Pagliaro's Picks: Dubai, Marseille, Memphis, Buenos Aires
Every Friday, after the weekend's matches have been determined, we'll predict the winner of each tournament.
Dubai, WTA (Final):
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Julia Goerges
Radwanska is 0-3 vs. Victoria Azarenka and undefeated vs. the rest of the world this season, and is projected to crack the Top 5 for the first time if she takes the title. Goerges could rise to a career-high No. 15 if she wins her first hard-court title.
If Goerges, who pounded 49 winners in a three-set quarterfinal win over Daniela Hantuchova and cracked 47 winners in a 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, is finding the lines again, she will be very tough to beat. Goerges possesses more power, can hit winners in a hurry, and says she's eager to avenge her loss to Radwanska in last month's Australian Open. But I believe Radwanska will use her all-court creativity to compensate for the power disparity and diffuse the German to collect her eighth career title.
The Pick: Radwanska
Memphis, WTA (Final):
Sofia Arvidsson vs. Marina Erakovic
Arvidsson is ranked No. 72, but plays like a Top 20 player in Memphis. The 28-year-old Swede's serve is a weapon indoors, and she's produced her best results in the southern city: She won her lone WTA title in Memphis in 2006, was runner-up to Maria Sharapova two years ago, and has dropped just one set in reaching her third Memphis final in eight appearances, posting a 17-6 record in that span.
Erakovic beat Arvidsson in their lone prior meeting in Stanford last July, but will encounter a more dangerous opponent indoors and may well feel the pressure of trying to win her first WTA title. Still, I think Erakovic, who was ranked No. 289 when she lost in the first round of Memphis qualifying last year, is a better mover, owns a bit more variety, and if she manages her nerve, will realize her own tennis Graceland in winning her first title.
The Pick: Erakovic
Marseille, ATP (Semifinals):
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Juan Martin del Potro; Michael Llodra vs. Janko Tipsarevic
Two former French champions—Tsonga beat Novak Djokovic and Llodra in succession to win the 2009 Marseille title, and Llodra swept Julien Benneteau in the 2010 final—with attacking games well-suited to the indoor surface will have the crowd behind them. The outcome is so clear Inspector Clouseau could see it coming: A Frenchman figures to pop the cork on a champagne Sunday, right?
Hate to be a party pooper, but I think Tipsarevic will flatten French hopes. If Llodra is landing his lethal lefty serve with the accuracy he showed today—he served 79 percent, hit 14 aces and lost just two points on his first serve—he will win. But Tipsarevic tested one of the biggest servers in the sport, Milos Raonic, before losing 7-6 in-the-third in the Chennai final last month, has not surrendered serve in this tournament, and if he can connect on some timely passing shots against the serve-and-volleyer, he should reach his fifth final in the last five months.
Tsonga and del Potro both earned their 200th career wins today. Given that the sixth-ranked Frenchman rolls into the semis with an 11-1 record this season and an explosive all-court game, he is the favorite to take the title. This match could come down to tiebreakers (four of the last nine sets they've played have gone to breakers), but I believe del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer in last Sunday's Rotterdam final, has faced tougher opponents recently, is better off the backhand, and will try to use his expansive reach against the 2011 ATP ace leader's favored wide serve. I'm all in with del Po.
The Pick: del Potro
Memphis, ATP (Semifinals):
Radek Stepanek vs. Jurgen Melzer; Milos Raonic vs. Benjamin Becker
Grand Slam doubles champions Stepanek and Melzer bring all-court skills to their semifinal, and both veterans can attack behind their two-handed backhands. The Memphis court suits Stepanek's game—he was the 2009 runner-up and is contesting his third semifinal there—but Melzer should be empowered by his quarterfinal sweep of John Isner, which came after he scored successive third-set tiebreaker wins over San Jose finalist Denis Istomin and Ivan Dodig. I like the left-handed Austrian to advance.
The third-seeded Raonic has ridden his rocket serve to a 14-1 record and is aiming for his third title of the season. Raonic came within a few points of taking the title last year, only to see Andy Roddick go airborne in winning an acrobatic match point. Raonic is on such a roll right now and his serve is such an immense weapon indoors that I can't see him faltering.
The Pick: Raonic
Buenos Aires, ATP (Semifinals):
Nicolas Almagro vs. Stanislas Wawrinka; David Ferrer vs. David Nalbandian
One-handed backhand devotees should relish the sweeping one-handers defending champion Almagro and two-time semifinalist Wawrinka will display when they square off in the semis. Almagro, who won Sao Paulo last Sunday, is riding a nine-match clay-court winning streak. The 11th-ranked Spaniard swept Wawrinka in straight sets in last month's Australian Open, is striking the ball with confidence, and minimizing the mood swings that plagued him in the past. I see him advancing to the final.
Nalbandian has always fascinated me because of his superb court sense, skill at changing direction, and his fine feel around net, but health and fitness are questions. I don't know if Nalbandian's completely healthy, but I'm convinced he's not as fit as Ferrer. As much as I'd like to pick the Argentine Davis Cup star to bring a bit of joy to his nation after a tragic week, the gritty Ferrer is the kind of guy who embraces the prospect of a two-and-half hour semifinal as practice for the final—he will be happy to grind out physical rallies all day long and make Nalbandian produce something special to win. If the all-Spanish final comes off, it could be a compelling match, and while Almagro is capable of breaking through and beating Ferrer for the first time, I favor David because he's a better mover and 8-0 lifetime vs. the man from Murcia.
The Pick: Ferrer
Richard Pagliaro is a senior editor for TENNIS.com.