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Men's Tennis: 3 Must-See First-Round Matches at the Sony Ericsson Open

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2012

Men's Tennis: 3 Must-See First-Round Matches at the Sony Ericsson Open

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    The tennis world descends upon Key Biscayne for the Sony Ericsson Open this week, as the second Master's 1000 event of the year is held there. 

    Novak Djokovic won the title last year as he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final to complete the American double (winning both the BNP Paribas Open and the Sony Ericsson titles). 

    Although the top 32 seeds receive byes into the second round, there are some exciting matches on the slate for Round 1. 

    Last year, Feliciano Lopez and Richard Berankis provided the crowd with a great first-round match.

    These three matches are compelling and will be very entertaining to watch. 

Sam Querrey vs Matthew Ebden

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    This will be the first meeting between Sam Querrey, a big-serving American, and the Australian Matthew Ebden. 

    Ebden is coming off a strong result at Indian Wells, falling to John Isner, who went on to lose in the final, in the fourth round. Making the small run more impressive is the fact that he defeated two seeded players to reach the fourth round, those players being Mardy Fish and Julien Benneteau. 

    Querrey, on the other hand, lost a tight match to the twelfth seed Nicolas Almagro in three sets. 

    Neither player is ranked where he would like to be, with Querrey being ranked 102 and Ebden coming in at 78.

    Querrey has been inside the top 20 but he has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in the last year. 

    With his strong performance last week, Ebden moved into his career-high rank. 

    Querrey needs to start building both momentum and ranking points if he hopes to get main-draw invites to the majors this Summer. 

    The pick: Ebden will not be an easy match for Querrey, but I predict the American winning this match in straight sets. 

Nicolas Mahut vs Fernando Gonzalez

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    This match is significant because it has the potential to be the last one of Fernando Gonzalez's career.

    Gonzalez will be best remembered for winning the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and his run to the Australian Open final in 2007, where he was bested my Nadal and Federer respectively. He also claimed the gold in men's doubles at the 2004 summer games in Athens.

    Mahut, whose career will certainly continue after this match, will always be best remembered for his marathon match with John Inser at Wimbledon in 2010. 

    Gonzalez is 3-3 on the year and clearly isn't the player he used to be, hence his upcoming retirement. 

    Mahut is 6-7 and has been a step above the journeyman for the past couple of years.

    This will be the first and only time that these two players will meet. 

    Fernando chose Miami to be his final tournament for a reason: He loves to play there.

    This match is a must-see for any Gonzalez fans as it may be his finale. 

    The pick: Gonzalez in 3 sets.

James Blake vs Nikolay Davydenko

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    This is a matchup of players that were once inside the top 10. That alone makes this match a must-watch for all tennis fans.

    James Blake has been on a slide for years but he owns a perfect 7-0 record against his opponent Nikolay Davydenko

    One would think Blake would be the favorite based upon his flawless history against Davydenko and his hard-hitting style. This, however, isn't the case in this match. 

    James Blake has only played one match on the year, and in that match he only won two games from fellow American Ryan Sweeting. Blake has had very little match time in 2012 while Davydenko has competed in 13 matches this year.

    As long as Davydenko is able to play his game and move Blake around the court, he should emerge as the victor. I will give Blake some credit, however, and am predicting that he will win a set when they face each other. 

    The pick: Davydenko in 3 sets.

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