Rafael Nadal is back from an abdominal injury that forced him out of Wimbledon prior to the semifinals, already practicing in Cincinnati ahead of next week’s Western & Southern Open.
Nadal has a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking at the conclusion of the Cincinnati Masters, which would give him the top seed at the U.S. Open. That chance became even more realistic when the draw ceremony was held on Friday afternoon. The 36-year-old has a favorable path to the title, whereas Daniil Medvedev finds himself in a difficult section of the bracket. If Nadal goes all the way and Medvedev loses prior to the quarterfinals, there will be a change atop the rankings.
Following a first-round bye, Medvedev’s first two opponents will come from a group of Maxime Cressy, Botic van de Zandschulp, Grigor Dimitrov, Denis Shapovalov, Tommy Paul, and Jenson Brooksby. Either Cressy or Van de Zandschulp will be a tough opening foe for the 2021 U.S. Open champion, while both Paul and Brooksby are in dangerous form. That all-American showdown is especially intriguing, and whoever wins will probably be expected to beat either Dimitrov or Shapovalov.
Nadal awaits either Borna Coric or a Q/LL/SE in his first match since defeating Taylor Fritz in five sets during quarterfinal action at the All-England Club. Things should not get tricky for the second seed until the quarters, when Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Alex de Minaur are possible opponents. Auger-Aliassime and Carreno Busta either were or still are Montreal quarterfinalists, Sinner has been in stellar form pretty much the whole season, and De Minaur recently triumphed in Atlanta.
Joining Nadal in the bottom half of the bracket is possible semifinal foe Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old Spaniard will be hoping to bounce back from an opening loss in Montreal to Paul. Alcaraz has a great draw in Cincinnati, where he could face Marin Cilic in the round of 16 and Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals.
In addition to Medvedev’s eighth of the draw, the top half also features Nick Kyrgios, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Hubert Hurkacz. Kyrgios-Rublev is a potential third-round matchup, while Tsitsipas and Hurkacz are on a collision course for the last eight.