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Western and Southern Open Masters Preview

By Mike McIntyre

The Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati is two days away from continuing the summer hardcourt swing on the ATP World Tour. While not quite as hampered by post-Olympic withdrawals as the Rogers Cup in Toronto, there are still several notable players missing in action.

World number three Rafael Nadal is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Nadal has not played since Wimbledon and there are murmurs that he may even have to shutdown his entire season to allow for a proper recovery. At this stage of the summer I cannot see Nadal coming back to play the U.S. Open without adequate preparation and testing the knee out in best-of-five set competition does not seem like such a great idea.

Joining Nadal on the sidelines are a slew of other Spanish players including Juan Carlos Ferrero (foot), Nicolas Almagro (shoulder) and Fernando Verdasco (wrist). Also missing is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the victim of a freak accident with a fire hydrant while walking the streets of Toronto. Seven stitches to his knee will prevent the Frenchman from taking to the court in Cincy. Compatriot Gael Monfils is also missing as he recovers from a knee injury.

World number one Roger Federer is present which is a huge bonus for tennis fans and tournament organizers and sponsors. Federer without a doubt remains the top drawing card on the tour. He will face either Jarkko Nieminen or Alex Bogomolov Jr. in the first round, with either being a good opponent to warm-up against for a good run at this event. Federer has a fairly routine quarter of the draw and should see either Mardy Fish or Juan Monaco should he attain the final eight. One interesting first round pairing in this part of the draw has youngsters Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison facing one another.

QF Prediction: Federer d. Monaco

In the next section of the draw fourth seed David Ferrer returns to action and will be slated to play fifth seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals if their rankings hold true. There are plenty of players capable of preventing that from happening however including Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic. Talk about some quality players!

Gasquet who has just made the finals of the Rogers Cup is scheduled to face Raonic in the opening round which is just back luck for both of these players, and Simon also faces a tough starting opponent in Marco Baghdatis.

QF Prediction: Ferrer d. Baghdatis

The third quarter is very difficult and is almost a mini-tournament within itself. Juan Martin Del Potro the sixth seed will face the winner between Tommy Haas and David Nalbandian. It will be a case of deja vu for Haas and Nalbandian as they just played eachother in the first round in Toronto. Haas had to play two matches in Toronto on Friday where he beat Radek Stepanek but fell to Djokovic. Both of those matches went three sets and when you factor in all of the tennis the German veteran has played lately I think an early exit in Cincinnati is a real possibility.

Another veteran, Lleyton Hewitt of Australia has been given a wildcard into the event and has to open against a very capable player in Mikhail Youzhny. Ranked 134th in the world due to injury issues this year, Hewitt has seemed to get his game back on track lately by making the finals in Newport in July and then pushing Djokovic to three sets in defeat at the Olympics. Taking down Youzhny is well within his abilities and would be a nice confidence boost as he continues his lengthy career.

Big serving American's John Isner and Andy Roddick are also both in this part of the draw, along with a resurgent Sam Querrey who has taken a wildcard into the event. Querrey has had a great summer with a win in LA, semi-finals in D.C. and a couple of good wins in Toronto against Jurgen Melzer and Nishikori before falling to Djokovic.

If healthy, Andy Murray rounds out this quarter and should be able to get deep in the draw if his knee is feeling up to it. I wasn't getting a good vibe from Murray on either the physical or mental side of his game in Toronto though. Murray had to withdraw after his first round win there and is going to need to get a few hardcourt matches under his belt before the U.S. Open.

QF Prediction: Del Potro d. Querrey

The last quarter has fellow Serbians Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic who are both facing each other tonight in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup. Alexandr Dolgopolov could be a player to watch here as well depending on whether it is the Washington or Toronto version that shows up. He was unbeatable in D.C. but looked completely absent-minded in his straight sets loss to Radek Stepanek this past week in TO.

QF Prediction: Djokovic d. Tipsarevic

Semis: Federer d. Ferrer and Del Potro d. Djokovic

Finals: Del Potro d. Federer




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