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Ricky’s Preview | Picks For The Western | Southern Tennis Open In Cincinnati

By Ricky Dimon

For a hot minute–or 48 hours to exact–the Western & Southern Open draw included every member of the former Big 4: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray. Yes, even Andy Murray. But just as he did last year, Nadal won the Rogers Cup and then immediately pulled out of Cincinnati. Still, Djokovic and Federer and playing for the first time since their epic Wimbledon final and Murray is playing for the first time since the epic fail that was his Australian Open retirement video. Even without Nadal, the last big tournament before the last Grand Slam of the season should be fun.

Western & Southern Open

Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Points: 1000
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
Defending champion: Novak Djokovic

The alarming lack of parity on the ATP Tour right now is such that when the Big 3 all participate in a tournament, exactly three total players have a realistic chance of winning the title. When two of the Big 3 turn up, two players have a chance. When only one plays, that one and that one only will be the last man standing. The latter was the case in Montreal, where Nadal mostly sleepwalked his way to a fifth Rogers Cup title while Djokovic and Federer rested in advance of Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. Now Nadal is out; Djokovic and Federer are in.

Under normal circumstances, an event featuring two of the Big 3 would pit them on opposite sides of the bracket. But Nadal was still entered when the Cincinnati draw ceremony was held this past Friday and the third-seeded Federer ended up landing in Djokovic’s half. Thus it is the two Wimbledon finalists on one side and with Nadal absent…well…pretty much no one on the other side. You may not find a more imbalanced draw all season long.

The big winners in what had been Nadal’s half are Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Kei Nishikori, and Roberto Bautista Agut. There many other draw winners, as well, because it’s not like Thiem, Zverev, Nishikori, or Bautista Agut is invincible. Guys like Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, and David Goffin could pick up some much-needed momentum in time for the U.S. Open. Also watch out for an unseeded contingent in the bottom half that is led by Murray, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Miomir Kecmanovic, Gael Monfils, Hubert Hurkacz, Diego Schwartzman, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz, and Guido Pella.

Murray will begin his singles comeback against familiar foe Richard Gasquet, while rising stars Auger-Aliassime and Kecmanovic are set for a blockbuster battle on Monday.

The other side is loaded beyond just Djokovic and Federer, as it is also home to Stefanos Tsitsipas, Montreal runner-up Daniil Medvedev, Montreal semifinalist Karen Khachanov, Montreal quarterfinalist Fabio Fognini, John Isner, Stan Wawrinka, and Nick Kyrgios. Isner is always dangerous in Cincinnati and he is already through to round two following a Sunday night victory over Dusan Lajovic.

Can anyone prevent a Djokovic vs. Federer semifinal that would for all intents and purposes be the final? Kyrgios is certainly capable, and he would be salivating over a chance to meet the top-seeded Serb in the quarterfinals. Isner has upset Djokovic once before in Cincinnati and they could face each other again in round three. Federer and Wawrinka are also on a collision course for the last 32.

First-round upset possibility: Denis Shapovalov over (10) Fabio Fognini. Shapovalov did not make a run last week like did in his previous trip to Montreal, but he at least managed to win a match (d. Pierre-Hugues Herbert) before taking a set off the second-seeded Thiem. The 20-year-old Canadian won his only previous matchup with Fognini 6-3, 7-5 at the 2018 Rogers Cup in Toronto. Fognini is coming off a Montreal quarterfinal setback against Nadal, during which the Italian struggled physically in the second and third sets.

Quarterfinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Nick Kyrgios, Roger Federer over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Diego Schwartzman over Hubert Hurkacz, and Alex de Minaur over Guido Pella

Semifinal picks: Djokovic over Federer and Schwartzman over de Minaur

Final pick: Djokovic over Schwartzman

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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