Brisbane R1 previews and picks: Cilic vs. Istomin, Dimitrov vs. Haase

Marin Cilic kicks off his 2014 campaign as a dangerous unseeded threat in Brisbane, where he is facing Denis Istomin on Monday. Grigor Dimitrov and Robin Haase are also in action.

Denis Istomin vs. Marin Cilic

Istomin and Cilic will be going head-to-head for the fourth time in their careers when they collide in round one of the Brisbane International on Monday. Cilic has won all three of their previous encounters in straight sets on hard courts, but they have not faced each other since 2010–when the Croat prevailed 6-4, 6-2 in Washington, D.C.

One of the most active players on tour, Istomin lost 30 matches in 2013 but won 32. The Uzbek fell in the first round in just one of his last six tournaments, a stretch that included a run to the round of 16 at the U.S. Open. Cilic incurred a drug-related suspension starting at Wimbledon and he did not return until Paris, where he advanced one round. Due to inactivity, the 37th-ranked Croat is likely to miss out on an Australian Open seed. Look for a motivated Cilic to have just enough to get through a matchup featuring similar playing styles.

Pick: Cilic in 3

(5) Grigor Dimitrov vs. Robin Haase

Dimitrov and Haase will be squaring off for the first time in their careers on Monday. Big things are expected of Dimitrov in 2014 after he paved the way for future success with a strong showing last season. The 22-year-old Bulgarian compiled a 37-23 record and reached a career-high ranking of No. 22 in the world (he current registers one spot off at 23rd).

Haase set a record of futility in tiebreakers during the 2013 campaign, and consequently his win-loss record and ranking suffered. Still, the Dutchman went 30-26 despite likely dropping out of Australian Open seed contention (currently 43rd in the world). He finished runner-up to Tommy Haas in Valencia and made it to the Paris second round as a qualifier. This is a relatively even matchup on paper, but Dimitrov has to be feeling good about himself in Brisbane having advanced to last season’s title match.

Pick: Dimitrov in 3

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