Mikhail Kukushkin and Nikoloz Basilashvili have peaked at the right time at the 2017 Memphis Open presented by ServiceMaster. The duo from Kazhakstan and Georgia, respectively, have fought their way to the semifinals — without dropping a set — where they will meet with a berth in Sunday’s final on the line.
Kukushkin, a veteran on Tour for over a decade, has made the slow indoor hard courts of the Racquet Club of Memphis his personal playground, dropping just 14 games across six sets in wins over lucky lose Benjamin Becker, qualifier Darian King, and 4th-seeded Steve Johnson. Kukushkin had his way with Johnson in their quarterfinal clash, winning 62% of total points in the match including 71% of second serve return points.
The Kazhak has found most of his professional success on indoor hard courts, posting a 46-36 record indoors and only a 61-102 mark outside. Additionally, five of Kukushkin’s six ATP semifinals have come indoors.
“To play indoor hard, for me is the best conditions,” Kukushkin said. “Maybe that’s why I was able to show my good game (today). These conditions in Memphis, they really suit me.”
Basilashvili faced a bit more challenge on his way to the semifinals needing first set tiebreakers to get past top seed Ivo Karlovic and qualifier Matt Ebden. In his quarterfinal match with Ebden, Basilashvili fought from down a break in the second set to seal his second straight ATP semifinal, after reaching the same round in Sofia last week.
The Georgian credited his fitness with his recent string of success. “On court, I’m feeling very energized, very strong,” Basilashvili said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I did a lot of work physically (in the offseason) and it paid off.”
When the two Eastern Europeans play in Saturday’s semifinal it will be their first meeting on Tour. Opportunity awaits for both: for Kukushkin, it is a chance to bolster his indoor credentials, for Basilashvili, a chance at his first ATP-level final.