Just four men remain in contention at the Cincinnati Masters, the first ATP-level tournament in over five months. All four will surely be desperate to keep their run of good form going ahead of the US Open, which starts next week. But who will book their place in Friday’s final?
Editors Note: The Western and Southern Open has announced all matches on Thursday are postponed until Friday in solidarity with the racial justice protest actions that were started by the WTA’s Naomi Osaka and the NBA.
Cincinnati Masters Semifinals Predictions
Novak Djokovic vs Roberto Bautista Agut
Head-to-head: Djokovic 8-3 Bautista Agut
World #1 Novak Djokovic, who is yet to lose in 2020, is looking formidable. He was not at his best in his Cincinnati Masters opener against Ricardas Berankis, dropping serve three times, but managed to complete a 7-6 6-4 win. That set up a third-round clash with Tennys Sandgren, with Djokovic scoring a comprehensive 6-2 6-4 win and he was in similarly dominant form in the quarterfinals, where he brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1.
However, he may not relish the prospect of facing Roberto Bautista Agut. He had an excellent record against the Spaniard earlier in his career, winning their first five matches for the loss of only two sets. But Bautista Agut has established himself as a persistent thorn in Djokovic’s side since 2016, beating him three times, including in two of their three meetings in 2019. And he has played some fine tennis this week, not least in beating defending champion Daniil Medvedev in three sets in the quarterfinals.
Bautista Agut is the rare example of a player who can trouble Djokovic simply by virtue of his persistence. The Spaniard will gladly run for hours and rarely misses off either wing. And he can do real damage with his forehand, which he can hit hard and flat. That could make it particularly hard to deal with on the fast, low-bouncing courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. However, there are avenues for Djokovic to attack his opponent.
Bautista Agut plays much of his tennis deep behind the baseline, which leaves him vulnerable to drop shots. That is a weakness that Medvedev attempted to exploit, but, unusually, the Russian’s touch failed him. Bautista Agut’s serve is also functional rather than dangerous. Djokovic should therefore look to return more aggressively and quickly gain the advantage as often as possible. Indeed, aggression must be his watchword in this match. If it is, he should have enough to reach the final.
Prediction: Djokovic in 3
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Milos Raonic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Head-to-head: Raonic 1-0 Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas has rather gone under the radar so far at the Cincinnati Masters, if that’s possible for the world #6. The Greek opened his campaign, after a first-round bye, with a comprehensive 6-1 6-3 win over a weary-looking Kevin Anderson and backed that up by edging out John Isner in two tiebreaks. Tsitsipas then secured his place in the last four when the in-form Reilly Opelka was forced to retire with a right knee injury down 5-6 in the first set.
Milos Raonic, meanwhile, has enjoyed an excellent week. The Canadian, who appears to have used the break afforded by the suspension of the season to recover his fitness, began his week with a 6-4 6-4 win over Sam Querrey. He followed that by beating Dan Evans 6-3 7-5, before ending an eight-match losing streak against Andy Murray with a 6-2 6-2 win. Raonic then rallied past an inspired Filip Krajinovic, digging out a hard-fought 4-6 7-6 7-5 win.
This should be another close contest. Tsitsipas should be well-prepared for Raonic’s huge serve, having faced three of the biggest servers in the men’s game in Anderson, Isner and Opelka. But there is more to Raonic’s game than just his serve. His forehand has been particularly impressive and Tsitsipas will need to be prepared for that. But having lost his only previous contest with the Canadian, he will surely not underestimate the threat he poses. And if he can neutralise Raonic’s serve, he should have the quality to best him off the ground.
Prediction: Tsitsipas in 3
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