2009 Australian Open – Nick’s Picks – Men’s Singles Round 3

Once again, Nick’s Picks along with Tennis Week will bring you in-depth coverage of the Australian Open.  Check back everyday for insight leading up to the Open and then throughout.

Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Marat Safin (RUS)

Federer cruised in the second round, defeating Evgeny Korolev 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. So far, so good for Federer as he looks to tie Pete Sampras’ record for the most Grand Slam singles titles. The road is about to get a little tougher though as Safin is rolling into town.

Speaking of Safin, you have got to love the guy! He is definitely one of my favorites, even though you never can be too sure as to what you are going to get from him.

The Match-Up:

Federer is 9-2 against Safin, but one of those losses came back in 2005 in the semis of the Aussie Open. That was a classic battle with Safin coming out ahead 9-7 in the fifth set. If we get anything like that match we are in for a treat. No one will ever question Safin’s technical ability on the court. He has the offensive firepower to beat anyone; he just has a difficult time focusing the whole time. However, Federer is an inspiration to his opponents. Players get pumped up to face him and I am sure Safin will be ready. Federer must not underestimate Safin’s ability, because if he does this could be close.

Nick’s Pick – Federer in 4 sets

Andy Roddick (USA) vs. Fabrice Santoro (FRA)

Roddick survived a tough match against NBTA alum Xavier Malisse in the second round, and will now face another tough opponent in Fabrice Santoro.

Santoro is unbelievable. There is not much else I can say about this 36-year old magician. All I know is that when he leaves the game, there will be a whole that cannot be filled in. He will be sorely missed.

The Match-Up:

Roddick is 3-1 against Santoro, and beat him in the first round of the 2008 US Open in straight sets. Before the tournament began, Roddick’s new coach, Larry Stefanki, had Roddick lose 15 pounds. It looks as though this is really helping him stay in the long rallies (which he will need against Santoro). Also, Roddick’s backhand continues to look better than ever before and we all know how good his serve is. Roddick knows Santoro had to go five sets in his previous match and don’t think he isn’t going to try and work him hard. Be careful though, Santoro knows how to frustrate the best of them and Roddick cannot let Santoro’s “junk” throw him off. I know Santoro is the magician, but even the best wizards sometimes run out of tricks.

Nick’s Pick – Roddick in 4 sets

Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Tommy Haas (GER)

Nadal has cruised through the first two rounds, losing a total of 11 games in six sets. He has added to his already stellar game and looks as healthy as ever. If Nadal continues on this pace, it could be another unbelievable year for the young man.

Haas has been with me at the Academy for 18 years. He spent some time with me right before the Aussie Open and it appears as though the things we worked on are paying handsome dividends.

The Match-Up:

Nadal is 3-0 against Haas in his career, and beat him once last year in Cincinnati. When Tommy was at the Academy before the Aussie began he was hitting very well, but everything was flat and waist high which was putting him on the defensive all the time. We worked on hitting heavy balls that kept his opponent back and allowed him to add more variety to his game. At the same time, Nadal has added to his game with a penetrating, flat forehand and an improved serve. If Haas can mix it up, hitting slices, angled shots, and placing his serve well then he will be right in this match. Nadal is going to get everything back, and Haas needs to accept that and just worry about what he can control. I feel that Haas is going to give Nadal one heck of a challenge, but in the end the edge goes to the Spaniard.

Nick’s Pick – Nadal in 4 sets

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Dudi Sela (ISR)

Tsonga had some back pain in his dramatic four-set victory over Ivan Ljubicic in the second round. He didn’t call for the trainer, but was clearly in some pain and even talked about it after the match. Hopefully, a day off will help him recover.

Sela is into the third round of the Aussie Open for the first time in his career. The 5’9″ Israeli spent some time at the Academy when he was younger and is one heck of a competitor.

The Match-Up:

Tsonga is 1-0 against Sela, with that win coming at Indian Wells last year. The fans love Tsonga because every moment he is on the court you are getting entertainment. He plays a very aggressive game, using a big forehand and excellent movement to control points. Sela is quick, smart, and plays from the baseline. He has an excellent one-handed backhand that he can hit down-the-line and on-the-run. If Tsonga can stay healthy and keep himself composed mentally then he should win this match.

Nick’s Pick – Tsonga in 4 sets

Other matches of interest:

Here are some of the other matches that I will be keeping my eye on during the first round.

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) vs. Mardy Fish (USA) – Anytime Baghdatis is playing you have to watch. The guy is pure entertainment and with his history down under, watch out! Also, it’s nice to see Fish playing solid tennis. The US can really use him right now.

Amer Delic (USA) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB) – Delic is an inspiration to every kid in the US. He went to college and now look, he is competing at the top level. Djokovic is 1-0 against Delic, but needed four sets to beat him. Keep an eye on this match to see if Delic can continue his stellar play or if the Djoker will advance.

Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. David Ferrer (ESP) – This should be an interesting match just because Cilic is 6’6″ and Ferrer is 5’9″! Ferrer is very smart and extremely quick. He is going to have to use both of those assets to compete with the all-around game that Cilic possesses. I know Ferrer is the higher ranked player, but it feels like this is Cilic’s match to lose.

Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) – Berdych is 3-2 against Wawrinka, but they have never faced in a Grand Slam. Both of these guys are around the same age and have been ranked in the top ten. It seems like we keep waiting on Berdych to do something great; well there is no time like the present!

James Blake (USA) vs. Igor Andreev (RUS) – Blake’s backhand looks fantastic, his forehand is rocking, and he has been in control of the points for both of his previous matches. Now, he gets a tough opponent in Andreev. I think Blake will pull it out, but he has to be patient and wait for his chances to attack.

Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs. Fernando Verdasco (ESP) – This is a rematch from a couple of weeks ago when Stepanek beat Verdasco in three sets in the finals of Brisbane. Both players are playing excellent tennis thus far in 2009, and it will be interesting to see who takes this match. Stepanek cannot stay back at the baseline, he must come in some and catch Verdasco off-guard.

Mario Ancic (CRO) vs. Gilles Simon (FRA) – Ancic is 1-0 against Simon, beating him at the 2009 Masters Series tournament in Miami. We all know how good Ancic can be if he is 100% healthy, and he just had to go five sets with Karlovic so that may take a toll on him. Simon has the guns to win this match, so this one could go the distance.

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~ by Nick's Picks on January 22, 2009.

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