While Qualifiers Battle, It’s Rafael Nadal Madness at Cincy Tennis Opening Day
Steve Fogleman in Cincinnati
The fans were parked at the gate for an hour or more before the 9:00 a.m. opening of the 2022 Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio yesterday. When they arrived, they were treated to an epic practice session between Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini on Stadium Court 3 for over two hours. The practice was so intense and the fans so tantalized by every shot, it dawned on me that Rafael Nadal never practices, but rather competes. No ball is ever safe from being pummeled back over the net by the King, and Berrettini held up well to Nadal’s challenge. I worry for Frances Tiafoe, who Berrettini faces in the first round after watching the Italian grind it out with Nadal.
I’m not terribly worried for Nadal, even though security was also in warm-up mode after the player’s practice. Everyone knew that there would be a scrum for the Spaniard after the hit and staff had two hours to get a plan together. Instead, someone tried to place a rope through the crowd after it had already assembled and there was a delay in procuring a second rope to create space for the player. As a result, Nadal was stuck in a standstill traffic jam immediately before the above video was captured. It’s a good thing the man loves his fans, because there were a lot of them in close range today. That brings me to an important detail I should share: Cincinnati fans and Marshalls are exceptionally friendly, so Nadal was never ever in danger. Many fans responded to our twitter account that security had badly failed Nadal yesterday. I don’t believe he felt that way about the interaction. In fact, I posit to you that he enjoyed every minute of that brief fan fest. It’s also worth noting that qualifying weekend is always a chance to work out the wrinkles in every tournament. Look at the photo below. That’s definitely not Mertens nor is it Rybakina out there. It’s Shapolov, and no one complained to the sign board operators. The whole weekend is PRACTICE, unless of course your name is Rafael Nadal.
The fans weren’t the only ones going bananas yesterday in Ohio. American Bradley Klahn buried his face in a towel for several minutes and seemed to bawl after his three set win over Alexei Popyrin , 7-5, 7-6(3). Klahn has been beset by injuries in recent years and was so excited after the win he started handing out his banana allotment, which was quickly accepted by a young fan. I have photographed so many autographs in my life that I was hoping he’d sign the bananas. Luckily, he did not.
Marie Bouzkova was the first winner of the tournament as she breezed past Aleks Krunic yesterday, 6-1, 6-2, and will face Donna Vekic later today. Other WTA qualifying finals set for today are Garcia/Petkovic, Potapova/Kalinskaya, Tomljanovic/Parrizas Diaz, Kalinina/Martic, Kostyuk/Frech and the All-American match up between Taylor Townsend and local talent Peyton Stearns (#364).
Qualifying men’s finals today include Musetti/Lajovic, Laaksonen/Monteiro, Ivashka/Kokkinakis, Tseng/Goffin, Sonego/Klahn, Munar/Johnson and Giron/Fognini.
Former NCAA Doubles Champion Francesca DiLorenzo now has another record, and it’s a unique place in US Open history. She’s the only player who’s ever had a kiss planted on them by a fan. At least the only one I ever witnessed. I did the math and I’ve been to 16 US Opens since 2001, and I have never seen or heard of a random fan stealing a kiss from a competitor. If you’ve been here, you know that security is pretty tight. If you don’t believe me, try getting to the lower level of Arthur Ashe with an upper level ticket. But that’s exactly what happened to DiLorenzo after her first round win on Tuesday in New York. A much older guy asked for a photo and gave her a peck on the cheek before DiLorenzo knew what was happening.
“That was very weird for me,” she told me today after a second round match. “I took a picture with the guy and then he then he literally came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I mean, maybe if it was somebody younger, like more my type. Maybe he’s Italian, but I don’t know. Pretty strange. Definitely one of those strange encounters. He was a little bit older. I didn’t know what to do. I was very shocked. I just took the picture and left. Yeah, too bad he wasn’t younger or anything.”
The bandit is still at large. If you have any information on this man, please contact his grown children.
Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka Among Players Without First Round Bye
CINCINNATI (August 6, 2018) — The Western & Southern Open has announced the seeds for its 2018 tournament, which will take place August 11-19 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
The seeds, which are based on today’s rankings from the respective tennis tours, are headlined by the No. 1 ranked players on both the ATP World Tour – Rafael Nadal – and the WTA – Simona Halep. Sixteen players from each 56-player field are seeded, with the top eight seeds receiving first round byes.
Andy Murray (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Andy Murray (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Andy Murray (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Andy Murray (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Based on their current ranking, a number of veteran players who have frequently enjoyed a bye will not have that benefit this year and will have to play a first round match. For the women’s players, the opening round takes place Monday and Tuesday, while the men’s first round is played over three days, from Sunday until Tuesday.
