Sony Open QF previews and picks: Murray vs. Cilic, Berdych vs. Gasquet

The Miami quarterfinals will continue on Thursday with Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych taking the court. They are set for respective meetings with Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet.

(2) Andy Murray vs. (9) Marin Cilic

Murray and Cilic will be squaring off for the ninth time in their careers when they meet in the quarterfinals of the Sony Open on Wednesday. Murray is dominating the head-to-head series 7-1, including 4-1 on hard courts. They faced each other twice last year, both times in Grand Slams. After Murray cruised at Wimbledon, a more memorable U.S. Open encounter saw Cilic lead by a set and 5-1 in the second before the Scot stormed back for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-0 victory.

Murray 3
Cilic is a considerable underdog once again, but he is playing stellar tennis in the early stages of his 2013 campaign. The 11th-ranked Croat captured a title in Zagreb and he boasts a 15-4 record following straight-set wins this fortnight over Santiago Giraldo, John Isner, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray may not be on fire at the moment, but his consistency has seen him through to the business end of yet another tournament (one in which none of the other top four players in the world made it to the quarterfinals). The No. 2 seed opened with a blowout of Bernard Tomic before dismissing both Grigor Dimitrov and Andreas Seppi in straight sets. Murray’s 16-2 mark includes a triumph in Brisbane, a runner-up at the Australian Open, and a quarterfinal in Indian Wells.

As their past history indicates, this is a bad matchup for Cilic. Murray’s defense is at or near the top of the tennis world and Cilic does not have quite enough firepower to hit through him, especially not on a relatively slow surface.

Pick: Murray in 2

(4) Tomas Berdych vs. (8) Richard Gasquet

Berdych and Gasquet will be facing each other for the eighth time in their careers when they clash on Wednesday. They just played earlier this month in Indian Wells, where Berdych cruised 6-1, 7-5. Gasquet, however, leads the head-to-head series 4-3 (3-2 on hard courts) after winning two in a row during a 2011-2012 stretch.

Both players are in outstanding form this season. Berdych boasts a 21-5 record, which includes at least three victories at five of his six events. The sixth-ranked Czech needed three sets to get past Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Alejandro Falla in Miami, but he destroyed Sam Querrey 6-1, 6-1 on Tuesday. Gasquet already owns two titles this year and he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and in Indian Wells. The 10th-ranked Frenchman has taken out Olivier Rochus, Mikhail Youzhny, and Nicolas Almagro (in a third-set tiebreaker) so far this fortnight.

The question is which Berdych will show up, because the one who performed against Gimeno-Traver and Falla will not have enough to beat an in-form Gasquet. While the Indian Wells courts were slow, Miami’s are even slower–and that will aid the underdog’s chances. Still, Berdych was dominant in their most recent meeting and he has had more experience of late in the latter stages of the world’s biggest events.

Pick: Berdych in 3

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