Roger Federer (SUI) - ATP No. 7, UTR No. 4 (15.92)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) - ATP No. 32, UTR No. 23 (15.36)
History does not bode well for Fernando Verdasco here. In his six previous meetings with Roger Federer, he has only won a single set. Verdasco’s somewhat one-dimensional game has proven futile against the many dimensions of Federer’s game. Verdasco has not been able to cope with Federer’s uncanny ability to switch up spins and pace, clearly frustrating the hard-hitting Spaniard.
Let me make a case for Verdasco.. First off, Federer hasn't played much since losing at the Australian Open. Second, Verdasco fought through an opening round three-setter, so he should be feeling pretty comfortable on the quick courts of Dubai having already fought through a first-round match. Lastly, the two have not played since this same event exactly four years ago. This could very well be the last meeting between Federer and Verdasco.
Federer obviously owns the rankings advantage, and the UTR rating advantage, but their three-month trending UTR rank is only separated by 19 total players. Verdasco currently rates as the 23rd-toughest player while Federer sits comfortably at fourth. I don’t believe Verdasco will win this match, but this is certainly his best—and possibly last—chance to finally dethrone the king. Verdasco should come out swinging for the fences in this one.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) - ATP No. 60, UTR No. 81 (15.19)
Pablo Cuevas (URU) - ATP No. 59, UTR No. 47 (15.19)
We’ve seen flashes of the talented young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime throughout the past year, but last week in Rio was our best chance to see how promising this young kid really is. I watched Felix train at IMG in the offseason, and no other 18-year-old in the world can generate the kind of swing speed and raw power that he can.
Felix absolutely thumps the tennis ball. He made the final in Rio by sheer weight of shot. The players were not used to the relentless pace he generated on every shot—especially on clay. He was most impressive in his straight-set victory over Fabio Fognini, where he simply blew the Italian off the court.
Felix will now face Pablo Cuevas, one of the best clay-court players we have had in the last decade. Cuevas has six career ATP titles, all of them on clay. Cuevas will not be bothered by the young Canadian’s pace. For Auger-Aliassime to win this match he will need to do so with mental toughness and great point construction. I have a feeling Cuevas will outclass the potentially fatigued Auger-Aliassime. But if Auger-Aliassime can take out Cuevas on clay, coming off his best career result in Rio, it would be his most impressive victory to date.
• Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Juan Martin del Potro and Sloane Stephens headline the Abierto Mexicano Telcel. Watch live coverage on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, 2/25 at 5:00 pm ET.
• Watch Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic and Karen Khachanov live from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship starting Monday, 2/25 at 5:00 am ET
ATP Sao Paulo
• Tennis Channel Plus features live coverage of the Brasil Open beginning Monday, 2/25 at 10:30 am ET