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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for Day 3 of the Australian Open: Nadal vs. Hanfmann and Monfils vs. Bublik

Rafael Nadal is the lone former AO champion standing in the men’s singles draw. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal will continue his Australian Open campaign when he faces Yannick Hanfmann during second-round action on Wednesday. One of the more intriguing contests in the entire draw pits Gael Monfils against Alexander Bublik.

Here are my previews and picks for two of the second-round matchups on Day 3 of the year’s first Grand Slam.

(Q) Jannick Hanfmann vs. (6) Rafael Nadal

Nadal and Hanfmann will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers when they clash in round two of the Australian Open on Wednesday. Their only previous meeting came at the 2019 French Open, when Nadal began his successful bid for another Coupe des Mousquetaires with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 beatdown.

Obviously a hard court gives Hanfmann a better chance, but he is still up against the wall with an in-form 20-time Grand Slam champion on the other side of the net. Nadal is off to a 4-0 start to this season with a title in Adelaide and a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Marcos Giron on Monday night in Melbourne. It has already been a great tournament for Hanfmann, who qualified for the main draw and then made surprisingly quick 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 work of Thanasi Kokkinakis. However, the 126th-ranked German has never beaten anyone in the top eight and only once has he upset anyone in the top 20. This is also Hanfmann’s first-ever appearance in the second round of slam. It will be tough for him to be competitive in this kind of situation.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Gael Monfils of France celebrates his win over Federico Coria of Argentina in their first round match of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 17 January 2022. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

(17) Gael Monfils vs. Alexander Bublik

Following a disastrous 2020 and first half of 2021, things started turning around for Monfils–on and off the court. He married Elina Svitolina last year and results started trending in the right direction during the American hard-court swing. Monfils’ late-season run and a title two weeks ago in Adelaide has him in the top 20 and poised for plenty of success at the Australian Open. Novak Djokovic’s exit from the top quarter of the draw opens the door to a significant extent for the Frenchman, who started to capitalize on it with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 beatdown of Federico Coria on Monday.

Up next for Monfils on Wednesday is a second career meeting with Bublik, who won their only previous matchup 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at the 2020 French Open. Bublik is similar to his upcoming opponent in that he is all over the place; you never know what to expect from him on any given day. The past few seasons have been mostly good, but the 37th-ranked Kazakh went 9-13 in his last 22 matches of 2021 and he lost his Adelaide opener to Aleksandar Vukic this past week. Although Bublik held off Ernesto Escobedo on Monday, nothing suggests that he is playing well enough or displaying enough motivation to take down a confident Monfils.

Pick: Monfils in 3

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