The 2018 Rogers Cup final should be long remembered for the emergence of Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on the ATP’s biggest stage. Tsitsipas reached his first Masters 1000 final (likely the first of many) with four top 10 wins in a single tournament. Against Rafael Nadal he put in a tremendous effort only to fall in straight sets 6-2 7-6(4) in an hour and 43 minutes. Nadal won all but 2 points on his first serve and was only broken once despite Tsitispas best tennis in the second set. Nadal got off to a smooth start, overwhelming Tsitsipas with two breaks to take it with ease. In set 2 Nadal broke in the first game and looked set to run away with it, but Tsitsipas battled back breaking for 5-5. He had a set point to force a third set at 6-5 but he lost it by a netcord and then lost the ensuing tiebreak.
It’s the 4th Rogers Cup for world #1 Nadal, his 5th title of the season, and his first hard court title of the season. Nadal dropped just one set in the tournament, easing past Benoit Paire and Stan Wawrinka before being pushed to 3 sets against Marin Cilic. In the semifinals Nadal took on young gun Karen Khachanov and defeated him in straight sets.
Tsitsipas claimed early wins against Damir Dzumhur and Dominic Thiem, then he stunned Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, and Kevin Anderson in consecutive three set matches his last four wins coming against an extremely high level of competition. Tsitsipas reached the semis in Washington last week and has been in tremendous form this Summer.
Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, and Juan Martin Del Potro Vie for 2018 Rogers Cup Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 Rogers Cup in Toronto is the first of two ATP Masters 1000 tournaments on North American Hard Courts this Summer. Here is your look at all the action.
Rafael Nadal hasn’t played on a hard court for months but he’s put together a great season overall and has to be one of the favorites in Toronto. Nadal should ease past Jared Donaldson or a struggling Benoit Paire. The section just below Rafa is interesting. Marton Fucsovics faces Joao Sousa, Stan Wawrinka will face Nick Kyrgios. Every player in the section is struggling, and Kyrgios hasn’t been fit. This seems like a good opportunity for Wawrinka or Kyrgios to find a run of form, but Nadal will be favored to prevail in the section.
Marin Cilic will have an interesting matchup with countryman Borna Coric in the second round. Coric will have to beat home favorite Vasek Pospisil in round 1, while Cilic will be favored into the third round. Sam Querrey will be favored against Adrian Mannarino while I have Kyle Edmund reaching round 3, with Edmund defeating Diego Schwartzman, and Querrey before falling to Cilic.
Juan Martin Del Potro gets a brutal round 2 matchup against Kei Nisihkori, presuming Nishikori defeats Robin Haase. With Del Potro having reached the final in Los Cabos he will probably edge Nishikori before facing either home favorite Denis Shapovalov or Fabio Fognini, who defeated him in Los Cabos. Shapovalov opens with Jeremy Chardy, while Fognini faces Steve Johnson. Fatigue could impact this section as I have Shapovalov upsetting Fognini before falling to Del Potro.
John Isner played a poor match in Washington but he looks set to rebound in Toronto. Isner will face Albert Ramos or Pierre Hugues-Herbert. Isner should reach the third round to face off with Pablo Carreno Busta. PCB opens with Yoshihito Nishioka, then an interesting match with Karen Khachanov (or Filip Krajinovic) awaits. A surprise could emerge from the section but Isner over pCB seems sensible.
Kevin Anderson returns to tour after a great run at Wimbledon. Anderson could be challenged by Washington semifinalist Andrey Rublev, presuming Rublev defeats countryman Evgeny Donskoy in round 1. Anderson will be favored against Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, presuming Bautista Agut can get past a tricky match against Ryan Harrison, and then defeats Yuichi Sugita/Ilya Ivashka.
Milos Raonic will be the favorite as he returns to Canada to face David Goffin in the opening round. Goffin has not been consistent lately. Raonic should also ease past Marco Cecchinato/Frances Tiafoe. Fernando Verdasco should beat Peter Gojowczyk before falling to Grigor Dimitrov. Raonic over Dimitrov, who has been poor lately, is a good third round projection.
Washington champ Alexander Zverev should dominate David Ferrer or Bradley Klahn if he’s fit. I’ll back another Canadian in the draw, young gun Felix Auger Aliassime to upset Lucas Pouille before facing off with either Daniil Medvedev or a struggling Jack Sock. Zverev over Medvedev is my pick for the third round, though Auger Aliassime should surprise.
