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Ricky’s picks for Day 5 of the Indian Wells Masters, including Alcaraz vs. Auger-Aliassime

Third-round competition at the BNP Paribas Open begins with a bang on Sunday, as a blockbuster lineup features both Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Alcaraz is going up against Felix Auger-Aliassime, while Tsitsipas is facing Frances Tiafoe.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(31) Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. (2) Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz and Auger-Aliassime are meeting for the fifth time on Sunday and the head-to-head series stands at a surprising 3-1 in the Canadian’s favor. However, that statistic can be easily explained. The first match resulted in an Alcaraz retirement at the 2021 U.S. Open and the Spaniard’s next two losses came indoors at the end of 2022 (Davis Cup and Basel) after he was worn out physically and mentally following his first Grand Slam title in New York. The world No. 2 took their most recent tilt 6-4, 6-4 last spring in Indian Wells.

Playing his first official match since retiring in the Rio opening round after turning an ankle, Alcaraz understandably needed some time to get going. But once he did, the 20-year-old Spaniard looked like his real self. He bounced back from a slow start to roll past in-form Matteo Arnaldi 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-1. Auger-Aliassime did well to beat Constant Lestienne 6-4, 6-1 on Friday, but the 31st-ranked Canadian is a modest 7-6 this year–and 3-4 in his last seven matches. With a match under his belt, Alcaraz should cruise.

Pick: Alcaraz in 2

(18) Frances Tiafoe vs. (11) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Neither Tsitsipas nor Tiafoe is in completely dreadful form, but it’s fair to say that both are struggling at the moment. For either guy, advancing to week two of the season’s first Masters 1000 event would be a nice result. Tiafoe has been especially bad this season; in five events he has won more than a single match only once–and even that tournament (Delray Beach) ended with an alarming 6-2, 6-2 setback against Tommy Paul.

Tsitsipas owns a respectable 10-4 match record in 2024 but has not beaten any opponent ranked better 39th. The Greek has dropped outside of the top 10 (11th), so he should be motivated to start climbing back up and get in position for a top-eight seed at majors. Tsitsipas opened with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Lucas Pouille on Friday in IW, while Tiafoe defeated Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-3. This will probably be competitive, but Tsitsipas is the slightly more reliable player and these desert conditions are pretty good conditions for his game.

Pick: Tsitsipas in 3

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