Cincinnati: Barty, Osaka & Zverev among returning stars

  • Matt Trollope

Top two women Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, Wimbledon men's finalist Matteo Berrettini and Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev are all back in action this week at Cincinnati.

Barty and Osaka headline a women’s draw stacked with potential must-see matches, and some of those match-ups have already been confirmed for the first round with the release of the draw

Berrettini and Zverev add star power to a men’s Masters draw missing Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the second straight week.

READ MORE: "I want to give myself a glimmer of hope to return," says Federer

The women’s draw features 16 of the world’s top 17 women, with the only absentee being fourth-ranked Sofia Kenin. World No.20 Serena Williams is also skipping the event due to the leg injury she sustained at Wimbledon.

The first round features some excellent contests, including an Olympic singles gold medal rematch between No.10 seed Belinda Bencic and Czech Marketa Vondrousova. 

DRAW: Cincinnati women’s singles

There are also battles between 11th seed Petra Kvitova and former Cincinnati champ Madison Keys, and three-time major champion Angelique Kerber and Greek star Maria Sakkari.

The second round could see even more unmissable spectacles, including:

Naomi Osaka v Coco Gauff
Garbine Muguruza v Sloane Stephens
Elina Svitolina v Angelique Kerber
Jennifer Brady v Jelena Ostapenko
Iga Swiatek v Ons Jabeur
Simona Halep v Camila Giorgi
Aryna Sabalenka v Paula Badosa
Bianca Andreescu v Karolina Muchova

By the third round, when the seeds meet, we could have a battle between top seed Barty and two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka, Muguruza against this year’s Roland Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova, Halep against last week’s Montreal finalist Karolina Plsikova, Swiatek against Kvitova, and Andreescu taking on Bencic. 

And that’s all before we get to the quarterfinals, where Osaka and Andreescu are projected to clash – assuming the Canadian has overcome the toe injury that affected her in Montreal. 

Berrettini, Zverev bolster draw

Berrettini, playing for the first time since his run to the Wimbledon final, is projected to meet No.2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters.

But in what is shaping as perhaps the best quarter of the draw, that bottom segment is loaded with talent that could prevent such a match-up.

They include young guns Felix Auger-Aliassime, Sebastian Korda and Carlos Alcaraz, Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov – who opens against former world No.5 Kevin Anderson – and strong 2021 performers in Marton Fucsovics, Lorenzo Sonego, and 16th seed Cristian Garin.

DRAW: Cincinnati men’s singles

Zverev has landed in the bottom half of the draw along with Berrettini and Tsitsipas, and faces a potential second-round clash with Lloyd Harris, who reached the last 16 in Toronto. 

He could meet in the quarterfinals No.8 seed Casper Ruud, the in-form Norwegian who has won 13 of his past 14 matches.

In the top half, Medvedev, who heads the draw as the No.1 seed, will attempt to extend his winning streak after triumphing on the weekend at the Toronto Masters.

READ MORE: Medvedev, Giorgi capture Canada titles

The seeds in the Russian’s path to the semifinals – where he is projected to meet fourth-seeded countryman Andrey Rublev – include Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Rublev headlines a stacked second quarter of the draw featuring rising stars Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Jannik Sinner. 

But to play any of them, Rublev must first navigate a tough second-round clash against either Marin Cilic or Aslan Karatsev.