2017 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati has Rafael Nadal as the rainmaker of men's tennis. The 31-year-old Spaniard is set to surpass Andy Murray at the top of the ranking next Monday. And what better way to celebrate reaching the world No. 1 spot for the fourth time in your career than winning another Masters 1000 event? A hampered main draw put Nadal in pole-position for a second Cincinnati title. Now, that Alexander Zverev is also out of the contest, it all seems a matter of time until Nadal lifts his 31st Masters 1000 title above his head. He made no mistakes during his first match in Cincinnati scoring a convincing win over Richard Gasquet (29 ATP).

Rafael Nadal outmaneuvered his opponent

Entering the encounter, 29-year-old Gasquet was seeking his first ever ATP level success over Rafael Nadal who had won in all their 14 previous meetings. As it turned out, the Spaniard kept a clean sheet against the Frenchman as he went on winning in straight sets 6-3 6-4 in a bit under 90 minutes of play. The opening set saw Nadal putting his both feet inside the baseline and hammering Gasquet, especially from the backhand side. This time, that trademark double-handed backhand did the most damage for the first seed in Cincinnati.

On the other side, Gasquet struggled to keep his head above the floating line. A break of serve in the fourth game of the act was enough for Nadal to put the set into his pocket. A similar story unfolded throughout the second set with Nadal playing the leading character in the encounter. Losing his serve in the third game, Gasquet saw his run approaching the end. Nadal sealed the set by 6-4 converting the second match point he procured. He is now 15-0 in head to head stats against Richard Gasquet.

Nadal has a clear path ahead

A lack of ATP top players in Cincinnati's main draw credits Nadal as having the best chance to win the Masters 1000 event. In the round of 16, he will face Albert Ramos-Vinolas who edged Giller Muller in the previous round. Therefore, Nadal misses the opportunity to take some revenge over Muller, the one who stunned him in that Wimbledon epic match earlier this summer.

If he gets past Ramos, Nadal may face Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals. Despite having a lack of fitness, the Aussie got past David Goffin and Alexandr Dolgopolov to set a clash with Ivo Karlovic.

Dominic Thiem looms ahead for the semis as the young Austrian is gathering some momentum after an initial slow start on the North American hard swing.

Poised to become the world No. 1 next Monday, Nadal could enjoy success in Cincinnati. It would give him the right amount of motivation and self-confidence to enter the US Open ready to go all the way. In New York, he will be the No. 1 seed of the men's singles contest.

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