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Big Men Hit Heights in New York

New York is the city of skyscrapers. Some of tennis’ tallest towers are looming large on the Western & Southern Open landscape.

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev has not dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals in stretching his tournament win streak to eight matches.

Djokovic: Things Can Never Be the Same

The 6’6” Russian is one of a few big men taking giant steps in the season’s first Masters event.

Milos Raonic has cracked 51 aces in three straight-sets wins to charge into the last eight. The 6'5" Canadian is one win from his third W&S Open semifinal.

Six-foot-11 Reilly Opelka has not surrendered a set, including scoring a straight-sets win over US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini, to power into the last eight.

ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert says the new quicker Laykold courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center combined with a fan-free atmosphere creates ideal conditions for imposing goliaths.

“I think this is great conditions for the big guys because the fans really have trouble getting behind them,” Gilbert said. “No fans, quick courts, awesome opportunity for the big guys.”

World No. 1 Djokovic says Medvedev’s expansive reach, superb movement, rock-solid two-handed backhand and his biting serve make the US Open finalist a fearsome threat.

“[Medvedev’s a] very intelligent tennis player, and obviously being so tall gives him advantage to hit big serves,” Djokovic said. “With big serves and good movement and not too many unforced errors especially from the backhand corner, that puts him right up there as one of the best players in the world.”

The 17-time Grand Slam champion believes Medvedev will hit new heights.

“He's definitely where he deserves to be, top 5 of the world. I have known him also in his junior days. I know he's someone who is still not yet satisfied, is going to keep going and try to reach even bigger heights,” Djokovic said. “He definitely has the game, has the potential for that, particularly on hard court.

"His game is very complete. He's improved forehand that was maybe the weak point in his game. Backhand is as solid as anybody's backhand. It's so hard to break down his backhand. He's an impressive player.”

Gilbert says this new breed of goliaths bring much more than big serves to the game— and that's why he sees two tall talents as future Slam champions.

"Without a doubt, Medvedev is the best-ever mover for a guy of six-foot-six and above and the best returner of the big guys,” Gilbert said. "I put Medvedev as an elite mover. I’m gonna shock you you know who’s a great mover for his size of seven-feet tall is Opelka.

"Because I think if he was in the NBA he’d be a upserstar. His movement gives him an opportunity to be a top three player and win Slams."

Photo credit: @CincyTennis Western & Southern Open