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Fed faces potential problems vs. Simon

1/18/2011 - Tennis Roger Federer Gilles Simon + more

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer had a tough first-round match at the Australian Open in 2010, stretched by Russian Igor Andreev. Federer might get tested in the second round of this year's edition, facing a resurgent Gilles Simon. Their clash highlights Day 3 in Melbourne.

Men's match to watch: Roger Federer (2) vs. Gilles Simon

Federer doesn't have a losing record against many on tour. Even less frequent is Federer holding an inferior record without winning a match. Simon is an exception.

Simon has won both their tilts, in 2008, employing tactics similar to Andy Murray's, another player who has had some success against the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

Federer didn't need to be reminded.

"I usually remember the losses maybe just a bit more because I don't have as many as I have wins," Federer said Monday after crushing Lukas Lacko.

Then Federer will recall the Canadian Masters, a few weeks removed from losing arguably the greatest match of all time at Wimbledon. Simon added to his misery. With Federer hindered by a bad back, Simon made it 2-for-2 at the Masters Cup.

They were far from routine victories -- three-set slugfests, the kind that can transpire given Simon's patient game from the baseline.

"He's beaten the best in the world," Federer said, perhaps alluding to the Frenchman overcoming Rafael Nadal, too. "If he can do it once, he always feels he can do it again."

Like Federer, although certainly not as dominant, Simon is approaching better days. Hampered by a knee injury in 2009 and 2010, his ranking tumbled. Simon started to pick it up toward the end of last season and has begun 2011 in style, winning the Sydney International by knocking off rising Serb Viktor Troicki. Simon probably wishes he could face Troicki every week, given their head-to-head record.

Simon did call the trainer in the first round against Yen-Hsun Lu because of the knee but said it wasn't related to his past problems. Rather, sitting on a plane did the damage.

No business class, Gilles?

When French reporters suggested Simon was Federer's irritant rival, the playful 26-year-old retorted: "He doesn't have a bĂȘte noire. He's the bĂȘte noire."

Can't argue with that.

Prediction: Federer in four

Women's match to watch: Francesca Schiavone (6) vs. Rebecca Marino

Despite having promising juniors for years, Canadian tennis hasn't hit the singles heights of Carling Bassett-Seguso and "Hurricane" Helen Kelesi, both former Grand Slam quarterfinalists.

Alas, some relief could be on the way courtesy of a pair of 20-year-olds. Milos Raonic, drawing comparisons with Mark Philippoussis, qualified for his second consecutive Grand Slam.

Rebecca Marino, a hard-hitter in the same vein as Raonic, reached the second round at a major, also on the second straight occasion.

Marino got some attention at the U.S. Open, when the 6-footer went toe to toe with Venus Williams, falling 7-6 (3), 6-3. She later put together an 18-match winning streak, claiming three ITF titles. Her first-round victory, over Japan's Junri Namigata, could be enough to nudge her inside the top-100 benchmark. Mind you, Marino did her best to create drama, blowing a break lead in the second and almost squandering a 5-0 advantage in the third.

Schiavone was the surprise artist of 2010, joyfully and impressively winning the French Open. By no means did the little Italian collapse thereafter, performing admirably at the U.S. Open -- where Venus beat her.

However, Schiavone is ailing. The 30-year-old was hurt at the Hopman Cup in Perth this month, and her leg was strapped in a two-hour, 23-minute first-round win over unheralded Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Marino senses she has a chance.

"From what I hear she's maybe a bit injured," Marino told the Montreal Gazette. "But I will expect her to be on her 'A' game. It's a great opportunity to play one of the top players."


Prediction: Marino in two

Upset special: Tommy Robredo vs. Mardy Fish (16)

This one has trouble written all over it for Fish. The main reason is the Tampa resident's health.

A virus robbed Fish of energy, and he was somewhat surprised to rally from two sets down against Romanian Victor Hanescu on Monday. He wasn't sure what to expect against Robredo, who makes opponents earn most points.

"I'm not 20 anymore, so I don't recover as fast," said Fish, who has been tested for mono. "We'll see how I feel."

Don't be fooled by Robredo's ranking of 52nd.

A back injury largely contributed to the Spaniard finishing outside the top 30 in the year-end rankings for the first time since 2000. He's won two straight versus Fish.

Prediction: Robredo in three

Five-set lock: Florian Mayer vs. Kei Nishikori.

Nishikori and Mayer are healthy, no small feat given how much time they've spent on the sidelines. And it seems Nishikori can't stop playing long matches. He grinds from the back of the court, tending to suffer peaks and troughs. However, there's no doubting the world No. 82's competitiveness.

Mayer upset Nikolay Davydenko in the first round to maintain his momentum, despite getting hit with a point penalty for swearing. He called it one of the best five victories of his career. Mayer narrowly missed out on a seeding, ranked 36th, and should eclipse his career high of 33rd -- set seven years ago -- in the coming months.

Prediction: Mayer

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.