1. Milos Raonic v Ernests Gulbis
From the eight third round matches in Barcelona, I am most intrigued by the match-up between Ernests Gulbis and Milos Raonic, which has not even made the Pista Central schedule. Gulbis has continued his excellent form of late with two straight set wins over Radek Stepanek and Fernando Verdasco. Raonic was superb in Barcelona last year as he beat Nicolas Almagro and Andy Murray on his way to the final; he started his 2013 campaign in fine form with a comfortable 6-4 6-2 victory over Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Raonic and Gulbis have met twice before and Raonic prevailed in both those encounters in straight sets, including a win on the clay in 2011 at the Monte-Carlo Masters. Gulbis is playing much, much better than when they last played, but I had a good feeling about Raonic when I saw the draw for Barcelona and I fancy him to beat Gulbis.
Prediction – Raonic to beat Gulbis in 2 very tight sets
2. Tomas Berdych v Tommy Robredo
Tomas Berdych had a narrow escape in Barcelona on Tuesday as he saved a match point in defeating Nikolay Davydenko, 3-6 7-5 6-4. I have read that Berdych is struggling with a shoulder injury, but his battling qualities are certainly something we are more used to seeing these days. He similarly saved match points in an enthralling win over Alejandro Falla in Miami last month. Berdych now faces the in-form and unbeaten-in-seven-matches, Tommy Robredo. The Spaniard had a mightily impressive win over Grigor Dimitrov, 7-5 6-1. Berdych leads Robredo in their head-to-head by 4 wins to 3, but they haven’t played since 2010. This match will depend on Robredo’s nerve as I think he will get into the winning position; it will be whether he can finish off Berdych, unlike Davydenko.
Prediction – Robredo to beat Berdych in 3 sets
3. Benoit Paire v Rafael Nadal
It was a routine start to Barcelona for Rafael Nadal, who eased past Carlos Berlocq, 6-4 6-2 in his opening match today. His next match will be against the flashy, Benoit Paire, who overcame Pablo Andujar in a crazy three setter, 6-4 5-7 6-3. I believe that Paire was 0-4 down in the first set and was in a leading position in the second set before being pushed the distance by the Spaniard. Nadal and Paire have never played before, but on the clay it is obviously going to be a very difficult match for Paire…
Prediction – Nadal to beat Paire in 2 sets
Best of the rest: Barcelona 3rd Round Predictions
Thomasz Bellucci to beat Dmitry Tursunov in 3 sets
Phillipp Kohlschreiber to beat Martin Klizan in 3 sets
Nicolas Almagro to beat Marcel Granollers in 2 tight sets
Juan Monaco to beat Jeremy Chardy in 2 sets
Kei Nishikori to beat Albert Ramos in 2 sets