Novak Djokovic handed nightmare Cincinnati draw as Carlos Alcaraz learns his fate

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic on the secrets of his mental approach
Novak Djokovic revealed his mentality secrets at an ASICS event (Albin Durand)

Novak Djokovic is heading back to America for the first time in two years and he has been handed a challenging draw at next week’s Cincinnati Masters event.

Djokovic has been banned from entering America for the last two years due to his stance on Covid vaccines, with the US government refusing entry to visitors who refused to take the jab.

Those restrictions have now been lifted and Djokovic will play in America for the first time since his 2021 US Open final defeat against Daniil Medvedev in Cincinnati.

After opting to miss this week’s tournament in Toronto as he did not want to play in back-to-back events so close to the final Grand Slam of the year, Djokovic finds himself in a challenging quarter of the draw.

As the No 2 seed, Djokovic will get a bye in the first round as the second seed for the event, but he could be in line to play the in-form Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his first match back on American hard courts.

Davidovich Fokina has caught the eye in Toronto by making it through to the semi-finals and he is knocking on the door of a place in the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time in his career.

Djokovic may then face Alex De Munaur in the third round, who is also showing impressive hard court form in Toronto by making it through to his first Masters 1000 semi-finals.

After that, the 23-time Grand Slam champion could face Gael Monfils, who has been a star of the Toronto tournament and American Taylor Fritz may also lie in wait.

Italy’s Jannik Sinner could also be an opponent for Djokovic in a section of the draw that is loaded with high-quality talent.

This is not the outcome Djokovic would have been hoping for as he flies into America with questions to answer after his Wimbledon final defeat against Carlos Alcaraz still fresh in the memory.

Alcaraz appears to have a much better section of the draw in Cincinnati, as he has a tricky clash against big-serving American veteran John Isner in round two.

However, he could face an familiar foe in America’s Tommy Paul, who beat him on Friday night in the Toronto Masters quarter-finals, backing up a win against Alcaraz in Canada last year.

Britain’s Andy Murray is still in the draw in Cincinnati despite withdrawing from this week’s Toronto event with an abdominal problem, but he is a big doubt to play against Karen Khachanov in the opening round.

One big match to look out for in the opening round in Cincinnati will be Matteo Berrettini’s popcorn clash against Felix Auger-Aliassime.

READ MORE: Andy Murray setback will not halt ‘inevitable’ success says former British No 1