We take a look at the two intriguing Cincinnati Open clashes between Andy Murray vs Cameron Norrie as well as Hubert Hurkacz vs John Isner.
2022 ATP Tour
Lindner Family Tennis Centre (Outdoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 32 Matches- 17th August
Andy Murray (2/1) vs Cameron Norrie (9) (2/5)
You can’t help but admire the tenacity that Murray showed in that epic dual with Stan Wawrinka.
The Scot was fresh off a disappointing first-round defeat in Canada that further fuelled rumours of a possible retirement. And he had to dig deep against long-time rival Stan Wawrinka, rallying from a break down in the 3rd set to improve his head-to-head record against the Swiss to 13-9.
I think it was telling that the Brit- twice a beaten finalist this year- was able to physically overcome the Swiss in the 3rd set. He pressed with his backhand and he actually came to the net quite often.
The victory improved his impressive Cincinnati record to 35-14 (he won the title here in 2008 and 2011). He is going to need a huge week this week if he wants to get amongst the seeds at the US Open.
Murray has been consistently drawn against top tier opponents in the early stages this year and his chances of a deep Flushing Meadows run will improve immeasurably with success this week.
The ultra-consistent Cameron Norrie is going to be a completely different challenge to Wawrinka. Much like Nadal, Norrie is a lefty who loves to create massive amounts of topspin on his forehand sides (he tends to hit flatter on the backhand side). He is a gritty competitor who manages to extricate every ounce of ability out of his frame.
He just seems to be going from strength to strength each year. Last year he enjoyed a huge breakthrough with victory at Indian Wells. He had the reputation of being something of a flat-trick bully, dominating slightly less-than-stellar events.
That Masters 1000 title truly upped his stock. And his recent semi-final run at Wimbledon just further showcased the strikes he has made. A consummate counter-puncher, Norrie will look to work Murray down to the bone.
The Verdict: Murray to win in three at 9/2- This will be just their 2nd meeting, with Murray overcoming Norrie in a tight three-set encounter at the 2019 Beijing event. This should be a tactically fascinating encounter.
As I noted earlier, Norrie is a true counter-puncher who will look to absorb arduous rallies. Murray will probably look to be the aggressor on these rather lively surfaces.
And I think that is where Murray may hold the advantage this week. His more powerful groundstrokes should be rewarded on these slick surfaces.
Hubert Hurkacz (8) (4/9) vs John Isner (7/4)
25-year-old Pole Hubert Hurkacz has truly emerged as one of the preeminent hardcourt players in men’s tennis today. He won his maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami last year and lost in a hotly contested final at last week’s Canadian Open.
The big-serving Pole was immense the entire week, taking down the red-hot Nick Kyrgios in the process. Hurkacz win-loss for the record for the year now stands at a highly commendable 32-14. These fast surfaces should suit this US Open dark horse to a tee.
His huge first-serve allows him to win plenty of free points. I also admire the way he still employs the occasional serve-and-volley. He has always been something of a counterpuncher.
But this year he seems to have added a bit more aggression to his game, putting him slightly more in line with the new breed such as Carlos Alcaraz Garfia and Jannik Sinner.
37-year-old serving sensation John Isner is certainly getting on in years. But the immensely successful American will always have the capability to win any match courtesy of his cannon serve and dismissive forehand.
But his mobility isn’t quite what it used to be and his opening round victory against Benjamin Bonzi took his 2022 win-loss record to a paltry 6-8. But Isner’s one-two punch approach suits these conditions to the bone. He won the title here in 2013 and reached another semi-final.
But he will need to liven up his baseline play if he wishes to compete in the longer rallies. But to be fair, I can’t imagine too many 10+ rallies in this slugfest.
The Verdict: Hurkacz to win in three at 14/5- Isner leads the head-to-head 2-0.
In fact, he is yet to drop a set against the Pole, actually winning their last meeting in this event in 2020. So, he has every chance of pulling off the upset victory (especially when you consider Hurkacz’s exertions in Canada last week).
But I still think that Hurkacz’s improved athleticism will give the edge in what should be a fairly tight match.