2015 ATP Cincinnati Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The final Masters stop on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series is in Cincinnati as most of the top players in the men’s game will attempt to “do the double” and play back to back in Montreal and Cincy. The joint event is one of the best tournaments in the USA and this years Western and Southern Open also promises to be special.
Western and Southern Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Cincinnati, OH, USA
August 16-August 23, 2015
Prize Money: $3,826,655
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (2)
3: Andy Murray (3)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)*
5: Stan Wawrinka (5)
6: Tomas Berdych (6)
7: Marin Cilic (8)
8: Rafael Nadal (9)
Of top names, only David Ferrer is absent due to an elbow injury. Kei Nishikori was injured in Montreal and also pulled out, replaced by Alexandr Dolgopolov.
First round matchups to watch:
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Fernando Verdasco
Tsonga has a 3-1 h2h advantage in this matchup of power baseliners. Verdasco is currently on a four match losing streak, but the big hitting Spaniard played a solid match against Nick Kyrgio and may be turning a corner. Jo won three matches at the Rogers Cup and reached the quarterfinals, with that in mind, his form should carry him to a win here, but this match should feature some great ball striking on both sides of the net.
(10)Gilles Simon vs. Ivo Karlovic
A close h2h (3-2 in favor of Simon) should make this match more interesting than it looks on paper. Simon is higher ranked, but Karlovic has had a solid summer overall and scored a pair of quality wins in Montreal. The Frenchman by contrast suffered an early round 2 exit, and his bland counterpunching game, may not be well suited for the wam-bam thank you ma’am tennis of Karlovic. The styles of play are totally opposite, and if the surface plays fast enough here, I see the veteran Karlovic scoring an upset.
(14)Gael Monfils vs. Jerzy Janowicz
JJ beat Monfils this year at the Australian Open (1-1 h2h), and with that in mind this matchup could also result in an upset, though I’d still say Monfils is the favorite. Janowicz is just 6-6 on hard courts this year, while Monfils exited round 2 in Montreal, and both guys are looking to find some form headed into the US Open. Janowicz is a power hitter, and Monfils is a great mover and defensive player, I favor his skills to find him a win, but it could go to three sets.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Nick Kyrgios
Gasquet and Kyrgios will meet for the 5th time in just two seasons as they have a knack for finding each other in draws. Richard won both their meetings this year and overall leads the h2h 3-1, that said Kyrgios, who drew fire for his insults aimed at Stan Wawrinka in the Rogers Cup, is actually playing good tennis right now on hard courts and continues to be a dangerous non-seeded lurker in ATP draws. Kyrgios has a lot of baggage surrounding him, and people are having to take sides either for or against him, but that shouldn’t distract from his actual abilities as a tennis player as the young Aussie reached the third round in Montreal. He may be distracted, but Gasquet pulled out of the Rogers Cup before his first round match, so his health has to be somewhat in doubt. A healthy Gasquet likely has an edge, but I’m picking Kyrgios because Gasquet is in question.
(9)Milos Raonic vs. Feliciano Lopez
Raonic has a 3-2 edge over Lopez as both players are big servers who are comfortable coming to net to finish points. Milos, who has lost two straight matches and was bounced round 1 at his home tournament in Canada, isn’t in great form at the moment and is playing well below what his ranking would suggest. Lopez likewise has struggled this year and has lost two straight matches, as the veteran has been dogged by inconsistent and sloppy play, especially in clutch moments. I doubt this match will feature either player at their best, Lopez will have an upset chance, but I see Raonic surviving and reaching round 2.
Djokovic, a four time finalist who has never won in Cincy, will try once more as the top seed and world #1 to get a trophy he has long sought. He lost in the Montreal final, and though he had some shaky matches in Montreal, and possible elbow problems, he’s still in good form and the best player in the world. First up for Novak is likely to be Gilles Muller (who faces qualifier Benoit Paire, who is in good form, round 1), Djokovic is 2-0 against Muller this year without dropping a set and thus he should win that over the big server. The Tsonga/Verdasco winner could be a danger in his second match though, presuming they win over David Goffin/qualifier Rendy Lu. The Belgian ballstriker is just above .500 on hard courts this year but won two matches in Montreal. Tsonga leads the h2h over Goffin 3-2 and they split meetings this year, given the surface, Tsonga should earn a win and reach round 3.
Tsonga actually won his last meeting over Novak (Toronto 2014), though Novak overall has a h2h edge. The winner will likely come down to Novak’s physical condition, especially with his elbow, Tsonga will have a chance, though I have Djokovic reaching the quarterfinals.
