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10s • TennisBalls • Ricky’s Picks For Day 8 Of The Australian Open, Including Nadal vs. Kyrgios

By Ricky Dimon

The second Monday of the Australian Open is headlined by another highly-anticipated showdown between Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios. Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils, Alexander Zverev, and Andrey Rublev are also bidding for spots in the quarterfinals.

Ricky previews the conclusion of fourth-round action and makes his predictions.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (23) Nick Kyrgios

One of the most bad-blooded rivalries in tennis will be renewed when Nadal and Kyrgios collide for the eighth time in their careers. Nadal leads the head-to-head series by a competitive 4-3 margin, with Kyrgios having won two of their three hard-court meetings. They have split a pair of Grand Slam contests, both at Wimbledon; Kyrgios pulled off a 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 upset in 2014 and Nadal got the job done 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) this past summer.

Kyrgios is putting together what his really just his second impressive run in Melbourne (also reached the QFs in 2015), but it has not been easy. The 26th-ranked Australian followed up victories over Lorenzo Sonego and Gilles Simon by outlasting Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(8) in an instant classic on Saturday night. He will have to recover quickly to face a well-rested Nadal, who has easily dismissed Hugo Dellien, Federico Delbonis, and Pablo Carreno Busta. The turnaround is too quick and the court is not quick enough for another Nadal-Kyrgios battle to live up to the hype.

Pick: Nadal in 3

(Nadal in 4)

(17) Andrey Rublev vs. (7) Alexander Zverev

It’s hard to see this ending quickly in either man’s favor. Rublev is completely on fire, but Zverev has the edge in experience and is coming off a three-set rout of Fernando Verdasco. Expect plenty of momentum swings along the way between these two good friends…which hasn’t been the case throughout their past head-to-head history. Zverev is sweeping the head-to-head series 3-0 and is 6-0 in total sets, but two of their encounters came in 2016 and 2017. Heck, Rublev is a much different player now than he was just a few months ago–when he lost to Zverev for a third time 6-0, 7-6(4) in Shanghai.

Now the 22-year-old Russian’s confidence is off the charts. He is 11-0 so far this season with titles in Doha and Adelaide plus victories this fortnight over Christopher O’Connell, Yuichi Sugita, and David Goffin. Rublev should be able to exploit Zverev’s weaknesses: inconsistent serving and a lack of confidence at the business end of Grand Slams.

Pick: Rublev in 4

(Zverev in 4)

(10) Gael Monfils vs. (5) Dominic Thiem

Not too much unlike Kyrgios (even though he does not come with the same kind of baggage), Monfils has the talent to win a major but has not yet put it all together. The 10th-ranked Frenchman may never get over the hump given that he is 33 years old, but for now things have been so far so good in Melbourne this fortnight. Monfils is through to the fourth round following defeats of Yen-Hsun Lu, Ivo Karlovic, and Ernests Gulbis.

Next up is sixth career encounter with Thiem, who is sweeping the head-to-head series 5-0. They most recently squared off last spring at the French Open, where the Austrian dominated 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. A hard court obviously gives Monfils a much better chance, but Thiem has improved bigtime on this surface over the past two years. The reigning Indian Wells championship recently finished runner-up at the Nitto ATP Finals and he booked his spot in the last 16 here by ousting Adrian Mannarino, Alex Bolt, and Taylor Fritz. Thiem’s level right now is too good for Monfils to suddenly erase his demons from this particular matchup.

Pick: Thiem in 4

(Thiem 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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