an ATP tournament since his run to the Zagreb final over six years ago, but the Slovakian has enjoyed a great week so far in Eastbourne, earning the biggest win of his career over World No. 11 Diego Schwartzman either side of straight sets victories against Roberto Quiroz and Cameron Norrie to make the semi-finals.

Lacko, a former World No. 44, hasn’t really come close to scaling those heights over the last few years on tour, with his ranking largely fluctuating between the 80-130 mark, and thus he’s been alternating between the Challenger circuit and main tour for most of that time. Famous for winning a set 6-0 over Rafael Nadal in 2011 at Doha, Lacko has registered his best Grand Slam results on the grass of Wimbledon, reaching the third round in 2014 with a win over former World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer and also in 2016, where he qualified and beat 23rd seed Ivo Karlovic before going down to Marin Cilic.

The 30-year-old also qualified for the Australian Open in 2017 and made the third round, while he also scored a notable result in Melbourne this year, beating former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in the opening round before losing to Nicolas Kicker. Lacko had only won one tour-level match since the Australian Open before Eastbourne, but he did win the Glasgow Challenger last month to keep his ranking inside the top 100 at No. 94.

This will be the first meeting between the pair, and honestly, it could really go either way. Lacko is a much better player than his ranking suggests, and while a lack of drive has held hime back, he should be sufficiently motivated to make a first ATP final since 2012. Cecchinato meanwhile is riding a huge wave of confidence and is in excellent form, swiftly adjusting his game to the lawns. For me this is toss of the coin stuff, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Lacko this week - I’m going to back the underdog home for an unlikely final.


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Marco Cecchinato vs Lukas Lacko Nature Valley International tennis live: Can in-form Cecchinato reach first grass-court final in Eastbourne?

French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato continues his bid for a second ATP World Tour title of 2018 when he takes on the experienced Lukas Lacko in the Nature Valley International semi-finals in Eastbourne on Friday.

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