Cincinnati Masters Outright Preview: Zverev again the man to keep onside

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer
Roger Federer returns to ATP Tour action in Cincinnati this week...
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After the Rogers Cup, the tennis tour moves to Cincinnati for the coming week. Returning to give his thoughts on the tournament is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...

"Conditions in Cincinnati look to be a little different to those that the players will have experienced in Canada, with historical data indicating that the court speed this week will be pretty quick."

Quick conditions anticipated in Cincinnati

Despite the best efforts of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafa Nadal was too good for the young Greek in Toronto last night to take the title, and with the Rogers Cup out of the way, we now move onto the second consecutive Masters 1000 event in North America, with the players travelling to Cincinnati for the coming week.

Conditions there look to be a little different to those that the players will have experienced in Canada, with historical data indicating that the court speed this week will be pretty quick. Across the last three years, 3.0% more service games have been held in Cincinnati than the ATP hard court average, and 0.10 aces per game served, in excess of the ATP hard court mean.

Federer likely to be the one to beat despite lack of match practice

With this in mind, it's hardly a surprise that Roger Federer has deigned to enter this week, as opposed to the slightly slower conditions in Toronto, and the Swiss legend loves quick conditions in general.

With seven titles here in Cincinnati, and a 43-8 venue record, Federer is going to be very tough to beat this week if he turns up in decent condition.

Originally as the second seed, Federer takes his place in the bottom half of the draw and the seeds in that half are Kevin Anderson, Juan Martin Del Potro and Dominic Thiem. Anderson is in decent touch and was a match point away from making the final in Canada last week, although Federer's task is made easier with fitness doubts (and in the case of Thiem, form issues too) about the latter duo.

Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and Rogers Cup finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas are among the unseeded players in this bracket, as well as Andy Murray, who has a potential third round clash with the Swiss legend. Murray's performance in that potential round three clash will go a long way to assessing the Scotsman's likely level at the US Open.

While it's fair to suggest that Federer is the one to beat here, and his hard court data across the last 12 months rubber-stamps this assertion (90.6% holds, 25.8% breaks = 116.4% combined) it's worth noting that he hasn't taken to the court competitively since losing 13-11 in the final set in the Wimbledon quarter-finals to the aforementioned Anderson. However, 3/1 with the Sportsbook seems fair enough odds and this seems much more reasonable than the 7/2 about Djokovic in the top half of the draw.

Nadal withdrawal makes Djokovic and Zverev's jobs easier

The reason for Djokovic's skinny price is the late withdrawal of the Rogers Cup winner, Rafa Nadal. This has left a gaping hole in the top of the draw and there are a number of players who will feel that they can exploit Nadal's absence.

The Serb is the market favourite to progress out of this half of the draw but Djokovic's case is more complicated by the necessity of playing an additional round, given that his ranking isn't good enough to entitle him to a first-round bye. Tonight's match with Steve Johnson could be a tough one in conditions likely to be of liking to the American.

Zverev can again be favoured to win the event

In truth, I prefer Zverev at 6/1 than Djokovic at 7/2. The German has the better 2018 hard court stats and plays one match less, and they're both in the top half of the draw so in theory, will eventually face each other in the semi-finals.

We favoured Zverev last week as well in the outright, and I see no reason really for us to deviate from this position - he was evidently the better player in defeat to Tsitsipas even though he wasn't close to his best, although of course the Exchange, offering [8.80] about the German, offers the best price for us to take.

Zverev will need to beat the likes of Djokovic and also Marin Cilic to triumph, but these are the sort of players that need to be beaten to win a big event, and no player in the draw should unduly worry him, even Federer in a potential final.

Overall, we should see a fascinating week of tennis unfold with players no doubt keen to make a statement in advance of the US Open, which starts a fortnight today.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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