The last Masters 1000 before the USO has begun, and under extremely bizarre circumstances. With Milos Raonic pulling out today, only three out of the ATP top 10 are playing. All of the Big Four are out except for Nadal, and last year’s Cincinnati Open champion, Marin Cilic, will not attend as well.
Not only that, but with Berdych taken out of contention by Juan Martin del Potro, zero out of eight of the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals field remains. This makes this year’s Cincinnati Masters extremely difficult to predict – but also open to vast opportunity for the rest of the field.
The First Quarter
Here we have Nadal’s first tournament as #1 (well, at least in the live rankings) in a while – so how does he fare? He opens against Gasquet, who gave Zverev a run for his money last week in Montreal. Though he’s likely to come through that, he’ll run into his latest Wimbledon foil, Gilles Muller.
Also here are two huge servers, Kyrgios and Karlovic. Karlovic recorded an impressive win against Tsonga, and he could do some damage in the first quarter.
Nick will face off against an in-form Anderson’s conqueror. Nadal has historically struggled against big servers, but he has proved he can deal with them on hard court, dispatching Raonic in the Australian Open.
Were Kyrgios not nursing his hip injury, it would be hard to see Nadal coming through unscathed from encounters with two straight big servers. Since that’s not the case, however:
The Second Quarter
If there’s going to be a surprise semifinalist on this half of the draw, it’ll be from this quarter. With Thiem, Ferrer, Querrey, and Zverev the elder all vying for a top four berth, this section is set for some tumult. Thiem still seems to be struggling with his game on any surface that’s not clay, and Querrey has been hot this summer, while David Ferrer has finally found some of his old fight again.
Also here is former top-ten player Tipsarevic. While he’s not likely to make it far, he always provides some excitement when on court.
Unless Mischa Zverev can S&V his way to another win, which he’s done often this season, it seems for all the world that this is a great chance for the American to shore up some points.
The Third Quarter
The quarter of American opportunity houses Isner, Young, and Tiafoe. With Tiafoe one of US tennis’ rising stars, and Young and Isner two of its old ones, this is definitely going to pull some big home crowds.
Isner had a great tournament in Atlanta, and barring some statement win by Tiafoe here, he should be the American triumphant – that is, of course, unless crown prince of the ATP tour Alexander Zverev has something to say about it.
Fresh off his Montreal win over Federer, Zverev has become only the second man after Tsonga to win two 1000s aside from the Big Four. Having not lost a match since he took on his new coach, Sascha is in fierce form. Short of something out of left field, he looks to be the odds-on favorite out of this part of the draw.
The Fourth Quarter
Here in the final quarter, there’s a big name missing: Roger Federer. Finalist in Montreal, he was forced to pull out due to a twinge in his back during the second set of his match with Zverev. Opening the road for lucky loser Fabbiano, and probably taking a lot of weight off the mind of his pretender – Grigor Dimitrov.
Also here are Paire (already eliminated), Lopez, and Khachanov. With Federer out, Khachanov has got to feel the pressure to put up a good show – especially with the #NextGen tag quickly growing on Shapovalov and Zverev rather than him. (Interestingly, Shapovalov did not qualify for the main draw in Cincinnati, despite having defeated Nadal in the third round at Montreal last week.)
Now that the young Russian has made it past Sock on the latter’s home turf, he’ll face the winner of del Potro and Dimitrov. The Argentine looked finished midway through his match with Berdych, but then stormed through the tiebreaker and took the third set 6-0.
Dimitrov and he are two players who’ve got to feel the most opportunity in the air, both having been forced out of tournaments earlier than their talent deserves this year.
Who will prevail, though? Tough question, but I assume we can already eliminate Benoit Paire.
Semifinalist: del Potro
Nadal d. Querrey
Zverev d. del Potro
Zverev d. Nadal
Will Zverev/Nadal claim the Cincinnati Open or will a newcomer take home the Masters 1000 trophy? We’ll have to wait to find out.