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Tommy Haas (GER) vs. Robert Kendrick (USA)
Haas had to fight his you know what off in the first round, and in the end he advanced in four difficult sets. He has had great success at the US Open in the past, reaching the quarterfinals three times and the fourth round three other times. Haas comes into the tournament ranked #21 in the world and he has had a very good summer, as he won Halle, reached the semis at Wimbledon and Los Angeles and the quarters in Washington.
Kendrick moved into the second round with a straight-set victory over Martin Vassallo Arguello. Kendrick has never been past the second round of any Grand Slam, and I am sure he would love to change that in front of the American fans. Kendrick was a great college player about 10 years ago, but at the age of 29 he is no spring chicken and if he wants to make his mark he needs to do it sooner rather than later.
Haas is 1-0 against Kendrick, with that win coming last year in San Jose. Kendrick's game is based around his serve and forehand. He has excellent groundstrokes and is a very dangerous opponent, especially playing in front of the home fans.
After Haas went up 3-0 in the second set, it looked like he was going to cruise. It didn't happen and he found himself in a big-time battle. Having advanced, hopefully he will put all that behind him and focus on Kendrick. Haas was over-hitting from the forehand side and made too many unforced errors, I think he will get that fixed in this match. He is more comfortable at the net than in the past and when he is serving well, he is extremely difficult to beat. I think this will be a competitive match, and in the end I see my student of over 20 years, Tommy Haas, coming through.
Nick's Pick - Haas in 4 sets
Andy Roddick (SRB) vs. Marc Gicquel (FRA)
Roddick looked great in his first round win over Bjorn Phau. The fans stayed late to watch him play and you could see he really appreciated their support. Roddick is as confident as he has ever been and there is no reason to think that he can't win this tournament. I really enjoy watching him play and so do the American fans!
Gicquel is a 32-year old French veteran who is currently ranked #81 in the world. He beat Dmitry Tursunov in four sets in the first round to advance and he did get to the fourth round at the US Open just three years ago.
Roddick is 3-0 against Gicquel and beat him earlier this year on clay at the French Open. Gicquel is a righty with a solid two-handed backhand and he knows how to win. Right now, Roddick looks as good as he ever has. He is moving superbly, has an outstanding coach in Larry Stefanki, and is in the best shape of his life. When you combine all that with his monster serve, killer forehand, and greatly-improved backhand, you get one heck of a player. I think Gicquel could take a set off of Roddick, but I look for the American to move through.
Nick's Pick - Roddick in 4 sets
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)
Tsonga made quick work of young American Chase Buchanan, beating him 6-0, 6-2, 6-1. He has been to the third round of the US Open the last two years, but has failed to get past that point. I am sure he has his eyes set on a much bigger prize in 2009!
Nieminen reached the quarterfinals of the US Open back in 2005, but has failed to get out of the third round since. He also reached the quarterfinals of the 2008 Australian Open and the 2006 French Open. He comes into the tournament ranked #54 in the world, but has been as high as #13
Tsonga and Nieminen have played twice and they split those matches. Tsonga's win came earlier this year at Brisbane in three sets. Nieminen is a tricky lefty with a solid two-handed backhand. He's a big guy who moves well and has the talent to beat anyone. Tsonga has one of the biggest games on the tour. He has a killer forehand and a sonic serve and he also moves extremely well. He looks like Muhammad Ali, but he packs an even bigger punch! Both of these guys know what it takes to win, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Nieminen give Tsonga one heck of a match. I just think Tsonga has too much firepower in the end and he will advance.
Nick's Pick - Tsonga in 4 sets
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Nicolas Kiefer (GER)
Everyone wanted to see how Nadal looked in his first round match against Richard Gasquet. Well, he sent a loud message out to the entire field: âWatch out!â Nadal's knee appeared to be in good shape and he dispensed of Gasquet in three easy sets. It's great to have Nadal back out on the court and playing again, because when he is healthy he brings so much excitement to the sport.
Kiefer, a 32-year old veteran, is a former top-five player but is currently ranked #129 in the world. His best result at the US Open came nine years ago in 2000, when he reached the quarterfinals. He has also been to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the semis at the Australian Open.
Nadal is 4-0 against Kiefer, with all of those wins coming last year. Kiefer, along with Tommy Haas, were picked as the next great generation of German tennis players. Both men have had great careers, but it's hard to fill the shoes of Boris Becker! Kiefer has dealt with injury problems throughout his career, but when healthy he is very dangerous. He is a keen competitor, has excellent groundstrokes, and a good serve. He will not give away any free points to Nadal, but the question is whether he can hang with Nadal's physicality. Nadal looking like his old self in the first round and that is bad news for everyone else. He is extremely enthusiastic and is no doubt hungry to win this title. Kiefer won't go down without swinging, and has the ability to take a set, but I see Nadal getting through.
Nick's Pick - Nadal in 3 sets