Milos Raonic (CAN) vs. Juan Monaco (ARG)
This is Raonic's first appearance in the third round of Roland Garros and the young Canadian is certainly capable of doing more damage. Despite his height, he moves well and has an excellent two-handed backhand that he can hit inside the court and above his shoulders. His big weapons though, are his sonic first serve and his ability to turn any defensive ball into a winner (usually hit with his huge forehand).
Monaco will not be afraid of the hard-serving Canadian though, don't you worry! While he isn't as tall as him, he is like a machine out on the court and he's as quick as a cat. His two-handed backhand won't hurt you, but he hits it cross-court and deep which forces his opponents to over-hit.
Nick's Pick - This is a match between Raonic's serve and Monaco's ability to not miss any shot. Monaco must go for bigger shots when any defensive balls are hit his way and Raonic must not let this turn into a marathon match. The longer this goes, the more it favors the Argentine. I am going to go for the upset here and take Raonic in 4 sets. If his serve falters at all though, watch out!
David Ferrer (ESP) vs. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
Despite Ferrer's being a great clay-courter, he has never been past the quarters at Roland Garros. This seems a bit odd to me and I wouldn't be shocked to see him make a deep run this year. He can go all day out there, and he never gives in. He moves so well and hardly ever makes a mistake.
Youzhny, like Ferrer, has been to the quarters here as well, but never past that point (2010). He's seen his ranking fluctuate over the last few years, but he is always a tough out in any tournament. He has a superb one-handed backhand that is really his best shot and he is a very fierce competitor.
Nick's Pick - Ferrer will take it to Youzhny from the first ball and will move him all over the court as if he sweeping the clay after the match! There will be no errors from Ferrer and this will force Youzhny to get frustrated and to over-hit. I am going with Ferrer in 4 sets.
Gilles Simon (FRA) vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)
Simon is coming off of a five-set win over American Brian Baker in the second round and now faces an even tougher challenge in Wawrinka. Simon is tall and rather slim and doesn't look like a great athlete, but he is very dangerous. He does a great job of concealing his serve and his opponents have a very difficult time reading it. His groundstrokes are very good, especially his backhand down the line. He moves well and also anticipates very well.
What's interesting is that Simon doesn't play like a typical Frenchman with a ton of flare. He doesn't hit many winners, but will keep the ball deep and forces his opponents to over-hit. During long rallies, Simon will go to his forehand for winners and he has a very short back-swing.
On the other side of the net, Wawrinka took down a tough clay-court competitor in Pablo Andujar in four sets in the second round. Wawrinka has a strong physical build and moves very well for his size. He has one of the very best one-handed backhands on the tour, he has an excellent slice and his forehand is extremely aggressive.
Nick's Pick - This is a toss up, but keep in mind Wawrinka can lose his focus at times. Simon cannot let Wawrinka get off to a big start. If that happens, he ma not catch up. Whoever wins the first set will be the winner, but I favor Simon.
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
Mahut took out Andy Roddick on the opening round and followed up with a four-set win over Martin Kilzan in the second round. His strength is built on his big 1st serve and aggressive 2nd serve. He is very comfortable at the net, uses the slice a ton, has a nice one-handed backhand and he has a tendency to stand much to far behind the baseline. Not going to be easy against Roger!
Federer dropped the third set in his second-round win over Adrian Ungur, but bounced right back to win the fourth relatively easily. There isn't much I can say about Roger. He has one of the most effective forehands in the history of the game. He can play defensive and offensive tennis - he is truly a genius on the court. He can play from any position and comes up with the big serve when he needs it.
Nick's Pick - No way I cannot pick Federer. Going with him in three tough sets.
Na Li (CHN) vs. Christina McHale (USA)
After winning this title last year, Li Na struggled throughout the rest of 2011 losing in the second round at Wimbledon and the first round at the US Open. She seems to enjoy playing on the red clay and hopefully she will regain some of the magic she had last year! She will stand right on top of the baseline and move from side-to-side hitting winners. She has an excellent athletic foundation, her groundstrokes are very good and she likes to play fast and dictate play.
What a great run for the young McHale. She's made it to the third round of a Grand Slam for only the third time in her career and she looks very comfy out there. She comes in ranked #35 and that will certainly go higher after this tournament. She has a solid first serve and two-handed backhand and her great movement allows her to play super defensive tennis. She needs a bit more from her groundstrokes and her second serve can be tentative at times.
Nick's Pick - Li Na will not want to allow McHale to get any confidence and will take it to her from the outset. She knows how to win here and the longer this goes, the more McHale will feel like she can win. I certainly have to give the edge to Li Na, but I would love to see Christina give her a great match!
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Shuai Peng (CHN)
Sharapova has lost two total games in two matches thus far and the draw has really opened up for her. This is certainly her best change to complete the career Grand Slam! When she takes the court, you know what you are going to get from Maria. She is a tenacious competitor, has fantastic groundstrokes and when the serve is on she is next to impossible to beat.
Peng is into the third round for the second consecutive year and is looking for her first appearance in the fourth round of Roland Garros. She hits with two hands on both sides and hits the ball hard and flat. She moves well, but her serve is a glaring weakness and Sharapova is one of the better returners on the tour.
Nick's Pick - No chance that I will pick against my girl, Maria! Peng has trouble when opponents make her hit a lot of balls and take her out of her comfort zone and that is what Sharapova will do. She will force Peng to go for winners and will play the match on her terms. I look for Sharapova to continue her hot streak and advance to the fourth round in straight sets.
Sam Stosur (AUS) vs. Nadia Petrova (RUS)
This should be a very interesting match between two veterans of the tour. Stosur went to the finals here back in 2010 and she won the 2011 US Open. She is very comfortable on the clay and with that kick serve and her heavy forehands she is tough to beat on the red dirt.
Petrova is no push-over though. She will stand her ground and is a good doubles player. She's a two-time semifinalist at Roland Garros and also reached the quarters in 2010. She has excellent groundstrokes, she comfy at the net and she moves well.
Nick's Pick - This is a tough call, but because of how well Stosur's game transalates on the clay I am going with her in two tough sets or three sets.
Aggie Radwanska (POL) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Radwanska has faces two tough opponents to open up the tournament and in both matches she hasn't had any trouble at all. Now, she gets another very difficult challenger in Kuznetsova, who won this tournament in 2009. Radwanska is known for her ability to keep the ball in play and her excellent movement, but she has improved her serve and she is playing very aggressively. She's had a great year in 2012, and a win here would put her in the fourth round for the fourth time in her career.
Kuznetsova has been as high as #2 in the world, but over the last few years her ranking has slipped and she comes into this tournament ranked #28 in the world. She's had a ton of success at Roland Garros over the years and she seems to be feeling good right now. Her game is simple. She is going to stand right around the baseline, take the ball early and really pound it. She moves well laterally and when she is in the zone, she doesn't miss. She's like a backboard on the baseline!
Nick's Pick - This is a tough match to call because while Radwanska has played exceptionally well so far, Kuznetsova has the game to beat anyone. I have to give a slight edge to Radwanska based on her play in 2012, but watch out, this could be an upset!