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Ricky’s Tennis Picks for Labor Day at the U.S. Open: Djokovic vs. Brooksby and Zverev vs. Sinner

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces American wild card Jenson Brooksby at the US Open. EPA-EFE/PETER FOLEY

By Ricky Dimon

The first week of the 2021 U.S. Open was absolutely unbelievable. On the men’s side, the record for the most five-setters at a single Grand Slam is already one away from being tied and two away from being surpassed. In the women’s draw, there have also been lots of final sets, upsets, and breakthrough performances by young, rising stars.

What will week two do for an encore? If Monday’s lineup is any indication, it should be able to fill the big shoes left by week one.

Ricky makes his picks for two of the top men’s matches on Labor Day in New York.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (WC) Jenson Brooksby

There have been two dominant storylines at the 2021 U.S. Open: Djokovic’s bid for the calendar-year Grand Slam and the handful of breakthrough performances by rising stars. Those two stories will collide on Monday at Flushing Meadows, and–at least for Djokovic and Brooksby–only one will continue.

Brooksby was basically unknown on the pro tour prior to this season, but he made mincemeat out of the Challenger circuit in the first few months before making a successful jump to the main tour. The 20-year-old American reached the final in Newport and the semis in Washington, D.C., and so far this fortnight he has defeated Mikael Ymer, Taylor Fritz, and Aslan Karatsev. A pair of tough four-setters followed by a five-setter may have Brooksby running on empty sooner rather than later–especially with Djokovic on the other side of the net. The world No. 1 has not been at his absolute best through three rounds, but look for him to pick up the pace in week two and handle Brooksby in easier fashion than many expect.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

Olympic gold-medal champion Alexander Zverev. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (13) Jannik Sinner

Zverev and Sinner will be squaring off for the third time in their careers on Monday. They split their two previous meetings in 2020, with Sinner pulling off a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 upset at the French Open before Zverev prevailed 7-6(3), 6-3 on the indoor hard courts of Cologne. Like Brooksby and other young stars still alive in the U.S. Open draw (Carlos Alcaraz and Felix Auger-Aliassime), Sinner is part of a promising “next generation.” At 20 years old, he is already up to 20th in the rankings. The Italian endured a brief slump this summer, but he captured the Washington, D.C. title and has now advanced to the last 16 at the U.S. Open thanks to defeats of Max Purcell, Zachary Svajda, and Gael Monfils.

What Sinner lacks at this point in his promising career is the consistency of Zverev. Arguably the second-best player on tour right now and Djokovic’s biggest threat in NYC (Daniil Medvedev, however, would have something to say about those arguments), Zverev won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and then captured the Cincinnati title. The fourth-ranked German has been mostly cruising this fortnight, although he did drop a set to Jack Sock on Saturday before getting a fourth-set retirement. Sinner has the talent to be competitive, but Zverev’s serving yips and Grand Slam shortcomings are things of the past so he will likely take care of business.

Pick: Zverev in 4

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