Cincinnati Masters 2022: Nadal and Medvedev compete for No1 to grab US Open top seeding

Nadal has not played since Wimbledon injury; Medvedev needs two wins in loaded top section

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal (Photo: Mubadala World Tennis Championship)

Hot on the heels of the Montreal Masters, the second of the summer hard-court double-header, the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, begins the day after its sibling’s finals.

It is a gruelling month that only grows tougher as August heads into September at Flushing Meadows for the final Major of the year, the US Open.

And therein lies perhaps the biggest story to follow in Cincinnati, because the results in the coming week will determine who is world No1, and thus top seed, in New York. The battle is between two former champions in Ohio, current No1 Daniil Medvedev and current No3 Rafael Nadal: world No2 Alexander Zverev is still absent after an ankle injury during the semis of the French Open.

Nadal could return to the top of the ranks for the first time since January 2020, though will need to win his first title in Cincinnati since 2013. And Medvedev will thwart Nadal’s efforts, no matter the Spaniard’s run, if he reaches the quarter-finals.

Nadal is playing for the first time since his withdrawal from the semis at Wimbledon, where he picked up an abdominal tear, and will be hoping to emerge from the Cincinnati draw not just as No1 but with a tour-leading fifth title and a 37th Masters.

Medvedev, then, needs to win two matches to secure the top ranking at the US Open, but just as he did in Montreal, where he played and lost to Nick Kyrgios in his opening match, the Russian has some challenging early matches.

First he faces either Maxime Cressy or Botic van de Zandschulp, ranked 32 and 24 respectively, who made breakthrough runs this summer. Next comes Grigor Dimitrov, Denis Shapovalov, Tommy Paul, or Jenson Brooksby—all capable of a hot streak.

And even if Medvedev safeguards the No1 ranking, things remain tough for any title ambitions: Kyrgios again lurks unseeded with Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz, for the quarters.

Compare with Nadal’s early rounds: a qualifier or Borna Coric—playing with protected ranking in only his third hard-court match of the year, and he lost the other two. Indeed this quarter has five of the draw’s eight qualifiers, though seeds include Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger-Aliassime plus Montreal finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

Players to watch

· Teenage super-star Carlos Alcaraz is playing as the third seed, and has already won two Masters this year—and four titles from six finals.

· Casper Ruud is up to No5 after a semi run in Montreal, and that after reaching his first Masters final in Miami. He won five titles last year, four on clay, and three this year, all on clay, plus reached his first Major final at Roland Garros, but is improving all the time on hard courts. His segment, though, is daunting: the third round could be Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka or Cam Norrie.

· Hubert Hurkacz has shown fitness, resilience and self-belief—as well as powerful, all-court skills—to battle through four three-setters in Montreal and contest the final. He has not lost any of his previous five finals, including the Miami Masters last year.

· Cam Norrie, give or take that killer segment with Holger Rune first and Murray or Wawrinka second, has made his biggest wins on hard courts, not least Indian Wells last year, and he won another this year, from three hard-court finals, in Los Cabos.

· Dan Evans has found a real vein of form in Montreal, reaching the semis in singles and the final in doubles. He is fitter now, at 32, than he has ever been, and bringing speed, net skills and all-court craft to court. Perhaps he is ready to reach a first Masters final, if he has enough left in the tank, though he is in a tough quarter with Hurkacz, Matteo Berrettini, and in the second round, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

· And on recent form, never discount Kyrgios, who arrives in Cincinnati having won 15 of his last 17 matches.

First round matches to catch

· Van de Zandschulp vs Cressy

· Dimitrov vs Shapovalov

· Fritz vs Sebastian Baez

· Berrettini vs Frances Tiafoe

· Norrie vs Rune

· Murray vs Wawrinka [NB Murray was schedule to play in qualifying, but moved into a special exempt spot—drawing Wawrinka on a protected ranking]

2022 winners on outdoor hard courts in the draw

ATP Cup: Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov

Melbourne Summer Set: Nadal

Sydney Classic: Aslan Karatsev

Adelaide 2: Thanasi Kokkinakis [playing qualifying]

Australian Open: Nadal

Doha: Bautista Agut

Delray Beach: Norrie

Dubai: Rublev

Acapulco: Nadal

Indian Wells: Fritz

Miami: Alcaraz

Washington: Kyrgios

Los Cabos: Medvedev

Montreal: Final, Carreno Busta vs Hurkacz

Former champions in draw

Medvedev, Nadal, Dimitrov, Cilic, Murray [twice]

Absentees from the 16 seeds

Zverev, Novak Djokovic,

Also withdrawn: Gael Monfils, Reilly Opelka, Oscar Otte, Tallon Griekspoor

Draws 56, including 16 seeds (eight with first-round byes), and eight qualifiers

Top half, headed by Medvedev

R2 Van de Zandschulp or Cressy

R3 First seed Dimitrov

QF If seeds hold, Fritz/Rublev; Kyrgios also here

SF If seeds hold, Tsitsipas/Hurkacz; Berrettini/Schwartzman also here

Bottom half headed by Nadal

R2 Coric or qualifier

R3 First seed Roberto Bautista Agut

QF If seeds hold, Sinner/Auger-Aliassime

SF If seeds hold, Alcaraz/Ruud; Norrie/Cilic/Murray/Wawrinka also here

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