Those players who will not have a bye include, to name a few, two-time W&S Open champion Serena Williams, 2011 champion Maria Sharapova, 2013 winner Victoria Azarenka, 2016 champion Karolina Pliskova and seven-time Major champion Venus Williams from the WTA.
Five-time W&S Open finalist and reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, two-time Cincinnati winner Andy Murray, three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka, 2017 W&S Open finalist Nick Kyrgios and the top-ranked American, John Isner, are among the ATP stars who will be in action early in the week.
Below are the 16 seeds for each draw (italics indicates a player with a first-round bye):
Simona Halep, 2017 (Photo: Tennis Atlantic)
WTA Seed/Rank Player (Country) 1/1 Simona Halep (Romania) 2/2 Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) 3/3 Sloane Stephens (USA) 4/4 Angelique Kerber (Germany) 5/5 Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) 6/6 Caroline Garcia (France) 7/7 Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain) 8/8 Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
9/9 Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
10/10 Julia Goerges (Germany)
11/11 Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
12/12 Daria Kasatkina (Russia)
13/13 Madison Keys (USA)
14/14 Venus Williams (USA)
15/15 Elise Mertens (Belgium)
16/16 Ashleigh Barty (Australia)
Djokovic (Photo: Courtney Massey)
ATP World Tour Seed/Rank Player (Country) 1/1 Rafael Nadal (Spain) 2/2 Roger Federer (Switzerland) 3/3 Alexander Zverev (Germany) 4/4 Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) 5/5 Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) 6/6 Kevin Anderson (South Africa) 7/7 Marin Cilic (Croatia) 8/8 Dominic Thiem (Austria)
9/9 John Isner (USA)
10/10 Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
11/11 David Goffin (Belgium)
12/12 Diego Schwartzman (Argentina)
13/13 Pablo Carreño Busta (Spain)
14/14 Fabio Fognini (Italy)
15/15 Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain)
16/16 Kyle Edmund (Great Britain)
These seeds are subject to change should there be any changes in the entry list this week.
Twelve women and seven men will complete the fields through the two-round qualifying tournament which will take place Aug. 11-12.
Tickets for all sessions, including the early round matches on Monday and Tuesday are on sale now. The available inventory also includes brand new premium seating areas in the just-built South Building. More information on tickets can be found at shop.cincytennis.com.
Summer Recap: Best 2017 Tennis Tournament Improvement Was Rhinegeist Beer Balcony at Cincy Tennis Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Now that the hangover from the most interesting US open in years is over, it’s time to reflect on what we did this summer. While some memories are a little fuzzy, one thing is clear: there’s only one thing I love more than tennis and that’s craft beer. Craft beer’s introduction to the sports market has been slow and steady for the most part. Major League Baseball found success in serving local craft beer to baseball fans who then became fans of the suds. Most of the other major sports have followed suit in offering local creations to their fan base, but tennis has been too slow to the craft beer game. I was happy when Holy City Brewing of Charleston brewed a beer for the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, but I’d never seen a full-blown craft beer zone at a tournament until I stumbled into the Rhinegeist Brew Balcony. Alright, I didn’t stumble in.
Marissa Beck is Director of Strategic Partnerships for Rhinegeist Brewing, which means she ensures that Cincy’s biggest craft brewer gets its products in the hands of sport fans and event attendees. “It’s one of those things,” she said. “We really wanted to give tennis fans a place where they can go and try a lot of our really good local beers.” The Truth IPA is their flagship brand, but they had 6 other choices waiting for you. At a tennis tournament!
To drink a Peach Gose at a Masters 1000 was heaven on earth. Among the other fantastic choices, Bubbles Rosé Ale with peaches and cranberries was perfect for the heat and humidity of Cincinnati and the Randy Radler beer mixed with grapefruit juice did the trick as well.
Rhinegeist Brew Balcony
If you wanted to hit some balls at the tournament, you could’ve tried the tennis-themed ping-pong tables. Ping-pong is huge at the mother ship brewery.
“The tournament is known for its food, so we want to make sure we can live up to our Cincinnati standards,” Beck said. “We’re from Cincinnati. This is where our brewery is. And there are so many people who come from out of town, so let’s give them a taste of real Cincy beer.”
Nadal Practices Below the Beer Balcony
The brewery, located downtown in Over-The-Rhine, is a massive facility with a rooftop deck and an impressive view. I visited the brewery on a Saturday night and I can tell you that the view from the Rhinegeist Brew Balcony was even better. It overlooked Practice Court 6 at the Western & Southern Open, better known as the practice “show court”. Rafael Nadal held hits there as well as Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev. While hundreds stood by court side or climbed to the top of the grandstand bleachers to catch a glimpse of the action, Rhinegeist visitors got the best view of all without having to leave their table or their brew.
“We’ve got a lot of people who are stopping in here and then going downtown to check out the brewery,” Beck said. “We’re trying to get our delicious suds out any way we can.” Well played, Rheingeist. Well played.
