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Tennis Ricky’s Picks 2019 Australian Open Day 1 – Nadal vs. Duckworth, Edmund vs. Berdych & More

A visitor poses for photo during the Australian Open tennis tournament practice day in Melbourne, Australia, 13 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH EDITORIAL USE ONLY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
A visitor poses for photo during the Australian Open tennis tournament practice day in Melbourne, Australia, 13 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The 2019 Grand Slam season is here, as the Australian Open begins on Monday in Melbourne. Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych, and John Isner are among those in action. Ricky previews some of the Day 1 matchups and makes his picks.

 

(WC) James Duckworth vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Nadal probably isn’t 100 percent, but he could probably take care of Duckworth at 50 percent. The veteran Aussie has dealt with plenty of his own physical issues and he disappeared from the tour for several seasons until returning last summer. His results haven’t been terrible, but nothing suggests he can challenge Nadal. Look for the world No. 2 to show signs of rust early, get hot midway through the match, and then mess a round a bit while trying to serve it out in the third. Nadal in 3.

 

Tomas Berdych vs. (13) Kyle Edmund

Edmund is no stranger to difficult draws in round one of the Aussie Open. As an unseeded floater last season, he had to face Kevin Anderson right away and scored a 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 upset to touch off an improbable semifinal run. Now, however, Edmund’s role is reversed. The 24-year-old Brit is the seed (13th), and he is running into a dangerous unseeded opponent in Berdych. Their only previous encounter came three years ago on the hard courts of Doha, where the veteran Czech prevailed 6-3, 6-2. Berdych made a run to the Doha final before falling to Roberto Bautista Agut, while Edmund dropped his Brisbane opener to unheralded Yasutaka Uchiyama and then withdrew from Sydney citing a knee injury. Berdych in 3.

 

Reilly Opelka vs. (9) John Isner

It will be the tallest matchup in slam history when Isner and Opelka go head-to-head. Rarely is Isner the smaller player in any match, but he registers at 6’10” while Opelka comes in at 6’11”. Other than size and country, however, that is just about where the similarities end for these two Americans. Twelve years Opelka’s senior at 33, Isner has been in and out of the top 10 over the past few seasons (currently 10th) and he made a debut appearance in the Nitto ATP Finals this past fall. Opelka, who lost their only previous encounter 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 three years ago at Isner’s favorite tournament (Atlanta), just barely earned direct entry into this event at No. 102 in the world. This scoreline will obviously be close due to a lack of breaks, but Isner should have a clear edge given his experience–especially in majors. Isner in 4.

 

Andrey Rublev vs. Mackenzie McDonald

It won’t get much publicity, but this should be one of the most entertaining contests up the whole first round. Separated by only five spots in the rankings, Rublev and McDonald are two grinders (Rublev probably shouldn’t be, but right now that’s what he is) who will put absolutely everything they have on the court for however long it takes. The Russian’s slight edge in experience will be the difference in the AO’s first-ever fifth-set super-tiebreaker. Rublev in 5.

 

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

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