Nick's Picks will be breaking down the Sony Ericsson Open everyday!. Follow along for predictions, picks, and insight into the tournament on the blog and on TennisWeek.com.
Andy Roddick (USA) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)
Roddick had a tough first set (a total of 20 points in the tiebreaker) against Russian Dmitry Tursunov in the third round, but then turned it on in the second set to reach the fourth round. He won this title back in 2004 and reached the semis last year before falling to eventual champion, Nikolay Davydenko.
Monfils survived by the thinnest of margins to defeat former world #1 Marat Safin 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(3). Not only did he come back from two breaks down in the third set, but he also saved two match points against the Russian. I know Monfils loves the drama, but even for him that was a lot!
Monfils is 3-2 against Roddick, but they did meet earlier this year with Roddick winning in three sets. This is going to be an exciting match from the outset. The crowd will be rooting hard for Andy, and Monfils cannot let this bother him. Roddick has Larry Stefanki in his corner now, who is one of the best coaches on the ATP Tour. With him, Roddick's backhand has gotten even more versatile and is much steadier. He can pretty much hit any shot now from the backhand side, and he isn't making as many errors either. To win this match, Roddick needs to get a high percentage of first serves in play to keep Monfils off-balance.
For Monfils, he seems more focused than ever before and is playing with much more rhythm in his game. His forehand has flattened out a little and he is standing closer to the baseline which is a positive. His biggest challenge is going to be cutting down on the silly unforced errors that he tends to make.
I am really looking forward to this match, as it is going to be a tough one for both players. I give Roddick a slight edge and with the crowd behind him I think he will pull it out. The longer it goes though, the more it favors Monfils.
Nick's Pick - Roddick in 2, but if it goes three he could be in trouble!
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Djokovic moved past Paul-Henri Mathieu fairly easily, defeating the Frenchman 6-4, 6-1 in the third round. After winning this title in 2007, Djokovic lost in the second round last year to Kevin Anderson so you know he is going to do his best to make up for that performance.
Berdych beat American favorite James Blake in three sets to advance to the fourth round. He did reach the fourth round at the Aussie Open earlier this year, but other than that tournament he hasn't had a great year as exemplified by his 5-6 record. His best appearance in Miami came last year when he reached the semis before losing to Nadal in straight sets.
Djokovic is 1-0 against Berdych with that win coming in Bangkok last year. These two men were being compared to each other when they were both coming up, but it has been Djokovic that has taken his game to the next level. Both guys hit big groundstrokes from the baseline and have sonic serves. The difference here is that Djokovic can do a little bit of everything and has more variety in his game. He is also a better mover than Berdych is, and is probably more comfortable at the net. I do believe when Berdych is playing his best he has the talent to beat anybody, but in the bigger matches his track record isn't great. I have to give the nod in this one to Djokovic.
Nick's Pick - Djokovic in 2 sets