Hot on the heels of a Masters 1000 event in Toronto, another one begins in Cincinnati on Sunday night as the leading players in the sport continue their preparation for the US Open which is closing in at the end of the month.
Borna Coric shocked everyone to win the Western and Southern Open a year ago and the Croat will be looking to revive those memories and boost his form heading to New York in a couple of weeks from now.
2022 – Borna Coric
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
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.
Carlos Alcaraz was surprisingly beaten in the quarter final in Toronto last week but he remains the number one player in the world and the top seed in Cincinnati. He is the main draw in the top quarter as a result of that. Casper Ruud is the other player who is automatically through to the second round on his seeding. Two seeds will enter the draw in the first round in this quarter. They are Frances Tiafoe and the Toronto semi-finalist Tommy Paul.
A number of wildcards have been placed in this section of the draw with Stan Wawrinka and John Isner particularly big names among them. Brandon Nakashima is another wildcard and he’ll be looking to deliver on home soil. Tallon Griekspoor was a finalist in Washington recently and he’ll want to continue his good form. Lloyd Harris, Ugo Humbert and Miomir Kecmanovic are players already into the top quarter.
Stefanos Tsitsipas won in Mexico a couple of weeks ago but bombed out in his opening match in Toronto so he might feel he has something to prove in the second quarter this week. He is immediately through to the second round with the other player receiving a first round bye being Andrey Rublev. The defending champion Borna Coric is one of the other seeds in this quarter with the other being Karen Khachanov, who returns from injury this week.
We still have the qualifiers to be placed in the draw this week but three players who are in it without a seeding to their name stand out a mile in Andy Murray, who himself pulled out of Toronto with injury and will hope for better durability here. Hubert Hurkacz and Sebastian Korda are the other two who could be real threats to the draw here. Nicolas Jarry and Christopher Eubanks will be hoping for quick conditions to utilise their big serves in this section.
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The third quarter looks like a really tasty one this week and it has Daniil Medvedev as the highest seed in it. The Russian won this title in 2019 and will be looking to get his hands on the silverware once again this week. Holger Rune joins him in the second round in this part of the draw. Felix Auger-Aliassime is one of the other two seeds in the quarter with Alexander Zverev, the winner here two years ago, being the other one.
Matteo Berrettini is a standout unseeded player in this part of the draw and his first round clash against Auger-Aliassime is potentially the pick of the opening set of games. Dan Evans won in Washington recently and he is in this quarter as well. Lorenzo Musetti was a seed last week but doesn’t get that luxury here. Grigor Dimitrov and Richard Gasquet are among the experienced players lining up in this section this week.
The headline this week is that Novak Djokovic will play on the American hard courts for the first time since the pandemic. He is the second seed this week and the top seed in the bottom quarter and with him having a point to prove that spells trouble for the rest. He’ll enter the tournament in the second round as will Jannik Sinner, who will be competing in the Toronto final when this event starts. Taylor Fritz and Cameron Norrie are the other seeds in this section.
Gael Monfils had a brilliant week in Toronto last week and he’ll look to back that up here. Alex de Minaur is the other player who will be competing in the final in Canada when this tournament begins and he’ll be looking to do more damage when he arrives. The Australian beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the semi-final of that event and the Spaniard is in this quarter too so there is no shortage of form in this part of the draw.
I’ll take my chances on a couple of players who were beaten in deciding set tiebreaks last week in this tournament. The first of those is Casper Ruud who lost out to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina but in the round before that he took care of the promising Jiri Lehecka in straight sets which was no bad result, especially as the Czech had a match under his belt at the time. That was the first hard court event of the US swing for Ruud so he should come on for the run and we shouldn’t forget that this is a man who reached the final in Miami and at the US Open last year and the semis in Canada so anyone who thinks he can’t play on a hard court should think again. Of course Carlos Alcaraz looms large in his quarter but that might be why we’re getting 50/1 on the Norwegian not 25/1. I’ll pay to see how Ruud goes here.
Hubert Hurkacz actually took Carlos Alcaraz to a deciding tiebreak in Toronto last week and although he would have wanted to win that match, he certainly should take a lot of confidence from that and with question marks over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in terms of consistency on this surface, the Pole is in a section which could easily open right up. Hurkacz won in Miami two years ago and reached the final in Montreal last year so he can deliver the goods in North American hard court Masters 1000 events and as someone who will be wanting a good week to pep up his ranking ahead of the US Open I think he is a big price at 50/1 in an open draw.
Back C.Ruud to win Western & Southern Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back H.Hurkacz to win Western & Southern Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
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