Milos and Genie Let Fans Get Closer in Toronto

By Mike McIntyre

What better way to spend a sunny afternoon along the waterfront in Toronto than watching Canada's two tennis stars Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard conducting a clinic for kids on a makeshift barge sitting on Lake Ontario?

Both coming off disappointing results at Wimbledon where injuries limited their effectiveness, the twenty-something King and Queen of Canadian tennis were all smiles while they encouraged the next generation of tennis stars in their home country. Hitting with the kids was something both players seemed to genuinely enjoy and it sure makes one appreciate how fortunate we are in Canada to have these two players engaged in inspiring our youth. Up until just a few years ago there really were no big names for kids in Canada to look up to on the tennis court. With the relatively newfound success of Raonic and Bouchard you can pretty much guarantee that more kids are going to be picking up a racquet and trying their hand at tennis. 

Here are some pictures we took today that truly capture the motto for the day - #getcloser

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Perfect conditions for tennis on a barge!

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The crowd gathers by Lake Ontario in anticipation of Milos and Genie's arrival around noon.

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Shortly thereafter the two tennis stars arrived with a typically Canadian sized entourage around them.

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Just in case you forgot what country Raonic represented. The players were mic'd up and looked like they were ready to run an aerobics class rather than a tennis clinic.

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Hosts for the day were Evanka Osmak and Ken Reid from SportsNet.

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Working on her overhead while some happy youngsters look on.

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The next Genie?

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After hitting with the kids Genie and Milos rallied a little for the crowd.

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 There were a few rare smiles from Milos today, a player more known for his reserved demeanor on court.

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Talk about canoeing in the right place at the right time!

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Genie's toss was right where it needed to be today.

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And that's a wrap!

Canadian tennis fans will get the chance to see both players when they return to home soil for the Rogers Cup running August 7-16 in Montreal for the men and August 8-16 in Toronto for the women.

July 22, 2015 in Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic, Rogers Cup, Tennis Canada | Permalink | Comments (0)

Belgium Takes Commanding Lead in Davis Cup Tie Against Canada

By Mike McIntyre

No disrespect to Frank Dancevic or Filip Peliwo, but they are no Milos and Vasek. Asking two players ranked 272nd and 491st respectively in the ATP rankings to win against much more talented and consistent opponents was likely never a realistic prospect. With Dancevic nearing the final years of his professional tennis career and Peliwo still just getting his started it was a tough position for both of them to be in today against Belgium.

Dancevic used to be Canada's go-to singles player. With a career high ranking of 65th in the world back in 2007, Dancevic's sharp serving and keen instincts at the net made Canadian tennis fans hopeful that perhaps he could crack into the top 40 in the world. Since then injuries and inconsistencies have plagued the now 30 year old and his 2015 season has not produced much to write home about. Dancevic is 0-2 in main draw ATP events, 7-5 in ATP qualifying and a mediocre 10-10 at the challenger level. While as recently as a couple of years ago I would have given Frank a good shot at Steve Darcis, there was very little chance of him winning that match as things currently stand. And that's a problem for Team Canada who really needed Frank the Tank to show up today and steal one as he did two years ago vs Marcel Granollers of Spain. Instead Darcis, ranked 76th in the world, would take the match 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-3.

Peliwo was brought along to Belgium I'm assuming because a) it would be a great experience for the former junior star and b) Belgium probably didn't know a whole lot about him. Three years removed from winning the Junior Wimbledon crown and Peliwo's rise in the professional ranks has so far been a slow one. It must be tough when he looks at the early career success of Eugenie Bouchard but hopefully Peliwo isn't putting too much pressure on himself to develop at the same rate. Look at the hiccup in Bouchard's career in 2015 and perhaps taking a slower development path isn't such a bad idea for Peliwo. So far this year has seen some success for the 21 year old in the depths of the minor league's of tennis - aka Futures Events. There he has amassed a 15-8 record along with one tournament victory. At the Challenger level Peliwo is 0-2 in main draw event's and 4-3 in qualifying. He has yet to play in any main draw ATP events in 2015 and therefore his match today against world number 14 David Goffin must have seemed like quite the daunting task. Yet Peliwo hung in there for two sets before the more experienced (by three years) Goffin prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Now Tennis Canada turns to its long standing stalwart in Daniel Nestor, who at the ripe old age of 42 will partner with Davis Cup rookie and comparative youngster at the age of 32, Adil Shamasdin. Ranked 65th in doubles makes Shamasdin a capable partner for Nestor who has seen his own ranking fall to 24th in the world. The two are currently supposed to face the duo of Ruben Bemelmans and Kimmer Coppejans. The match would essentially be a throw-away for the Belgians who would prefer to rest Goffin and Darcis for reverse singles on Sunday where they only require one win. Still, there is the outside chance that Goffin could be subbed-in for Coppejans at the last minute if the Belgians feel there is a legitimate chance they could close out the tie in three straight matches.

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Canada will be hard pressed to take one, let alone two, singles matches on Sunday. While tennis fans in Canada love to say, "Anything is Pospisil" I don't think that line applies when you're missing Milos and Vasek. If things play out according to predictions there is certainly no shame for the severely depleted Canadian line-up who gave their best effort on Day 1. They will still remain a fixture in the World Group of Davis Cup and with a healthy roster in 2016 should be expected once more to compete for their first ever Davis Cup Championship.

July 17, 2015 in Davis Cup, Filip Peliwo, Frank Dancevic, Tennis Canada | Permalink | Comments (0)

Djokovic Relentless in Winning Wimbledon

By Mike McIntyre

Novak Djokovic looked every bit like the undisputed number one tennis player in the world on Sunday as he defeated his closest rival Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledon by a score of 7-6(1), 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-3. Unlike at the French Open last month, Djokovic never waivered in the final match and played at a superior level to Federer throughout the bulk of the encounter. He now owns three Wimbledon titles and has a total of 9 Grand Slam victories to his name.

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In the first set things started well for Federer as he found himself with a 4-2 lead after breaking Djokovic in the fifth game. Fed fans surely got their hopes up that this would be a return to Grand Slam glory for their hero who had not won a major since this very event in 2012. Instead, Djokovic immediately broke back to signal his intent to repeat as champion. Federer would find himself with two set points later with Djokovic serving at 5-6, but both times Djokovic redeemed himself with strong serving. The set would eventually be determined in a lopsided tiebreak where Djokovic imposed his will on Federer and claimed the breaker by a score of 7 to 1. Federer double-faulted on set point and it did not leave viewers feeling too optimistic about what was to come.

By 2-2 in the second set the stats showed 16 unforced errors for Fededer compared to a mere 3 for Djokovic. It was clear that Federer would have to reduce those numbers in order to have success. Federer missed two break points at 2-2 and despite holding a first serve percentage over 90% compared with Djokovic who was at 58% midway through the second set, the Swiss ace could not convert on his opponent's second serve. The end of the second set became tense as both players faced break points but could not take advantage. The stress felt by Federer's supporters at this point was mirrored by the strained faces of his coaches Stefan Edberg and Severin Luthi as well as his wife Mirka as they all knew that going down by two sets to none would be an unreversable fate for Federer. In yet another tiebreak Djokovic raced out to a large lead and would have three set points while up 6-3. Federer saved two on his serve including a 27 shot rally at 4-6 that both players put every ounce of their strength into. Federer then miraculously returned a difficult Djokovic serve out wide before leveling the breaker at six apiece. Despite having to face six set points, Federer would ultimately prevail in the tiebreak and take it by a score of 12-10 thanks to a foray into the net that ended with a definitive volley winner. Note to Federer: do this more often!

Djokovic was fuming during the second set changeover as he knew how close he was to taking total control of the match and yet let it slip away. His resolve in the third set seemed even more determined now and there was little Federer could do to reverse the course of what was to unfold. Federer brutally shanked a smash while serving at 1-1 and 40-A to give Djokovic the only break he would need in the third. A 20 minute rain delay a short while later did not allow Federer and his team to come up with anything tangible that he could put into action on the court when the players returned. Both players won every point on serve after the rain delay and thus there was no way for Roger to even come close to breaking back before Novak took the set 6-4. 

In the fourth and what turned out to be final set of the match Djokovic would break to go up 3-2 and was nailing shot after shot right on the lines. Federer now seemed to be missing more first serves and I actually believe he started to look a bit tired physically (and perhaps mentally as well) as he realized he was not going to be getting back into the match. Djokovic would break Federer one more time to take the set and the championships 6-3. 

The ageless Federer that we watched defeated Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-finals was not able to show his full capabilities in the final partly due to Djokovic's near flawless tactics. As mentioned, Federer's first serve also did not hold up throughout the four sets, his legendary forehand hit the net more times than he could afford and his dangerous backhand only confounded his opponent on a few occasions.

One area that Roger could have exploited more often during the first two sets in particular was to come into the net which made Djokovic seemingly unsure. The Serb must have attempted a half dozen lobs throughout the match and never was able to even come close to getting it out of Federer's reach. In fact if I were Boris Becker, Novak's coach, the first thing I would be practicing when I returned to the court was the art of the lob. Federer could also have brought Djokovic in towards the middle of the court with some short balls or drop shots. Unfortunately for Roger, he seemed more content to try to keep the rallies going from the baseline which almost always seemed to favor Djokovic. It felt like any rally that went over six or seven shots was going to end up with Djokovic prevailing. 

