Andy Murray makes his long-awaited return to singles action at this week’s 2019 Cincinnati Masters, where defending champion Novak Djokovic starts as the favourite.

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Djokovic tops the betting odds for the tournament despite being handed a tricky draw, while Roger Federer is also present among the top seeds although Rafael Nadal is absent.

The Spaniard, presumably wary of over-exertions ahead of the upcoming US Open, pulled out of the event citing a need to rest after he claimed his fifth Rogers Cup title by beating the promising Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-3 6-0 in Montreal.

Nadal was set to be the second seed but there is still a strong field assembled behind Djokovic and Federer, who can be backed at 6/4 and 9/2 respectively to triumph in Cincinnati. The tournament, which is also known as the Western & Southern Open, has attracted top players including Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev.

But the biggest story of the week will be arguably Murray finally getting the chance to play a singles match again, with the former world number one kicking off against Richard Gasquet.

It promises to be an exciting event, but where is the best Cincinnati Masters betting value? As always, let’s take a look at the odds offered by the top tennis sites and see who looks to truly offer the best prospects heading into this week’s biggest event.

Murray Tests Hip Ahead of US Open

Having successfully eased his way back to full fitness thanks to playing doubles over the last few weeks, former US Open champion Andy Murray will be a star attraction in Cincinnati this week.

Murray will play singles for the first time since the Australian Open, where strong pain forced him to tears in a news conference where he made it clear there were no guarantees he would ever be able to play again at the top level of the game.

But a major hip operation has got Murray back out on the court and the long months of rehabilitation will come to an end when he faces off against Gasquet of France in the first round. Should Murray come through the Gasquet match, he will be set to face fourth seed Dominic Thiem and that would be a major test of his strength and fitness levels ahead of the US Open.

“I have zero pain,” said Murray, who is offered at a massive 80/1.

“I’m not expecting to be moving as well as I used to but I still think I can probably move better than I am just now.

“But that will take time. I started playing singles again only a couple of weeks ago. When you’re playing at the highest level against the best players, they hit the ball big and it takes time to get used to that again. And there’s still some improvement to come from my hip operation.”

Djokovic and Federer Both in the Top Half of the Draw

Nadal’s late withdrawal from the tournament, with the Spaniard having been made the second seed, leaves both of the leading favourites in the same section of the draw.

Top seed Novak Djokovic, who last year became the first player to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 crowns with his triumph at the Western & Southern Open ensuring he made history by completing the Career Golden Masters.

In 2019, Djokovic opens his defence against either Sam Querrey or Pierre-Hugues Herbert, while John Isner, who got to the final here six years ago, is likely to await in round three. Isner, whose massive serve makes him a big threat, actually beat Djokovic in the 2013 quarter-finals.

Nick Kyrgios could lie in wait for Djokovic in the quarter-finals with another potential last-eight opponent for the Serbian being the eighth-seed Karen Khachanov, a Rogers Cup semi-finalist.

The potential route to glory for Roger Federer is not at all straightforward either, although the veteran can look back at his record seven titles here to boost his pre-event confidence.

Hamburg champion Nikoloz Basilashvili could be Federer’s third round opponent assuming he comes through his opener against either Matteo Berrettini or Juan Ignacio Londero. Rogers Cup finalist Daniil Medvedev might be waiting for Federer in the quarter-finals with this stacked mini-section also including Stefanos Tsitsipas, who of course knocked the Swiss out of the Australian Open this year.

Bottom Half of the Draw Sees Strong Value

The withdrawal of Nadal has immediately made the bottom half of the Cincinnati Masters draw look wide open for someone to come through and take full advantage.

A price of 30/1 for Dominic Thiem looks large considering the fact that the Austrian can plot a path through the draw without too many issues, although he does have 2016 winner Marin Cilic to think about in a potential third-round meeting.

Cilic himself is a decent alternative option at 35/1 despite his inconsistent form so far this year, while seventh seed Alexander Zverev (around 30/1) is also a strong contender to win the third quarter.

It is also worth thinking about Kei Nishikori, who is the lowest seed in the fourth quarter after Nadal was replaced by the lucky loser Mikhail Kukushkin, who finds himself given a bye to round two. The Japanese really should get through to the quarter-finals at the very least, making his price of about 33/1 well worth considering, at least with small stakes on an each way basis.

Another player to keep an eye on from the bottom quarter is David Goffin, who can be backed at odds of 80/1 to win the Cincinnati Open crown even though he has no major early tests.

Cincinnati Masters Best Bets

Djokovic beat Federer in the final a year ago and a reunion in the last four looks a solid bet, with the defending champion favoured to win that clash despite the seven titles won by the Swiss.

At 6/4 Novak Djokovic looks a good price to retain his crown but one factor to keep an eye on is that four different players have lifted this trophy in each of the past four years. Both Djokovic and Federer have tricky hurdles to clear if they are to secure that potential semi-final meeting.

Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov have both won the event, as well as Djokovic and Federer, with Kyrgios and Isner among the less heralded talents who have also got through to recent finals.

That is enough to give further confidence in taking some of the rather generous odds on offer in the bottom section of the draw, where the absence of second seed Nadal creates opportunities.

Kei Nishikori at 33/1 and David Goffin at 80/1 are definitely worthy of selection on an each way basis while there will be plenty of eyes on Murray at the latter price to see how he fares on his comeback.

Aelxander Zverev has shown signs of improved form and the seventh seed could be in line to reach his third final of the year on the ATP tour. The German is offered at around the 30/1 mark this week.

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