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Ricky’s picks for Day 6 of the US Open: Nadal vs. Gasquet and Rublev vs. Shapovalov

Spain’s Rafael Nadal has dominated third-round opponent Richard Gasquet. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP) (Photo by COREY SIPKIN/AFP via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

Following two lackluster performances, Rafael Nadal will be looking to raise his level when he faces familiar foe Richard Gasquet on Saturday at the U.S. Open. Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov are also in third-round action.

Here are my previews and picks for the matchups.

Richard Gasquet vs. (2) Rafael Nadal

One of the most lopsided rivalries in tennis history will–unfortunately for Gasquet–add another chapter on Saturday at the U.S. Open. Heading into their third-round encounter, Nadal is sweeping the head-to-head series 17-0. Gasquet actually won via retirement at a 2003 Challenger tournament, but since then it has been nothing other than Nadal domination. They have squared off twice at Flushing Meadows, where the Spaniard cruised 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in the 2009 first round and 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-2 in the 2013 semifinals. Their two most recent encounters have also come at the Grand Slam level–both at Roland Garros. Nadal rolled 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the 2018 third round and 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 in the 2021 second round.

A Gasquet upset, of course, would come as an absolute shock. In fact, the 36-year-old Frenchman even making it to the third round is a considerable surprise. However, Gasquet does appear to be turning back the clock just a bit. The world No. 91 reached the third round at Wimbledon and the semis in Winston-Salem before beginning his U.S. Open campaign with four-set victories over Taro Daniel and Miomir Kecmanovic. Nadal also needed four to get past both Rinky Hijikata and Fabio Fognini. The 22-time Grand Slam champion’s form has been alarmingly poor, but a date with Gasquet should be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pick: Nadal in 3

Andrey Rublev of Russia in action. EPA-EFE/JOHN G MABANGLO

(19) Denis Shapovalov vs. (9) Andrey Rublev

Rublev and Shapovalov will be colliding for the fifth time in their careers on Saturday. The head-to-head series is all tied up at two wins apiece, with Rublev most recently prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the 2020 St. Petersburg event. 

At the current juncture, this is one of those matchups that looks great on paper but may not be as good on the court. Neither player is anywhere near his best level right now. Shapovalov barely has a winning record this season (21-18) and Rublev has fallen out of the top 10 (No. 11). After requiring five sets against Marc-Andrea Huesler in round one, Shapovalov double-faulted 13 times in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Roberto Carballes Baena on Thursday. Rublev also went five in his opener against Winston-Salem runner-up Laslo Djere, but the Russian raised his level considerably in round two and erased Soonwoo Kwon 6-3, 6-0, 6-4. That performance alone inspires more confidence in Rublev, whose edge will become even bigger if the 19th-seeded Canadian does not fix his serving woes.

Pick: Rublev in 4

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