Three To See, Indian Wells: March 11
(10) Nadia Petrova vs. (24) Julia Goerges
Head-to-Head: First meeting
Both women can dictate play when landing their first serves, and both hit heavy groundstrokes. Petrova's forehand can sometimes go askew under pressure, so look for Goerges to try to make inroads on that wing. On the other side, the Russian's down-the-line backhand can be an imposing shot, and she'd be wise to use it hitting behind Goerges.
Though Petrova arrived in the desert with a 4-4 singles record in 2013, she reached successive doubles finals in Doha and Dubai, and can close at net. First-serve percentage and keeping calm will be keys; Petrova is playing for her sixth straight trip to the Indian Wells round of 16. If she holds her nerve, I think she'll make it.
The Pick: Petrova in three sets
(Q) Ernests Gulbis vs. (20) Andreas Seppi
Head-to-Head: Gulbis leads 3-1
The volatile power player vs. the precision counter puncher. The 6'3" Italian does not serve as big as his size suggests. Seppi is a control-orientated baseliner who won't overplay his shots, and doesn't overwhelm with power. Gulbis is the more explosive player, but he's also more erratic.
The Lavtian has rocketed 72 spots up the rankings from a 2012 year-end rank of No. 139 to his current rank of No. 67, but fatigue could be a factor for him. Gulbis has won 12 consecutive matches playing through qualifying in both Delray Beach and Indian Wells, and his reconstructed forehand, which resembles a man imitating a weather vane with his left arm fully stretched, can go kablooey. But given the fact that Gulbis is fresh off the Delray Beach title, is playing decisive tennis, and has surrendered just seven games in main-draw wins over Feliciano Lopez and Janko Tipsarevic, he is the pick.
The Pick: Gulbis in three sets
Lleyton Hewitt vs. (18) Stanislas Wawrinka
Head-to-Head: Tied 1-1
Two-time Indian Wells champion Hewitt is such a feisty competitor that he can infuse his post-point celebrations with more intensity than opponents put into points. The former world No. 1 used his anticipation, court sense, and long reach to downsize 2012 finalist John Isner, and is trying to win three matches in a tournament for the first time since last July, when he advanced to the Newport final.
On a hard court, Wawrinka is most dangerous when he steps closer to the baseline and applies pressure, taking the ball earlier and mixing in runs to the net with his heavier topspin drives. The last time these two met, Wawrinka edged Hewitt in five sets on grass in a 2011 Davis Cup tie. Wawrinka was a Buenos Aires finalist last month; his ability to change spins and play short angles gives him the edge.
The Pick: Wawrinka in three sets