The win evened-up their head-to-head at 20 wins apiece. With Federer soon to be turning 34 and Djokovic still in the prime of his career at age 28 one wonder's how many more times we will be seeing Federer emerge victorious when they meet. Still, the final was entertaining and for the first two sets one that you could not take your eyes off. Djokovic proved that he is without a doubt the Number One player in the world and the toughest grass-court player to face as well at the moment. Roger can take solace perhaps in the fact that he is the biggest contender to Novak at this stage of the season and yet he still seems to be unable to truly push him to the brink. Three years without a Grand Slam for Federer must seem like an eternity but his desire and his ability to contend is still undeniably stronger than most on the ATP Tour. Federer and his fans must now wait until the U.S. Open to try again to recapture former glory, while Djokovic and his team can enjoy the firm grip they hold on the top spot in men's tennis.

July 13, 2015 in Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federer Into 10th Wimbledon Final With Vintage Performance Against Murray

By Tia Ko

Roger Federer is advancing to his 10th Wimbledon final after beating Britain’s hometown hero, Andy Murray, in straight sets 7-5, 7-5, 6-4.

Federer when asked about playing Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday said, “It’s great to play Novak anywhere these days. He’s a great player; he’s had great success. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s become very match-tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. Very injury-free. It’s been good for the game. So for me I don’t really think of the [Wimbledon final] we played last year. I just remember it was unbelievably thrilling. That it is Novak, the world number one, it adds something extra.”

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Roger Federer. I’ve been looking forward to this Wimbledon final rematch since exactly one year ago. From what I have seen this week, Roger is playing better than ever. His serve today was unstoppable and that’s what will be key for when he plays the number one seed.

“I served very well. I served a very good first-serve percentage and I served big. It was one of the best serving days of my career for sure,” said Federer about his serving stats. He landed 76% (69/91) of his first serves in, winning a staggering 84% (58/69) of them! Taking that into consideration makes you wonder how Andy Murray was still so close in each set.

In each of the three sets, Federer was able to break Murray at the perfect time: the last game needed to close the set. Murray won the coin toss but opted to receive instead of serving; that may have been a bad move looking back now because each set began with Roger serving, putting the pressure on Murray to hold.

The first set started with Roger under a bit of pressure facing a break point in the first game. He held with neither players facing another break point until Murray’s last service game to try to bring it to a tiebreak. That’s where Federer was able to force an error from Murray up at the net and win the set 7-5.

The second set saw Murray down 0-40 at 4-5 and Federer with 5 set points. The world number 3 was able hold after a 15-minute game but was ultimately broken in his following service game giving Federer a 2-0 set lead and one away from the Wimbledon final.

The third set was once again on serve until late in the match with Federer up 5-4. Murray was up to serve but Federer’s pressure and precise shot making at the right time caused another break point and Roger’s first match point. On match point, Murray sent a forehand shot long and off to the final Roger goes!

July 10, 2015 in Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Djokovic defeats Gasquet to advance to 4th Wimbledon Final

 

By Tia Ko

In the first semi-final of the day Novak Djokovic took only two hours and twenty one minutes to beat the 21st seeded Richard Gasquet 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-4 after serving up a 40-love game and hitting a forehand cross court to finish off the Frenchman.

During the post-match interview, Djokovic was asked if he thinks he’s living the dream having made it to another Grand Slam final. He responded saying, “Yes, I’m living the dream; being here at Wimbledon, I’m playing on the best tennis court in the world. It’s a great honor and privilege to be out there and I have to keep going. The final of Wimbledon is the most watched tennis match in the world of course a lot is at stake but I’ll be ready for it.”

The opening set started off with an early break of serve giving Djokovic a 2-0 lead. Luckily, Gasquet was able to get the break back by firing a backhand winner. Both players held serve until 6-6 but eventually a sloppy tiebreak from Gasquet gave Djokovic the first set. The following two sets started the same with Djokovic easily breaking Gasquet; unfortunately, this time the Frenchman was unable to break back and the world number one ran off winning them 6-4, 6-4 including a love game to end it with triple match point.

Djokovic has improved his net play and movement tremendously with the help of his coach Boris Becker. He would often sneak up as a new part of his game and ended up winning 26 of his 39 trips to the net. The defending champ also broke down Gasquet’s forehand causing many errors from the right side of the court.

When asked who Djokovic thinks he’ll be playing in the final against on Sunday he dodged the question and said, “We will see, I cannot foresee the future but I’ll enjoy [Federer and Murray’s] match.”

 In a poll of 216 people, Djokovic was predicted to win with 91% of the votes leaving only 19 people believing in the underdog. I, too, didn’t believe Gasquet had a shot at beating Djokovic; it just didn’t seem possible. Novak is at the top of his game and it will take a genius to beat him in Sunday’s final… Will Roger Federer be the one to do just that?

July 10, 2015 in Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pan Am Games Tennis Draws

The Pan Am Games begins today from the Canadian Tennis Centre - aka the Aviva Centre - (formerly Rexall Centre) on the York University Campus of Toronto. See below for the all of the draws:

Download Womens Singles

Download Womens Doubles

Download Mens Singles

Download Mens Doubles

Download Mixed Doubles

July 10, 2015 in Pan Am Games | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Maria have what it takes to beat Serena at Wimbledon during their semi-final match?

By Tia Ko

Head-to-head, Serena Williams leads 17-2 with Maria Sharapova’s only wins coming in 2004 (Wimbledon final and the Tour Championships). Will today be her first victory in more than a decade against the 5-time Wimbledon champion? It’s obvious that Sharapova will have to play her best tennis if she wants a shot at the final and we’re here to give some key insights.

First, she will have to force Williams to play longer rallies; Williams takes a while to warm up and it will be important to get an early lead in the first set to set the momentum for the rest of the match.

Secondly, limit the amount of unforced errors. During Maria’s last four matches, her number of unforced errors has been almost equal (and sometimes more) than her number of winners. It will be hard to compete if Serena comes out hitting like she has been for her matches this week, hitting sometimes 3x more winners than unforced errors.

Finally, and most importantly, Sharapova has to make her serve work. Let’s give you some quick statistics from her quarterfinal match against Coco Vandeweghe: she got 60% of her 1st serves in, winning 73% of them; however, she only won 36% of her 2nd serves. Comparing this to Serena’s quarterfinal match versus Victoria Azarenka, Serena got 65% of her 1st serves in winning 80% of them while also winning 58% of her second serves. Maria will have to put more on her second serve if she wants to win those points because we’ve all witnessed how Williams can take advantage of a weak serve.

"There are definitely no secrets between each other's games, but it will be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again.” The world number four stated at an interview yesterday.

If she is able to stop Serena’s winning streak this afternoon she will play the winner of Garbine Muguuza (ESP)[20]/Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)[13] on Saturday afternoon.

July 9, 2015 in Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Wimbledon | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Shocker of a French Open Preview

Spoiler alert - this French Open preview ends with Novak Djokovic capturing his maiden and elusive title at Roland Garros. That's right, our shocker of a preview delivers what pretty much every tennis "expert" and fan alike is already expecting to happen in two week's time. So how can we claim that this is somehow a surprise? Here's why...

With a record in Paris of 66-1, any prediction that strongly supports the notion that Rafael Nadal is not going to win the French Open must fall into the category of a shock. This man has won Roland Garros 9 of the past 10 years and I don't care one bit about the struggles he has been experiencing since he won here a year ago, he is still the man when it comes to this tournament. That being said, his reign is about to come to an end due to his recent lapses in confidence along with a world number one who is playing like a man among boys. If you're looking to bet on the French Open, Djokovic is your safest pick (and ours too!)

Here is our full-on French Open preview for you to enjoy and/or dismiss!

First Quarter

Djokovic opens against veteran Jarkko Nieminen. As a former Andre Agassi fan when I was younger I always relish seeing Nieminen lose at the French Open after the way he beat an injured Agassi in his final match at Roland Garros back in 2005. I expect a pretty quick exit for Nieminen in this match and I won't be complaining if that is the case. Djokovic should have a good first few matches with no real clay court threats in his path. Richard Gasquet is seeded 20th and could face Novak in the 4th round but Gasquet has not beaten Djokovic since 2007 so let's be honest here. Then it gets serious for Djokovic. That's because his quarter-final opponent could very well be Rafael Nadal. The match that nearly everyone would want to see in the finals is scheduled to happen two rounds sooner due to Rafa's ranking slide of late. However with the way Nadal has struggled this year, even on clay, there is no guarantee he will even be still standing by the time the quarters roll around. He has potential foes of Dolgopolov or Almagro in round two and Robredo or Dimitrov in the fourth round. Still, Nadal is 15-4 on clay this year which almost anybody else would be happy with. A meeting with Djokovic in the quarters is likely with the winner being the clear favorite moving forward.

Pick: Djokovic

Second Quarter

Andy Murray has had the best clay court season of his career and is 10-0 on red dirt so far this year. Murray was forced to withdraw in Rome due to exhaustion but has certainly overcome that and will be ready to improve on his semi-final result at Roland Garros a year ago. Murray will likely face a tough clay-court player in Joao Sousa in the second round and perhaps rising Australian star Nick Kyrgios in the third. Beyond that, American John Isner would be the highest seed to confront Murray in the fourth round and in the quarters the biggest potential threat for Murray would be the tough-as-nails David Ferrer. Ferrer already has titles on both clay and hard courts this year and while he is a step behind his usual self, he remains a player that nobody wants to face. Murray has never beaten Ferrer on clay in four previous attempts including a 2012 loss here at the French Open. This year however I would give the edge to Murray based on his streak coming in.

