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Ricky’s picks for Day 6 of the Australian Open, including Djokovic and Shelton

What will Friday at the Australian Open do for an encore? It certainly has massive shoes to fill, as Thursday was nothing short of epic from start to finish. The task of following it belongs to Novak Djokovic and Shelton, among many others.

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

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (30) Tomas Martin Etcheverry

Nothing has been easy for Djokovic so far. The world No. 1 required four sets to defeat 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic in round one and did the same against Alexei Popyrin in round two, surviving 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. Next up for him on Friday is Etcheverry, and if two previous encounters (both last year) are any indication, this third-round matchup could be more one-sided. Djokovic rolled 7-6(5), 6-2 at the Rome Masters and and eased to a 6-3, 6-2 indoor victory at the Paris Masters.

Still, not all hope can be lost for Etcheverry. The 32nd-ranked Argentine recently surged into relevance on the ATP Tour in 2023 and is only getting better and better. He reached the quarters at Roland Garros last spring and has added to his major win total with victories over veterans Andy Murray and Gael Monfils–both in straight sets. Based on form so far this fortnight, Etcheverry has a real chance to take a set if not even two from Djokovic. However, at some point you have to think the 10-time AO champion will raise his level.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

(20) Adrian Mannarino vs. (16) Ben Shelton

These two southpaws will be facing each other for the second time. Their only previous tilt came at the 2023 Miami Open, where Mannarino won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. This rematch figures to be different. Although Shelton had already made it to the QFs at Melbourne Park at the time they met last spring, he was in the middle of a six-month slump and is an entirely different player now. Also a U.S. Open semifinalist, Shelton–up to No. 16 in the world–is once again playing well on the big stage. So far this week he has knocked off Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets and Christopher O’Connell in four.

Mannarino is also coming off the best season of his career. The 35-year-old Frenchman compiled a 1-3 record at the United Cup earlier this month, but he is back in gear with wins over Stan Wawrinka and Jaume Munar–both in five sets. Playing 10 sets through two rounds is far from ideal, especially for a grizzled veteran like Mannarino. Moreover, this is actually a bad matchup for him despite what their previous meeting indicates. Mannarino’s sliding lefty serve plays to Shelton’s strength: the forehand. Shelton’s out-wide lefty serve and big cross-court forehand will exploit Mannarino’s weakness: the forehand. The American is looking scary good these days, so look for him to win in easier fashion than many expect.

Pick: Shelton in 3

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