Be The Champ When You Get Home: Give Them a Rookwood Cup From Cincy Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
When it rains at a tennis tournament, you have two choices: shop or eat. I was able do a lot of both during the rainy opening days of this year’s Western & Southern Open outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. I ate well and shopped well–and look what I found.
Guess what you’re getting from my Cincinnati trip, honey? What you’ve always wanted! A small replica of the Rookwood Cup, the official trophy of the Western & Southern Open.
For the first time ever, Rookwood Pottery is offering a limited number of trophy clones for sale to the general public. Stop by the Rookwood booth during the tournament and check them out. Sculptors scaled down the original trophy and made master cast plaster molds to produce 2000 kiln-fired, hand-casted replicas.
Although the real Rookwood Cup, in all of its glory, is bigger than the numbered replicas, you’ll be happy to know that even the champions of this event go home with smaller versions of the cup. That’s because the real cup permanently rests atop a walnut base with every champion’s name engraved on the sterling silver panels around it. The big cup in the above photo is one of the three real trophies.
The replicas are the brainchild of Rookwood Pottery CEO Micah Carroll, brought on board the company just a year ago.
“When they brought me in here, I knew we needed to revitalize the brand and the Western & Southern Open is one of our biggest partnerships for our products on the national stage, with the trophy. We came up with the idea of something commemorative, and since it’s so unique to all the other trophies, producing the replicas was common sense to us”.
The 16-ounce trophy is a ‘muted’ version of the painted cup, Carroll explained, so it would be affordable to consumers. “If we were to paint it, the cost of each one would be around $250”, he said.
Clijsters With Cup
Kim Clijsters reportedly fell in love with the Rookwood Cup the minute she hoisted it as a 2010 singles champion. To be sure, it’s a different-looking trophy, vintage Arts and Crafts, with acanthus leaves symbolizing early Olympians and athletic acheivement. While names like Tiffany and Waterford supplied the Cincinnati trophies for many years until 2010, hometown Rookwood was the original supplier of hardware for the first installment of this sporting event.
Rookwood Cup Replicas
In 1899, the winning women’s doubles team received Rookwood vases and the men’s singles winner got a tankard and ale mugs supplied by the now 136-year-old Cincinnati company. In fact, the company was the first female-owned manufacturing company in the US. Remember, the Western & Southern Open is the oldest tennis tournament in the States still played in its original city. That’s a lot of history in a little vessel.
At $68, it seems a little pricey for a tournament souvenir at first glance, but when you consider that tournament-logo golf shirts go for $50 and up, this little cup is a unique piece of history and a keepsake that you shouldn’t miss. When you learn about the work that went into creating it, it seems like a better gift than anything else you can find at a professional sporting event. It’s easily the most interesting souvenir I’ll bring home from a tournament in a long time. Though this might sound like a paid review, I can assure you it is not. This little trophy will be the champion of our tchotchke case.
Koahsiung, Izmir, Campinas, Columbus, Sibiu, Trnava Challengers: Dirty Denys Molchanov Strikes Again Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
World #40 Jiri Vesely took a wildcard into the event, instantly making him the big favorite to win the title. He started off a bit shaky, dropping the first set against Nicolas Barrientos in the second round, but had no problems against Hiroki Moriya in the quarterfinal, 6-1 6-4. However, in the semi-final things came to an end for him. Fourth seed Yuki Bhambri won a tight opening set, 7-6(2), after which Vesely seemed to throw in the towel and pretty much gifted the match away, 6-0.
In the bottom half third seed Lukas Rosol got upset in the first round, losing 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4 to Ti Chen. The other seeds didn’t slip up, with second seed Hyeon Chung beating eighth seed Jurgen Zopp 6-2 6-4 and fifth seed Tatsuma Ito beating Tsung-Hua Yang in the quarterfinals. Chung easily advanced to the final, with Ito retiring at 6-0 2-0 citing fatigue. Chung has had a remarkable year at Challenger level and it continued here, with the 19-year-old taking down his fourth title of the year after a 7-5 6-4 victory over Bhambri. Chung rose fifteen spots to a career high ranking of #58, while Bhambri moved very close to the top 100, rising twenty-one spots to #104, also a career high.
Top seed and home player Marsel Ilhan surely had his sights on performing well here, but he couldn’t live up to the expectations. He made it to the quarterfinals, but there seventh seed Mirza Basic was too strong, 6-4 6-7(3) 6-3. Marius Copil took advantage of third seed Andrey Kuznetsov withdrawing prior to the tournament, taking over his section and reaching the semi-final. After two very tight three-set matches he crushed eighth seed Farrukh Dustov in the quarterfinal, 6-2 6-0. He continued his good run by getting rud of Basic as well for a place in the final, 6-3 6-4.
