Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz are among those who made the trip from Montreal to Cincinnati this week as they prepare to compete in the seventh ATP Masters 1000 event of the season at the Open from West and South.
Medvedev, who lifted the trophy in 2019, will face stiff competition from two-time Masters 1000 champion Alcaraz and Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who will be looking to claim his 37th Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati.
Taylor Fritz leads the home hopes, while a host of stars will be targeting deep runs to help boost their chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals.
ATPTour.com takes a look at 10 things to watch out for in Cincinnati.
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1) Status #1 of Medvedev: Medvedev arrives in Cincinnati in a bid to secure his world No. 1 status after a disappointing second-round outing against Nick Kyrgios in Montreal left the door ajar for Nadal. The 26-year-old will guarantee his place at the top of the Pepperstone ATP rankings if he earns two victories at the Masters 1000 where he triumphed in 2019.
Top-seeded Medvedev, who also reached the semifinals in Ohio last season, won his only title of the year on the hard courts in Los Cabos earlier this month.
2) Nadal in pursuit: Nadal will appear in court for the first time since an abdominal tear forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon ahead of the semi-finals in July. The Spaniard, who has won 36 Masters 1000 trophies including a triumph in Cincinnati in 2013, will return to No.1 if he wins the title and Medvedev does not reach the quarter-finals.
The 36-year-old is making his first appearance for Ohio since 2017 and will be looking to clinch his fifth title of the season and improve on his 35-3 record.
3) Alcaraz in pursuit of the third crown of masters: #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz was ranked outside the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP rankings when he made his Cincinnati debut last year. Now the 19-year-old is in the Top 5 and is ranked third in Ohio. Alcaraz holds a 12-3 record on hard courts this season, highlighted by their title run in Miami in April.
Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals 2021 champion will face American wild card Mackenzie McDonald or Nikoloz Basilashvili in his opening match.
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4) Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Torino Contenders: Some of the sport’s biggest stars will be aiming for deep runs in Cincinnati as they aim to boost their chances of qualifying for November’s Nitto ATP Finals.
Last year’s Cincinnati runner-up Andrey Rublev currently sits in the final qualifying spot in eighth place at the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, while Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is seventh and Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz is ninth. , with the possibility of moving up to fifth place if he lifts the Montreal trophy on Sunday.
Rublev, who has won three titles this season, will start against Albert Ramos-Vinolas or a qualifier, while Rotterdam champion Auger-Aliassime will face Alexander Bublik or Alex de Minaur. Hurkacz qualified for the final in Montreal and will be looking to maintain his good form against either Benjamin Bonzi or John Isner.
5) Ruud thrives on hard courts: Casper Ruud has transferred his solid clay form to the hard courts this season, with the Norwegian holding an 11-4 on the surface. The 23-year-old qualified for his first Masters 1000 final in Miami earlier this year and arrives in Cincinnati after a run to the semi-finals in Montreal.
Fifth-seeded Ruud, currently No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, picked up wins over Reilly Opelka and Diego Schwartzman to reach the quarter-finals in Cincinnati last season.
6) Milan hopefuls in action: Denmark’s Holger Rune and American Brandon Nakashima are currently in contention to qualify for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, fourth and seventh respectively in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan.
Rune, who reached the second round in Montreal last week, faces a tricky first-round test on her debut against ninth seed Cameron Norrie. Nakashima advanced to back-to-back quarterfinals in Atlanta and Los Cabos last month and will face Aslan Karatsev in the first round.
7) Kyrgios, Sinner and Tsitsipas looking for more silverware: Nick Kyrgios has been revitalized on the court this season, arriving in Cincinnati having won 15 of his last 17 games. The Australian, who is a former runner-up from Ohio, lifted the trophy in Washington earlier this month and holds a 30-8 record on the year.
Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas won his second ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Monte Carlo and performed well in Cincinnati last year, reaching the semi-finals, while Sinner clinched the title in Umag last month.
The Italian, currently 14th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, will start his campaign against a qualifier.
8) Home hopes: Taylor Fritz will lead the USA charge at home in Ohio, with 11 Americans in the draw, not including qualifying. The 11th seed will be looking to win his third title of the season and his second Masters 1000 crown, after lifting the trophy in Indian Wells.
Tommy Paul enjoyed a run to the last eight in Montreal last week and starts against fellow 21-year-old Jenson Brooksby. Frances Tiafoe faces a tough test in 12th seed Matteo Berrettini, who will seek his eighth trophy at tour level, but first on hard courts. Wildcard Sebastian Korda could play the winner if he overcomes Karen Khachanov in the first round.
Newport champion Maxime Cressy makes his tournament debut and starts against Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp.
9) Past draw champions: Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov have fond memories in Cincinnati, having lifted the trophy in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Croatian Cilic, who beat Andy Murray in the league game, is 23-14 this season, with his best result in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
Dimitrov lost to Cilic in the semi-finals in Ohio in 2016, before beating Kyrgios for his first Masters 1000 trophy in 2017. The Bulgarian reached the quarter-finals in Indian Wells earlier this season, before qualifying for the last four in Monte Carlo. .
10) Ram/Salisbury Top Seeds: Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will lead the doubles field as seeds and could face Australian Open winners Thanasi Kokkinakis and Kyrgios in their opening match. Defending champions Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos and third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski are also major title contenders. Alcaraz, Tsitsipas and Rublev are among the stars in singles and doubles.