Novak Djokovic will face off with Hyeon Chung, Matthew Ebden should defeat Peter Polansky before falling to Djokovic in round 2. Dominic Thiem will take on Washington semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas , as Tsitsipas should defeat Damir Dzumhur. Djokovic over Thiem is the wise third round projection.
2017 ATP Montreal Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Rogers Cup is underway in Montreal, it’s part of the US Open Series, and of course one of the ATP Masters 1000 events. The event is top caliber, but many of the ATP’s best are out due to injury including Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka (for the season), and Marin Cilic.
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
August 7-13, 2017
Prize Money: $4,662,300
Rafael Nadal has won the Rogers Cup three times and faces Borna Coric in round 2. Coric has two previous wins against Rafa and easily beat Mikhail Youzhny to start the tournament, but unless he catches Nadal with a bit of rust Nadal should prevail into round 3. Young Canadian Denis Shapovalov will face off with Juan Martin Del Potro, Shapovalov is a big talent, and plays well under pressure, but Del Potro should hit him off the court after the Argentine beat John Isner in round 1. Nadal should be too good for Del Potro with his defensive skills.
David Goffin dropped a set in round 1 but looks set to face off with Milos Raonic in round 3, he only needs to defeat Hyeon Chung, who found form in an upset win against Feliciano Lopez in round 1, Raonic is a worthy favorite against Adrian Mannarino in round 2, playing at home he should reach at least the quarterfinals as this is one of the biggest events of his season.
Given that Richard Gasquet barely got past local Canadian Brayden Schnur in round 1, Washington champion Alexander Zverev should keep up his winning streak and defeat Gasquet. Nick Kyrgios broke a four match losing streak with a win against Viktor Troicki round 1, he’s a heavy favorite against dirtballer Paolo Lorenzi. Kyrgios has all the talent to reach the quarters, but fellow young gun Zverev is a clear favorite.
Pablo Carreno Busta faces Washington finalist Kevin Anderson, Los Cabos champion Sam Querrey is opposite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Querrey has had a great summer and just beat Tsonga at Wimbledon, presuming he’s not too worn out, Querrey should reach the third round and beat the former Rogers Cup champion, with Anderson serving his way into the quarterfinals, he really enjoys the hard court summer even though Querrey beat him at Wimbledon.
Roger Federer has won three Rogers Cup titles, Federer should earn his 13th straight victory and defeat wild card Peter Polansky in round 2. Polansky beat his countryman Vasek Pospisil in round 1. David Ferrer beat Kyle Edmund in a long round 1 battle, but against Jack Sock with his lethal forehand he should be outmatched. Sock has four wins in five matches and should make it five out of six. Federer will be the favorite against Sock in round 3, Sock would love to grab that upset though.
With Gael Monfils struggling despite a round 1 comeback win against Steve Johnson, Kei Nishikori will be the favorite in round 2. Nishikori played well enough in Washington to suggest he’ll beat Monfils and either Ryan Harrison or Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round. Both players can peak, but Nishikori is the strongest player in this section.
One of the rising young American stars on the US Open Series this summer, Jared Donaldson faces Diego Schwartzman with a shot at the quarterfinals. Donaldson upset Lucas Pouille, while Schwartzman knocked off Dominic Thiem in the opening round. Despite Schwartzman’s massive win, Donaldson will be the favorite. Donaldson beat Benoit Paire in round 2, while Schwartzman beat Reilly Opelka in the opening round.
Robin Haase faces lucky loser Ernesto Escobedo in round 2 after Escobedo upset Nikoloz Basilashvili in round 1. Escobedo has a great shot at the third round with Grigor Dimitrov the strongest player in the section. He faces Mischa Zverev in round 2, Zverev is struggling, thus Dimitrov should reach the quarters.
Quarters Nadal d. Raonic
Zverev d. Anderson
Dimitrov d. Donaldson
Federer d. Nishikori
With a decimated Rogers Cup field, only Raonic or Nishikori appear likely to upset the apple cart. There may be a surprise semifinalist though if Zverev or Dimitrov struggle.
Semis Nadal d. Zverev
Federer d. Dimitrov
It should be a Rafa vs. Roger final at the Rogers Cup, with Federer the favorite to take the title.
2017 WTA Rogers Cup Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The North American hard court swing is now in full effect as the tour heads to Canada for the Toronto Premier event. Here is a rundown of the draw for the upcoming tournament.
Karolina Pliskova is back in action as the number one player in the world, and she will be aiming to seal that ranking with another Premier title. The Czech has a first round bye and will face either Alize Cornet or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round. Anastasija Sevastova is projected for round three, and the Latvian has a good draw with Lauren Davis first followed by the winner of an all-qualifier match. Sevastova has a winning record against Pliskova, so that could be an interesting third round match-up.