In the bottom half the two top seeds lived up to the expectations. Fourth seed Lukas Lacko didn’t drop a set on his way to the semi-final, while second seed Malek Jaziri only dropped a set in his opening round. There Lacko managed to oust Jaziri in a thrilling encounter, 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3. In the final Lacko struggled with Copil in the second set, but managed to come out on top to claim his first Challenger title of the season and his ninth overall, 6-3 7-6(5). The victory takes him to the very edge of the top 100, rising eleven spots to #101. Copil rose sixteen spots to #160.
In the doubles final a very scandalous thing happened, with Denys Molchanov and Malek Jaziri retiring for no apparent reason while 8-9 down in the deciding supertiebreak. The only explanation for this is betting related, with them having made a bet on themselves to win, which would get voided in case of a retirement. Seeing Molchanov do something like this after pulling off one of the most blatant fixes of all time earlier in the year is a tragic sight. He shouldn’t have been able to play another professional match after that, but it went unpunished. And so will this, I’m afraid. Jaziri isn’t a first time offender either.
Top seed and world #80 Diego Schwartzman was the clear favorite to take home the title, but he knew some struggles. In the second round he dropped a set against Guido Andreozzi and in the semi-final against sixth seed Facundo Bagnis he needed a very long second set tiebreak to secure the victory, 6-3 7-6(11). In the bottom half second seed Guido Pella lost 6-2 7-5 to fifth seed Facundo Arguello in the quarterfinal. Arguello went on to reach the final, beating fourth seed Andre Ghem 7-6(5) 6-3 in the semi-final. There Arguello continued his streak of upsets, beating Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 to claim his second Challenger title of the year. He rose twenty-six spots to #120, while Schwartzman moved up a modest three spots to #77.
A very rare event took place here. Normally it’s mandatory for Challengers to have ball kids, but since the tournament was thrown together at the last minute, the first couple of rounds had none. It was quite strange to see the players pick up their own balls and it made you realize how ball kids speed up the pace of the game. It didn’t throw off top seed Tim Smyczek nor fourth seed Ryan Harrison, as they both lived up to their seeding and faced each other in the semi-final. There Harrison was too strong, although it required a titanic struggle in the first two sets, 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-1.
In the bottom half second seed John-Patrick Smith was upset by Chase Buchanan in the second round, 6-4 7-6(2). Buchanan wasn’t able to advance further, however, losing 6-4 6-4 to eighth seed Dennis Novikov in the next round. Novikov faced Alex Kuznetsov in the semi-final, who beat third seed Bjorn Fratangelo a round earlier, and beat him 6-3 3-6 6-3 for a place in the final. This left us with a copy of the Cary final of last week, where Novikov beat Harrison 6-4 7-5 to win his first Challenger title. In Columbus he won his second, a remarkable achievement. It was closer this time around, but Novikov edged it out in three sets, 6-4 3-6 6-3. The win saw him move up nineteen ranking spots to #144, while Harrison moved within inches of the top 100, rising fourteen spots to #102.
This tournament was all about Adrian Ungur from beginning until the end, with the Romanian fully delivering in front of his home crowd. He first took out seventh seed Tristan Lamasine in the second round, 6-4 6-4, after which he pulled off a great win against top seed Dusan Lajovic, 6-4 2-6 6-3. In the semi-final he faced the surprise of the tournament, fellow Romanian Petru-Alexandru Luncanu, a qualifier, whom he showed no mercy during a 6-1 6-1 beatdown. It was a horrendous tournament for the seeds, with only Lajovic reaching the quarterfinal.
In the bottom half Pere Riba took out fourth seed Germain Gigounon in the second round, 6-0 6-7(0) 6-4, after which he handed out another bagel in the quarterfinal against Victor Crivoi, 6-4 6-0. In the semi-final Riba beat Miljan Zekic 6-3 7-5 for a place in the final. There Ungur continued his dominance, however, beating Riba 6-4 3-6 7-5 to claim his ninth Challenger title. He rose fifty-five ranking spots to #171, while Riba rose twenty-three spots to #236.
Adrian Ungur, campionul Sibiu Open 2015 – prezentat de Raiffeisen Bank. Rezumatul unei finale incredibile. http://t.co/pKA7CQxklY
Top seed Robin Haase was on a mission after crashing out early against world #407 Artem Smirnov in the second round of Szczecin last week, desperately wanting to show that his decision to skip the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland was the right one. It looked to head towards another disaster in the first round, but he survived another qualifier, Riccardo Bellotti, 2-6 6-2 7-6(5). In the quarterfinal against Gerald Melzer he dropped another set, but held on again, 4-6 6-3 6-3. Fourth seed Albert Montanes surely would be another tough hurdle in the semi-final, you would say. But no, Haase easily beat him 6-2 6-2 for a place in the final.
