Cincinnati Open Predictions & Tips

Hannah Wilks:

The 2021 Cincinnati Masters takes place from 16-22 August with Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka attempting to defend their titles as the tournament returns to its traditional home of Mason, Ohio

Cincinnati Open 2021 Predictions & Tips

The Western & Southern Open, also known as the Cincinnati Masters, was played in New York at the home of the US Open in 2020 as part of the USTA’s (successful) attempt to keep the US Open alive during a year of unprecedented global health crisis.

It was an edition unlike any other, but still featured some superb tennis as well as reaffirming tennis’s commitment to social justice, with play ‘paused’ for a day in solidarity with other sports in a protest against racist police violence led by Naomi Osaka. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic claimed his second Cincinnati Masters title and continued his unbeaten streak in 2020, while the women’s competition saw a resurgent Victoria Azarenka win her second Western & Southern Open title – seven years after the first. Osaka’s withdrawal meant that she and Azarenka did not get to play the final, but two weeks later they faced off in a three-set US Open final thriller which more than made up for it.

The Western & Southern Open returns to its traditional home of Cincinnati and the Lindner Family Tennis Centre in 2021, and its traditional calendar slot as well, forming the second leg of a mid-August double with fellow Masters 1000 Series/WTA 1000 tournament the Rogers Cup.

Despite Djokovic’s win in 2020, the Cincinnati Masters has seen a succession of first-time Masters champions in recent years, with Marin Cilic (2016), Grigor Dimitrov (2017) and Daniil Medvedev (2019) all claiming their first Masters 1000 Series titles at the Western & Southern Open. Will we see another first-time winner in 2021, or can one of the old guard reclaim the title? On the women’s side, three-time runner-up Simona Halep will hope to finally break through and lift the trophy, with former winners Azarenka, Madison Keys, Kiki Bertens and Garbine Muguruza among other favourites when the 2021 Western & Southern Open is played from 16-22 August.

Cincinnati Masters 2021: Men’s Tips

Across almost all of the nine Masters 1000 Series events, the past few years have seen a loosening of the hegemony once enjoyed by the ‘Big Four’ over these titles, and Cincinnati has been no exception. Roger Federer, who won seven titles in the decade between 2005-15, has only been to the final once since, Rafael Nadal has skipped the past three editions and Andy Murray has not been in the final since 2016.

Novak Djokovic captured his second Cincinnati Masters title in 2020 (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA)

 

Djokovic has won Cincinnati twice in the past three years, breaking through in 2018 to complete the career Masters Slam then winning the title again in 2020, beating Roberto Bautista Agut and Milos Raonic. He will, of course, be a threat to win it again in 2021, but with the addition of the Olympics to the summer schedule, it would not be surprising if the Serb skipped Cincinnati altogether. The same is true for Nadal, who has not played Cincinnati much in recent years, and Federer, whose scheduling for 2021 is an unknown in the wake of multiple knee surgeries in 2020.

Daniil Medvedev is an obvious candidate to take advantage. The 2019 Cincinnati champion lost in the quarterfinals of the 2020 edition, but he is now a three-time Masters 1000 Series champion who excels on slow hard courts, getting to the semifinals of the US Open in 2020 after his runner-up finish in 2019. Medvedev is also possibly not going to be able to play the OLympics, which would further open the door for him to shine at this part of the season.

Neither Grigor Dimitrov nor Marin Cilic, both former champions, nor 2019 runner-up David Goffin impressed much in 2020, and Nick Kyrgios, another former runner-up, barely played and is unpredictable at the best of times, so it’s difficult to count too much on any of them. Milos Raonic played very well to reach the final in 2020, but his injury issues also make it difficult to predict that he will be in the mix. Dominic Thiem has not actually won a match in Cincinnati since 2017, skipping the 2018-19 editions and losing his opening match in 2020, and the Austrian’s typically heavy schedule is also likely to be weighing on him by that point as well as his forthcoming US Open title defense. Alexander Zverev has a 2-7 record at the Cincinnati Masters.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Cincinnati Masters semifinals in 2020, but didn’t have the toughest draw, and the conditions are not really tailor-made for the Greek, who is still looking for his first Masters 1000 Series title. Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov are among prime candidates to be the latest player to win their first Masters 1000 Series title in Cincinnati in 2021, but Medvedev might be the safest bet and likeliest candidate to reclaim the title when the Western & Southern Open takes place from 16-22 August.

