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Tennis • Ricky’s preview and picks for Day 9 of the U.S. Open, including Shapovalov vs. Carreno Busta

By Ricky Dimon

Shockingly, there is no Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. His fourth-round default leaves the top half of the draw wide open, which means the pressure on the fourth quarterfinalists in that section is even greater than it would have been in the first place.

Ricky previews Tuesday’s two matches and makes his predictions.

(27) Borna Coric vs. (5) Alexander Zverev

Zverev and Borna Coric will be squaring off for the fifth time in their careers when they battle for a spot in the U.S. Open semifinals on Tuesday afternoon.

Coric leads the head-to-head series 3-1, including 1-0 at the U.S. Open. They faced each other in the 2017 second round, with the Croat pulling off a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(1), 7-6(4) upset–which also came when Zverev was a considerable favorite in his entire half of the draw (Djokovic and Federer were out, while Nadal was on the other side).

Zverev is starting to deal with Grand Slam pressure better than he had previously, but the jury is nonetheless still out when it comes to his ability to navigate the second week of slam. His current form is also a bit suspect, even though he looked good for the most part throughout week one of the fortnight. At the Cincinnati Masters, the world No. 7 double-faulted his way to a setback against Andy Murray–who is quite clearly still less than 100 percent.

Aside from Djokovic’s historic exit, Coric still being alive is probably the second-most surprising aspect of this tournament. That is not to say he doesn’t deserve it; rather, it was simply shocking that he survived the situation that was before him last Friday. The 23-year-old trailed Stefanos Tsitsipas by two sets to love and 5-1 in the fourth before saving six match points and storming back to triumph in a fifth-set tiebreaker–surely the match of the tournament so far. A straight-set beatdown of Jordan Thompson two days later was just what the doctor ordered, as a very quick day at the office means Coric’s physical reserves are restored.

Coric knows from past history that this is a matchup he can win, and he is now playing even better than he was the previous times he defeated Zverev. With more pressure on the German, it is hard to see his serve standing up for five sets against a returner and counter-puncher of Coric’s quality.

Pick: Coric in 5

(12) Denis Shapovalov vs. (20) Pablo Carreno Busta

Carreno Busta had a supporting actor role in the biggest Grand Slam drama in a long while. He was Djokovic’s opponent when the Serb was defaulted in the round of 16, which earned him a spot in this quarterfinal match.

While Carreno Busta wasn’t exactly thrashing Djokovic in that match, the Spaniard was up a break in the first set–and Djokovic’s frustration at his missed opportunities are ultimately what led to the ill-fated ball strike that saw him out of the tournament. Shapovalov, the entertaining 21-year-old, is coming into his own after a difficult start to the 2020 season. He hadn’t been able to win back-to-back matches at any point until this fortnight. The Canadian has had big wins over seeded players David Goffin (7) and Taylor Fritz (19) en route to this quarterfinal.

Shapovalov and Carreno Busta have already met four times. PCB holds the edge with a 3-1 record. Their first meeting was right in New York in the 2017 round of 16, when Carreno Busta won three straight tiebreakers to advance. Most recently, the two men met in both Chengdu and Vienna last fall; Carreno Busta won in straight sets both times. While it certainly would be more intimidating to face a 17-time slam winner in Djokovic, Carreno Busta is also no hard-court slouch.

Pick: Carreno Busta in 5

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