The 2021 Western & Southern Open returns to The Lindner Family Tennis Center for the first time since 2019, and it features a jam-packed field, led by No.1 Ashleigh Barty and No.2 Naomi Osaka. 

Here's what you need to know about Cincinnati: 

When does the tournament start?

The Western & Southern Open is the second WTA 1000 event of the summer hardcourt swing and comes on the heels of the Omnium Banque Nationale in Montreal, which was won by Italy's Camila Giorgi on Sunday. 

Main-draw play begins Monday, Aug. 16 at The Lindner Family Tennis Center. The tournament is played on outdoor hardcourts and uses the Wilson US Open Regular Duty ball. 

Cincinnati is in the Eastern Time Zone (GMT -4)

When are the finals?

The singles final will be played on Sunday, Aug. 22, not before 2:00 pm.

The doubles final will be played on Saturday, Aug. 21, following the second ATP singles semifinal.

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

Who are the top seeds?

Cincinnati is a 64 player singles field and 28 team doubles field. Nine of the tour's Top 10 are set to compete in Cincinnati, led by No.1 and reigning Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty and No.2 and reigning US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka. Both women are playing their first events since the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Among the top eight seeds are five major champions:

No.1 Ashleigh Barty
No.2 Naomi Osaka
No.3 Aryna Sabalenka
No.4 Elina Svitolina
No.5 Karolina Pliskova
No.6 Iga Swiatek
No.7 Bianca Andreescu
No.8 Garbiñe Muguruza

What does the draw look like?

Singles wildcards were granted to Caty McNally, Bernarda Pera, Sloane Stephens, Samantha Stosur and Jil Teichmann. The oldest player in the draw is Stosur, 37, and the youngest player is Gauff, 17.

For a full breakdown of the singles draw, click here

Who are the defending champions?

Victoria Azarenka returns to Cincinnati as the defending champion, having won last year's event, which took place at in New York at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center. Azarenka won by walkover after Naomi Osaka withdrew with a knee injury. 

While Azarenka and Osaka would be unable to take the court for the Cincinnati final, the two would face off two weeks later in the final of the US Open.

In doubles, Kvetva Peschke and Demi Schuurs won the 2020 title over Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan. 

What is the prize money and ranking points on offer?

Winner: $255,220/900 points
Runner-Up: $188,945/585 points
Semifinalist: $100,250/350 points
Quarterfinalist: $47,820/190 points
Round of 16: $24,200/105 points
Round of 32: $15,330/60 points
Round of 64: $12,385/1 point

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

What are the storylines to follow this week in Cincinnati?

With the US Open two weeks away, Cincinnati represents the last big chance for top players to play matches and build confidence towards the last Slam of the season. With the compacted schedule from the Tokyo Olympics, many top players were unable to make the quick turnaround to begin their summer hardcourt seasons in San Jose or Montreal. For Barty, Osaka, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, Iga Swiatek and gold medalist Belinda Bencic, this will be their only tournament before New York. 

Osaka is playing for a bigger cause than herself this week. The World No.2 tweeted over the weekend that she would be donating all her prize money from Cincinnati to the relief efforts in Haiti, where the country was struck by a 7.2 earthquake on Saturday morning. Her first match could come against Coco Gauff in the second round. This would be the first meeting between the two since Gauff defeated Osaka at the 2020 Australian Open.

 

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

With two weeks of hardcourt play in the books in San Jose and Montreal, the depth on tour continues to shine. The in-form players going into Cincinnati cover a range across the rankings. Look no further than the final in Montreal, which saw No.71 Giorgi seal a phenomenal week by defeating No.4 seed and Wimbledon finalist Pliskova for the biggest title of her career. A week before that, Danielle Collins stormed her way to back-to-back titles, defeating Daria Kasatkina to win the San Jose title.

Eyes will also be on Tokyo gold medalist Bencic, who returns to action against Marketa Vondrousova, an improbable rematch of the gold medal final just two weeks ago. Others to watch are Krejcikova, who has won 22 of her past 24 matches, and Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, who put on a shot-making show in her run to the quarterfinals of Montreal last week.

As they seek to find their best level ahead of the US Open, Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep are also two big names to watch. Both women are coming off injury breaks, with Halep ending her three months on the sidelines last week in a spirited and confidence-boosting three-set loss to Collins in Montreal. Deep runs in Cincinnati could spell success for both in New York.