Rafael Nadal will hope to avenge a loss from earlier this season when he goes up against Fabio Fognini during third-round action on Thursday in Barcelona. Philipp Kohlschreiber and Benoit Paire are also looking for a spot in the quarterfinals.
(13) Fabio Fognini vs. (2) Rafael Nadal
Nadal and Fognini will be facing each other for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time this season when they clash in round three of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at 4-1 in Nadal’s favor, but Fognini got on the scoreboard a few months ago on the clay courts of Rio de Janeiro in the form of a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 upset. Nadal has still won two of their three encounters on the slow stuff, having previously prevailed 6-1, 6-3 two years ago in Rome and 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 shortly thereafter at the French Open.
Unfortunately for Fognini, this may not be the same Nadal that was on display in Rio. The fourth-ranked Spaniard lost early in Indian Wells and Miami, but he played better in Monte-Carlo (despite succumbing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals) and crushed Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-1 in his Barcelona opener on Wednesday. Fognini also benefited from a first-round bye before battling past Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The 13th-seeded Italian is just 7-9 for his 2015 campaign and this is first trip past a second round since Rio. With Nadal picking up confidence and Fognini lacking in the same department, this should be routine.
Pick: Nadal in 2 losing 5-7 games
Benoit Paire vs. (12) Philipp Kohlschreiber
Kohlschreiber and Paire will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers on Thursday. Their first showdown was their most memorable; in round two of the 2012 U.S. Open, Kohlschreiber broke back at 5-6 in the deciding set and ultimately survived 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(4). The German once lead their head-to-head series 2-0, but Paire has since won two in a row with victories at the 2013 Indian Wells Masters (6-4, 6-2) and a few months later at the Masters event in Montreal (7-6(1), 7-5).
The Frenchman could not have asked for a better draw so far in Barcelona. He disposed of qualifier Jaume Munar 6-2, 6-2 in his opener before recovering from a slow start against an ice-cold Ernests Gulbis to roll 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Kohlschreiber is slumping with a 6-8 record for the year and he has not yet won back-to-back matches at any event. The world No. 25 got the best of Andrey Kuznetsov 7-6(1), 6-3 during second-round action. This could go either way, but Kohlschreiber plays with a high margin of error and will be able to extend points long enough on clay in order to expose the Paire forehand.
Pick: Kohlschreiber in 3