2016 ATP Cincinnati Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The field at the 2016 Western and Southern Open is still somewhat up in the air due to the Olympic games finishing up, but it’s a Masters 1000 event, and the final big tune up for most ATP players before the 2016 US Open. Here is a preview, with predictions.
Western & Southern Open
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Cincinnati, OH, USA
August 14-21, 2016
Prize Money: $4,362,385
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (2)
2: Stan Wawrinka (4)
3: Rafael Nadal (5)
4: Milos Raonic (6)
5: Kei Nishikori (7)
6: Tomas Berdych (8)
7: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9)
8: Dominic Thiem (10)
I honestly don’t expect Andy Murray to play here, given he’s in the Olympic final down in Rio. Djokovic, and of course Federer are also absent here, as Novak struggled in Rio and needed a break. American Jack Sock is the only other notable player missing from the draw. We could also see Nadal and Nishikori skip because they are contesting the Bronze medal match at the Olympics.
First round matchups to watch:
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Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Kevin Anderson
Both hard court matches between this pair have been close. Dolgo has lost four straight and has had a miserable summer. Anderson has lost a pair of matches in his last two touranaments and has had a horrible season while struggling to stay healthy. Anderson is the favorite, and with both players slumping before the US Open, they badly need a win.
(9)Gael Monfils vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Monfils is 2-1 in the h2h against PCB and he’s a remarkable 12-2 since Wimbledon, all on hard courts. The Frenchman is a US Open dark horse, and he narrowly lost out at the medal round in the Olympics. PCB showed surprising form, reaching the semis in Cabo on hard courts, and could give Monfils a bit of a test in the opening round.
(14)Nick Kyrgios vs. Lucas Pouille
The Atlanta champion Kyrgios should serve his way past fellow young gun Pouille, but Pouille is steadier than Kyrgios, and has had a great season in his own right. These young talents are likely to face off for years to come, and this could be a great match.
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(WC)Reilly Opelka vs. Jeremy Chardy
Opelka reached the semis in Atlanta on US soil, and also won a round in Cabo. He’s burst onto the scene, with a game that matches fellow tall players John Isner, Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic most notably. This young American is looking to continue his momentum on the ATP level against the veteran Frenchman Chardy who has lost three straight and hasn’t been healthy recently. An upset looks to be in the cards.
Gilles Simon vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Simon won their first four matches, but Dimitrov has won two of the last three, which all took place this season. Dimitrov was bounced early in the Olympics, but he did reach the quarters in Toronto and has shown spotty form. The Bulgarian is more talented than Simon, but Simon is more consistent. It’s a match that is tough to predict, but I give Dimitrov a slight edge.
Andy Murray has won Cincy twice, and as mentioned, I could very well see him being replaced by a lucky loser. His first opponent will be either Juan Monaco, or more likely the red hot Cabo champion Ivo Karlovic. The big serving Karlovic has been playing great, and has two ATP titles this summer. Presuming he’s not too fatigued, I’m going with an upset and having him knock off Murray if he plays, simply due to the Rio hangover factor. The Anderson/Dolgo winner is struggling, which means Richard Gasquet should probably win his first two matches since Wimbledon (he opens against a qualifier) to reach the third round and setup a match with Karlovic or Murray that he has a good shot at winning. Presuming he’s fit, I have Karlovic getting past Gasquet.
Kei Nishikori reached the Bronze medal match in Rio and may withdrawal as well, he’d open with Taylor Fritz or a qualifier, and I have David Goffin emerging from his section to reach the quarters. Goffin will face Janko Tipsarevic if he plays, Tipsarevic comes off a strong challenger showing across the world in China. Joao Sousa or Bernard Tomic will follow for Goffin, both are struggling. Goffin won a pair of matches in the Olympics and should get past Sousa. I have Fritz reaching round 3, because I’m unsure what is going to happen with Nishikori.