Stan Wawrinka did not perform well in Montreal and he’s just 10-8 in his career in Cincy, with that in mind, expectations have to be low for a player who retired in the third set of his heated match against Nick Kyrgios. I see Wawrinka being bounced out in round 2 at the hands of Borna Coric, presuming the young gun Croatian beats fellow young gun qualifier Alexander Zverev in round 1. Coric is 9-9 on outdoor hard (lost to Wawrinka early in the year) and upset Andy Murray this year on the surface in Dubai, he comes off a close loss to Tsonga in Montreal, and Wawrinka is vulnerable to his abilities, thus look for Coric to get another top 10 win in his young career. The Simon/Karlovic winner will have the inside track to face Coric/Wawrinka round 3 as neither Dominic Thiem nor Martin Klizan (a loser of three straight), are in good form. Thiem should hopefully be rested and adjusted from clay now, but I see him falling to Karlovic in round 2.
I see Karlovic beating either Coric/Zverev or Wawrinka, as he’s in good form, the surface favors him, and he should be able to eke out a win and reach the quarterfinals, in what would be a nice dark horse run for the well traveled veteran. Karlovic beat Coric on clay this year.
Kei Nishikori pulled out due to injury and was replaced by Alexandr Dolgopolov, who is likely to face Bernard Tomic in his first match. Tomic upset Marin Cilic in Montreal, reaching the third round, and also won a title this Summer in Bogota, his form is well-known to be inconsistent, but I see the junkballing Aussie beating Sergiy Stakhovsky and then beating the streaky Dolgopolov in a shotmakers special. Tomic vs. Monfils/Janowicz is the likely third round match, Monfils should be able to avoid the upset against Jared Donaldson/qualifier Nicolas Mahut as long as he beats Janowicz, though this tournament will be a good opportunity for the teenage American Donaldson to play against the ATP’s best.
Monfils and Tomic have played just one time at the ATP level (Stockholm 2011), and thus it’s hard to predict a winner, that said if Tomic is in form I see him reaching the quarterfinals as another under the radar threat.
Tomas Berdych, who suffered a shock loss to Donald Young in Montreal, will look to recover and build upon his 19-6 hard court record this season. Presuming nothing is physically wrong with Berdych he should have a decided edge over Jiri Vesely/Thomaz Bellucci in his first match. Vesely has a better outdoor hard court record than Bellucci this year, but Bellucci got some match play in in Montreal, thus I have him beating the Czech before falling to Berdych. John Isner is the likely third round opponent for Berdych in a weak section. Isner has been in fantastic form this summer (Atlanta title, Washington final, Montreal quarterfinals), and he’ll face his countryman Sam Querrey in round 1. Isner is just 1-3 against Querrey and lost to him this year in Memphis, but his form is better, and thus I see him getting his second win in the matchup of long time American top 100 players. Isner should also have the edge over Tommy Robredo, presuming Robredo beats Pablo Andujar round 1 in a clash of Spaniards, these days Isner is the better hard court player.
Berdych is 6-2 against Isner in the h2h, but Isner’s two wins have come on North American hard courts, presuming bg John isn’t overly fatigued I see him scoring the upset over what may be a shaky Berdych to reach the quarterfinals. Isner is a former finalist in Cincy and seems to play hard and enjoy this tournament.
The two-time Cincy and current Rogers Cup champion Andy Murray will look to continue his excellent run of form in Southern Ohio. Murray has a chance to secure world #2 with a good result here and his first match against Mardy Fish/Viktor Troicki isn’t likely to trip him up. Fish will be saying goodbye to Cincy, and though he is 0-2 in his singles matches this year, he could get out of round 1 given Troicki has four straight pedestrian losses. Regardless Murray should cruise over either opponent, and an inspired Fish could rise over Troicki. Grigor Dimitrov is the favorite to face Murray round 3, Dimitrov opens with Lukas Rosol, and though the Bulgarian is struggling right now, he should be good enough to win that one. Dimitrov is 2-2 this summer, while Rosol upset Kevin Anderson in Montreal before losing to Ernests Gulbis round 2. Dimitrov/Rosol will face a qualifier round 2, and a qualifier could also reach round 3. The qualifiers are Denis Kudla and Vasek Pospisil, and they will face off round 1 as Denis looks to continue his good form.
Look for Murray to beat Dimitrov as he’s better than the Bulgarian with a similar style of play, his form is also superior, in fact I don’t even expect it to be a close match like their 2015 AO meeting.
