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Ricky’s Tennis preview and picks for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati

By Ricky Dimon

In the words of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

And this time, we’re on to actual Cincinnati–not the Cincinnati Masters played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. That was the case for this event in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but now it is back in the friendly confines of the Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

Of course, there won’t be a full field on hand to enjoy the return of the Western & Southern Open to the Cincinnati suburbs. Novak Djokovic is resting up for the U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal is hurt, and another knee surgery will sideline Roger Federer for “many months.” Also on the shelf are Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, and Borna Coric.

That means the door could be open for Daniil Medvedev to win back-to-back Masters 1000 titles in consecutive weeks. The top-seeded Russian, who triumphed in Toronto on Sunday, could be challenged in Cincinnati by the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Shapovalov, and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Western & Southern Open

Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Points: 1000
Top seed: Daniil Medvedev
2020 champion: Novak Djokovic (not playing)

Daniil Medvedev of Russia celebrates after defeating Reilly Opelka of the US in the final of the National Bank Open men’s tennis tournament in Toronto, Canada, 15 August 2021. EPA-EFE/WARREN TODA

Medvedev was non-committal on his Cincinnati status after beating Reilly Opelka in the Toronto title match–but given that he hardly broke a sweat against either Opelka or John Isner in the semifinals, you have to think the world No. 2 will be good to go. If so, a tough draw awaits. Medvedev will open against one of two Americans: Los Cabos and Atlanta runner-up Brandon Nakashima or Washington, D.C. finalist Mackenzie McDonald. Roberto Bautista Agut, who upset Medvedev at this tournament last summer, is a potential third-round opponent. Pablo Carreno Busta, who ousted Medvedev from the Tokyo Olympics, could be a quarterfinal foe.

Also in the top half of the bracket are Rublev, Shapovalov, Hubert Hurkacz, Andy Murray, and Washington, D.C. winner Jannik Sinner. Rublev faces the winner of a first-round showdown between Aslan Karatsev and Marin Cilic. Sinner should have no trouble with Federico Delbonis on a relatively fast hard court, but John Isner or Cameron Norrie would likely be a difficult test in round two. Isner, though, is a question mark after looking less than 100 percent during his Toronto semifinal against Medvedev.

The bottom half of the draw is home to Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, and Opelka. Tsitsipas’ path isn’t particularly rough on paper, but Sebastian Korda in round two and Berrettini in the quarters may present some problems. Zverev, the Olympic gold medalist, has the best draw of anyone. Clay-court specialist Casper Ruud is the German’s nearest top-8 seed and dangerous unseeded floaters like Opelka, Ugo Humbert, and Frances Tiafoe are in the other half of his section.

Quarterfinal picks: Pablo Carreno Busta over Roberto Bautista Agut, Andrey Rublev over Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev over Ugo Humbert, and Matteo Berrettini over Stefanos Tsitsipas

Semifinals: Rublev over Carreno Busta and Zverev over Berrettini

Final: Zverev over Rublev

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.