Whew. Have you recovered from the Olympics? I haven’t. But the tennis world rarely stops to catch its breath. It just keeps going and going, and so to Cincinnati we go. Or at least some of the players do.
Novak Djokovic dropped out and Juan Martin del Potro never entered. And now we have to wonder how much the guys in the Rio medal round this weekend have left? And that’s Andy Murray (gold), Kei Nishikori (bronze) and Rafael Nadal.
All three will likely get Wednesday starts (rumor has it Andy and Rafa were meant to share a jet, but that’s been delayed until Monday). But boy, that’s a lot of tennis to play especially for Rafa who admitted after his loss in the bronze match Sunday that his left wrist still isn’t where it needs to be.
“The wrist is not perfect. It bothers me when I hit the forehand. The serve, the backhand – nothing else bothers me,” Nadal said Sunday.
“The truth is, when I hit the forehand, I feel it bothering me a little bit, but without a doubt it’s been a positive week in all aspects. I’ve played for many hours and the wrist at least didn’t get worse.”
It didn’t get worse? But it didn’t get better! With the US Open and best-of-5 looming, don’t you want to try to get that wrist in better shape?
So it’s hard to really project a draw when a lot could change with the player field in the next 24-48 hours. Because without Djokovic and 2-time defending champion Federer, it is Murray 1, Nishikori 2 on the favorites list.
That said, with the top guys coming off Rio and no Djokovic, this is a great opportunity for someone to steal a Masters titles. Stan Warwinka? Milos Raonic? John Isner? Oh no…Tomas Berdych? Not very exciting is it…
Andy Murray Quarter
Assuming both play, Murray and Nishikori meet in the quarters. Murray has a tough opener against Ivo Karlovic. That’s a more than losable match. And Murray could very well lose it! Then maybe Kevin Anderson in the third. Nishikori should get by Taylor Fritz, then David Goffin in a tough one. I kind of think Goffin comes out, loses to Murray. Of the Rio Trio, Murray should be in the best of shape having played the least of anyone this summer, seems healthy and he’s 2-time champion.
The pick: Andy Murray
Milos Raonic Quarter
Wow, Fabio Fognini-John Isner to face Milos Raonic in the second round! I like the former finalist Isner against the Italian and then I think the Raonic-Isner match is essentially for a spot in the final! Winner beats Alex Zverev then Gael Monfils to make the semifinals. Right now on the quick courts I’m leaning to Raonic who has a better overall game than Isner though has never beaten the American. That changes Wednesday.
The pick: Milos Raonic
Rafael Nadal Quarter
If 2013 champion Nadal plays – a big iff!, he’s in trouble right from the get-go against Sam Querrey. And on the slick courts and in the heat (after Rio), I think the American takes him out. Querrey carries that momentum to the quarters where he slips up to Tomas Berdych. The Czech, who passed on the Olympics, will have new coach Goran Ivanisevic by his side when he takes on Goran’s old charge Marin Cilic. Nick Kyrgios is also in the section, but who knows with the Australian these days. Berdych you do know, he won’t beat anyone good and rarely does he lose to anyone bad.
The pick: Tomas Berdych
Stan Wawrinka Quarter
What a nice draw for both Stan Wawrinka and JW Tsonga. Both guys should do well. Wawrinka has maybe a Grigor Dimitrov, Feliciano Lopez or Gilles Simon to deal with. Tsonga could run into the giant Riley Opelka, Steve Johnson or David Ferrer, but if the Frenchman is firing he should get through. And also on the fast courts get through Wawrinka as well. Tsonga played pretty poorly in Rio barely beating Malek Jaziri then crashing out to Gilles Muller, and he’s never done well in Cincinnati. But his draw is too good to pass up.
The Pick: JW Tsonga
Raonic d Murray: I think Murray is too tired from Rio, and shuts it down to conserve energy for New York. However, if Murray coasts into that match, all bets are off!
Berdych d Tsonga: Hopefully Tsonga can get hot, but we haven’t seen much of that lately, and Goran inspired Berdych to the final.
Raonic d Berdych: In the most boring Masters final in history, Milos wins his first.
The good news is I’ll surely be wrong on the final. The bad news is I just don’t see how the Rio Trio (Murray, Nadal, Nishikori) all do well in Cincinnati.
One thing I do like is all the young guys playing. Zverev, Coric (who already won), Fritz and even new American star Opelka who’s 6-foot-10 which means he’ll be in the Top 30 in 4-5 years if he sticks to it. Dominic Thiem and Bernard Tomic are also there along with Lucas Pouille who opens against Kyrgios.
It’s been a “Big Four” event for so long, that could change this year.
MONDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER COURT start 11:00 am
ATP – [PR] J. Benneteau (FRA) vs  D. Ferrer (ESP)
ATP – P. Cuevas (URU) vs S. Querrey (USA)
WTA – S. Errani (ITA) vs C. Vandeweghe (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – Qualifier vs A. Ivanovic (SRB)
Not Before 8:30 pm
ATP –  N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs L. Pouille (FRA)
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