Blake vs. Tsonga: For exactly an hour on Friday, the former top-five player turned back the clock in the desert with a convincing victory over Robin Haase. Whether Blake can replicate that surprising sturdiness remains open to doubt, and Tsonga dealt with him routinely in both of their previous meetings. Although the Frenchman can suffer inexplicable losses, such as an upset by Igor Sijsling in Rotterdam last month, he should have little to fear from the diminished form of the American. But this match should produce a great atmosphere with the scintillating shot-making quality on both sides, ideal for an early round under the lights.
Kuznetsova vs. Bartoli: Caused by her lengthy injury absence, Sveta’s pedestrian ranking leads to her presence in one intriguing encounter after another. After Jankovic bageled her in the first set of their Friday match, she reversed the momentum with praiseworthy grit to edge through an epic that lived up to its anticipation. This match also appears the WTA highlight of the day, and it offers Bartoli an opportunity to avenge a loss when they met a few weeks ago in Doha. Clearly the more athletic and more versatile woman, Kuznetsova needs to build physical rallies rather than letting Bartoli dictate with point-starting first strikes. Each woman has finished runner-up here before, so both know what it takes to shine on this court.
Davydenko vs. Del Potro: Despite the eight inches separating them, Davydenko held the advantage over Del Potro when both men produced their best tennis in 2009. Defeating the Argentine to win the World Tour Finals that year, the smaller man used his crisp footwork and pinpoint returning to neutralize the serve and forehand weapons wielded by the Tower of Tandil. Even in the twilight of his career, Davydenko can frustrate opponents when least expected, but Del Potro rarely has lost to an opponent outside the elite since the start of last year. Moreover, he has not lost to anyone other than Federer or Nadal here after his first appearance in 2007. Del Potro can’t face either of them until the final.
Querrey vs. Karlovic: With Isner and Harrison ousted on Saturday, any real hope for a meaningful American achievement in the men’s draw rests on Sam Querrey. That hope looks remote as well considering the Californian’s indifferent results over the first few months of 2013 and his undistinguished history at the event. Perhaps the evening atmosphere will bring out more energy from Querrey, though, and his greatest successes have come in his home state at the now-defunct Los Angeles event. Accustomed to looking down at his opponents , he must look up at the man who defeated compatriot Jack Sock after saving a match point. Karlovic has grown even more maladroit with age, but his serve remains a conundrum that will test Querrey’s focus, not one of his strengths.
Matosevic vs. Monaco: The second-ranked Australian man hopes to regain some of the spotlight that Tomic stole from him on home soil. A Delray Beach finalist, Matosevic shone at this time last year and has played his best tennis in North America. Unable to win a set this year outside Davis Cup, the 14th-ranked Monaco must halt his horrific skid before he travels to defend semifinal points at his next tournament in Miami. The peaceful setting might allow him to regroup against an opponent who might struggle to match his consistency.
Kirilenko vs. Burdette: One of just two Americans left in the women’s draw, the Stanford graduate has won four matches here including qualifying. Most recently, she delivered the latest blow to a reeling Tamira Paszek, an accomplishment less impressive in itself than in her ability to rally from an early deficit to wrest away the momentum—and then retain it once seized. Kirilenko accomplished something similar in her three-set victory over Christina McHale, albeit on a larger scale, for she rallied from a set-and-break deficit to notch ten of the last twelve games. A quarterfinalist at Indian Wells last year, she has found herself in a section of the draw where she plausibly could repeat the feat, or better.
Ebden vs. Dimitrov: Another Australian cast into Tomic’s shadow, Ebden plays a retro serve-volley style that usually reaps few rewards on this surface. Retro in a different way, Dimitrov offers illustrations of why the one-handed backhand looks so elegant—and produces results so much less effective than the less graceful, less risky two-hander. Ebden came through the draw as a qualifier with wins over decent foes Golubev and Dancevic, so his greater familiarity with the conditions could help him against someone who hasn’t played an outdoor match since January.