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Ricky’s ATP Tennis Preview and Picks for Sunday in Indian Wells, including Andy Murray vs. Rising Talent • Alcaraz

Spanish tennis player Carlos Alcaraz plays against his coach, former tennis player Juan Carlos Ferrero (unseen), during a friendly game as part of the tournament in tribute to Spanish tennis player Carla Suarez held in Alicante, eastern Spain, 01 October 2021. EPA-EFE/Manuel Lorenzo.

By Ricky Dimon

A whole host of rising stars will be on display at BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, including Carlos Alcaraz, Jenson Brooksby, and Brandon Nakashima. It won’t get any easier in the second round for any of those guys.

Ricky previews three of Sunday’s marquee matchups and makes his predictions.

(30) Carlos Alcaraz vs. (WC) Andy Murray

It will be a clash of generations–a three-time Grand Slam champion vs. an expected future Grand Slam champion–when Murray and Alcaraz go head-to-head. Despite his youth (18 years old), it is Alcaraz who is the seeded player in this matchup. The Spaniard has vaulted to 38th in the rankings thanks mostly to a quarterfinal run at the U.S. Open. He also captured his first career ATP title in Umag and reached the semis in Winston-Salem.

Murray doesn’t have any results like those to his credit, but he is at least winning matches on a relatively consistent basis again. The 34-year-old Scot has advanced at least one round in nine of his last 10 tournaments after defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-2 on Friday. What has troubled Murray in his comeback from hip problems is elite competition. Alcaraz may not be at the top of the game (yet), but he is great form right now and will likely have too much offensive firepower for the veteran.

Pick: Alcaraz in 3

Jenson Brooksby vs. (3) Alexander Zverev

Zverev and Brooksby will also be squaring off for the first time in their careers, which is no surprise since Brooksby is just now announcing himself at the ATP level. And it has been quite an announcement. The 20-year-old American finished runner-up in Newport, reached the semis in Washington, D.C, and made a run to round four of the U.S. Open (took a set off Novak Djokovic). Brooksby kicked off his Indian Wells campaign with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over qualifier Cem Ilkel on Friday.

The gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics and a semifinalist at the French Open and U.S. Open, Zverev will officially become the fourth qualifier for the Nitto ATP Finals when this tournament comes to an end. He is 44-12 in 2021 and has not lost to anyone ranked lower than No. 31 in the world since April. Brooksby will make this a fun one, but Zverev should get the job done in straight sets.

Pick: Zverev in 2

Team Europe’s Alexander Zverev of Germany pumps his first during his singles match against Team World’s John Isner of the United States in the Laver Cup held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 25 September 2021. EPA-EFE/CJ GUNTHER

Brandon Nakashima vs. (31) Taylor Fritz

The California desert could not be a more appropriate setting for this all-American showdown, as Fritz hails from Rancho Palos Verdes and Nakashima is a San Diego native. Their only previous encounter came under much different circumstances: on the grass courts of Wimbledon this summer. Fritz prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 even though he was coming off what looked like a serious knee injury at the French Open (during a loss to Koepfer).

The world No. 39 has struggled since Wimbledon, but a return to Indian Wells may be just what the doctor ordered. With the crowd behind him, Fritz advanced to the third round in 2017 and to the last 16 in 2018. Nakashima opened on Thursday with a 6-3, 6-2 rout of clay-courter Federico Coria. The 20-year-old has also cooled off a bit since making back-to-back finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta, so both guys could really use a win. Nakashima had previously never won a match in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event, so Fritz’s experience at one of his favorite tournaments gives him a slight edge.

Pick: Fritz in 3

Taylor Fritz of the USA in action against Alex de Minaur of Australia during their match on the second day of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 31 August 2021. The US Open runs from 30 August through 12 September. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

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