Pick: Murray

Third Quarter

Kei Nishikori is the 5th seed and could have a fun match in the third round against Fernando Verdasco. Feliciano Lopez, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fabio Fognini and the always consistent Tomas Berdych are also in this quarter of the draw. With two wins over Nadal in 2015, Fognini must be feeling pretty confident. Too bad he's such a head case or he might actually have a shot at going deep here this year. Of course now that I write that he will almost certainly prove me wrong and advance to the semi-finals! Nishikori defended his Barcelona clay court title earlier this year but has never done much at Roland Garros where he has yet to advance past the fourth round. Two unseeded players who have a realistic shot of making the quarter-finals are Federico Delbonis and Juan Monaco who can both play real well on this surface. The two play one another in the first round which has 5 sets written all over it. Berdych warrants the best shot of advancing to the semi-finals here but don't expect much more from him. His last four losses this season have come to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray - aka the "Big Four."

Pick: Berdych

Fourth Quarter

For Roger Federer fans, the excitement of having Djokovic, Murray and Nadal in the other half of the draw must seem almost too good to be true. Roger himself must be pretty pumped-up at the prospect of advancing to the finals here for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately I feel like this draw IS too good to be true especially when I notice that Fed could play Gael Monfils in the fourth round. Neither Federer nor Monfils should be stopped prior to that stage - although with Monfils I suppose you never know. Still, the Frenchman has Roger's number of late in winning three of their last five matches including the past two in-a-row on clay. Stan Wawrinka is also in this quarter as the 8th seed but Stan has been a mess since February this year and I just don't see him putting it together at the moment. 

Pick: Monfils

In two weeks time I'm expecting a Djokovic vs. Insert unpredictable (perhaps shocking) opponent in the finals. Novak will join Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as current players who have won all four Slams and the discussion will rev-up about whether or not the Serb can catch the two more accomplished players in the race for the all-time Grand Slam count.

May 22, 2015 in Andy Murray, French Open, Gael Monfils, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer | Permalink | Comments (0)

French Open Coming Soon

With the Australian Open behind us and just a few weeks to go until the French Open, the tennis season is now well under way and we're beginning to get an idea as to how this year could go in both the men's and women's game. The Australian Open always gives tennis fans an indication of how the top players are looking after the short winter break, but the landscape is often a lot different by the time the French Open comes around. While it looks set to be another open tournament for the women at Roland Garros at the end of May, there is a genuine feeling that the men's draw might not be the same one-man show it has been in recent years. So, let's take a closer look at how the favourites are shaping up ahead of this year's French Open.

Women's Draw

Serena Williams: The French Open might be her least successful grand slam but the two-time winner is still 11/4 with betfair and other bookmakers for the title. On the back of winning her sixth Australian Open crown and 19th grand slam title, Serena has started the season in the same form she ended 2014 and the world number one's triumph in Melbourne lay down a marker to the rest of the sport that she is still the best player in the world despite the fact she will turn 34 this year. There might be some very talented youngster coming through but it's no surprise to see Serena still dominating the sport and the American will not want to end her career without adding a third French Open title to her collection.

Simona Halep: She might not have won a grand slam title yet but the 23-year-old has certainly been knocking on the door labelled "major titles" over the past 12 months. Last year was a breakout season for the young Romanian, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, the final of the French Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon, and Halep is expected to win that maiden grand slam title in 2015. Her sensational and surprising run in last year's French Open was only ended by an inspired Maria Sharapova in the final, but that experience would have done wonders for Halep and world number three will be a serious contender in this year's tournament.

Maria Sharapova: The world number two has been the dominant force at Roland Garros in recent years. After winning her first French Open title in 2012, Sharapova lost in the 2013 final to Serena Williams. But 12 months later and the Russian was lifting the famous trophy for a second time after a gruelling three-set victory over Simona Halep in the final. The 27-year-old will be looking to reach a fourth straight final at Roland Garros when she returns to Paris at the end of May. Sharapova started this year in encouraging form by reaching the final of the Australian Open, falling at the final hurdle after losing to Serena Williams in straight sets. But Sharapova is certainly deserving of her place among the favourites for this year's tournament and many will be backing her to win a third French Open title.

Victoria Azarenka: It's been a tough year for the Belarusian but Victoria Azarenka is finally getting back to the level she was at when she reached the top of the world rankings in 2012. A foot injury plagued Azarenka throughout 2014, forcing her to miss last year's French Open and playing a big part in the 25-year-old's disappointing season coming to an end in September. The two-time Australian Open champion has looked back to something like her best since the start of the year, though, and Azarenka could be one-to-watch in Paris this summer despite currently residing way out of the top-10.

Men's Draw

Novak Djokovic: Despite being the one grand slam he has never won, Novak Djokovic's sensational form over the past 12 months means it will be the world number one who starts this year's French Open as the slight betting favourite ahead of nine-time champion Rafael Nadal. On the back of winning his fifth Australian Open, Djokovic will now be looking to win the French Open for the first time. With Nadal struggling more and more with injuries and his confidence, Roger Federer nearing the end of his illustrious career and Andy Murray battling form and fitness issues, Djokovic has really established himself as the game's dominant force. But regardless of his position as world number one, the Serbian star will know that he needs to win a French Open crown to complete his grand slam set and really put himself among the greatest players to have ever graced a tennis court.

Rafael Nadal: It seems strange that after winning nine French Open titles in 10 years Rafael Nadal might not start this year's tournament as the firm betting favourite. But whether it's Nadal's continued injury problems or Novak Djokovic's sensational form over the past few years, the betting odds reflect just how close punters feel this year's tournament could be. After missing the 2014 US Open and being forced to end his season early due to injury, it's been a relatively slow start to the year for Nadal since returning to action. But while the world number three might not be heading into this year's French Open in the sort of winning form he would have liked, you'd have to be a brave soul to feel confident that Nadal won't destroy everything in his path on his way to a 10th French Open title.

Andy Murray: It might have been a tough couple of years for Andy Murray but the Scotsman has still reached at least the quarter-finals in every grand slam he has appeared in since the 2010 US Open. Despite struggling with fitness and form since winning the 2013 Wimbledon title, Murray has remained one of the most consistent players on the Tour and someone capable of beating the best in the world on his day. A promising start to the season saw Murray reach his fourth Australian Open final before losing to Novak Djokovic, and the two-time grand slam winner will be determined to prove he is getting back to his best.

Stan Wawrinka: While there had never been much doubt as to just how good Stan Wawrinka is, it took until the 2014 Australian Open for the Swiss star to win his first grand slam title. Since then, the 29-year-old has continued to climb the rankings and is now an established part of the world's top 10. On the back of a successful 2014, Wawrinka started 2015 in impressive form, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, beating Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals before losing out to Andy Murray for a place in the final. The French Open might not have been Wawrinka's happiest hunting ground in the past but the world number seven will be heading into the second grand slam of the season confident in the knowledge that he has the ability to beat any player in the draw. If he can produce his best form at Roland Garros, Wawrinka could be one of the surprise packages in Paris this summer.

April 20, 2015 in French Open | Permalink | Comments (0)

ATP Miami Open Draw Analysis

By Mike McIntyre

Inspired by watching a fantastic week and a half of tennis in Indian Wells, I return to write my first tennis article since the U.S. Open in August. While my passion for tennis is as strong as ever, finding time to properly devote to the sport has been a challenge since becoming a Dad a year and a half ago. It is a challenge that I happily relinquish my writing skills to with every opportunity I have to spend with my wonderful son Emmett. That being said I think I am finally ready (and able) to spend the occasional late night returning to focus on the developments on the ATP World Tour that I have so enjoyed covering for the past eight years.

Here then is my take on the upcoming Miami Open, the final hard court tournament until after Wimbledon in roughly four months.

First Quarter

Well if anyone can complete the Indian Wells/Miami double then who better than world number on Novak Djokovic. Not only did he accomplish that feat last year, but he is also fresh off his 50th career ATP title (one more than his coach Boris Becker) and his 21st Masters 1000 event. Djokovic is certainly the man to beat so far in 2015. He has two tournament victories in the four events he has appeared in and those just happen to be the two biggest draws we have had so far this year (Aussie Open and BNP Paribas Open). Novak will open against either Paolo Lorenzi or Martin Klizan after receiving an opening round bye. Smooth sailing appears to be in his forecast until the quarter-finals where he could meet 7th seeded David Ferrer or perhaps the big serving Ivo Karlovic, seeded 22nd, who beat him earlier this year in Qatar.

Other interesting names in the top quarter include Lleyton Hewitt who appears ready to call it a career after this season, the enigmatic and controversial Alexandr Dolgopolov (who claimed last week that female players have a harder time dealing with injuries than the men) and Gilles Simon who at times looks like he is indeed a top-20 player. Ferrer and Karlovic however seem to be the two most likely to advance to a quarter-final match against the Djoker.

