Ricky’s Picks • ATP Tennis From Rogers Cup Previews, Including Nadal vs. Wawrinka And Novak Verus Tsitsipas

Written by: on 9th August 2018
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Rafael Nadal 1
Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their semi final during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 14 July 2018 EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their semi final during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 14 July 2018 EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL  |

By Ricky Dimon

A jam-packed third-round schedule is on the menu for Thursday at the Rogers Cup, where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are among those in action. Nadal is going up against Stan Wawrinka, while Djokovic is facing Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Ricky previews three of the best matchups and makes his predictions;

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (WC) Stan Wawrinka

At No. 195 in the rankings, Wawrinka needed a wild card to get into the Toronto Masters. He did not receive one initially, but Andy Murray’s withdrawal opened the door for Wawrinka to snag a WC and he has made the most of his opportunity so far. The Swiss booked a place in the third round by surviving Nick Kyrgios and Marton Fucsovics in three-set thrillers, improving to a still-modest 8-11 for the season.

Wawrinka’s reward is a 20th career contest against Nadal, who is dominating the head-to-head series 16-3 heading into Thursday. They have not squared off other since the 2017 French Open final, in which Nadal cruised 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 for his 10th of 11 titles at RG. Nothing suggests Wawrinka will be able to turn the tide in Toronto; not even on a surface that is more favorable for him than clay in this particular matchup. Whereas the 33-year-old is struggling, Nadal is an outstanding 36-3 for his 2018 campaign and he looked comfortable in his return to hard courts with a 6-2, 6-3 rout of Benoit Paire on Wednesday. This is a showdown that looks intriguing on paper, but on the court an in-form world No. 1 should completely crush a fatigued Wawrinka.

Pick: Nadal in 2

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (9) Novak Djokovic

Djokovic and Tsitsipas will be facing each other for the first time in their careers. It has already been a productive event for Tsitsipas, who opened with a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory over Damir Dzumhur and then upset Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6(6) on Wednesday. Thus continues a breakout 2018 campaign for the 19-year-old, who has picked up 27 of his 31 ATP-level match wins this season and has soared to No. 27 in the rankings.

Although Djokovic’s season has not been as consistent, he took his comeback to new heights on grass with a runner-up performance at Queen’s Club and a fourth Wimbledon title. The 10th-ranked Serb got right back in gear on hard courts with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Peter Polansky on Wednesday afternoon. As good as Tsitsipas has been, he is 0-4 lifetime against top-five foes and 0-8 in total sets. Djokovic is not a top-five player at the moment according to the rankings, but the 31-year-old is certainly performing like one. In fact, he is arguably the best player in the world once again and he is also a four-time champ at the Rogers Cup.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

Frances Tiafoe vs. (5) Grigor Dimitrov

While Tsitsipas defeated eighth-ranked player on tour during second-round action and Tiafoe got the best of an unseeded opponent, the latter result was no less notable. Milos Raonic has been rounding into form, is a former Rogers Cup finalist, and had reached the quarterfinals each of the last three times this tournament has been held in Toronto. But Tiafoe was too good, as he rolled through the deciding set en route to a 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1 triumph. The 20-year-old American already registers at a career-high of No. 41 in the world and he is sure to crack the top 40 next Monday thanks to this result and also a consistent 2018 effort that has him at 24-14 for the year.

Up next for Tiafoe is a first-ever date with Dimitrov, who got the best of a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) thriller against Fernando Verdasco in his opener. It was a much-needed victory for the Bulgarian, who is a mediocre 20-13 this season and had been 3-6 in his last nine matches prior to arriving in Toronto. Dimitrov should take confidence from his result against Verdasco, he will have enjoyed a full day off prior to this one, and his defense will force Tiafoe to hit a lot more balls than the youngster had to against Raonic.

Pick: Dimitrov in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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