Paris R2 previews and picks: Ferrer vs. Rosol, Wawrinka vs. Lopez

David Ferrer will contest his Paris opener on Wednesday against Lukas Rosol. Stanislas Wawrinka is also looking for a place in the third round as he faces Feliciano Lopez. Chris Skelton previews the action.

(3) David Ferrer vs. Lukas Rosol

Everyone knows what happened when Rosol faced another prestigious opponent from Spain at a marquee tournament. No matter what else he accomplishes, the Czech ball-bruiser will go down in history as the man who stunned Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012. To his credit, Rosol built upon that breakthrough by winning his first career title this spring and cracking the ATP top 50. Personal adversity derailed him during the summer, but he emerged from that long losing streak after the U.S. Open. Rosol reached the first indoor semifinal of his career two weeks ago in Vienna, where he extended eventual champion Tommy Haas to a final-set tiebreaker.

In his previous tournament, however, Rosol lost routinely to the man whom he will face on Wednesday at the BNP Paribas Masters. The outdoor surface in Shanghai played less swiftly this year than it usually does, allowing Ferrer to blunt the underdog’s power. Conditions in Paris should reward the Czech’s first-strike tennis while camouflaging some of his inconsistency, a flaw that Ferrer excels in exposing. And yet the Spaniard claimed the first Masters 1000 title of his career on this court last season, so he has proven that he can succeed there despite his preference for clay. His opener in Paris may offer early signs as to whether last year’s achievement boosts or burdens him in this year’s title defense.

By his lofty standards, Ferrer also struggled for much of this summer before experiencing a revival in his last two tournaments. Consecutive indoor finals in Stockholm and Valencia marked his best results at non-majors since Wimbledon, echoing Rosol’s recent upward trend after a long slump. Paris has become notorious among Masters 1000 tournaments for unexpected twists and turns, however, and Ferrer still showed traces of frailty in losing those two fall finals to Grigor Dimitrov and Mikhail Youzhny. Rosol might well snatch a set before the defending champion wears him down.

Pick: Ferrer in 3

(7) Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Feliciano Lopez

After spending a career in the shadow of Roger Federer, Wawrinka has stepped into the spotlight this year with seven victories over Top-10 opponents and his first major semifinal at the U.S. Open. A berth at the World Tour Finals in London would offer a fitting conclusion to this breakthrough 2013 campaign. But a meager fall effort after Flushing Meadows has left Wawrinka’s fate in doubt until the last week of the regular season. The Swiss No. 2 has fallen early at ATP 500 events to Sam Querrey and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, opponents well below his quality, and his first Paris challenger has troubled him before.

Three-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist Feliciano Lopez always has welcomed fast surfaces, on which his retro serve-volley style shines. At the age of 32, the Spanish lefty has not lost his quickness around the net nor alert sense of opportunities to approach. Outside his favored grass, where he won the Eastbourne title this year, Lopez may flourish most on indoor hard courts. He reached an indoor final at the Memphis 500 tournament in February, using a pinpoint lefty serve to open the court for his first groundstroke. Similar patterns worked for Lopez in a three-set victory over Bernard Tomic that started the tournament, and he defeated Wawrinka on an indoor hard court in Madrid five years ago.

The world No. 8 will hold the advantage in extended rallies, and especially whenever he can find his opponent’s unreliable backhand. Surely aware of that dynamic, Lopez will look to take time away from Wawrinka whenever possible, rushing him out of his comfort zone before he can set up his elongated strokes. To execute that strategy, the Spaniard will need a strong first-serve percentage and aggressive court positioning. He beat Wawrinka by retirement this summer, but otherwise Lopez has not defeated an elite opponent since 2011. And the Swiss will have set his sights on London too firmly to stumble at the last hurdle.

Pick: Wawrinka in 2

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