Second seed Marco Cecchinato had withdrawn, leaving a gap to be filled. Sixth seed Horacio Zeballos was the one to do so, beating Stephane Robert 6-1 6-2 for a place in the semi-final. Frank Skugor was no match for him either in the semi-final, getting dispatched with an almost identical 6-2 6-2 scoreline. Haase left no doubt in the final, however, beating Zeballos 6-4 6-1 for his second Challenger title of the year and his eleventh overall. A nice touch was that he received the trophy from former world #12 and renowned giant killer Dominik Hrbaty. Haase moved up ten ranking spots to #59, while Zeballos moved up twelve spots to #148.
Maria Sharapova Calls a @CincyTennis 3-Way ‘Dodgy’; I Call it ‘Dinner’
Maria Sharapova at 2014 Western & Southern
God Bless Maria Sharapova for turning me on to the 3 way. One of the Big Tennis Press here is fixated on Mason, Ohio food offerings, and every other question at Monday’s pressers was about the (lack of healthy) food choices at the tournament and its surrounding environs. Seriously, it was if Applebee’s had paid for an in-press conference mention at every single presser yesterday. Straight out of Talladega Nights.
When told about the Cincinnati specialty at an interview preceding her press conference at the Western & Southern Open in Mason yesterday, Sharapova derided the idea of a dish named “The 3-way” as “really dodgy”.
“They told us that the famous dish in Cincinnati is called a ‘3 way’. That’s a little dodgy, that’s really dodgy. So when that’s the popular dish, you know there’s not a lot of (healthy) alternatives”, she said.
Western & Southern Official Chili Cincinnati Reds
So what do I do? I immediately go to the nearest place serving 3-way by my hotel. It’s at a fast food chili joint. Not just any fast food chili joint, though, but the Official Chili of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club. The Pete Rose of Chili Bowls. Booyah.
I ask for the 3-way just like Maria taught me, totally sounding like a local. When the bill comes back for $5.54, I look like an out-of-towner with a bad poker face. $5.54? I can’t go to Maryland and eat the Crab Cakes for $5.54. I can’t go to Miami and eat the Stone Crab Claws for $5.54. Hell, I can’t even go to Atlanta and eat the hideous Brunswick Stew for $5.54. I couldn’t even get into a Cincinnati Reds game and watch Pete Rose play/manage/gamble back in 1985 for $5.54. Wuddaboggin!
Western & Southern 3 Way Unassembled
It arrives as a plate of cinnamon and chocolate-laced chili topping a mound of spaghetti. That part looked good. The rest of the contents in the bag were what alarmed me. Not one but two hefty bags of cheddar. To tops things off (literally) was a packet of Oyster crackers. I ate the whole thing in five minutes, skipping the oyster crackers.
Western & Southern 3 Way Assembled
I could have gone up to 5-way, but I couldn’t imagine what Maria would have thought of that. Definitely obscene.
Maria opens up on Center Court against Madison Keys at 3:00 p.m. today. Hopefully, my cinnamon-flavored burps will have subsided by that time. And if Sharapova wins the Cincy title, she should plunk down the $5.54 and force down a plate of that deliciousness.
2014 ATP Cincinnati (@CincyTennis) Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
We are excited to provide on-site coverage of the Western and Southern Open Masters in Cincinnati this season and editor Steve Fogleman will have your all-access pass to all the happenings in the sleepy suburb of Mason, Ohio.
To whet your appetite for that coverage, here is a preview of the men’s draw for the tournament this year.
Western & Southern Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
August 10-August 17, 2014
Prize Money: $3,079,555
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (3)
3: Stan Wawrinka (4)
4: Tomas Berdych (5)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Dvid Ferrer (7)
7: Grigor Dimitrov (8)
8: Andy Murray (9)
Nadal is again out, as is Kei Nishikori. Among top 15 players, all of the other big names are participating.
First round matchups to watch:
(16)Tommy Robredo vs. (WC)Jack Sock
A pair of seemingly in form players will meet for the first time. Robredo reached the third round in Toronto, falling to eventual semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov in a close 3 setter, while Sock was again flummoxed by Milos Raonic in the second round of Toronto. Overall, Sock played a good match, but froze up in key moments and letting the win escape him. Sock is considerably improved compared to last season, while Robredo has been in somewhat of a decline, but both players possess plenty of skill and Robredo was a semifinalist in Cincy quite some time ago before Sock had even entered high school. This is a hard match to predict but I’m going with Robredo in 3 sets and either way it should be entertaining to watch them bash the ball back and forth.
Jeremy Chardy vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Chardy has twice beaten Kohlschreiber without dropping a set, and he has a great chance to do so again here in Cincy. Kohli is in poor form having lost three straight, including an opening round exit in Toronto, and he has been in decline this season overall. Chardy fell to eventual finalist and possible champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a close round 2 match and seems to be playing reasonably well at the moment. His forehand should be good enough to get past Kohli and his precise one handed back hand for the upset.
