Sunday’s afternoon final was played in the sweltering heat of the former Jarry Stadium and despite the challenging conditions on court, the players were still able to deliver an epic showcase that finally gave life to a once competitive matchup. Such drama would not be complete without a proper backstory, as Murray entered this match on an 8 match losing streak against the Serb which included a four set defeat at the Australian Open final in January and a five set defeat at the French Open in May, it was debatable whether he would ever get over the hump against his long time nemesis.
Those fears were cast aside on Sunday as he proved to be every bit the match to Djokovic’s patient counterpunching, saving break point after break point with timely serving especially during an interminable 18 minute game in the third set that had fans of both Djokovic and Murray clinging to the edge of their seats. The match, clocking in at just over 3 hours, was tightly contested in every aspect, with almost every service game going to deuce. Murray in particular looked quite sharp in the first set while Djokovic, no doubt still troubled his right elbow, appeared rattled by the amount of resistance required to hold serve in the 4th game which he would eventually relinquish. Djokovic would break back in the 7th game after pouncing on a weak 2nd serve from Murray but couldn’t hold his nerves in the 10th game and conceded a 2nd break and ultimately the set to Murray.
In set 2, Murray’s concentration dipped and Djokovic immediately broke to love. Momentum would sway back and forth with each player exchanging breaks in the 6th and 7th games before Djokovic steadied himself and closed out the set to even things last one apiece. Throughout the match, Djokovic’ putaway volleys and overhead smashes would strangely not find their target, these are shots that have let him down in the past during crucial moments.
Some more drama would unfold when Murray, barely clinging on to a break, was handed a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct, a very controversial call from chair umpire Fergus Murphy at such a critical juncture in the match. Despite this setback, he saved 7 break points in a game that lasts 18 minutes en route to a 4-1 lead. Djokovic would again have 2 more opportunities to break at 5-3 but Murray, showing a considerable reserve of mental strength, earns the championship point when Djokovic’s forehand goes long. After the dust settled, it was a 6-4. 4-6. 6-3 win for the 2013 Wimbledon champion and a well deserved Masters crown.
Murray showed clutch tennis overall, though his game was a rollercoaster, and Djokovic didn’t appear to be entirely focused in on the match, making him vulnerable. That said Murray has now claimed 11 Masters titles in his career, and two this season as he’s been a top player across surfaces and now moves to world #2. It’s quite possible that we will see these guys face off again in the US Open final.
Bob and Mike Bryan claimed yet another doubles title, this one over Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Djokovic Slated to Face Murray in 2015 ATP Rogers Cup Final Leich Sinha for Tennis Atlantic
Semifinal Saturday took place yesterday as Novak Djokovic ended the run of underdog Jeremy Chardy, and Andy Murray ran right past Kei Nishikori to setup a #1 vs #2 seed final, and yet another edition of their rivalry.
If you weren’t following this week’s results, you might have done a bit of a double take upon seeing Jeremy Chardy’s name in today’s semi final. The Frenchman after all was on a five match losing streak prior to this tournament, with his last win dating back to a third round drubbing of David Goffin at Roland Garros, and was unseeded entering this tournament. The benefactor of a snafu in the upper half of the draw during which most top seeds were defeated early, Chardy obtained his spot in the semis by way of narrowly edging out last week’s Citi Open finalist John Isner, where he showed great tenacity in saving 7 match points during a gruelling 3 hour slugfest after having previously defeated Ivo Karlovic, Leonardo Mayer and grass specialist Nicolas Mahut. Today, he found himself in the unenviable position of taking out world number 1 Novak Djokovic for a spot in Sunday’s final.
Novak, to be fair, has not had a perfect tournament, having had to fend off match points of his own in the quarterfinals against a resurgent Ernest Gulbis and suffering from what appears to be tendinitis in his right elbow. Nevertheless, the match played out exactly as expected as Novak cruised through a 6-4, 6-4 victory without facing a single break point. Ever the opportunist, Djokovic seized on Chardy’s early match jitters when the latter’s erratic ball toss motion caused him to double fault twice in a row at the start of the match and subsequently go down a break. Djokovic, from that point on, didn’t need to do much more than hold serve and play his tactical brand of tennis to close out the first set, always keeping Chardy’s best weapon, the forehand, at bay.
