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Thomaz Bellucci vs Ernesto Escobedo ATP Houston Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: American wildcard Escobedo looks to continue dream week

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 Apr 2017
  • Thomaz Bellucci vs Ernesto Escobedo is live from Houston on Saturday, 15 April from 1:00pm local time/ 7:00pm BST
  • 20-year-old NextGen star, Escobedo is competing in his first ever ATP semi-final
Ernesto Escobedo. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

American, Ernesto Escobedo will take on Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci in the semi-finals of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston on Saturday.

With seasoned campaigners, John Isner and Sam Querrey lodged in the bottom half of the draw, not many would have expected that the last American standing in that half would be wildcard Escobedo, but the NextGen Star has put together a dream week to take his place in a maiden ATP semi-final.

Escobedo took out Tennys Sandgren 6-3 6-3 in his opening  match in Houston- his first ever main draw match on clay, before recovering from the loss of the first set to beat Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro in the second round. However, it was his quarter final victory over second seed John Isner that really caught the eye. Isner banged down a tournament record 35 aces in the quarter final, but Escobedo maintained his poise, countering with a barrage of forehand winners to outlast his more celebrated compatriot in the three-hour-contest.

Escobedo had a series of highlights in 2016: He won his first ever ATP main draw match in Nottingham, defeating Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman in the opening round having come through the qualifiers, while he also won his first ever Grand Slam main draw match (albeit via the retirement of Lukas Lacko in the first round). He had got into Flushing Meadows by winning the US Open Wild Card challenge. Escobedo also qualified for main draws in s-Hertogenbosch and Washington, while he picked up a couple of Challenger titles in Lexington and Monterrey.

All of that ensured that he broke into the top 150 by the end of the year, finishing the season at number 141.

Escobedo won his first completed Grand Slam main draw match at the Australian Open in 2017, defeating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in four sets, and he threatened a major upset against David Ferrer in the second round when he took the opening set 6-2. However, the Spanish veteran recovered to take the match in four.

His other notable performances this year have been a couple of second round appearances- first in Acapulco, and then in Miami, where as a qualifier, the 20-year-old took down Great Britain’s Dan Evans in the opening round before falling to Fernando Verdasco in tight sets. That run in Miami was good enough to take him into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Can he keep it going to make a first ever ATP final in Houston? He’s got a tough one against the clay-savvy Brazilian, Thomaz Bellucci.

Bellucci took down Sam Querrey in three sets to reach the Houston semi-finals. The world number 65 has had to battle his way through the draw, taken the distance in all three rounds against Frances Tiafoe, Maximo Gonzalez and then, Querrey.

This is his second semi-final of the season, with the first, unsurprisingly coming on the clay of Quito. He had a big win over Kei Nishikori in the opening round in his home tournament in Rio, but he couldn’t quite back it up as he fell to Thiago Monteiro in the second round.

The left-hander, who peaked at a career-high number 21 back in 2010, didn’t have the best of seasons in 2016. A run to the Quito final aside, Bellucci struggled for match wins in the first half of the year, failing to cross the first hurdles in eight of his first ten tournaments of the campaign. Bellucci sought some confidence with a trip to the Challenger Tour at the midway point of the season, and it worked, as he claimed the title in Braunschweig, and reached the final in Biella.

That set him up for a better, though unspectacular second half, during which he reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in his home country, contested a semi-final in Shenzhen and lost out in the quarter finals in Moscow to finish the year just outside the top 60.

Bellucci’s first ever meeting with Escobedo is filled with plenty of intrigue. It’s the right-handed Escobedo against the left-handed Bellucci, with both men keen to get their forehands into play. With his greater clay court experience, the Brazilian should on paper take care of his rookie opponent, but on the evidence of Escobedo’s performances this week, this will hardly be a straightforward contest. The American has got a great chance of the upset.

Escobedo’s forehand has done plenty of damage in Houston, and crucially, the American is learning to temper his aggression with the patience needed to excel on his clay court. I like his chances a lot in this one!


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Thomaz Bellucci vs Ernesto Escobedo ATP Houston Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: American wildcard Escobedo looks to continue dream week

Thomaz Bellucci takes on Ernesto Escobedo in Houston on Saturday. Will Escobedo continue his dream week in Houston? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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