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Ricky’s picks for the US Open Tennis • Alcaraz vs. Tiafoe and Ruud vs. Khachanov

Frances Tiafoe plays to become the first American man to reach the US Open final since Andy Roddick in 2006. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

A surprising men’s semifinal lineup will take center stage at the US Open on Friday. Coming off a marathon match against Jannik Sinner on Wednesday, Carlos Alcaraz will be back in action when he faces Frances Tiafoe. That showdown is preceded by a matchup featuring Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(3) Carlos Alcaraz vs. (22) Frances Tiafoe

Is Alcaraz on his second life in New York? It might even be more than that. Alcaraz is coming off back-to-back five-setters–both ending after 2:00 am–as he heads into the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Friday night. After holding off Marin Cilic in a fourth-round thriller, the 19-year-old saved one match point and outlasted Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday. It lasted five hours and 15 minutes and was surely one of the best matches in tournament history.

Alcaraz will have to get right back in gear less than 48 hours later to meet Tiafoe for the second time. Their only previous encounter came last spring on the red clay of Barcelona, where Tiafoe prevailed 6-4, 7-6(2). The American would be a big underdog now given his opponent’s rise to the top of the game, but the fact that Alcaraz has played two straight fiver-setters well into the morning may even the playing field. In fact, it probably even tips the scales in Tiafoe’s favor. Plus the No. 22 seed is in awesome form. He upset Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and then ousted Andrey Rublev in straight sets. With the crowd firmly behind him, Tiafoe has a good chance to keep his run going into the final.

Pick: Tiafoe in 4

Casper Ruud of Norway celebrates at the US Open. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(27) Karen Khachanov vs. (5) Casper Ruud

Like Alcaraz, Ruud also has a chance to leave New York as the No. 1 player in the world. If either one of them advances to the final and the other loses on Friday, it will be decided. If they both reach the title match, that showdown would not only be for the U.S. Open title but also for the top ranking. If they both lose in the semis, Rafael Nadal will overtake Daniil Medvedev for No. 1.

Ruud should be able to take care of his own business. The Norwegian is already a slam finalist, having finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open this spring. He has improved dramatically on hard courts, too, so another appearance–even away from clay–would not come as much of a surprise. Ruud reached the Miami final (lost to Alcaraz) and more recently made it to the semis in Montreal. The world No. 7 is 1-0 lifetime against Khachanov, having prevailed in three sets at the 2020 Rome Masters. Sure than was on Ruud’s preferred clay-court surface, but there is no reason why he can’t get the best of Khachanov again even amidst faster conditions.

Pick: Ruud in 5

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