Second Quarter

This section of the draw has "fireworks" written all over it with the likes of Milos Raonic, John Isner, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and the returning Juan Martin Del Potro appearing. Nishikori should be able to navigate his way to the quater-finals here, though lookout for veteran Mikhail Youzhny who he could face in the second round. Youzhny has been a shell of his former self over the past year but I would never count him out. Anyone who hits himself in the head with a racquet is a foe I'd hate to face!

In the bottom section of this quarter is where the real fun is set to unfold. Dimitrov draws the worst of the lot by having to potentially face Del Potro in the second round, Isner in the third and then Raonic in the fourth. Ouch! Del Potro is a face that tennis fans worldwide will be happy to welcome back to the sport after only playing a single tournament (Sydney in January 2015) since February 2014 due to ongoing issues with his left wrist. Del Po will have a strong test from Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the opening round. The 24 year old Canuck is on a role lately after playing hero for Canada in closing out their Davis Cup tie against Japan in the 5th and deciding rubber and then winning the Indian Wells doubles title along with Jack Sock. Pospisil is currently ranked 60th in the world but one that many would consider a top 30 talent.

Based on his play of late, another Canadian - Milos Raonic - will have to be considered the favourite to advance in this section of the draw. Raonic has been so consistent over the past year, making 8 of his last 10 Masters 1000 quarter-finals or better. A hard serving battle against Isner in the third round would be fun to watch (if you like that kind of stuff) and a re-match from Davis Cup against Nishikori in the fourth round would also capture our attention.

Third Quarter

A showdown between 3rd seeded Andy Murray and 6th seeded Stan Wawrinka is what fans will be looking for in the third quarter-final. Murray seems in-form after a semi-final showing in Indian Wells, while Wawrinka has been underachieving lately. A second round defeat last week at the hands of Robin Haase highlights the up and down nature of the Swiss No. two's game lately. He has cooled since he opened the year with two tournament victories and a 5 set semi-final loss to Djokovic at the Aussie Open. Which Wawrinka will we see in Miami this week? Anyway you look at it the stats will tell you that he has never before advanced beyond the 4th round at this event, but who do you see in his draw (Lopez, Sock) that could realistically take him down?

Fourth Quarter

Rafael Nadal takes Roger Federer's place as the 2nd seed in this event as the Swiss superstar is sitting this one out for some family time. Nadal is admittedly not yet back to his usual self and with the clay court season about to begin I can't imagine he is overly concerned with how he performs in his final hard court event for the next few months. Tomas Berdych is in this section and would be his likely quarter-final opponent. A fantastic third round match could transpire between Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga is making his first appearance in 2015 after being sidelined with an arm injury sustained in Davis Cup late last year. Too soon to get our hopes up with him, so I'd stick with a Berdych/Nadal quater-final in this section of the draw.

Enjoy this final hardcourt tourney before we switch to two months of red clay followed by a brief transition to grass court tennis. Djokovic appears the man to beat here as he is the defending champion and showed no signs of weakness in last week's tournament victory (minus three untimely double faults to Federer in the 2nd set breaker). I have to give Murray a shot here as well since he has won the event twice before and has a favorable draw to the semis. He might be better rested than Djokovic for this one in fact. Only time will tell.

March 23, 2015 in Andy Murray, Ivo Karlovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

Men's U.S. Open Preview 2014

By Mike McIntyre

I've always enjoyed the ups and downs that a year on the ATP Tour can bring us. When you have a season that lasts from January (or even the end of December) until November you are bound to have ebbs and flows and an ever changing wave of momentum that sees players rise and fall at different times in the schedule. Seemingly impervious to these ups and downs in recent years have been Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who currently sit at number one and two in the Emirates World Rankings. Yet as the final Grand Slam of 2014 is set to begin, both of these steady talents find themselves on the outside of the list of favorites in New York - and for very different reasons at that.

It has been almost a week now since Nadal has announced what everyone suspected earlier this summer when he revealed a right wrist injury he sustained after Wimbledon. While he initially pulled-out only from Toronto and Cincinnati leaving the door open to a return at the U.S. Open, many believed that the Spaniard would be unable to make it back to the form required to compete in gruelling best-of-five set matches. The tournament will be without it's defending champion and one of its biggest stars.

Djokovic on the other hand will be participating at Flushing Meadows and seeking his second title in New York however his play this summer has not indicated that he is the front-runner by any stretch. A 2-2 hardcourt record in August and straight set losses to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Robredo do not bode well for his chances over the next two weeks. While the loss in Toronto could be attributed to some rust after not playing since Wimbledon and getting married as well, the Cincy defeat had no excuse for a world number one. Djokovic's attention and tennis game seem to be elsewhere. Djokovic's faltering game coupled with the previously mentioned loss of Nadal in the draw and suddently there are 127 other players who are just chomping at the bit to make their mark in New York this year. That being said, let's take a look at the draw and who we might be watching play for the title in two week's time.

First Quarter

While Djokovic is the top seed and may very well surprise us all by suddenly returning to form, I feel that players like John Isner, Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could prove otherwise.

Isner has always been a threat on the hardcourts of North America and typically has success at the smaller lead-up events such as Atlanta and Washington. He did win in Atlanta this year and then was bounced early in D.C. as well as Toronto and Cincinnati. Still, Isner has the serve and the home crowd that could propell him to a round of sixteen match against the struggling Djokovic. If Tsonga and Robredo can beat the Serb, why not Isner? While Djokovic has a 5-2 career head-to-head against Isner, the two have always had close matches. Isner made the quarter-finals of the Open in 2011 and I feel he is a strong candidate to repeat that again this year.

Tsonga put together a week that most players can only dream of when he knocked off four top-ten players in Toronto (Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer) en route to the second Masters 1000 title of his career. Then, just after he appeared invincible, he fell in his opening round match in Cincy to Mikhail Youzhny. In all fairness, Youzhny is a top-level opponent and Tsonga did not have much time to recharge in-between events. A third round match with compatriot Julien Benneteau would be a tough one and could leave either vunerable to a round of sixteen encounter with Andy Murray who has justifiably (given his play) been flying under the radar. Before we discuss Murray, let's look at Benneteau. At 32 years old this veteran has been playing some fantastic tennis this year and is currently ranked 27th in the world. He reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati recently and is a guy I feel could have an unexpectedly deep run in New York. The one knock against Benneteau is that he has only made it past the third round of a Slam three times over the course of his career. He trails Tsonga 4-5 in their career meetings but has won their only encounter this year on hard court in Indian Wells.

Now we come to Murray who by his own admission has not had a strong season. He can only use the "returning from back surgery" excuse for so long and fans are growing impatient to see some results from his partnership with coach Amelia Mauresmo. Murray has failed to reach the finals of any event on tour so far in 2014. The last year that Murray did not win a tournament was in 2005 and the last year he failed to make a final was 2004. With most of the season behind us, Murray is running out of time to keep his streak going. Could he reverse his fortunes with a deep run here at the Open? It is not out of the question, but my prediction here is on Isner to rise to the occasion and surprise a lot of people.

My Pick: Isner d Murray

Second Quarter

Could Canadian Milos Raonic make his third straight Grand Slam quarter-final at the Open? I'd put money on it if I were the betting type. Over the past four years this guy has done all the right things in terms of his learning curve as a professional tennis player. Deservingly ranked 6th in the world, this could be Raonic's best chance at his first major title. A third round match against either 10th seeded Kei Nishikori or a surging Jack Sock could test him but he has prevailed against both players in recent history. A quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka who is seeded 3rd would be fun to watch, but with Wawrinka's up and down play you just can't bank on him being there. I really think Raonic is the favorite in this part of the draw and perhaps even to make it to his first Slam final. Keep an eye out for fellow Canuck Vasek Pospisil who made the finals against Raonic in D.C. and pushed Roger Federer to three sets in Cincy recently. He could take out Wawrinka in the 3rd round.

My Pick: Raonic d. Wawrinka

Third Quarter

Things get really interesting in this section of the draw and again we could see an unpredicatble name make it into the semi-finals. David Ferrer is the 4th seed and recently made the finals in Cincinnati and made Federer work for the title by taking him to a third set. Ferrer could see Marin Cilic in the round of sixteen and Cilic is my man to advance to the semis here. Lookout for Jerzy Janowicz who performed admirably in Cincy in defeating Grigor Dimitrov and then fell in the finals of Winston-Salem this past week to Lukas Rosol. He's full of confidence and if Cilic doesn't make it through it very well could be because of JJ. I wouldn't waste much hope on 6th seeded Tomas Berdych who has been absolutely miserable since the French Open. Take a look at American Steven Johnson who is quietly becoming a force for the struggling legion of American tennis players. Johnson is a true sleeper in this draw in my opinion and a guy who has worked his ranking up from the high 100s to 51st in the world over the course of the season. 

My pick: Cilic d. Johnson

Fourth Quarter

Many are calling this quarter the home of the future 2014 U.S. Open champion - Roger Federer. It's true that this is a golden opportunity for Fed to capture his 18th Slam title, but don't think it is going to be a walk in the park. Roger's forehand is not nearly as flawless as it used to be and although he is riding a huge wave of success from this summer, things almost seem too good to be true. He's looking good until the quarter-finals but lookout for a meeting there with either Gael Monfils or Grigor Dimitrov. Either has the capability of beating Roger and while Monfils spends too much time showboating, he could focus long enough to cause an upset. Dimitrov meanwhile has made the semis at Wimbledon and the semis at the Masters 1000 in Rome andToronto in 2014 and he is itching to prove he belongs in the top-ten. He is also one of but two players (Djokovic being the other) to have won an event on clay, hard and grass this year. I'm gonna go with Dimitrov over Federer in the quarters making this U.S. Open one to truly remember. The big four are in for some challenges and we are about to find out if those obstacles are going to present themselves here at the U.S. Open.

