Alexander Zverev believes world number one Novak Djokovic remains the favourite for the upcoming U.S. Open despite the German backing up his Olympic gold medal with victory in Cincinnati.

The German world number four defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets on Sunday to win the Western and Southern Open, claiming his fourth title of the ATP season.

The 2021 U.S. Open begins next Monday with Dominic Thiem, who defeated Zverev in the 2020 final, withdrawing from the men's draw along with superstar Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Their absences have opened up an opportunity for the in-form Zverev to have a run at the title but the German insisted Djokovic, who he defeated in the Olympic semi-finals, is the player to beat.

"I do think that he's still the favourite," Zverev told reporters after his win in Cincinnati.

"I do think he's going to be playing incredible tennis there. He's going to be fresh, and I think there is also other guys that are in very good form. I think Rublev is in very good form, [Daniil] Medvedev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, all those guys are playing great tennis.

"It's definitely going to be an interesting US Open. But I'm also looking forward to it, because I know where I stand, I know how I'm playing, and I hope I can continue the work and hopefully play even better in New York."

Djokovic has not played since Tokyo 2020, where he lost his bronze medal match to Pablo Carreno Busta after his semi-final defeat to Zverev.

The Serbian world number one opted to withdraw from the mixed doubles' semi-final afterwards, citing a left shoulder injury.

"I think Novak will be back. He's obviously going to be the favourite but I think other guys are going to be in great shape,” Zverev said.

"I'm looking forward to the week. Let's see how it goes. But there is still one week to go. I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I have to find my rhythm in New York, as well."

Zverev, who had never won a match in Cincinnati prior to this year's event, has not lost a match since his Wimbledon fourth-round exit to Felix Auger-Aliassime in July.

Alexander Zverev claimed his fourth title of 2021 with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Andrey Rublev to win the Western and Southern Open.

The Olympic champion had not won a match in Cincinnati prior to this year's tournament, but Sunday's one-sided final capped a remarkable turnaround for the world number five.

Zverev raced into a 4-0 lead before securing the opening set 6-2 as he produced no errors across the first seven games.

The third seed carried on his domination, breaking Rublev in his opening service game of the second set to pave the way for the 17th ATP title of his career within an hour in the showpiece.

After paying tribute to "his best friend on Tour" Rublev, Zverev added in his on-court interview: "It is incredible that tennis can be back, sport can be back, and we can watch and play this beautiful sport again.

"I normally do not look forward to this week - not winning a single match in seven years - but this has now become one of my favourite times of the year for me, hopefully it can be for the next 10 to 15 years."

The 24-year-old reached the final of the US Open last year, though he will now eye going one step further as the tournament commences at the end of August.

Andrey Rublev finally got the better of compatriot Daniil Medvedev after a flashpoint involving a courtside camera in the Western and Southern Open semi-finals.

Rublev will now face Alexander Zverev in the decider, having ended Medvedev's bid for a Toronto-Cincinnati double.

Medvedev had never even dropped a set to his fellow Russian in four prior ATP Tour meetings and appeared to be on course for another dominant victory when he took the first set.

But the world number two clattered into a camera early in the second and all momentum was soon lost.

Medvedev complained about the positioning of the camera, claiming it had caused a hand injury and aiming a kick at the lens.

He swiftly called for treatment as his performance started to fall well below his lofty standards, with Rublev finally able to win a set after breaking in an epic 15-minute game.

A series of unforced Medvedev errors allowed Rublev to break again in the decider and seal a stunning 2-6 6-3 6-3 triumph.

Third seed Zverev fought back from a double break down in the final set to progress to the final with a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-4) win over second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The epic match lasted two hours and 41 minutes, with Zverev responding strongly after appearing unwell to book his spot in the final against Rublev.

Rublev gets his Daniil degree

Asked to reflect on finally toppling Medvedev, Rublev told Amazon: "It's always tough to play against Daniil and to beat him.

"I think it gives me a bit more confidence that I can play against him, I can compete against him. There are still so many things to improve, but it's like I've passed university."

The victory came as a relief, with Rublev believing he was unfortunate even to be trailing in the first set.

"Inside I was thinking, when I was 6-2, the score shouldn't be like this," he said.

"The points were really tight, some little outs, little mistakes, some good shots from Daniil. The score was not real [in] the first set.

"Even the third set, I won 6-3 but the match was so intense. You saw so many rallies, so many long rallies, and it was so tough.

