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Ricky’s picks for Thursday Tennis in Houston, including Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe in action

By Ricky Dimon

Americans Taylor Fritz and Pablo Cuevas will be aiming for quarterfinal spots in Houston on Thursday. The second-seeded Fritz begins his week against Alejandro Tabilo, while Tiafoe faces Pablo Cuevas.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

Alejandro Tabilo vs. (2) Taylor Fritz

Based on current form, Fritz vs. Tabilo would be more worthy of a semifinal matchup or even the final as opposed to a second-round contest at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship. Fritz is especially hot at the moment. The 24-year-old American is on the brink of the top 10 at 13th in the rankings, thanks in part to a recent surprise title at the Indian Wells Masters. Fritz’s 16-5 overall record this season also includes fourth-round performances at the Australian Open and Miami Masters.

Tabilo is far better–especially on clay–than his No. 100 ranking would suggest. The Chilean has already earned 10 of his 15 lifetime victories at the ATP level this season, which includes a runner-up performance in Cordoba. Tabilo opened in Houston on Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-4 rout of Christian Harrison. Clay gives the left-hander a chance in this matchup, but Fritz is more than capable on this surface and will likely have too much firepower.

Pick: Fritz in 3

(6) Frances Tiafoe vs. Pablo Cuevas

Tiafoe and Cuevas will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers on Thursday. Their only previous encounter came three years ago on the red clay of Estoril, where Cuevas prevailed 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-2.

Fast forward almost exactly three years and the matchup is a much different one now. Tiafoe has steadily improved, whereas Cuevas–12 years his opponent’s senior–has gone in the other direction. The Uruguayan has fallen outside the top 100 at No. 105 and he owns just two ATP-level match wins this season (including a 7-6(3), 6-3 defeat of qualifier Max Purcell on Tuesday). Tiafoe, who is one of the better Americans on the slow stuff, coasted past Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round. The world No. 30 should be way too good for Cuevas regardless of the conditions.

Pick: Tiafoe in 2

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