ATP PREVIEW: THE WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN
The humid climes of Cincinnati, Ohio and the 7th Masters 1000 tournament of the year is the final pit stop for the big guns before the showdown at the Big Apple.
After a month-long post Wimbledon break, the Western & Southern Open plays host to the return of newly minted World No. 3, Roger Federer. Montreal semi-finalist and Nadal-conquerer Kei Nishikori has been ruled out with a hip injury.
Firmly entrenched at World No. 1, Novak Djokovic sits pretty at the top of this half and the draw. On paper, he has been blessed with some cupcake draws for a good part of the year. The draw at Cincinnati though looks to be a veritable minefield.
After the customary first round bye, the top seed could face either Benoit Paire or Gilles Muller in the second. David Goffin, rarely a pushover, or the ever-dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga awaits in the third.
The round-of-16 could see a face-off between Djokovic and his Roland Garros conqueror, Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka, seeded fourth, had pulled out injured in his now infamous match against loud-mouthed Aussie Nick Kyrgios. He appears to be fine and eager to get more matches under his belt seeing as he’s partnered up with veteran Leander Paes for the doubles event.
Big-server John Isner, the relatively quick courts of Cincinnati exacerbating his bullet serve, and the out-of-form Czech Tomas Berdych also populate this half of the draw
Cincinnati could be historic for Djokovic. Victory here could mean that he’d be the first player ever in the history of the game to win every single Masters 1000 on the tennis calendar. It is slightly alarming that he hasn’t been crowned a champion at this tournament considering he has four runner-up trophies. Andy Murray in 2008 and ’11 and Roger Federer in ’09 and ’12 though, has ensured that this particular record has been out of Djokovic’s reach.
However, the Wimbledon champion also faces another problem. In the run up to the Montreal final, Djokovic has called for his trainer mid-way through matches a couple of times. His elbow has apparently been giving him grief. You have to wonder then, down a set and in a dog-fight against someone like Wawrinka, even though he has a shot at history, would he willingly leave everything on court and potentially jeopardize his health with a Grand Slam just days away?
SEMI-FINAL PREDICTIONS: Stan Wawrinka vs John Isner
DARK-HORSE: Alexander Zverev
Rested and likely rusty, six-time and defending champion Roger Federer has been handed a relatively easy return into the Masters 1000 world. Unless his game deserts him completely, likely second and third round opponents Robert Bautista Agut and Kevin Anderson, against who he has a combined head-to-head of 6-0, are unlikely to give him much trouble.
A potential fire-cracker of a match awaits us in the quarter-finals. Floundering and fumbling through tournaments he may be, but Rafael Nadal is unlikely to ever be an easy match for Federer. Given their recent form, this match is likely to be a blowout in favor of the higher seed, but Nadal always manages to find something extra against his long-time rival.
It doesn’t get any easier for the winner of that match. Freshly crowned Montreal champion Andy Murray is likely to breeze through his quarter to set up a semi-final showdown.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet, also in this half, will have his work cut out for him right at the beginning when he faces Nick Kyrgios in the first round.
SEMI-FINALISTS PREDICTION – Roger Federer vs Andy Murray.
DARK-HORSE – Nick Kyrgios
FINAL PREDICTIONS: Wawrinka vs Federer
WINNER: Roger Federer
Novak Djokovic, unsurprisingly, is the odds-on favorite to win it all. Bet365.com has him at 11/10 while bwin.com places him at 15/13
Next in line, the last man to beat the World No. 1, Andy Murray. He is 4/1 and 9/2 at Bet365 and bwin respectively.
Six-time champion Roger Federer come up at a potential steal of 5/1 at Bet365 and 9/2 at bwin.
Stan Wawrinka is 16/1 at both Bet365 and bwin.
Rafael Nadal trumps the world no.5 in the betting stakes at 14/1 at Bet365 and bwin.