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Ricky’s picks for Day 3 in Indian Wells, including Rublev vs. Lehecka

A blockbuster second-round battle at the Indian Wells Masters on Friday pits Andrey Rublev against Jiri Lehecka. Another one of the more entertaining matchups is Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs. Yibing Wu.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(6) Andrey Rublev vs. Jiri Lehecka

Rublev and Lehecka will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the second time this season when they meet again in round two of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. They recently faced each other Doha, where Lehecka pulled off a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 upset. That was preceded by a 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 victory for Rublev last year on the red clay of Belgrade.

A bounce-back performance in Dubai one week following his Doha loss may be just what the doctor for Rublev in terms of confidence restoration. The world No. 7 may not have played his best tennis, but he engineered a couple of crazy comebacks on his way to the title match before getting blown out by an on-fire Daniil Medvedev. Rublev should like his chances for maintaining momentum in Indian Wells, where he is one of the few players who has the firepower to hit through slow conditions—which he did en route to a semifinal performance last year. Since beating Rublev, Lehecka is 1-2 with a pair of rough three-set losses to Andy Murray (Doha) and Alexander Zverev (Dubai) plus an unspectacular 7-6(4), 7-5 defeat of Arthur Rinderknech on Wednesday. Look for the sixth seed to get revenge in what could be the best match of the entire second round.

Pick: Rublev in 3

(WC) Yibing Wu vs. (23) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Lehecka and Wu have been the two breakout stars on the ATP Tour so far this season. Lehecka’s results have come on a more consistent basis, but Wu’s rise on the indoor hard courts of Dallas was incredibly impressive. The 23-year-old became the first Chinese man to win an ATP title, doing so with an amazing level of play that carried him past Taylor Fritz in the semis and John Isner in the final (in a third-set tiebreaker). Wu opened on Wednesday in Indian Wells with a third-set tiebreaker victory over Jaume Munar, complete with a diving volley winner on match point in which his racket fell out of his hand and appeared to hit the net before the ball bounced twice on Munar’s side.

Up next for Wu on Friday is a first-ever meeting with Davidovich Fokina, who is a decent 7-6 this season but has not defeated anyone ranked higher than No. 36 Alexander Bublik. Although Wu is ranked 67th, his level is better that that of anyone the Spaniard has beaten so far in 2023. With a match already under his belt whereas Davidovich Fokina got an opening-round bye, this a good opportunity for Wu.

Pick: Wu in 3

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