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Ricky’s picks for Day 5 in Indian Wells, including Zverev and Rublev

Seeds are starting to play each other in round three of the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday, but that won’t be the case for Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev. Zverev is facing Emil Ruusuvuori, while Rublev awaits Ugo Humbert.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

Emil Ruusuvuori vs. (12) Alexander Zverev

Perhaps the biggest knock on Ruusuvuori in the early stages of his career is that he struggles against the very best players in the world. His first–and still only–win over a top-10 opponent in tournament play is over then-No. 7 Zverev–1-6, 6-3, 6-1–at the 2021 Miami Open (Ruusuvuori also beat world then-No. 5 Dominic Thiem during 2019 Davis Cup action). They will square off for a second time in round three of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday afternoon.

It has already been a great tournament for Ruusuvuori, with straight-set victories over Constant Lestienne and Roberto Bautista Agut. It’s much-needed for the struggling Finn and it’s the same for Zverev, whose own issues are easily explained. The 14th-ranked German missed the remainder of 2022 following his French Open ankle injury, so significant rust in the early stages of this season is understandable. Zverev did well to reach the Dubai semifinals, but he has not defeated anyone ranked better than 47th (Jiri Lehecka) in 2023 and he was entirely untested by Pedro Cachin on Friday in Indian Wells. This is a great opportunity for Ruusuvuori, who is hitting just as big as Zverev from the back of the court and doing so with more consistency.

Pick: Ruusuvuori in 3

(6) Andrey Rublev vs. Ugo Humbert

Advancing to the last 32 isn’t a particularly impressive result for a seeded player since they all have first-round byes, but it has to feel good for Rublev given the nature of his draw. The world No. 7’s opener came against Lehecka, perhaps the most dangerous unseeded player in the entire field and who just upset Rublev in Doha. However, Rublev had no trouble getting revenge on Friday night in a dominant 6-4, 6-2 victory. The 25-year-old is now 5-1 since losing to Lehecka, including a runner-up performance in Dubai.

Up next for Rublev on Sunday is Humbert, who trails the head-to-head series 2-1 (1-1 in main-draw competition). Their only previous hard-court encounter came indoors at the 2020 St. Petersburg event, where Rublev prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. Humbert has been in somewhat resurgent form since falling all the way down to 157th in the rankings last summer, having reached two Challenger finals (one title) and a whole host of semis. The 77th-ranked Frenchman hasn’t been as successful on the main tour, but he has done well this week to reach the third round–beating Bernabe Zapata Miralles and an ice-cold Denis Shapovalov. This is a big step up in competition level and not a good matchup for the underdog, who doesn’t have the firepower to consistently hit through the slow conditions in Indian Wells. Rublev is one of the few players who can do it with relative ease.

Pick: Rublev in 2

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