(14)Marin Cilic vs. Feliciano Lopez
The hard court h2h is currently an even split at 2-2 between Feli and Marin, and this would be an even more enticing match if Lopez wasn’t likely fatigued from his deep run to the semifinals in Toronto. Cilic fell in a 3 set heartbreak to Roger Federer in the third round of that tournament, and both players have had streaks of red hot play this season, Lopez being the more inconsistent and lower ranked of the pair. Both bring power and a good serve to the table and Cilic has to be favored simply because of the stamina factor, though his mental state is always a question mark for matches like this after what happened against Federer. Look for Cilic to advance and likely have a good week in Cincy.
(10)Richard Gasquet vs. Julien Benneteau
Gasquet pulled out of Rogers Cup with an abdominal strain before his round of 16 match was supposed to take place, and though he didn’t play poorly in Toronto, and has improved his results recently after struggling, it has already been demonstrated this season how injuries can hamper his game and damage his results and confidence. Benneteau is not an easy out usually and he’s talented enough to pounce if his countryman is out of sorts in any manner. He has lost all three meetings with Gasquet, but he did get past both Lleyton Hewitt and Ernests Gulbis before falling in 3 sets to Raonic in the third round of Toronto. Injuries are hard to predict, and so are both Gasquet and Benneteau, but if I had to make a judgement call I’d go with the healthy Benneteau.
Dominic Thiem vs. (WC)Robby Ginepri
I’m curious to see how the now top 50 Thiem can do against the aging wild card Ginepri, who will be playing on home soil in the states for this one. Thiem lost to Gilles Simon in Toronto round 1, but he was understandably exhausted coming off of European clay. Now with some days off and the ability to focus on hard court tennis, I’d expect him to dispatch Ginepri in straights, but perhaps the speedy former US Open semifinalist has some old tricks up his sleeve and could pull off a huge upset against the young gun.
(9)Ernests Gulbis vs. Ivan Dodig
Gulbis has been in malaise since his shock run to the French Open semis, and after being smashed by Benneteau in Toronto, along with a pair of losses post-RG to players ranked outside the top 70, he has to be on upset alert against Dodig, who has beaten him twice without dropping a set (and who upset John Isner and pushed David Ferrer to 3 sets in Toronto in his first tournament back from an injury). Dodig may be fatigued after a long week in Toronto, but his big serve gives him a great chance to send a shaky Gulbis on to his next tournament with a round 1 loss.
(11)John Isner vs. Kevin Anderson
Isner and Anderson have met a bunch of times, and Isner has an advantage in the head to head with all of their meetings coming on fast surfaces, but Anderson would seem to have the advantage going into this match. Isner has two straight losses (to Dodig in Toronto and Steve Johnson in DC) and he is under the pressure of defending final points here after his strong play in Cincy last year. Anderson reached the quarterfinals in Toronto and posted a big win over Wawrinka, but he may be mentally in a bad place right now after suffering a horrific choke against Grigor Dimitrov, where he threw away multiple match point chances that would have reserved him a spot in his first career Masters semifinal. Anderson, in terms of results, is playing better than Isner at the moment and they play the same in terms of style and skillset. If this comes down to tiebreaks, form favors Anderson but the mental game likely favors Isner at the moment. I’m going with Anderson in 3 sets on my bracket.
Four time Cincy runner-up Novak Djokovic had a rough week in Toronto, barely surviving his opening match against Gael Monfils in a third set tiebreak before being picked apart by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round 3 6-2 6-2. Djokovic is seeking to win the one Masters title he hasn’t laid claim to yet again this week in Cincy and he must be motivated to both do that and erase the bad taste of his poor showing in Toronto. Djokovic should be untroubled by a struggling Gilles Simon or more likely a qualifier in round 2, and should also get past most likely Robredo/Sock in round 3, with Sam Querrey/Alejandro Falla also being options in that section.
David Ferrer reached the quarterfinals in Toronto, falling to Roger Federer in 3 sets, and though he doesn’t have a history of big results in Cincy, he still should get through Chardy/Kohlschreiber and he will also have a good chance against current finalist and potential Toronto champ Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, if Tsonga reaches the third round.
Tsonga had a great resurgence last week in Toronto but I would expect him to be fatigued for his round 1 meeting with Mikhail Youzhny, and a potential round 2 matchup with Santiago Giraldo or Andreas Seppi. Giraldo will have an outside chance at the third round, and regardless Ferrer should improve his showing from last season and get to the quarterfinals given his 3-0 h2h record against Giraldo and his 4-1 record against Tsonga.