My Pick: Dimitrov d. Federer

Semifinals:

Raonic d. Isner

Dimitrov d. Cilic

Finals:

Raonic d. Dimitrov

August 24, 2014 in Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, U.S. Open | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 5 Things Not To Miss At The U.S. Open

The 2014 US Open begins on Monday, August 25th and lasts until Monday September 8th. There's plenty to look forward to between the exciting matches, amazing food, luxurious accommodations and gorgeous weather. Let's take a look at what tennis fans should look forward to the most at the 2014 U.S. Open.

1) An Unpredictable Women's Tournament

Only one woman, Eugenie Bouchard, has reached the semifinal round at each of 2014's three women's Grand Slam events. The world's number one female player, Serena Williams, has failed to advance beyond the fourth round of this year's majors. All of this adds up to what looks like a women's US Open tournament that can be won by anyone.

2) Sleepers To Watch On The Women's Side

There is a sense around the professional tennis circuit that an unheralded player will rise up and make some serious noise in this year's US Open. Some potential sleepers on the women's side to watch are Madison Keys, Alize Cornet and Garbine Muguruza. Cornet, 24, has had a nice season that includes two wins over Serena Williams. Keys, a native of England, is only 19 but she won her first WTA title heading into the All England Club. Muguruza typically plays her best tennis on clay but the 20 year old is thought to have the potential to be a Grand Slam champion.

3) The Men Could Surprise As Well

Last year's men's US Open featured a stunning upset in which Tommy Robredo defeated the five time US Open winner Roger Federer. This year could have a few similar upsets in store. Tennis experts point to potential sleeper picks like Ernests Gulbis, Julien Benneteau and David Goffin. Marin Cilic is poised to make some noise as well. He is 6'6” and has an overpowering serve that few will be able to handle on the US Open's incredibly fast courts.

4) Experience The US Open In Comfort And Style

Tennis fans should take advantage of the US Open's Luxury Suite package. It is ideal for a large group of friends, corporate partners or those who are looking to entertain special guests. This package provides a gorgeous lounge in Arthur Ashe Stadium along with the finest foods, a plasma TV and a private bathroom. There's also a Premium Seat package with a shared hospitality space in which small groups can dine, a choice of premium seats in the stadium and much more. Finally, there is a Private Hospitality package that offers entertainment for large groups in a private room within the Indoor Training Center's Hospitality Pavilion, a plasma television and premium seating in the stadium.

5) The US Open's Amazing Food Choices

The US Open has the perfect variety of food for tennis fans of all backgrounds and ages. There's a Cuban restaurant called Mojito, Grey Goose Bar, Champions Bar & Grill for steaks, the US Open Club for American cuisine, Moet & Chandon Terrace, Cuppa Spotta, South Plaza Café, Ben & Jerry's, Carnegie Deli, the Heineken Red Star Cafe and the Patio Cafe & Bar for sandwiches, salads and cocktails. There's also courtside and suite food service provided by Aces and Champions Bar & Grill.

After the US Open ends that puts a cap on the 2014 Grand Slam season. Get ready for the 2015 season by getting an Australian Open travel package lined up so you don’t miss the beginning to what could be a crazy year in tennis.

August 23, 2014 in Australian Open, U.S. Open | Permalink | Comments (0)

Western and Southern Open ATP Preview

By Mike McIntyre

A few days removed from a third round loss at the Rogers Cup should help world Number One Novak Djokovic work on a few things in practice and refocus on his U.S. Open preparations. Djokovic receives a first round  bye once again and then opens against the winner between Gilles Simon and Bernard Tomic. The month off after Wimbledon is tough on all players and those in Toronto witnessed that first hand with the high number of upsets that happened there. Expect the top guys to shake off the rust and have a deeper run here in Cincinnati as they get closer to the final Grand Slam of the year.

In the top quarter Djokovic has a possible third round meeting with solid veteran Tommy Robredo who knocked-off Jack Sock in the opening round 7-6(5), 6-3. A good win for Tommy considering that Sock was ripping his forehand pretty well last week in Canada and has been enjoying success in both singles and doubles this summer.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a likely quarter-final opponent for Djokovic and would give him a chance to redeem himself from the 6-2, 6-2 beating that the Frenchman put on him at the Rogers Cup. Tsonga must first overcome the crafty Mikhail Youzhny in the opening round who has won three of the last four matches between the two. Fatigue may be a factor for Tsonga, although if he plays like he did last week in Toronto and carries that momentum forward he should be just fine. Can he beat Djokovic in back-to-back tournaments, I don't think so. Should Djokovic win the title in Cincinnati he will become the only player in the history of the ATP World Tour to have won all nine Masters 1000 titles in his career.

In the second quarter of the draw, Stan Wawrinka is the 3rd seed and will face Benjamin Becker who beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5), 6-4 in his first match of the tourney. "Stan the Man" could face Marin Cilic in the third round before a likely encounter with recent Masters 1000 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov who had a successful week in Toronto. Dimitrov made the second Masters semi-final of this career this past week and is one of only two players on Tour this year who have won titles on all three surfaces (along with Djokovic).

In the third quarter, Milos Raonic is the 5th seed and despite his loss to Feliciano Lopez at his home tournament last week, the Canadian is looking more and more like a bonafide member of the top-ten. After his bye, Raonic will face the winner between Dominic Thiem who represents the future of the ATP World Tour and Robby Ginepri who I think we can all agree represents the past. The enigmatic Ernests Gulbis could face Milos in round three and a potential quarter-final battle with 4th seed Tomas Berdych also looms. Berdych was practicing hard last week in Toronto with Andy Murray. We'll see if any of that work pays off as he looks to take his hardcourt season up a notch. Berdych is in a slump that has seen him win no more than two matches in-a-row since the French Open in May.

In the final quarter of the draw, Roger Federer is the second seed and is coming off a strong result in Toronto where he lost the final to an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer will see either 35 year old Radek Stepanek or 24 year old Vasek Pospisil in the second round. He could get Gael Monfils in the third round which would be fun to watch - heck Monfils against just about anyone is a fun match to watch. Andy Murray could see Fed in the quarter-finals which would give fans and tournament organizers plenty to cheer about. I feel that Murray is due for a breakthrough performance and Cincinnati could be the place this finally happens. I know he had to overcome back surgery in the off-season but the fact that the Scot has not been in a final all year on the ATP Tour is quite shocking. Murray has won this event twice before, in 2008 and 2011. He's no doubt hoping that this three year in-between titles trend continues.

Ultimately I am going with Djokovic, Dimitrov, Raonic and Murray to make it through their respective quarters and I'll take Murray over Djokovic in the finals. This will be the last apperance of most of the top players on Tour before the U.S. Open begins later this month. One interesting stat to note is that in the 44 year history of the Western & Southern Open, the winner has gone on to win the final Grand Slam of the year in Flushing Meadows 9 times. Most recently Rafael Nadal proved that winning Cincinnati is excellent preparation for the Open, we'll see if someone else can do the same in 2014.

August 11, 2014 in Andy Murray, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Western and Southern Open | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday in Pictures from the Rogers Cup Final

By Mike McIntyre

Photographs by Bob and Mike McIntyre

The blockbuster final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not disappoint today at the Rogers Cup. Despite the match not making it to a decisive third set, both players put on a show for the crowd with plenty of awe-inspiring shots and (if you're a Fed fan) lots of drama as well.

Here then is our last instalment of pictures from Toronto that capture the best moments from Sunday.

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The doubles final was played first in Toronto and saw Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares defend their Rogers Cup title from a year ago.

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Peya and Soares are currently ranked third in the world in the ATP doubles rankings. Won their second title of the year in Toronto.

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Next up was the match everyone was waiting for - Federer vs Tsonga. The Frenchman walked in first.

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Next came Federer to a giant roar from the crowd. Tsonga wasn't kidding when he said he expected to be up against 10,000 today.

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For many, today's final was considered a real coin toss.

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The players stayed on serve through the first eleven games of the opening set.

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Federer's forehand would betray him on set point allowing Tsonga to take it 7-5.

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No final tally was given to the press today but tournament director Karl Hale said, "We are very, very happy with the numbers achieved." Today's crowd sure seemed like a full house.

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Federer's serve would bail him out of more than one break point in the second set, but you wondered how long could he fend Tsonga off? In total he saved 6 of 7 break points faced in the match.

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A great reach for Tsonga whose forehand was killer again today.

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Tsonga's serve was rock-solid when needed today and the Frenchman would not allow a single break point to his adversary, much to Federer's mounting frustration.

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Tsonga had his moments of frustration as well but they were few and far between.

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Coach Edberg could only look on and watch like the rest of us.

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Federer seemed like he might be on the verge of forcing a third set as he staved off match point while serving at 4-5. 

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But Tsonga's serve was too strong again in the tiebreak to ever allow Federer a chance at a comeback. Tsonga would win 7-5, 7-6(3) to capture his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

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Tsonga lifts the trophy after the 1hr47min match

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Federer didn't seem to distraught with the result. Some nice ranking points added to his pretty solid year.

