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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)|(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Tennis

Tennis: 14 3rd round men’s picks in the Australian Open

Our tennis expert is picking matches Down Under at a 90% clip, but each round it gets harder. Can it continue into the Round of 32?

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Australian Open
Third Round - Men

Djokovic over Shapovalov
The Canadian has an incredible game and is fun to watch, especially because he’s young, handsome, tall, and a lefty. He’s unique. Unfortunately, he’s not ready to beat the world’s #1 player, even if Djokovic wasn’t his sharpest in his win over Tsonga. He’ll be sharp enough to take down Shapovalov….this year.

Medvedev over Goffin
Medvedev is playing really well and seemed to have no trouble at all taking out American Ryan Harrison in three relatively easy sets. He’s got too much game for Goffin, although there should be some good tennis out there.

Nishikori over Sousa
Sousa took out the tough German Kohlschreiber in five really competitive sets in the second round and guaranteed himself $155,000 (Australian) by reaching the third round. He should take the check and be happy, because he won’t be around too long. Nishikori showed big, I mean BIG balls in topping Dr. Ivo (Ivo Karlovic) in a fifth set tiebreaker. Nishikori competes. He won’t lose.

Zverev over Bolt
Bolt, the young Aussie who just recently was doing some light construction work, decided that he liked the career of being a touring tennis professional better than using real tools, and rejoined the Tour. He’s had a great run winning two matches, especially topping the tough Frenchman Gilles Simon in five rough sets in the second round. His run is through. Although Zverev had a little hiccup, especially in the fourth set against the tiring Chardy, he found a way to win, and that’s what champions do. He’ll move on.

Raonic over Herbert
Raonic had to beat Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka just to get to the frickin’ third round! His serve is an incomparable weapon. He can go down the T to both sides, he slides a slice serve off the side of the deuce court and bombs an untraditional serve wide to the ad court, and these weapons are reliable. He’s also not afraid to serve into the body, a seemingly lost art, which he seems to have perfected. His serve will propel the tall Canadian past Herbert, who took out last year’s semi-finalist, Hyeon Chung in four efficient sets. Unless Raonic is tired, this should be over in three.

Coric over Krajinovic
Coric, the 22-year-old, 11th seeded Croatian hasn’t lost a set in two matches and is playing great tennis just at the right time. Meanwhile, Krajinovic has had a good tournament, especially with his first round five set victory over Italy’s Marco Cecchinato, the 17th seed. But the Croatian is just playing too well for the Serbian and will send Krajinovic packing.

Popyrin over Pouille
I’m going out on a limb here and picking the 19-year-old Australian Alexei Popyri, who is 6’5” and serves bombs, over France’s 28th seeded Lucas Pouille. Pouille has benefited from being seeded and given a pretty good draw, while Popyrin took care of Mischa Zverev, Sasha’s older brother, and the dynamic Dominic Thiem without losing a set. Yes, Thiem was under the weather and had to retire from the match, but Popyrin was all over him and showed maturity well beyond his level of experience. I think Popyrin pulls another upset and moves to the Round of 16.

Cilic over Verdasco
Verdasco has cruised through two matches without losing a set, but Cilic is Cilic, after all. This match could go five full sets and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended in a tie-breaker, but Cilic has been there before and his serve, his forehand, and his experience should prove to be too much for Verdasco.

Khachanov over Bautista Agut
I think Karen Khachanov could contend for this title, and if he’s going to he’ll have to start by taking out Bautista Agut, a terrific player and a fiery competitor. Khachanov serves bombs and has shown an all court game big enough to eliminate the 22nd seeded Spaniard.

Tsitsipas over Basilashvilli
You want to teach your kid how to play tennis? Model their game after Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas. This 20-year-old does everything, he does it all well, and he looks great doing it. He’s like a Greek God floating around the court as he bombs his ground strokes to both corners of the surface. He volleys beautifully, his serve is a real weapon and the grace with which he plays makes it look like he never tires. Basilashvilli is an incredibly tough competitor and is a solid player, but I think he’ll run into a buzz saw here.

Federer over Fritz
Taylor Fritz, a young American who comes from good American tennis stock (his mother is former touring pro Kathy May) should feel really proud of his tournament play, especially for his four-set win over the athletic Gael Monfils. But he’s not ready yet to challenge the great Fed, who looks fresh as can be. Okay, Federer hasn’t really been challenged by Denis Istomin or British qualifier Dan Evans (who came back from a cocaine suspension), but he probably won’t be challenged by Fritz either. Unless Fritz uses his serve to force a tiebreaker or two, this match could be more like a Federer exhibition. Enjoy.

Tiafoe over Seppi
If American Francis Tiafoe overcomes Italy’s Andreas Seppi, as I think he will, then we should all consider that Tiafoe has actually arrived. We’ve been waiting for a new American on the scene, and Tiafoe is here to announce his presence. Seppi is tough, but you can’t stop fate.

Dimitrov over Fabbiano
Grigor Dimitrov is a 27-year-old Bulgarian who lives in Monaco and trains in Florida. Dimitrov has all the tools to go deep into Grand Slam tournaments and give trouble to the Big Three. Now that he’s working with Andre Agassi I think he’s finally ready to challenge, and with this win and a move into the Round of 16 he’ll gain the confidence Agassi is trying to instill in him. He’ll beat Fabbiano.

Nadal over De Minaur
The day will come, and it’s not too far away, where hometown favorite Alex De Minaur will beat Rafa Nadal. But it’s not going to be this year at this tournament. Rafa has looked good, although you never know when one of his myriad of injuries will take it’s toll and force him to the sidelines. As long as he’s healthy he’ll take De Minaur, who has never seen the excessive left-handed spin the Spaniard puts on the ball, or felt his dominating presence on the court.