By Mike McIntyre
The Rogers Cup draw took place Friday afternoon at the stylish Bisha Hotel in downtown Toronto. Tournament director Karl Hale introduced special guest and the No. 1 player in the world, Rafael Nadal, who assisted with the action. Nadal was seen craning his neck at several times during the unveiling of the draw as he turned around to see the opening round pairings and potential path he might have towards another Masters 1000 title in Canada.
The draw itself produced some audible gasps from the assembled audience of media and VIP's such as when Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios were chosen to face one another in the first round. A sense of disappointment was evident when Canadian Milos Raonic drew 10th seeded David Goffin. Another can't-miss match has Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic facing the man who eliminated him earlier this year at the Australian Open, Hyeon Chung.
Aside from Raonic, Canadians in the opening round include last year's surprise semifinalist Denis Shapovalov who will play Jeremy Chardy of France. Seventeen year old Felix Auger-Aliassime drew Lucas Pouille who is also a Frenchman. Vasek Pospisil will face young Croatian talent Borna Coric while Peter Polansky gets Australia's Matthew Ebden.
More Canadians will hopefully be joining them after the qualifying draw unfolds this weekend with Filip Peliwo, Frank Dancevic and Brayden Schnur among others in action.
Once the draw was complete, Nadal took a quick Q&A from the press. Asked about which Canadian victory stands-out for him over the years, he replied, "I know I am in Toronto but...the 2013 victory, that SF match against Novak (in Montreal) had been so special for me. To have the chance to win again on hard courts after a very tough 2012 with a lot of problems on the knees, that victory meant a lot to me."
He continued, "Of course....2008, the victory gave me the chance to become the World No.1, that in some way - I don't like to use the word "deserve" because in sport I believe that you don't deserve, you either do it or you don't do it - but in some way I felt that I had been for almost three years playing so well, very consistent, but being always during that time No. 2 after Roger. That was something great, but at the same time Novak was arriving. So that moment was the moment to make a step forward...so that victory was decisive for that."
My favourite moment of the chat with Nadal was when MC Ken Crosina asked him if he lives by the cliche of "one match at a time" or does he ever catch himself looking ahead in the draw. Nadal was not afraid to tell the truth and reveal that even he cannot help but sneak a peak at who he could potentially face.
"I am not this kind of guy that says I don't like to watch the draw...I am very normal, no? I like to see the full draw. I cannot think about Wawrinka, Kyrgios before I am playing Benoit Paire or a qualifier, I know the first round is going to be a tough battle, but watching the full draw is not going to distract me on being focused on that first one. I like to see the confrontations, in the first round. There are a couple of ones that are very, very interesting in my opinion, and that's it. I take always by match, that's what I've done all my life, that's the only way in my opinion to have success...you have to respect all the days, all the opponents, tennis changes so quickly so you have to be ready to accept both things - victories and losses."
Nadal will play his first match Wednesday evening and we'll then find out which of the above options the No. 1 will accept as he attempts to win his fourth Rogers Cup title.
Check back with us throughout the week for photos and analysis of what's happening around the grounds of the Aviva Centre in Toronto. We are also on Twitter and will be posting regularly there as well.
For now, here are a few more pictures from today's proceedings at the draw ceremony for you to enjoy.
Nadal getting a good look at the trophy he hopes to raise in nine days.
Rafa exchanging a laugh with ATP Supervisor and former Chair Umpire Lars Graf