As the North American hard court swing rolls on further, the Tennis world sets it sights on the year’s 7th Masters 1000 tournament, The Cincinnati Masters. It is one of the oldest Tennis tournaments played in the United States. Usually held in the second week of August in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio, this tournament is played on outdoor hard courts of the Lindner Family Tennis Center. There are 56 men’s singles players in the main draw looking out to warm up well and carry on their preparations for the year’s last major- The US Open.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic, the eventual Wimbledon Champion, will be looking on to add this trophy to his collection more than anyone, as the Serb has never won one, making it the only Masters 1000 trophy missing from his silverware. The Serb fell in the pre- quarterfinal round at the Rogers cup, losing to the tough challenge of Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, but can never be counted out of contention due his extraordinary comeback abilities and the hunger for winning. Analyzing him on hard courts, this year Djokovic has already won the Indian Wells-Miami double along with reaching semis at the Dubai Open and QFs at the Australian Open and has performed quite well on rest of the surfaces as well winning 4 titles over all this year. Last year at Cincinnati, Djokovic was knocked out by Isner in the quarterfinals. He has reached the finals here for 4 times. If Djokovic is to win the tournament, he’ll become the first man to lift all the 9 Masters Series trophies, a feat not yet achieved by his biggest rivals Federer and Nadal.
Defending champion and world no.2 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the tournament due to a prolonging wrist injury he picked up during practice on the eve of the Toronto Masters. It is still uncertain if the Spaniard will be fit for the US Open.
In Djokovic’s way will be standing the world no. 3, 5 times Cincinnati Champion, Roger Federer. Roger recently turned 33 but age doesn’t really seem to be catching up to the whip of the maestro. He has had a great hard court season as well, winning the Dubai Open, reaching the finals of Brisbane, Indian Wells open and the Rogers Cup, Semis at the Australian open and QFs at the Miami Masters. The Basel native teamed up with Stefan Edberg and showed up with a new racquet, which has helped him have a great season in the twilight of his tremendously successful and an excellent career. Interestingly Edberg himself holds a record of most men’s singles finals at the Cincinnati open (6). Roger is the only member of the top 4 to have won 9 or more matches on each surface this year and is looking confident and in a good shape for the season ahead as well. Roger has overall won 2 titles with 5 finals this year and has won more than 40 matches this year. Roger holds a 32-8 win-loss record here. In 2013 he was a quarterfinalist, losing to rival Nadal. After losing to Tsonga in the finals of last week’s Rogers cup, Federer will still be in search of his first masters 1000 title since the Cincinnati Open 2012. The Swiss has made 7 finals this year, winning two of them. Federer has also qualified for the World Tour finals along with Djokovic and Nadal.
Talking about world no.4 and this year’s Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, he will also be looking on to play well in the tournament and will be desperate to claim his 2nd masters 1000 trophy overall. Stan however lost in the 3rd round of Rogers Cup to the South African Kevin Anderson. The Swiss No.2 is always capable of playing some wonderful tennis and paralyzing the opponent’s game. He has won 2 titles on hard courts this year i.e. The Chennai Open and The Australian open as well (3 overall). Wawrinka however failed to deliver his best at the Indian Wells and Miami Open where he fell in the fourth rounds. In the masters 1000 he has went past the QFs only once (Monte Carlo Masters). But Stan gets in form, it becomes difficult for the opponent to find the rhythm in the match. He has beaten the powerful trio of Federer-Nadal-Djokovic this year. Weighing the negatives and the positives, it seems that Wawrinka may well be a threat only if he is able to clear the hurdle of the challenges he’ll face in the early rounds. His best Cincinnati run was back in 2012 where he was a semifinalist (l. to Federer)
World no. 5 Tomas Berdych, has won a single title this year, coming from his exceptional playing at the Rotterdam Open. Berdych has played a good hard court season reaching the finals at the Dubai Open, Semis at the Australian Open and Miami Masters. He fell in the R16 of the Washington Open and The Rogers Cup, but had played some good tennis in the first 6 months of the year. Berdych is a two time semifinalist here (2011, 2013) and will be desperate to find back his form and be ready to threaten the top guys again.
World No.6 David Ferrer has had a moderately well 2014 thus far. He lost to Federer at the QFs of Rogers Cup, R16 of the Miami Open and semis of the Auckland Open. Ferrer has won just one title this year and out of the 16 tournaments he has played this year, 9 of them have been played on Clay courts. Ferrer at the Cincinnati Open is a two time quarterfinalist (2006-07). He will look on to play better on hard courts and continue his pursuit for a 2nd Masters 1000 trophy.
