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Ricky’s preview and pick for Thursday at the Nitto ATP Finals: Auger-Aliassime vs. Fritz

It will be a virtual quarterfinal match at the Nitto ATP Finals when Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz wrap up round-robin competition in the Green Group on Thursday night. Both players have 1-1 records through two matches, while Casper Ruud has clinched the top spot in the quartet at 2-0 and Rafael Nadal is eliminated from semifinal contention at 2-0.

Auger-Aliassime opened with a 7-6(4), 6-4 loss to Ruud but bounced back to beat Nadal 6-3, 6-4. Fritz defeated the Spaniard 7-6(3), 6-1 before dropping a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) thriller against the Norwegian.

Taking both season-long success and current form, it would be fitting if Ruud and Auger-Aliassime are the two players advancing out of the group. The sixth-ranked Canadian has been especially on fire of late, as his fall swing includes back-to-back-to-back titles in Florence, Antwerp, and Basel to go along with a semifinal showing at the Paris Masters.

That’s not to say Fritz wouldn’t be deserving. The world No. 9 got his season started with a fourth-round performance at the Australian Open and an improbable title in Indian Wells. As he raced for a Turin spot down the stretch, Fritz lifted a 500-point trophy in Tokyo. Auger-Aliassime passed him in the rankings thanks to his hot streak and Andrey Rublev also held off Fritz, but the American got a spot in the prestigious field of eight when world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz withdrew.

Their only previous encounter was a fun one (Fritz prevailed 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4 at the ATP Cup in the very first match of the year for each player) and this rematch should be no different. Both men are playing well and the quick conditions inside the Pala Alpitour suit both of their games.

Fritz may have a slight advantage from the baseline because of his superior backhand, but Auger-Aliassime’s advantage with his serve and return of serve should give him the edge on shorter points–of which there will be many in these conditions. In the pressure moments, that could be the difference.

Pick: Auger-Aliassime in 3

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