Milos Raonic should benefit from the top half of the draw opening up because of the Olympics. The Canadian #1 skipped Rio, and should be able to get past John Isner or Fabio Fognini, and then Roberto Bautista Agut or Alex Zverev to reach the quarters. Raonic lost in the quarters in Toronto, and he’d like to do better than that this tournament. Isner reached the final in Atlanta, but Raonic plays the same game at a higher level. RBA has been consistently solid, and he reached the quarters in Rio, I have Zverev advancing because he should be fresher though. The German faces a qualifier while RBA faces serve and volley expert Nicolas Mahut.
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Monfils should dominate his section and reach the quarters, presuming he’s healthy. That would setup a Toronto rematch with Raonic most likely. After round 1, the Frenchman would face either Marcos Baghdatis or Vasek Pospisil, with Dominic Thiem likely to follow in round 3, as long as Thiem beats a qualifier. The Austrian hasn’t been healthy recently as his body has been breaking down after a grueling schedule. Monfils thus has the edge. He dispatched Pospisil in Rio.
If Rafael Nadal plays after a grueling run in both singles and doubles in Rio, he’d face Pablo Cuevas or Sam Querrey in his first match. Given he was still taking it easy on his wrist prior to Rio, I’m relatively confident he’ll withdrawal after the Bronze medal match, but if he plays, he should lose to Nick Kyrgios round 3, if Querrey doesn’t knock him off. Borna Coric and Benoit Paire are also in this section. The young gun Coric would love to challenge Kyrgios but I don’t see him doing that with his poor recent form, while the erratic Paire was kicked off the French Olympic team for bad behavior. Querrey also hasn’t been playing well, meaning Kyrgios is the clear favorite.
I’d be surprised if a fresh Tomas Berdych can’t do something with his open section. Berdych gets a qualifier or Marcel Granollers first up, with most likely Marin Cilic to follow in round 3, presuming Cilic beats Viktor Troicki and the winner of Fernando Verdasco/Albert Ramos. Troicki has been in miserable form, but he’s won five straight against Cilic, who has been on and off this season. Verdasco simply isn’t as good as Cilic these days, and thus I have it Berdych over Cilic for the quarterfinal spot. The h2h is 6-4 in favor of the Czech.
Stan Wawrinka reached the semis in Toronto, and despite it not being a standout year for him, he stands alone for Swiss tennis right now with Federer out, and he should dispatch Jared Donaldson/Nicolas Almagro, and Feliciano Lopez (or a qualifier), or the Dimitrov/Simon winner to reach the quarters. I have Dimitrov getting past a likely fatigued Lopez, who reached the finals in Cabo, to reach round 3. Wawrinka should power past him at that stage.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will face Opelka or Chardy, followed by most likely a struggling David Ferrer in round 3. I have Steve Johnson beating Federico Delbonis, and then upsetting Ferrer, after Ferrer beats Julien Benneteau, to reach the third round however. Ferrer has been in terrible form in recent weeks. The Olympic quarterfinalist Johnson is playing on home soil, is solid on hard courts, and faces a Ferrer and Tsonga who are struggling right now. Although he’s not the favorite, I have him reaching the quarters. He’s beaten Tsonga before.
Dark Horses: Ivo Karlovic and Steve Johnson
Karlovic is always dangerous with his serve, and he’s found form at the right time. If the veteran gets a fast court to play on, he could go as far as the semifinals. Johnson had a great run in the Olympics, and I have him breaking through to a Masters quarterfinal opposite Wawrinka.
Goffin d. Karlovic
Monfils d. Raonic
Kyrgios d. Berdych
Wawrinka d. Johnson
Goffin and Karlovic have never played, however Goffin has had a solid season and his consistency in the Masters tournaments should be rewarded with another semifinal. Monfils beat Raonic in Toronto, Kyrgios is in better form than Berdych, and Wawrinka should be the strongest player in his half. After losing to Berdych at the AO early this year, Kyrgios has dominated him twice on hard courts.
Monfils d. Goffin
Wawrinka d. Kyrgios
Monfils is a clear favorite vs. Goffin given the h2h, Wawrinka and Kyrgios have split meetings in their careers, however I give Wawrinka the consistency edge.
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Monfils d. Wawrinka
These veterans haven’t met since 2011, and much has changed since then. Monfils is playing some of the best tennis of his career, and despite having never won a title of this stature, he’s playing like he can win one in recent weeks.