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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Paris second round: Rafael Nadal vs. Tommy Paul

Rafael Nadal will be back in action for the first time since the U.S. Open when he takes the court at the Rolex Paris Masters on Wednesday night.

Nadal has not played a match since suffering an upset loss to Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows. Looking less than 100 percent physically and having also become a new father in early October, it was thought that the 36-year-old might shut down his season. However, Nadal has returned for the stretch run that includes Paris and the Nitto ATP Finals–two tournaments he has never won.

Up first for the world No. 2 is a second career meeting with Tommy Paul. Their only previous encounter came earlier this season on the hard courts of Acapulco, where Nadal prevailed 6-0, 7-6(5).

Paul earned another shot at the 22-time Grand Slam champion by beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday. It was a somewhat surprising result considering that Paul had been 0-3 in the head-to-head series with Bautista Agut and had never even come close to taking a single set. Although that continued what has been a standout 2022 campaign for the 31st-ranked American, he has cooled off bit this fall. His three results prior to arriving in Paris were the quarterfinals in Gijon, the second round in Stockholm, and the first round in Vienna–and he did not defeat anyone ranked better than No. 231 at those three stops.

Given that Nadal perhaps a bit rusty, Paul obviously has a chance in this matchup. However, rest is generally more important than momentum for Nadal at this time of the year and he is certainly well rested right now. He has to be quite motivated, as well, otherwise he would not be playing in either Paris or Turin.

With titles he has never won in his sights, look for the Spaniard to begin his late-season comeback in inspired fashion.

Pick: Nadal in 2

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