Sony Open third-round previews: Murray vs. Dimitrov, Cilic vs. Isner

Two days after dismissing Bernard Tomic, Andy Murray faces another young gun in Grigor Dimitrov. John Isner and Marin Cilic are also looking for a spot in the Miami fourth round on Monday.

(29) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (2) Andy Murray

Murray and Dimitrov will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the second time this season when they collide in the third round of the Sony Open on Monday. Murray has won both of their previous encounters; 6-4, 6-4 to years ago in Bangkok and 7-6(0), 6-4 earlier this season in the Brisbane final.

The third-ranked Scot has turned in a solid but unspectacular 2013 campaign up to this point. In addition to his Brisbane title, Murray also finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and he is coming off a quarterfinal showing in Indian Wells (lost to Juan Martin Del Potro). Miami’s No. 2 seed improved his record for the year to 14-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 blowout of Bernard Tomic on Saturday. Dimitrov boasts a solid 11-6 record this season, although that is due to two tournaments and two tournaments only. Interspersed with some disappointing results, the 21-year-old Bulgarian reached the Rotterdam semifinals to go along with his performance in Brisbane. Dimitrov led Simone Bolelli by a set on Saturday when the Italian was forced to retire.

The underdog definitely has the talent to make this interesting, but–like Tomic–you never know if that talent is going to be showcased on any given day. Murray should have too much guile and too much defense, especially on a surface that will allow the 3009 Miami champ to grind down Dimitrov in long rally after long rally.

Pick: Dimitrov in 2

(20) John Isner vs. (9) Marin Cilic

Isner and Cilic will be squaring off for the third time in their careers when they do battle on Monday night. Cilic has won both of their previous encounters; 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 9-7 at the 2011 Australian Open and 7-6(4), 7-6(3) last spring in Madrid.

Isner mounted a near-miracle comeback just to be in this position, as he overcame Ivan Dodig in a third-set tiebreaker on Saturday after trailing by a set and by breaks in both the second and third. Just how bad did Isner need the victory? The 6’9” American is still a disappointing 7-6 for the season, which includes far more dreadful losses than inspiring wins. Cilic has been known to start his years in fine form, and this one is no different. The 11th-ranked Croat captured the Zagreb title and he won a pair of crucial Davis Cup singles rubbers against Italy. Cilic is 13-4 for his 2013 campaign after taking care of Santiago Giraldo in straight sets on Saturday.

Miami’s No. 9 seed has a clear edge in current level of play, but Isner should finally be playing with confidence after his clutch performance against Dodig. Furthermore, the world No. 23 generally thrives on the big stages–such as a night-session match on Stadium Court.

Pick: Isner in 3

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