Murray's Singles Return Against Gasquet Leads Five To Watch In Cincinnati
When the Western & Southern Open draw was created on Friday in Cincinnati, there were too many blockbuster first-round matches to count. ATPTour.com takes a look at five of those, and three honourary mentions.
Andy Murray vs. Richard Gasquet
He’s back. Murray made a glorious return to tournament action in doubles at the Fever-Tree Championships alongside Feliciano Lopez. And after competing in five doubles draws, the Scot is ready to get going on the singles court, nearly seven months since undergoing hip resurfacing surgery after the Australian Open.
Murray leads Gasquet — who underwent groin surgery in January — 8-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with their six most recent matches going beyond straight sets. They have not competed against one another since 2016 Roland Garros, and Murray has won five in a row against the Frenchman. All eyes will be on the former World No. 1’s movement, and whether or not Gasquet will be able to test it during this encounter.
Fabio Fognini vs. Denis Shapovalov
If you’re looking for a shotmaking show, this match is for you. Shapovalov defeated the Italian 6-3, 7-5 in Toronto last year in their only previous meeting. And this time, you can expect plenty of winners and jaw-dropping hot shots.
Although Shapovalov triumphed 12 months ago, Fognini has been in better form, cracking the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time in June. And despite falling in the Coupe Rogers quarter-finals, he played well to take the first set from Rafael Nadal before ultimately losing in three sets against the Spaniard.
In Montreal, #NextGenATP Canadian Shapovalov snapped a five-match losing streak, and he pushed second seed Dominic Thiem to three sets in the second round. Could he defeat Fognini for his first Top 20 victory since Miami?
Gael Monfils vs. Frances Tiafoe
Few players on the ATP Tour know how to put on a better show than Monfils and Tiafoe. That should make this first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair in Cincinnati a cracker.
Monfils is in strong form, advancing to the Coupe Rogers quarter-finals (where he is playing Bautista Agut), but Tiafoe will be hungry to get back on track after struggling with injury at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. The American will look to thrill his home crowd against the Frenchman, who is a fan favourite wherever he goes.
It will be interesting to see whether Monfils or Tiafoe will choose to step up and take the first big crack at the ball during rallies, and who will be content to stay behind the baseline and counterpunch until their opportunity during the point arises.
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Stan Wawrinka
Does this sound familiar? That’s because it is. This will be Dimitrov and Wawrinka's fourth first-round matchup since 2018 Wimbledon, and their fifth match overall during that span. Wawrinka has triumphed in all four of their clashes over the past 13 months, including in Montreal.
Wawrinka has won 11 consecutive sets in this rivalry, which will surely give him a mental edge heading into the seventh Masters 1000 tournament of the year. Dimitrov has captured four of their 10 FedEx ATP Head2Head battles, but he will have to avoid facing too many break points — having faced 47 in their past four matches — if he is to reverse the recent trends against Wawrinka.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Hubert Hurkacz
Both of these players will carry plenty of momentum into Cincinnati. Bautista Agut has enjoyed the best season of his career, reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and currently occupying one of the eight qualifying spots for the Nitto ATP Finals. On the other hand, Hurkacz sprung upsets in Montreal, where he defeated reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and in-form American Taylor Fritz.
Bautista Agut always frustrates opponents by putting seemingly every ball back in play until he can inject his own pace into the rally, usually off the forehand wing. But Hurkacz, despite being 6'5", moves tremendously well for his height. And he will look to earn another big win in his second Cincinnati appearance.