By Nick McCarvel
If Wednesday was the day that was filled to the brim with incredible tennis in Cincinnati, Thursday is when things spill over. In a good way.
Here, we present five must-see matches (with more to come) as the Western & Southern Open heads towards the weekend and the business end of the tournament.
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Grigor Dimitrov
First match, Center Court
Believe it or not it’s a 5-0 head-to-head lead for the big man del Potro against Dimitrov, the two having met three times in the last 15 months and del Potro dropping just one set in those encounters. But this is perhaps the most intriguing round of 16 match-up on the men’s side, and - as Dimitrov has shown us this year - the Bulgarian can play top-level tennis. If del Potro’s thunderous forehand is on, however, watch out.
Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Madison Keys
Second match, Center Court
This is another surprisingly lopsided match-up, Keys with a 3-0 lead on the Wimbledon champion Muguruza, including a straight-set victory just a couple of weeks ago in Stanford. Both of these women have looked in red-hot form so far this week, Muguruza dropping just two games in her opener while Keys lost only three herself in her second round encounter. Can Muguruza flip her fortunes against the American star?
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Ashleigh Barty
Second match, Stadium 3
It’s the first meeting between these two, but Barty is carrying the momentum of having beaten Venus Williams (a career-best win) on Wednesday and now gets the shot at another Top 10 star in Wozniacki. The Dane is having a season to remember, and is one of the four players left in the WTA draw that has a shot at returning to world No. 1 with a title win this week. She hasn't held that spot since 2012.
John Isner vs. Frances Tiafoe
Third match, Center Court
Tiafoe is the 19-year-old American who is coming off of his own major upset, beating the “it” player of the moment Alexander Zverev on Wednesday, who had arrived in Cincy with a 10-match win streak over the last two weeks. He has Isner for the second time in his career, the two having met at the US Open in the first round last year. It was in that match that Tiafoe held a two-sets-to-love lead before Isner rallied to win in five. Asked about what he learned from that match, Tiafoe quipped: “Well, if it was a best-of-three I would have won.”
Nick Kyrgios vs. Ivo Karlovic
Fourth match, Grandstand
Kyrgios is the one with the lead in this series, 3-0 in fact, including a tight-as-can-be battle in Miami earlier this year, the Australian winning in a third-set tiebreak. Karlovic was lights-out in an upset win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last round, though Kyrgios hasn’t batted an eye in decisive victories over David Goffin and Alexandr Dolgopolov to start his Cincy campaign. Expect this one to be electric.
Rafael Nadal vs. Albert Ramos Vinolas
First match - evening session, Center Court
These two Spaniards last faced off in the Masters 1000 final in Monte Carlo earlier this season, Nadal skipping through in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3. Nadal has less than 24 hours to recover after a late-night finish against Richard Gasquet on Wednesday, but the 2013 champion will be an overwhelming favorite against a guy who hasn’t been able to win a set against him in three matches played.