Defending Champion Djokovic Has Work Cut Out For Him In Cincinnati Draw
Novak Djokovic has his work cut out if he wants to defend his title at the Western & Southern Open. The top seed faces a challenging draw in Cincinnati that will test him from the start.
The World No. 1, who completed his Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati last year, starts his week against American Sam Querrey or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Looming in the third round is No. 13 seed and 2013 runner-up John Isner. The big-serving American defeated Djokovic in the quarter-finals that year.
Should Djokovic come through those early encounters, he could face eighth-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov or Australian Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals. Khachanov is currently in the semi-finals at the Coupe Rogers, while Kyrgios prevailed last week at the Citi Open (d. Medvedev).
Second seed and 2013 champion Rafael Nadal kicks off his Cincinnati campaign against Chilean Cristian Garin or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Sixth-seeded Japanese star Kei Nishikori awaits as a potential quarter-final opponent. Although Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 11-2, both of Nishikori’s victories against the Spaniard came on hard courts.
Third seed Roger Federer is the most decorated champion in Cincinnati history, with seven titles to his name. The Swiss begins his quest for another crown at the year's seventh ATP Masters 1000 tournament against Italian Matteo Berrettini or Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero. Federer could meet No. 15 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, a qualifier, former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka or 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov in the third round, with a possible quarter-final clash against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also lurking.
Fourth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem is no stranger to hard-court success, having won his maiden Masters 1000 crown this year at the BNP Paribas Open. He could start his week with a high-profile match against two-time champion Andy Murray, who makes his return to singles action for the first time since the Australian Open. The Brit must first get past Richard Gasquet, who he leads 8-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and defeated in the 2015 Cincinnati quarter-finals.
Thiem could face No. 13 seed and 2017 champion Marin Cilic of Croatia in the third round and seventh seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals. The German must get through his own challenging section of the draw that includes No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Notable first-round matches include outside of Murray-Gasquet and Wawrinka-Dimitrov include Gael Monfils against Frances Tiafoe, No. 10 seed Fabio Fognini playing #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov and No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut facing 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Hubert Hurkacz.
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