The ATP Tour moves to Cincinnati for another ATP Masters 1000 event: the Western & Southern Open. One year ago, the tournament was played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York — home of the US Open — due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the world’s best players are back in Ohio.
The top two seeds will be Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, both former Nitto ATP Finals champions. But there will be plenty of hungry challengers trying to keep them from making deep runs in the draw. ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch this week in Cincinnati.
1) Medvedev Leads The Way: The Russian star will always have fond memories of Cincinnati, where he lifted his first Masters 1000 trophy two years ago. During that run, Medvedev defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. This edition, the 25-year-old is the top seed and will try to improve his 8-3 record at the Western & Southern Open.
2) Tsitsipas Shining: Tsitsipas is in good form as evidenced by his run to the semi-finals in Toronto. The Greek will try to maintain his level in Cincinnati, where he is the second seed. One week after turning 23, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion will try to continue solidifying his position in second in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. A tricky second-round foe awaits, as Tsitsipas will need to claw past home favourite Sebastian Korda or Serbian Laslo Djere, who won an ATP 500 title on the clay of Rio de Janeiro two years ago.
3) Zverev Feeling Golden: Few players enter Cincinnati with as much confidence as Alexander Zverev, who will be competing for the first time since winning the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The German has proven himself on the big stage on countless occasions, winning the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, triumphing in Tokyo and claiming four Masters 1000 titles. Will Zverev be able to add a fifth Masters 1000 trophy to his cabinet in Cincinnati?
FOLLOW THIS WEEK’S ACTION
4) #NextGenATP Americans: Korda and Nakashima are #NextGenATP Americans who have cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings this year. Korda broke through first with a series of impressive results, including his first ATP Tour final in Delray Beach and his maiden tour-level triumph in Parma. Nakashima has caught fire in recent weeks, advancing to his first two ATP Tour championship matches in Los Cabos and Atlanta.
Will the duo make big runs in Cincinnati? They could be dangerous opponents for top seeds, as Nakashima could face top seed Medvedev in the second round and Korda could play second seed Tsitsipas in the second round.
5) Will Murray Make Magic? The most impressive Western & Southern Open resumé in the field belongs to wild card Andy Murray. A champion in 2008 and 2011 who also made the final in 2016, the Scot will attempt to improve his 33-13 record at the tournament. Murray last played singles at Wimbledon, where he lost to Denis Shapovalov in the third round. One year on from upsetting Zverev in New York, Murray will play a qualifier in his opener. With a victory, he will clash against ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz or Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
6) Big-Serving Americans In Good Form: Two of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour, Americans Reilly Opelka and John Isner, carry plenty of momentum onto home soil. Opelka upset Tsitsipas in the Toronto semi-finals to make his first Masters 1000 final. He challenged Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as an 18-year-old in Cincinnati in 2016, and will try to continue the best season of his career, in which he has also made the Rome semi-finals.
Isner also advanced to the last four in Canada before falling short against Medvedev. The veteran recently lifted his sixth Atlanta trophy and is a 2013 Cincinnati finalist.
7) Berrettini Is Back: Big-hitting Matteo Berrettini is making his return for the first time since reaching his maiden major final at Wimbledon. The Italian star has been unable to compete due to a thigh injury, but he is ready for his first action of the North American hard-court swing. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals competitor has won 14 of his past 16 matches, and he will try to continue his impressive year against American Taylor Fritz or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Berrettini, who has not yet won a match in Cincinnati (0-1), could play close friend Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round.
8) First-Rounders To Watch: There will be fireworks from the first round in Cincinnati, with plenty of tantalising matchups. Former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov will play 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut. Dimitrov leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but they have not met since the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters. The Bulgarian is one of the most athletic players on Tour, and the Spaniard is as solid as they come, which should make for a fun clash of styles.
Russian Aslan Karatsev, the breakthrough star of 2021, will face former World No. 3 and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic for the first time. Diego Schwartzman, the 10th seed, will try to battle past crafty Briton Daniel Evans.
9) Mektic/Pavic Dominating Doubles: Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic have dominated doubles on the ATP Tour in 2021 with nine titles, including victories at Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics. They are one of the last two teams remaining in Toronto, too, but a tricky draw in Cincinnati awaits. The Croatians could play Britons Evans and Neal Skupski for the fourth time this year in the second round. They just met in Toronto, where Mektic and Pavic saved a match point before advancing 13-11 in a Match Tie-break. The second seeds are Spaniard Marcel Granollers and Argentine Horacio Zeballos.
10) Stars Align: Plenty of singles stars will be in action in the doubles draw. Jannik Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz, who clashed for the Miami singles title this year, will face Evans and Skupski in the first round. Auger-Aliassime will compete with Marcus Daniell of New Zealand, and Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, who have made two Masters 1000 doubles finals together, will try to go one step further. A wild card team to watch is Canadian Shapovalov and American Jack Sock.