The Western & Southern Open is always good for big upsets and inspired runs through the draw each year. Three players claimed their maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in the past four editions of this event, while others advanced to their first Masters 1000 final and unseeded players enjoyed a moment in the spotlight.
ATPTour.com looks at six surprise runs in the past decade that are among the highlights in Cincinnati. This year, the event will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, with qualifying beginning 20 August, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2017: Grigor Dimitrov
In 2016, Dimitrov shook off an extended slump by reaching the semi-finals in Cincinnati. He returned to the scene of the climb 12 months later and raised the stakes by capturing his first Masters 1000 crown. The seventh seed powered through the draw without dropping a set, scoring a 6-3, 7-5 win in the final against Nick Kyrgios.
“I’m just happy. There’s nothing else I can say. I’m just happy and humbled to have that trophy in my hands and especially to win here, my first Masters 1000. It’s just amazing,” Dimitrov said. “I always like this tournament. I have played it quite a few times and always thought this could be one of the first [Masters 1000 titles], and it is the first one.”
The Bulgarian improved to 23-3 on hard courts that year with his triumph in Cincinnati and established himself as one of the best players on the surface. Buoyed by his milestone moment, Dimitrov finished off the year by prevailing at the Nitto ATP Finals (d. Goffin).
2019: Daniil Medvedev
After reaching back-to-back finals in Washington, D.C. and Montreal, Medvedev was among the top contenders to prevail in Cincinnati. Although he had the game to take the title, the Russian had never been part of that conversation before in a Masters 1000 event and it was unclear how he’d handle the extra pressure.
The 23-year-old Russian proved to be unbothered and marched into the semi-finals without dropping a set, then rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win against top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Medvedev was the favourite in the final against No. 16 seed David Goffin and he held his nerve, grabbing his first Masters 1000 crown with a tight 7-6(3), 6-4 victory. The added confidence from his milestone moment helped propel Medvedev to his first Grand Slam final the following month at the US Open (l. to Nadal).
“It’s hard to find words,” Medvedev told ESPN’s Brad Gilbert after the match. “It’s the hard work I’ve been putting in. It would not be good to lose three finals in a row, so I’m really happy about this.”
2019: David Goffin
With a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 7 and four ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals to his name, Goffin showed that he has the game to excel at this level. But after a disappointing 2019 season on hard courts that saw him arrive with a a 6-9 record on the surface, few expected him to go far in Cincinnati.
The Belgian, seeded No. 16, quietly worked his way through the draw and continued to outduel his opponents from the baseline. He benefitted from a walkover quarter-final win against Yoshihito Nishioka before prevailing in a tight 6-3, 6-4 semi-final against Richard Gasquet to mark his first Masters 1000 final. Although he fell to Medvedev in the championship match, Goffin’s inspired run pushed him back inside the Top 15.
2017: Nick Kyrgios
Despite falling to Dimitrov in the championship, Kyrgios enjoyed his own breakthrough that year in Cincinnati. The Aussie reached his maiden Masters 1000 final by weathering a challenging draw and schedule. He pulled double duty on Friday by scoring victories over Ivo Karlovic and top seed Rafael Nadal, then returned 24 hours later to grind out a hard-fought 7-6(3), 7-6(4) semi-final win against David Ferrer.
Kyrgios’ tough road to the final also showcased his stamina and proved the injury woes that plagued him for two months were a thing of the past.
“Where I was three weeks ago, I wasn’t in a good place at all… And now I’m in the final of a Masters 1000. I think that’s a very Nick Kyrgios thing to do,” Kyrgios said.
2016: Marin Cilic
Cilic arrived at 2016 Cincinnati with 14 tour-level titles to his name, including the 2014 US Open, but he had yet to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final after 70 attempts. The No. 12 seed broke that streak with a quarter-final win via retirement after the first set against fellow Croatian Borna Coric, then took out Dimitrov in a semi-final that finished at 1:35 a.m.
Just 15 hours later, Cilic was back on court to face Andy Murray in the final. Shaking off his 2-11 record in their ATPHead2Head series, the Croatian fired winners from all parts of the court to defeat Murray 6-4, 7-5. He became only the fifth player outside the Big Four to lift a Masters 1000 title since 2010.
2010: Mardy Fish
Although Fish was on a confidence high after winning titles the previous month in Newport and Atlanta, he still needed a wild card for direct entry into the main draw. The American, then No. 36 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, made full use of his opportunity.
He scored a pair of Top 10 wins against Fernando Verdasco and Murray, then rallied from 2-5 down in the second set to defeat childhood friend and two-time Cincinnati champion Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 for his third Masters 1000 final. Fish pushed Federer to the edge in the championship match, but the Swiss fought back to prevail 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 6-4.