2014 ATP Rogers Cup Preview, Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The first of two Masters 1000 level events on the Emirates Airlines US Open Series will take place this year in Toronto starting Monday. Most of the big names are in action and it is the first tune up for many of them before the US Open.
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
August 4-August 10, 2014
Prize Money: $3,766,270
Top 8 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Novak Djokovic (1)
2: Roger Federer (3)
3: Stan Wawrinka (4)
4: Tomas Berdych (5)
5: David Ferrer (6)
6: Milos Raonic (7)
7: Grigor Dimitrov (8)
8: Andy Murray (10)
Notably missing from the tournament are defending champion and world number 2 Rafael Nadal with a wrist injury, and top 40 players Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro and Dmitry Tursunov. Juan Martin Del Potro, Alex Dolgopolov, and Tommy Haas are also notable names we aren’t likely to see again this season.
First round matchups to watch:
Radek Stepanek vs. Gael Monfils
Stepanek was upset early in DC and seeks to rebound, while Monfils is finally beginning his post Wimbledon campaign. Both players are seeking to stay healthy and do well, and the style contrast will be fun in this one. They have met many times before and Monfils holds a 5-3 edge in the overall h2h, with it tied 2-2 on outdoor hard courts, the last meetings coming in 2011. I could see this going either way but I’m leaning towards picking Monfils to prevail.
(12)Richard Gasquet vs. Vasek Pospisil
Pospisil now has won two meetings against Gasquet, and he just beat him in the DC semis on Saturday, in that match Gasquet got off to a good start but let his advantage slip in the next two sets and bowed out in a 7-5 third set. The advantage should swing back to Gasquet for this meeting though, as I’m favoring the Frenchman to get his first win in the series because he did return to form in Washington DC after being on a cold streak for a while, and Pospisil, under the pressure of playing at home and defending semifinal points here, is likely to be fatigued after playing so much tennis this past week in DC. That slight change in circumstances, along with Gasquet being a motivated former finalist twice at the Rogers Cup, should make this match even more interesting.
Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Bernard Tomic
Another reprisal of a recent high stakes match, Tomic beat Karlovic in three sets by winning a pair of tiebreaks to win the title in Bogota, and will get the big serving Croat again as a qualifier in the Toronto first round. He has two other previous wins over Ivo outside of the Bogota meeting, and does seem to have the formula to get past Dr. Ivo’s serve and volley game
Santiago Giraldo vs. (WC)Nick Kyrgios
DC quarterfinalist Santiago Giraldo, who has had a solid season and is a big hitting shotmaker from the baseline, will do battle with the passionate and fiery Kyrgios, who as a wild card will be playing his first Masters tournament match in Toronto. The young Kyrgios has a heap of talent, great composure and a lot of eyes on him right now as he seeks to follow up his career result at Wimbledon where he beat Nadal and reached the quarterfinals. The winner will meet Andy Murray and this one should be an excellent match full of shotmaking highlights, I favor Kyrgios to get through in 3 sets.
Kevin Anderson vs. (Q)Thanasi Kokkinakis
Young Aussies Kokkinakis and Kyrgios could both win their ATP Masters main draw debuts in Toronto. Kokkinakis, who qualified and has had a good few weeks at the challenger level on hard courts will face the big serving Anderson, who is a solid hard court player but has been down in recent weeks, as he exited earlier than expected in DC, and was upset in his opening match in Atlanta as well. Kokkinakis will have to hold his serve and return well, as Anderson will put a lot of pressure on him with his serve/forehand combo that is elite, but he has a punchers chance if he can keep his nose ahead in the match.
Three time Rogers Cup champion and odds on favorite for a fourth, Novak Djokovic, will face Stepanek/Monfils to start, and then likely Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is making his post Wimbledon debut and looking for a stronger third quarter of his season, in round 3. Tsonga must defeat Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Jeremy Chardy/Federico Delbonis to get to that stage. Djokovic has owned Tsonga in recent years and that trend should continue.
Andy Murray, who is also making his post Wimbledon debut, and seeking to make a move back up the rankings with a strong hard court summer, will face Kyrgios/Giraldo in a big round 2 test, and should he survive he will face Gasquet/Pospisil or Karlovic/Tomic in round 3. It’s a tough draw for Murray but he should be rested and motivated, look for him to get through to meet Djokovic in the quarters.
Stan Wawrinka, also looking to put up a solid result in his post Wimbledon campaign resumption, will face Benoit Paire or Alejandro Falla in round 2. Paire, who had to qualify here, is best friends with Wawrinka and I doubt one will enjoy having to eliminate the other from the tournament should they meet. Look for Wawrinka against one of Kokkinakis/Anderson/Mikhail Youzhny/Fabio Fognini in round 3. Youzhny and Fognini are both struggling, so Kokkinakis/Anderson have a nice chance at making the third round, and Wawrinka should be favored through to the quarterfinals.
Grigor Dimitrov, hopefully healthy again, is also making his post-Wimbledon debut and has had a breakout season. The top Bulgarian may be tested by an in-form Donald Young in round 2, assuming the DC semifinalist Young can defeated Canadian wild card Frank Dancevic. Young made his first semi since 2011 in DC, but assuming Dimitrov is healthy I think he has too much game for the American baseliner (the h2h surprisingly is tied 2-2 and Young leads 2-1 on hard courts). Dimitrov/Young is slated to face one of Tommy Robredo/Philipp Kohlschreiber/Gilles Simon/Dominic Thiem in round 3. Robredo and Kohlschreiber are both struggling veterans, as is Simon, who may also be injured, while Thiem should be tired after playing in the Kitzbuhel final. Someone has to reach round 3 though and Kohlschreiber or Thiem is most likely to do so. Dimitrov/Young are quarterfinalist favorites in this section.
