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Ricky’s Previews and Picks for Day 6 of the Australian Open, Including Rublev vs. Lopez

Andrey Rublev of Russia in action against Thiago Monteiro of Brazil during their second-round tennis match of the Australian Open. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

By Ricky Dimon

Fellow Russians Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov will be bidding for spots in the second week of the Australian Open when they take the court on Saturday. They are set for respective meetings with Feliciano Lopez and Matteo Berrettini. Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions.

(7) Andrey Rublev vs. Feliciano Lopez

Lopez was already turning back the clock at 37 years old when he completed the Queen’s Club double (singles and doubles titles, the latter with Andy Murray) in the summer of 2019. Fast forward to 2021 and Lopez is still out on tour grinding–successfully, too–at 39 years old. Of course, grinding does not exactly describe his game style. The 65th-ranked Spaniard still wields a lethal lefty serve and he is using it to perfection on the Australian Open’s fast hard courts. Lopez is through to the third round following a four-set win over Li Tu and a comeback from two sets down against No. 31 seed Lorenzo Sonego.

The draw gets tougher in a big way in the form of Rublev on Saturday. Rublev may be the hottest player on tour outside of fellow Russian Daniil Medvedev. The world No. 8 was the solo leader in ATP titles last season (five) and he led his country to last week’s ATP Cup title by going 4-0 in singles along with Medvedev. So far this fortnight he has disposed of Yannick Hanfmann and Thiago Monteiro in straight sets. In his first-ever matchup with Rublev, Lopez may have a tough time handling those monster forehands at the net. The underdog would have to serve incredibly well just to take a set off such a red-hot opponent.

Pick: Rublev in 3

Matteo Berrettini of Italy during his second Round Men’s singles match against Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic on Day 4 of the Australian Open. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

(19) Karen Khachanov vs. (9) Matteo Berrettini

Berrettini and Khachanov will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers on Saturday. All three of their previous encounters have gone the way of Berrettini, who is 6-1 in total sets at Khachanov’s expense. The Italian prevailed three times in 2019; 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4 on the indoor hard courts of Sofia and twice on grass (Stuttgart and Halle).

That was by far the best year of Berrettini’s career, and Khachanov is once again running into the world No. 10 at the wrong time. Berrettini is 7-2 so far this season, which includes a 3-1 record at the ATP Cup and Aussie Open victories over Kevin Anderson (straight sets) and qualifier Tomas Machac (four). Khachanov has advanced by taking out Aleksandar Vukic and Ricardas Berankis, also dropping one set in the process. The 20th-ranked Russian is in decent enough form, but nothing suggests he is suddenly going to turn the tide of his past futility in this matchup given how well Berrettini is playing right now.

Pick: Berrettini in 4

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