INJURED CLIJSTERS OUT OF WESTERN & SOUTHERN, BUT FIRST ROUND IS LOADED
Editor's Note: Kim Clijsters, who was to have faced Jennifer Brady in the first round of the Western & Southern Open, has withdrawn from the tournament due to an abdominal injury.
“I’m grateful to Western & Southern Open for the opportunity to play the tournament once again. I have great memories from playing in Cincinnati and was looking forward to being a part of the event this year. It’s disappointing to have to withdraw but after discussions with medical and my team, I need a little more recovery time.
“I’m grateful to be able to stay in the “bubble” and continue to prepare with my team here at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“I want to thank the Western & Southern Open team, the USTA and WTA for all their efforts in putting these events together – they’ve worked really hard to create a great experience in a safe and healthy space for players.“
The draws for the Western & Southern Open were released on Thursday night—check them out, as part of our men’s and women’s previews, here and here—and they’re full of tantalizing first-round match-ups. Here are five of the best:
1. JENNIFER BRADY VS. KIM CLIJSTERS (WC) [FIRST MEETING]
Clijsters made her most recent comeback to tennis just before the pandemic, in February. While she went 0-2, the losses were to a pair of Top 20 players, Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta, in tight two-setters. But she started picking up steam this summer in World TeamTennis, winning six of her seven matches, and now she’s back at the site of some of her biggest triumphs—not only did she win Cincinnati in 2010, but she’s a three-time US Open champion. The No. 40-ranked Brady has some major momentum, though, capturing her first WTA title six days ago in Lexington.
2. DENIS SHAPOVALOV (12) VS. MARIN CILIC [SHAPOVALOV LEADS, 2-1]
In terms of ranking, Shapovalov is the favorite—he’s currently No. 16, Cilic No. 37. But they played each other in Marseille in February, just a few weeks before the tour was suspended, and it was a hard-fought victory for the Canadian, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. And Cilic has very fond memories from this time of the year. Not only did the former No. 3 win the only Grand Slam title of his career at the US Open in 2014, he also won the only Masters 1000 title of his career at Cincinnati in 2016.
3. DAYANA YASTREMSKA (16) VS. VENUS WILLIAMS (WC) [FIRST MEETING]
It’s youth versus experience as 20-year-old Yastremska, the second-youngest player in the Top 25 after Bianca Andreescu, faces Venus, who turned 40 this year. She's the second-oldest player with a WTA ranking. Venus is ranked 40 spots lower than Yastremska, No. 65 to No. 25, but she looked strong in her first event back in Lexington last week, beating Victoria Azarenka in straight sets and holding a 4-2 lead in the third set against Serena in the second round before falling. The American has also won two of her seven career majors at Flushing Meadows.
4. ANDY MURRAY (WC) VS. FRANCES TIAFOE (WC) [FIRST MEETING]
Tiafoe may be playing at home, but Murray has had some of his most masterful moments in this part of the season. He’s a two-time Western & Southern Open champion, winning the Masters 1000 event in 2008 and 2011, and though he may be best known for being a two-time Wimbledon champion, he won the first of his three career Grand Slam titles here at the US Open in 2012.
5. MARIA SAKKARI (13) VS. COCO GAUFF [FIRST MEETING]
At 16, Gauff isn’t just the youngest player in the Top 50, she’s the youngest player in the Top 500—but she’s already one of the best players in the world. And in her first event back in Lexington last week, it seemed like she hadn’t missed a beat, upsetting No. 11-ranked Aryna Sabalenka en route to the semifinals. She’ll have to be at the top of her game again against the No. 21-ranked Sakkari, though, who made her first second week of a major in Australia this year and broke the Top 20 shortly afterwards.