Cincinnati Masters 2011: Rafael Nadal vs. Julien Benneteau Preview

Shane LambertAnalyst IIAugust 17, 2011

MASON, OH - AUGUST 16:  Fans fill court three for the doubles match between teams Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez of Spain against Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki of Serbia during the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 16, 2011 in Mason, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will be back in action on Wednesday, August 17th as the world No. 2 opens his efforts from the 2011 Cincinnati Masters.

Nadal will be looking to put the Rogers Cup well behind him as he prepares to face Julien Benneteau of France.

Benneteau is a 29-year-old who is fading on tour at the moment. Entering this week he is ranked just 112th in the world and he has definitely seen better days.

Less than two years ago, Benneteau achieved one of the biggest wins of his career as he defeated Roger Federer in the early rounds of the Paris Masters. At the time of that match, Federer was ranked No. 1 in the world and was a couple of months away from winning the 2010 Australian Open.

Benneteau lost to Nadal last year in the Cincinnati Masters, although he did take the then world No. 1 to a third set. On career head-to-heads, Nadal is 2-1 against the Frenchman, with Benneteau winning their first match, on carpet, way back in 2004.

Benneteau's best tennis should not stay on court with Nadal for more than 90 minutes, provided that the world No. 2 plays well.

However, having lost last week to Ivan Dodig, the Spaniard could be judged to be a player who is not playing well right now. Dodig is a respectable player, but he is not capable of beating Nadal unless the 25-year-old is playing below his normal level of play.

Therefore, the match against Benneteau may shed some light on whether Nadal is slumping or if his loss in Montreal was nothing to be over-analyzed. Top players do lose, intermittently, to low-ranked players and bounce back a short time later.

Nadal and Benneteau will meet on Center Court on Wednesday, in the second match on the order of play for the day:

CENTER COURT start 11:00 am (ET)

[7] Mardy Fish (USA) vs. Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) - ATP

[Q] Julien Benneteau (FRA) vs. [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) - ATP

Prediction: Nadal in three.