The second set proved to be much of the same, with Djokovic rarely missing his shots and engaging in neutral rallies with comfort and peace, secure in the knowledge that Chardy was unlikely to redline his game as long as his rhythm in rallies was disabled. He broke again the 5th game of the 2nd set after correctly guessing a forehand return which he crushed to the open court. The lone break was enough to seal the set and the match.
A day after his marquee straight sets victory over Rafael Nadal, it seemed that Kei Nishikori’s chances of securing a maiden Masters crown improved immeasurably upon that conquest. Nadal was after all the lone scalp of the big four that he’d yet to claim and to have dismissed him in such convincing fashion was surely a sign of the veil being lifted on tennis’ famed oligopoly. His dreams of entering that sacred vanguard were emphatically shattered by Britain’s Andy Murray on Saturday night as the Bolleteri protege was sent packing amidst a chorus of boos in a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing before a packed house in Centre Court. Andy Murray, relentless in his pursuit of the break, mercilessly attacked Kei’s serve, often crowding in well inside the baseline to return Nishikori’s 2nd serve which he would invariably eat up and spit out to an untended area of the court.
Nishikori would often be found second guessing himself, pausing a moment to think about placement and strategy, but those brief times of reflection would provide no answer for Murray’s aggressive returning. The two exchanged breaks from the get go with Nishikori himself returning Andy’s 2nd serve quite well and even getting the upper hand in the rallies. But It was his inability to earn free points on serve or even hold serve that set the scene for the destruction. Demoralized by a critical third break in the 8th game of the set, a game which saw him get broken from up 40 love, Nishikori simply threw in the towel, appearing to readily succumb to the physical and mental toll mounting on his body.
In the second set, he would not even attempt to challenge Andy’s serve, preferring to let Andy serve out aces and hit return winners at will. After the match, he was seen limping into the press conference room, no doubt sore from two weeks of tennis, though one could perhaps estimate that the greatest injury came at the expense of his pride.
Nishikori’s had a very good run here and in Washington but there’s lots of work to be done if he wants to be considered a serious contender for the US Openr. As for Andy Murray, his groundstrokes seemed very sharp and he looks to be in great form after delivering two strong performances in a row. He’ll need to clean up a little better on serve if he wants any chance at defeating his rival Novak Djokovic but overall, he’s found his hard court game. Tomorrow’s final should prove to be a very interesting contest.
Previewing the Final
Two world class hard court players will battle once more, with Novak the favorite, as his counterpunching has had the edge over Murray in their last seven meetings.Four previous times they have met this year and though their Roland Garros meeting on clay was close, their three other hard court meetings have strongly favored Djokovic, and with that in mind the world #1 is likely to prevail.
A diverse field of qualifiers claimed their sports in the 2015 ATP Montreal, Rogers Cup main draw this weekend in what was a competitive qualifying tournament. The headliner was Ernests Gulbis, who may be coming out of what has been a season long slump, and beat both Blaz Rola and top qualifying seed Nicolas Mahut, the latter in a close three sets, to qualify. Gulbis was ranked as high as #10 in the world last year, and has six ATP titles, but he’s endured a dreadful season, and perhaps the summer will help regenerate him and his focus.
Along with Gulbis, young gun Hyeon Chung also made the main draw. The 19 year old Korean with a whippy backhand is in great form on the US Open Series thus far (3-1), and dominated both of his matches, the first against Kelsey Stevenson, and the second against Alejandro Gonzalez. Chung has a bright future ahead and we are likely to see him in many Masters main draws to come.
