Novak Djokovic laid claim to a fourth ATP Masters 1000 title this year, and also a third career Rogers Cup title (his first since 2012) as he defeated Kei Nishikori in routine fashion 6-3 7-5, completing his utter dominance of the 2016 Rogers Cup in Toronto, where he didn’t drop a set, and only played one match that could be considered somewhat poor.
Despite losing early at Wimbledon in a shocking defeat, Djokovic sh0wed few weaknesses and no signs of stress back on hard courts as he slipped past big server Gilles Muller, and serve and volleyer Radek Stepanek in the first two rounds, despite their best efforts. In the business end of the tournament, Djokovic had to take out three credible top players, Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils, and Nishikori. He didn’t drop a set against them, and only against Berdych did he display weaknesses in his game, weaknesses the Czech lacked the confidence to exploit, as he continues to struggle against the ATP’s elite in h2h matches. Nishikori gave it his best effort on Sunday afternoon, but his level simply could not match Djokovic, who heads to the 2016 Rio Olympics as the presumptive favorite for the Gold medal in a weakened field.
Nishikori reached his second Masters final this year, the other coming in Miami where he was also swept aside by Djokovic. The Japanese #1 defeated Dennis Novikov and Rajeev Ram early on, then needed three sets against Grigor Dimitrov, who had his chances, but was poor enough on serve he couldn’t pull the match out. Nishikori faced an improved Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals, but Wawrinka continued his somewhat disappointing season as he lost in straight sets, and was breadsticked in the second set after a competitive battle in the first set.
Credit also goes to semifinalist Gael Monfils who has now won nine of his last ten matches. The Frenchman won Washington, and followed that up with wins over David Goffin and Canadian #1 Milos Raonic most notably to reach the semifinals, although he was unable to knock off Djokovic this time.
Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares for the doubles final, as it was a battle of the #3 seed team vs. the #2 seed team.
2016 ATP Rogers Cup Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The summer hard court season will kick into high gear with the 2016 Rogers Cup ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Toronto, as many ATP players make their final preparations for the Olympic games in Rio that are coming up in August. Here is a preview and predictions.
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
July 25-July 31, 2016
Prize Money: $4,089,740
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Stan Wawrinka (5)
3: Kei Nishikori (6)
4: Milos Raonic (7)
5: Tomas Berdych (8)
6: Dominic Thiem (9)
7: David Goffin (11)
8: Marin Cilic (12)
Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Ferrer, and a host of other top 30 players are skipping Toronto this year, making this one of the weaker Masters 1000 fields, while also creating more opportunities for those in the top 50 who are playing.
A first time meeting between this fan favorite pairing. Paire should prevail, but Stepanek is a difficult opponent to defeat when he rushes the net well, and Paire is dependent on his backhand clicking to win matches.
Ivo Karlovic vs. Taylor Fritz
Fritz looked a bit overwhelmed and overmatched in D.C., it won’t get any easier against the big serving Karlovic in Toronto. Ivo is the heavy favorite, but it will be interesting to see if the young Fritz can fight hard and show some bounce back in this match.
(11)Nick Kyrgios vs. (WC)Denis Shapovalov
Kyrgios is far and above better than the young Wimbledon junior champ Shapovalov in this one, but the Canadian will have home support, and both guys play aggressive battlers tennis. If Kyrgios loses the plot, Shapovalov has the strokes, especially with his one handed backhand, to notch an upset, however Kyrgios serve should dominate play. Expect to see more of Denis in the years to come.
Both players are veterans in poor form who badly need a win, and with Anderson’s penchant for playing (and as of recently losing..) tiebreaks, expect a close battle that is likely to go to three sets. Anderson gets a lot of points this time of year, but if his poor play continues he’s going to drop out of the top 50 sooner than you’d expect. The h2h is tied 1-1.
Donald Young vs. Alex Dolgopolov
Young found some decent form as of late and he hasn’t lost his opening match at a tournament since Roland Garros. Dolgopolov is a tricky shotmaker who could dominate Young in this one, or show signs of weakness and give the American an opening. At a very minimum these two will battle and hit some great shots from the baseline.
Novak Djokovic hasn’t won the Rogers Cup since 2012, but with all of the recent champions absent this year he’s the favorite to improve on his 46-4 record on the season and take home the title. He should ease past Newport finalist Gilles Muller (who opens with a struggling Dmitry Tursunov), then defeat most likely Washington quarterfinalist Benoit Paire in round 3. Paire opens with Stepanek with either Peter Polansky or Tim Smyczek to follow. He’s unpredictable, but he’s likely to win a pair of matches, then bow out meekly to Djokovic.
John Isner and Tomas Berdych look set to meet in the third round for the right to face Djokovic in the quarters, Isner fell in the quarterfinals of Washington, but his form should still be good enough to dispatch Dudi Sela and either Andrey Kuznetsov or in-form qualifier Ryan Harrison to reach round 3. Wimbledon semifinalist Berdych will face either Borna Coric or Ivan Dodig in his second round match, Coric is a solid young player, but didn’t play well enough in D.C. to suggest he will upset Berdych. Berdych over Isner is my pick, given Berdych’s power game should edge Isner matchup wise, although it will be close and could go either way.