"It was a super mental match, a super physical match, exactly like a chess match."

Zverev's Novak mentality

Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Zverev had trailed 4-1 in the third set against Tsitsipas, but fought back with two breaks before winning in a tie-break.

"After I did the first break back I thought 'OK I have the chances'," Zverev said during his on-court interview. "I felt like he was not serving bombs. I felt like I was always in the rallies but I was losing the rallies because I was a bit low energy, so I started being a bit more aggressive, a bit of the Novak mentality that I had against him at the Olympics as well."

Zverev has a 4-0 record against final opponent Rublev but he was wary of his opponent.

"Favourite or not, I think if you're in the final, there's no easy opponent," he said. "Today he played incredible beating Medvedev."

World number one Ash Barty reached yet another final on Saturday at the Western and Southern Open, where she will face wildcard Jil Teichmann.

Barty is through to her sixth title match of the season – and first in Cincinnati – after beating Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

In action on the WTA Tour for the first time since winning at Wimbledon, having gone to the Tokyo Olympics in the intervening period, the Australian came through a sloppy spell in the second set to advance 6-2 7-5.

Teichmann is next, taking on Barty for the first time after a stunning run continued with victory over Karolina Pliskova.

The world number 76 had already eliminated Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic and was a deserving 6-2 6-4 winner against Pliskova.

Barty finds the balance

Barty had been racing towards victory when she took the opener on Kerber's serve, her second break, and then went 2-0 up in the second.

But Kerber gave the favourite a scare by winning each of the next three games, belatedly finding joy against the Barty serve.

The All England Club champion has won more matches than any other player on tour this year, though, and regained her composure to break twice more for a 39th triumph of 2021.

"It's never, ever a walk in the park against Angie," Barty said. "She's an exceptional competitor and I think early on in that second set she went to another gear and it took me a few games to go with her.

"That was the change – she was able to lift her game and, even though there were some close games, she won the big points early on in the second set.

"I'm glad that I was able to find a way through there in the end.

"I had to find the balance of being aggressive and not getting too passive and letting Angie dictate.

"She moves exceptionally well, puts the balls in difficult positions, and I felt like when I was able to control the court I did a better job.

"In the games I got broken, she just saw too many second serves and was able to be assertive.

"I'm really happy to get through in the end, and to be playing for a title here in Cincinnati is awesome."

'Random' run wears on

Despite facing three seeds in succession, Teichmann has not dropped a set since losing the first against Osaka in the last 16.

Continuing that sequence against Barty will be a tough ask, but few would have anticipated Pliskova being brushed aside quite so easily.

Teichmann herself has no explanation for a sensational run of form.

"It's tough to explain," she said. "When I ask my coaches what they think of me, they always say, 'You're just an unexpected person, you do random things', so I guess that's one of them.

"I'm feeling really, really good here, the conditions, serving good, moving well, when I can I attack, I defend... What I'm feeling here, I cannot even describe it.

"It's a dream. I'm playing centre court, a final against the world number one. I cannot ask for anything else."

Ash Barty and Angelique Kerber set up a blockbuster Western and Southern Open semi-final – but Petra Kvitova suffered a fitness scare ahead of the US Open.

World number one Barty won 6-2 6-4 against French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who she also defeated in the fourth round during her Wimbledon title run last month.

Kerber and Kvitova then battled it out for the right to tackle Barty in the last four, but a quarter-final that was building momentum ended prematurely when two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova found a recent stomach problem too troublesome.

Kerber was 6-4 3-3 ahead in the contest, having recovered from being an early break down in the second set, getting her game together as 31-year-old Kvitova began to suffer.

During an injury timeout, which Kvitova called after the fifth game of the second set, the Czech received a massage to her abdominal region and played on briefly, before walking up to the net to concede the match.

It remains to be seen whether the setback in Cincinnati might have consequences for her involvement at Flushing Meadows, with the US Open due to begin on August 30.

Kvitova wrote on Twitter minutes after coming off court: "I stayed out there as long as I could. I have been struggling with a stomach issue for several days and unfortunately couldn't finish the match today. Good luck Angie - sorry to end it that way - and can't wait for the next battle with you."

Kerber said in an on-court interview: "Of course, this is not the way you would want to win the match. I hope Petra will recover as fast as possible and be ready for the US Open.

