Top seed Rafael Nadal is set to ascend to the No. 1 ranking on Monday, but before then he’s still working on the court. Nadal opens play Wednesday night in Cincinnati against Richard Gasquet. Nadal has won all 14 meetings with the French though they haven’t met since 2015 Basel.
With all the withdrawals including 7-time winner Roger Federer, Nadal is the only former champion in the field.
“Obviously it’s bad news for the event that Roger is not playing. For me personally obviously to be back to that position is something special,” Nadal said on Monday.
But he’s happy to be back at No. 1.
“A lot of things have happened since the last time I was in this spot. Injuries and some tough moments, of course, but I have held the passion and the love for the game, and that’s why I have the chance to be back in that position again. So I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and just trying to be ready to compete well here. That’s the most important thing for me now.”
Also on Wednesday, the streaking Alexander Zverev takes on American phenom Frances Tiafoe. Zverev has 10 straight matches, 11 straight in Masters events.
“I feel well on court. I feel very confident,” Zverev said. “Obviously, feeling good about my game as well. I won both first rounds in Washington and Montreal 7-6 in the third and then after that I haven’t lost a set the whole tournament.
“I think winning those kinds of matches helps as well. I really hope I don’t face 7-6 in the first round here again even though it’s kind of a good-luck charm. Would be nice to have a two-setter, maybe.”
Grigor Dimitrov faces Feliciano Lopez and Juan Martin del Potro is in action against American Mitchell Krueger.
Delpo advanced on Tuesday with a tough 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-0 over fellow 2-time Cincinnati semifinalist Tomas Berdych
“During the second set, in the end, I played my best tennis,” said del Potro. “I hit so sure with my forehand. I made good serves and I took all my chances to win… Mentally, I was strong enough to keep fighting and I think he got down after losing that second set. Then, when I broke his serve early in the third [set], my game started improving and I played much better than him.”
American Jared Donaldson continued his strong rise beating Roberto Bautista Agut. John Isner took out countryman Tommy Paul in the second round. But Jack Sock fell to Yuichi Sugita and David Ferrer bested Steve Johnson.
Nick Kyrgios was also an impressive straight set winner over David Goffin.
In other second round play, Domimic Thiem knocked out Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-2 while Ivo Karlovic upset Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 7-6(9)
Adding to the spate of withdrawals, Milos Raonic had to pull out of the event because of a left wrist injury.
“My wrist injury has not healed. I always play well in Cincinnati & will miss the great fans,” Raonic posted on social media.
With Raonic out, just 3 of the Top 10 are playing in the Cincinnati draw.
WEDNESDAY CINCINNATI SCHEDULE
CENTER start 11:00 am
ATP –  G. Dimitrov (BUL) vs F. Lopez (ESP)
Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA –  V. Williams (USA) vs [Q] A. Barty (AUS)
ATP – [WC] F. Tiafoe (USA) vs  A. Zverev (GER)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  K. Pliskova (CZE) vs [LL] N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS)
Not Before 8:30 pm
ATP –  R. Nadal (ESP) vs R. Gasquet (FRA)
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