After the Rogers Cup concluded in Montreal last night, it's straight back into ATP Masters 1000 action with the Cincinnati Masters. Dan Weston previews the event...
"Alex De Minaur is already into round two, with the Australian getting past Marco Cecchinato in a low-key opening day yesterday, and has that easier Nadal-less bottom quarter. He’s won two hard court events this year and has also done well in quick conditions before, winning in Atlanta last month, and at 50/1, represents an each-way option for a small stake. "
Nadal out, Djokovic and Federer in
Last week's Rogers Cup in Montreal was notable by the absence of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, with Rafa Nadal the only elite level player in the draw, and the Spaniard duly lifted the trophy last night, defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final.
The reverse is the case this week, with Nadal pulling out and giving Mikhail Kukushkin a lucky loser spot straight into round two, but Djokovic and Federer both looking at this event to get themselves their preparation for the US Open.
Djokovic with advantage over Federer
With this in mind, it's unsurprising that there's a markedly different feel to the outright market this week compared to last, with Djokovic favourite at [2.32], and Federer a little further back, priced at [4.70] at the time of writing.
Both players have excellent hard court records, with Djokovic running at 112.0% combined serve/return points won percentage on the surface in the last 12 months and Federer standing at 108.7%, while both have performed even better this year, with Djokovic's numbers in excess of 113% and Federer just shy of 111% combined - they are clearly the best two players in the field.
The problem for the duo is that they have both been drawn in the top half of the draw, and thus are seeded to meet in the semi-final. Djokovic's status as favourite seems justified, both on account of the above statistics, but also courtesy of him winning their last five meetings, including in straight sets in last year's final here.
Numerous contenders for final berth from bottom half of draw
The effect of this is that one of the second-tier, or lower players, featuring in the bottom half of the draw, will have to make the final, giving the likes of Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori opportunities to make a fairly rare final in a Masters 1000 level hard court event.
There's also some other contenders for that final spot in the bottom half of the draw, so what I've done below is to summarise the hold/break statistics this year for the main contenders in the bottom half on hard court:-
Of these players, Monfils' ankle injury (and smallish sample size of 2019 hard court data) makes him a doubt here, and it's interesting to see the bottom three players here - Maric Cilic has endured a year to forget so far, while Dominic Thiem's hard court record is unimpressive on return, and the quick conditions anticipated here in Cincinnati are also unlikely to be to the Austrian's liking. Borna Coric is another player with an injury doubt.
De Minaur with long-shot potential
There are several long-shot options in these worthy of discussion. Alex De Minaur is already into round two, with the Australian getting past Marco Cecchinato in a low-key opening day yesterday, and has that easier Nadal-less bottom quarter. The Australian 20 year old, on a real upward curve, has won two hard court events this year and has also done well in quick conditions before, winning in Atlanta last month, and and at 50/1, represents an each-way option for a small stake - a good showing here will also see him achieve a US Open seeding.
The other is Diego Schwartzman, whose hard court numbers are very impressive, and has chances in a tough-to-predict bracket including Cilic, Thiem and also Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray, who plays his first singles event since January. My concern over the Argentine, however, would be whether conditions are a little too quick for his liking.
Roberto Bautista-Agut is another contender to come through the bottom half but has a tricky looking draw. Hubert Hurkacz, his round one opponent, isn't flattered at all by the numbers above and would look to be underperforming considerably on key points - Hurkacz could well be a tough opening round for the Spaniard.
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