Stan Wawrinka again struggled in a Masters series event this season, losing to Kevin Anderson in round 3 of Toronto after barely getting past his friend Benoit Paire in a third set tiebreak in his opening match. Now Stan is likely to face Ivo Karlovic, who he has a favorable h2h record against, in his opening match, assuming Dr. Ivo beats a qualifier. Wawrinka has a plan for beating Karlovic and he would be the favorite but Karlovic puts pressure on all his opponents by forcing them to hold their serve. Because of that, he’s always a threat to pull off an upset. Wawrinka should be wary of Karlovic, but even more wary of Marin Cilic in the third round. Cilic/Lopez are the favorites to meet Karlovic/Wawrinka in round 3 if Marcel Granollers/Fernando Verdasco don’t spoil the party. Cilic has beaten Wawrinka twice before, though he has lost to him this season and is well behind in the overall h2h. With Cilic in good form, I favor him to dispatch Wawrinka and reach the quarterfinals.
Toronto semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov will open with Jerzy Janowicz or a qualifier for his opening Cincy match. The Bulgarian played well in Toronto, but in his semifinal match, his movement seemed hampered and he was sluggish, so he may not be anywhere near 100% for cincy. Janowicz/qualifier could advance, but more likely, the stiff test for Dimitrov will come from Gasquet/Benneteau in round 3, assuming one of those French players defeats Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/qualifier in round 2. On paper, this a great chance for formerly rising player Janowicz to get himself back on the right track, but after his abysmal season that is an unlikely occurrence. Overall, this is a hard section to predict, though Dimitrov would be a considerable favorite if he happens to be back to 100% for Cincy.
Current Toronto finalist and possible champion Roger Federer put up another strong performance last week and now he will shift his focus to winning his sixth Cincy title. His first match should come against Vasek Pospisil, who after a few days off, and hopefully back in form, will face Radek Stepanek in round 1. Federer may be somewhat fatigued, but he played gracefully in Toronto and he should be able to get through to the quarterfinals unless Gael Monfils, who pushed Djokovic to a third set tiebreak in Toronto and looks in form and healthy, is able to interrupt proceedings. Monfils has to beat dirtballer Federico Delbonis and then Martin Klizan/Roberto Bautista Agut to reach round 3 and meet Federer.
Klizan and RBA are both struggling and thus should not be a threat to Monfils or even Federer. Monfils beat Federer last year in Shanghai, but Fed dominates the overall h2h and the quarterfinal spot favors Fed in my bracket.
Andy Murray, a quarterfinalist in Toronto who played reasonably well but then disappointingly came up short against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the stage, will regroup and set out to win his third Cincy title. Murray opens with Joao Sousa or a qualifier and should meet Isner/Anderson in round 3, unless Nicolas Mahut/qualifier pull off a shock run. I’d expect Murray to pull himself through to the quarterfinals to meet Federer or Monfils regardless of his third round opponent.
Tomas Berdych is struggling. The world number 5 was again ousted early in a tournament in Toronto, losing to eventual semifinalist Feliciano Lopez in 3 sets after surviving a surprising test against Rendy Lu in 3 sets in his opening match. Berdych is likely to face Lu again, assuming the Taiwanese #1 defeats Denis Istomin in round 1. Given his recent win, Berdych should win again, but Lu showed he will put up a fight even while being overpowered. Berdych is gifted with a favorable draw this week, as one of Fabio Fognini/Edouard Roger-Vasselin/Lleyton Hewitt/Jurgen Melzer await him in round 3 after Lu/Istomin. Both Hewitt and Melzer are struggling veterans, Fognini isn’t playing that well, and ERV hasn’t had great form either, so all four players have an open chance at making the third round and getting some highly valuable points. Should Berdych find some form, he’d be pleased to make the quarterfinals this week.
Milos Raonic, who has had a busy and high quality past two weeks as DC champ and Rogers Cup quarterfinalist, will now take his talents to Cincy, opening with the Ginepri/Thiem winner and then one of Gulbis/Dodig/Steve Johnson/qualifier in round 3. All that said, the Canadian #1 could bow out early to Thiem given he should be fatigued at this point. Feliciano Lopez was able to finally outlast him in a 3 setter in Toronto and the run of wins seemed up at that point for Milos, after formerly outlasting players like Sock and Benneteau in 3 setters.
Raonic beat Johnson in DC, but with Steve being rested and eager to prove his merits at the Masters level, perhaps that result could reverse itself and we could see Stevie J in the quarters. Dodig and rising young gun Thiem will also be eager to post a big result such as the quarterfinals.
Dark Horses: Julien Benneteau and Steve Johnson
Benny, should he beat Gasquet, could find himself in the quarterfinals given Dimitrov appears to be hobbled. At that stage, Cilic/Wawrinka are likely to prove to be too much but it would still be a big result for the aging Frenchman.
