Taylor Dent (USA) vs. Robin Soderling (SWE)
Dent picked up a nice straight-set win over Nicolas Lapentti in the opening round, which breaks a five-match losing streak dating back to the Sony Ericsson Open. Surprisingly, this is the first time Dent has won a match at the French Open losing to James Blake in 2003 and Jonas Bjorkman in 2004.
Soderling, last year's surprise finalist, won easily in the first round against French wild card Laurent Recouderc. Soderling comes into the tournament ranked #7 in the world and he is sporting a nice 21-9 record on the year. If he wants to duplicate his success from last year he may have to get by Federer in the quarterfinals.
Soderling and Dent are 1-1 against each other but they haven't played since 2004 so those results are not that indicative of how they are both playing now. Dent has been training at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program Tennis Academy for a couple of years now and you will not meet a guy who works harder than Taylor. He will not sit on the baseline and try and outhit Soderling in long rallies. He is going to come to the net, serve and volley and use his excellent slice to keep the big Swede off-balance. The slice has become a huge part of Dent's came now, and it's a great weapon. Soderling will use his big forehand, excellent movement and powerful serve to try and push Dent back off the court. You have to give the edge to Soderling because of his history here, but don't be surprised to see Dent push him extremely hard.
Nick's Pick - Soderling in 4 tough sets
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs. Florent Serra (FRA)
Verdasco is one of my favorites to watch because he is a lefty, hits the sonic serve and really attacks his opponents. He's been working hard with Gil Reyes to improve his physical fitness and with a tidy 30-9 record in 2010 he is definitely playing well. He's been to the fourth round at the French Open the last three years but has never been father.
Serra is a 29-year old Frenchman who comes into the tournament ranked #67 in the world. He was as high as #36 back in 2006, but never has been able to crack the top 30. He advanced to the third round of the French Open back in 2008 but coincidentally he lost to Verdasco in straight sets here in the first round last year.
Verdasco is 4-1 against Serra and just beat him on clay at Nice in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. Simply put, Serra doesn't have the firepower to play with Verdasco on this stage. Verdasco lefty forehand is one of the biggest on the tour, his movement is superb and his serve is outstanding. He is playing great tennis thus far in 2010, and I don't see him struggling in this match.
Nick's Pick - Verdasco in 3 sets
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Nishikori outlasted Colombian Santiago Giraldo in five sets in the opening round to reach the second round of the French Open for first time in his career. He has been on a roll as of late and now that he is over the injury that kept him out of play for the majority of 2009, it's just a matter of time before he is ranked inside the top 50 again.
Djokovic needed four sets to beat Evgeny Korolev in the opening round and is looking to get back to the semifinals of the French Open for the third time in his career. Last year he was knocked out in the third round by Philipp Kohlschreiber, and I am sure he is looking to bounce back from that performance.
This is the first career match between Nishikori and Djokovic and it should be a good one. I am particularly interested because Nishikori trains here at the Academy and I just spent some time with Djokovic and his family in Serbia. Djokovic has been struggling as of late with a bad asthma problem and that has really affected his play. He had to retire at his own tournament in Belgrade a couple of weeks ago and if that surfaces again it could be an issue for him. Despite the difference in rankings, this will not be an easy match for Djokovic. Nishikori covers the court about as well as humanly possible, he has fantastic groundstrokes and can turn defense into offense quickly. The longer this match goes, the more it favors Djokovic. If he has any health problems than Nishikori could advance. I have to give the edge to Djokovic because of his experience, but don't be surprised to see Nishikori pull off an upset.
Nick's Pick - Djokovic in 4 difficult sets