The tennis tour continues with another Masters 1000 tournament which actually begins before the current one ends as the Western & Southern Open at the ATP Cincinnati stop begins on Sunday to ease the pressure at the end of the week.
Alexander Zverev didn’t care when it started as he cruised to the title a year ago but him coming a cropper at the French Open means that he isn’t in the field to defend his crown so we are guaranteed a different champion.
2021 – Alexander Zverev
2020 – Novak Djokovic
2019 – Daniil Medvedev
2018 – Novak Djokovic
2017 – Grigor Dimitrov
2016 – Marin Cilic
2015 – Roger Federer
2014 – Roger Federer
2013 – Rafael Nadal
2012 – 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.
Daniil Medvedev remains the number one seed in this competition this week despite his early exit in Montreal a week ago. He is gearing up for the defence of his US Open title at the end of the month and will want a good showing here to take some form into that event. He is seeded to meet his compatriot Andrey Rublev in the quarter final should all go to plan but there are a couple of seeds who will be out to stop that. They Grigor Dimitrov and the Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz.
With only 16 seeds this week there was guaranteed to be some big names dotted around to make each quarter competitive and in this top quarter the Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios is one of them. Denis Shapovalov has had a terrible 2022 by his standards but he is in this quarter while American interest comes in the form of Tommy Paul and Jenson Brooksby along with Maxime Cressy. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina is another in this section.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top draw in the second quarter. There is always a feeling that he isn’t quite at his best on a hard court so that will give hope to the rest of the field in the second section. The Greek star is seeded to meet the Montreal finalist Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter final but once again there are a couple of seeds who will be out to deny that from happening. They are Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini who is looking to work his way back to top form after an injury plagued year.
There are plenty of household names among the unseeded fraternity in this part of the draw with the Montreal semi-finalist Dan Evans here looking to follow that up. Karen Khachanov and Aslan Karatsev are a couple of Russians in this section while the American hopes will be carried by John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Brandon Nakashima and the wildcard Sebastian Korda. This is a pretty competitive quarter.
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The new Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz is the leading seed in the third quarter and he will be eyeing up a deep run to take to the US Open with him. Casper Ruud broke through when he made the French Open final earlier in the year and he had a good run on the US hard courts last season so he’ll fancy his chances of reaching a quarter final against the Spaniard. The two seeds out to deny that from happening are Cameron Norrie and Marin Cilic.
British interest was going to be on this quarter of the draw anyway with Norrie in it but Andy Murray is also in it as well. He has a marquee first round match against Stan Wawrinka which is sure to get a prime spot in the schedule. The young rising star Holger Rune is also in this quarter and then there is home interest in the form of J.J. Wolf and Mackenzie McDonald among others. Nikoloz Basilashvili is in this quarter too.
Rafael Nadal makes his return to action for the first time since he pulled out of the Wimbledon semi-final this week. The Spanish star might just be here to test himself and warm up for the US Open but we know from experience that when he is on the court he doesn’t know how to play for anything other than the win. That might not be a good thing for Felix Auger-Aliassime who is seeded to play the legendary Spanish player in the quarter final. Jannik Sinner and Roberto Bautista Agut are the other two seeds in the draw.
A bunch of qualifiers need to be played in this part of the draw but there are some appealing names in it already without a seeded number next to their name. The Montreal champion Pablo Carreno Busta is the biggest one of those while Borna Coric gets in off his protected ranking. Alex de Minaur has had a good couple of months and he is a danger in this quarter while Miomir Kecmanovic will look to do some damage too.
I’m not always a fan of taking a player who went well the week before to follow it up in such quick succession but the fact this will only be the third tournament since Wimbledon for Hubert Hurkacz makes me think there should still be something in the tank for him. Hopefully his loss in the final in Montreal will inspire the Polish star to go that extra yard here. He certainly has a lovely draw because he is in the quarter with Stefanos Tsitsipas who has only played one match since that ill-fated clash with Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon.
Conditions in Cincinnati are usually humid and fast and that should suit Hurkacz. I expect all the US courts to be quick over the next few weeks with the amount of big serving Americans there are towards the top of the game these days. Hurkacz has a nice draw this week and he beat Andy Murray here last year before going down in two tiebreaks to Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round. The fact he gets a bye in the first round should give him enough time to recover from last week and I expect another strong showing from the Halle champion here.
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