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Ricky’s Tennis preview and picks for the Atlanta semifinals: Fritz vs. Isner and Ruusuvuori vs. Nakashima

Taylor Fritz of the USA.

Taylor Fritz is set for another all-American showdown in Atlanta, this time against John Isner on Saturday night. The first match of the day pits unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori against fellow surprise semifinalist Brandon Nakashima. Ricky previews the action and makes his picks.

Nowhere is Isner tougher to beat than in Atlanta, where he is 34-5 lifetime with five titles and three runner-up finishes in 10 previous appearances. So far this week the 36-year-old American has defeated J.J. Wolf, Jack Sock, and Christopher O’Connell. Fritz is through to his fourth semifinal of the season and second in as many weeks (Los Cabos) following victories over Evgeny Donskoy, Steve Johnson, and Reilly Opelka. However, the 42nd-ranked American is 0-3 in those semis and it only gets tougher with Isner standing in his way of a final. Given Isner’s past history at the tournament and his quality of play this week, you just can’t pick against him.

(5) Taylor Fritz vs. (6) John Isner

Fritz and Isner will be facing each other for the fifth time in their careers. Their first-ever meeting came in the quarters of this same event five years ago, when Isner prevailed 7-5, 6-4. The head-to-head series now stands at 2-2, with Fritz most recently getting the job done 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 last season in Acapulco.

Pick: Isner in 3

John Isner of the USA.

(SE) Brandon Nakashima vs. Emil Ruusuvuori

Nakashima will break into the top 100 on Monday thanks to the most significant hot streak of his young career. The 19-year-old American made a run to the Los Cabos final last week, which earned him a special exemption into Atlanta. To say he has taken advantage of this unexpected opportunity would be a gross understatement. Nakashima finds himself in another semifinal following victories over Trent Bryde, Milos Raonic, and Jordan Thompson.

Up next the former University of Virginia standout is Ruusuvuori, whom he has never faced but practiced with at the Rafael Nadal Academy two years ago. Ruusuvuori is through to his second-ever semifinal (previously Nur-Sultan last fall) with defeats of Mackenzie McDonald, Benoit Paire (via third-set retirement), and a red-hot Cameron Norrie. The 22-year-old has always been at his best–by far–on hard courts and his impressive 2021 campaign includes a fourth-round run in Miami, where he ousted Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev. Ruusuvuori has slightly more experience and Nakashima has to be a bit worn out in the midst of two long weeks.

Pick: Ruusuvuori in 3

Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.