Alex Molcan ruined my perfect 4-0 record on Wednesday, as the 24-year-old defeated Pablo Carreno Busta in a third-set tiebreaker to advance to the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 event in Hamburg.

Beyond that match, though, there was lacking drama with the other three matches being decided in straight sets.

Now we flip the script to Thursday, when Carlos Alcaraz and Andrey Rublev are in action against their respective opponents.

I have a preview and prediction for all four matches in Germany on Thursday.

Francisco Cerundolo vs. Andrey Rublev

I actually picked against Cerundolo in his opening-round match, as he faced off against Daniel Altmaier, who grew up just four hours or so away from Hamburg.

Cerundolo lost the opening set in that match, but rallied to win thanks to his ability to save eight of 10 break points.

While Cerundolo has played excellent tennis (he won his first ATP event in Bastad last week and took a set off Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon), he’s going to run out of gas at some point. Even though I was wrong about the first round, this seems like a spot to double down on a Cerundolo loss.

Since Rublev wasn’t allowed to play in Wimbledon because of the Russian ban, he hasn’t played a ton of tennis recently. However, he looked strong in his opening-round match against Ricardas Berankis and he did reach the semifinals of Bastad last week.

Also, he has an outstanding 47-28 career record on clay, including three titles.

I expect Rublev to advance.

Fabio Fognini vs. Karen Khachanov

After a couple days to regroup following a dramatic three-setter vs. Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday, No. 7 seeded Khachanov will take on Italian clay specialist Fognini in the second round.

Khachanov — like Rublev — hasn’t played a lot of tennis recently. In fact — unlike Rublev — this is the Russian’s first tournament since mid-June, when he lost in the quarters at Halle.

Karen is an incredibly difficult player to figure out and picking him in any situation is incredibly strenuous because of his knack for blowing leads. He nearly committed his cardinal sin in Round 1, too, as he squandered a third-set break against Struff.

While Khachanov is good on clay, Fognini has always been elite. Obviously this year hasn’t gone as planned for the Italian, but he still reached two semifinals in clay-court tournaments this season.

I have zero trust in Khachanov, and because of that and Fognini’s skills and experience on the surface, I’ll back the Italian.

Carlos Alcaraz vs. Filip Krajinovic

Alcaraz was dealt a scare in his opening-round match vs. Nicola Kuhn, as the German won the first set and pushed the Spaniard to a third-set tiebreaker. The talented 19-year-old prevailed, but it was an odd sight to see him in a close match on his favorite surface to a player ranked outside the top 250.

It’s tough to knock Alcaraz, though, because he was re-adjusting to clay after playing Wimbledon two weeks ago.

Now that he was able to get the first match out of the way, I think Alcaraz mauls Krajinovic in this one.

Krajinovic has produced a solid campaign (17-13 overall) and is decent on clay (34-35 in his career). He also took Carlos to three sets in Croatia last year on the surface, so he has experience against the youngster.

However, the Alcaraz in 2022 is a much different player than the one from last season. He’s greatly matured, and I think he’ll be incredibly focused for this match, given that he wasn’t happy with the result of his first win in Hamburg.

And he’s trying to perfect his German pronunciation, which is a positive sign!

Aslan Karatsev vs. Daniel Elahi Galan

Karatsev is dealing with plenty of off-the-court issues related to a potential investigation into match fixing. He dealt with those distractions pretty well in Round 1 — defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-0 — and in Bastad last week (he made the quarterfinals).

But remember, Basilashvili is also involved in these allegations, and Karatsev hasn’t performed up to expectations this year (12-16 overall).

Meanwhile, Galan seems to have something clicking this week. He looked solid in qualifying and defeated clay-court specialist Federico Coria in straight sets in the opening round.

Galan didn’t make it out of qualifying last week in Bastad and lost his opening-round match in a clay Challenger Tour tournament in Germany the week before, though. He also lost four straight main-draw matches on the red surface before this week.

Karatsev might not be entirely focused on the task at hand, but I think his shot-making and skills will be too much for Galan to handle.

Back Karatsev to win — ever so slightly.

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