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Ricky’s picks for this week’s ATP Tennis events in Barcelona and Belgrade

Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas returns to action in Barcelona. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

By Ricky Dimon

Although we are in between Masters 1000 events, another big week on the clay-court swing is taking place in Barcelona and Belgrade. Rafael Nadal is still on the sidelines, but consider the list of players in action: Novak Djokovic, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Carlos Alcaaz, and many more. Djokovic is seeking a third title at home in Belgrade, while Tsitsipas hopes to build on his second straight Monte-Carlo title as he bids for another appearance in the Barcelona final.

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Where: Barcelona, Spain
: 500
Top seed: Stefanos Tsitsipas
2021 champion: Rafael Nadal (not playing)

A projected quarterfinal in Monte-Carlo between Djokovic and Alcaraz never happened—not even close. Both players lost their opening matches. Now the Barcelona draw has produced a potential quarterfinal showdown between Alcaraz and Tsitsipas. Will it happen? It should, but then again nothing about the top section of the Monte-Carlo bracket suggested that anyone or anything would stop a Djokovic-Alcaraz meeting. In Barcelona the only apparent roadblock is Grigor Dimitrov, who reached the Monte-Carlo semifinals and could face Tsitsipas in the third round. Elsewhere in the top half, Cameron Norrie and Albert Ramos-Vinolas are part of a much weaker quarter that has already been vacated by an injured Roberto Bautista Agut.

Auger-Aliassime and Casper Ruud are the top seeds on the other side of the draw and both are looking to bounce back from early exits in Monte-Carlo. The Canadian’s slump continued with an immediate loss to Lorenzo Musetti, while the Norwegian went down to Dimitrov during third-round action. Auger-Aliassime likely faces another tough opener in Barcelona in the form of Sebastian Korda and they are part of a section that also includes Musetti and Diego Schwartzman. Ruud could be challenged early by Emil Ruusuvuori and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Quarterfinal picks: Stefanos Tsitsipas over Carlos Alcaraz, Cameron Norrie over Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Diego Schwartzman over Sebastian Korda, and Pablo Carreno Busta over Emil Ruusuvuori

Semifinals: Tsitsipas over Norrie and Schwartzman over Carreno Busta

Final: Tsitsipas over Schwartzman

Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia is coming off strong runs in Indian Wells and Miami. EPA-EFE/David Guzman

Serbia Open

Where: Belgrade, Serbia
: 250
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
2021 champion: Matteo Berrettini (not playing)

Djokovic surely can’t wait to play this week, and not just because he is at home in Belgrade. The top-ranked Serb has participated in only two tournaments this year and he needs matches under his belt in the worst way heading into Roland Garros because he played in a grand total of just four matches across those two events. Djokovic may not last much longer in Belgrade because his draw is not a great one. His first two matchups could come against fellow Serbs: clay-court specialist Laslo Djere and a red-hot Miomir Kecmanovic. Another Serb—Filip Krajinovic—is a possible semifinal foe, although Krajinovic will likely have his hands full with Marrakech champion David Goffin in round one. A Kecmanovic vs. Dominic Thiem showdown is possible in the second round.

The bottom half is far less intriguing. That being said, Cristian Garin vs. Holger Rune is a stellar first-round matchup and it will be interesting to see if Rublev and Aslan Karatsev can pick up some much-needed momentum. Karatsev reached the Belgrade final last spring but has struggled so far in 2022. Rublev is coming off an early loss in Monte-Carlo, where he was defending runner-up points. Such vulnerability could leave the door open for the likes of Garin, Rune, Fabio Fognini, or Alejandro Tabilo.

Quarterfinal picks: Miomir Kecmanovic over Novak Djokovic, David Goffin over Karen Khachanov, Alejandro Tabilo over Fabio Fognini, and Andrey Rublev over Cristian Garin

Semifinals: Kecmanovic over Goffin and Tabilo over Rublev

Final: Kecmanovic over Tabilo

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