Western & Southern Open Cincinnati 2021: Women’s Tips

The last six editions of the Western & Southern Open have seen different WTA Tour champions crowned, although two of them (Serena Williams in 2015 and Victoria Azarenka in 2020) were former winners.

But in that time, one player has been in the final three times, and that’s Simona Halep, the Romanian finishing runner-up to Williams in 2015, Garbine Muguruza in 2017 and Kiki Bertens in 2018. Halep has a 22-9 record at the Western & Southern Open, and her early defeat to Madison Keys in 2019 was her first loss before the quarterfinals there since 2012. Halep did say that she intended to prioritise the Olympics in 2021, but there’s enough of a window between Tokyo and Cincinnati for her to rebound – if anything suffers, it’s likely to be her performance at the Rogers Cup, so we can expect Halep to be a threat in 2021.

Victoria Azarenka will attempt to defend her Western & Southern Open title in 2021 (© AFP7 via ZUMA Wire)

 

Defending champion Azarenka will be looking for her third title in 2021, but while Azarenka’s resurgence was one of the most welcome developments of 2020, it remains to be seen whether the Belarusian’s body and personal circumstances will allow her to take root at the top of the game again, so it might be a bit chancy to back her for Cincinnati 2021. Similarly, a third Western & Southern Open title for Serena Williams in 2021 looks unlikely as the American struggles for fitness.

Naomi Osaka played beautifully at the Western & Southern Open in 2020 to reach the final, but she has never performed particularly well when the tournament has been played in Cincinnati, and although she is formidable on American hard courts, the timing of the tournament – in between the Tokyo Olympics, for which she is one of the key faces, and the US Open where she is the defending champion – probably mitigates against her in 2021.

A trio of big-serving former champions – Madison Keys (2019), Kiki Bertens (2018) and Garbine Muguruza (2017) – could all be well placed to do some damage in the draw, but none really look reliable; the same goes for powerful Aryna Sabalenka, who has made the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open before but is perfectly capable of hitting herself off the court. Sofia Kenin, a semifinalist at the Western & Southern Open in 2019 and

Australian Open champion in 2020, is definitely a player to look out for; unlike the more erratic powerhouses listed above, her more counterpunching game makes her more consistent. Ashleigh Barty has played some good tennis in Cincinnati before, as has Karolina Pliskova, so both could be good players to back depending on where they land when the Western & Southern Open draw is released.

Cincinnati Open 2021 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 1000

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/Victoria Azarenka (2)

Reigning champions:
Men’s singles – Novak Djokovic
Women’s singles – Victoria Azarenka

Cincinnati Open player performance

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

PlayerTitlesFinals2020 resultWin-loss
Roger Federer7 (2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2012, 2014-15)1 (2018)Did not play47-10
Andy Murray2 (2008, 2011)1 (2016)R16 (lost to Milos Raonic)33-13
Daniil Medvedev1 (2019)QF (lost to Roberto Bautista Agut)8-3
Novak Djokovic2 (2018, 2020)5 (2008-9, 2011-12, 2015)Champion (d. Milos Raonic)40-12
Grigor Dimitrov1 (2017)R32 (lost to Marton Fucsovics)16-8
Marin Cilic1 (2016)R64 (lost to Denis Shapovalov)16-10
Milos Raonic1 (2020)Runner-up (lost to Novak Djokovic)19-7
David Goffin1 (2019)R16 (lost to Jan-Lennard Struff)14-7
Nick Kyrgios1 (2018)Did not play9-5
John Isner1 (2013)R16 (lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas)18-13

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

PlayerTitlesFinals2020 resultsWin-loss
Serena Williams2 (2014-15)1 (2013)R16 (lost to Maria Sakkari)23-6
Victoria Azarenka2 (2013, 2020)Champion (d. Naomi Osaka)16-5
Madison Keys1 (2019)R32 (lost to Ons Jabeur)15-6
Kiki Bertens1 (2018)Did not play9-5
Garbine Muguruza1 (2017)Did not play8-6
Karolina Pliskova1 (2016)R32 (lost to Veronika Kudermetova)14-8
Kim Clijsters1 (2010)Did not play8-1
Simona Halep3 (2015, 2017-18)Did not play22-9
Angelique Kerber2 (2012, 2016)Did not play13-9
Svetlana Kuznetsova1 (2019)Did not play15-9
Naomi Osaka1 (2020)Runner-up (walkover to Victoria Azarenka)7-3