Johnson, who has broken through to become an ATP regular at the 250 level, is seeking to break through at the Masters level and further establish himself. He has a great chance this week if he can push past Raonic (and also Gulbis/Dodig) and get himself a quarterfinal result.
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Cilic d. Benneteau
Berdych d. Johnson
Federer d. Murray
Djokovic has dominated Ferrer in the h2h and I have a feeling Novak’s poor play in Toronto was an aberration rather than a trend. He should be hungry for renewed success even if the match goes three sets. Cilic is superior to Benneteau, and Berdych is superior to Johnson in similar fashion. Federer should have the edge over Murray unless he’s exhausted.
Djokovic d. Cilic
Federer d. Berdych
Djokovic has a h2h advantage over Cilic and Federer has a form and h2h edge over Berdych, so they should meet in the final, unlike Toronto.
Federer d. Djokovic
Switching my pick this time after Federer played so well in Toronto and Djokovic played so poorly. Slight changes in form such as that are just enough to switch the temporary favorite in this rivalry, and given Novak has never won Cincy he may also have a mental block with the tournament that Federer does not have. Remember, Fed annihilated Djokovic in the 2012 final, a shock result at the time.
Chris De Waard’s Picks
Djokovic d. Ferrer
Dimitrov d. Cilic
Gulbis d. Berdych
Murray d. Federer
If you’re a tennis blogger, you probably already know what I’m going to say.
No one pays attention to this blog or anything else during the Olympic Games.
In 2011, we had a rich field for ATP Washington, forever known to me as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
It was my first ATP event, and what a field it was. An epic late-nighter between Gaels Monfils and John Isner was just one of the big matches featuring marquee players.
In 2012, they all went off to the Olympic Games and no one retweeted my gunk at the player-hobbled event.
Fast Forward to 2014.
The Winter Olympics surely couldn’t steal the tennis thunder this time, right?
I mean, they don’t play any tennis in the Winter Olympics!
Doesn’t matter. I was in a nearly empty ballroom at the Cleveland Marriott yesterday for a Fed Cup draw ceremony as the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics were starting.
OMG: Press only asked ONE question to the Italian team until an almost exasperated USTA official begged and squeezed a couple more to bring the entire press conference to a whopping three minutes.
“Really? Really? You have NO MORE questions?” Time for a sympathy question.
Americans don’t exactly flock to Fed Cup to begin with. Somehow, to the US of A, a non-medal curling match gets better ratings than women’s tennis. It would seem that the average ‘Merican sports fan would rather watch paint dry than watch the US thrash Italy this weekend.
Look. I’m in a 7 degree climate here in Cleveland, and that makes it even worse.
Sochi looks like the tropics from here.
Maybe we can get an ice tennis exhibition on Lake Erie between Madison Keys and Christina McHale to steal the spotlight.
The USTA should seriously consider this kind of Winter Classic.
Because I now hate the Olympics.
—Steve Fogleman, covering Fed Cup for Tennis Panorama News
DRAW SET FOR US/ITALY FED CUP FROM CLEVELAND Steve Fogleman, cross-posted at TennisPanorama.com
CLEVELAND, February 7, 2014–The US and Italian Fed Cup Team match ups are all set in Cleveland, having been determined during an afternoon draw ceremony today at a downtown hotel two blocks from the site of the tie.
The second-highest ranked American on the team, Christina McHale, will open against top Italian Team player Karin Knapp at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, followed by Madison Keys and Camila Giorgi.
On Sunday, Keys and Knapp will meet at 12:00 p.m., followed by McHale and Giorgi.
Alison Riske and Lauren Keys were enlisted for doubles, and they will square off on Sunday against Nastassja Burnett and Alice Mateucci in the fifth rubber.
Team Italy with a detached Nastassja Burnett
At the post-draw press conference, the members of the American team expressed elation at having been chosen to participate on behalf of the US. Only one of the players—McHale—has previously represented her country in Fed Cup play and she was designated a captain for her experience.
“Whether I play or not, it’s great to be here”, said Alison Riske.
Mary Jo Fernandez spoke out in support of her designation of McHale as the leader of the team.
“It’s a different experience playing for your country. Christina has been there before. She
knows what’s coming her way.”
McHale’s past participation aside, this group is Generation Next. The Americans hope to end an 0-3 slump to the Italians, after beating the Azzuri nine times in a row between 1963-2003.
DAY/LOCAL TIME MATCH PAIRING
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. Singles A: Christina McHale (USA) vs. Karin Knapp (ITA)
Singles B: Madison Keys (USA) vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)
Sunday, 12:00 p.m. Singles C: Madison Keys (USA) vs. Karin Knapp (ITA)
Singles D: Christina McHale (USA) vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)
Doubles: Lauren Davis/Alison Riske (USA) vs. Nastassja Burnett/Alice Matteucci(ITA)