Nick's Picks will be coming to you live from The Sony Ericsson Open from March 25th-29th. Follow along for predictions, picks, and insight into the tournament on the blog and on TennisWeek.com.
Mardy Fish (USA) vs. Nicolas Massu (CHI)
Massu is a former top-ten player who is now ranked #91 in the world. He is a veteran of the tour and has won six titles in his career. He has reached the third round in Miami twice before, which is his best result.
Fish comes into the tournament ranked #28 in the world and he won the title in Delray Beach earlier this year. He has also won two doubles titles this year, including last week at Indian Wells with Andy Roddick. Fish has never been past the third round in Miami in his career.
Massu is 2-1 against Fish, but they haven't played since 2007. Massu must get Fish into long rallies and try to wear him down. Fish can win a lot of free points with his serve and he has a great two-handed backhand that he can hit down-the-line. If his serve and groundstrokes break down he will attack the net, where he is very comfortable. Massu is a fighter and will not give up, but I believe Fish has too much for him.
Nick's Pick - Fish in 2 sets, could go 3
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) vs. Frederico Gil (POR)
Gil is the highest ranked Portuguese man in the world, and is actually the only Portuguese male ranked inside the top 100. He qualified for the tournament and is ranked a career high of #74 in the world.
Karlovic is my man! He spent time at the Academy before the season began and comes in ranked #27 in the world. A win here would be his first ever at this tournament and I believe he will get it.
This is the first career meeting between Karlovic and Gil and will be a contrast of styles. Karlovic stands at 6'10" and pounds serves with the best of them, while Gil is only 5'10" and moves very well. If Karlovic serves well he only has to break Gil's serve one time to win each set. Gil's only chance to break Karlovic is to close his eyes and hope for the best!
Nick's Pick - Karlovic in 2 sets
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) vs. Nicolas Kiefer (GER)
Santoro picked up a nice win over the up-and-comer Thomaz Bellucci in the first round. He is one of my favorite players to watch because of his incredible imagination and creativity. If you get a chance, go out and watch him play!
Kiefer is a veteran as well, and comes in ranked #29 in the world. He reached the third round at Indian Wells last week before falling to Roddick, and has had good success in Miami in the past, reaching the quarterfinals twice.
Santoro is 6-2 against Kiefer in his career with their last match coming at Wimbledon back in 2007. Both guys have been around the tour for a long time now, and know how to win consistently. Kiefer's career has been a bit up-and-down, but when he is healthy he is a very dangerous player. He moves well, has excellent groundstrokes and for the most part has no real weakness. Santoro is a magician with the ball. Throughout his career he has brought a different style of play, and it is extremely fun to watch. He respects his opponents and is a great example for kids! If the conditions are a little windy (like they have been), then it favors Santoro because of his unusual style and his ability to chip, slice, and move the ball all over the court. Kiefer cannot get frustrated and must stay focused if he wants to have a chance in this match. On paper, Kiefer is the favorite but I'm going with my man Santoro!
Nick's Pick - Santoro in 3 sets
Gael Monfils (FRA) vs. Michael Russell (USA)
Monfils comes into the tournament ranked #10 in the world, down from a career high of #9 which he achieved in early March. His best result here came back in 2005 when he reached the fourth round, since then he has yet to get by the second round. Something tells me that may change this year.
Russell is a journeyman American who came up with a solid win over Victor Hanescu in the opening round. He had to qualify to get in, and now faces one of the top-ten players in the world.
Monfils is 1-0 against Russell, having beaten him in the first round of the 2006 US Open. For entertainment purposes, there is no one more fun to watch then Monfils. He fills the seats, and the fans love him. He is perhaps the most athletic male on the tour, but what he lacks is a great mental focus. I often compare his athleticism to Yannick Noah, but Noah had the brains to go with it. Russell has solid groundstrokes, and is a fighter. He doesn't give in and will make Monfils work for every point. This should be an entertaining match, but in the end Monfils just has more shots in his repertoire.
Nick's Pick - Monfils in 2 sets