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Ricky’s preview and picks for the Doha second round: Murray vs. Bautista Agut and Cilic vs. Van de Zandschulp

Roberto Bautista Agut meets Andy Murray in a clash of Doha champions. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

By Ricky Dimon

Top four seeds Roberto Bautista Agut and Marin Cilic benefited from first-round byes at the Qatar ExxonMobil, but they will officially kick off the respective campaigns on Wednesday. Bautista Agut meets Marton Fucsovics, while Cilic faces Botic Van de Zandschulp.

Here are my previews and picks for the matches.

(WC) Andy Murray vs. (2) Roberto Bautsita Agut

Murray’s last match prior to his semi-retirement in 2019 came against none other than Bautista Agut, and it won’t soon be forgotten. Bautista Agut prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 6-2 in an emotional thriller that lasted four hours and nine minutes before Murray bid a temporary farewell to tennis. Fast forward three years and the Scot is not only still playing but also back inside the top 100 (87th). Murray finished runner-up at a 250 in Adelaide earlier this season and he opened at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-2 beatdown of Taro Daniel. That marked a bit of revenge for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Daniel in round two of the recent Aussie Open.

Up next for the 34-year-old on Wednesday is Bautista Agut, who earned the second seed with a world ranking of No. 16. The 33-year-old Spaniard is off to a 7-3 start this season, and his only loss to anyone ranked lower than him in 2022 has come at the hands of Alexander Bublik in a third-set tiebreaker at the Montpellier 250. Bublik went on to capture the title. Bautista Agut is once again going to make this a physical contest and he should have the edge in that kind of baseline battle.

Pick: Bautista Agut in 3

Botic van de Zandschulp plays Marin Cilic in Doha. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

Botic Van de Zandschulp vs. (4) Marin Cilic

Cilic’s post-U.S. Open resurgence has been one of the more surprising developments on the ATP Tour in recent months. The 33-year-old Croat finished runner-up in Moscow, won the St. Petersburg title, led his country to the final of the Davis Cup, and so far this season is sporting a 7-3 record. That 7-3 mark features a pair of semifinal showings in Adelaide and a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open.

Included in Cilic’s St. Petersburg run was a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of none other than Van de Zandschulp, his second-round opponent in Doha. However, the 50th-ranked Dutchman should have a better chance outdoors in this particular matchup. Even more important is the fact that Van de Zandschulp continues to be in fine form. He has already picked up six ATP-level match wins in 2022, including a 6-2, 7-6(5) victory over Thomas Fabbiano on Monday. With a match under his belt to get used to the conditions, Van de Zandschulp has a good chance of pulling off a minor upset.

Pick: Van de Zandschulp in 3

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