Following Novak Djokovic’s superb and largely unexpected win at Wimbledon, men’s tennis has arguably never been more fascinatingly poised. Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have shared the previous six Grand Slams, while all three will expect to compete for the U.S. Open at the end of August.
Before then, two of these players will compete in the Rogers Cup and the Cincinnati Masters respectively, along with a host of other contenders who will be looking to build momentum ahead of the next slam.
But who’s likely to come out on top in these tournaments? Here, we take a look at the most prominent contenders…
The Rogers Cup: 6th – 12th August, Toronto
Nineteen of the world’s top twenty players have already confirmed their participation at this year’s Rogers Cup, previously known as the Canadian Open. Federer is the notable exception. This Masters 1000 tournament will be held in Toronto, as Alexander Zverev looks to defend the title he impressively won against Federer last season.
Hard court specialist Djokovic is likely to start as the favourite here, with the Serbian having claimed his 13th Grand Slam at SW19. He has also won four Rogers Cup title overall, most recently after defeating Kei Nishikori in straight sets back in 2016.
While Djokovic’s form and pedigree on hard courts make for an irresistible proposition, French Open champion Nadal will arrive in Toronto with a point to prove.
After all, the Spaniard and world number-one suffered a shocking third-round defeat to local favourite Denis Shapovalov in the same tournament last year. He was also ousted in a thrilling, five-set semi-final by Djokovic at Wimbledon. Given Nadal’s competitive spirit and his desire to extend an already considerable lead over Federer in the ATP rankings, he’s sure to be a key contender here.
Nadal has also won on three previous occasions in Toronto back in 2005, 2008 and 2013, lifting the title every time he has reached the final.
In Federer’s absence, it’s interesting to note that former world number-one and three-time Slam winner Andy Murray has received a wild card for the event. The Scot has also won the Rogers Cup three times, most recently against Djokovic in 2015 and will return to competitive tennis at the Washington Open.
Outside of these players, defending champion Zverev is another one to watch. Despite his sustained failure to progress beyond the quarters of any Slam, he typically performs well at Masters 1000 events.
Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro will also be a huge contender, with the injury-prone star now up to fourth in the world and capable of beating anyone on hard courts. If he maintains his current form, the 2009 U.S. Open winner could make it deep into the latter stages in Toronto.
The Cincinnati Masters : 12th – 19th August, Cincinnati
Despite its relatively humble beginnings, The Cincinnati Masters has become one of the most prestigious Masters 1000 tournaments. Also known as The Western and Southern Open, the tournament was first played at the modest Avondale Athletic Club more than a century ago and is established as North America’s oldest professional championship.
Now, it’s a grand-scale event held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center and draws the top players from across the globe.
This year, this includes world number-two Federer, who after declining to participate in 2016 and instead taking part in the Rogers Cup has reversed this decision. He will arguably start as the favourite here – particularly with his rivals committed to appearing in the Rogers Cup instead.
Federer boasts an incredible record in Cincinnati, winning seven titles since 2015 and never losing a final at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. He has also beaten Djokovic three times in the final here, including during his last title run back in 2015.
We can also expect last year’s winner Grigor Dimitrov to defend his hard-earned title in Cincinnati. The brilliant but inconsistent world number-six beat Nick Kyrgios in straight sets to claim his first Masters 1000 title. The unpredictable Kyrgios will also hope for success here, with memories of his straight-sets victory over Nadal in last year’s quarter-finals still fresh in his mind.
However, the question remains whether either of these two talented but enigmatic performers can be relied upon to make another sustained title tilt in Cincinnati, particularly with so many other top players set to compete.
Both Nadal and world number-seven Marin Cilic are expected to make an appearance at the Cincinnati Masters, with the shared intention of building on past successes here. Nadal took the 2013 title in a tight final against American John Isner, while Cilic vanquished Andy Murray back in 2016.
As for Murray, the Scot has also been offered a wildcard entry to participate in Cincinnati this year. There’s a very good chance he’ll take on this challenge, as the tournament is ideal preparation for his long-awaited U.S. Open campaign ahead.
The former British number-one has previously cited hard courts as his preferred playing surface and has lifted the title on two previous occasions in Cincinnati. Djokovic was the beaten finalist in both instances, although Murray’s last title from here was back in 2011. It will be interesting to see whether he can replicate this success seven years later.