Caroline Wozniacki’s stellar year has seen her re-enter the top ten, but the Dane has yet to clinch a title in 2017. Can she go all the way in Toronto? After an opening round bye, the sixth seed will face a qualifier in round two. Agnieszka Radwanska is projected for round three, but the Pole has struggled this season with nagging injuries and could face an early exit to Coco Vandeweghe. It looks likely that the American will be Wozniacki’s third round opponent.
Angelique Kerber’s defense of her number one ranking did not go as planned, and with the US Open title defense looming, the German needs form and needs it fast. The third seed could open against Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in the second round, which could be a tough match-up. Petra Kvitova is the seeded player in her section and we could see an all-lefty battle in the third round. The Czech faces Carla Suarez Navarro first though, then either Sloane Stephens or Yulia Putintseva.
Johanna Konta is in search of her second Premier title of the year, but she has a difficult draw ahead of her. The Brit faces either Ekaterina Makarova or Shuai Peng first, with Dominika Cibulkova the first seeded player in her section. The Slovakian opens her tournament against Lesia Tsurenko before facing Lucie Safarova or Francois Abanda. Cibulkova and Konta have met twice before and each share a straight sets victory.
Elina Svitolina continues her quest to finish the year as the world number one, and winning the Toronto title would go a long way to achieving that goal. The Ukrainian faces either Daria Kasatkina or Roberta Vinci. Venus Williams is projected for round three, and this is one of the more anticipated round three matches in the draw. The American has a decent draw to the third round with Katerina Siniakova being the toughest possible opponent.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza has looked in decent form since winning the SW19 title, a contrast to the pressure she felt after winning the French Open last year. The Spaniard could rematch Ana Konjuh, who she beat in Stanford in the second round. Elena Vesnina is projected for the third round, but the Russian could have a difficult time with Alison Riske and Oceane Dodin. It is overall a good draw for Muguruza and she should make the last eight.
Simona Halep is also battling for the right to be called the world number one, but after retiring in Washington, is the Romanian at full fitness for Toronto? The second seed has a tough opener against a big hitter in either Madison Keys or Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Kristina Mladenovic is the third round seeded opponent, but the Frenchwoman’s early season form has halted with a back problem. Therefore she could struggle to get past Barbora Strycova in the first round. Daria Gavriova will likely await the winner.
Svetlana Kuznetsova will stand as a dark horse for the title like she is in most tournaments, but the Russian has some tough players in her draw. Julia Goerges and Cici Bellis both showed good form last week and could be a tough second round for the eighth seed. Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko has landed in this section, and whilst a qualifier in round one should not be much trouble, Caroline Garcia in round two will be a stern test for the 12th seed.
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HISTORIC VICTORY FOR AUGER-ALIASSIME IN LYON
The 16-year-old becomes the 7th youngest player to win an ATP Challenger title
Montreal, June 19, 2017 – At just 16 years, 10 months, Félix Auger-Aliassime became the seventh youngest player in history to capture an ATP Challenger title on Sunday at the Open de Sopra Steria in Lyon, France. Today, he reflected on the title.
“I’m used to playing at a high level. After playing for five weeks of Asia in Challengers qualifiers, it’s finally paid off and I found the edge,” he said in a telephone press conference.
“I continue to play well against the guys at the Futures level and the Challenger level,” he continued. “I always believe in my chances. I feel like my level wasn’t that far from these guys. Mentally, I stayed positive in every match and it paid off at the end of the week.”
Auger-Aliassime remarked that he hadn’t yet set any new “objectives” for his career, since a main 2017 objective was winning a challenger. “We’re gonna sit down and set new objectives,” he said.
Position Player Age Tournament
1 Michael Chang 15 years,7 months Las Vegas, USA, 1997
2 Richard Gasquet 16 years,0 months Montauban, FRA, 2002
3 Bernard Tomic 16 years,4 months Melbourne, AUS, 2009
4 Kent Carlsson 16 years,7 months New Ulm, GER, 1984
5 Marcos Ondruska 16 years,7 months Durban, RSA, 1989
6 Rafael Nadal 16 years,9 months Bartella, ITA, 2003 7 Auger-Aliassime 16 years, 10 months Lyon, FRA, 2017
8 Novak Djokovic 17 years,0 months Budapest, HUN, 2004
Auger-Aliassime, who was already the youngest Challenger finalist since Stefan Kozlov in 2014, defeated world no. 171 Mathias Bourge of France 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the 64 000 € tournament.