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Not a bad week at the office for Tsonga!

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Celebrating with his team.

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And of course it wouldn't be Canada without a couple of Mounties on hand to pose with Tsonga and the trophy.

A great week of tennis here in Toronto which hopefully is a sign of things to come on the ATP World Tour as we get closer to the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. We plan to have some coverage of the tourney in Cincinnati this week and of course previews and analysis coming up from the U.S. Open. Keep checking back at ProTennisFan.com and on Twitter as well.

August 11, 2014 in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures

By Mike McIntyre

Photographs by Mike and Bob McIntyre

It was semi-final Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and while the matches may not have offered the same level of drama that fans have grown accustomed to throughout the week, the end results have set-up a dream final between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer will be seeking his 80th career ATP title on Sunday while Tsonga will try to add a 2nd Masters 1000 Championship to the one he achieved in Paris in 2011. Here are some of our best photos from the singles and one of the doubles matches that graced the Rexall Centre today. Enjoy!

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued perhaps the best week of his career as he dispatched his third top-ten opponent in-a-row in Grigor Dimitrov.

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Despite the loss, Dimitrov is proving he belongs in the top ten. Made his second career Masters 1000 semi-final here in Toronto.

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Beating Tsonga proved to be too much of a stretch for the young Bulgarian.

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"Can I maybe replay that set?"

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A strong contigent of Bulgarian fans did all they could to help their man Dimitrov.

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The view from the top of the Rexall Centre.

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Tsonga was able to do all kinds of crazy things with the ball as evidenced in this shot.

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And this is why people make Muhammad Ali comparisons!

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Brad Gilbert clowning around with Tsonga after the victory.

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A very happy Tsonga acknowledging the crowd support.

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Federer practicing under the guidance of coach Stefan Edberg about three hours prior to his match against Feliciano Lopez.

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Federer's new practice shirt. Selling for $50 on the grounds of the Rogers Cup this week.

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This guy smiles more than Vasek Pospisil - which is really saying alot.

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At 41 years old, Daniel Nestor is still without a doubt Canada's premier doubles player. Made his 26th straight appearance at the Rogers Cup this year. Wow, just wow.

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Dance competition or ATP Masters 1000 semi-final? You decide.

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Even Lopez cringed at one of his many errors on this night.

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Often called an artist, Federer looks like he himself is leaping out of a painting here.

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Fireworks to celebrate Roger's win and the end of the final night session of the year at the Rogers Cup.

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Even Roger was surprised by how easy he was able to advance to the finals!

Check back with us Sunday for the final between Federer and Tsonga which is supposed to start around 3pm ET. Be sure to follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates and photos from the last day of the Rogers Cup.

August 10, 2014 in Daniel Nestor, Feliciano Lopez, Grigor Dimitrov, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures

By Mike McIntyre

Photographs by Bob McIntyre

Thursday was without a doubt one of the crazier days in the history of the Rogers Cup. Not only did world Number One Novak Djokovic make an early exit, but favourites such as Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych also crashed out in the third round. Canadian Milos Raonic found a way to perservere in three close sets as did Roger Federer who almost squandered six match points against Marin Cilic before finishing him off in the third. Here are some photos taken by our own Bob McIntyre. Enjoy and keep checking back for more as we head into the final three days of action in Toronto.

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Stan saved a match point in his second round match against Benoit Paire on Wednesday, but could not muster the same type of luck against Kevin Anderson on this day.

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Here is Anderson celebrating his victory and looking every bit the 6'8'' that he is.

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

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Djokovic looking for divine intervention perhaps during his 6-2, 6-2 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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Coming up a bit short

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Now that's frustration folks.

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It should have been a sign to Djokovic when Tsonga already had a grin on his face as he walked in to Centre Court.

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Check out the quad on this guy...yikes!

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About as happy as you'd expect after defeating the number one player in the world

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Total control of the ball today from Tsonga

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Andy Murray got a break when opponent Richard Gasquet withdrew prior to their third round match. Looks like he made the most of the opportunity on the practice courts with coach Amelie Mauresmo.

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Grigor Dimitrov continued to show why he is refered to as "Baby Fed" with a three set win over veteran Tommy Robredo.

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Robredo was feeling the same way as many of Dimitrov's opponents have been feeling this year.

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Dimitrov is happy like a room without a roof!

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Don't try this at home kids. Actually, unless you are Ivan Dodig, don't try this anywhere!

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David Ferrer...yours to discover. And as Dodig discovered, a tough obstacle in his path. Ferrer would win in three sets to advance against Roger Federer.

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Hey look, it's former Pro Brad Gilbert who's in town working for ESPN.

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Milos Raonic was looking pretty suave against Julien Benneteau in the first match of the evening session on Centre Court.

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Raonic would advance in three sets which seemed to be the standard distance required of most winners on this epic day of action in Toronto.

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Doesn't look a day over 32!

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Despite squadering six match points in the second set, Roger Federer would recover to defeat Marin Cilic in three.

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Less than half an hour after the match, Federer would turn 33. Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday.

Check back with us again all weekend at ProTennisFan as we will have extensive coverage of the semi-finals on Saturday and the finals on Sunday at the Rogers Cup. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter as well.

August 8, 2014 in Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Stan Wawrinka, Tommy Robredo | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures

By Mike McIntyre

There was more rain on day two of the Rogers Cup in Toronto but things eventually cleared up and by the afternoon everything was back on schedule. Roger Federer made his hardcourt summer debut and three Canadians all made an exit from the tournament leaving Milos Raonic as the only Canuck remaining in the draw. Here are some of my favourite shots from around the grounds today. Enjoy!

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Frank Dancevic practices in the morning despite the rain shower.

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Philipp Kohlschreiber's shirt might have jinxed the German as he was defeated 6-3, 7-6(3) by Tommy Robredo.

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The drying machines proved their worth today and made several appearances throughout the morning as the rain continued to fall.

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There's a first for everything. Dancevic looks incredulous as he is asked to sign a fans purse.

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An auction item of the last Toronto Maple Leafs team to win the Stanley Cup. Hopefully we don't have to wait that long for a Canadian to win the Rogers Cup!

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Despite the wet courts, "La Monf" flashes a grin during morning practice.

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World Number One Novak Djokovic grins as he prepares to return a shot to coach Marian Vajda. Djokovic makes his singles debut Wednesday in Toronto.

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Warning: being the world number one comes with high pressure. At least Novak has an emergency exit!

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Here we can see reality sinking in for 612th ranked Brayden Schnur of Canada who fell 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round to Andreas Seppi who is ranked 561 spots higher than him on the ATP World Tour.

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 Someone finally got a smile out of the normally very professional Milos Raonic. Had to be the Djoker!

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Wildcard Jack Sock celebrates his 6-1, 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.

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Dancevic faltered today in a match he should have found a way to win. He goes down 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 to Donald Young.

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To say Young was happy with the result was an understatement.

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Likely the scariest serve on the tour. "Dr." Ivo Karlovic

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Monfils battled back from a 1-5 deficit in the second set to beat Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-5.

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Tough day for Vasek Pospisil who admitted he has simply, "been on the road a lot of weeks." He loses the rematch with Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-5.

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And then there was Federer. Playing in his first match since an epic final at Wimbledon he looked ready to rock. Broken in his first service game of the night, Federer would not have any more hiccups in a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Peter Polansky.

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The view from the very top of the Rexall Centre tonight for the Federer/Polansky match.

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Former world Number One and six time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg was inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame this evening.

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Federer doing some post-match press to end his night.

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Stan Wawrinka saved a match point against close friend Benoit Paire and prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) to end another fantastic day of tennis in Toronto.

Check back with us often here at ProTennisFan as we continue to provide a glimpse at all the action at the Rogers Cup. Follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates and commentary. 

August 5, 2014 in Donald Young, Frank Dancevic, Gael Monfils, Ivo Karlovic, Jack Sock, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Peter Polansky, Phillip Kohlschreiber, Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Stan Wawrinka, Stefan Edberg, Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday at the Rogers Cup in Pictures

By Mike McIntyre

Canada's biggest tennis tournament got underway in Toronto on Monday as round one of the Rogers Cup began. Here are a few shots from around the grounds of the Rexall Centre as taken by yours truly.

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Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor celebrating what he called, "championship point at Wimby" against partner Nenad Zimonjic.

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Gael Monfils of France was all smiles as he practiced with American Jack Sock. The jury is still out on the goatee though.

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Denis Istomin won for "coolest shades" of the day, but little else as he went down in three sets to Marin Cilic in the first match of the day on Centre Court.

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Andy Murray practicing under the watchful eye of coach Amelie Mauresmo.

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Milos Raonic receiving his "welcome to the big boys club" award, aka top ten award, from ATP World Tour President Chris Kermode.

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You know you're pro when you have your name on your tennis bag as Tommy Robredo does here.

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No that's not security standing behind world number 8 Grigor Dimitrov, but his coach Roger Rasheed.

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Lleyton Hewitt's struggles at the Rogers Cup continued today as he was defeated 6-1, 6-2 by Julien Benneteau to drop his career record at the event to 9-10.

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The biggest grin on the ATP World Tour goes to Vasek Pospisil without a doubt. As soon as the first smile broke, all the photographers in the room started snapping pictures in a collective frenzy.

