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Djokovic’s brutal Cincinnati Masters draw, Alcaraz eyes Canadian Open revenge | Tennis News

For the first time since Wimbledon last month, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic will be part of the same field as the Western & Southern Open draw was revealed on Friday evening with battle for world No.1 title intensifying as the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, US Open, nears. While the top-two ranked players can only meet in the final of the Cincinnati Masters, the draw has as many as nine blockbuster round one matches lined up.

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz can only face each other in the Cincinnati Masters final
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz can only face each other in the Cincinnati Masters final

First Quarter: Tommy Paul threat looms large for Alcaraz

While the draw for the second and final Masters 1000 event before the US Open was announced, Alcaraz was handed a shock defeat at the hands of the same player who beat him at the same tournament 12 months back. Tommy Paul ended Alcaraz’s stunning 14-match winning streak in the quarterfinals of the Canadian Open. However, with Djokovic slated to be back in action, and Alcaraz suffering a quarters exit, the Spaniard would want to make the most of his opportunity in Cincinnati to strengthen his hold over the ATP ranking crown as he builds towards his title-defense campaign in US Open.

Handed a bye in the opening round, Alcaraz will face the winner of wild card entrant John Isner and a qualifier in the round of 32 before a possible encounter with Paul in the pre-quarters. The section of the draw also has fifth seed Casper Ruud, who faces early threat from Frances Tiafoe in the third round before setting up a repeat of last year’s US Open final against Alcaraz in the quarters.

Popcorn Round 1 matches: Tiafoe will be up against Citi Open finalist Tallon Griekspoor while three-time Major winner Stan Wawrinka will face fellow wild card player Brandon Nakashima.

Second Quarter: Chance for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev to bounce back

Both the top seed players suffered an early exit in the Canadian Open this week. While Tsitsipas lost to a resurgent Gael Monfils in the round of 32, Rublev was stunned by American Mackenzie McDonald in the same round. Hubert Hurkacz will stand as a possible early threat for the Greek while the Russian has the winner of the blockbuster clash between Karen Khachanov and Andy Murray in his corner.

Cincinnati Masters men's singles draw
Cincinnati Masters men’s singles draw

Popcorn Round 1 matches: Breakout American stars Ben Shelton and Christopher Eubanks will face each other on home soil with the winner set to face Tsitsipas in Round of 32 while Murray will launch his bid to gain a seed at the US Open when he takes on No.11 Khachanov. However, it is yet to be seen whether the Brit will confirm his participation in the tournament having withdrawn from the Canadian Open on Thursday citing abdominal strain. Meanwhile, defending champion Borna Coric, who had beaten Rafael Nadal in his opening match last year, will be up against America’s Sebatian Korda.

Third Quarter: The most challenging of all

The biggest of the round one blockbusters sits in this section of the draw where 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime will aim to bounce back from his recent slump when he faces Matteo Berrettini. Felix had defeated the Italian two years back in this very competition, but it remains his only ever win against the opponent in five meetings. Both the players will be hoping to make up for the early exits in Canadian Open where Berrettini lost to fellow Italian Jannik Sinner in the second round while Australia’s Max Purcell scripted an upset against Felix.

The winner of the tie could possibly face Holger Rune in the third round as the Norwegian hopes to bounce back after the surprise round of 32 exit in Canadian Open against unseeded Marcos Giron.

The other big round one match of this section of the draw is No.16 seed Alexander Zverev versus Grigor Dimitrov with the winner likely to meet third seed Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the quarters in Toronto on Friday night.

Fourth quarter: Djokovic handed nightmarish draw

On his return to the US after two years, having missed the last season owing to covid restrictions against unvaccinated foreigners, Djokovic has been handed a difficult draw where he will open his campaign against Canadian Open semi-finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Tomas Martin Etcheverry, with Cameron Norrie and Sinner potentially beyond that.

Popcorn Round 1 matches: Ninth seed Taylor Fritz up against Jiri Lehecka, 13th seed Cameron Norrie to face Gael Monfils and Toronto semi-finalist Alex de Minaur against J.J. Wolf.

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