Cincinnati Open Predictions & Tips

Hannah Wilks:

The 2020 Cincinnati Masters is not cancelled - it will be played from 22-28 August 2020 in Flushing Meadows, New York: Will Daniil Medvedev and Madison Keys defend their Western & Southern Open titles?

Cincinnati Open 2020 Predictions & Tips

Usually the second of back-to-back Masters 1000 Series/Premier-5 events played on north American hard courts during the month of August, the Western & Southern Open brings the best players in the world to the (somewhat unlikely) surroundings of Cincinnati, Ohio.

A final key battleground before the US Open, the Cincinnati tournament can be unpredictable, especially so in an Olympic year – and even more so in a season like this one, which has been disrupted to an unprecedented extent by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Western & Southern Open has now been moved from Cincinnati to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, New York – home of the US Open – and will take place immediately preceding the US Open. The Western & Southern Open will be played from 22-28 August, with the US Open taking place from 31 August-13 September.

Cincinnati Masters predictions: More glory for Medvedev?

Daniil Medvedev became a Masters 1000 Series champion for the first time in Cincinnati in 2020 when he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and David Goffin in the final. It was part of the lanky Russian’s spectacular late-summer surge which saw him make the finals of six tournaments in a row, winning Cincinnati, Shanghai and St Petersburg and finishing runner-up in Washington, at the Rogers Cup and at the US Open.

Medvedev’s three-set, come-from-behind victory over Djokovic, when he proved that although he frequently plays like a junkballer he is also possessed of incredible power, was a signature moment for the Russian. But it will be difficult for him to defend his title. For one thing, Djokovic – and other top players like Rafael Nadal – know now what Medvedev has in his locker, and the element of surprise will no longer play in his favour. For another, the pressure on Medvedev to defend those points will be extreme, because the cancellation of Indian Wells-Miami and the clay-court season means that he has been unable to gain any points; with rankings frozen as they are, 3,100 of Medvedev’s 5,890 points come from the late summer swing.

Medvedev has yet to attempt to defend a title, but he’s temperamental and didn’t make a superb start to the 2020 season, not to mention that nobody outside the Big Four has successfully defended a Masters 1000 Series title since the early 2000s. Medvedev seems unlikely to be the first.

Novak Djokovic will lead the field at the 2020 Cincinnati Masters (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

 

Neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal will be at the Western & Southern Open, but former champion Novak Djokovic has confirmed that he will be leading the field. Cincinnati was the one Masters 1000 Series title which had notoriously eluded Djokovic for some time, and although he broke through to win in 2018 – becoming the first man to win all nine of the coveted titles – it is still his least successful. That won’t matter when it comes to the 2020 tournament, however, with its new location in New York. Djokovic was 18-0 in 2020 before the shutdown, and few would bet against him picking up right where he left off at the Western & Southern Open in August.

Outside the Big Three, Dominic Thiem is obviously becoming more of a force on hard courts than ever before. The Austrian, a Masters 1000 Series champion on American hard courts at Indian Wells in 2019, was sidelined during this part of the season in 2019 due to illness and, frankly, overplaying; there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be a big factor at the Western & Southern Open in 2020, when nobody is overplaying (although Thiem’s exhibition schedule during the shutdown has been unsurprisingly heavy).

Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic were both Masters 1000 Series champions in Cincinnati in recent years, but neither should be expected to make much of an impact at the 2020 tournament; Cilic has struggled for any level of success, and Dimitrov is unlikely to play, having been hard hit by his bout of COVID-19. Nick Kyrgios, 2017 finalist, will not be travelling to the USA. Gael Monfils, who is 16-3 so far in 2020, is also not playing.

David Goffin made the final in 2019, but that was an incredibly soft draw; however, he clearly does play well in Cincinnati, having beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro on the way to the semi-finals in 2018. With the Western & Southern Open likely to feature a lighter draw than usual, Goffin could be well placed to take advantage.

ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas is an unknown quantity, having never won a match in Cincinnati; curiously enough, three-time Masters 1000 Series champion and former ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev has never won a main-draw match at the Western & Southern Open either. Andy Murray accepted a wildcard into the tournament where he is a two-time champion, but recent form at the Battle of the Brits and its Team Tennis sister event has underlined how far the former world no. 1 is from his best.

Western & Southern Open women’s Predictions & Tips

Not since the halcyon days of Clara Louse Zinke, who won five titles between 1926 and 1931, has any player managed to particularly dominate at the Western & Southern Open. With the exception of back-to-back titles for Serena Williams in 2014-15, the tournament has been won by a different woman every year since its reinstatement in 2004. And yet the past decade and a half of finals have seen some brilliant matches and big names, with Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka, Williams and Garbine Muguruza among champions in the past ten years.

Williams has played Cincinnati just once since winning back-to-back titles in 2014-15: In 2018, when she contested just her sixth tournament since returning from maternity leave in March and lost a three-set thriller to Petra Kvitova. The American’s struggles to stay fit and manage her emotions in finals in particular are well documented, but she has still been reaching the finals at an extremely healthy proportion of the tournaments she has been able to play. Williams made her comeback to competition at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, where she scored three-set wins over Bernarda Pera and sister Venus Williams (the level in the latter match was extremely high) but fell to Shelby Rogers in the quarterfinals.

Conspicuous absences on the WTA side include three-time runner-up Simona Halep, world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty, two-time finalist Angelique Kerber and defending US Open champion Bianca Andreescu. Garbine Muguruza, a former Western & Southern Open champion who would have been an interesting pick to win it again after a bright start to the season saw her finish runner-up at the Australian Open, has pulled out with an ankle injury.

The top WTA player on the entry list is world no. 3 Karolina Pliskova.

Madison Keys won the Western & Southern Open in 2019 (Credit Image: © Adam Lacy/Icon SMI via ZUMA Press)

 

Champion in 2016, Pliskova was a semi-finalist in 2017 and quarterfinalist in 2019, and she was also a US Open finalist in 2016. The Western & Southern Open is the kind of tournament, in the kind of conditions (including this year when it takes place in Flushing Meadows), that Pliskova is fairly good at winning, so the big-serving Czech is always worth a pick.

Defending champion Keys had a superb run at the Western & Southern Open in 2019 when she beat Halep, Muguruza, Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final. The 25-year-old has never successfully defended a title, but Cincinnati has been a strong event for Keys in the past few years, and she was of course a US Open finalist in 2017.

It’s difficult to know what to expect from Naomi Osaka, but she cannot be discounted. Nor can Kim Clijsters, who also accepted a wildcard: It slightly beggars belief that the 37-year-old could possibly make a second successful comeback from retirement a decade after the first, but Clijsters’s World Team Tennis performance during the shutdown has been noteworthy. Before she was sidelined by an abdominal injury, Clijsters defeated Sofia Kenin, Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins and Monica Puig. It was an abbreviated format, but the Belgian showed ominous signs for the rest of the WTA Tour.

Kenin is another key player to keep an eye on ahead of the Western & Southern Open. The Russian struggled a little after unexpectedly winning her maiden major title in Melbourne in January; before the shutdown, however, she did battle her way to an International-level trophy in Lyon, and was a semi-finalist at the Rogers Cup and Western & Southern Open in 2019.

Cincinnati Open 2020 tournament information

Name: Western & Southern Open, also known as the Cincinnati Masters

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Venue: Linder Family Tennis Center

Category: ATP Masters 1000 Series/WTA Premier-5

Surface: Outdoor hard courts

Draw size: 56 singles/32 doubles

Most titles:

Men – Roger Federer (7)

Women:
All-time – Ruth Sanders Cordes, Clara Louise Zinke (5)
Open Era – Serena Williams (2)

Reigning champions:
Men’s singles – Daniil Medvedev
Women’s singles – Madison Keys

Cincinnati Open player performance

Who are the best-performing male players at the Cincinnati Masters?