Like Gulbis, Alexandr Dolgopolov has endured a poor season, but the perpetual top 20 talent, who has now been on tour for a while, won a pair of tough matches over Dudi Sela and Alejandro Falla to qualify. Dolgopolov is 4-1 in his last five matches, and should serve as a dark horse threat on hard courts in the Montreal draw. He has two ATP quarterfinals on hard courts this year and also reached the round of 16 in Miami, pushing Novak Djokovic to three sets.
Two other veteran presences on tour also qualified, Yen-Hsun Lu used his baseline ball striking talents to easily dispatch David Volfson and Brayden Schnur, dropping jut three games in four sets of tennis. Mikhail Youzhny snapped a long losing streak, as the Russian surprisingly found form and whipped his one handed backhand to wins over J.P. Smith and Pierre-Hugues Herbert without dropping a set.
Lastly, two Americans qualified north of the border in Quebec as Donald Young snapped a cold streak and beat Rajeev Ram with ease after slipping past Edouard Roger-Vasselin in three sets. He will face off with his countryman Denis Kudla, who continued his fantastic form with routine wins over Ryan Harrison and James Duckworth, both of whom were challenging opponents on paper. Young is 6-1 against Kudla in the h2h, but Kudla clearly has an edge in form.
In the main draw Dolgopolov will have a punchers chance at an upset against Grigor Dimitrov, a fellow shotmaker, Gulbis faces one of his best friends on tour Dominic Thiem, Lu will have a chance to avenge his defeat to Vasek Pospisil in Atlanta and Youzhny faces a struggling Viktor Troicki in a winnable match.
2015 ATP Montreal Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
2015 ATP Montreal Preview
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
August 10-August 16, 2015
Prize Money: $3,587,490
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Andy Murray (3)
3: Stan Wawrinka (5)
4: Kei Nishikori (4)
5: Tomas Berdych (6)
6: Marin Cilic (8)
7: Rafael Nadal (9)
8: Milos Raonic (10)
Roger Federer is skipping Montreal this year, while David Ferrer is out with an elbow injury. Otherwise the rest of the ATP top 25 is taking part.
Sock has a solid track record on hard courts this year and has played both of the North American stops this Summer in Atlanta and Washington, reaching the quarters in Washington. The young American continues to rise up the rankings and this match represents a good opportunity for him. Mannarino, a finalist in Bogota, has also had a good record on hard courts this year and took a week off after an early exit in Atlanta. His solid play all season has earned him a career high ranking and this should be a competitive match. Presuming Sock is fit, he should have the edge, though Mannarino is streaky. Sock has a 2-1 h2h edge on hard courts.
(14)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (Q)Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dimitrov has a h2h edge on Dolgopolov but his poor form since splitting with coach Roger Rasheed is evident, as the Bulgarian has failed to progress his game in any manner this season. Grigor had a poor week in Washington, losing round 2, and now he’ll have to face a dangerous shotmaker as he hopes to avoid a round 1 exit in Montreal. Dolgopolov qualified and is 4-1 in his last five matches, thus his form seems better than it was when he plunged down the rankings. This matchup should feature some great ball striking and winner creation, and I not only give Dolgo a chance to advance, I have him winning this one in an upset, as Dimitrov seems lost at the moment.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Nick Kyrgios
The veteran Spanish lefty has had some tough draws in recent tournaments and he returns to hard court tennis with a 7-5 record in 2015. Kyrgios is returning from a poor showing in Davis Cup duty and his consistency and focus has been lacking at times this year outside of Grand Slams. This matchup should feature big hitting and big forehands, and it’s hard to tell the form of ether player, that said I give Kyrgios, if focused, the edge to advance in what should be an exciting match.
(13)David Goffin vs. Steve Johnson
Goffin, who is just 6-5 on hard courts in 2015, is ranked higher than Johnson, but the hard court surface should balance this matchup, and the h2h is split 1-1. Johnson comes into Montreal with a 15-9 hard court record this year, and a semifinal in Washington where he played excellent tennis, as the American continues to improve. This is another matchup where the seed could suffer an early exit, Goffin’s form was good on clay (reached Gstaad final), but Johnson won’t have to switch surfaces and he’s playing great right now, I have Stevie pulling of the upset.
