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Ricky’s Tennis Picks for Monday at the BNP Paribas Open, including Hurkacz vs. Tiafoe

Frances Tiafoe of the US in action against Benoit Paire of France at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 07 October 2021. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO.

By Ricky Dimon

Seeded players will start going head-to-head on the men’s side of the BNP Paribas Open when third-round competition begins on Monday. Hubert Hurkacz, Denis Shapovalov, and Andrey Rublev are among those in action.

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

Frances Tiafoe vs. (8) Hubert Hurkacz

You have to like Hurkacz’s chances of making a deep run at the Indian Wells Masters. He is 15-3 on American hard courts this season, including titles in Delray Beach and Miami. In his only previous Indian Wells appearance, Hurkacz advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Roger Federer. The world No. 12, who is currently in position to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, is off and running this time around in the desert with a straight-set victory over Alexei Popyrin on Saturday.

Up next for Hurkacz on Monday is a fourth career encounter with Tiafoe, who leads the head-to-head series 2-1. However, they most recently faced each other at the 2019 Winston-Salem event and Hurkacz prevailed 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-1. Tiafoe earned his spot in this matchup by beating Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4 and fellow American Sebastian Korda 6-0, 6-4. Of course, Paire and Korda have been totally out of sorts so this is an entirely different matchup for Tiafoe. A more consistent Hurkacz should have the edge in what will likely be a competitive, high-quality contest.

Pick: Hurkacz in 3

Hubert Hurkacz of Poland hits a return to Andreas Seppi of Italy during their match on the fourth day of the US Open Tennis Championships the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 02 September 2021. The US Open runs from 30 August through 12 September. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

Denis Shapovalov vs. (19) Aslan Karatsev

Both Hurkacz and Shapovalov reached the Wimbledon semifinals. Whereas Hurkacz has remained in decent enough form since then, Shapovalov has been a complete disaster. The 13th-ranked Canadian exited right away in Gstaad, Toronto, and Montreal, lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Lloyd Harris in round three of the U.S. Open, got blown out by Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-0 at the Laver Cup, and fell to Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-1 in his second San Diego match. Shapovalov needs all the help he can get right now and he received some on Saturday when Vasek Pospisil retired due to a back injury early in the opening set.

Shapovalov and Karatsev will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers on Monday. Karatsev has also cooled off a bit since a hot start to the year, but he reached the U.S. Open third round (lost to Jenson Brooksby in five sets) and also won two matches in San Diego. The 23rd-ranked Russian opened in Indian Wells with a 6-0, 6-2 destruction of Salvatore Caruso. Shapovalov would much prefer faster conditions, because at the moment he is not playing well enough to hang with Karatsev from the baseline.

Pick: Karatsev in 2

Aslan Karatsev of Russia in action against Matteo Berrettini of Italy during their final match of the Serbia Open tennis tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, 25 April 2021. EPA-EFE/ANDREJ CUKIC

(4) Andrey Rublev vs. Tommy Paul

Up to this point, nobody has enjoyed a more favorable Indian Wells draw than Paul. The 60th-ranked American took advantage of 40-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the opening round and then defeated a slumping Dusan Lajovic on Saturday. It was a much-needed stroke of good fortune for Paul, who had not won multiple main-draw matches at any tournament since Parma in May.

Of course, the 24-year-old’s opposition gets much tougher in the form of Rublev on Monday. Rublev is 47-16 this season and is the next player in line to clinch a spot in the Nitto ATP Finals following Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev. The fifth-ranked Russian took care of Carlos Taberner on Saturday, showing that he is one of the few players who has the firepower from the back of the court to hit through these slow conditions in Indian Wells. This is a bad matchup for Paul (he trails the head-to-head series 3-0) and there is no reason to think anything will be different here.

Pick: Rublev in 2

Andrey Rublev of Russia reacts during his Men’s Singles second Round match against Carlos Taberner of Spain at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 09 October 2021. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

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