(1) Fabio Fognini vs. Dustin Brown
Fognini will contest his first match at the BMW Open on Thursday and he comes in as the top seed. As usual, however, the mercurial Italian also comes with question marks. For the most part he has been in outstanding for since last summer, but he did not even win a single game last week in Barcelona. Fognini trailed eventual runner-up Santiago Giraldo 6-0, 4-0 before retiring due to a thigh injury. In fact, the world No. 15 has lost an incredible 19 games in a row dating back to the Monte-Carlo third round against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
It has already been a solid week for Brown, who beat Ivo Karlovic in a pair of tiebreakers on Monday. The dreadlocked German also took down John Isner in Houston on his way to the quarterfinals. Brown, ranked 86th, is 6-4 at the ATP level this season. Fognini, meanwhile, is 23-8 with a title in Vina del Mar. You never know what to expect from Fognini, especially not right now, but he should be able to withstand his opponent’s aggressive playing style on a relatively slow surface.
Pick: Fognini in 3
Alejandro Falla vs. (2) Tommy Haas
Falla and Haas will be squaring off for the sixth time in their careers and for the first time on clay. All five of their previous encounters have come on hard courts and they have not faced each other since the 2011 U.S. Open, a match that saw Haas prevail 7-6(5), 6-1, 7-5. The 36-year-old German has won four in a row at Falla’s expense to take a 4-1 lead in the head-to-head series. Falla has not extended Haas to a final set since the Colombian won their first-ever meeting 6-4, 6-4 at the 2007 Miami Masters.
Haas is 18-9 lifetime at this event and he captured the Munich title for the first time last season. Going back-to-back will require quite a turnaround for the No. 2 seed, who is modest 9-7 for his 2014 campaign and has not played since Indian Wells due to a shoulder injury. Falla booked his spot in the second round thanks to a 6-2, 6-1 blowout of Jarkko Nieminen. The world No. 71 is an even 5-5 at the ATP level this year to go along with a pair of Challenger titles (one on hard courts, one on clay). Falla is by no means a clay-court specialist, but it should help him outlast a rusty Haas even on the favorite’s home turf.
Pick: Falla in 3