The Cincinnati draw (Western & Southern Open) preview looks similar to Canada, with dramatic potential matchups and some real upset potential, but there’s one stark difference: The GOAT Novak Djokovic.

The 23-time Grand Slam Champion makes his trumpeted return to the United States after a Covid-related ban in 2022. For his fans, Djokovic is a vexing number two in the rankings and in the Cincinnati draw. He bookends the draw with World number one Carlos Alcaraz in what could be a Cincinnati-style rematch of the Wimbledon final.

But much will have to happen first.

What can fans expect from Novak’s form, not having played since Wimbledon? Carlitos just lost in the Canada quarterfinals to Tommy Paul. Nothing is guaranteed.

Alcaraz Form

The top 8 seeds get a bye in Cincinnati, so Alcaraz will play the winner of John Isner vs a qualifier. His quarter is attainable. Americans Paul and Francis Tiafoe stand in his way, as well as 5-seed Casper Ruud at the bottom of the quarter. Paul’s deep run in Canada will present a fatigue factor for the American. Alcaraz will be rested and will have had time to review and reflect on the loss. Paul’s surprising 2-1 record against the Spaniard will prove motivational.

Carlitos knows he needs to serve better, after 6 double faults in that match as well as losing the battle of 2nd serve points to the speedy American. Paul is one of the few players on the ATP Tour who can match Alcaraz’s foot speed and first step quickness.

In quarter number two, it’s an all-Atlanta first round match with Ben Shelton facing Chris Eubanks. That match will feature massive serves, quick points and could go three sets. Stefanos Tsitsipas, with a bye, will meet the winner of that match. Nobody’s form has been especially good lately in this section, but further down the quarter, Hubert Hurkacz and Andrey Rublev stand out as names.

Quarter number three finds players who have yet to find their hardcourt mojo in Holger Rune, Felix Auger Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev. Meddy, appearing a bit sluggish, lost to the always-energetic Alex De Minaur in Canada, then complained about “slow courts.”

Djokovic Difficult Path

Finally, the Djokovic Cincinnati draw. It’s undeniably difficult, featuring some of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. Novak Nation can look at this two ways: Potential to lose early or opportunity to ratchet up the hard-court game quickly in advance of the US Open.

Djokovic potentially meets Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Gael Monfils and Jannik Sinner– all of whom had very strong runs in Canada. Having to play the live wire ADF right out of the gate will be a challenge for the 36-year-old Djokovic. Taylor Fritz is also in this quarter. There’s potential for Djokovic to win a few hard-fought matches then exit before the final, which might actually be ideal preparation for the US Open. I think it’s lucky.

Players to watch:
QF: Alcaraz, Hurkacz, Medvedev, Djokovic
SF: Alcaraz, Medvedev
F: Alcaraz


WTA Cincinnati Draw Preview

On the women’s side, the Cincinnati draw features big servers with an opportunity to sharpen their hard-court weapons. It’s unfortunate that some of the intriguing matchups from Canada are exact repeats in the Cincinnati draw.

Elina Svitolina meets the returning Carolina Wozniacki, just as she did in Canada, where the Dane won easily. In round two, World number one Iga Swiatek potentially meets Danielle Collins, who she just played. At least that was a great, 3-set contest.

On a positive note for the Cincinnati draw, the women’s quarters are helmed by 3 Grand Slam champions in Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina. Steady American Jessica Pegula sits atop the other quarter. The elite play in the women’s game has started to coalesce somewhat around these four players. That will help for name recognition and rivalry building.

Iga has arguably the most difficult quarter with Wimbledon Champion Marketa Vondrousova and defending Cincinnati queen Carolina Garcia lurking. Rybakina could enticingly meet Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals, which would be a re-match of last year’s epic in Canada. Gauff won that in a breaker. Maria Sakkari and Pegula bookend the 3rd section, and these two players have met in many great contests, with the Greek holding a 5-3 H2H. And finally, hard-serving Sabalenka has a real opportunity with a fairly straightforward draw. If she can power past Daria Kasatkina, only Ons Jabeur presents a challenging roadblock.

Players to watch:
QF: Swiatek, Rybakina, Pegula, Sabalenka
SF: Rybakina, Sabalenka
F: Sabalenka


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