World No. 7, the young surging Canadian, Milos Raonic has shown promising and improved performances this year. He has done all possible things he could to as a new comer to get to the top of his abilities and even go beyond. The big serving machine has recently won the Washington Open title by playing some sensational tennis. His Rogers Cup run however came to an astonishing end in the QFs where he was beaten by Feliciano Lopez in three tight sets, but this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist will be looking on to perform better and better as he learns tournament by tournament. He lost in the QFs at the Indian Wells and Miami Open as well. Raonic has become better as the season has passed and is looking very confident and eager to play the rest of it. His best result in Cincinnati has come as a quarterfinalist in 2012. Last year he was beaten by local favorite John Isner. He will look on to perform very well at the Cincinnati OpeWorld No. 8 and another rising star, the very talented man from Bulgaria, Grigor Dimitrov has played some sensational tennis this year. This new comer has already cracked into top 10 by reaching the semis of the Wimbledon, beating defending champion Andy Murray en route. Often dubbed as ‘’Baby Federer’’ due to similar playing style to the Swiss legend, Dimitrov has won 3 titles this year, all of them coming on three different surfaces. On hard court he won the Acapulco open, semifinals of last week’s Rogers Cup, and reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. He lost in the R32 of the Indian Wells and Miami Open. Dimitrov’s last year at Cincinnati had lost in R16 to the eventual champion Nadal, where he pushed him to three sets. He’ll definitely be playing some more good tennis, carrying his form from the Rogers Cup where he was stopped by Tsonga in straight sets.
Surprisingly now World No. 9 Andy Murray has not had a very pleasing season. The Brit has not won a single title since winning the Wimbledon last year. He also underwent a back surgery. He has been struggling with his game here and there. He also parted ways with his coach former Ivan Lendl and turned to Amelie Mauresmo to help him find his rhythm back. Murray has not reached a final this year however he has reached semis on a few occasions. At the Indian Wells, Miami Open and Rogers Cup, he reached the R16, Quarterfinals and Quarterfinals respectively. Murray has already lost twice to Dimitrov and once to Raonic this year. At the Australian Open he was performing well before being stopped by Federer in Quarters. At the Rogers cup Murray lost to Tsonga in three tight sets, giving out a tough time to the Frenchman. The two time Cincinnati champion will be trying to find his lost form back and would be looking out to play his level best so that he plays well at the US Open, the tournament which gave him his first ever Grand slam.
The other guy to look out for will be Tsonga, who took everyone by surprise by winning his first ever masters 1000 trophy by beating Roger Federer in the finals of Rogers Cup last week. The Frenchman beat Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer en route his tournament victory. He seems to have finally found his lost form and is looking confident and threatening again. This victory has sent him back into the top 10 and sits on the 10th spot.
“Tandil Tower” Juan Martin Del Potro is still recovering from his wrist injury and is eager to play as soon as possible. He did post a few videos of him playing tennis on his social media.
2013 finalist and local hero John Isner, Japanese young gun Kei Nishikori, French open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Rogers Cup semifinalist Feliciano Lopez will also be the ones to look for.
Djokovic leads the top half with either Gilles Simon or a qualifier as his first round opponent. Tsonga who beat Djokovic at the Rogers cup is placed in the top half as well along with David Ferrer.
Federer, on the bottom half of the draw, will play a tough opening match either against Radek Stepanek or Vasek Pospisil. Federer could possibly meet Murray in the Quarters who might play against John Isner during the early rounds.
Dimitrov will meet either a qualifier or Jerzy Janowicz in his opening round before a possible match with Richard Gasquet, the 10th seed. He is placed with Wawrinka in the top half who could face Marin Cilic or Feliciano Lopez in the third round.
Berdych and Raonic are scheduled to meet each other in the quarters if both of them come through their early round matches. Berdych may have to face Lleyton Hewitt or Fabio Fognini en route to the QF spot. Raonic could possibly face Dominic Thiem or Ernests Gulbis during the course of the tournament.
Semifinals: Djokovic vs Cilic, Murray vs Raonic
Finals: Djokovic vs Murray
-Vishakha Khandelwal [Vishakha is a Tennis Analyst for Sportz Cosmos. You can reach her at the gmail id : sportzcosmos]