Tsonga is the defending champion of the Rogers Cup, but he could well bow out in round 1 the next year as the young gun Coric is a dangerous opponent. The teenager is 9-8 on outdoor hard in 2015, and upset Andy Murray in Dubai this year. Tsonga struggled in Davis Cup and has barely played on hard courts this year, I still have Jo winning this but it should be close, and he is another seed who could bow out early.
Three time Rogers Cup champion and undisputed world #1 Novak Djokovic will look to improve on his 25-2 outdoor hard court record in 2015, and he should have a clear path to the quarterfinals. Thomaz Bellucci is likely his first opponent, presuming Bellucci gets past dirtballer Pablo Cuevas like he did in Miami this year, Bellucci took a set off of Novak in Rome on clay this year, but I don’t see that repeating himself. After Bellucci it will be Dolgopolov/Dimitrov or Sock/Mannarino, in an interesting section. I have Dolgopolov beating Dimitrov and Sock before falling to Djokovic like he did in a great Miami match this year (lost in 3 sets).
Tomas Berdych could have a tough time, with Denis Kudla likely to be his first opponent. Kudla, a semifinalist in Atlanta, faces fellow qualifier Donald Young in round 1, and has been in fantastic form over the past couple of months. Dynamite Denis is playing the tennis of his life right now and I wouldn’t put an upset of Berdych past him, that said Berdych is 19-5 on outdoor hard this year and is still the favorite. In round 3 we should see Berdych/Kudla against Kevin Anderson, as Anderson and Berdych tend to find each other in draws.
Anderson suffered a shock loss in Washington early on, but given this is a surface he likes he should recover and beat Lukas Rosol, who simply isn’t as good as him on hard courts, and then the winner of Dominic Thiem/Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis qualified after seeing his ranking drop, and Thiem is one of his best friends on tour, coming off a fantastic run on clay. Thiem is 3-0 against Gulbis since their first meeting, though he may struggle to adjust surface after great results on clay, and I have Gulbis pulling a minor upset before falling to Anderson. Berdych dominates Anderson in the h2h, and thus look for Tomas in the quarters.
Stan the man Wawrinka could bow out to Kyrgios/Verdasco right off the bat, though he handled Kyrgios well on grass when they met earlier this year. Wawrinka struggles with consistency compared to the other top 5 players, but so do Kyrgios and Verdasco and it’s a hard section to predict. That said Wawrinka is 10-3 on hard this year and I don’t trust Kyrgios to keep his cool thus I have it Wawrinka vs. John Isner round 3.
Isner, the champion in Atlanta and a finalist in Washington, may be fatigued but he’s playing fantastic on the US Open series and his booming serve should push him bast Benjamin Becker, who hasn’t been healthy recently, and the winner of Rendy Lu/Vasek Pospisil. Big John is now 16-5 on hard courts in 2015 and he just beat Pospisil, his likely round 2 opponent, at the Citi Open. A fresher Wawrinka likely has the edge on Isner in round 3, but with the American serving so well right now, he could be a dark horse. I have Wawrinka in the quarters myself. Isner is 2-1 against Wawrinka in the h2h but they haven’t played in multiple seasons.
Milos Raonic, the home hero, has a tough opening match ahead against either Jerzy Janowicz or Ivo Karlovic, likely Karlovic who has been in great form in recent tournaments. Big servers will collide, and this is another matchup where the seed could go out. I have Karlovic reaching round 3 where he is likely to face Richard Gasquet. Gasquet opens with Jeremy Chardy, his countryman (2-0 h2h) and then will face the Hyeon Chung/Leo Mayer winner. Gasquet, who lost round 2 in Washington, is a better hard court player than Mayer, and the qualifier Chung is still an inexperienced young gun. Chung is in good form so I have him upsetting Mayer before falling to Gasquet. Gasquet has won his last three meetings against Karlovic, and I also see him beating Raonic if Raonic blazes the same path, so I have Gasquet reaching the quarters. Both Raonic and Gasquet are former finalists at the Rogers Cup.
