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Ricky’s Picks for Day 6 at the U.S. Open: Djokovic, Zverev, Brooksby, and more

Novak Djokovic in action against Tallon Greikspoor of Netherlands during their match on the fourth day of the US Open. The US Open runs from 30 August through 12 September. EPA-EFE/PETER FOLEY

By Ricky Dimon

Friday of Week 1 at the 2021 U.S. Open is a day that won’t soon be forgotten.

Carlos Alcaraz. Leylah Fernandez. Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Roberto Bautista Agut. Andrey Rublev vs. Frances Tiafoe. Dan Evans vs. Alexei Popyrin. Angelique Kerber vs. Sloane Stephens. What. A. Day.

What will Saturday do for an encore? Only one thing is for sure: it has big shoes to fill.

Ricky previews the men’s singles matches and makes his picks.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori

Djokovic and Nishikori will be squaring off for the 20th time in their careers when they clash in round three of the U.S. Open on Saturday. The head-to-head series stands at a dominant 17-2 in Djokovic’s favor and he has won 16 in a row at Nishikori’s expense. As if those numbers aren’t daunting enough, consider this: they just met at the Tokyo Olympics and the top-ranked Serb rolled 6-2, 6-0–even though he was never at his best throughout that tournament.

Adding insult to injury for Nishikori is the fact that he is coming off a five-setter against Mackenzie McDonald on Thursday. The 31-year-old from Japan prevailed 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 6-3 after three hours and 57 minutes. He fortunately showed no signs of physical problems, but Nishikori’s injury history is extensive and long matches are never good–especially with someone like Djokovic up next. The world No. 1 endured a sluggish opener against Holger Rune but picked up the pace to rout Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in round two. Despite their head-to-head history, Djokovic certainly won’t be overconfident or overlooking an opponent of Nishikori’s ilk; he isn’t going to let his foot off the gas.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

(21) Aslan Karatsev vs. (WC) Jenson Brooksby

To say that Brooksby has already made the most of a wild card into the U.S. Open would be a gross understatement. The 20-year-old American is through to the last 32 at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career thanks to four-set victories over Mikael Ymer and Taylor Fritz. Thus continues an incredible 2021 campaign for Brooksby, who was borderline dominant at the Challenger level before making a successful jump to the main tour (including a runner-up effort in Newport).

Even in only four sets, the world No. 99 needed four hours and six minutes to get past Fritz. The good news for Brooksby is that Karatsev spent four hours and 40 minutes on court during a five-setter against Jordan Thompson. Although the 25th-ranked Russian did well to come back from two sets down, that is still an unspectacular result. Karatsev has cooled off in a big way since the first four months of the season and Brooksby has the kind of game that can take advantage–one that befuddles opponents who are short on confidence and unwilling to play long points.

Pick: Brooksby in 4

Jenson Brooksby of hits a return to Taylor Fritz on the fourth day of the US Open. The US Open runs from 30 August through 12 September. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

Other matches

Alexander Zverev over Jack Sock in 3 – Zverev, who won Olympic gold and the Cincinnati title, is just crushing people right now. Sock is coming off a five-setter, which will make it even harder for him to be competitive.

Jannik Sinner over Gael Monfils in 4 – This will undoubtedly be the most entertaining contest of the day. Monfils is starting to win matches again, but he is still nowhere near as reliable as Sinner.

Lloyd Harris over Denis Shapovalov in 5 – Harris has been playing the best tennis of his career all season long; Shapovalov has…not. Sound the upset alert.

Oscar Otte over Andreas Seppi in 4 – Otte absolutely loves the big stage. He qualified at both the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this season, pushed Zverev to five sets at the former and advanced one round before going to five with Andy Murray at the latter. Now the big-serving German has qualified again for another major and finds himself in the third round. He can take advantage of a 37-year-old opponent who has already battled through nine sets of tennis.

Matteo Berrettini over Ilya Ivashka in 5 – Ivashka may not be a huge name, but anyone who follows tennis closely knows how well he is playing. The recent Winston-Salem champion has not dropped a set through two matches this week. Berrettini pounded Ivashka on his way to the U.S. Open final, but this one will be much tougher.

Reilly Opelka over Nikoloz Basilashvili in 4 – Opelka is in great form this summer. He finished runner-up in Toronto and has been dominant through two rounds in New York. With home-court advantage and in conditions that suit his massive serving, the 6’11” American has to like his chances.

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