Valencia SF previews and picks: Bautista Agut vs. Johnson, Pospisil vs. Sousa

Pospisil 1An on-fire Steve Johnson will look to maintain his hot streak against Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday in Valencia. The other semifinal pits Vasek Pospisil against Joao Sousa.

(7) Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Steve Johnson

Two familiar foes will be going head-to-head when Bautista Agut and Johnson battle on Saturday for a spot in the Valencia Open title match. They faced each other three times in 2014 in the span of less than four months. Bautista Agut has won all three of their previous encounters; 6-3, 6-3 at the Indian Wells Masters, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 two weeks later in Miami, and 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5 in the Wimbledon first round.

Right now, though, Johnson is playing the best tennis of his career. The 33rd-ranked American is coming off a runner-up performance in Vienna and so far this week he has taken out Martin Klizan, Feliciano Lopez, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straight sets. Bautista Agut also made a run to a final last week in Moscow, where he eventually succumbed to Marin Cilic. Fortunately for the 24th-ranked Spaniard, he played only four matches because of bye and none went to a third set or even featured a single tiebreaker. So far in Valencia, Bautista Agut has defeated Nicolas Almagro, Andrey Rublev, and Mischa Zverev–dropping one set to Almagro in the process. The seventh seed should be able to make it a perfect 4-0 against the underdog in front of his home fans.

Pick: Bautista Agut in 3

Vasek Pospisil vs. Joao Sousa

There is no part of the season Sousa enjoys more than the fall swing. The 46th-ranked Portuguese’s lone ATP title came two years ago in Kuala Lumpur and two of his five runner-up showings came in Metz (2014) and St. Petersburg just a few weeks ago. Sousa is back in indoor business in Valencia, where he has dismissed Gilles Muller, Benoit Paire, and Pablo Cuevas–surrendering just one set to Paire along the way.

Up next for Sousa is a second career meeting with Pospisil. Their only previous showdown came in round one of this year’s French Open, where Sousa cruised 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-1. An indoor hard court should give Pospisil a much better chance. After all, the 43rd-ranked Canadian likes to impose his will on opponents with big serves and forehands in addition to aggressive net play. Pospisil has not come close to dropping a set in Valencia. His set scorelines in wins over Santiago Giraldo, Aljaz Bedene, and Daniel Brands were 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, and 6-3. Sousa will make him work much harder, but Pospisil’s surge should continue.

Pick: Pospisil in 3

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