THE PICK: ROGER FEDERER VS. RICHARD GASQUET AT DUBAI, FEB 26

Federer IW 11 MALT5875

The great Federer took off when he bested Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-3 in Dubai. For a while, the Spaniard was on top of the ball, but then he went quickly and quietly. Federer dominated the net, and he was crushing his one-handed backhand.

Federer is very confident against Gasquet … and who wouldn’t be when you owne a 13-2 head to head. The last time they played each other, Gasquet was a bit hurt and Roger smoked him at the Davis Cup final, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. The Swiss said he felt a lot of pressure in France, but he concentrated and took over with his fabulous forehand.

Can Federer do it again easily? Perhaps, as he feels relaxed and is mixing up his attack. Gasquet has a tremendous amount of strokes, his serve and his net. However, he is erratic, which is why Federer has he won 17 Slams and the Frenchman has none. At times, Gasquet can play wonderfully, but he isn’t quite right yet and Federer will win in straights.

NOTES

There are three ATP tournaments this week: Dubai, Acapulco and Buenos Aires. All the three tournaments look good, but it is not easy to give a huge amount of cash to the top players when they put up $1.5 million-plus. However, this week has a been pretty good overall. Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in Dubai, among others. Rafa Nadal, Tommy Robredo and Pablo Cuevas are in Buenos Aires, and Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov. That’s impressive…

Here are two shockers in Dubai today: Marsel Ilhan of Turkey beat Feliciano Lopez 3-6 7-5 6-3, and the 18 year old Borna Coric beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 3-6 6-6 (retired). Apparently, Baghdatis was legitimately hurt.

In Acapulco, Ryan Harrison stunned Dimitrov 7-5 4-6 6-0. It was the American’s first top 10 ever. He is only 22 years old, but he has been around since 17 or so. He is smart and strong, but he has been up and down during the past two years or so. He is currently No. 169 and will move up to at least the top 140 or better. He cracked the top 50 in 2012 and he looked like he was going to charge into the top 20. But while his first serve is excellent and untouchable, he wasn’t able to hit his strokes stronger enough and with depth. At least against Dimitrov, he looked very good overall. He has a long way to go, but he was extremely satisfied…

By the way, Harrison beat Donald Young 4-6 6-2 4-2 in the first round as he retired. Young has been named to the Davis Cup next week against Britain. He must have been hurt but hopefully he will be fine after a few days…

Remember the former top 10 Nicolas Almagro? He is healthy and bested Pablo Andujar 6-3 3-6 6-2 in Buenos Aires. He will be heard from again…

Back in Acapulco on the WTA,     Magdalena Rybarikova beat the Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 6-4 and then Johanna took out Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-2. Stephens has a long way to go. She hasn’t looked right since last July…

At the Qatar Open, Caroline Wozniacki beat Alexandra Dulgheru 6-1 3-0 (retired), and Victoria Azarenka defeated Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-7(4) 6-1. Guess who plays against each other?  That is ‘Caro’ and ‘Vika’ who last played in the Australian Open second round, when Azarenka played extremely well and won in straight sets. Vika is not quite there yet – especially on her serves – but she is getting better and better. However, the No. 5 Caro wants her revenge here and should she be able to out-stroke her and win in three sets. However, she has to swing her forehands much more powerfully, like she did the last half of 2014…

Here were two significant wins in Doha: Carla Suarez beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6(2) 6-4 as the Czech has played too many matches this year, but still that was a very good win by the Spaniard; Lucie Safarova upset the Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3. Safarova is coming on stronger and stronger.

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