These two players have already faced each other 4 times between 2011 and 2017, always on clay courts.
Joao Sousa won the first two matches in 2011, while Roberto Carballes Baena won in 2014 and 2017.
This will be the second time that Roberto Carballes Baena participates in this ATP 250 of Cordoba, after 2019 where he was eliminated in the 2nd round (by the local Delbonis in 3 sets).
For his part, Joao Sousa will discover the Argentinean tournament this year.
Joao Sousa has only played one small match since the beginning of the season. It was at the beginning of February at the Challenger of Antalya (clay court) and the Portuguese was taken out from the start (and without convincing). Also, the unfortunate man had been unable to travel to Australia to play the first Grand Slam of the year, due to a positive Covid-19 test and the strict rules of the Australian government.
All this to say that Joao Sousa is currently out of shape. It should also be pointed out that the Portuguese comes out of a rather bad 2020 season, and that it’s almost 3 years that he’s been running after his best level.
Roberto Carballes Baena was very present in Australia, far from his preferred surface. As one could imagine, he did not make a miracle. Nevertheless, he showed that he had the legs and above all nothing lost from his excellent backhand.
Joao Sousa hasn’t been very confident lately. And this has the consequence of preventing him from taking risks (or making bad choices). He insures his moves a little too much and that opens a lot (but really a lot) of possibilities to his opponents. Let’s add that Roberto Carballes Baena knows how to defend very well. This could therefore force the Portuguese to put a little more to avoid playing an extra move (which will tend to make him generate faults; classic).
Mister Sousa is also quite excited about his service games (even more so when he’s not at his best mentally). This is good for his opponent who is good at raising. We also note that the Portuguese can’t often count on his service to win free points (unlike Carballes Baena who has a very good first ball).
In the rallies, Roberto Carballes Baena could succeed in making his aggressive backhand speak to counter that of his (less transcendent) opponent. Joao Sousa does not like to be subjected to rallies because he rarely reverses the trend. In other words, if Roberto Carballes Baena manages to spread his wings, I don’t give a lot of skin to the Portuguese.
As you can see, Roberto Carballes Baena seems to be in a better position to pass this round. Still, we will have to be careful as the Spanish will play his first match of the season on this surface, as well as on this continent.
Prediction: Roberto Carballes Baena wins