Three To See, Indian Wells: March 12
(6) Sara Errani vs. (9) Marion Bartoli
Head-to-Head: Errani leads 2-1
The 2012 French Open finalist will try to use her topspin-heavy strokes and superior speed to create running rallies and exploit Bartoli's limited reach (despite the Frenchwoman's longer-than-normal racquet). Errani is on a roll, having won 11 of her last 12 matches. The veteran Italian is the fitter and faster player, and is more comfortable in the front court.
Timing will be crucial for Bartoli: She must step into the court, take Errani's topspin on the rise, and try to dictate rallies. This has been a challenging match-up for Bartoli in the past, but the 2011 finalist has a new coach and looks refreshed on court. If she can impose her flat, heavy strokes and drive the ball up the line effectively, she has a good chance to advance.
The Pick: Bartoli in three sets
(12) Marin Cilic vs. (17) Milos Raonic
Head-to-Head: Cilic leads 1-0
Pushing for a return to the Top 10—and a trip to the fourth round at Indian Wells for the first time—Cilic has won nine of his last 10 matches. The 6'6" Croatian is one of the smoothest-moving big men in the game, and he'll aim to engage Raonic in backhand exchanges: His two-handed backhand is a weapon that will test the Canadian's sometime stiff two-hander.
The 22-year-old Raonic has reached the third round for the third straight year, doing so without striking a shot, thanks to a round two walkover. Service breaks should come at a premium, and the second-serve return could be the key shot of the match. Cilic is more adept at adjusting on the move, but Raonic owns the more imposing serve and can dictate forehand exchanges—and is therefore the pick.
The Pick: Raonic in three sets
(11) Nicolas Almagro vs. (19) Tommy Haas
Head-to-Head: Haas leads 2-0
Two veterans who possess wondrous one-handed backhands—and can blow up under stress—square off for the third time. Though Almagro is most comfortable on clay, he opened the year by reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals, and held a two-set lead over David Ferrer before bowing in five. Haas is more accomplished on hard courts, tends to take the ball a little earlier, and can play all-court tennis.
Almagro hits a heavy ball, is dangerous off both the forehand and backhand side, and owns a punishing serve. Haas cannot afford to be reactive in this match; he must use his all-court skills to stretch the Spaniard, who will try to drive the ball down the line when pushed out of position. To advance, Haas must land his first serve and manage the match wisely.
The Pick: Haas in three sets