Auger-Aliassime’s victory means that three Canadians have won a title on the ATP Challenger Tour this season, a first since 2013. Denis Shapovalov won the Drummondville National Bank Challenger in March and Vasek Pospisil was crowned champion of the Busan Challenger last month.
Auger-Aliassime will look to keep his win streak going this week at the Internationaux de tennis de Blois. He will face France’s Gianni Mina in the first round.
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.
What I Did This Summer: Jean-Yves Aubone (@JYNole) Reflects on 2015 Pan American Games Jean-Yves Aubone, Tennis Atlantic
USA! USA! USA!
The chants were getting louder and louder, echoing through the halls entering the stadium.
Every second, more Americans were joining in the chant.
American pride was oozing through the hallways. The echoes were so loud all the other teams could now hear it. The American’s are here and they want everyone to know it.
At this moment, I felt prouder to be an American than I ever had in my life.
Two days earlier – July 8
As I got off the plane and was walking towards the immigration lines in Toronto, I noticed there was a sign for anyone involved in the Pan-American Games. I understood that these games were the third largest multi-sport Games in the world, but to have our own immigration lines? That’s just too cool. Just the day before, I had received my accreditation. I didn’t know why I needed it before I left but now I knew. I showed it to the security guard at the beginning of the line and was allowed to proceed. The line was completely empty. I must have passed 100 disgruntled international travelers as they watched me go to the front of the lines.
Once my immigration forms were stamped, I grabbed my bags with a huge grin on my face, understanding how much time I saved just because I was competing in the games. I walked towards baggage claim and a gentleman who I came to know as Justin, was waiting with a sign that said “Team USA.” I’ve never had anyone wait at the airport with a sign for me, especially with one that read “Team USA.” With my confidence high after skipping through the immigration lines, I walked towards the sign thinking “I might as well see where this Pan-Am wave takes me.”
I was the guy he was waiting for. He brought me over to a desk where my accreditation was confirmed. After we picked up my bags he put me in a shuttle that was waiting for me outside. The shuttle took me to the Hilton where only Team USA members were to check in.
Upon arrival at the Hilton I was greeted by two Team USA tennis supervisors who were in charge of taking care of the team. Once the rest of the tennis players and coaches arrived we went to the check in rooms. It turned out that “checking in” meant “get all your Team USA Nike gear and Oakley sunglasses.”
Once the check in was complete we took our Team USA duffle bags full of gear and the men’s and women’s tennis teams loaded up two vans. We were going to stay at a hotel near the tennis center instead of the athlete’s village. The hotel was 10 minutes away WITH traffic. The village was downtown, at least 45 minutes away.
As cool as it would have been to stay in the village and meet so many great athletes, I wasn’t complaining. Staying in the hotel meant my fiancé was able to come and stay in the room with me. Staying at the village would have prevented this from happening. Being able to share such an incredible experience with my fiancé was priceless to me. When I played in the qualifying of the 2008 Men’s US Open I had no family there. This time I had my fiancé who was able to see and feel everything I was feeling. I could talk to her about a certain moment and she could say “I know, it was amazing,” rather than “Wow, that must have been cool.”
Business as usual – July 9
The tennis events were held at the Aviva Center at York University. The Center was built in 2004 to host Rogers Cup, one of the biggest men’s and women’s professional events, every year. Other than practicing at such a prestigious center, it was business as usual. We went through the same practice routines as we would at any other event the day before a match.
Game day – July 10
JY On Court
I was scheduled to play the first match on stadium court at 10am. With the capacity to hold 12,500 people, it was by far the largest stadium I had ever played in. Fortunately I practiced on stadium court the day I arrived, so I knew what to expect.
As the match against Mexico’s Hans Hach was set to begin, I waited in the tunnel entrance until security informed me it was time to enter the court. While doing some simple dynamic movements to keep the nerves at bay, it dawned on me that in this tunnel, some of the greatest players in tennis–Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic–all waited in the very spot I was standing in to go out for their match. And now here I was, waiting for my name to be called so I could walk out to center court and represent the United States of America in one of the biggest events in the world.
After losing a close first set filled with nervous mistakes, I got up an early break in the second set and went to the back fence. As the ball kids were throwing the balls down to my opponents side of the court, I touched the fence and walked alongside it. I told myself to take everything in for a second. I glimpsed around the stadium and noticed there couldn’t have been more than 100 fans. I felt the hot cement court under my shoes. I then looked at my team and fiancé just to the right. I thought to myself “win or lose, I will have still represented, what in my mind is the greatest country on earth, in one of the biggest events in the world. No one will ever be able to take that away from me.” A big smile came to my face.
