ATP Tour: Cincinnati Masters Preview

Tennis Player hits ball
Our tennis expert previews selected round of 64 matches coming your way from the Cincinnati Masters.

2019 ATP Tour | Masters 1000 Series | Cincinnati Masters
Linder Family Tennis Centre (Hard Outdoor)
Selected Round of 64 Matches | 13 August 2019

Nikoloz Basilashvili (7/10)
vs Andrey Rublev (11/10)

Andrey Rublev has been left behind to some degree by fellow Russian stars Karen Khachanov and Danil Medvedev over the past year. He has struggled to find consistency, battling with a penchant for double faults and an anaemic second serve. But there is no doubting the inherent talent of the man blessed with a rocket forehand. He reached the final of the Qatar Open last season and only recently reached the final of the German Open. I have always thought about him as a natural hard-court enthusiast, though many of his best results have come on clay: his only title in 2017 came on Croatian clay. But the Qatar Open performance perhaps highlights his hard-court attributes best. He also has an excellent record in the NextGen finals event in Milan, which are contested on indoor hard-courts.  Rublev’s performance in Hamburg perhaps hints at a potent late-season surge.

Nikoloz Basilashvili’s recent emergence really started with that fabulous victory at last year’s China Open. A victory over former US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro signified his growing potential. 2019 has been an intriguing season for the Georgian, with quarter-finals at Dubai and Qatar reflecting his keen hard-court nous. But it was a third-round run at Melbourne that perhaps revealed his talents most succinctly: he would go on to lose to Tsitsispas in a tight four-set match. Recently Basilashvili defended his German Open crown on the clay-courts of Hamburg. He then went on to the final 16 in Canada, losing to Alex Zverev in a titanic three-set match. It brought to an end a seven-match winning streak. Basilashvili is a player on the move and will look to impress himself upon Rublev.

The stats don’t make for great reading for Rublev. Basilashvili leads the head-to-head 2-0, with both of those victories coming this season. He beat Rublev in the German Open final, but it was perhaps his straight-sets victory in Doha that seems more ominous. However, the Georgian has played a huge amount of tennis of late. Rublev is talented enough to fancy at this price.  

Gael Monfils (17/20)
vs Frances Tiafoe (9/10)

Gael Monfils is perhaps one of the players who has been most adversely affected by the presence of the ‘Big Three’. An extremely consistent career has been made to look unfulfilled by an unfortunate, once in a lifetime confluence of players. Monfils is coming off an excellent Roger’s Cup, where he, unfortunately, had to withdraw from his semi-final against Rafa due to a rolled ankle. It would appear that was purely cautionary. It actually has been a fairly solid season for the enigmatic Frenchman. He won that Rotterdam title and picked up semi-final finishes in Dubai and Sofia. He reached the 4th round in Paris and also managed a quarter-final at a tough Indian Wells line-up. So it’s fair to say that Monfils is still an arch-competitor, still capable of drawing crowds with his exuberant on-court demeanour.

Frances Tiafoe is one touted for future Grand Slam success. But the 2018 Delray Beach champion has enjoyed an absolutely miserable campaign. He has been eliminated in the opening round of no less than 10 events. That’s really quite remarkable. But what’s more remarkable is the fact that he has quarter-final appearances at both the Aussie Open and Indian Wells events. It really hints at the frustration that young Tiafoe brings to the table his huge forehand is his ostensibly great weapon, but when it goes rouge it becomes his greatest liability. He almost seems to hit it with too much topspin.  In Monfils, he faces a canny defensive baseliner who can use his tremendous power against him.

This will be the first-ever meeting between these two players. The one thing that is making me lean heavily in favour of a Tiafoe upset is the Monfils injury factor. Monfils may find it hard to shake off the effects of that truly epic and extended match against Bautista Agut. In many ways, this could prove to be the perfect encounter for Tiafoe.  

Written by Damien Kayat for

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