Thursday Preview: Djokovic, Dimitrov Headline Sweet 16 Action

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The third round is upon us here at the Western & Southern Open, with the top 16 men and women playing for their place in Cincinnati’s Elite Eight on Thursday. Here are the blockbuster matchups we’re keeping an eye on. 

[5] Grigor Dimitrov vs [10] Novak Djokovic 
Defending champion and world No. 5 Grigor Dimitrov has struggled to find consistency in 2018, doing well enough to maintain his ranking, but failing to perform his best at the tour’s largest events. 

Djokovic, on the other hand, seems to be comfortably driving a gold-plated tour bus down the comeback trail after missing much of the 2017 season due to an elbow injury. He dismissed any lingering concerns about his future when he captured the 13th Grand Slam title of his career at Wimbledon last month. Plus, he holds a 7-1 head-to-head record over Dimitrov. Advantage, Djokovic. 

Denis Shapovalov vs Milos Raonic
Separated by just four rankings spots, the top two Canadian players in the world will face off on Thursday for a place in the quarterfinals. Just 19 years old, Shapovalov continues to impress, defeating Frances Tiafoe and No. 14 seed Kyle Edmund en route to the third round in his Cincinnati debut. Ranked No. 32, he’ll be looking for his second win over 27-year-old Milos Raonic after taking him out on the clay in Madrid this spring. 

Raonic, a two-time semifinalist here who spent much of last season sidelined due to injury, is slowly inching his way back to his 2016 form, when he reached his career-high rank of No. 3 in the world. The fans—and the Canadian flags—will be out in full force for this one. 

[4] Angelique Kerber vs [13] Madison Keys
Madison Keys has topped Angelique Kerber once in her career: on the grass of Eastbourne in 2014. Kerber has beaten the American the other seven times they’ve played, including a 6-1, 6-2 drubbing this year at the Australian Open. With Kerber’s confidence running high after her third major title at Wimbledon last month, an upset may be a tall order for Keys. 

See the full schedule here

 

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