Kuala Lumpur R2 previews and picks: Ferrer vs. Stepanek, Pospisil vs. Baghdatis

Pospisil 1David Ferrer will kick off his Kuala Lumpur campaign on Thursday against fellow veteran Radek Stepanek. Vasek Pospisil and Marcos Baghdatis are also aiming for a place in the quarterfinals.

(1) David Ferrer vs. (PR) Radek Stepanek

Ferrer and Stepanek will be facing each other for the 11th time in their careers and for the first time in three years when they collide in the Malaysian Open quarterfinals on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at 7-3 in favor of Ferrer, who has won four in a row at the Czech’s expense. The Spaniard has prevailed twice in the Davis Cup final; 8-6 in the fifth set at home on clay in 2009 and in straight sets on the indoor hard courts of the Czech Republic in 2012. This will be their first meeting on an indoor hard-court ATP tournament since they squared off for the first time back in 2004 at the St. Petersburg Open.

At eighth in both the rankings and the race to London, Ferrer is looking to clinch a berth in the year-end championship as he embarks on this fall swing. The 33-year-old is an awesome 40-10 for the season with three titles (but none since February). Stepanek has been plagued by injury, leaving his 2015 ATP-level record at an abbreviated 6-7. The 36-year-old won an ATP tournament match for the first time since Atlanta in July by defeating Yuichi Sugita 7-6(6), 6-2 on Tuesday. Ferrer should have no trouble breaking down Stepanek’s aggressive tactics with his stellar return game.

Pick: Ferrer in 2

(8) Vasek Pospisil vs. Marcos Baghdatis

Pospisil and Baghdatis will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers on Thursday. Their only previous meeting came this summer in Atlanta, where Baghdatis prevailed 6-4, 7-6(5) on his way to a runner-up finish. The 51st-ranked Cypriot did not do anything the rest of the summer in part due to a hip injury, but he improved to a solid 22-16 at the ATP level for the year by getting the best of Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1 in his Kuala Lumpur opener.

A more routine day at the office saw Pospisil dismiss Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-3, 6-4. The 44th-ranked Canadian has struggled for the most part since a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, with little more than a second-round performance in Cincinnati as a qualifier of which to speak. Pospisil improved to an even 19-19 on the year with his win over Uchiyama on Tuesday. A much tougher opponent in the form of Baghdatis may prove to be the No. 8 seed’s undoing.

Pick: Baghdatis in 3

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