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Rafael Nadal should be focused for today's U.S. Open match. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) 
Rafael Nadal should be focused for today's U.S. Open match. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) |Associated Press
Tennis

U.S. Open Monday men's Round of 16: Abrams picks Zverev vs Schwartzman, Nadal vs Cilic, Rublev vs Berrettini, Monfils vs Andujar

Matches start at 12:30 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2019 U.S. Open

Flushing Meadows, NY, USA

Monday, September 2, 2019

Men’s Round of 16 matches

Sascha Zverev over Diego Schwartzman

How is it possible that Diego Schwartzman beat the younger Zverev brother 1 and 0? Okay, it was five years ago when Sascha was just 17-years-old, but still. The Argentinean is only 5’6”, and Sascha is 6’6”. Wasn’t Diego afraid of getting a beat-down after the match? Well, today is a different animal. Now Zverev is ranked #6 in the world, and although he’s been shaky lately, he has a myriad of weapons that should subdue Schwartzman, although it may take some time. Schwartzman is playing lights-out tennis, having waltzed through Robin Haase, Egor Gerasimov and Tennys Sandgren, all without losing a set. Zverev, on the other hand, has struggled a bit here, but in all fairness, he got the much harder draw, having to subdue the tough Radu Albot (in five), Big Foe (in five), and Alja Bedene (in four, of which three of those sets were tiebreakers). I give Schwartzman all the credit in the world for hanging with all the giants in today’s tennis game, but I just don’t see how he can possibly win this match.

Rafa Nadal over Marin Cilic

Rafa Nadal has beaten Marin Cilic six of the last seven times they’ve played, and the one he lost, in the 2018 Australian Open, Nadal retired when his knees started acting up, in the fifth set. This is a bad matchup for Cilic, as Nadal’s defense and ability to retrieve is better than Cilic’s offensive attacking skills. Rafa dulls Cilic’s service power by standing more than ten feet behind the baseline, which gives him enough time to see the ball clearly and take a big windup as he swipes his returns. Cilic is now more susceptible to spraying the ball wildly at times, and this will be his downfall against the ultra-steady Spaniard. Cilic has looked very vulnerable here in NYC, but he has come through against Klizan, Stebe and Isner, losing sets to all of them. He doesn’t have the luxury of sacrificing a set to Nadal. Nadal, who is now 44-6 on the year, hasn’t dropped a set yet in this tournament, and surely will be looking to blank Cilic in this one too. Cilic is probably too good to go home without at least taking some hair from Nadal’s scalp, but I wouldn’t count on an upset here.

(2 more Round of 16 Picks Below)

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Andrey Rublev over Matteo Berrettini

Based on how Russian Andrey Rublev outplayed Nick Kyrgios on Friday night, sending the Aussie crashing out of the draw in straight sets, I’ve gotta believe that Rublev has more left in his body for today’s encounter. When Rublev ran all over Roger Federer a couple of weeks ago in Cincinnati (after beating Nikoloz Basilashvili and Stan Wawrinka) fans started to take notice. Most asserted that Federer needed some time off and that loss suited his purposes, but I’ve never seen The Fed tank a match. He was beaten. And now we see that Rublev is the real deal, having taken out 8th seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and Gilles Simon right here, before dealing Kyrgios a loss so quickly that the Aussie didn’t have enough time to stir up trouble. This match against Matteo Berrettini should be filled with shot making galore. With two guys who are not as popular in the United States as some others, the lucky fans who get to see this will have something to remember. The Italian #2 has problem-solved his way out of matches with the resurgent Richard Gasquet, Brit Jordan Thompson and Aussie Alexei Popyrin, battling to win each match in four. Berrettini is the higher ranked player here, seeded #24, and should be favored in this match based on ranking alone. However, Rublev is a better hard court player, and I think the Russian will win this match in four. Berrettini will fight, but ultimately Rublev has too much power off the serve and the ground for the Italian to work his magic.

Gael Monfils over Pablo Andujar

These two 33-year-olds are going to put on a good show too, but I see no way that supremely talented Frenchman Gael Monfils can lose this match. Although they haven’t played in a number of years, Andujar has never beaten Monfils, and since they’re playing on hard courts here, I see no way he’ll take his first match from the Frenchman on the famed hard courts at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. Andujar fought his way by Brit Kyle Edmund, but then dominated Lorenzo Sonego and Alex Bublik, both of whom he’s just better than, in straight sets. Monfils had an epic five-set win over Denis Shapovalov last round, and beat the Canadian when he was at his absolute best. Monfils seems to be firing on all cylinders, kinda like he was playing in Indian Wells before he got hurt. When he plays at this level, he is an elite player. All I want to see is if Monfils can hit another jumping 360-degree turning overhead again in this match!