Half of the women’s third-round encounters were played today, and regrettably one of them witnessed the demise of the smiling Serb pictured above.  Nevertheless, Ivanovic pushed Radwanska deep into both sets during a match from which she can extract some encouragement.  After a dismal start on serve (broken in 5 of her first 6 games), she settled down in the second set and served at 64% while improving her winning percentage on her second serve, donating just two double faults, and dropping serve only twice.  She returned aggressively throughout the match as well, especially punishing the Pole’s puny second serve.  The final result wasn’t surprising and shouldn’t be disappointing to her, since Radwanska has been showcasing her best tennis recently; she reached the Indian Wells semifinals without dropping a set.  Let’s hope that Ivanovic’s shoulder recovers soon so that she can expand her schedule during the clay season.  The slower surface would offer an ideal setting to work on regaining her consistency and developing a rhythm during rallies, which in turn would help her to relax and rebuild her confidence. 

We were busy profiling the aforementioned Pole yesterday, so we couldn’t find time to preview the Saturday matches for you.  However, the Sunday preview for both ATP (bottom half) and WTA (top half) is straight ahead!


Tsonga (8) vs. Kohlschreiber (28):  The trans-Rhine encounter will feature plenty of entertaining, audacious shotmaking on both sides.  Tsonga’s much superior serve and overall athleticism should carry him through.  Pick:  Tsonga.

Isner (17 ) vs. Ferrero (12):  Both players enter this match carrying momentum from their recent successes.  Isner excelled in Memphis and delivered an unexpectedly strong performance in Davis Cup before challenging Nadal in Indian Wells.  Meanwhile, Ferrero stormed through the South American clay-court season, expertly outmaneuvering rather than overpowering his opponents.  But we’re on hard courts now, and the difference in their overall power should tell.  Pick:  Isner.

Ferrer (15) vs. Karlovic (24):  Another Spaniard and another tower of power.  The height contrast is one of the greatest that you’ll see in the ATP, as is the contrast of styles.  Can Ferrer scurry well enough to retrieve the Croat’s bombs?  If he can work his way into a rally, he’ll have the distinct advantage.  It’s much easier said than done.  Pick:  Karlovic.

Nalbandian (W) vs. Nadal (4):  Rafa has struggled mightily with the Argentine in the past, dropping consecutive meetings with him during the 2008 indoor hard season before saving match points against him in 2009 Indian Wells.  On paper, there’s a serious chance for a blue-chip upset.  Nadal won’t suffer the fate of Djokovic and Murray this time, though, because Nalbandian has recently returned from hip surgery and will prove too rusty to consistenly out-rally Rafa from the baseline.  Pick:  Nadal.

Roddick (6) vs. Stakhovsky:  After a strong run at Indian Wells, the top-ranked American extended his momentum with a comfortable win over the often-dangerous Andreev.  The Ukrainian shouldn’t pose any problems for him.  Pick:  Roddick.

Robredo (18) vs. Becker:  Down a set and a break to Ljubicic, Becker unexpectedly found himself the beneficiary of a free pass to the next round.  He’s living on borrowed time, and don’t expect the uber-consistent Robredo to lend him any more.  Pick:  Robredo.

Almagro (33) vs. Chardy:  The “33rd seed” profited immensely from Monfils’ withdrawal, which shifted him into this much softer section of the draw.  Chardy just recorded an impressive win over Querrey and has definite top-20 potential, so this match could be one of Sunday’s highlights.  Nevertheless, one imagines that Almagro’s more balanced groundstroke game, powerful on both sides, will prevail over the Frenchman’s forehand-centric style.  Pick:  Almagro.

Bellucci (27) vs. Rochus:  Recording stunning wins over Gasquet and Djokovic, the small Belgian punches well above his size.  Theoretically, Bellucci should be a piece of cake compared to his previous victims.  Beware of a letdown.  Pick:  Bellucci.


Jankovic (7) vs. Vesnina (28):  Having won 7 consecutive matches, the double J aims for the Indian Wells-Miami double.  It won’t happen, but someone stronger than the rusty, mentally suspect Vesnina (just returned from injury) will deliver the knockout blow.  Pick:  Jankovic.

Razzano vs. Stosur (9):  The Frenchwoman surprisingly derailed Zheng in her previous round and has won her first two matches convincingly.  By contrast, the newest denizen of the WTA top 10 barely eked out a win against Suarez Navarro after coming within a few points of defeat.  Upset in the making, right?  Maybe; I’m sticking with the Aussie to hold serve more consistently and win the crucial points.  Pick:  Stosur.

Clijsters (14) vs. Peer (17):  The top-ranked mother in the WTA resoundingly dispatched Kvitova in the second round, but she demolished another Czech in the second round of Indian Wells before falling to Kleybanova.  One doesn’t know what to expect from Clijsters on any given day lately; on the other hand, we can expect a gritty performance from the recently resurgent Peer.  It won’t be enough to compensate for her less potent groundstrokes, however.  Her greatest advantage over opponents is her consistency, and she won’t have that advantage against the Belgian.  Pick:  Clijsters.

Safarova vs. Azarenka (4):  Last year’s champion, Azarenka will be relieved not to face Indian Wells nemesis Martinez Sanchez, whom Safarova ousted in a second-round three-setter.  The streaky Czech lefty can threaten any player when her eccentric, high-risk game is clicking.  If she starts strong, the temperamental Belarussian might struggle to control her emotions.  But Safarova probably will produce some erratic moments upon which the opportunistic Azarenka can seize.  Pick:  Azarenka.

Henin (W) vs. Cibulkova (26):  One might imagine that Cibulkova’s explosive movement and ball-recovery skills would test Henin’s consistency, a bit shaky recently.  After thoroughly thrashing Dementieva, though, Justine appears to be regaining her Melbourne form.  The difficult early round may have benefited her by forcing her to play with high intensity from the outset of the tournament.  Pick:  Henin.

Errani vs. Zvonareva (11):  The clever Italian somehow found a way to defuse Kleybanova’s bone-crushing groundstrokes during a match played on two different courts because of a rain delay.  Despite recently having parted with coach Antonio van Grichen, Zvonareva delivered an emphatic win over Oudin in the second round.  She probably could afford to lose focus a few times, as is her habit, and still prevail rather routinely.  A fourth-round encounter with Henin could be delicious if both women continue their strong form.  Pick:  Zvonareva

Schiavone (15) vs. Pavlyuchenkova (22):  Francesca enjoyed a bit of an Italian Renaissance last fall, following a solid result at the US Open by winning the Kremlin Cup and lifting Italy to another Fed Cup title.  Meanwhile, the longest name in the top 30 pulled off a Russian Revolution in Monterrey last month, where she won her debut WTA title.  This intriguing matchup pits veteran guile (and some eccentricity) against youthful power.  It’s very difficult to call, but slugging usually trumps smarts in the WTA these days.  Pick:  Pavlyuchenkova.

Kirilenko (32) vs. Wozniacki (2):  Both of these lovely women produced second-round performances that were much less than lovely, Kirilenko needing a third-set tiebreak to overcome Melinda Czink and Wozniacki forced to rally from a 0-3 third-set deficit against the stagnating Tsvetana Pironkova.  The Dane’s B-game beats the Russian’s B-game easily, as was demonstrated during their lopsided encounter in the same round at Indian Wells.  Pick:  Wozniacki.

16 matches, 16 predictions.  Let’s hope that we fare a bit better than Ana and Novak did; perhaps some of Jelena’s good fortune will rub off on us!  🙂

Meanwhile, we’re contemplating our next player profile, to be written after the Miami tournament is over.  How does this topic sound?