The top seed and 2013 champion Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Cincinnati, beating his old rival Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes. This was the 15th meeting between these 2, the first since Basel 2015, and Nadal was victorious in all of them, taking the last 25 sets against the Frenchman! It was all about Nadal this time as well, he lost just 13 points in 10 service games, finishing the match with 25 winners and 19 unforced errors, while Gasquet had 13 winners and 26 errors. Spaniard was in front in the shortest points, firing 8 aces and playing well with his first groundstroke after the serve, and he also won the majority of the longer points to score a commanding win and reach the third round. Nadal faced just 1 break point and Gasquet had to play against 7, saving 5 of those but losing serve once in each set to end on the losing side.
It was a shaky start for both players but the first break came in game 4 after a double fault from Richard, who fell 3-1 behind. Nadal served well until the end of the set to keep his advantage, and it could get even bigger if he converted 2 break points in game 6. Still, he didn't need that, giving any chance to his rival on the return, and he closed the set in game 9 with 3 service winners after 43 minutes. Rafa lost just 4 points on serve in set number 2 and he was waiting for one good return game to seal the deal and close the match. That came in game 3 (he won 12 out of 13 points in that moment) after a backhand error from Richard, who served well after that but it was too late to make any kind of impact and get back to the right side of the scoreboard. Nadal clinched the match with 3 service winners in game 10, happy with the way he performed after a tough loss to Denis Shapovalov in Montreal last week.
Alexander Zverev and Frances Tiafoe, the best players of their generations, have already played twice before in 2017, with Alexander winning both matches on the big scene, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, but his 10-match winning run came to an end at the start of Cincinnati. Frances beat him 4-6 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 56 minutes, for his first Top 10 victory in a career. Zverev wasn't at his best, which was rather expected after two amazing weeks he had in Washington and Montreal, and he can take some well-deserved rest before the US Open, where he will among the favorites.
He had 7 double faults and lost almost 50% of the points on his serve, facing 9 break points and getting broken 6 times, which is well-below his level from the previous 2 events. Frances kept his second serve safer and he lost serve 4 times, Zverev had an early lead in the decider but he couldn't keep it for too long. Overall, it was a very solid performance from the American, who had 33 winners and just 21 unforced errors while Zverev stood on a negative 29-44 ratio, unable to find the rhythm from any of his wings. Tiafoe outplayed German in both the shortest points department as well in the longer rallies, not an easy task when Zverev is in his full mode, which wasn't the case in this encounter. Frances grabbed the early lead with a break in game 3 but he stayed in front only for a few minutes, sending a forehand long to lose serve in the 4th game, as Zverev leveled the score at 2-2.
The crucial moment occurred in game 10 when Alexander broke with a forehand down the line winner to take the opener by 6-4. Frances raised his game in set number 2 and he broke Zverev twice to open up a 3-0 gap, taking advantage of more and more mistakes from world number 7. Sascha pulled one break back in game 4 when Frances netted an easy backhand, but that was all he could do until the end of the set. Tiafoe broke again in game 9 to close the set in style and gather some valuable momentum before the decider. There, they traded breaks in the opening two games and Frances was more focused in the closing stages, earning a match point with a return winner in game 10. He converted it when Zverev sent another backhand long, celebrating his biggest career win so far and beating Zverev for the first time in what may become a very big rivalry in the future.
Second round results: