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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday August 13, 2022

The Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati marks the final Masters 1000 event before the US Open, and it promises to be exciting on the men’s side, with Rafael Nadal returning to the court for the first time since he left Wimbledon with an abdominal injury and Daniil Medvedev and several others hunting for a shot at the ATP’s No.1 ranking.

Here are five storylines that we’ll be watching in Cincy on the men’s side:

Rafa’s return:

Nadal, the 2013 champion, gave the all clear earlier in the week and is already in Cincinnati hitting the practice courts. It’s great news for the Spaniard, who is hoping to finish his Grand Slam season with a 23rd major. On the way he has a chance to reclaim the No1 ranking. If Nadal wins the title and Daniil Medvedev fails to reach the quarterfinals it will be the Spaniard at the top of the ATP rankings table for the 210th week.

Nadal will face either Borna Coric or a qualifier in the first round. Here’s his path to the final if the seeds hold:

R1 – Bye
R2 – Borna Coric or qualifier/ special exempt
R16 – No 15 Roberto Bautista Agut or Francisco Cerundolo
QF – No 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime or No 10 Jannik Sinner
SF – No 3 Carlos Alcaraz or No 5 Casper Ruud
F – No 1 Daniil Medvedev

Nole’s out again

Nothing surprising here. Novak Djokovic pulled out of the tournament just before the draw. Due to his unvaccinated status, he is still not allowed to travel into the USA. It’s already bad enough that he would have to play the US Open without any hard court matches, but will he even be allowed to play? Stay tuned…

Medvedev and Rafa and the race for No.1:

As we mentioned, top-seeded Daniil Medvedev is in the driver’s seat when it comes to locking down the No.1 ranking. The Russian has a tricky draw, however. He’ll face either Botic Van de Zanschulp or Maxime Cressy in the second round, and could face Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals.

First-rounders to watch:

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka in the first round? Don’t mind if we do – at least one of them will pick up a much-needed Masters 1000 win.

We’ll also be glued to these first-round and second-round matchups:

[12] Matteo Berrettini v Frances Tiafoe
Lorenzo Musetti v Borna Coric (winner faces Nadal in round two)
[10] Jannik Sinner v Thanasi Kokkinakis
Stan Wawrinka v Andy Murray (Upate: Murray won in three)
Nick Kyrgios v Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Alcaraz reboot:

Carlos Alcaraz went public with his disappointment after losing to Tommy Paul in the first round at Montreal. His chance at redemptions comes quickly. He will face Mackenzie McDonald after his first-round bye. He’s slated to face Casper Ruud in the quarters and Rafael Nadal in the semis if the seeds hold.