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 2021 Western & Southern Open.
The future of men’s tennis is here.
You might not have noticed but it arrived last week at the 2021 National Bank Open. It was there as the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas (with, erm, the help of his coach), Daniil Medvedev, Gael Monfils, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka ran roughshod over the main men’s draw of this Masters 1000. (Then, Medvedev took care of business in the singles final.)
It’s going to be there this coming week at the 2021 Western & Southern Open too. You see, if we are to believe that the current beloved trio of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will indeed eventually retire, this means that in a (supposedly) not-so-distant future men’s tennis will be played without them. Did you like your first taste in Toronto? As none of the trio is playing this week in Cincinnati, we get to help ourselves to second servings of this looming future.
Speaking for ourselves, we liked it fine enough. Oh sure, it was oddly devoid of star power but we know that’s only temporary. The future of men’s tennis will not be one where a handful of champions hog all the spotlight through sheer power of their gravitas. But it will be one with champions all the same, and great ones at that!
2021 Western & Southern Open preview
That said, here’s the part where we run through our predictions for this next big event on the tennis calendar. Did you see how great we were at predicting last week’s event in Montreal and Toronto? (You know, if you overlook all the places where we were wrong.)
Last week’s main draw in Montreal unfolded a little like a box of chocolate in that you never quite knew how the matches would turn out. Ultimately, Camila Giorgi emerged victorious with the biggest title of her life after navigating a tough draw.
We don’t anticipate the same thing happening this coming week. Favourite Ashleigh Barty has received a quarter well within her grasp even if hard courts aren’t her forte. Spoiling the Australian’s semifinal party should be American Jennifer Brady, who probably hopes for a similarly great US Open Series swing this year. Yet, it won’t be enough for the title.
Quarterfinals: Ashleigh Barty over Sloane Stephens; Jennifer Brady over Petra Kvitova; Aryna Sabalenka over Karolina Pliskova; Naomi Osaka over Belinda Bencic
Semifinals: Jennifer Brady over Ashleigh Barty; Naomi Osaka over Aryna Sabalenka
Final: Naomi Osaka over Jennifer Brady
Welp, is this how the career of the great Roger Federer ends? With a random announcement on IG TV? The time for maybe and would-be career eulogies will come later. For now, we’re mostly amazed that little ol’ Roger, from the heights of his 40 years of age, is still spry enough to know how to work a smartphone and the Instagram app.
In Cincinnati, all eyes will be on supervillain Daniil Medvedev and whether he’ll be able to replicate his Toronto masterclass. Personally, we both hope and think he will manage just fine. Elsewhere in the draw, could this be the Masters 1000 where Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime live up to their billing? We’re not sure they will, but anyway the key is to peak for the US Open rather than the Western & Southern Open.
Quarterfinals: Daniil Medvedev over Hubert Hurkacz; Andrey Rublev over Jannik Sinner; Casper Ruud over Fabio Fognini; Matteo Berrettini over Stefanos Tsitsipas
Semifinals: Daniil Medvedev over Andrey Rublev; Matteo Berrettini over Casper Ruud
Final: Matteo Berrettini over Daniil Medvedev
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG