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Ricky’s Preview And Picks For U.S. Open Tennis • Including Nadal • Kokkinakis, Isner, Rublev, Pospisil

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal is back on the court for Thursday action at the U.S. Open, but a whole host of top-10 men won’t be joining in what has become an even more wide open half of the bracket. Nadal is going up against Thanasi Kokkinakis, while John Isner and Andrey Rublev are also bidding for a place in the fourth round.

Ricky previews four of the best matchups and makes his predictions.

(WC) Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

Did any player get a better U.S. Open draw than Nadal? In the early rounds perhaps, as Nadal had to go up against a 2018 U.S. Open quarterfinalist right away (John Millman). But the Spaniard’s path to the final is friendlier than anyone else’s after he thrashed Millman 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday. Nadal also had a favorable road–even including the final, in fact–when he lifted the U.S. Open trophy for the third time in his career in 2017. The 18-time major champion has set himself up nicely for more success in New York with a recent triumph at the Rogers Cup followed by rest and relaxation while the rest of the tour slugged it out in Cincinnati. Stuck at No. 203 in the rankings, Kokkinakis has played just six ATP-level matches this season–one of those a 6-3, 7-6(8), 6-7(4), 6-2 win over Ilya Ivashka on Tuesday evening. Kokkinakis has not been on this kind of stage in quite a while and Nadal should put a swift end to the underdog’s short but productive fortnight.

Pick: Nadal in 3

(14) John Isner vs. Jan-Lennard Struff

Isner and Struff will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers. The head-to-head series is being swept 3-0 by Isner, who cruised past the German 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2 at the 2014 USO–also in the second round. Their next two meetings, however, required final sets. Isner got the job done 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4 at the 2016 Vienna event and 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 immediately thereafter on the indoor hard courts of Paris. It is safe to say, though, that Struff is a whole different beast now. He is a late bloomer on tour who is enjoying by far the best season of his career at 29 years old. The world No. 37 has won 29 main-tour matches in 2019, including three at the French Open and two in Cincinnati. Whereas last year was Isner’s year in a way, this year seems to be Struff’s year. Isner, a 2018 Nitto ATP Finals participant, reached the Miami final but then was out until Wimbledon due to a stress fracture. He has struggled upon his return.

Pick: Struff in 4

Andrey Rublev vs. Gilles Simon

Rublev is in the midst of an incredible summer, which is highlighted by a win over Roger Federer in Cincinnati. He reached the quarterfinals there, did the same in Winston-Salem, and then upset world No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Tuesday at Flushing Meadows. Simon also won in four sets, but his match was even more difficult. The 34-year-old Frenchman needed a whopping four hours and 19 minutes to get past Bjorn Fratangelo. Thirteen years Simon’s junior, Rublev can recover faster from a big physical effort. And it was encouraging for the Russian that he did not appear to having much trouble whereas Tsitsipas was cramping. All signs point to Rublev taking care of business.

Pick: Rublev in 4

Vasek Pospisil vs. Sandgren

It was only a matter of time for Pospisil, who missed the entire first half of this year with a back injury before returning at Wimbledon. He suffered competitive losses to fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime at bo6th Wimbledon and the Rogers Cup plus a three-set setback against Hyeon Chung (who is also in the USO second round) at the Vancouver Challenger. That progress was a sign of things to come, and those things came on Tuesday when Pospisil ousted No. 9 seed Karen Khachanov in five sets. Fortunately for Pospisil, Sandgren may also be somewhat fatigued after outlasting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tough five-setter. Although that is a good win for the Americanas, at the same time it has to be said that Tsonga is a shadow of his former self at the moment. On a relatively fast surface, Pospisil should have the edge.

Pick: Posipsil in 4

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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