Rogers Cup ATP Draw Analysis
By Mike McIntyre
World number one Novak Djokovic will be going for three Rogers Cups in-a-row in Canada as he is headlining an impressive field of talent from the ATP World Tour in Montreal this coming week. The defending champion from 2011 and 2012 will be looking to add his fourth tournament victory at the Canadian Masters 1000 event that he also won back in 2007.
Joining Djokovic as a top threat will be number two seed Andy Murray who will be playing in his first tournament since capturing Wimbledon last month in front of an entire nation of fans who had waited 77 years for a Brit to win. As if Murray wasn't dangerous enough before, he will now be able to play a little more freely knowing he has finally won that elusive Grand Slam on home soil.
World number four Rafael Nadal will test his knees on hardcourt for the first time since March. Nadal takes an impressive 43-3 record on tour into the event and has won seven titles in 2013. Despite all those accomplishments he is coming off a shocking first round loss at Wimbledon where his fragile knees could not withstand the punishment as he switched from months of playing on the red clay of Europe. In an interesting twist, Nadal will be playing doubles in Montreal with Pablo Andujar. Will he ever learn?
Roger Federer leads the list of noteable absences in Montreal. For the second consecutive year he will not be making the trip to Canada to play. Federer gave no official explanation for his decision. We don't know if the back troubles he experienced on clay in Hamburg and Gstaad in July are still lingering or if he is just pacing himself before playing in Cincinnati and then the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows.
Also missing in action are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Gael Monfils (ankle) and Mardy Fish (personal). The loss of Tsonga and Monfils in particular is a blow to Montreal tennis fans who always enthusiastically support the French contingent. For Fish it is a calculated decision to gradually ease back into playing again after just recently returning to the ATP Tour in Washington where he lost in his third match of the tournament. Two other players who are not present are Marin Cilic and Viktor Troicki who are ineligible after doping infractions. Still the draw in Montreal is a strong one and here is how each quarter breaks down.
With the top eight seeds receiving first round byes, Djokovic will not see action until round two. He will play the winner between Bernard Tomic and Florian Mayer. Mayer has performed admirably this year especially on clay, and with his experience I would not be surprised if he gave Tomic some trouble. Ultimately though I'd expect Tomic to come through in three sets although the young Australian (like Canada's young Raonic) has not yet proven ready to challenge the top guns. Djokovic could see countryman Janko Tipsarevic in the third round and then either Kei Nishikori or Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals. A Gasquet vs. Nishikori third round match would be an entertaining prospect between the world's 10th and 15th ranked players respectively. Gasquet will be the fan favorite due to his French heritige and has made the finals twice before at the Rogers Cup, both a year ago and in 2006. Those two results were both in Toronto however and he has yet to enjoy the same success in Montreal.
1st Quarter Prediction: Djokovic d. Gasquet
In the second quarter, Rafael Nadal will be causing the tennis world to collectively hold its breath in hopes that his knees are solid enough to get him through the hard court stretch. Nadal will be looking to win his first match in Canada since 2010 as he lost in his opening match in 2011 against Ivan Dodig and missed the event a year ago. Nadal has won the tournament twice, against Andre Agassi in Montreal in 2005 and in 2008 in Toronto versus surprise finalist Nicolas Kiefer. Nadal will open this year against the winner between veteran Xavier Malisse and Canadian wildcard Jesse Levine. A third round match against Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Jankovic looms unless Canuck Frank Dancevic can bring out some of the tennis he showed in 2007 where he lost to Nadal in a tight three set quarter-final. Tommy Haas and Stan Wawrinka are the best bets to make it to the quarter-finals against Nadal. The 35 year old Haas has been fantastic in 2013 but might be feeling the effects of playing a heavy schedule as he is in the semi-finals of the Citi Open in Washington as this article is being written.
2nd Quarter Prediction: Nadal d. Haas
In the third quarter of the draw let's not forget about third seed David Ferrer and fifth seed Tomas Berdych. I'd take Ferrer to get to the semis as he loves to grind it out on hard courts and is well rested after not playing since Wimbledon. On hard courts this year has has won in Auckland, reached the semis at the Austraian Open and the finals of the Masters event in Miami. He'll open in Montreal against either Michael Llordra or a qualifier before potentially facing Gilles Simon in the third round and Berdych in the quarters.
Berdych will open against either Kevin Anderson, who is on the verge of breaking into the top twenty in the world for the first time in his career, or Alexandr Dolgopolov who is always an egnima at best. Another first round match to watch will is between up and coming Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who is once again ranked inside the top hundred in the world, and John Isner who is flirting with disaster by playing the entire U.S. Open Series of hard court events leading up to the Open. This guy is going to be absolutely spent if he doesn't take a break soon. Isner has just advanced to the finals in Washington and is looking to win back-to-back tournies.
3rd Quarter Prediction: Ferrer d. Berdych
In the final quarter Andy Murray will be facing the winner of Dmitri Grigov and Marcel Granollers - who is fresh off a tournament win in Kitzbuhel on clay. Murray could see any one of Fabio Fognini, Marcos Baghdatis, Ernests Gulbis or Feliciano Lopez in the third round. I'd take Gulbis to put a couple of good matches under his belt here as Fognini has achieved all of his success on clay this year, Baghdatis has been in a funk losing ten straight tour matches in-a-row until this past week in Washington and Lopez is...Lopez.
Juan Martin Del Potro is the sixth seed and also in this section of the draw. Fans will be anticipating a potential third round match between he and Canadian Milos Raonic. Unfortunately the probability of Raonic even making it to the third round is unlikelky at the moment as his tennis has suffered enormously over the past several months. Raonic has not won more than two matches in-a-row since April and most recently lost in his opening match in Washington to unheralded Marinko Matosevic in straight sets. Raonic has been paired with former world number three Ivan Ljubicic since May as his coach but the results have yet to surface.
Del Potro is playing some great hard court tennis in Washington right now and I feel that he is ready to take a step forward as he did four years ago at the U.S. Open which to date is still the only Slam victory he has. With Federer faltering and Nadal dealing once again with injury concerns, the stage is set for Delpo to take advantage.
4th Quarter Prediction: Del Potro d. Murray
Djokovic d. Nadal
Del Potro d. Ferrer
Djokovic d Del Potro
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