Marin Cilic is back in action for his second match since returning from suspension, but Juan Martin Del Potro stands in Cilic’s way of the Paris last 16 on Wednesday. Roger Federer, meanwhile, battles Kevin Anderson.
Marin Cilic vs. (4) Juan Martin Del Potro
Cilic and Del Potro will be squaring off for the 10th time in their careers when they clash in round two of the BNP Paribas Masters on Wednesday. Del Potro leads the head-to-head series 7-2, but just 3-2 on hard courts. They most recently collided in the third round of the 2012 French Open, with the Argentine cruising 6-3, 7-6(7), 6-1. They also faced each other earlier that year on the hard stuff in Miami, where Del Potro scored a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory.
This is Cilic’s first tournament since Wimbledon due to a drug-related suspension that was suddenly reduced just in time for him to enter Paris. The 41st-ranked Croat returned in style with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win over Igor Sijsling on Monday. An on-fire Del Potro has titles in Tokyo and Basel plus a runner-up showing in Shanghai already this fall. The world No. 5 is 13-1 since losing to Lleyton Hewitt in the second round of the U.S. Open. Fatigue may catch up with Del Potro sooner rather than later this week, but he is as match-tough as they come right now whereas Cilic has to be rusty even though his dismissal of Sijsling was encouraging.
Pick: Del Potro in 2
(5) Roger Federer vs. Kevin Anderson
Federer is back in action three days after finishing runner-up to Del Potro in Basel. While the former world No. 1 is accustomed to capturing titles in Basel, this time around it was arguably his best tournament since winning Halle and perhaps his best tennis since a Cincinnati quarterfinal loss to Rafael Nadal. Federer is 40-14 for the year and he will qualify for the World Tour Finals if he prevails on Wednesday.
Standing in Federer’s path is Anderson, whom the Swiss has never faced. Anderson has been in an extended slump since reaching the Atlanta final and the Washington, D.C. quarters, with a 3-8 record ever since. The 6’8” South African needed a stroke of good fortune and he got one in the form of Paris first-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny. Playing just two days after triumphing in Valencia, Youzhny retired at 1-2 in the third set after failing to serve out the second. Anderson may be able to take some confidence from that survival, but his all-court game is not where it needs to be right now in order to challenge Federer. The world No. 21 will have to serve extremely well if he wants to have any kind of chance.
Pick: Federer in 2