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Ricky’s Picks For Tuesday’s U.S. Open Tennis Quarters • Nadal vs. Thiem and Isner vs. Del Potro

Rafael Nadal of Spain serves to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia during the seventh day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 02 September 2018. The US Open runs from 27 August through 09 September.  EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE



By Ricky Dimon


A pair of intriguing matchups remain in the top half of the U.S. Open men’s singles draw. Kicking off quarterfinal action on Tuesday are Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin Del Potro vs. John Isner. Wins by Nadal and Del Potro would set up a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open semis.


Ricky previews both matchups and makes his predictions.


(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (9) Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will be squaring off for the 11th time in their careers and for the very first time on clay. It is rematch of this year’s French Open final, won by the world No. 1 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. He now leads the head-to-head series 7-3, including 2-1 this season and 5-2 dating back to the start of 2017.


Thiem endured his usual post-Roland Garros slump, compiling a 1-2 record on grass, even falling twice early in clay-court events, and exiting Toronto in his first match with a loss to eventual runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas. But the Austrian has suddenly turned it all around in New York, where he is through to the quarters for the first time following defeats of Mirza Basic, Steve Johnson, Taylor Fritz, and Kevin Anderson.


Nadal’s U.S. Open title defense has not been completely smooth, as he has has been tested twice through four rounds. The Spaniard coasted past David Ferrer and Vasek Pospisil before dropping one set to both Karen Khachanov and Nikoloz Basilashvili, even trailing Khachanov by a set and a break at one point. Nonetheless, Nadal has improved to an awesome 44-3 in 2018 to set up another showdown against an opponent who always looked up to him.


“[My] earliest memories I think was when he beat Roger in the French semis in 2005,” Thiem said of Nadal. “I was 11 back then. Didn’t really think that I would also play him one day, but it’s very nice. It’s going to be the first time on hard court, which is a completely new experience.


“[I’ve had] three very nice experiences and [seven] horrible experiences,” the Austrian joked. “But no, I’m really looking forward to play him on hard court for the first time. On clay, I think it’s one of the biggest challenges in sports to beat this guy or to compete with this guy. I hope that it’s a little bit more comfortable on hard court, but I’m not sure.”


Thiem’s hard-court history is such that it is difficult to see him playing at the same level he displayed against Anderson, and an opponent of Nadal’s defensive caliber will make that effort even more difficult.

Pick: Nadal in 4


(11) John Isner vs. (3) Juan Martin Del Potro

Del Potro and Isner will be facing each other for the 12th time in their careers and for the second time in a slam this season. The Argentine improved to 7-4 in the head-to-head series when he took care of Isner 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at the French Open. He leads the 6’10” American 6-3 on hard courts and even 4-1 on hard courts in the United States.


Del Potro is an amazing 41-10 this season and up to a career-high ranking of No. 3 in the world. He punched his ticket to the USO quarters with straight-set wins over Donald Young, Denis Kudla, Fernando Verdasco, and Borna Coric. Isner endured a tougher road to the last eight. The world No. 11 rolled over Bradley Klahn in the first round but required five sets against Nicolas Jarry, four against Dusan Lajovic, and five against Milos Raonic. Isner, who had previously reached just one major quarterfinal in his entire career (2011 U.S. Open), is now 9-1 in his last 10 slam matches spanning Wimbledon (semis) and this USO.


“[Del Potro] will be a tough test for me, for sure,” Isner commented. He’s beaten me more than I’ve beaten him. It’s a matchup that I sort of enjoy. He’s one of the best players in the world; got to step up your game against a player like that.”


Del Potro has enjoyed plenty of success against Isner and the backhand slice that he improved so much throughout his wrist-injury tribulations is an extremely effective shot in this matchup. Additionally, Del Potro is an outstanding 33-8 lifetime at the U.S. Open with a title in 2009 and now three straight trips to at least the quarters.

Pick: Del Potro in 4

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


Editors Note • Agree with Ricky in both outcomes. But see 5 setters for both of them. After all it is the last SLAM of the year. (LS)

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