The Picks: Roger, Rafa & Serena ready to rock. Indian Wells, March 20

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Roger Federer vs. Tomas Berdych

Since 2009, the two have faced off 10 times and have split it down the middle. The two played each other once last year, when Federer overcame Berdych at 2014 Dubai in three sets, and in 2013 it was also in Dubai, when the Czech smacked his huge serves to grab it.

These two know each other quite well, so whomever cracks their first serve, move the balls around, charges the net, go super low at the backhands and strikes as hard as they can with their forehands will have the edge. Easy, right? No, but that doesn’t mean that they will miss if they are a little off. Without question, Federer has more variety, but Berdych is a little stronger from his daunting serves. Both men have played very well this week and it will be very close, but Federer has been more stylistic at Indian Wells and he will win in three tight sets.

Rafael Nadal vs. Milos Raonic

The Spaniard is looking better again, but so has the Canadian. Still, Nadal isn’t up this his usual dominance this year, as he is coming back after his injury in the last half of 2014. His forehand is not perfect, but he is swinging away and crushing from both sides. Nadal is not banging his first serves, and he needs to hit his backhands deeper, but overall, he has been respectable and very soon, he will be ready to grab No. 1 again.

However, Raonic is ready. He has never beaten Nadal in five matches, but he has been reasonable close. His serve is gigantic, he has a huge forehand and he does not back off. He is not as fast as Nadal, he doesn’t return as well and doesn’t mix it up enough, but when he gets rolling he is hard to stop. The 24-year-old is ready to dance. Raonic will upset Nadal in three sets.

Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep

Can anyone actually beat Serena Williams if she is playing extremely well? I doubt it. However, Williams has been down on herself at times. Look at the first half of 2014 when she was out of it and not sure why she was missing all the time. But she has calmed down and, from late July, she was been lights out.

Amazingly, the No. 3 Halep looked terrific in upsetting Williams in the round robin at the WTA Final in Singapore, but they played again in the final and Williams overpowered her.

Halep has been pretty darn good over the past three weeks or so and she is ready to outstroke Serena from the baseline. She might be able to because the 23-year-old is quicker than the 33-year-old, but she is not as strong off her forehand, although Halep is right there with her backhand. Even though Halep is striking her serves, they are not as big enough against Serena and she can be attacked off of her second serves. Serena badly wants to win the tournament at Indian Wells, the first time at the desert since 2001. Halep will play very well, but Serena will out think her and win in three sets.

The Picks: Feliciano Lopez v Kei Nishikori, Simona Halep v Carla Suarez Navarro and more, at Indian Wells

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March 18

Stadium 1

Feliciano Lopez v Kei Nishikori

Lopez is much more steady than he once was. His left-handed service is wicked, he has a sweet stroke on the net and can be cagey. But Nishikori has a tremendous backhand and won’t be afraid pulling himself too wide. He is way faster and will pull himself to and fro until the Spanish will become frustrated. Nishikori will win in two tough sets.

Simona Halep v Carla Suarez Navarro

Halep looked extremely impressive in taking down Pliskova yesterday, returning very well against the hard server. Now she has to be patient against Suarez, who has played very well this season and is moving forward very quickly. They are both very fast and both can rip the forehands, but the backhand Halep is more effective than the Spaniard is and will mix it up on her first serves. Halep will win in three sets.

Gilles Simon v Rafael Nadal

Does Simon have a real chance against Nadal, who is playing better than better? Perhaps, but he is going to play as well as he can against Rafa, who’s forehand in deep, extremely solid and oh-so lethal. Simon is a smart player and he likes to run around and changing long rallies, but in order to best him, you have to outlast him. Simon will come into the net more often, and he will be inspired, but Nadal will step on his shoes in three sets.

Stadium 2

Andy Murray v Adrian Mannarino

Mannarino has improved over the past year or so and the 26 year old doesn’t shy away. However, the Frenchman isn’t extremely powerful and isn’t quite sure how he will attack Murray. The Scot really wants to go deep here and he has looked pretty good this week, with his backhand has been legendary. Murray will win in straight sets.

Lukas Rosol v Tomas Berdych

Rosol is playing better now than he was at the Davis Cup and both he and Berdych should have played at home too. But Berdych decided not to, which helped the Aussies win at the DC, while Tomas could only shake his head. However, Berdych didn’t have to play there for hours and hours and he rested. Now he looks fresh and is ready to crack at the big boys. First, he will have not knock down a low-ranking player, which he will do, and beat Rosol in straight sets.

Milos Raonic v Tommy Robredo

This could be a very interesting match because the veteran Robredo looked tall when he took our Dimitrov on Tuesday. The Spaniard never quit. However, he likes long rallied and while he has improved his serves and backhands and can go deep, he won’t be able to aces after ace against Raonic, and swing away with his phenomenal forehands. Robredo will win a set, bit Raonic will grab it in three sets.

Aussie Open Day 7 Picks: Are there any upsets on horizon?


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Kei looks for a major breakthrough vs. Ferrer


Exactly where are the potential upsets on Sunday? I suppose that the capable but less than spectacular Ekaterina Makarova could take out fellow lefty Angelique Kerber in the opening match. but that’s improbable given that Kerber just got over a major mental hurdle in teen Madison Keys and is due to give a counterpunching clinic. She will here and win in straight sets, but one set will be quite close.

Will Kei Nishikori ever really break out, and by really break out I mean best a solid and strong player such as David Ferrer and then reach a Slam semi? Perhaps, but not this time around. I don’t think Ferrer has been at the top of his game yet, but he hasn’t had to be, which is actually a god sign because it means that he has a lot left in the tnak. I get the sense that Nishikori will zone for two sets, but that will be all before the Spaniard makes his knees hurt. Take Ferrer in five.

Kirsten Flipkens has really found herself and is lot of fun to watch with her heavy slice and net charges, but she better keep the ball super low and deep against Maria Sharapova or she