Kuala Lumpur R1 previews and picks: Chardy vs. Zverev, Baghdatis vs. Almagro

Chardy (after beating Murray)Jeremy Chardy and Alexander Zverev will contest an intriguing first-round match on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur. Marcos Baghdatis and Nicolas Almagro are also aiming for spot in the last 16.

Alexander Zverev vs. (6) Jeremy Chardy

Zverev’s fall swing continues with another tough first-round draw, this time at the Malaysian Open. The 18-year-old German faced Fernando Verdasco right off the bat last week in Metz and lost 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-3. Still, Zverev is enjoying a breakout season during which he has picked up 13 of his 17 career ATP-level match victories. Zverev, whose summer included a quarterfinal finish in Washington, D.C. and successful qualification at the Cincinnati Masters and U.S. Open, registers four spots off his best-ever ranking at No. 78 in the world.

This will be the first career encounter between Zverev and Chardy. Also in fine form after a tough start to the year, Chardy has not played since reaching the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. His American hard-court swing also featured a semifinal run in Montreal. Always dangerous on fast surfaces with his big serve and forehand, Chardy fared well last fall. He advanced to the Valencia semis and lost to Roger Federer 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-4 in round two of the Paris Masters. This should be a high-quality affair, with Chardy’s experience and ability to win free points on serve making the difference in the end.

Pick: Chardy in 3

(WC) Nicolas Almagro vs. Marcos Baghdatis

Almagro and Baghdatis will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers and for the first time in more than three years when the two oft-injured veterans meet on Tuesday. Their only previous encounter came at the 2012 French Open, with Almagro prevailing 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. An indoor hard court should give Baghdatis a much better chance. The 51st-ranked Cypriot has always done his best work on faster surfaces and he already has an indoor semifinal to his credit this season (Zagreb).

While Baghdatis is coming off a second-round performance in St. Petersburg (beat Ernests Gulbis, lost to Tommy Robredo), Almagro went back to clay-court Challengers following the U.S. Open. The 76th-ranked Spaniard won the first one before losing to Jan-Lennard Struff in the semifinals of the other. That is not exactly ideal preparation prior to indoor hard courts for Almagro, whose recovery from a foot issue has been slow to progress. Baghdatis is in decent enough form to capitalize on this opportunity.

Pick: Baghdatis in 3

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