PlayerTitlesFinals2019 resultWin-loss
Roger Federer7 (2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2012, 2014-15)1 (2018)R1647-10
Andy Murray2 (2008, 2011)1 (2016)R6431-12
Daniil Medvedev1 (2019)Champion6-2
Novak Djokovic1 (2018)5 (2008-9, 2011-12, 2015)SF35-12
Grigor Dimitrov1 (2017)R6415-7
Marin Cilic1 (2016)R6416-9
David Goffin1 (2019)Runner-up13-6
Nick Kyrgios1 (2018)R329-5
John Isner1 (2013)R3216-12

Who are the best-performing female players at the Western & Southern Open?

PlayerTitlesFinals2019 resultsWin-loss
Serena Williams2 (2014-15)1 (2013)Did not play22-5
Madison Keys1 (2019)Champion15-5
Kiki Bertens1 (2018)R329-5
Garbine Muguruza1 (2017)R648-6
Karolina Pliskova1 (2016)QF14-7
Victoria Azarenka1 (2013)R3211-6
Kim Clijsters1 (2010)Did not play8-1
Simona Halep3 (2015, 2017-18)R1622-9
Angelique Kerber2 (2012, 2016)R6413-9
Svetlana Kuznetsova1 (2019)Runner-up15-9

Cincinnati Open betting tips – Men

Djokovic remains the tournament favourite at 1/1 with Paddy Power, and the draw hasn’t changed that, but what might give potential bettors pause (apart from the odds) is that the Serb withdrew from the doubles, which he had entered with compatriot Filip Krajinovic, due to neck pain on Sunday. The physical aspect of returning to competition was always going to be the most difficult for the 33-year-old Serb and he won’t risk his US Open chances for the sake of match practice.

Second favourite Dominic Thiem (9/2 @ Paddy Power) comes into the tournament as match-fit as is humanly possible after a six-month ATP Tour shutdown, having played well over 20 exhibition matches. The Austrian opens against Krajinovic and could be on a quarterfinal collision course with Alexander Zverev (14/1 @ Paddy Power), with former champion Andy Murray (33/1 @ Paddy Power) and hard-hitting Russian Andrey Rublev (40/1 @ Paddy Power) among potential threats in that quarter. Stefanos Tsitsipas (10/1 @ Paddy Power), the fourth seed, is Thiem’s potential semifinal opponent but has to contend with some really big servers in his path.

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev (13/2 @ Paddy Power) has as good a draw as anybody, apart from potentially facing Djokovic in the final. In an unpredictable week, he might be the best bet.

Cincinnati Open betting tips – Women

Serena Williams is the favourite to win the Western & Southern Open at 4/1 with Paddy Power, which is an understandable pick in a draw full of unpredictability. Williams looked alternately great and woeful in Lexington, where she reached the quarterfinals; she opens her campaign against Arantxa Rus and has already dodged a potential third-round meeting with Coco Gauff, who went out to Maria Sakkari (herself looking very good).

Apart from Sakkari, Williams has a nice draw to the final with the exception of a potential semifinal clash with Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (10/1 @ Paddy Power), who knows no fear and beat Williams last year at the French Open. Kenin is obviously trying to adjust to competition again but has already had the boon of seeing ninth seed Elena Rybakina, one of the year’s most in-form players, go out in the first round while defending champion Madison Keys (18/1 @ Paddy Power) looks unlikely to make a projected quarterfinal meeting.

In the top half of the draw, top seed Karolina Pliskova (9/1 @ Paddy Power) looks likely to have to contend with a much more match-fit Elise Mertens (33/1 @ Paddy Power) in the third round and either Aryna Sabalenka (fourth favourite at 9/1 @ Paddy Power) or the incredibly in-form Jennifer Brady (12/1 @ Paddy Power), who won Lexington, in the quarterfinals. Naomi Osaka (9/1 @ Paddy Power) looks like she might take time to find her feet after shutdown, and has some tough players in her path. Anett Kontaveit (40/1 @ Paddy Power) is playing the best tennis of her career right now, demolished Daria Kasatkina in the first round with machine-like precision, and if she can survive a second-round clash with the equally in-form Jil Teichmann, might be a very good pick to reach the final.