The W&S ATP Masters tournament, the final Masters 1000 tournament before the U.S. Open, gets underway this week and the field looks a whole lot more familiar than the one at the Rogers Cup last week.
Roger Federer returns to play after taking a week off—having played over 600 matches in his career, in a career spanning over 12 years, his number of tournament commitments have reduced by two, thus allowing his absence.
Andy Murray also returns from a slight injury lay-off as the defending champion. The British player pulled out of the Rogers Cup because of a sore knee, but is already looking forward to getting back in hard-court mode.
Speaking to journalists about the adjustments required in going from grass to hard, he said:
Going onto a new surface, that presents new challenges. 'I felt good after winning the gold medal, but coming over to play on hard courts, your body starts to hurt a little bit, you're sore in the joints.
You have to work on different shots as well. So that can occupy your mind a bit. You're not feeling great straight away. Switching surfaces is a new challenge, something that's taken me a few days to adjust.
Novak Djokovic, fresh from defending his Rogers Cup title in Toronto, will also be returning to compete in Cincinnati. The Serb world No. 2 lost the title last year to Andy Murray last year after retiring with a shoulder niggle. A year later, it seems like fortunes have changed health-wise.
The Top Three's Chances
Roger Federer: Prior to losing to Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals last year, the current world No. 1 was a two-time defending champion (2009, 2010). Both years he failed to win the U.S. Open.
Novak Djokovic: Having won the Rogers Cup and being in better physical shape than the was at this time last year, Djokovic is a pretty strong favorite for this title. Although, some may debate the strength of the field at Toronto (there were only two top ten players in the quarter finals, Djokovic himself and Janko Tipsarevic).
Andy Murray: For his first few rounds in Toronto, Murray looked like he had some feel for the hard courts and, although tiredness may be a bit of an issue given the last few weeks he's had, I think he has a great shot at the title.
In the end?
It's not often we see the Rogers Cup champion also winning the Cincinnati Masters, so I feel this may just be a stretch too far for Djokovic (his Open chances do not require that he hit top form).
The favorites for the title in my opinion are Roger Federer and Andy Murray and I wouldn't put it past them to meet in the finals.
The full draw for the 2012 Cincinnati Masters can be found here.