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Australian Open 2021 • Tennis Insider Ricky Dimon’s Picks For Monday’s First-Round Men’s Singles

Former Australian Open semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov faces former US Open champion Marin Cilic in a blockbuster Australian Open first-round match. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

By Ricky Dimon

Three weeks later than originally planned, the Australian Open finally begins on Monday. Taking the court is the top half of the men’s singles draw, which includes Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev.

Ricky makes his picks for the top players in action and the best matchups.

Djokovic over Chardy in 3 – Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 13-0 and he is an eight-time champion of the Aussie Open, so this is a great matchup for Chardy. Yeah, just kidding.

Millman over Moutet in 5 – Millman happily engages in five-setter battles and this one against Moutet should be no exception. At home, the Aussie gets the slight edge.

Ruusuvuori over Monfils in 3 – Unfortunately for tennis, Monfils is a shadow of his real self right now. Ruusuvuori is on the rise and will take advantage.

Bublik over Bedene in 5 – Trying to predict the outcome of a Bublik match is about as easy as solving a Rubik’s Cube. No rhyme intended, it’s just true. And much like I do with the cube, I will probably get this one wrong.

Zverev over Giron in 3 – Giron could take a set if Zverev is spraying double-faults all over the place like he often does, but this should be straights.

Alexander Zverev in action during the ATP Cup tennis match against Denis Shapovalovat Melbourne Park, 03 February 2021. EPA-EFE/DEAN LEWINS

Thiem over Kukushkin in 4 – This is a classic spot for Thiem to struggle in his first match at hard-court slam. Kukushkin is a wily veteran who cannot be discounted. I’m actually kind of surprised I haven’t picked it to go five.

Dimitrov over Cilic in 4 – This is the second-best matchup on Monday. However, I’m not sure Cilic is playing well enough these days to take it to five sets.

Carreno Busta over Nishikori in 3 – PCB’s monumental meltdown against Nishikori in 2019 is one of the great (or more like “infamous”) moments in recent Australian Open history. Given his form and Nishikori’s struggles, the Spaniard isn’t going to lose the rematch.

Pablo Carreno Busta seeks to avenge an epic Australian Open loss to Kei Nishikori when they meet in a Melbourne Park rematch. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

Sugita over Tomic in 4 – Similar to Benoit Paire, wherever you see Tomic in the draw you automatically pick his opponent–regardless of who that opponent is. Sugita wouldn’t beat many of the 128 players, but he will beat Tomic.

Gerasimov over Paire in 3 – See above.

Londero over Delbonis in 5 – Not unlike PCB vs. Nishikori, you really can’t make up that Londero and Delbonis are playing each other in round one. The two Argentines just went head-to-head in round one of the French Open last fall and it went to 14-12 in the fifth set (won by Londero after four hours and 54 minutes).

Tiafoe over Travaglia in 4 – Travaglia and Sinner played the Great Ocean Road Open final on Sunday afternoon and it was a physical battle in which both players struggled physically. Struggled bigtime. Not having any days off is brutal following such a long week.

Shapovalov over Sinner in 4 – It’s a shame because on paper Shapovalov vs. Sinner is the best matchup of the entire first round. Now it won’t live up to the hype. But, hey, at least the 19-year-old captured the second title of his career. He can worry about Grand Slams some time (soon) in the future.

Denis Shapovalov in action during the ATP Cup tennis match against Alexander Zverev of Germany at Melbourne Park, 03 February 2021. EPA-EFE/DEAN

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