• Nishikori, Blake take the court in Memphis

    2/19/13 5:23 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Nishikori, Blake take the court in Memphis Kei Nishikori and James Blake will contest their Memphis openers on Tuesday. They are set for respective meetings with Illya Marchenko and Florian Mayer.

    (Q) Illya Marchenko vs. (5) Kei Nishikori

    Nishikori will kick off his campaign at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships on Tuesday afternoon. The Japanese star has played only two events in 2013, but he is off to a solid start. Nishikori reached the semifinals in Brisbane (retired against Andy Murray) and advanced three rounds at the Australian Open before bowing out to David Ferrer.

    Marchenko looked like a bright prospect for the Ukraine in his early 20s, but he is mired down at No. 146 in the world at 25 years old. He has already fared well, however, in Memphis. Marchenko defeated Andrey Golubev and Matthew Ebden in qualifying, both in three sets. This a big step up in competition from Marchenko's norm, though, so count on Nishikori prevailing in straight sets.

    Florian Mayer vs. (WC) James Blake

    Mayer and Blake will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers on Tuesday in Memphis. Blake is leading the head-to-head series 3-1 and all four of their previous encounters have come on hard courts. Mayer, however, won their only indoor meeting which came last season in Metz (a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 decision).

    Blake has slowed down considerably in his 30s and the 33-year-old American is struggling down at No. 109 in the world. He posted some decent results last year but failed to qualify for the Australian Open and lost in the semifinals of the Dallas Challenger earlier this month. Mayer, at the same time, may be in even worse form. The 29th-ranked German is 3-5 for his 2013 campaign and he is coming off a blowout loss to Nikolay Davydenko in the Rotterdam first round. Blake in straight sets is the pick.

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