By Mike McIntyre
The Rogers Cup draw was held Friday afternoon at - of all places - the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. World No. 5 Stan Wawrinka was on-hand to help with the ceremony and posed for a few pictures with the Toronto Blue Jays beforehand. While the draw is sparse due to the upcoming Rio Olympics, there are still many quality first round matches for fans to catch. With Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all missing in action, the opportunity presents itself for fans to expand their knowledge of the next wave of players who will one day dominate the ATP World Tour. Here is a quick look at how the draw looks.
Thanks goodness that World No. 1 Novak Djokovic showed up as the tournament would have been left without one of the "big four" and in serious danger of losing respectability as a Masters 1000 level event. You can't fault tournament director Karl Hale though, as the timing of the tournament always presents challenges in an Olympic year. Despite there being two weeks until the Olympic tennis event begins, many players are not looking for a grueling daily event like the Rogers Cup to drain them ahead of the biggest international sports competition of them all.
Djokovic will get a first round bye and fans will be looking to see how he bounces back from his strange third round Wimbledon loss at the hands of Sam Querrey. Novak will face either the powerful serve Gilles Muller or veteran Dmitry Tursunov in his first match which likely won't come until Tuesday evening or Wednesday daytime at the Aviva Centre. Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed, is also in this quarter of the draw and could face up-and-coming teenage sensation Borna Coric in his first match of the the event. Big serving John Isner is a potential third round match for Berdych and always performs well during the summer hardcourt swing.
Canadian Content: Peter Polansky has played superbly this summer in Futures events and draws a qualifier in his first match.
Milos Raonic will be basking in the glow of his thrilling run to the finals of Wimbledon from two weeks ago and the hometown crowd will be happy to show their affection for the fourth seed. He, along with the top eight, gets an opening round bye and will see either Yen-Hsun Lu or Alexander Zverev in the second round. At 19, Zverev represents the next wave after the Milos generation and is already ranked 27th in the world. David Goffin is the seventh seed and it would be great for fans to witness a Wimbledon re-match against Milos in the quarter-finals. Their fourth round match at the All-England Club was the first time Raonic had ever come back from two sets down in a best-of-five set match. Gael Monfils also lurks in this section and is a must-see match (in every match) if you're at the event.
Canadian Content: Both Vasek Pospisil (vs Jeremy Chardy) and Frank Dancevic (vs Querrey) are also in this part of the draw. Tough matches for both but certainly not impossible, especially with a pro-Canadian crowd to back them both.
2014 U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic is the eighth seed and should face Kei Nishikori the third seed if the draw holds true in this section. Cilic recently parted ways with coach and former pro Goran Ivanisevic while Nishikori had to retire at Wimbledon with a painful rib injury that had not properly healed. Big serving Ivo Karlovic and American teenager Taylor Fritz face each other in the opening round. At the Citi Open in Washington this week Karlovic was asked what it feels like at the age of 37 to play against so many teenagers. He replied, "I could be their daddy. And, who knows, maybe I am!" This guy's booming serve is matched only by his over-the-top sense of humour. Grigor Dimitrov is also in this section and unseeded after a fall from the top of the ATP rankings that started about a year ago. Maybe with a somewhat weaker field this will be the perfect event for him to get things going again. He has a 20-15 record so far in 2016.
Canadian Content: Junior Wimbledon winner Denis Shapovalov will make his main draw Rogers Cup debut at the age of 17 against Nick Kyrgios from Australia. The pair will take Centre Court Monday night to kick things off at 7pm ET. Welcome to the big leagues kid.
Stan Wawrinka, the second seed, has yet to win a Grand Slam thus far in 2016 (he won the Aussie Open in 2014 and the French Open in 2015) and will be looking to ramp things up in advance of the U.S. Open later in August. He will face either veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny who is on the downward slide of his career or Stephan Robert of France in his opening match. Talented young American Jack Sock and the enigmatic Australian Bernard Tomic are also in the last section of the draw and either one is capable of causing problems here. Dominic Thiem who made the semis at Roland Garros is the sixth seed although he has struggled with consistency of late.
Canadian Content: Steven Diez is the third ranked Canadian in the world and plays Great Britain's Kyle Edmund in his opening match.
Check back with us later this weekend once the qualifiers have been placed in the draw. You can Follow Pro Tennis Fan on Twitter as well for pictures, analysis and more throughout the entire event.