Washington champ Kei Nishikori is in excellent form and has an easy early draw that should allow him to conserve his energy a bit. He should roll past Pablo Andujar/Frank Dancevic and do the same to Goffin/Johnson unless he’s fatigued, as I don’t feel either player is up to his caliber, though both are quality ballstrikers and could trouble him. The winner of Goffin/Johnson faces Martin Klizan/Sam Querrey round 2, both of whom are inconsistent big hitters. I have Johnson beating Querrey before falling to Nishikori. Nishikori beat Johnson this year in Brisbane.
Three time Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal is also in this section, but he’s a rather pedestrian 8-4 on hard courts in 2015, he last played on clay where he took the title in Hamburg. Rafa should be able to defeat Sergiy Stakhovsky or young Canadian Filip Peliwo, a wild card, but Gilles Simon could prove trouble in the third round. Simon has been competitive on hard courts this year and he faces a possibly injured Andreas Seppi round 1, and then likely Viktor Troicki, who he dominates the h2h with in round 2. Troicki will face qualifier Mikhail Youzhny, who found some form this weekend after a bad slump, in round 1. Nadal would have the edge against Troicki, and also should beat Simon who he is 7-1 against in the h2h. As long as Rafa has himself healthy and together look for him in the quarterfinals.
Andy Murray suffered a shock loss to journeyman Teymuraz Gabashvili in Washington but he’s still won the Rogers Cup title twice and had an excellent season, hard courts included. In his first Montreal match he’ll face either Feliciano Lopez or Tommy Robredo, Robredo has barely played on hard courts this year, but Lopez isn’t in great form and has a poor h2h record. I have Murray beating Lopez in round 2 and pushing his h2h to 11-0 before beating either Gilles Muller or Gael Monfils in round 3. Tbe big serving Atlanta semifinalist Muller is in good form and should defeat Canadian wild card Philip Bester to setup a meeting with Monfils. Monfils faces Fabio Fognini, who hasn’t won a hard court match this year, round 1, before Muller. It’s tough to predict a winner there, but I have Muller pulling it out, before falling to Murray, who beat him on hard courts and grass this year. Murray vs. Monfils, if it were to happen, would be highly entertaining though with speed on showcase. It has to be mentioned Monfils and Fognini are both entertainers on court, and it should be a fun, though possibly clownish round 1 match.
Look for Washington semifinalist Marin Cilic to continue his good form as he preps to defend the US Open title, and defeat either Bernard Tomic, who is inconsistent and lost right now on court, or Joao Sousa in his first match. After that it should be Cilic against Tsonga/Coric unless Roberto Bautista Agut interrupts proceedings in round 2. RBA has a poor hard court record this year, but should build confidence with a win over the struggling Janko Tipsarevic round 1. I see Cilic over Tsonga in the third round after Tsonga beats RBA. Cilic is in better form and has won his last three meetings against the Frenchman.
Dark Horses: Denis Kudla, Ivo Karlovic, Steve Johnson, Gilles Muller
A crop of hard court players should serve as dark horses for the Rogers Cup. Kudla is in the form of his life and if he can upset Berdych he could reach the quarters. Karlovic with his tricky and powerful serve could upset Raonic and Gasquet to reach the quarters, and perhaps Wawrinka as well to the reach the semis.
Kudla’s fellow American Johnson would need to get past Goffin and Nishikori, but if Kei is fatigued he could also reach the quarters. The same goes for Gilles Muller, who would need to upset Monfils and Murray. He’s a big server like Ivo and when he’s on, tiebreaks tend to decide matches, a those are always risky propositions, even for top players.
Quarterfinals: Djokovic d. Berdych
Gasquet d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Nishikori
Murray d. Cilic
Novak dominates the h2h with Berdych, including this season, Gasquet vs. Wawrinka is probably the most competitive quarterfinal if it takes place, and it should feature fantastic backhands. I have Gasquet pulling off an upset because Wawrinka may be a bit rusty and Gasquet won their Wimbledon meeting not long ago.
