Daniil Medvedev and Madison Keys will return to defend their titles as the 2020 Western & Southern Open, also known as the Cincinnati Masters, takes place from 16-23 August: Will they be successful?
Cincinnati Open 2020 predictions
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 tournament’s very existence in 2020 is uncertain – but we have to hope that ATP and WTA Tour tennis, currently suspended until 8 June, will be back in action by August.
With that said, what can we predict about players who might prosper at the Cincinnati Open in 2020?
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.
What of the Big Four (surviving members)? Roger Federer is the most successful Cincinnati Masters player in history with seven titles to his name between 2005 and 2015, but has not won it since – although it must be borne in mind that he didn’t play in 2016-17 and made the final on his return in 2018 (losing to Djokovic). But the way he was blown off court by Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in 2019 does point to a growing vulnerability on Federer’s part, not so much to other players – although Rublev on that day played tremendous, vibrant power tennis – as to sudden dips in energy. That said, Federer had, with his usual impeccable timing, already gone dark for a minor knee surgery in February not planning to return until the grass, and has thus had an even longer – and more psychologically restful – off-period than most other players.
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, although as far as I can tell, not for any real reason apart from its position on the calendar. With all the upheaval on the calendar in 2020, that may not be a factor.
Rafael Nadal broke through to win his solitary Cincinnati Masters title in 2013, but has only won back-to-back matches once in three subsequent appearances and did not play in 2018-19. Facing as he is the daunting task of having to defend his US Open and French Open titles within the space of five weeks, Cincinnati may not be a big priority for Nadal in 2020 either.
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 in Cincinnati in 2020, when nobody is overplaying.
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. Similarly, Nick Kyrgios was a finalist in 2017, but his fitness and level of interest are both impossible to predict. 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, and might be a good pick to win his quarter.
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, so one should be wary of backing either.
The other name that feels worth mentioning is that of Gael Monfils, who is 16-3 so far in 2020 and on superb form. His record in Cincinnati does not inspire; nor does his Masters 1000 Series record in general (he has made three finals and four semi-finals, although his record is also littered with absences). Still, it could be worth backing him to carry his superb form of the early part of the year into the late summer.
Western & Southern Open women’s predictions
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. Much depends on Williams’s performance at the Rogers Cup; of all the WTA players discussed here, she is perhaps the least likely to be going deep at back-to-back tournaments, so if she does well in Toronto, do not expect a similar result at the Western & Southern Open.
While the WTA Premier-5 tournament in Cincinnati hasn’t seen multiple champions, apart from Williams, in the past 16 years, one player who has established an excellent record at the Western & Southern Open (despite not winning the title) is Simona Halep. Since first making the quarterfinals in Cincinnati in 2013, Halep has only once failed to reach the quarterfinals or better at the Western & Southern Open in six subsequent appearances (and that was last year when she lost early to eventual champion Madison Keys who was on fire that week). Runner-up to Williams in 2015, Muguruza in 2017 and Kiki Bertens in 2018, Halep is maybe not a great outright pick for champion (although you can do a lot worse) because of her vulnerability to more explosive players, but she is an absolutely superb pick to win her quarter.
Angelique Kerber has also made multiple Western & Southern Open finals this decade, finishing runner-up to Li Na in 2012 and Karolina Pliskova in 2016, but has only won one match in three subsequent appearances and her 2019 season, which saw her go 28-19 and drop out of the top 20, was not strong.
Champion in 2016, Pliskova was a semi-finalist in 2017 and quarterfinalist in 2019, and Cincinnati is precisely the kind of tournament, in precisely the kind of conditions, that she is fairly good at winning, so the big-serving Czech is always worth a pick. Muguruza, who won the title in 2017 and was a semi-finalist the previous year, also plays well in Cincinnati; she was narrowly edged out by Keys in 2019, but has started 2020 in resurgent style with a 16-4 win-loss record including her run to the Australian Open final. Obviously it’s not yet clear if Muguruza will be able to resume that kind of form once competition starts again – but at this vantage point, and with her record in Cincinnati, she could be a great 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 the former US Open finalist in the past few years, so definitely one to keep an eye on.
Current world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty has never failed to win back-to-back matches in Cincinnati, while Naomi Osaka should always be considered a potential danger on American hard courts. The same goes for Sofia Kenin, although the Russian has struggled a bit at big events since 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
Men – Roger Federer (7)
All-time – Ruth Sanders Cordes, Clara Louise Zinke (5)
Open Era – Serena Williams (2)
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?
|Roger Federer||7 (2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2012, 2014-15)||1 (2018)||R16||47-10|
|Andy Murray||2 (2008, 2011)||1 (2016)||R64||31-12|
|Daniil Medvedev||1 (2019)||–||Champion||6-2|
|Novak Djokovic||1 (2018)||5 (2008-9, 2011-12, 2015)||SF||35-12|
|Grigor Dimitrov||1 (2017)||–||R64||15-7|
|Marin Cilic||1 (2016)||–||R64||16-9|
|David Goffin||–||1 (2019)||Runner-up||13-6|
|Nick Kyrgios||–||1 (2018)||R32||9-5|
|John Isner||–||1 (2013)||R32||16-12|
Who are the best-performing female players at the Western & Southern Open?
|Serena Williams||2 (2014-15)||1 (2013)||Did not play||22-5|
|Madison Keys||1 (2019)||–||Champion||15-5|
|Kiki Bertens||1 (2018)||–||R32||9-5|
|Garbine Muguruza||1 (2017)||–||R64||8-6|
|Karolina Pliskova||1 (2016)||–||QF||14-7|
|Victoria Azarenka||1 (2013)||–||R32||11-6|
|Kim Clijsters||1 (2010)||–||Did not play||8-1|
|Simona Halep||–||3 (2015, 2017-18)||R16||22-9|
|Angelique Kerber||–||2 (2012, 2016)||R64||13-9|
|Svetlana Kuznetsova||–||1 (2019)||Runner-up||15-9|
Cincinnati Open betting tips
Check back for the best Cincinnati Masters ATP and WTA betting tips when odds are released closer to the tournament, where main-draw play begins on Sunday 16 August for the ATP and Monday 17 August for the WTA