By Nick McCarvel
Where do I begin? No really. I’m not sure where to begin.
Wednesday is a winning schedule no matter which angle you look at it from, with Rafael Nadal culminating the day as the second match scheduled in the evening session.
The Nadal match is the cherry on top of what is already a decadent cake at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday, a day which also includes Venus Williams, Alexander Zverev, the Bryan brothers and Petra Kvitova vs. Sloane Stephens.
So, who to watch? We’ve picked five matches that have bubbled to the top that can’t be missed.
Venus Williams vs. Ashleigh Barty
Second match, Center Court
“I want to win every match.” Make no mistake: Venus isn’t here just to play tennis, as she noted on Tuesday. The 37 year old was just runner up at Wimbledon a few weeks ago, and she blitzed through her first match in Cincy in just over an hour, losing only two games. Barty, meanwhile, has been on roar in her comeback to the WTA Tour after taking a self-imposed break from the game, winning her first career title in Kuala Lumpur and then finishing as runner-up in Birmingham this summer.
Alexander Zverev vs. Frances Tiafoe
Third match, Center Court
These two guys have met twice already this year, the 20-year-old German beating the 19-year-old American in straight sets in the first round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. It has been a banner year for Zverev, who has risen from No. 24 to 7 in the rankings and has two Masters 1000 titles to his name. Tiafoe, at No. 87, is looking for that first true breakthrough win in his young career. Is this it?
Rafael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet
Second match - evening session, Center Court
At first glance this match might appear to be a tough call, but Nadal is a sizzling 14-0 against his French foe, the two players first meeting on tour in 2004. They are just a few days apart in age, but it’s Nadal that has had the more formidable career while Gasquet has struggled with pressure at times. Gasquet is currently ranked No. 29 having been hobbled by an appendicitis this spring, then a thigh injury thereafter.
Bob and Mike Bryan vs. Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez
Third match, Court 8
Want to see this doubles match on Court 8? We’d recommend arriving early, as the fervent doubles fans in Cincy will want to check out two of the best teams in the game duke it out. The Spanish duo has won the only two meetings between these teams, including the 2016 French Open final in three dramatic sets. Will Wednesday be as high-octane? We hope so.
Petra Kvitova vs. Sloane Stephens
Fourth match, Stadium 3
This is a second round match? It’s a two-time Grand Slam winner taking on a former major semifinalist, with both Kvitova and Stephens making respective comebacks having missed a good part of the first half of the 2017 season. Stephens has won their lone career meeting, which actually came just last week in Toronto: 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2. The winner of Wednesday's match could face Angelique Kerber in the third round.