Sony Open SF previews and picks: Ferrer vs. Haas, Murray vs. Gasquet

A relatively surprising semifinal lineup in Miami is headlined by Andy Murray, who will face Richard Gasquet on Friday. David Ferrer and Tommy Haas are also in action.

(3) David Ferrer vs. (15) Tommy Haas

Ferrer and Haas will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the first time in more than five years when the two veterans collide in the semifinals of the Sony Open on Friday afternoon. Both of their previous encounters have been won by Ferrer; 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3 at the 2005 Paris Masters and 6-3, 6-0 at the 2008 Dubai event.

Now in their 30s, both men are still going strong. Ferrer boasts a 24-4 record for the season following wins this fortnight over Fabio Fognini, Kei Nishikori, and Jurgen Melzer. The fifth-ranked Spaniard has bounced back nicely from a blowout loss to Rafael Nadal in Acapulco and an early setback in Indian Wells at the hands of Kevin Anderson. Haas, three years older than Ferrer at 34, continues to play stellar tennis after a resurgent 2012 campaign. The 18th-ranked German reached the San Jose final and the semis in Delray before catching fire in Miami. Haas ousted Igor Sijsling and Alexandr Dolgopolov then stunned world No. 1 Novak Djokovic before dominating Gilles Simon on Wednesday night.

Haas 4

Like his quarterfinal clash with the Frenchman, this one will be on Haas’ racket. Ferrer may be slightly more aggressive than Simon, but Haas–especially given his current form–will dictate the outcome of the match. Defense often beats offense on a slow hard court, but Haas is striking the ball too well right now to get flustered by Ferrer’s tenacity. The former world No. 2 is willing and able to endure long rallies, so look for him to eventually hit Ferrer off the court in an entertaining battle.

Pick: Haas in 3

 

(2) Andy Murray vs. (8) Richard Gasquet

Murray and Gasquet will be squaring off for the eighth time in their careers when they do battle on Friday night. They most recently faced each other in the fourth round of last year’s French Open, where Murray prevailed 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 to pull ahead 4-3 in the head-to-head series. Only their first two encounters came on hard courts, with Gasquet getting the better of his opponent in both 2006 (Toronto) and 2007 (Paris Masters).

Gasquet
Both players are playing great tennis in 2013 even though Murray may not be quite as on fire as was at times last season. The third-ranked Scot sports a 17-2 record following victories over Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov, Andreas Seppi, and Marin Cilic. While Murray is still searching for his title of the year, Gasquet has already claimed two–in Doha and Montpellier. So far in Miami, the 10th-ranked Frenchman has defeated Olivier Rochus, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicolas Almagro (in a third-set tiebreaker), and Tomas Berdych.

Only a grass-court surface would really make a significant difference in this matchup (in Murray’s favor, of course). A relatively slow hard court may slightly favor Gasquet, but not to the extent that it will be the deciding factor. While the eighth seed’s destruction of Berdych suggests that he could be ready for the biggest title of his career, Murray heated up with the best match of his tournament against Cilic. Because of experience in the latter stages of the world’s most prestigious events, the edge has to go to the favorite.

Pick: Murray in 3

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