Nadal is 7-0 against Nishikori, and Kei is likely fatigued, Nadal is great at returning and chasing balls around, thus I give him the edge in what could be a good hard court tournament for him. Murray has the h2h edge pretty consistently over Cilic, and I don’t feel the poor match in D.C. was a genuine concern for him, so I have him sorting things out and reaching the semis.
Semifinals: Djokovic d. Gasquet Murray d. Nadal
Djokovic could avenge his loss to Wawrinka in the Roland Garros final, but I have him beating Gasquet instead, as he’s simply the better player and it’s shown in their meetings. Murray should be superior to Nadal on hard courts.
Final: Djokovic d. Murray
Djokovic is the clear favorite for this title, especially with Federer absent. Murray fights hard against Novak and could win, but he’s a heavy underdog if this is the final, and I have Novak taking the 2015 Rogers Cup.
2015 ATP Montreal QualifyingPreview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
photo credit: CBC
The ATP Rogers Cup for 2015 will take place in Montreal, Quebec and the strong Masters level field means that the qualifying draw is strong, and features many recognizable names both veteran and young gun, along with players in between those categories. Here is a preview of the weekend action set to come, as Tennis Atlantic is proud to have credentialed coverage of the tournament this year with our writer Leich Sinha.
Top 7 qualifying seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Nicolas Mahut (66)
2: Thanasi Kokkinakis (72)
3: Alexandr Dolgopolov (73)
4: Donald Young (75)
5: Yen-Hsun Lu (76)
6: Hyeon Chung (77)
7: Denis Kudla (79)
Seven qualifying spots are up for grabs, as all of the qualifying seeds have had ATP success this year and it makes for a competitive draw.
Gulbis, now down to #81 in the world, has endured a rough season, and he’s now reduced to having to play ATP qualifying again. The Latvian is just 5-17 this year after going 41-20 last season and he’s failed to win consecutive matches at any tournament this year. The lack of consistency and high error counts has hurt him mentally and his first round opponent isn’t an easy win.
Rola, an Ohio State product, has the ability to be top 100 and played well in Washington, beating Denis Kudla and losing to Leonardo Mayer, both in three sets. His NCAA experience built up his hard court abilities, and it’s hard to tell how this match will go. Gulbis is a name with star power, but Rola may well get the win in the end.
(2)Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Thanasi Kokkinakis has been struggling since the French Open and he put together a poor Davis Cup showing in his last outing. That said, the young Australian is still 9-12 at the tour level this year, and 21-1 below it, as he’s been fantastic in ATP qualifying. He has great skills for hard courts, and still should be a minor favorite over Herbert.
The Frenchman who has shown flashes of talent worthy of the ATP level has had more success in doubles than singles this year and he’s just 1-2 at the ATP main draw level, though he qualified for Wimbledon in his last tournament entry. It’s hard to tell how his form will be on hard courts, but he has a solid serve. I see Kokkinakis advancing from this is he can find form.
(3)Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. Dudi Sela
An interesting hard court matchup that should feature solid shotmaking, Dolgopolov has been inconsistent, but he won a pair of matches in Washington and he’s clearly under ranked given his abilities. The veteran Sela reached the quarterfinals in Atlanta, but didn’t fare well in Washington losing in a blowout, and his form is thus questionable. You never know what you’re going to get with Dolgo, but he’s a likely favorite to advance.
An All-American battle that should favor the seeded Kudla over the formerly more accomplished Harrison. Kudla has been in fantastic form since the grass court season, as working with Billy Heiser seems to be paying off for him. The counterpunching ball striker who is solid from both wings reached the Semis in Atlanta to start his US Open Series, and though he lost his first match in Washington that may have been due to fatigue.