About 45 minutes later my opponent sent a backhand cross-court wide and it was game, set, and match for me, for Team USA.
That night was the opening ceremony. I’m not sure why it’s called the opening ceremony when events have already started, but whatever. I was happy to be there and even happier knowing that I was still in the running for some medals. I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to walk in front of 45,000 people knowing I was already eliminated.
Every country was brought into a giant lobby in a building next to the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. While everyone anxiously awaited for their country to be called into the ceremony, athletes and coaches roamed around, asking others to trade for pins. Pins were the personal prize of the Games. With every new pin acquired from a different country, each athlete turned into a 5-year-old, showing the prize off to their teammates.
Finally the call came, “United States of America, you’re up.”
Immediately every American stopped what they were doing and began walking towards the two large open doors in the corner that lead into the Centre. Once into the hallway of the Centre, Team USA’s national pride couldn’t be contained any longer. USA! USA! USA! The only times I sang that chant were as an observing fan while watching USA compete in an event like the World Cup. This time, I wasn’t a fan. I was singing along with the rest of the athletes that were selected to represent USA.
As we walked in front of the sold out crowd, I made sure to put the phone down and stop recording. I wanted to take this moment in just like I did on the tennis court that day. It was surreal. Unfortunately it went by so fast it felt like a dream. I replayed the videos on my phone hundreds of times just to make sure it was a reality.
Jean-Yves at Opening Ceremonies
It’s over – July 11/12
I ended up losing a tough three set match in the next round to Venezuela’s top singles player. My partner (Dennis Novikov) and I ended up losing in three sets in the quarterfinals, one round short of the medal rounds.
I felt such a deep sadness following the doubles loss. My chances at winning a medal at the Pan-American Games were gone. The walk back to the locker room took years. I did everything I could to be mentally and physically ready for the games. I tailored my schedule and training so that I would be peaking at the Games. Finding out that our doubles opponents went on to win the gold made me feel even worse. I knew it could have been Dennis and I at the top of the podium.
I want to thank my fiancé for making the trip to Toronto. I want to thank both the men’s and women’s teams for making this such a fun trip. All of you were fantastic teammates and even better people to be around. It was a pleasure meeting everyone and I wish you nothing but the best. I want to thank Brad Stine. Simply put, you’re a great coach. I can’t forget Jeff and Derrick for going above and beyond to provide the teams with everything we needed. You guys did way too much. Finally, I want to thank everyone at the USTA who made this possible. You gave me a chance at representing my country in one of the biggest events in the world. For that, I will be forever grateful.
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.
Brilliant Belinda Bencic Triumphs in Toronto Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
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Belinda Bencic completed a dream run by defeating Simona Halep to claim the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
The 18-year-old, who had already knocked out Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic, triumphed 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 3-0 in the scorching conditions to claim her second career title.
Bencic had already made a name for herself as one of the tours brightest prospects, but her status has certainly risen after an incredible week. First Eugenie Bouchard was the victim, then Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ivanovic and world number one Serena before Halep in Sunday’s final- undoubtedly one of the greatest runs to a Premier title.
The Swiss battled with the Romanian for two and a half hour as the pair exchanged tie-break sets. Eventually the heat became too much for the second seed as she was forced to retire due to illness three games in to the final set.
“I don’t think I’m so good at speeches yet!” Bencic said post match. “But first I want to congratulate Simona on a great week, and my mom, my dad and my team. And my fitness coach – I really needed my fitness today! And also Melanie Molitor, my coach – a big thank you to you too.
“And of course a big thank you to all the crowd. You were amazing in every match this week. It’s just been such a special tournament, and I’ll never forget it – I can’t wait to come back next year.”
Bencic now has two WTA titles, having won the Eastbourne title in June. This is her first at Premier 5 level, making the 18 year old the first teenager to win a title at this level since Victoria Azarenka in Miami six years ago.
To add to the success of winning a title, Bencic will move up to 12 in the world rankings putting her contention for a top 16 seeding for the US Open where she will defend semi-final points. She is also 12th in the race rankings putting herself in contention for the season ending championships in Singapore.
Both finalists will head to Cincinnati for the second Premier level event in as many weeks. Halep apologised for being unable to finish the match.
“Sorry I couldn’t finish, I fought as hard as I could. Thanks to all the fans for the support” Halep said.
The doubles title went to Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek Sands. The third seeded pair have continued their great year by defeating fourth seeds Katerina Srebotnik and Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-2.