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Ricky’s preview and picks for the Western & Southern Open, Cincinnati Masters

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns to Cincinnati. (Photo by Mine Kasapoglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

We’re on to Cincinnati.

The American hard-court summer continues with the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open is only two weeks away. Cincinnati is a huge tournament on the schedule, as it will be the last time most of the top players in the world take the court prior to the season’s final Grand Slam. It will also finalize U.S. Open seeding, so guys just outside the top 32 will be eager to post a good result in an effort to break into seeding range.

Even the No. 1 spot is up for grabs. If Rafael Nadal wins the Cincinnati title and Daniil Medvedev loses prior to the quarterfinals, there will be a change at the top. Nadal’s return from an abdominal injury sustained at Wimbledon and his first appearance at this event since 2017 makes for plenty of intrigue even in the absence of Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev—and Roger Federer, of course. Also in the draw are Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios, and Montreal semifinalists Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz.

Western & Southern Open

Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Prize money: $6,280,880
Top seed: Daniil Medvedev
2021 champion: Alexander Zverev (not playing)

Nadal’s draw is a favorable one through at least two matches, so he should be able to play his way into the tournament and shake off any result without too much trouble. The 36-year-old Spaniard awaits either Borna Coric or a qualifier before possibly running into countryman Roberto Bautista Agut. Felix Auger-Aliassime is a potential quarterfinal foe for Nadal, although based on current form a more likely adversary is Jannik Sinner. Both Auger-Aliassime and Sinner are in a tricky section, however, with Alex de Minaur, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Miomir Kecmanovic all close by.

Taylor Fritz of the United States in action. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

Nadal and Alcaraz are on a collision course for an all-Spanish semifinal in the bottom half of the bracket. Alcaraz’s draw is a great one, although both Casper Ruud and Cameron Norrie are in fine form. Andy Murray vs. Stan Wawrinka is a notable first-round showdown between three-time Grand Slam champions in the Alcaraz section of the bracket.

The top half is deeper because of an impressive unseeded contingent. That group includes Kyrgios, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov, John Isner, Botic van de Zandschulp, Maxime Cressy, Tommy Paul, Jenson Brooksby, Brandon Nakashima, Dan Evans, and Frances Tiafoe. Medvedev will kick off his campaign against either Cressy or Van de Zandschulp and the top-ranked Russian’s next match would come against either Shapovalov, Paul, Brooksby, or Grigor Dimitrov. In other words, Medvedev maintaining the No. 1 ranking is far from a guarantee.

Quarterfinal picks: Taylor Fritz over Daniil Medvedev, Brandon Nakashima over Sebastian Korda, Carlos Alcaraz over Cameron Norrie, and Rafael Nadal over Jannik Sinner

Semifinals: Fritz over Nakashima and Nadal over Alcaraz

Final: Nadal over Fritz

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