Harrison lost to Kudla in a third set tiebreak in Atlanta, in what was a tight match featuring a lot of balls hit back and forth, and though he qualified in Washington his form hasn’t been the best since the Spring. If something is up with Kudla, Harrison could win, but Kudla appears to have outpaced Harrison in development and form at this point in their careers, and I see him advancing.
Well-traveled veteran Nicolas Mahut is the top seed, but he’s 0-4 on outdoor hard courts this year and will look to improve against Canadian wild card and former Indian Hoosier Isade Junea. Junea is also 0-4 on hard courts this year and seems to prefer clay, thus Mahut is a heavy favorite over the futures level player. From there it should be Mahut against Rola/Gulbis to qualify, with Rola/Gulbis a favorite. I have Rola qualifying from section 1.
Section 2 has Kokkinakis/Herbert facing the winner of J.P. Smith/Mikhail Youzhny in the final round of qualifying. Youzhny, a loser of seven straight matches, is in awful form as he seemingly heads towards retirement. The former ATP regular who is just 1-5 on outdoor hard this year should go out to Smith who is 13-11 and qualified in Washington. In a possible battle between Aussie’s Kokkinakis has more talent, but Smith may be in better form, overall I see Kokkinakis as the favorite to qualify.
Section 3 is Dolgopolov/Sela against against Alejandro Falla or James Ward. Falla hasn’t played since Bogota but he’s 14-10 on an outdoor hard court this season. That match would be more entertaining on grass, but all the same Wardy is seeing the wheels come off his game right now and he’s lost four straight since Wimbledon. Ward tends to peak for the British part of the season on grass, and things aren’t looking up for him, so look for Dolgopolov over Falla in a shotmakers special to qualify.
Donald Young will look to break out of his funk against Edouard Roger-Vasselin in section 4. Young, after a hot start to the season, won his first ATP main draw match since Miami in Washington, where he upset Tommy Haas, but otherwise the American has been a disaster since career best results in Memphis and Delray Beach back to back (semis and final). He struggled at home in Atlanta, and though he’s a hard court player, he could well crash out here as well. ERV, now 31, isn’t a great singles player, but he’s 9-4 on outdoor hard below the tour level this year, and if his form is even halfway decent, I have the French speaker knocking out Young in Quebec.
The winner of Young/ERV will face Canadian Peter Polansky or veteran serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram in round 2. If it’s ERV vs. Ram it’ll be a battle of the doubles experts. Ram won Newport on grass and played well in Bogota but he was injured for Washington and Polansky at home may have an edge. Peter is 3-0 in the h2h and since returning from injury he’s played just two tournaments this season. This is a weak section, but I have Roger-Vasselin over Polansky to qualify.
Rendy Lu will be a strong favorite in section 5. Lu opens with 17 year old Canadian wild card David Volfson, who plays futures and has never faced an opponent up to Lu’s level. The 31 year old veteran is then likely to meet Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans in the final qualifying round. Bemelmans won a match in Washington and is a solid 18-5 below the tour level this year on indoor hard. He’ll open with Canadian wild card and NCAA player (North Carolina) Brayden Schnur. Schnur isn’t up to his level, but Lu vs. Bemelmans should be a battle. Lu doesn’t have a lot of weapons but his steadiness should see him through qualifying.
Young gun Hyeon Chung of South Korea highlights section 6, Chung should roll past Canadian futures player Kelsey Stevenson and setup a meeting with Alejandro Gonzalez/Tim Smyczek. Chung won a main draw match in Washington and was competitive against Marin Cilic, a top 10 player, in round 2. The 19 year old is solid on both hard courts and clay and has a lot of game, thus I see him qualifying. Gonzalez is a pedestrian hard court player and Smyczek is in poor form (5 straight losses). Chung has a non-traditional game in some respects, he’s a good server and he whips his backhand.
Last but not least, Kudla/Harrison will face Illya Marchenko or James Duckworth in an interesting hard court section. Duckworth has a 2-0 h2h over Marchenko, who has lost three straight, and the Aussie is in good form, as he beat Harrison in Washington and pushed top 10 player Kei Nishikori to three sets before succumbing. Kudla and Duckworth, the likely matchup, have a 1-1 h2h and both are in good form, so it’s a hard match to predict, but I’m going with Kudla to qualify.
