ATP

W&S Open: Headliner R1 matches, Djokovic’s quarter, and more

The Western & Southern Open draw has been officially released. Here’s a look at Novak Djokovic’s quarter, as well as some of the must-watch Round 1 matches.

The ATP’s best have finally made it into New York for the Western & Southern Open and enter a tournament vastly different from anything they’d experienced before. Gone will be the manic cheers from the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. In its place are gigantic blue banners covering the endless rows of lower-deck seating. Handshakes and victory waves now replaced by racket taps and a seat at the chair. It’s going to be an odd week for sure but that won’t stop players from putting on their best show.

The Western and Southern Open officially released the ATP draw for this week’s event. It’s led by World #1 Novak Djokovic and his up-and-coming rival superstars Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and Daniil Medvedev.

The event is being held in New York due to COVID-19 concerns and, despite two positive tests from Guido Pella and Hugo Dellien only a few days ago, the tournament is still going on as scheduled. The players’ US Open availability is now in doubt but no other positive tests have sprung up in the bubble since the original incident.

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Arguably the most-talked-about story is regarding how Djokovic will fare in this week’s tuneup to the US Open. He’ll have a relatively easy start to the event but will have a few potential tough matches to get through his quarters once the quarterfinals roll around ( as expected).

Novak Djokovic – Path to the Championship

R1: BYE

R2: Tommy Paul/WC

R3: Felix Auger-Aliassime/Tennys Sandgren

QF: Goffin/Shapovalov/Cilic

SF: Medvedev/Bautista Agut

F: Thiem/Zverev/Tsitsipas

Auger-Aliassime will be the first tough test for Djokovic if he gets through. He’s been one of the hottest players on tour this year and highlighted the year with two finals appearances in Marseille and Rotterdam. He also played very well at the UTS2 event, losing in the final to Alexander Zverev in sudden death.

Immediately after, Djokovic will have another tough test to deal with in the quarters. David Goffin has been a proven top ten player on tour but Djokovic hasn’t had any trouble dealing with him in his career.

Shapovalov will likely be the toughest test for the World #1; his fast-paced game and premier racket skills showed to be a problem for Djokovic in their 2020 ATP Cup meeting. Djokovic prevailed in a tight three-setter but the youngster will definitely have a shot to take him down if he’s at the top of his game.

The most probable semifinal candidate will be Daniil Medvedev, the defending champion. Medvedev has taken two of the last three head-to-head meetings, including a three-set victory at last year’s Cincinnati semifinals on his way to the title. He’s certainly cooled off since reaching the finals of the US Open, which will certainly help Djokovic, but if he gets hot, even the best player in the world might not be enough to stop him again.

Djokovic’s half is less top-heavy than the bottom, which helps his path to the finals immensely. Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas are all in the bottom half, and other tough players such as Andrey Rublev, Grigor Dimitrov, Andy Murray, and Frances Tiafoe all sit in the bottom half, as well. Whoever prevails through that bottom half will have the slight advantage of preparation. It’s projected to be Thiem due to his stellar play this year being well above the others.

He’ll give Djokovic a scare without a doubt. He almost took him down in Australia to begin the year but couldn’t hold onto the two sets to one advantage he held in the finals. If all goes right for Thiem, he’ll give a major scare to the Serbian superstar.

Headliner Round 1 Matches

The draw is full of some of the game’s top players and even better, some of them have must-watch first-round matchups. Here are the three best opening round matches to keep an eye out for this weekend.

Andy Murray (GRB) vs Frances Tiafoe (USA)

Andy Murray hasn’t gotten back to his major championship status but he’s definitely returned to a state in which he’s able to contend in significant tournaments. He’ll have a tough first-round matchup against one of the US’ best, Frances Tiafoe. The American showman has put on some fabulous performances in his career, including wins against Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the 2019 Australian Open quarterfinals. he and Murray both have the tools to make a deep run at this tournament and will both put on a fantastic show in Round 1 of the event.

Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs Marin Cilic (CRO)

This match will be a very interesting one, to say the least. Cilic has one of the best serves on tour and Shapovalov has the racket and return skills to counter it. Both players have the opportunity to get into a quarterfinal matchup with Djokovic if they advance far enough and could be hot enough to take him down, as well. The key to this match will be the effectiveness of Cilic’s serve. If it’s spot-on, Shapovalov will have trouble getting off the court with a victory.

Alternatively, Shapovalov has shown that he has the ability to defeat anyone on tour as long as he’s confident and plays aggressively from the ground. It’ll be key for him to take advantage early and strike often in order to take the victory in what could be the most intriguing matchup of the opening round.

Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs Dan Evans (GBR)

If Rublev is hot, he’s going to be an extreme threat to get very deep into this tournament. He’ll have to open up strong, however. Given his streaky game, he’s shown tendencies of losing matches he should normally have no issues with, which leads him to unnecessary early exits. Apart from Djokovic, however, there aren’t many players hotter than the World #14 this year.

He’s rolling into this week with a 15-3 record and two titles in Adelaide and Doha. While he entered the shutdown shakily, his potential to upset some of the top seeds is clear. A projected matchup with Alexander Zverev in Round 3 could be the tipping point for him to finally make a run at the first big title of his career.

The Western & Southern Open main draw action begins August 22nd and runs until the 28th of the month. Due to the creation of the bubble for all athletes playing in US-based tournaments, the event was moved to New York. Three days after the event ends, the US Open will begin its main draw action and will run until the 13th of September.