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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and Picks for Day 4 of the US Open: Americans Sock, Johnson, Fritz and Many More in Action

Jack Sock of the US hits a return to Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan during their match on the second day of the US Open. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES.

By Ricky Dimon

Second-round action at the 2021 U.S. Open resumes on Thursday, when a whole host of American men take the court. Among them are Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Taylor Fritz, Jenson Brooksby, Mackenzie McDonald, and Maxime Cressy.

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

(WC) Jack Sock vs. (31) Alexander Bublik

Sock is in the midst of yet another comeback from injury as he finds himself down at No. 184 in the rankings. The 28-year-old American obviously needed a wild card to get into the U.S. Open, and he started to make the most of it by beating Yoshihito Nishioka 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in his opening match. Sock now owns five ATP-level victories in 2021 and three have come against Nishioka.

Up next for the former world No. 8 on Thursday is a first-ever battle with Bublik. Much unlike Sock, Bublik has played tons and tons of tennis this season–basically every week possible. The 37th-ranked Kazakh has a solid 29-23 record to show for his efforts with runner-up performances in Antalya and Singapore and a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Yannick Hanfmann on Tuesday. Bublik is not one of the most reliable players on tour (he hit 10 double-faults against Hanfmann, for example), but he is one of the most talented and for the most part he is beginning to live up to it. It should also be noted that Sock has only two top-50 wins dating back to the start of 2019 and none since the 2020 French Open.

Pick: Bublik in 4

Gael Monfils faces Steve Johnson in the US Open second round. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

(17) Gael Monfils vs. Steve Johnson

Monfils and Johnson will be going head-to-head for the fourth time in their careers on Thursday. All three of their previous encounters went Monfils’ way, but all three required final sets–at the 2017 Montreal Masters, in Vienna (2018), and in Stuttgart (2019). Nobody was hit harder by tennis’ Covid-19 interruption in 2020, but Monfils is finally starting to enjoy the sport again and in turn is winning some matches. The 20th-ranked Frenchman reached the quarterfinals in Toronto and the third round in Cincinnati, and he destroyed Federico Coria 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on Tuesday.

Johnson evened up his 2021 match record at 10-10 with a 5-7, 7-6(8), 7-6(8), 6-3 victory over Maximilian Marterer. It was a much-needed result for the 87th-ranked American, who advanced to quarterfinal in Los Cabos and Washington, D.C. but then lost in Toronto qualifying and in the Winston-Salem first round–both times to opponents outside the top 70. With Monfils reenergized and playing in front of a packed New York crowd, he has every reason to keep his momentum going against an opponent he knows how to beat.

Pick: Monfils in 4

Mackenzie McDonald takes on former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in round two. EPA-EFE/PETER FOLEY

Other matches

McDonald over Nishikori in 4 – Nishikori is more talented and more experienced, but McDonald is in superior form and more reliable from a physical standpoint. I’ll take the more reliable, especially at home in the United States.

Thompson over Karatsev in 5 – The honeymoon that was Karatsev’s hot start to the year is over. He’s not in completely hopeless form, but Thompson can grind the Russian down over the course of a long match.

Fritz over Brooksby in 4 – This could be the best match of the day. A slight edge in the all-American battle goes to Brooksby, who has posted far better results this summer. Plus Fritz is coming off a tough one against Alex de Minau in which he seemed to be dealing with a minor foot issue.

Hurkacz over Seppi in 3 – Seppi is coming off a 15-13 in the fifth-set tiebreaker win over Marton Fucsovics. He may not have much left in the tank for Hurkacz, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist.

Ivashka over Pospisil in 3 – Ivashka has quietly been one of the best mid-level players on tour over the past two or three months. The Winston-Salem champion will likely take advantage of Pospisil, who outlasted Fabio Fognini in a fifth-set tiebreaker on Tuesday.

Cressy over Basilashvili in 4 – Cressy isn’t going to let Basilashvili boss him around from the back of the court. The American’s net-charging game should work well in this matchup. 

Opelka over Musetti in 3 – Opelka beat Musetti when the Italian had home-court advantage (and most importantly surface advantage) in Rome. Now they are playing on the American’s home turf in conditions that suit his game. Opelka is the much more in-form player, too. All signs point to a rout.

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