The High-Quality Cincinnati Draw

It’s tough to imagine a Master’s series event featuring a higher-quality field than the one assembled in Cincinnati this week.  With the exception of Robin Soderling, virtually every “name” player is present.  Just as importantly, almost all of the players awarded wild cards are legitimate competitors at this level.  The same is true of most of the seven men who qualified.

For tennis fans, it’s an enjoyable outcome: With the possible exception of Robby Ginepri, everyone present “deserves” to be here.  The event gave the other three wild cards to Ryan Harrison, Grigor Dimitrov, and James Blake, three men inside the top 85 who excel on hard courts.  Four of the top seeds in qualifying advanced to the main draw, all of whose current rankings put them right on the cusp of making the cut in the first place.

All this made me wonder: How does the Cincinnati draw compare to other 56-player Masters fields?  Is Cinci always this strong?

I’ve previous looked at the field quality of ATP 250s, so it was a small step to point the guns at the bigger tourneys.  Here are all 48- and 56-draw Masters events since 2009, along with the average entry rank and median entry rank of players in the field, sorted by the latter:

Year  Event        Field  AvgRank  MedRank  
2011  Madrid          56     37.7     30.0  
2010  Paris           48     38.1     30.5  
2011  CINCINNATI      56     50.1     31.5  
2010  Shanghai        56     56.5     31.5  
2009  Paris           48     57.5     31.5  
2009  Cincinnati      56     38.5     32.0  
2009  Montreal        56     83.6     32.5  
2010  Cincinnati      56     38.5     33.5  
2009  Rome            56     42.0     33.5  
2009  Shanghai        56     54.8     33.5  
2011  Rome            56     42.2     34.5  
2009  Madrid          56     43.6     34.5  
2011  Montreal        56     50.7     35.5  
2009  Monte Carlo     56     45.1     36.5  
2011  Monte Carlo     56     51.9     36.5  
2010  Rome            56     43.1     38.5  
2010  Toronto         56     57.7     40.5  
2010  Madrid          56     59.5     43.0  
2010  Monte Carlo     56     50.6     43.5

There’s not a huge difference in quality–after all, players are required to show up for most of these events–but there is a noticeable differentiation into “haves” and “have-nots.”  Of course Monte Carlo is near the bottom, as it is not mandatory.  Rome is required, but it does get skipped.  Madrid is an interesting case, as this year’s new schedule meant all the best players showed up, while last year, it was near the bottom of the list.

Setting aside Paris, which is near the top of the list because its field has eight fewer players, Cinci appears to consistently offer one of the best Masters fields.  This makes sense, as even if it weren’t a required stop on the tour, it’s a perfectly scheduled warm-up for the U.S. Open.