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Ricky’s picks for Day 5 of the U.S. Open, including Paul and Shelton

In the bottom half of the U.S. Open men’s singles draw and especially in a wide-open third quarter, huge opportunities abound. Among those looking to capitalize are Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton. They are going up against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Aslan Karatsev, respectively, during third-round action on Friday.

Here are my previews and picks for two of Friday’s marquee matchups.

(14) Tommy Paul vs. (21) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

This should be a fun one–perhaps the most fun of the entire third round–and the stakes could hardly be higher. The Paul vs. ADF winner will have a prime chance to reach at least the U.S. Open quarterfinals and perhaps even the semis.

This marks their third encounter, with Paul having already won twice in 2023 (6-2, 2-6, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 at the Australian Open and 6-3, 7-5 in Miami). The 14th-ranked American has remained in fine form, too, including an upset of Carlos Alcaraz en route to the Toronto semifinals. Paul needed five sets to get past Roman Safiullin on Wednesday, but the match wasn’t especially long and Paul is one of the fittest guys on tour so he should have plenty left in the tank. He will need it against an in-form Davidovich Fokina.

Pick: Paul in 5

Ben Shelton vs. Aslan Karatsev

Shelton capitalized on a great draw at the Aussie Open to reach the quarterfinals (lost to Paul) and it looks like he is doing the same at Flushing Meadows. The 47th-ranked American beat clay-court specialist Pedro Cachin in his opener and then got an early retirement from Dominic Thiem on Wednesday (Shelton was up 7-6, 1-0 at the time).

Now he meets Karatsev, who is struggling down at 77th in the rankings. The Russian had been 3-7 in his last 10 matches heading into New York and he has gone five straight Grand Slams without making it past round three. This another awesome opportunity for Shelton, one that he should be able to convert.

Pick: Shelton in 4

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