Marin Cilic should be on a path to face Murray in the quarters. The Washington semifinalist got some rest after an early Montreal exit and he’s the favorite against Philipp Kohlschreiber/Joao Sousa round 2. Both players are coming off of European clay and neither have good outdoor hard court records this seasn, though Kohli’s form may be slightly better. Cilic should then face Kyrgios/Gasquet round 3. Kyrgios/Gasquet should face a qualifier round 2, as Fabio Fognini still has yet to win hard court match this season and opens with a qualifier.
Given Kyrgios streaky form, I think Cilic will find a way to win and reach the quarterfinals, an injured Gasquet weakens this section.
Six time and defending Cincy champ Roger Federer will open with Roberto Bautista Agut or Pablo Cuevas. The Swiss maestro has played a somewhat limited schedule this year but he’s 16-2 on hard courts and has two titles, well-rested and focused, he should do well here as he competes to try and maintain the #2 ranking. RBA is in poor form but should have enough game to beat the dirtballer Cuevas, from there Federer should roll through to round 3, where he could meet Jack Sock. Sock was a quarterfinalist in Washington and won two matches in Montreal, thus his form is good. In round 1 he will face Bjorn Fratangelo who has two challenger semis and a challenger final on his resume this summer on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Fratangelo is a rising talent, but Sock should be a cut above as he’s an ATP caliber player right now. I look for Sock to get past Leo Mayer/Kevin Anderson as well since Anderson is in poor form (two consecutive early exits this summer) and Sock beat him in Houston this year, also Mayer is not a great hard court player. Federer beat Sock this year in Indian Wells, and he has a better forehand than even Jack does, giving him an edge.
Rafael Nadal, the 2013 champion in Cincy, will open with Rajeev Ram/Jeremy Chardy round 1, as he continues his efforts to build his ranking back up to top 5 status. Chardy caught fire this week in Montreal, scoring a random deep run to the semifinals, while Ram is struggling since his Newport title. Chardy is likely fatigued, thus I don’t see him as a threat to Nadal, but he should get out of round 1. Rafa improved to 10-5 on hard courts this year with a run to the quarters in Montreal where he played poorly in a loss to Nishikori.
Look for Nadal to beat Lopez/Raonic in round 3, likely Raonic. Adrian Mannarino should be Raonic’s round 2 opponent, presuming he beats a struggling Andreas Seppi. Mannarino has had some good play this season, but Raonic’s big serving should prove to be too much. Nadal is 5-1 against Raonic and his only loss was a close three setter in Indian Wells this year. Raonic’s form is worse than it was then, and thus Rafa should move to 6-1 with his strong defensive play.
Dark Horses: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock
If Tsonga can get to the third round, he’ll have a chance to upset Djokovic and go as far as the final, he has the talents, it’s just putting it all together for a week long run. Tomic should take advantage of Nishikori’s injury and reach the quarterfinals, presuming he can find consistency and focus at a big tournament, he could even get as far as the semis.
Kyrgios will have to get past Gasquet and likely Cilic, but if he does he’ll be in the quarterfinals with a punchers chance against Andy Murray. The media will be watching, as will the fans given his recent behavior.
Sock continues to rise and on home soil he may well get another shot at Federer in round 3. I don’t see him winning that, but even putting up a good effort would be a good sign for his upcoming US Open campaign.
Djokovic d. Karlovic
Isner d. Tomic
Murray d. Cilic
Federer d. Nadal
Djokovic has always struggled with Karlovic (1-3 h2h including a loss this year), and I could well see Dr. Ivo pulling off another win over the world #1 if the conditions are right and Novak’s elbow gives him problems. That said I don’t have the boldness to pick that result.
Isner has a lone h2h win over Tomic and should continue his good run of form on the US Open Series, Murray has a 10-2 h2h over Cilic and is simply outplaying everyone except Djokovic and possibly Federer on tour right now.
Nadal has a good h2h record and matchup advantage vs Fed but his hard court form still isn’t great at the moment and given this is Cincy I see his run ending at the hands of the Swiss.
Isner d. Djokovic
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic is 7-2 (2-0 this year) against Isner, but one of those losses came in Cincy (2013) and something tells me Isner is going to rise up and grab a win this time if they meet, due to his good form and motivation at home, while Novak may well want a break before the Open. This tournament is a great chance for the American #1 to reach another Masters final.
Federer outplayed Murray at Wimbledon with masterful tennis, and Murray may be somewhat worn out at this point, it could be a great match, but like the above matchup, something tells me Federer finds a way to win in Cincy.
Federer d. Isner
Federer is the better player and has dominated the history of this tournament in his career, I see him taking the title as long as he gets past Murray, whether he faces Djokovic, Isner, or some other opponent in the final.