"I know she's a big fighter and fights until the last points, so I hope she is not too bad and hope she is fine really, really soon."

Kerber has now won 14 of her last 15 matches, with the exception being her Wimbledon semi-final defeat to Barty.

Barty got through in a more routine manner on Friday, albeit having to battle from a break down in the second set against the fast-rising Krejcikova, who has shot up from 65th in the world to a career high of number 10 this year.

Barty said: "Barbora served exceptionally well early in that second set and was able to take advantage of a service game of mine where I just hit too many second serves.

"I wanted to try and get a little bit more positive on her service games and then try to get myself in the points a little bit more. I'm happy to run away with that one in the end."

Simona Halep says she is no longer afraid of coronavirus after getting vaccinated and hopes more players will take the jab.

Halep opted against travelling to New York for the US Open last year due to the pandemic before testing positive for COVID-19 last October.

The two-time grand slam champion missed the French Open and Wimbledon this year with a torn calf muscle, but claimed her first win since May at the Western and Southern on Tuesday, beating Magda Linette 6-4 3-6 6-0.

Former world number one Halep revealed she feels much more comfortable back on the circuit after taking the vaccine.

"I don't feel afraid, because I am vaccinated," The Romanian told reporters. "I feel protected. I am taking care. I wear the mask when many people are around."

Players have faced strict protocols since the tour resumed, with the challenges of staying in biosecure bubbles and playing in empty stadiums last year before restrictions gradually eased.

Stefanos Tsitsipas this week said that he would only take the vaccine if it becomes mandatory to play on the ATP Tour after Novak Djokovic stated he hopes it will not become a requirement to take the jab.

Halep hopes fellow professionals take the vaccine so they do not face such strict protocols.

"I don't like the bubbles," Halep said. "I feel very stressed when I'm in the bubble.

"So if people can vaccinate more and more (it) will be better, because we will not have more restrictions anymore."

Simona Halep, a three-time runner up in Cincinnati, claimed her first win since May by overcoming Magda Linette 6-4 3-6 6-0.

The 12th seed has just returned from a calf muscle tear which saw her miss the French Open and Wimbledon, and was defeated by Danielle Collins in Montreal last week.

However, at 1-4 down in the second set she required medical attention for what she described as a "sharp pain" in her right leg, but after a rain delay, the Romanian came out of the blocks to claim a third-set bagel.

Halep progressed to the Round of 32 where she will play American Jessica Pegula.

Sunday's breakthrough National Bank Open winner Camila Giorgo was beaten in straight sets by Pegula 6-2 6-2.

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka needed only one hour and nine minutes to dispose of Ludmilla Samsonova and seal her spot in the last 32.

The Belarussian triumphed 6-2 6-3 over the Russian, dominating her first serve and breaking Samsonova five times throughout the match.

Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Belinda Bencic eased past Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 7-5 continuing her bright recent run, winning in one hour and 27 minutes.

In the final match of the day's play, Caroline Garcia defeated 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens 7-6 (9-7) 4-6 6-4 in two hours and 33 minutes.

Dayana Yastremska, Bernarda Pera, Karolina Muchova, Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina, Veronika Kudermetova and Coco Gauff were all winners too.

Fifth seed Matteo Berrettini survived an early scare on his return from a thigh injury to progress in the second round of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati over Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday.

The Italian world number eight, making his ATP Tour return since losing the Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic in July, won 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 7-5.

The Spaniard claimed the first set in a tie-break but Berrettini hit back, sending down 25 aces for the match, winning 84 per cent on his first serve.

"I'm happy for the win. I think I served really well," Berrettini said. "My strokes from the baseline weren't working the way I wanted them to, but I knew from the beginning it's been a long time since I played a match, especially on hard, so I expected to feel a little bit weird."

The match extended to two hours and 20 minutes, with the Italian utilizing his backhand slice in the final set to get the edge.

Berrettini, who has a 33-7 record for the season, will face 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or Karen Khachanov in the third round.

"I'm really happy that I'm going to have the chance to play another match because that's what I need," Berrettini said. "I need to play matches. I need to get in the best shape possible."

Canadian sixth seed Denis Shapovalov suffered a shock early upset, going down to France's Benoit Paire 6-3 4-6 7-5 in the Round of 64.

Former US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov toppled 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 21 minutes.

Fellow seed Cristian Garin also bowed out, losing 4-6 6-3 6-4 to qualifier Tommy Paul, while ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-1.

