The build up to the US Open continues over the next week when the stars of the tennis world head to Cincinnati for the latest ATP Masters 1000 event, the Western and Southern Open, the final big outdoor tournament before the attention turns to New York.
Such is the modern world and the stacked calendar that this tournament begins before the ongoing Masters event in Montreal concludes. Novak Djokovic defends most titles these days and this is another one he’ll be looking to hold on to but the attention, certainly in the UK, will be on the returning Andy Murray, who will play singles for the first time since the Australian Open.
2018 – Novak Djokovic
2017 – Grigor Dimitrov
2016 – Marin Cilic
2015 – Roger Federer
2014 – Roger Federer
2013 – Rafael Nadal
2012 – Roger Federer
2011 – Andy Murray
2010 – Roger Federer
2009 – Roger Federer
The ATP Masters 1000 format is pretty well known these days. 56 men will make it into the main draw with the top eight seeds automatically progressing through to the second round. The other 48 men compete in the first round to join them. Every match in the tournament from start to finish is the best-of-three sets with a tiebreak in the third set to decide the contest. The champion will be determined in the final on the second Sunday of the competition.
The defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic is the top seed in the tournament this week and he is in the top quarter as a result of that. Although he has lost in the final five times, he has only won the event once so there could be an opportunity for the others this week. Karen Khachanov is the other main seed in this quarter of the draw while Fabio Fognini and John Isner are the other two seeded players.
We should point out that the qualifiers have not finished at the time of writing this preview but of the unseeded players already in the draw two names stand out in this section. They are the Canadian prodigy Denis Shapovalov and the Washington champion Nick Kyrgios. The likes of Lucas Pouille and Sam Querrey will be hunting big weeks.
It is the multi-time champion Roger Federer who is the highest seed in the second quarter of the draw, and he will be expected to reach the semi-finals at the very least as a result. He isn’t likely to have it all his own way however because Stefanos Tsitsipas has already taken care of him in Melbourne this year and is the other main seed in this section of the competition. Nikoloz Basilashvili and the Montreal finalist Daniil Medvedev are the other two seeded players.
British eyes will be on this quarter for a period of time as Kyle Edmund is one of the unseeded players in the draw here but two men stand out in terms of star names and quality even if they aren’t quite what they once were. They are Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov although only one will make the second round as once again they have each other in the first round. Matteo Berrettini and Fernando Verdasco could be dangerous.
Dominic Thiem has already won an outdoor hard Masters 1000 this year when he cantered to the Indian Wells title and he’ll lead the way in this third section in terms of the seeded players. Alexander Zverev is having a pretty ordinary 2019 by his standards but the ATP Tour Finals champion is the other main seed already through to the second round of the competition. Roberto Bautista Agut and Marin Cilic are the other two seeded stars in this quarter.
This looks like it could be a wide open part of the draw and so the likes of Hubert Hurkacz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Gael Monfils and Diego Schwartzman are all potentially going to be competitive. There is no doubt that the focus is going to be on one unseeded player in particular this week. That is Andy Murray, who if fit enough to do successive matches could win a few although just being on a singles court means he is winning.
Rafael Nadal has made it through to the Rogers Cup final in Montreal and once he has played in that he will make his way to Cincinnati where he is the second seed over the course of the week. If everything goes in terms of the rankings and the seeds then the Spaniard will take on Kei Nishikori in the quarter final but two men who will be out to stop that from happening are David Goffin and Borna Coric.
If we are honest, unless a couple of big names from the qualifying competition pop up in this quarter then you would have to say that away from the seeded players it is pretty weak. Alex de Minaur is probably the pick of those players although Taylor Fritz has a big game. Reilly Opelka and Guido Pella can be awkward to face but they are about it.
I’ll go with a couple of players in the bottom half of the draw each way this week. Dominic Thiem got smoked up by Daniil Medvedev in the quarter finals in Montreal last week but prior to that he was winning a clay court event in Austria so it might just have been that the travelling and matches caught up with him. We know he can perform on a hard court. You don’t win in Indian Wells if you can’t with the strength of field there. Thiem is having his best season away from the clay and you’ve got to think he is going to be a huge runner in the US Open. He can highlight that with a deep run this week.
Rafael Nadal is the headline attraction in the bottom quarter without a doubt but I wonder a couple of things, firstly whether he’ll turn up having got to the final in Montreal where he’s a huge favourite to land the title, and secondly how his body will cope to two weeks on a hard court if he does show up. If he doesn’t turn up or it breaks down someone is going to come through here at a big price. Kei Nishikori doesn’t convince me nearly as much as I’d like him to while the consistency of David Goffin and Borna Coric puts me right off. Taylor Fritz has the game to succeed on a hard court. He won his first tour title in Eastbourne a couple of months ago and since then has followed up with runs to the final in both Atlanta and Los Cabos. I’ll allow him last week’s first round loss with all the matches in his legs but I expect him to come good again this week. At 100/1 he looks a big price.
I’ve pretty much highlighted why we should be on Taylor Fritz above but if he beats David Goffin in the first round then he will be expected to make it through to the last 16 where Nadal could or could not be waiting for him. I don’t see anyone in the top part of the bottom quarter who is guaranteed to beat Fritz so 18/1 on him to win this quarter looks a massive price.
Should Fritz beat Goffin we are not too far away from a scenario where we are backing someone at 18/1 to beat Nadal. Fritz has the serve to take the racquet out of his hand and the confidence to do likewise too. Nadal has only been past the quarter final once in his last six visits to this tournament. He is not bombproof here so I think Fritz is worth a go.
VOID – Back D.Thiem to win Western & Southern Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back T.Fritz to win Western & Southern Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back T.Fritz to win 4th quarter for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 with Betfair
Back him here: