By Benjamin Snyder
Seven major singles champions headline Thursday play at the Lindner Family Tennis Center as the men and women fight for quarterfinals spots at the Western & Southern Open.
Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, begins the showcase of the sport’s biggest titleholders when he faces Viktor Troicki in the first match on Court 3. The No. 6 seed from Argentina, who claimed the bronze medal at the London Olympics, is looking to make the final eight for the first time in Cincinnati, having made the round of 16 back in 2007 as a qualifier ranked No. 78 in the world.
His opponent in that five-set US Open thriller of a final, Roger Federer, also plays on Thursday. The four-time Cincinnati champion takes on Australia’s Bernard Tomic on Center Court to try and make his fifth quarterfinal at the event.
Federer recently added to his collection of major titles at Wimbledon this year to bring the total to 17.
Trying to chase that record and overtake Federer in the major title count is Serena Williams, who plays in the prior match on Center Court. In a pre-tournament press conference, Serena said, "I don’t have any plans of retiring or stopping any time soon, so I’m just trying to catch up with Roger."
She continued, joking, "I was close, and I won Wimbledon and he won Wimbledon. I was like, ‘How am I ever going to catch up with you if you keep winning?’ I’m obviously happy for him."
When asked about Serena’s comments, Federer replied, "It’s nice to be an inspiration I guess to a degree for someone that’s such a great champion and been in the game longer than I have actually even though we’re the same age." He continued, "It’s good that we’re not done yet. Hopefully we can achieve more."
But before she has a chance to make a run at the US Open this year, Serena will face qualifier Urszula Radwanska, the younger sister of Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka, for a berth into the final eight.
The older Polish sister plays in the first match on the Grandstand against wild card Sloane Stephens of the United States.
Serena’s older sister, Venus, meanwhile, plays her round of 16 match against Roland Garros runner-up Sara Errani of Italy. The seven-time major champion has already survived two straight three set matches in her bid to claim her first Cincinnati title.
Another two major titlists, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur, also play Thursday. While 2011 Wimbledon winner Kvitova faces Peng Shuai of China, the defending US Open champion Stosur takes on Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
Playing in the first night match on Center Court is five-time major winner Novak Djokovic, who collected three of those titles last year. Additionally, he added his third Australian Open crown in 2012. He faces Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in his quest to win his second-straight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, having won in Toronto last week.
In other men’s match on Thursday, American Mardy Fish plays Radek Stepanek in the first match on Center Court, while singles gold medalist at the London Olympics Andy Murray plays lucky loser Jeremy Chardy. Former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych will play Canada’s Milos Raonic during the packed tournament schedule.
For the women, former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, a finalist at the 2009 US Open, is set to meet the No. 17 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Two-time major semifinalist Angelique Kerber plays qualifier Andrea Hlavackova.