Djokovic, Serena look to rebound from losses at Western and Southern Open
The Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, is the last big lead-up tournament before the U.S. Open. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the top seeds of the ATP Masters 1000 event and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova lead the field for the Premier WTA event. Here's a preview of the week's action.
Novak Djokovic looks to rebound, make history: Djokovic is the top seed in Cincinnati for the fourth time in five years and will look to bounce back from his 6–4, 4–6, 6–3 loss in the Rogers Cup final to Andy Murray on Sunday. The World No. 1 is aiming for his first title the Western and Southern Open—it's the only Masters 1000 tournament that's eluded him—and a title run would make him the first player to win all nine Masters 1000 titles, or the Career Golden Masters. He leads the top half of the 56-man draw, which includes No. 5 Stan Wawrinka, No. 6 Tomas Berdych and No. 11 John Isner. Following a first round bye, he opens against either Gilles Muller or Benoit Paire and could face Wawrinka in the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer aims for seventh Cincy title: The second seed should come into the tournament well rested after withdrawing from Rogers Cup last week to take some extra time off to practice in Switzerland. Federer is the reigning champion and a six-time titlist in Cincinnati, and he holds a perfect record in finals with a tournament record of 6–0 (2005, ’07, ’09-10, ’12, ’14). Will the down time leave Federer rusty or ready to claim his seventh Cincinnati trophy? His performance here could be predictive of his success in New York.
Andy Murray enters as World No. 2: Following his win over Djokovic in the Montreal final on Sunday, Murray returned to the No. 2 spot in the ATP Rankings on Monday, marking the first time he's held the position since August 2013. He's the No. 3 seed behind Djokovic and Federer here and will open up against Mardy Fish or Victor Troicki in the second round, with possible matchups against No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the third round and No. 7 Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.
More storylines to watch: No. 8 seed Rafael Nadal is four wins away from 300 Masters 1000 wins and No. 9 seed Milos Raonic needs one win to achieve 200 career victories. Wildcards were awarded to Fish, Jared Donaldson, Bjorn Fratangelo and Rajeev Ram. Coming off their sixth title of the season in Montreal, the Bryan Brothers return as the top seed and defending doubles champions.
Potential early round matches to watch: Simon vs. Ivo Karlovic (first round), Isner vs. Sam Querrey (first round), Gasquet vs. Nick Kyrgios (first round), Vasek Pospisil vs. Denis Kudla (first round), Wawrinka vs. Borna Coric (second round), David Goffin vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (second round), Jack Sock vs. Kevin Anderson (second round), Murray vs. Dimitrov (third round)
Can Serena Williams get back on track after her loss in Toronto?: The World No. 1 will try to recover after her loss to eventual champion Belinda Bencic in the Rogers Cup semifinals. She is the defending champion and top seed in Cincinnati and will open against Lucia Hradecka or Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, with a possible matchup against No. 6 seed and 2014 finalist Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals. You have to wonder if Serena's elbow injury was a factor in Toronto and it will be interesting to see how her body responds this week.
Maria Sharapova to play in first tournament since Wimbledon: After withdrawing from Rogers Cup last week due to a right leg injury, the No. 2 seed should be well-rested heading into Cincinnati. She leads a strong bottom half of the draw that includes Toronto finalist and No. 3 seed Simona Halep, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 8 Karolina Pliskova. Following the first round bye, Sharapova will open against Varvara Lepchenko or Barbora Strycova.
Belinda Bencic looks to continue her run: The 18-year-old will have to put her huge week in Toronto behind her rather quickly, as she returns from her Rogers Cup title to face Angelique Kerber in the first round in Cincinnati. After defeating Eugenie Bouchard, Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ivanovic, Serena and Halep en route to the biggest title in her career, how will she respond? She moved up eight spots to a career-high ranking of No. 12 on Monday and her win over Serena in the semifinals made her the youngest player to beat the American since Sharapova in the final of the 2004 WTA Finals. If she can get past Kerber, she'll face either Dominika Cibulkova or Flavia Pennetta in the second round, with a potential matchup against No. 7 seed Lucie Safarova looming in the third.
More storylines to watch: The entire WTA Top 10 is competing in the Western and Southern Open this week and 19 or the top 20 are also in action—Ekaterina Makarova withdrew from the event due to a right leg injury. Can Halep rebound from the injury that forced her to retire in the Toronto final vs. Bencic? She's in Sharapova's half of the draw and will start against either Daniele Hantuchova or Kristina Mladenovic. Alison Riske, CoCo Vandeweghe and Hantuchova recieved wildcards into the event.
Potential early round matches to watch: Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Sloane Stephens (first round), Kerber vs. Bencic (first round), Timea Bacsinszky vs. Madison Keys (first round), Ivanovic vs. Venus (second round), Kvitova vs. Lisicki (second round), Wozniacki vs. Victoria Azarenka (second round), Pliskova vs. Sam Stosur (second round), Garbine Muguruza vs. Wozniacki (third round), Andrea Petkovic vs. Halep (third round)