Taylor Dent (USA) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Dent, who trains at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program, beat Rainer Schuettler 6-1, 6-4 in the opening round. He comes into the tournament ranked #83 in the world and he has had solid results in Miami during his career, reaching the fourth round last year and the quarterfinals back in 2005. He is one of my favorite students because he always has a positive attitude and you won't meet a nicer guy off the court!
Nadal received a bye in the opening round and this is an important tournament for Nadal, especially after his loss in the semis of Indian Wells last week. Surprisingly, Nadal hasn't won a title since Rome last April and he has dropped to 4th in the rankings. If he is able to take home the title in Miami that would go a long way in helping his confidence.
This is the first career meeting between Dent and Nadal. Dent served magnificently against Schuettler in the first round and he is going to have to do that again against Nadal to have a chance. Dent needs to attack whenever he can, serve and volley and keep Nadal off-balance. The one thing you know about Dent is that he is going to play as hard as he can with a great fighting spirit and he will not give in. You know what you are going to get out of Nadal, he will not relent at any point and he is going to be extremely focused on winning this title. His cross-court shot to Dent's backhand is going to hurt the American. His game will also force Dent to capitalize on every single opportunity that he has, which is extremely difficult to do against a player of Nadal's caliber. I look for a hard fought match from both players, but you have to give the edge to Nadal.
Nick's Pick - Dent will battle, but I think Nadal prevails in three sets