By Mike McIntyre
The Rogers Cup nears the halfway mark and despite some high profile withdrawals has enjoyed a successful debut thanks to homegrown Canadian talent making some early noise and from other star players who have performed to their abilities thus far.
On Wednesday the draw was narrowed down to the final 16 players who conquered their opponents under hot and sticky conditions in Toronto. Here's a look at some of the major matches from the day.
Novak Djokovic played his first singles match since a shocking third round loss at Wimbledon and showed some rust in his return to hardcourts. Always favored in the LeoVegas Tennis odds, the world No. 1 defeated a tough Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6(3). Djokovic displayed no discomfort with his right arm as he had earlier in the week in practice at the Rogers Cup and is the favorite to come away with the title by the end of the week. He advances to face Radek Stepanek in the evening session Thursday.
5th seeded Tomas Berdych fought off upstart 19 year old Borna Coric 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Berdych has yet to win a title in 2016 and will be on a collision course to meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Toronto. First however, Berdych must get past American Ryan Harrison who upset John Isner in three close sets.
In the evening matches Canadian Milos Raonic advanced as expected with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Yen-Hsun Lu before his hometown crowd. Milos seems to be playing much more comfortably in front of his partisan fans and admits to working on his on-court demeanor in recent months with coaches Carlos Moya and John McEnroe. Raonic moves on to face American qualifier Jared Donaldson who defeated the ever-elusive Fabio Fognini in the second round.
Canada's hopes for a second Canuck joining Milos in the third round fell-through in the final match of the night Wednesday as 17 year old Denis Shapovalov's Cinderella story ended at the hands of former top-ten player Grigor Dimitrov. Despite going up an early break to 3-1 in the opening set, Shapovalov didn't have enough answers for the adaptable game of Dimitrov. He stayed positive throughout the match however and fought hard until the end. Shapovalov certainly has a bright future ahead of him and will not soon be forgotten after his Wimbledon Junior title and upset round one victory over Nick Kyrgios here in Toronto.