Eight Grand Slam singles champions are in action Thursday on a day which sees all 32 players left in the main draws on the men’s and women’s side play. The major titlists left in the draw include Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Petra Kvitova.
Four-time Cincinnati winner Federer plays in the night’s first match on Center Court against James Blake in a rematch of the ’07 Cincinnati final. Former World No. 4 Blake, who won the doubles title in ’02 with Todd Martin, looks to improve upon his two wins and nine career losses against the 16-time Grand Slam champion.
Ten-time Grand Slam champion Nadal faces three-time Tour runner-up this year Fernando Verdasco, who’s currently the World No. 21 after reaching the finals at Gstaad, Estoril and San Jose earlier this year.
Nadal, who’s won all 11 matches played against Verdasco, has lost just three sets to his compatriot out of 25.
World No. 1 Djokovic, a three-time Grand Slam champion and the recent winner at the Olympus US Open Series stop in Montreal, plays against World No. 29 and 2011 Washington, DC titlist Radek Stepanek on Center Court.
For the women, three-time major winner Sharapova, who was runner-up at last year’s Cincinnati tournament, meets two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova. The last three matches between the compatriots have gone three sets with Sharapova winning three-of-four meetings.
China’s Li, who made history by winning the French Open this year, faces last year’s French Open finalist Samantha Stosur. The Australian Stosur has defeated Li twice this year, leading their career head-to-head with four wins to none. Stosur recently made it to the finals in Toronto.
Italy’s Francesca Schiavone, who won last year’s French Open and finished runner-up to Li this year, faces former World No. 1 and ’09 Cincinnati champion Jelena Jankovic in the Round of 16 on the Grandstand.
Also in contention for the title is 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, who plays World No. 11 Andrea Petkovic of Germany on Court 9. Kvitova, who’s currently ranked a career-high of World No. 6, lost to Petkovic last week in Toronto’s Round of 16 6-1 6-2.
For more on today’s action see the Order of Play here
By Benjamin Snyder