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Tennis news • Ricky’s picks for Day 2 of the U.S. Open, including Nadal vs. Hijikata

Rafael Nadal is 19-0 in Grand Slam play in 2022. Photo credit: EPA

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal is getting night-session treatment for his first match at the U.S. Open, in which he will go up against wild card Rinky Hijikata. Diego Schwartzman and Jack Sock are also on Tuesday’ opening-round schedule.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(WC) Rinky Hijikata vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

With Novak Djokovic out of the tournament, Nadal is not only the No. 2 seed but also the second favorite–behind Daniil Medvedev–to triumph at the U.S. Open. The 36-year-old Spaniard is bidding for his third Grand Slam title of the season and is trying to maintain a perfect record at slams (currently 19-0). Only Wimbledon has not ended with the trophy, as Nadal withdrew because of an abdominal injury after reaching the semifinals. It should also be noted that Nadal is a four-time U.S. Open champion and not counting a retirement (2018 semis vs. Juan Martin Del Potro) he has won 18 matches in a row at Flushing Meadows.

Up first for the world No. 3 on Tuesday night is one of the most unrecognizable players in. the draw in Hijikata. The 21-year-old Australian was a college star at the University of North Carolina and his brief professional career has him inside the top 200 at No. 198 in the world. Hijikata spends almost all of his time at the Futures and Challenger levels and he just got his first main-tour victory via retirement in Los Cabos (he lost to Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-3 in the second round). This will be a great experience for Hijikata and he could be somewhat competitive in the first set with Nadal a bit rusty, but this should be almost entirely one-way traffic.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Diego Schwartzman of Argentina scores in action. EPA-EFE/JASON O’BRIEN

(14) Diego Schwartzman vs. Jack Sock

Schwartzman and Sock will be going head-to-head for the second time in their careers on Tuesday. Their only previous meeting came five years ago on the red clay of Rome, where Sock prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. Of course, Sock was in peak form at that point. Now the 29-year-old American is outside the top 100 (No. 108) and has a losing record (7-9) this season. Sock has never been great at the U.S. Open, where he is 13-12 lifetime with only one fourth-round appearance and zero trips to the quarterfinals.

An underrated hard-court player, Schwartzman is a two-time quarterfinalist in New York and he reached the fourth round last summer. The 16th-ranked Argentine may not be at his best these days, but he has lost in the first round in only two tournaments this entire year–none on a hard court. Sock’s superior firepower could help him for a while, but he probably won’t be consistent enough in a best-of-five battle against a counter-puncher to pull off an upset.

Pick: Schwartzman in 4

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