Look for our on-site reports from the ATP Montreal Rogers Cup this week!
Report from the ATP Rogers Cup Draw Ceremony Featuring Stan Wawrinka Leich Sinha for Tennis Atlantic
The draw ceremony for the 2015 Rogers Cup was held early Friday evening at the 4 star Queen Elizabeth Hotel. World number 4 Stanislas Wawrinka was on hand to inaugurate the proceedings, which was followed by a brief Q&A with the reigning French Open Champion. The draw took place following the previous week’s news of the withdrawals of World number 2 Roger Federer, who cited scheduling issues as the prevailing cause of his absence, as well as top 10 stalwart David Ferrer, who is still hindered by an elbow injury.
The news bumped Japanese star Kei Nishikori to 4th seed, avoiding potentially dangerous quarterfinal matchups against former winners at this event Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The latter pair, as top two seeds, were drawn in separate halves where they may respectively face Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals. Murray in particular will be looking to amend his hard court season after a shocking opening match loss to Teymuraz Gabashvili at the Citi Open.
Notes on the draw
A very intriguing matchup awaits three time champion Rafael Nadal, who is set to face Nishikori in the quarters. The two have not played each other since the Madrid Masters final in 2014 and this matchup may very well provide the clearest gauge as to where either of them stand amidst the very upper echelon of the game. A win for either would cement (or in Nadal’s case) reaffirm their status amongst the very elite and may fuel a deep run at the US open. In the last quarter, Milos Raonic is on a collision course with Stan Wawrinka. Raonic is coming off an injury plagued grass campaign and is looking to regain lost ground in the top 10.
Some interesting early round matchups should also take place, defending champion and 12th seed Jo Wilfried Tsonga will have a tough task ahead of him if he wants to repeat last year’s run in Toronto. He will face rising star Borna Coric in the first round and will potentially play against Marin Cilic in the round of 16, Murray in the quarters, Nadal/Nishikori and Djokovic in the final, he has his work cut out for him for sure.
Milos Raonic and Ivo Karlovic may just about club each other to death with serves should the Croatian prevail in his opening round match against Jerzy Janowicz. A potential 2nd round encounter between Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka, who has a poor record at this event, could finally be the right setup for the young Aussie to break through at the masters level.
The draw composition consisted of 64 players, of whom the top 8 seeds received first round byes while 44 others received direct acceptances on account of their ATP ranking. 4 Wild cards were given to Canadians Philip Bester, finalist at last week’s Granby Challenger, Canadian Davis cup mainstay Frank Dancevic, Vasek Popisil and two time junior grand slam champion Filip Peliwo. In addition, the tournament will feature 7 qualifiers who will be selected amongst the winners of the qualifying draw.
The draw ceremony featured a short Q&A session with a relaxed Stan Wawrinka in which he discussed his health, Roger Federer and the big four. Wawrinka revealed that he had spent 10 days treating a shoulder problem following his quarterfinal exit at Wimbledon. He followed that statement up by asserting that the problem was cleared up and that he had spent the last 3 weeks preparing for the hard court season with his coach Magnus Norman. He furthermore lamented Federer’s decision to withdraw from the event but understood that the Swiss great needed to pace himself in order to be fresh for the US open.
Wawrinka was adamant in squashing any comparisons to the big four, saying that the reality is “they’ve been dominant for the last 10 years, I’m just trying to improve and compete with them”. When asked of his potential 2nd round matchup against Kyrgios, he praised the youngster’s game and conceded that sometimes the nature of the draw is such that “sometimes you have to play good players in the early rounds.” As the only ATP player present at the ceremony, Wawrinka appeared unburdened and at ease throughout the session, taking pictures and warmly greeting tournament organizers.
Look for my reports on the qualifying rounds this weekend!