What a 2018 it has been for the golden trio, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The 1st 3 Grand Slams of the year have been shared by them. The next important tennis tournament on the calendar is the Rogers Cup at Toronto, also called the Canadian Open tennis. While Federer has opted out, Rafa and Novak will be looking forward to starting the hard court season on a winning note.
19 of the World’s top 20 players have confirmed their participation in the Rogers Cup. Lets take a look at the currently hottest players on the circuit and what they have done here in this tournament last year and in previous years.
World Number 1 Rafa Nadal had a shock 3rd round defeat here last year to the local player Denis Shapovalov. In 2018 Rafa has had a terrific clay court season where among other successes he clinched his 11th French Open title. He also had a good run at Wimbledon and after defeating the giant DelPo in the quarter-finals was stopped by Novak in a tense five setter. Rafa would be seeking to win here and extend his huge lead over Federer in the ATP rankings. Rafa has won here in 2005, 2008 and 2013. All his entries to the final have resulted in wins.
This year Rafa has a tough draw. Benoit Paire or a qualifier is his 1st round opponent but he has a potentially tough 3rd round match against Wawrinka or Kyrgios. Likely quarter final opponent is Cilic while DelPo or Isner could face the world number 1 in the semi-finals. If he wins all of these matches, a dream final with Novak awaits.
However Rafa being Rafa, with his trademark consistency and honesty he says that he is not looking too far ahead and is focusing as of now on the 1st round match. To quote the Champion,
“I always take it match by match, that’s what I’ve done all my life. That’s the only way, in my opinion, to have success. You need to respect all the days, all the opponents. In tennis, things change so quickly, so you need to be ready to accept both victories and losses.”
Novak Djokovic had a minefield of a draw at Wimbledon but came through to win his 4th Wimbledon crown. His 5 set win over the world Number 1 Nadal in the semifinal will encourage him. Last year he had withdrawn from Rogers Cup and so every point he gets will be a bonus. He has already come back into the top 10 and would be seeking to have a few wins before the US Open for a proper draw. Among the big guns, Djokovic has tasted maximum success here with 4 wins and has lost one final to Andy Murray who has taken a wildcard entry for the Rogers Cup.
Djokovic meets the impressive Hyeon Chung in the 1st round, and has a tough third round match with Thiem and a tougher quarter final with Alexander Zverev (Sascha). Anderson or Dimitrov are likely semi-final opponents.
World Number 3 Sascha did well in the French Open where he showed mettle in winning 3 back to back five setters before losing to Thiem in the Quarter finals. However he disappointed at Wimbledon by losing a 5th set at 6-0 to Ernest Gulbis, the player named by his parents after the great writer Ernest Hemingway. Sascha is defending champion and had won against Federer.
Sascha opens with Ferrer and faces a tough quarter final with Djokovic or Thiem. Defending 1000 points would be very important for him. Can he do it ? Last year his wins against Kyrgios, Anderson and Federer himself were very encouraging which he would like to repeat. If he doesn’t then DelPo will be the new World Number 3.
Kevin Anderson had a wild card last year and went up to the quarter finals where he lost to Zverev. However this tournament sparked his revival and he reached the finals of both US Open (2017) and Wimbledon (2018). Losses there were to none other than Rafa and Djokovic. Kevin has entered the top 5 for the 1st time. He would be seeking to leave an impact.
Del Potro would be a huge contender. The giant was unlucky to meet Nadal at the Wimbledon quarter finals and lose in 5 thrilling sets. He too has risen to Number 4 in the world and would be seeking to improve his points since he lost in 2nd round to Shapovalov last year. A good performance by him and Zverev not able to repeat his winning performance may see him in the top 3 for the 1st time. DelPo will meet Nishikori in the 2nd round and has a chance for revenge as he is expected to meet Shapovalov in the 3rd. Isner awaits in the quarter finals with the winner to take on Rafa in the semi-finals.
Other players who will be seeking to leave an impression at the Rogers Cup are the giant American Isner and the hard serving local Raonic. Isner was unlucky to meet ( and lose) DelPotro in the first round in 2017 while Raonic lost to Mannarino last year. Raonic meets Dimitrov in the 3rd round and the winner is likely to meet Kevin Anderson in the quarter final.
A brief note on the missing top 2 player- Roger Federer who had won here in 2004 and 2006. He also lost 3 finals, one each to Djokovic, Tsonga and one to Zverev last year. Federer however had then withdrawn from Cincinnati masters which immediately follows. This year, he has done the opposite. He has withdrawn from Toronto (the only from top 20 who will not play), and will be playing at Cincinnati, where he has had more success over the years.
Looking forward to a great tournament. Would like to see the great duo Rafa and Novak playing yet another final.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films and music.
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