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It's not every day that you get to ask questions to your childhood idol. Here is Stefan Edberg, six time Grand Slam champion and current coach to Roger Federer. He is being inducted Tuesday night into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame.

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Frenchman Julie Benneteau fields questions from but a single reporter following his victory over Lleyton Hewitt.

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Only Roger Federer could get away with a behind the back volley!

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Practice with coach Edberg nearby

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I can't think of better suited partnership than Federer and Edberg. Both class acts through and through.

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France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga kicks-off the night session on Centre Court.

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Ivan Dodig proved to be a handful for John Isner while the American's towel was clearly a mouthful. Dodig prevailed in three sets.

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Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka head out at 10pm to start their doubles match together. A victory sends them up against Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic next.

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Photo cred on the above picture only: David Li

Celebrating his first Rogers Cup victory in four years, Canada's Peter Polansky autographs the camera.

Check back with us regularly at ProTennisFan.com as we catch the action each day this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Be sure to follow us on Twitter as well for regular updates.

August 4, 2014 in Andy Murray, Daniel Nestor, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Lleyton Hewitt, Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic, Peter Polansky, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Stan Wawrinka, Stefan Edberg, Tennis Canada, Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

August 3, 2014 in Andy Murray, Frank Dancevic, Ivo Karlovic, Lleyton Hewitt, Peter Polansky, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Rogers Cup, Tennis Canada | Permalink | Comments (0)

Raonic and Pospisil Make Canadian Tennis History

By Mike McIntyre

Just when you thought that Canada had accomplished all of its possible firsts in professional tennis this year, they strike again.

At the Citi Open in Washington D.C., Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil have ensured an all-Canadian final on the ATP World Tour for the first time in the Open Era of the sport which goes back to 1968.

The timing of this momentous achievement could not come at a better time for Tennis Canada as it is on the eve of Canada's marquee event - The Rogers Cup, which begins Monday in Toronto for the men and in Montreal for the women.

While Raonic (being the number two seed at the Citi Open this year) was what many would say the favourite to make the finals prior to the start of competition earlier in the week, Pospisil was anything but. His season was derailed early by a back injury that saw him miss a month following his third round withdrawal at the Australian Open and hindered him so much that he went on to lose an astounding eight opening round matches in-a-row when he returned to action. After that horrific five month period Pospisil was able to re-discover his form on grass with a quarter-final result in the Netherlands. The turning point however might have been his shocking doubles victory at Wimbledon with American partner Jack Sock. Buoyed with a new sense of confidence in his play and with his back, Pospisil is now finally seeing the returns everyone expected when he made it to the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup nearly a year ago.

Pospisil lost that semi-final to Raonic in their only professional match to-date against one another. On Sunday we will see if he can even the score, although the odds are stacked against him. Not only has Raonic been coasting through his matches all week, but he played the early semi-final on Saturday and is clearly the more rested of the two players. Pospisil had to begin Saturday by finishing his rain-delayed quarter-final match against Santiago Giraldo before playing again just a few hours later against the talented Richard Gasquet of France. In that match Pospisil had to battle back from a one set deficit and a 0-3 hole in the third and decisive set before prevailing 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 in 2hrs 28 minutes.

Regardless of the outcome the result will be a victory for Canada, a country that is quickly establishing itself as a new power on both the ATP and WTA circuits. Not only that, but the Rogers Cup is getting some free publicity that it could never have imagined just a day before the main draw is set to begin there.

While some might say the newfound hype surrouding Canadian tennis is overkill, I say they've waited long enough and we should let Canada enjoy the first of what we hope will be many finals and championships for their promising young tennis players.

August 2, 2014 in Citi Open, Milos Raonic, Rogers Cup, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

ProTennisFan Weekly Wrap-Up

By Mike McIntyre

What a week it has been in the world of professional tennis, both on and off the court. There is normally a lull in the middle of July after Wimbledon concludes but for some reason this year there have been plenty of headlines worth noting. While champions have been crowned in Atlanta, Gstaad and Umag, it is news eminating from outside of the lines on the court that have to be addressed first and foremost.

From a tennis writers perspective, the shocking admission of plagiarism from one of the sports most recognized writers has lit up social media. Neil Harman, the lead tennis correspondent for the Times of London admitted this week that he has been passing off the work of his peers for several years in the official Wimbledon yearbook which takes a look back on the results at the All England Club each year. While some on Twitter are admonishing writer Ben Rothenburg for revealing the story and (as some claim) taking pleasure in Harman's fall from grace, I feel strongly that whatever repercussions come Harman's way are completely deserved. Being a professional in any line of work means adhering to the code of conduct of that establishment. Passing off the work of others as your own is simply inexcusable. Harman didn't just rip off any old tennis writer either - he stole from esteemed colleagues and some of the sport's most well known authors such as L. Jon Wertheim from Sports Illustrated. Harman tweeted an apology to those he hurt on Twitter on Wednesday but has since deleted his Twitter account and is currently suspended from his job with the Times.

Elsewhere and on the WTA Tour, Sloane Stephens has parted ways with respected tennis coach Paul Annacone. The split was amicable by all accounts and the two were singing each other's praises on Twitter this past week. Stephens has already turned to Thomas Hogstedt for help starting at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. this coming week. Hogstedt has coached the likes of Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki and Tommy Haas in the past. The Stephens news that really caught my eye however was the following article in Elle magazine. The American who is currently ranked 22nd in the world made several statements that portray her as a total space cadet. Among the most jaw-dropping include:

- “I saw my gyno today, and she’s like, ‘I can’t wait for Indian Wells,’...I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! She’s looking in my vajay!’ ”

- “I got the college experience without going to college. I don’t miss it. When my friends are like, ‘I’m going to class,’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to take a nap.’ ”

Perhaps Stephens did not realize that all of her statements made to author Lizzy Goodman were on the record and I'm being to harsh in my critique. You read the article in its entirety and feel free to make your own opinion.

Now let's look at what transpired on the tennis court this week and who has earned some well earned recognition for their accomplishments.

BB&T Atlanta Open

It should come as no surprise that number one seed John Isner capture his second consecutive title in Atlanta. The big man always plays a hectic summer schedule and warming up against a weaker field like the one in Atlanta worked wonders last year by helping him reach the finals of the Masters event in Cincinnati. Isner took out surprise finalist Dudi Sela in the championship match and got revenge against Jack Sock (who defeated him at Newport) in the semis. Credit to Benjamin Becker who also made the semis thanks to three straight0et wins in a row.

Canadian Vasek Pospisil failed to live up to his fourth seeded billing in singles (loss to Sela in QF) but did manage to win another doubles title with Sock. The duo are now undefeated as partners and seem to be having a lot of fun with each other on and off the court. Pospisil is going to be feeling the heat pretty soon playing in Toronto where he has semi-final points to defend from a year ago at the Rogers Cup.

Crédit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad

Pablos Andujar emerged victorious in Gstaad with a straight sets victory over Juan Monaco. It is the third title of Adjujar's career (2011 and 2012 in Casablanca) and should give him a nice ranking boost before the clay court season all but disappears.

This tournament was a solid step for Juan Monaco to correct an otherwise disappointing season. Currently ranked 105th in the world, Monaco had failed to win more than two matches in a row all year long. Monaco was in the top twenty just about a year ago but with only one more clay court tourney on the ATP schedule this year I'd say his chances of moving upwards are slim.

Gstaad also marked the return of Serbia's Viktor Troicki to the ATP World Tour after a year long ban for avoiding a blood test. Troicki won his first two matches before falling to Fernando Verdasco in three sets. I wonder how many more tournaments will be willing to offer Troicki a wildcard as he received this past week? It is likely that he will have to grind it out on the challenger tour for a while in order to re-establish his ranking.

Vegeta Croatia Open Umag

Pablo Cuevas hoisted the trophy in Umag over veteran (and defending champ) Tommy Robredo in two sets. Cuevas has now won back-to-back tournaments as he won a week ago in Bastad. The Argentinian has now won an impressive 31 matches on clay this year (including challengers) and the only non-clay event he has played was Wimbledon (1st round loss). He started the year ranked 224th in the world, was 111th prior to Bastad and went into Umag ranked 60th. That will be pushed forward even more so when the new rankings come out on Monday, but the question is - will Cuevas play any hardcourt events now?

Another player to watch was seventeen year old Alexander Zverev who could not continue his hot streak from a week earlier in Hamburg and fell in the opening round to Albert Montanes. This is still a kid to keep a close eye on in the months and years to come. 

The ATP World Tour now switches to Kitzbuhel on clay and Washington D.C. on hard courts. Keep checking back for updates and be sure to follow us on Twitter as well.

July 27, 2014 in Juan Monaco, Neil Harman, Sloane Stephens | Permalink | Comments (0)

Around The Corner: Atlanta, Gstaad and Umag

By Mike McIntyre

BB&T Atlanta Open

The Emirates Airlines U.S. Open Series officially gets underway with the level 250 event in Atlanta. While the major players will make their first hardcourt swing appearances in two weeks time at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, some smaller (and taller) fish will start accumulating points a bit earlier.

