Roger Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters as many as 7 times. This year, as the second seed he will be hoping to win his 8th which will also ensure his returning to world Number 1 Ranking . In King’s way will be top seeded Rafa Nadal who will also be hoping to win this tournament for the second time and become world number 1.
Yes, whoever among Federer and Rafa does better in this edition of Cincinnati Masters will finish the tournament as the new World No.1. We will come to that later. Before that let us 1st get a few basic facts and info out of our way.
The Cincinnati Masters is one of the 9 elite Masters 1000 tennis tournaments on the ATP Worls Tour. One of the oldest tournaments ever which started in 1899, it was played on clay till 1979 and since then has been played on Hardcourts. Apart from the 4 Grand Slams, this is the only tennis tournament to have more than 2 stadium courts. In fact it has 17 courts in total including as many as 4 stadium courts.
The 1st ever champion here was Nat Emerson in 1899 who defeated Dudley Sutphin. An apple orchard owner and a top American amateur player, Nat could enter a Grand Slam semi final only once ( US open in 1908). However he was a Cincinnati Open hall of famer and still holds the record of maximum appearances in last 16, which are as many as 12, a record he holds with his brother H Truxton Emerson and Michael Chang.
There were various well known champions over the years. Lets identify and name a few. Bobby Riggs won 4 times in 5 yearsfrom 1936 to 1940. Ken Rosewall, Connors, Mcenroe, Lendl, Wilander, Edberg, Sampras, Agassi and Chang are also Champions who have won here.
What about Current Big 4.
Roger Federer won here for the 1st time in 2005, defeating Andy Roddick in the final. He then won again in 2007, 2009, 2010 , 2012 , 2014 and 2015. That makes it a staggering 7 titles here. Roddick, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Ferrer and Novak (thrice) are the worthy finalists whom Federer has defeated at Cincinnati. 5 of his 7 wins here have come in straight sets, while Mardy Fish and Ferrer are the only two opponents who have taken a set off him. Federer has a perfect 7-0 record here in all the 7 Finals he has played here. His 7 is also the maximum titles won here by any champion
Rafa has entered only one final which was in 2013 and he defeated the giant American 7-6, 7-6. Andy Murray who has opted out this year has won twice, in 2008 and 2011 and both times Novak lost out. Andy also entered the final last year where he lost to Cilic. Djokovic, who too is not playing this year however has not won here and this is the only Masters title which has eluded him. His 5 finals have resulted in 3 losses to Federer and 2 to Andy.
In 2016 the champion was Marion Cilic while the runners up was Andy Murray. Both are not playing this year. The two favourites for this year will be Federer and Rafa, followed by probably Zverev and Thiem.
Lets see how the draw looks for the top 2 seeds after they deservedly get their 1st round bye.
The likely opponents for Federer are Khachanovor or shwartzman in the second round and Jack Sock in the 3rd. Thereafter other top players he is likely to meet are dimitrov, Del Potro, Berdych, Zverev and Raonic. Now Zverev in the semi-finals promises to be an interesting encounter , since he defeated Fed with ease to win the Canadian Masters. Both are locked 2-2 head to head and it will hopefully be a good match
Rafa also has a tough route to the final. His likely opponents are Richard Gasquet in the second round, Muller and Tsonga in the 3rd and QF. Certainly Rafa will certainly be looking to avenge his painful Wimbledon exit at the hands of Muller. Thereafter if Rafa is to proceed to the final he has to defeat Thiem who himself will reach semi final if he gets the better of Nishikori in the quarters.
Dangerous floaters could be Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios and Del Potro who on their day can take out anybody especially in a best of three tournament where there is less time to get back.
So its time to get rolling. There is enough motivation for both Rafa and Federer to win as they have a chance to get the world number 1 ranking back. Federer will also if he wins at 36 become the oldest winner here eclipsing the record of Ken Rosewall who was 35 years and 8 months when he won here 47 years back in 1970. The youngest champion here at 17 was Boris Becker in his breakthrough year in 1985. That record seems likely to continue for at least a year, if not more.
Will Federer win, or will it be Rafa. The record and history says it will be Federer, especially as Cincinnati’s faster courts will suit him. However never count out Rafa as he is capable of anything. Or will it be a new champion like Zverev who this year has won 5 titles including 2 masters, one each on clay and hardcourts, that too be defeating Novak and Federer with ease.
We will know soon. Let the action begin.