Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the top two seeds in the men’s singles draw at this year’s Western & Southern Open.
For the first time since 2009, the two most successful players of this generation – with 34 Grand Slam singles titles between them – are No. 1 and 2 for the week of tennis in Cincinnati, meaning they could face off in a blockbuster final should their seeds hold.
The two resurgent 30-somethings have met just once here before, with Nadal winning a three-set quarterfinal in Mason in 2013.
Andy Murray, the current world No. 1, is missing the event this year due to a hip injury, as are Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and 2016 Cincy champion Marin Cilic – all out with injuries.
That has cleared the path for Nadal-Federer in the final, while Austrian Dominic Thiem has moved up to the No. 3 seed and recent Washington D.C. winner Alexander Zverev of Germany is seeded fourth.
The path isn’t an easy one for Nadal (winner here in 2013) or for Federer (a seven-time champ), with the Spaniard potentially meeting former Top 10 resident Richard Gasquet in the second round, then his Wimbledon ouster Gilles Muller in the round of 16. (Muller won that four-hour-plus match in London 17-15 in the fifth set.)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is Nadal’s quarterfinal foe should their seeds hold that far, then a semifinal showdown with Thiem looms for the Spanish No. 1 seed.
Federer is looking for his first Cincinnati title since 2015, and could meet rising young Russian star Karen Khachanov in the second round, or Diego Schwartzman, who made the quarterfinals this past week in Montreal.
Federer is then due to meet Jack Sock in the third round. And then could face one of Grigor Dimitrov, Tomas Berdych, or Juan Martin del Potro in the quarters, with Berdych and del Potro set for a first round blockbuster. Federer's projected semifinal foe is the fast-rising Zverev.
The men’s draw has a host of mouth-watering first round encounters, including: Muller-Ryan Harrison; David Goffin-Nick Kyrgios; Sam Querrey-Stefan Kozlov; Steve Johnson-David Ferrer; Jared Donaldson-Roberto Bautista Agut; John Isner-Viktor Troicki; Donald Young-Tommy Paul; Del Potro-Berdych; and Khachanov-Schwartzman.
Jack Sock is the highest seeded American man at No. 13, taking on Yuichi Sugita to start, with 10 U.S. men’s players in the draw in total. Querrey-Kozlov and Paul-Young are the two all-American first round match-ups to watch, with Kozlov, Paul, Donaldson and Frances Tiafoe all receiving wild cards.
While all eyes will be on Nadal and Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively, will look to make deep runs, Nishikori set to meet Thiem in the quarterfinals and Raonic trying to set up a last eight battle against Zverev.
Nadal will look to seal up the No. 1 ranking that Murray will lose on the Monday after this coming week (Aug. 21), the Spaniard having failed to take over the top spot in the rankings for the first time in three years this past week when he was upset by Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov in a third-set tiebreak in the third round.
Nadal needed a semifinal effort this week in Montreal to become No. 1.
But that hope is still alive for Federer, as well, who needs to win the Montreal title and – if he does – then advance further than Nadal here in Cincy.
Nadal and Federer as 1-2 and a looming battle for the No. 1 ranking... Is this 2007? Nope, it’s the 2017 Western & Southern Open, and it’s going to be an incredible week of tennis.