Milos Raonic is set for a tricky second round match against Washington semifinalist Alexander Zverev, who is rising quickly up the ranks on all surfaces. Zverev needs only to defeat Rendy Lu in round 1. The home hero Canadian should be bailed out by crowd support and his big serve to prevail however, and likewise Steve Johnson is a difficult opponent in the third round, but Raonic is the favorite to prevail. Johnson knocked off John Isner in Washington and reached the semifinals, showing he can deal with big servers. He’s in great form and should defeat Umag champion Fabio Fognini, and either Jared Donaldson or John Millman to reach round 3. A spot in the quarterfinals would earn Raonic his 20th hard court win of the season.
The fates of Gael Monfils and Sam Querrey are somewhat up in the air, while David Goffin is the player that gets a bye. Goffin has a pair of semifinals in the hard court Masters this year and would face the Wimbledon and Washington quarterfinalist Querrey in round 2, presuming Sam dispatches Frank Dancevic. Querrey is playing some of the best tennis he’s ever played, and his power could be too much for Goffin. They met in Montreal last year and Goffin advanced in a close straight setter. Goffin is my pick though, as he’s proven his mettle in Masters tournaments this season, and likely has the clutch factor.
The Washington champion Monfils should defeat Joao Sousa and then Jeremy Chardy or Vasek Pospisil, both of whom are struggling in recent months. Fatigue could play a factor for Monfils, but he’s playing so well right now I have to pick him over Goffin for the quarterfinals. His movement and serve were exceptional in Washington, while Goffin hasn’t played a match in weeks.
Kei Nishikori and young Frenchman Lucas Pouille look set to do battle in round 3 as Kei would be bidding for 40 match wins on the season. Federico Delbonis or Dennis Novikov should provide little resistance for the efficient Nishikori while the Wimbledon quarterfinalist Pouille faces qualifier Emilio Gomez with Ernests Gulbis or serve and volleyer Rajeev Ram to follow. This smooth path for Pouille will abruptly end against Nishikori, and although the Frenchman is a great young player, on hard court Nishikori should have the shots he needs to advance.
The Kyrgios/Shapovalov winner will face either Yuichi Sugita or a continually struggling Grigor Dimitrov in round 2, for the right to face most likely Marin Cilic in round 3, although Washington finalist Ivo Karlovic, or Fritz are also possible opponents. Karlovic has been dominant on serve in recent weeks, but fatigue will likely catch up to him at his age, while Cilic was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and has a great opportunity in this Masters tournament with some of the big names absent. Cilic’s power should get him past Karlovic, and Kyrgios, who is good enough to defeat Dimitrov, but likely below Cilic’s level, despite Kyrgios win in Marseille this year indoors.
Stan Wawrinka looks set to face Jack Sock in the third round, presuming Sock defeats struggling fellow American Denis Kudla and the Young/Dolgopolov winner, a tricky but favorable prospect. Wawrinka is 14-3 on the season on hard court, and either Mikhail Youzhny or Stephane Robert are unlikely to provide much resistance in round 2, although a match with Youzhny would treat fans to a battle of great one handed backhanders. Sock was a quarterfinalist in Washington, and I wouldn’t put an upset of Wawrinka past him, but Stan is the favorite in his section with Dolgopolov serving as a bit of a dark horse. Sock’s great forehand will clash with Wawrinka’s great backhand.
Dominic Thiem crashed out of Kitzbuhel, a home tournament for him, in singles, and he has a tough round 2 match on tap with Troicki/Anderson with the winner set to face Bernard Tomic, presuming a streaky Bernie beats qualifier Alejandro Gonzalez, and either Kyle Edmund or wild card Steve Diez. Thiem is 14-5 on hard courts on the season, and he’s played a brutal schedule that may have left him a bit winded recently. With neither Troicki nor Anderson playing well, Thiem over Troicki is my pick, and then Thiem over Tomic, although Bernie could really use a confidence boosting upset on hard court such as that. Thiem beat Tomic earlier this season in Acapulco.
Querrey will need to upset Goffin, and Monfils to reach the quarters, but if he does, even Milos Raonic should be on alert. The American is playing freely right now, and that serious but relaxed attitude is doing his game wonders. Karlovic is unbreakable on serve right now, fatigue likely catches up with him but he could defeat anyone in the draw right now if he can win tiebreaks, and he could reach the quarters.
Quarters: Djokovic d. Berdych
Raonic d. Monfils
Cilic d. Nishikori
Thiem d. Wawrinka
Djokovic, despite his shock loss at Wimbledon, is far and above better than Berdych, Raonic vs. Monfils is a tough match to predict, but given the fatigue factor, Raonic likely edges Monfils in a close one. Nishikori could have a better tournament than the quarterfinals, but Cilic should be hungry, and his power likely gives him the edge. Thiem vs. Wawrinka is a battle of one-handers, Wawrinka hasn’t been super impressive this year, and Thiem will look to continue to make his move into the ATP’s elite with some of the other big names absent this tournament.
Semis: Djokovic d. Raonic
Thiem d. Cilic
It’s a bold and gutsy move to go with Thiem in the final, but the Rogers Cup looks likely to produce a few surprises. Djokovic should break Canadian hearts and defeat Raonic with his superior return game given their result this year in the IW final.
Final: Djokovic d. Thiem
In ATP Masters 1000’s right now I can’t go against Djokovic, he’s simply the best player in the game right now, and in best of 3 there is little margin of error for his opponents to defeat him unless he has a bad day, and that’s rare for him.