The stage is set for one of the biggest hard-court tournaments of the ATP calendar as top players arrive in Cincinnati for the 2019 Western & Southern Open. Leading the pack is defending champion Novak Djokovic and Britain's Andy Murray, who will be making a return to the singles court after a long absence.
Djokovic will be joined by other big names including former champions Roger Federer, Marin Cilic, and Grigor Dimitrov, as well as fourth seed Dominic Thiem, and former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori.
Here, we take a look at the prospects of the top players in the draw.
Predicted quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Karen Khachanov
Analysis: Djokovic is likely to face local favorites Sam Querrey and John Isner in the early rounds. If he is to come through those matches, which he should do without too much trouble, he will be rewarded with a potential quarterfinal against Fabio Fognini, Denis Shapovalov or Karen Khachanov.
This quarter will be one of the most keenly contested ones, with the first round offering plenty of mouthwatering fixtures, including Fognini v Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios v Lorenzo Sonego. Khachanov, who is fresh off a semifinal finish in Montreal, is also lurking on this side of the draw.
My pick: Novak Djokovic vs Nick Kyrgios
Predicted quarterfinal: Roger Federer vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Analysis: Both the seeds in this quarter will have to come through tricky draws to make it to the last 8. While Federer will face either former champion Grigor Dimitrov or compatriot Stan Wawrinka early on, Tsitsipas could face tough resistance from the in-form Daniil Medvedev and big-serving Ivo Karlovic.
That is not to discount the other big names in this quarter: Nikoloz Basilashvili and Andrey Rublev are on Federer's side, while Benoit Paire and Fernando Verdasco are on Tsitsipas'.
My pick: Roger Federer vs Daniil Medvedev
Predicted quarterfinal: Alexander Zverev vs Dominic Thiem
Analysis: This quarter of the draw is anyone's for the taking. The seeded players do not look too formidable and there is no dearth of talented players. The ever-dangerous Felix Auger-Aliassime, the in-form Gael Monfils, the big-hitting Frances Tiafoe, and, of course, the returning Andy Murray have all been placed in this section.
The real contenders, on paper, are Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Marin Cilic, all of whom have had varying degrees of success on tour this year.
This part of the draw is, by far, the hardest to predict.
My pick: Roberto Bautista Agut vs Marin Cilic
Predicted quarterfinal: Kei Nishikori vs David Goffin
Analysis: The final quarter of the draw has opened up with the withdrawal of second seed and Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal. The highest remaining seed, Kei Nishikori, has an opportunity to make a deep run in this tournament. He will, however, have to be wary of the likes of Alex de Minaur and Reilly Opelka.
David Goffin, on the other hand, needs to get past a tricky opening round match against Taylor Fritz following which the draw could open up for him.
My pick: Kei Nishikori vs David Goffin
Notable first-round matches:
Richard Gasquet vs Andy Murray
Grigor Dimitrov vs Stan Wawrinka
Daniil Medvedev vs Kyle Edmund
Denis Shapovalov vs Fabio FogniniPublished 12 Aug 2019, 14:05 IST