Marin Cilic, John Isner, Sebastian Korda, Gael Monfils, Reilly Opelka, Lorenzo Sonego and Frances Tiafoe were the other Tuesday winners.

Isner sent down his 13,000th career ace in his three-set win over Briton Cam Norrie.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has indicated he will only get the COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes mandatory to participate on the ATP Tour.

World number three Tsitsipas revealed he has not yet been jabbed against coronavirus with the tennis world divided on the issue. 

The ATP Tour have publicly encouraged players to get vaccinated, but Novak Djokovic is among the high-profile players to have stated it should not be compulsory to compete.

When asked ahead of the Western and Southern Open if he would get the vaccine, Tsitsipas told a media conference he still had reservations.

"No one has told me anything. No one has made it a mandatory thing to be vaccinated," the Greek said.

"At some point I may have to, I'm pretty sure about it, but so far it hasn't been mandatory to compete, so I haven't done it, no."

Tsitsipas received a bye through to the second round in Cincinnati, where he will play either Sebastian Korda or Laslo Dere.

The 23-year-old, who has a tour-high 45 wins this season, climbed up to third in the world rankings last week and boldly targeted overhauling Djokovic in top spot.

"The rankings are there for a reason. They signify something important," he added.

"I think that the very next step would be the number one spot, which I hope I can get to one day.”

Petra Kvitova was one of a handful of seeded players to take the court at the Western and Southern Open on Monday and came away victorious against a past champion of the event. 

The 11th-seeded Kvitova defeated 2019 Western and Southern winner Madison Keys 7-5 6-4 on a rain-plagued opening day of main-draw play at the tournament outside Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The Czech saved eight of nine break points against her serve while breaking Keys three times, and that was enough to pull out the victory. 

Kvitova's countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova, the ninth seed, made her singles debut at the WTA 1000 event with a 6-3 6-2 rout of Daria Kasatkina. 

Fifteenth seed Elise Mertens also was a straight-sets winner, taking down Nadia Podoroska 6-3 6-4, while 13th seed Jennifer Brady defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in a match that finished shortly before 1 a.m. local time.

Though only Krejcikova was in action Monday, the field in Cincinnati includes nine of the top 10 players in the rankings, led by Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka in their first appearances since the Tokyo Olympics. 

In other matches on the first day of play, Heather Watson defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 3-6 6-1, while Paula Badosa outlasted Petra Martic 4-6 6-4 7-6 (11-9) in a two-hour, 34-minute marathon. 

Yulia Putintseva breezed past Zhang Shuai 6-2 6-0, Jelena Ostapenko beat Tamara Zidansek 7-5 6-1 and Jil Teichmann downed Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-0. 

Angelique Kerber beat Maria Sakkari 6-2 6-2, with Alison Riske matching that scoreline in a defeat of Leylah Fernandez.

Shelby Rogers won 6-4 2-1 when her countrywoman Danielle Collins retired with an injury. 

Andy Murray looked sharp in his first singles match since Wimbledon, rolling to a straight-sets win over Richard Gasquet at the Western and Southern Open. 

Murray defeated the veteran Frenchman 6-4 6-4 on a rainy opening day in Cincinnati, capitalising on a strong service game to advance. 

Murray had 14 aces to just two double faults and won 81 per cent of points on his first serve while saving four of the five break points he faced. 

A two-time champion at the ATP 1000 event, he will face the winner of Tuesday's match between Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round. 

Two players who shared a birthday Monday also prevailed on their big day. 

On the day he turned 20, 11th seed Jannik Sinner defeated Federico Delbonis 6-2 7-5, while 10th seed Diego Schwartzman had to work a bit harder on his 28th birthday to down Daneil Evans 6-2 4-6 6-3. 

Elsewhere, 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (7-0) 6-3, while 14th seed Alex de Minaur rallied to down Filip Krajinovic 0-6 6-4 6-4. 

Fifteenth seed David Goffin fell 6-3 6-3 to Guido Pella in the only seeded upset of the day. 

Other winners Monday included Karen Khachanov, Fabio Fognini, Lloyd Harris, Dominik Koepfer, Benoit Paire, Albert Ramos Vinolas and Mackenzie McDonald. 

Among those set to play their opening matches Tuesday are third seed Alexander Zverev, who will face Harris, and sixth seed Denis Shapovalov, who plays Paire. 

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