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
Djokovic d. Dimitrov
Murray d. Gulbis
Djokovic d. Murray