August 21 - August 27, 2020
What do you we have here? An ATP draw? With names like Djokovic and Thiem and Tsitsipas and Zverev in it? Tennis fans should savor the moment. It has been a long road back for the men’s game, and it may not last, but the Western & Southern Open draw is out. Despite a few prominent absentees, it looks good, too.
Here’s a preview of what we might see over the next week, when Cincinnati comes to New York.
Novak Djokovic’s reputation as a tour leader took something of a hit during the lockdown, but not his reputation as a player. The No. 1 seed should be pleased that the Western & Southern Open will be played at Flushing Meadows. A three-time US Open champion, he’s won just once on the quick courts in Cincinnati. Like everyone else, Djokovic will be rusty after the long layoff from competition, but the biggest question mark surrounding his game will be his health. Will the coronavirus, which he contracted during the Adria Tour in June, have any lingering effects on his fitness? Like everyone else, Djokovic will be swimming in uncharted waters in that regard.
If Djokovic isn’t 100 percent, can anyone in his quarter take advantage? He’ll start against either Tommy Paul or a qualifier, and the other seeds here are David Goffin, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Goffin and FAA were part of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown, but I haven’t seen much of Shapo this summer. He’ll start against Marin Cilic.
First-round match to watch: Shapovalov vs. Cilic
It may be hard to remember now, but Daniil Medvedev is the defending Western & Southern Open champion. He beat Djokovic in the semifinals and Goffin in the final 12 months ago, and nearly won the US Open a few weeks later. It’s been a different story for Medvedev in 2020. He has mostly receded from view this year; he lost in the fourth round in Australia, went out early in his other two events, and mostly kept to himself during the shutdown. If anyone is going to have a few new tricks up his sleeve when he returns, though, it could be the ever-elusive and surprising Russian. He also seems to have fallen into a friendly quarter. Medvedev, the No. 3 seed, will start against a qualifier, and the other three seeds in his section are Roberto Bautista Agut, Cristian Garin and Karen Khachanov.
Players to watch: Taylor Fritz, who played World Team Tennis; and Richard Gasquet, who did surprisingly well in UTS.
Matteo Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the top two seeds in this section, had success last month in UTS, where they met in an entertaining final. That fast-paced format rewarded a gunslinging mentality; will they carry it over to the regular tour? With several top players absent from the US Open, the Italian and the Greek both have to figure as dark horses to win their first major in New York. This week, they may collide in the quarters.
First-round match to watch: John Isner vs. Hubert Hurkacz. Isner has always had more success at the best-of-three U.S. summer events than he has in best-of-five at the US Open.
Player to watch: Reilly Opelka, who starts against a qualifier, and is in Berrettini’s half
It’s a measure of the ATP’s name-brand strength right now that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can skip a Masters 1000, and Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev can still end up in the same quarter of the draw. These two friends and sometimes-rivals have both played their share of matches this summer, first at the Adria Tour, and then at UTS and in exhibitions in Germany. Each should come to the States believing he can make a breakthrough: Neither Thiem nor Zverev has won a Slam, or reached the final in Cincinnati. Zverev will have the more interesting opener, when he faces either Andy Murray or Frances Tiafoe.
First-round matches to watch: Murray vs. Tiafoe; Sam Querrey vs. Milos Raonic; Andrey Rublev vs. Dan Evans
Semifinals: Thiem d. Tsitsipas; Djokovic d. Medvedev