Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the Western & Southern Open.
Tennis is back, baby!
Welcome to Cincinnati by way of New York for the 2020 edition of the Western & Southern Open, a tournament that in this godforsaken and doomed year managed to be held more or less exactly at its original date. This year, this qualifies as a minor miracle.
Of course, not everything about this year’s open is the same as usual. This Cincinnati Masters 1000 event is held in the middle of a pandemic in the Big Apple of New York and played in front of zero spectators. There are also no sponsors associated with the event, giving the event an eery feel that we’re not used to for events of its stature, and just about no one on courts except the players competing.
Only the essential personnel is present for matches in Cincinnati/New York this week. Add in the fact that so many good and important players are absent and you can start to wonder why we’re even having a tennis tournament in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 812,000 people worldwide. Sports has always been a luxury and maybe we shouldn’t focus on the luxuries these days—but we digress here.
In any case, the tennis world has come together this week. If you ever wanted to watch Novak Djokovic play at a challenger in 2020, here’s your chance to experience what it would feel like.
Let’s celebrate the occasion and, like, pick some matches? Both draws are underway already, but don’t think for a minute this will stop us from being wrong on many, if not all, of our predictions here.
On the women’s side, all eyes are understandably on Serena Williams and while we foresee great things for the American, there is still a limit to our enthusiasm. Still, Americans should dominate the event if our predictions come to fruition, with three of them making it to the quarterfinals stage. These predictions are a shot in the dark if we’ve ever seen one: in the end, it’s a Czech who will reign supreme and lord over the rest of the field.
Quarterfinals: Amanda Anisimova over Elise Mertens; Petra Kvitova over Naomi Osaka; Serena Williams over Kirsten Flipkens; Madison Keys over Victoria Azarenka
Semifinals: Petra Kvitova over Amanda Anisimova; Serena Williams over Madison Keys
Final: Petra Kvitova over Serena Williams
The singles draw on the ATP side of this event might be lacking a name or two in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal but it’s otherwise extremely loaded: as far as return-to-pandemic events go, this is as good as it gets. (We think. We’ve never actually seen a pandemic halt a tennis season previously.) Canadian folks might be eager for a Felix Auger-Aliassime/Denis Shapovalov quarterfinal, but it won’t happen on Djokovic’s watch. Rather, if you’re looking for a civil-war-type of quarterfinal, may we interest you in our predictions for the second section of the draw where (we hope) Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov will emerge unscathed?
Regardless of what else happens, we’ll be happy to see Andy Murray compete on a tennis court once more—if we’ve gained nothing else from the pandemic, then so be it.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Denis Shapovalov; Daniil Medvedev over Karen Khachanov; Matteo Berrettini over John Isner; Dominic Thiem over Milos Raonic
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Daniil Medvedev; Dominic Thiem over Matteo Berrettini
Final: Novak Djokovic over Dominic Thiem
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG