The ATP tour shifts its focus this week to the last Masters 1000 tournament before the US Open, in Cincinnati. The Western & Southern Open will welcome 15 of the world’s Top 20 players in Cincinnati. The draw has been released, and we have analysis and predictions for you.
ATP Cincinnati Masters 2021: Preview and Draw Analysis
Top half, first quarter: Daniil Medvedev retains top seed status
Talks of changing of the guard in men’s tennis used to sound like a familiar rigmarole. But not anymore. For the second successive Masters 1000 tournament, none of the Big 3 will be in action. And Daniil Medvedev will look to assert his superiority in the 56-man field at the Cincinnati Masters. Medvedev is fresh off a title at the Toronto Masters, his fourth Masters 1000 crown.
The top-seeded Russian has a bye in the opening round and could have a tough second-rounder against one of Mackenzie McDonald or Brandon Nakashima. Both Americans are wildcard entrants after playing some excellent tennis in recent weeks and will face each other in an enticing first round.
Some big first round matches in the men’s draw for Cincinnati 👀
Isner vs Norrie, Tiafoe vs Humbert 🔥
What’s your pick for the best first round match? pic.twitter.com/C00T9bYF4i
— TNNS (@downloadtennis) August 14, 2021
Things could get significantly difficult for the 2019 champion in the third round. He could face either Alexander Bublik (who pushed him to three sets in Toronto) or Roberto Bautista Agut. The Kazakh and the Spaniard could clash in the third round, but Bautista Agut’s path is a little more complicated. Seeded 13th, the 33-year-old Spanish baseliner opens up against Grigor Dimitrov whom he has only beaten once in five meetings. But the pair have not faced each other since the 2018 season.
Elsewhere, two-time champion Andy Murray gets a wildcard and has a generous opener against a qualifier. Murray shocked the likes of Frances Tiafoe and Alexander Zverev at last year’s edition. But the former world #1 will be unlikely to withstand Hubert Hurkacz – his projected second-round opponent should he get there.
Hurkacz is 10-0 on US soil this season, capturing titles in Delray and Miami. The Pole could run into Olympics silver medalist Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round. The winner of that encounter will likely earn the right to play Medvedev in the quarterfinals.
Quarterfinal prediction: Medvedev (1) vs Hurkacz (9)
Top half, second quarter: Rublev, Karatsev, and Sinner lead a stacked field of heavy hitters
Andrey Rublev will be the fourth seed and has a treacherous draw. He has a bye in the first round but could lock horns against compatriot Aslan Karatsev or 2016 champion Marin Cilic. Karatsev has a winning record against Rublev (beating him en route to the title in Dubai) but is 3-7 in his last 10 matches.
Rublev will be looking for a headstart after early exits in singles at the Tokyo Olympics and most recently in Toronto. The Russian will need to work hard to stave off the challenge of Gael Monfils (his possible third-round opponent). The Frenchman has found his winning touch lately and plays Dusan Lajovic in the first round.
Moving on, #11 seed Jannik Sinner will square off against Federico Delbonis. Sinner was a spent force in Canada last week as he fell to a surprise second-round defeat to James Duckworth. But he should be fully rested and refreshed for a deep run in Cincinnati. He should be too strong for the Argentine lefty who is surprisingly the only player inside the Top 100 without a single win outside clay in 2021.
Sinner is projected to meet Denis Shapovalov in the third round, but the young Italian will most likely need to take down in-form American John Isner in the second. However, Isner could have his hands full against Cameron Norrie in his opener.
Quarterfinal prediction: Rublev (4) vs Shapovalov (6)
Bottom half, third quarter: Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev returns
Alexander Zverev will be competing for the first time since winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Zverev skipped the Canada Masters in order to recharge his batteries and soak up one of his biggest accomplishments on a tennis court.
He has a bye in the opening round which means he will most likely feature on Wednesday. And that could be against Rafael Nadal’s Washington conqueror Lloyd Harris. There is a real lottery on Zverev’s possible third-round opponent. The returning David Goffin, Guido Pella, Nikoloz Basilshvili, and Fabio Fognini will vie for the right to face the German third seed.
The draw projets Zverev to meet Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals. But not many will be backing for that to materialize. Ruud lost his 13-match unbeaten streak in Canada and could run into Reilly Opelka in the second round here. The towering American reached his maiden Masters 1000 final in Toronto (due to play Medvedev at the time of writing), and starts off against a qualifier.
Ugo Humbert has found his A-game in recent weeks and could be a destructive machine in Cincinnati. The French lefthander battles Frances Tiafoe in what should be a shotmaking first-round spectacle. The winner of that match could play either Dan Evans or Diego Schwartzman.
Quarterfinal prediction: Zverev (3) vs Humbert
Bottom half, fourth quarter: Will Tsitsipas reign supreme?
Stefanos Tsitsipas suffered a demoralizing defeat to Reilly Opelka in Toronto and will target another productive week in Ohio. The Greek will have to slip past some considerable banana peels to do that. He is likely to open up against the talented American Sebastian Korda in the second round.
Should Tsitsipas manage to shake off that hurdle, he is likely to face power-hitting Italian Lorenzo Sonego or Chilean clay-court specialist Cristian Garin in the third round. The second seed should have too much nous for either, but there could be more problems in the quarterfinals, where silver medalist Karen Khachanov or Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini could be waiting.
Quarterfinal prediction: Tsitsipas (2) vs Khachanov
Main Photo from Getty.