John Isner (USA) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)
Isner has had two tough wins, including a five-setter in the opening round, and is into the third round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career. He has only been to the fourth round of a Grand Slam once, and that was at last year’s US Open. This is going to be an important year for Isner, because Pat McEnroe is going to be counting on him for the Davis Cup and at the age of 24 this is the time for him to take his game to the next level.
Monfils has taken down two qualifiers to reach the third round and is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He reached the fourth round here last year, but has never been further. He played at the Brisbane warm up tournament where he reached the semis before falling to Radek Stepanek in straight sets. He then withdrew from the Medibank International citing a shoulder injury.
Isner is 2-1 against Monfils and beat him last year at Indian Wells. We all know that Isner is going to serve big, hit monster forehands and then try to get one break. If he does that, he will be successful. The problem here is that Monfils is such an athletic freak, there could be some issues. Monfils has the ability to neutralize Isner’s power with his athleticism and he will make Isner hit one or two extra balls which will frustrate the American. Now, if Monfils’ serve breaks down at all Isner can get a break and win the set before you know it. The longer this match goes on, the more it favors Monfils. I don’t think this one will be done in three sets, and I look for Monfils to pull out a tough long match.
Nick’s Pick – Monfils in 4 or 5 sets
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
Nadal may be the defending champion here, but I haven’t heard too many people say that he is the favorite to win. He beat Lukas Lacko in the second round in straight sets and I came away from the match thinking that Nadal has as good as a chance as anybody to win this tournament. Everyone is looking forward to a potential quarterfinal match with Andy Murray, but Nadal shouldn’t be looking ahead because Kohlschreiber is a tough cookie.
Speaking of Kohlschreiber, the 26-year old German comes into the tournament ranked #26 in the world. He’s been to the fourth round of the Aussie Open twice, and in 2008 he won a classic match against Andy Roddick 8-6 in the fifth set.
Nadal is 4-0 against Kohlschreiber and did beat him in the second round of the Australian Open in four sets back in 2007. Kohlschreiber may not look like a big guy, but he has a big-time game. He hits the ball very hard from both sides and has a sonic serve. He covers the court well and will not be afraid to Nadal at all. The one thing that may hinder him here is that the court is playing slow and with the high bounces, it really favors Nadal’s heavy spin. You know that Nadal is going to grind points out, make Kohlschreiber work, and then pick his spots to hit winners. I just think with the court playing the way it is and with Nadal’s ability to neutralize just about anybody’s game, he will advance.
Nick’s Pick – Nadal in 4 sets