When I say taller I am definitely talking about John Isner who heads the field in Atlanta as the number one seed. Isner has become the hardest working player on the ATP Tour in recent summers and this year should be no exception. He has plenty of points to defend which must compel him to play such a heavy schedule, but it certainly seems to leave him weakened by the time the U.S. Open arrives at the end of August. At the age of 29 Isner is no kid anymore and if he truly wants to have his major moment he is going to have to ease up on the hours he spends out in the summer heat. Isner's success in 2014 has been limited to the early months of the season where he won his first event in Auckland and then reached the semi's at Indian Wells where he fell to Djokovic in three sets. He's the defending champ here in Atlanta and anything less than a repeat victory at this event will be seen as a disappointment.

Isner has a first round bye and then will face the winner between wildcard Robby Ginepri -who is still trying to salvage something of a once promising career - and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Gael  Monfils of France is the number three seed and is also in the top-half of the draw. Monfils could win this thing or self-destruct in a dizzying array of cartwheels and Boris Becker inspired dives...you just never know with him.

Wimbledon doubles champs Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil are reunited together again since their big triumph. They are also both playing singles of course and Pospisil is the fourth seed and in the bottom-half of the draw. With his back seemingly no longer troubling him, the Canadian will look to gain some momentum as the Roger's Cup approaches where he has semi-final points to defend. Lots of pressure on the youngster who is fresh off a loss to Bernie Tomic in Bogota this past week.

Yen-Hsun Lu of Tapei is the seventh seed and in the bottom half as well. He is coming off a Challenger level tournament victory in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. For him it will be a battle between his rising confidence and impending jetlag. Kevin Anderson, the second seed, is also one to watch. He lost the final a year ago to Isner and played very well last summer on the smaller American hardcourt events.

Credit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad

For those looking to cling to red clay for a little bit longer we have just the event for you in Switzerland. No Roger Federer this year as he does not need the extra ranking points nor is he testing out a new racquet. Federer was shocked in his opening match a year ago against Daniel Brands in a forgettable 65 minute match.

Mikhail Youzhny is the number one seed and defending champion in Gstaad. He is quite capable on clay as he is on all other surfaces. He's got some decent dirt-ballers such as Juan Monaco, Thomasz Bellucci and Federico Delbonis to content with in the top half of the draw.

In the bottom half the ATP World Tour welcomes back the self-proclaimed innocent Viktor Troicki who hopefully has learned his lesson about refusing to provide a blood sample when asked. He was fortunate enough to have his 18 month suspension reduced to 12 and to receive a wildcard for this event. He opens against sixth seeded Dominic Thiem from Austria.

Fernando Verdaso will try to get his season back on track as the fourth seed here in Gstaad. Other than winning a small tournament on green clay in Houston back in April, there has been little worth reporting from the thirty year old Spaniard so far in 2014.

Marcel Granollers is the second seed in the event and won this tournament in 2011.

Take the results from this tournament with a grain of salt. Clay court events are on their way out this year and a win here does not by any means translate to success at the final Grand Slam of the year in New York. These are players who are trying to pad their stats or bank accounts but clearly care little for what they may be able to accomplish at a major.

Vegeta Croatia Open Umag

Ditto for Umag.

Number one seed Fabio Fognini will try to stick around a little longer than he did last week in Hamburg where he was defeated 6-4, 6-0 by the 150th ranked player in the world - Filip Krajinovic. A dismal effort from the defending champion to say the least. Fognini was a finalist here in Umag in 2013 and I would expect somewhat of a stronger effort this week as he tries to hold on to his current ranking of 15th in the world.

17 year old Alexander Zverev has received a special entry into the tournament due to his phenomenal effort last week in Hamburg where he reached the semi-finals before falling to David Ferrer. This kid has experienced the most prolific start to his career by a teenager since one Rafael Nadal did about ten years ago. He jumped 124 spots in the rankings up to his current of 161st in the ATP. Zverev started 2014 ranked in the 800s and won the Australian Open junior event. Looks like he's ready for the big leagues now.

In the bottom half of the draw the fans will no-doubt be pulling for Marin Cilic who won here in 2012. Tommy Robredo is the second seed and defending champion from a year ago. Every time I write anything negative about Robredo he goes on a serious run and manages to rediscover his top-twenty ranking and form. I'm done predicting anything for this guy, he is officially my kryptonite!

We're back in business here at ProTennisFan after some website issues earlier this year. Please check back with us during the summer swing for in-depth analysis of the ATP World Tour. You can also follow us on Twitter if you're so inclined.

July 21, 2014 in Fernando Verdasco, Gael Monfils, John Isner, Marin Cilic, Vasek Pospisil | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dolgopolov In Hot Water Over Instagram Pic

By Mike McIntyre

Wanted: new PR manager for Alexandr Dolgopolov.

It seems as though the 19th ranked Ukrainian has made a very poor judgement call with his use of social media. Dolgopolov posted the following picture on his Instagram account. Be warned that the picture is not appropriate to be viewed by children or in ones workplace. 

The general consensus on Twitter on the translation of the words beneath the picture is, "childhood is over, bitches."

The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw this was that Dolgopolov's Instagram account had to have been hacked. I mean, what professional athlete would post such a vulgar and offensive photo on their public account? Then I saw the following article from changeovertennis.com and realized this is not the first time that Dolgolpolov has posted questionable materials online. I guess he just doesn't get it.

The fact that this picture is still up on Instagram more than 24 hours after it was posted is just as mind-blowing as the original post itself. Does Dolgopolov not have someone in his inner circle who might have suggested, "hey dude, maybe this isn't such a great idea?"

The two main issues (among the many) that I have with this image are the fact that it sexualizes children and that it is openly displayed in a place that children could view it. If I were a young fan of Dologopolov's and I saw that picture, I would have plenty of questions for my parents about its content. While the internet did not yet exist when I was a young tennis fan, I could never imagine finding something like that posted by one of my idols like Pete Sampras or Stefan Edberg. They both possessed two things that Dolgopolov appears to lack - common sense and class.

Of course I'm sure if social media existed back in the day, we would have had plenty of controversies similar to this one. Imagine Johnny Mac with Twitter during the 1970s and 80s! I'm sure Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors would have gotten in all kinds of trouble as well. But that was then and this is now.

Pro athletes are so much more in tune with the watchful eye of the media and of the damage that social media can have on ones public image. Dolgopolov seems to be oblivious to this fact. With his morals appearing to be about as low as his service toss, Dolgopolov - one would think - needs to seriously reconsider if having an Instagram account is such a good idea. An apology and removal of the picture in question might be nice as well.

July 13, 2014 in Alexandr Dolgopolov | Permalink | Comments (0)

Canadians Dominate at Wimbledon

By Mike McIntyre

While the term "dominate" might be a bit of a stretch, Canada can be proud to say that they have representation in the final four at Wimbledon in both the men's and the women's singles draws.

Just four years ago John McEnroe told me that, "If tennis was played on ice, Canada would have a top-ten player." Today thanks to victories on grass, not ice, Canada will have two players in the top-ten of professional tennis when the updated rankings come out Monday.

With her quater-final victory over Angelique Kerber, 20 year old Canadian starlet Genie Bouchard is going to jump into the top-ten on the WTA Tour next week and join Milos Raonic who broke into the top-ten on the ATP Tour in April of this year.

Also still alive in doubles action at Wimbledon are icon Daniel Nestor who is active in both the quarter-finals of the men's doubles with partner Nenad Zimonjic as well as the mixed doubles with Kristina Mladenovic. And don't forget Vasek Pospisil who along with American Jack Sock are also in the quarters of the men's doubles draw.

While Canada Day was July 1st, it is proving to be Canada Year in the world of professional tennis as seemingly every week on both the men's and women's tour there seems to be groundbreaking results for players from the Great White North.

July 2, 2014 in Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wawrinka Success Testament to Hard Work

If you were to look up Stanislas Wawrinka on Wikipedia and scroll down to the ‘Playing Style’ section you’d notice that, according to whoever wrote this entry, the Swiss star’s biggest fault is his lack of mental toughness. Having watched him win the Australian Open this week, I believe this line should now be scratched and never entered again.

The 28-year-old has, in the past year, shown facets to his game we did not think he had, hanging with and bettering those who had been considered all-round better players by fans of live tennis online. His stunning victory over Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals was the culmination of years of hard work, the majority of which did not look as though it had paid off.

At the 2012 Australian Open, Wawrinka was dumped out of the tournament in the third round by Nicholas Almagro and was considered as nothing more than “the other Swiss tennis player”. His remarkable rise shows he is way more than that.

Despite making it to consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals the Olympic double’s gold medallist is continually written off by tennis betting pundits. Minutes after his semi-final triumph over Tomas Berdych his stats when facing Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were dragged up, as if to dismiss him as a genuine title contender.

He may never have beaten Rafael Nadal but that record no longer matters. Warwinka had lost 14 out of 14 to Djokovic before this week but has now set that record straight as well.

What has gone on before should count for very little when you step out on court, and Wawrinka is a testament to that having put so many tough losses behind him to reach this point. Nadal started as the heavy favourite for Sunday’s final, and rightly so given his ability. The tag of favourite can count for very little though, as Juan Martin del Potro demonstrated when he won the US Open in 2009 against Federer. 

Wawrinka has now become just the second man in the last five years from outside the ‘big four’ to win a Grand Slam. He can now certainly upgrade his status from ‘also ran’ to ‘contender’ amongst the tennis fraternity.

 

January 26, 2014 in Stan Wawrinka | Permalink | Comments (0)