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Ricky’s US Open Tennis Preview and Picks for Day 1 • Medvedev, Rublev, and Tsitsipas vs. Murray

Andrey Rublev faces Ivo Karlovic in what could be the towering Croatian’s professional farewell.

By Ricky Dimon

The 2021 U.S. Open gets underway on Monday, when Ivo Karlovic may be playing the final match of his lengthy career. Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Andy Murray are also taking the court.

Ricky previews three of the marquee matchups and makes his picks.

(5) Andrey Rublev vs. (Q) Ivo Karlovic

Although there have been no confirmed reports, Karlovic is expected to announce his retirement following his run at the U.S. Open. And it has already been a successful one for the 42-year-old, who qualified for the main draw with defeats of Nikola Milojevic, Hugo Dellien, and Yuichi Sugita. Karlovic is ranked 223rd and he has won just two ATP-level matches this year.

The 6’11” Croat’s reward for qualification may not be exactly what he had in mind, as Rublev is one of the toughest possible opponents in the field. The seventh-ranked Russian leads the tour with 67 match wins in the past 52 weeks and he just reached the Cincinnati final (upset Medvedev in the semis before falling to Alexander Zverev). Karlovic’s serve may keep him competitive for a while, but he hasn’t faced anyone in the top 35 since January of 2020 so this is going to be a rude awakening for the veteran. Count on Rublev sending Karlovic into a well-deserved retirement in mostly routine fashion.

Pick: Rublev in 3

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev has a tough opener vs. 2013 semifinalist Richard Gasquet.

Richard Gasquet vs. (2) Daniil Medvedev

The next step for Medvedev to take is winning a Grand Slam title. He has done just about everything else, including four Masters 1000 triumphs (most recently in Toronto a few weeks ago), a victory at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, and two major runner-up performances (2019 U.S. Open, 2020 Australian Open). The second-ranked Russian, who made it back to the U.S. Open semis last summer, heads to New York this time around as the No. 2 seed and second favorite behind Novak Djokovic. Medvedev boasts a 40-10 record this season and he is 18-3 in his last 21 matches dating back to the week before Wimbledon.

Up first for Medvedev is a third career meeting with Gasquet. The head-to-head series stands at one win apiece; Gasquet prevailed 6-0, 6-3 at the 2018 Montpellier tournament before Medvedev got the job done 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 two years later in St. Petersburg–also indoors. At 35 years old, the Frenchman arrives in NYC with a lackluster ranking of 82nd in the world. He is playing decent at the moment, though, with a recent runner-up showing on the clay courts of Umag and a quarterfinal effort in Winston-Salem. However, Gasquet struggled physically throughout his week in Winston-Salem and a best-of-five battle with Medvedev is just about the toughest physical test one can have. It’s hard to see this one being especially competitive; expect Gasquet to wear down as the match progresses.

Pick: Medvedev in 3

Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on former world No. 1 Andy Murray.

Andy Murray vs. (3) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Murray’s comeback from hip surgery has been commendable and at times impressive, but one obvious shortcoming in the latter stages of his career is an inability to compete with top competition. Since May of 2017 the 34-year-old Scot has defeated only one top-10 opponent (Alexander Zverev at the 2020 Cincinnati Masters). He has knocked off just two top-20 players dating back to October of 2019 (Zverev and Stan Wawrinka). Murray is a modest 6-6 on the main tour in 2021 and heads into the U.S. Open at No. 114 in the world.

Top competition is exactly what the former world No. 1 will be facing on Monday. Tsitsipas comes in at third in the rankings and he reached the Roland Garros final this spring. His 2021 campaign also includes titles in Monte-Carlo and Lyon plus semifinal results at the Australian Open, Toronto Masters, and Cincinnati Masters. A best-of-five situation against one of the best players on tour looks nothing less than a nightmare first-round test for Murray.

Pick: Tsitsipas in 3

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