Paris R2 previews and picks: Murray vs. Benneteau, Wawrinka vs. Thiem

BenneteauAndy Murray will be back in action three days after winning a dramatic Valencia final against Tommy Robredo when the Scot faces Julien Benneteau in Paris. Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem are also contesting a second-rounder on Wednesday.

Julien Benneteau vs. (8) Andy Murray

Murray will be making a quick turnaround after an epic Valencia final as he kicks off his BNP Paribas Masters campaign on Wednesday. The eighth-seeded Scot at least had the benefit of a first-round bye, whereas runner-up Tommy Robredo had to play on Tuesday (beat Vasek Pospisil in another third-set tiebreaker). Murray saved five championship points before outlasting the Spaniard 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(8) to win his third title of the fall swing. He is now in outstanding shape to qualify for the World Tour Finals, although he has not yet mathematically clinched a spot.

Up first for Murray is Benneteau, against whom the world No. 8 is 4-0 lifetime. Each of their two previous hard-court encounters came in Cincinnati; Murray won 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in 2009 and 6-2, 6-2 in 2013. Benneteau opened on Monday with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Yen-Hsun Lu as the Frenchman improved his season record to 26-23. He has never made it past round three in Paris, but he owns big wins at this event over Fernando Gonzalez in 2006 and Roger Federer in 2009. This is a great opportunity for the underdog with home-court advantage and what has to be a fatigued opponent.

Pick: Benneteau in 3

Dominic Thiem vs. (3) Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka and Thiem will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers on Wednesday. Their only previous meeting came this spring on the clay courts of Madrid, where Thiem pulled off a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 upset. The fast-rising Austrian was on fire at the time, but he has cooled off of late. Thiem had been a disappointing 1-4 this fall before beating Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 on Monday.

The good news for world No. 37 is that Wawrinka is even colder. Paris’ No. 3 seed has lost his opening match in all three of his post-U.S. Open tournaments: to Tatsuma Ito in Tokyo, Gilles Simon in Shanghai, and Mikhail Kukushkin in Basel. The Swiss still has two far more important obligations remaining on his 2014 schedule in the form of London and the Davis Cup final against France, so it may be a few more weeks before Wawrinka finds the motivation needed to get back on track.

Pick: Thiem in 3

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