With the US Open just two weeks away, we are officially entering the home stretch of the 2018 ATP season. One last tune-up tournament before the year’s final major remains, as the Western and Southern Open plays out this week in Cincinnati.
While Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament shortly after capturing the Rogers Cup title in Toronto, the field still boasts an incredibly star-studded lineup. Though several top players will be competing, all eyes will be on Roger Federer as he makes his return. The seven-time Cincinnati champion will be coming in well-rested, having not played since being defeated in the Wimbledon quarterfinal.
Federer is going for titles
Federer will be in search of his 21st career Grand Slam in New York at the end of the month and is hoping to shake off any rust in his game this week. He will have his work cut out for him if he wants to go deep into the tournament, however, as his draw is filled with some very dangerous threats.
Federer is the number two seed for the tournament (technically now the top seed with Nadal withdrawing) and because of this, he received a bye in the first round. His second round matchup should provide him very little trouble as he is set to face Peter Gojowczyk. I will save you the time of typing that name into Wikipedia and tell you that barring an injury or divine intervention, there really is no way Federer will lose this one.
Into the third round, Federer would face either Lucas Pouille or Leonardo Mayer. While Pouille is currently a top 20 player in the world, do not expect Federer to struggle at this stage of the tournament. He has never lost to either player and at this point looks locked in to reach the quarterfinal.
Things could get sticky in the QFs
The quarterfinal is where things begin to get interesting for Federer. The most likely opponent he would face there is one of Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori or Stan Wawrinka. These players all present their own challenges and have the tools necessary to pull off the upset. Nishikori is a tough player to face on the hard court surface and Thiem actually owns a career winning record against Federer, albeit only having played three times.
Wawrinka looked strong in Toronto and if he reaches the quarterfinal here, he would have done so by beating some strong competition. While Federer has largely dominated their rivalry over the years, Wawrinka could be in a solid position to beat his fellow countryman if they are to meet in Cincinnati.
Assuming Federer advances through the quarterfinal, his most likely semi-final opponents would be either Kevin Anderson or Juan Martin del Potro. They both have enormous serves and punishing groundstrokes, which make them among some of the hardest to break on tour.
Both players have beaten Federer on a Grand Slam stage, most recently as last year’s US Open for del Potro and at this year’s Wimbledon for Anderson. Either of these matchups would be a large test for Federer and would provide a tremendous indication as to the level that Federer’s game currently sits at.
A blockbuster final is in the script
If Federer were to go all the way and reach the final, it would appear that this would be his most competitive matchup of the tournament. The favorites on the other side of the draw to reach the final are Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, and Novak Djokovic. Cilic and Dimitrov are currently ranked inside the top 10 and winners at this tournament in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Djokovic hardly needs any introduction, as the Serbian star is coming fresh off his 13th career Grand Slam at Wimbledon.
Federer will no doubt have his hands full if he wants to be crowned champion in Cincinnati for the eighth time in his career. Whether it be good or bad, this tournament is sure to provide us a considerably clearer idea as to Federer’s chances of taking home another Grand Slam trophy in just a few weeks’ time.
- Brendan brings THE SLICE from Ontario, Canada.