Expert picks are back in earnest for the spring clay-court swing, and they begin with the third round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Join the fun and make your own predictions in the comments section for the right to become a guest picker later in the week!
Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
Ricky: Current form says Wawrinka. Head-to-head history (which Djokovic leads 7-2) says Djokovic. This one is a complete toss-up for me, but Djokovic has to get hot at some point and Wawrinka has to cool off at some point. Right? Djokovic 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3).
Cheryl: I think Nole is going to have his hands full with Stan the Man. Wawa is in better form than Djokovic; and don't forget that it was here last year that Stan beat Federer for the first time. Wawrinka 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Kelli: Wawrinka has taken Djokovic to three sets on clay a couple of times, including a semifinal meeting right here last year. The top seed has won their last five meetings though, and with runner-up points to defend, I don't see him bowing out of this one. Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Tommy Robredo vs. David Nalbandian
Ricky: Nalbandian needed almost three hours to get past Mikhail Youzhny on Wednesday. It was a solid display, but this time the Argentine will be going up one of the best clay-courters in the business. Robredo 7-5, 6-4.
Cheryl: Nalby played some really lovely tennis against Youzhny on Wednesday. I think Robredo is going to have a tough time dealing with the pace from Nalbandian's backhand. The Argie for another upset.Nalbandian 7-6(4), 6-2.
Kelli: Nalbandian may be fighting some fatigue after his battle with Youzhny, but Robredo doesn't possess the same ability to keep the Argentine under pressure. Nalbandian delivered a 6-1, 6-0 beating to Robredo in Monte Carlo two years ago, and while I don't think he'll repeat it, he should win in straights. Nalbandian 7-5, 6-3.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Tomas Berdych
Ricky: This is the new Tomas Berdych, and the new Tomas Berdych just beat Verdasco in Miami. Verdasco is not a clay-court specialist like many Spaniards, so not even the surface change will be able to stop the new Tomas Berdych. Berdych 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2.
Cheryl: I'm not usually one to pick Berdych to do anything on clay but lose dismally, but I like his chances here against Verdasco. The Spaniard has been positively dreadful of late and Berdych...well...hasn't been. Chalk one up for the Czech. Berdych 6-4, 6-4.
Kelli: Berdych has had Verdasco's number in 2010, taking back-to-back meetings in Masters events. He is a completely different player now, and although their clay-court clashes have gone the distance, I don't think this one will. Berdych 7-5, 6-2.
Albert Montanes vs. Marin Cilic
Ricky: Cilic needed almost three hours to get past Igor Andreev, but the good news is he had a day off in between matches. That might not be enough against an absolute clay-court wizard like Montanes. Montanes 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Cheryl: I can't pick Montanes over Cilic; simply cannot do it, even though I know Montanes is the better clay-courter. I'll throw caution to the wind and pick the Croat. Cilic 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-3.
Kelli: Cilic isn't the most comfortable on clay, but he will have settled since the scare against Andreev. Montanes didn't play all that well in the last round, but he may take a set from the fourth seed. Cilic is on a mission to make a name for himself here, so I'm giving him the edge in three. Cilic 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
Ivan Ljubicic vs. David Ferrer
Ricky: Ljubicic beat Michael Llodra in his Monte-Carlo opener so he seems to over the back problem that forced him out of Miami. The veteran Croat is actually very good on clay, but he is still not the same caliber dirtballer as Ferrer. Ferrer 6-4, 6-4.
Cheryl: This is an intriguing little matchup. I'm going to go with the traditional clay-courter and pick Ferrer to win; but I think Ljubo might make him work hard for it. Ferrer 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Kelli: Ferrer has burned up the clay this year with more than a dozen wins. He holds the edge against Ljubicic as well, 4-1. The 2010 Indian Wells champion usually plays well in Monte-Carlo, but the Spaniard will be too tough to wear down. Ferrer 7-6, 6-4.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero
Ricky: Ferrero obviously has a huge advantage on clay, but the beatdown Tsonga put on him in Miami is hard to overlook. This one will be much closer, but I don't think clay will make up the entire difference in firepower. Tsonga 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3.
Cheryl: UPSET ALERT. Okay, it probably isn't much of an upset. Ferrero has been on fire this year on the dirt. Tsonga is unlucky to draw him so early. Ferrero 6-4, 6-3.
Kelli: Ferrero has never beaten Tsonga, but their two previous meetings came on quicker surfaces. The Spaniard owns two clay-court titles in 2010 and I think he'll be able to pull this off, as Tsonga's power is less of a factor on a slower surface. Ferrero 2-6, 6-4, 7-6.
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