2011 Sony Ericsson Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Round 2
Xavier Malisse (BEL) vs. Michael Llodra (FRA)
Malisse was two points away from reaching the fourth round of Indian Wells but couldn’t close out the match against Somdev Devvarman and lost in the tiebreaker. He did pick up a nice win over Jo-Willy Tsonga in the second round though and he went on to win the doubles title there so all in all it was a good tournament for the long-time IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy pro. He beat Ryan Sweeting in the first round in Miami in straight sets and he is playing really well right now.
Llodra comes into the tournament ranked #25 in the world, which is only three spots below his career high. He reached the third round of Indian Wells before falling to Viktor Troicki and his best result in Miami came back in 2007 when he reached the third round.
Llodra is 2-1 against Malisse, but their last meeting came all the way back in 2009 in the first round of the Australian Open and Malisse won that in straight sets. Llodra is a hard-serving lefty who will come into the net as much as he can to try and win easy points. He has a solid forehand and a good backhand and his movement is top-notch. On the other side, Malisse doesn’t really have a glaring weakness in his game. His attitude is excellent, his strokes are very good, and his footwork is some of the best on tour. It has always been a mental thing with Xavier, but he seems to be over that and I look for him to advance in a tough match.
Nick’s Pick – Malisse in 3 sets
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
Del Potro beat Ricardo Mello in the opening round 6-4, 6-4 and he is slowly, but surely working his way back up the rankings. It is just a matter of time before the young Argentine is back in the top 10 and contending for Grand Slam titles again. He is as dangerous of a player as there is and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him playing deep into the second week.
2011 has been kind to Kohlschreiber as he comes into the tournament with a 9-7 record and he has been to the quarters of only one tournament thus far. His best result in Miami came last year when he reached the third round before he was ousted by Jo-Willy Tsonga in straight sets.
Del Potro is 3-0 against Kohlschreiber and just beat him at Indian Wells in two tiebreak sets. Both men strike the ball very hard from both sides and both have booming serves. The difference is Del Potro is able to take the ball earlier than Kohlschreiber and catch him off-balance and out of position. The difference here will be Del Potro’s ability to win more easy points and to force Kohlschreiber into unforced errors. I look for another close match, like they had at Indian Wells, but in the end I see Del Potro advancing.
Nick’s Pick – Del Potro in 2 sets
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Federer is 10-2 against Stepanek and beat him twice in 2010. Stepanek is the type of guy that is difficult to play against. He doesn’t give you much to work with, and he likes to serve and volley and approach the net whenever he can. He is solid from the baseline, but he doesn’t have the variety that Federer has. On the other side, Federer will look to rebound from a tough loss at Indian Wells and get back in the winner’s circle. He needs to prove to everyone that he can win a big title again and this would definitely qualify. He is no longer #2 in the world, and I am sure he knows this. He has a great record versus Stepanek and he knows how to beat him. I look for a tough test for Federer, but in the end I look for him to advance in straight sets.
Nick’s Pick – Federer in 2 sets
Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)
Cilic is 5-0 against Tipsarevic and beat him twice last year. Tipsarevic reached the finals at Delray Beach a couple of weeks ago and lost in the second round of Indian Wells last week. He is a tricky player because he plays with a ton of junk and he hustles for every single ball and will never relent. He can get the crowd on this side, and with a Serbia vs. Croatian match the crowd can always be a factor. Tipsarevic did reach the quarters in Miami in 2008 so he has also had some success down here.
While Tipsarevic will fight hard against Cilic, the hard-serving Croat just has too much firepower for his opponent. His serve is huge and his groundstrokes are excellent. He needs to maintain his mental focus, because he does go through lapses at times. With his past success against Tipsy, I give the edge to him, but I look for this to possibly go three sets.
Nick’s Pick – Cilic in 3 sets