ATP 500 – Dubai
Final: Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych
Time: 10:00 AM ET – Saturday March 1st
Head to Head: 12-1, Djokovic
Amy’s Pick: How do you pick against Novak Djokovic in this match-up? The last time these two played, in Melbourne earlier this year, and virtually every other time, Djokovic demolished Berdych. (The 2013 Australian Open scoreline is deceptive — it wasn’t that close.) I have to go with Djokovic in straights.
Juan José’s Pick: I’ve seen these two play way too often (I even chronicled their last encounter), and sadly, I’ve seen very little to suggest that Tomas Berdych is picking up any tips on what to do differently against Djokovic. Berdych has no idea how to return Djokovic’s serve and seems mystified by Djokovic’s rally patterns. But that’s not all! Despite the fact that Djokovic can outlast him in most of the rallies they play, Berdych often seems reluctant to pull the trigger with his forehand or backhand, which is borderline criminal. Hence the gory 1-12 head-to-head. Oh, and one other thing: Djokovic is playing pretty well and has won this title three times. After tomorrow’s final, Djokovic will pick up his fourth silver sailing ship, after a 6-2, 7-5 win.
Lindsay’s Pick: After seeing Berdych’s preparation methods, I’m tempted to pick him for the upset. Just kidding. Berdych has had a great week, but Federer gave him some new life when he didn’t really deserve it today. Djokovic won’t be so kind. Djokovic in three.
ATP 500 – Acapulco
Final: David Ferrer vs. Rafael Nadal
Time: 10:00 PM ET – Saturday March 1st
Head to Head: 16-4, Nadal
Amy’s Pick: Ferrer hasn’t beaten Nadal on clay since 2004. That’s pretty incredible, considering how good Ferrer is against all other players on clay. I also think there’s a bit of a mental block there for Ferrer, and I think that will compensate for any rust in Nadal’s game. While Ferrer is fresh off the best year of his career, I still think Nadal will prevail in this one in three sets.
Juan José’s Pick: Rafael Nadal was very good at outmaneuvering Nicolás Almagro during their entertaining semifinal. What impressed me the most, though, was the way Nadal returned Almagro’s serve, which is one of the best deliveries on tour. Of course, Nadal won’t have to deal with such a weapon when he meets his David Ferrer tomorrow – but the greatest clay court player in history will have two significant challenges: 1) David Ferrer, one of the game’s great returners of serve, will put enormous pressure on Nadal’s service games and 2) Nadal won’t find it that easy to push Ferrer back and create space for his shots on the baseline, since the man from Valencia is an exponentially better mover than the man from Murcia. David Ferrer is leading the tour in matches played and in wins – he’s also one of only two players to already have won two titles this year. The World Number 4 is on a roll, and tomorrow represents a huge opportunity for him to get a quality win against the man who’s deprived him of quite a bit of glory throughout the years. Better opportunities for unlikely wins don’t come that often. Ferrer will hoist that weird pear-shaped trophy after his 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win.
Lindsay’s Pick: I picked Ferrer at the beginning of the week, and I’m going to stick with it. Rafa looked good against Almagro today, but Almagro also played silly tennis at really important times in the match. Ferrer won’t do that. Ferrer got his silliness out of the way when he lost a set to Fognini today. He’ll be all business tomorrow. Nadal might own Roland Garros, but Acapulco is Ferrer’s house. Ferrer in three.
WTA International – Acapulco
Final: Sara Errani vs. Carla Suárez Navarro
Time: 7:30 PM ET – Saturday March 1st
Head to Head: 4-3, Errani
Amy’s Pick: While Suarez Navarro has had a great run to the final, Errani has solidified herself as one of the best clay courters on the women’s tour. I expect she will pick up her first title of 2013 in straights.
Juan José’s Pick: Sara Errani has been simply spectacular in Acapulco – right after making a hardcourt final in Dubai the previous week! Jetlag didn’t even come close to bothering the current French Open runner-up, who has yet to lose a set in México, and has only been taken to a tiebreaker once during her run. Carla Suárez Navarro is a good player, plays well on clay, and has some experience in WTA finals (though she’s 0-3 in those). The Spaniard even beat Errani at this year’s Australian Open. Yet none of that will be enough to thwart the World Number 8, who will win 7-5, 6-4.
Lindsay’s Pick: I predict this is going to be a really fun match, as their quarterfinal battle in Paris was one of the most entertaining matches I saw in February. Errani came through that one on a surface that she’s not as comfortable on, so although CSN will push her a bit, she’ll come out on top again. Errani in three.
WTA International – Florianópolis
Final: Monica Niculescu vs. Olga Puchkova
Time: 6:00 PM ET – Saturday March 1st
Head to Head: First meeting
Amy’s Pick: Puchkova had a quality three set win over Venus Williams in the semifinals, but she’s played a few longer matches in the last few days. I think it’ll be tough for her not to experience a letdown in the final against the fresher and higher-ranked Niculescu, who destroyed her last three opponents. Niculescu in straights.
Juan José’s Pick: Niculescu and Puchkova have a few things in common: both are 25 years old, and neither has ever won a WTA title. One thing they don’t have in common, though, is time on court this week (as Amy noted). It’s amazing that after her first round tussle with sixth-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues, Niculesco has lost all of nine games total in her next three matches. That’s pretty crazy. I say the Romanian with the crazy shots and awkward spins will take the title in two easy sets, 6-3, 6-2.
Lindsay’s Pick: I don’t have much to say about this final, because if I’m being honest I was traveling a lot this week and haven’t seen Puchkova or Niculescu play all week. However, Puchkova got a great win over a lethargic Venus Williams today, and I expect her to take that confidence and upset the tricky Niculescu in three to win her first title.