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Ricky’s picks for Day 1 of the Australian Open, including Tiafoe vs. Coric

The Australian Open starts on Sunday, when both Jannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe will be in action on the men’s side. Novak Djokovic is also kicking off his title defense.

Here are my picks for two of the best matchups on Day 1.

(17) Frances Tiafoe vs. Borna Coric

Tiafoe and Coric will be squaring off for the second time in their careers on Sunday in Melbourne. Their only previous encounter was a fun one; it went the full five-set distance, with Coric getting the job done in front of the home crowd in Croatia during the 2018 Davis Cup competition via a 6-7(0), 6-1, 6-7(11), 6-1, 6-3 scoreline.

Tiafoe has not been playing sensational tennis since advancing to the U.S. Open QFs last summer, but he always seems to raise his level on the big stage. The American has done it before Down Under, advancing to the QFs in 2019. As for Coric, he missed the entire 2023 fall swing because of a shoulder issue. The world No. 39 played a pair of matches at the United Cup two weeks ago, falling to Casper Ruud and defeating Tallon Griekspoor. Although the latter result is at least somewhat encouraging, there is no reason to think that Coric is back to peak form. Tiafoe should prevail without too much trouble.

Pick: Tiafoe in 4

(4) Jannik Sinner vs. Botic van de Zandschulp

Sinner basically took the tennis world by storm last season, especially in the latter stages The only thing missing was a major title. Sinner will be hoping to add that to his resume later this month after compiling a 64-15 record in 2023. The world No. 4’s run last year included his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto, runner-up efforts at the Miami Open and Nitto ATP Finals, and two upsets of Novak Djokovic during the fall swing.

Up first for Sinner on Sunday is Van de Zandschulp, a relatively difficult first-round opponent in terms of name recognition. However, this is unlikely to be a real test for the fourth seed. Van de Zandschulp suffered the collapse of the year in the 2023 Munich final against Holger Rune and was never the same the rest of the way. The Dutchman’s woes continued with a 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 7-6(2) loss to Jerry Shang in round two of the Hong Kong tournament earlier this month. Count on Sinner rolling.

Pick: Sinner in 3

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