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Ricky’s preview and picks for Monday in Adelaide: Auger-Aliassime vs. Popyrin and Rune vs. Nishioka

Recent Nitto ATP Finals participants Felix Auger-Aliassime and Holger Rune will begin their bids for a return trip to Turin when they compete in Adelaide on Monday. Auger-Aliassime is facing Alexei Popyrin in the first round, while Rune opens with Yoshihito Nishioka.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(Q) Alexei Popyrin vs. (2) Felix Auger-Aliassime

Auger-Aliassime and Popyrin will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they get their 2023 campaigns underway at the Adelaide International on Monday. Auger-Aliassime’s 2022 season was so good that he finds himself as the No. 2 seed at what might be the best ATP 250 tournament of the entire year–even ahead of Daniil Medvedev, who is seeded third. Having never won an ATP title heading into last season, the sixth-ranked Canadian lifted four trophies are on his way to Nitto ATP Finals qualification.

Popyrin’s year, on the other hand, was pretty much a disaster. The Australian went 5-17 on the main tour and finds himself at 120th in the rankings, which means he needed a wild card to gain direct entry into the Aussie Open. Popyrin had to qualify in Adelaide, and he did so successfully with victories over Zhizhen Zheng and Yibing Wu. Those are decent results, but a steep step up in competition should bring an end to Popyrin’s week in routine fashion.

Pick: Auger-Aliassime in 2

(5) Holger Rune vs. Yoshihito Nishioka

Starting in the spring, Rune was one of the tour’s breakout stars in 2022. The 19-year-old Dane made a run to the French Open semifinals and captured the Paris Masters title, upsetting Novak Djokovic in the championship match.

Up first for Rune on Monday is Nishioka, and they will also be squaring off for the first time in their careers. Nishioka is on the brink of Australian Open seeding at No. 36 in the world, which is mostly a result of his runner-up performance in Washington, D.C. and a title in Seoul. In his last four events of the year, however, the left-hander from Japan did not beat anyone ranked better than 55th. Well-rested thanks to the offseason following a long 2022 campaign, Rune should be ready to come out like gangbusters.

Pick: Rune in 2

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