Rogers Cup ATP Preview
By Mike McIntyre
Once an optional blip on the screen for pro tennis players, the Rogers Cup has become perhaps the most important event outside of the four Grand Slams on the ATP World Tour. While the Emirates U.S. Open Series has already seen events in Atlanta and Washington, it is the start of the Rogers Cup that really signifies the start of the summer hardcourt swing. This is where the favourites for the upcoming U.S. Open begin to show their stuff and help build momentum towards the crowning of what is arguably the hardest Slam to win.
In Toronto this year the favourite will no-doubt be world number one Novak Djokovic. Fresh off his second career Wimbledon title, Djokovic has worked hard to re-establish himself as the premiere player on the Tour. His victory at the All-England Club sent him past Rafael Nadal in the rankings and has likely given him the confidence to continue that impressive level of play throughout the summer. The Serb has already won the event in Canada three times which is the most of any players participating in this year's draw. (2007, 2011, 2012). For Nadal, a right wrist injury has unfortunately sidelined him for the Rogers Cup where he was to be the defending champion. Hopefully the next three weeks of rest will allow his body time to recover in time for Flushing Meadows in New York.
Here is our look at the draw for this years Rogers Cup:
Djokovic has already been on-site for several days in Toronto and participated in the draw ceremony on Friday at the Ontario Legislature. On Saturday the world number one captured the attention of teenage music fans when he hit a few balls with Niall Horan of One Direction fame.
Djokovic gets a first round bye along with the other top seven seeds at the Rogers Cup. His first match will be against the winner between Gael Monfils and Radek Stepanek. That match between "le Monf" and "the worm" will undoubtedly be one of the more entertaining pairings on deck in the opening round.The Djoker could also see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round which would make for yet another challenging match.
One unexpected curve-ball in Djokovic's quarter of the draw is the presence of Andy Murray who has won the Rogers Cup twice himself. Murray has yet to reach the finals of any ATP event so far in 2014 and has seen his ranking slip to 10th in the world. He finds himself seeded 8th here in Toronto but could face Djokovic in a blockbuster quarter-final match-up. While I do see Djokovic moving through his quarter, there will be a stern test in every match for him to overcome.
In the second quarter of the draw we find Stan Wawrinka as the 3rd seed. Wawrinka now shares the spotlight among Swiss tennis players and is no longer viewed as Roger Federer's understudy. In a move that will surely generate some buzz in the doubles draw in Toronto, Wawrinka will be partnering Djokovic to help the two get a little extra hardcourt practice. Wawrinka will face either Alejandro Falla or a qualifier in the second round when he begins play. Beyond that, Stan's first real test could be in the quarter-finals against the up and coming Grigor Dmitrov who is seeded 7th.
In the third quarter, Tomas Berdych will try to improve upon his recent result at the Citi Open in Washington where as the number one seed he fell in his third round match to resurgent young Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Berdych is the 4th seed in Toronto and will open against either Yen-Hsun Lu or Marcel Granollers. He should be able to sail into the quarter-finals where he could very likely face another Canadian - Milos Raonic.
The "Maple Leaf Missile" has stepped up his game to another level this year and has proven that he belongs in the top ten. A quarter-final result at the French Open was an unexpected surprise for the hard-serving Canuck whose game is more suited to faster surfaces. He then followed that up by reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon where he was eventually defeated by Federer. Raonic won the Citi Open in Washington on Sunday against his compatriot Pospisil in what was the first all-Canadian final of the Open Era of tennis on the ATP World Tour. In short, Canadian tennis fans have plenty to be excited about this week as the world of tennis turns its focus to their major tournament.
In the last quarter of the Rogers Cup draw, Federer is in the number two position and will face either Jerzy Janowicz or Canadian wildcard Peter Polansky in his opening match. Federer has a very agreable section of the draw to work his way into and his subsequent opponents could be Marin Cilic in round three, David Ferrer or John Isner in the quarters and then either Berdych or Raonic in the semis. Federer has to be happy with this draw and should likely find himself playing deep into the tournament.
Other players of note in the draw are the 6'11'' Ivo Karlovic who is something to behold if you are attending the event live. He opens against Bernard Tomic in the top-half of the draw and fans will have the opportunity to get up close on the Granstand Monday afternoon to see his incredible serve in action.
Australian teenage sensation Nick Kyrgios received a wildcard from Tennis Canada and faces Santiago Giraldo of Columbia in the opening round. This kid you'll remember from defeating Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon a few weeks ago before falling to Raonic in the quarters. This will be a good chance to see what all the hype is about and he should face Andy Murray in the second round.
Veteran Lleyton Hewitt is making his tenth appearance at the Canadian Masters 1000 event, but his first in Toronto since 2006. At 33 years old, this could very well be Hewitt's last appearance here in Toronto and a great chance for fans to see this former Grand Slam champion in action for a final time.
In terms of Canadian content, there is Milos of course who the fans will be counting on to contend for the title. He is defending finalist points this year and hopefully is not too tired from his run in Washington.
Posipisil also had enormous success last year in Montreal where he lost fo Raonic in the semi-finals. He's played a lot of tennis over the last few days with his quarter-final match in Washington being finished the same day as his three set semi-final victory against Richard Gasquet. Pospisil will be quite familiar with Gasquet by the end of the Rogers Cup as the two are slated to face one another in the opening round of both singles and doubles play. Vasek is slated to re-join doubles partner Jack Sock and see if they can continue their impressive partnership that has yielded a 10-0 record and two titles this summer including at Wimbledon.
Veteran Frank Dancevic recently cracked the top hundred in the ATP rankings for the first time in years and opens against American Donald Young. Dancevic has fallen back to 123rd in the world over the last couple of weeks however and we will see if he is fit enough to show glimpses of his 2007 form that saw him reach that quarter-finals in Montreal.
Finally there is the previously mentioned Polansky who plays Janowicz in an opening round match that is a big-ask for the 129th ranked Canadian. He has proven resilient playing in front of a home crowd however and has twice advanced past the first round at the Rogers Cup.
Keep checking back with us regularly as we will be attending the event live all week long and providing match updates and plenty of photos as well. You can check us out on Twitter as well for timely updates.