Roger Federer, seeking to win his third Rogers Cup, will open with Peter Polansky or Jerzy Janowicz, and should get his first big test against Marin Cilic in round 3. Cilic has been good on multiple surfaces this season, including hard courts and is close to reaching the best level of his career. He has never beaten Federer (0-4 last meeting in 2012) and would need to get past Denis Istomin and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez/Marinko Matosevic, a trio of players who can pull upsets on hard courts, to setup a fifth shot at Federer, but the match should at least be competitive if they meet. Look for Federer to be a quarterfinalist out of his section.
David Ferrer has had a down year this season and is on pace to have fewer wins and more losses than in any of his previous four seasons on tour. He was upset here in his first match last year and though Nicolas Mahut/Michael Russell don’t look like difficult opening match tests, Ferrer has shown he is vulnerable to being upset by journeyman over the past two seasons. He is carrying an elbow injury according to media reports but did not withdraw from the tournament like those reports suggested. If he’s not healthy, an already out of form Ferrer, who seems to have hit the wall, could be upset in his first match, if not look for 10 seed John Isner to send him home in round 3.
Isner seeks to bounce back from a disappointing showing in DC and he faces big server Ivan Dodig, playing his first match since the French Open after being injured, in round 1, Dodig should be unprepared to deal with Isner who plays a similar style as himself, and Isner should get through to face Andreas Seppi/Brayden Schnur in round 2. Canadian qualifier Schnur is making his ATP debut this week after working his way up through college tennis and the challenger circuit. Look for a Federer vs. Isner quarterfinal this week.
Tomas Berdych, another top 10 name who is struggling and was upset early in DC as the top seed, faces Rendy Lu or Marcel Granollers in his first match, and assumingly should advance to round 3 against most likely Roberto Bautista Agut who upset him earlier this spring in Indian Wells. RBA has two titles this season and is close to reaching the top 15 in ranking, he faces a struggling Feliciano Lopez in round 1, and then Tim Smyczek/Tobias Kamke in round 2 before a likely Berdych meeting. Smyczek tore it up in qualifying and is looking to have a resurgent result after slogging through a difficult 2014 season thus far. I look for Bautista Agut to beat Berdych again and reach the quarterfinals.
Defending finalist and DC champ Milos Raonic, one of the two prides of Canada along with Pospisil this week, will have a quick turnaround against Jack Sock/Jurgen Melzer in round 2. Raonic beat Sock in DC winning a pair of tiebreaks last week and overall he has beaten the American 3 times this year and four times overall, losing to him once in their maiden meeting in February 2013. The in form wild card Sock should beat Melzer who was playing on the clay of Kitzbuhel this week, and I give him a good chance against Raonic as well. Milos is likely to be tired and all of their previous head to head meetings have been relatively close. With Sock playing some of the best tennis of his young career right now, beating Raonic would be a stellar result for him. Raonic/Sock are likely to face Ernests Gulbis, always a dangerous lurker, in round 3. Gulbis must defeat Joao Sousa and Lleyton Hewitt/Julien Benneteau to reach that stage. Gulbis vs. Hewitt would be an entertaining and fiery round 2 encounter with Gulbis being slightly favored, they have never met before. This is probably the most open section of the draw and cases can be made for Raonic, Sock, Gulbis and Hewitt to be quarterfinalists.
Dark Horses: Donald Young and Jack Sock
American players have a great chance to post some surprising results at the Rogers Cup this week with Isner, Russell, Smyczek and two players I’ll spotlight for this tournament as dark horses, Young and Sock all having reasonable draws on paper.Young would need to beat Dimitrov but could reach the quarterfinals if he does so as the draw opens up until it gets to Wawrinka. Sock must beat Raonic and Gulbis/Hewitt as discussed, but he could also reach the quarterfinals where Bautista-Agut/Berdych are likely opponents. Sock has a more favorable potential quarterfinal opponent of the two dark horses this week.
Djokovic d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Dimitrov
Bautista Agut d. Gulbis
Federer d. Isner
Djokovic beat Murray this season in Miami and he is a gear above the Scot right now, Murray could make it competitive but I don’t see him winning. Dimitrov had no trouble with Wawrinka this season on grass but Wawrinka won their only hard court meeting in 2011 and though it’s a very difficult pick, I’m going with Stan by just a hair, probably in 3 sets. In the hardest to predict quarter, I’m going against the 3-0 h2h in favor of Gulbis, including two wins this season, and picking Bautista Agut. The Spaniard is improving and has had better recent results than Ernie, also their two meetings this season went 3 sets and having watched them both, they were competitive contests where either player could have prevailed based upon just a few points. Federer should be a gear above Isner as well, and he has a 4-1 h2h advantage in that matchup.
Djokovic d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Bautista Agut
Stan and Nole have an excellent rivalry going, one of the best in the game currently, and should they reprise it in Toronto, Novak should have the advantage. He’s been the legitimate number one this season and has been elite all year, Wawrinka got him at the AO, but in a best of 3 sets format given both current form and mindset, Novak has to be favored like he has been in all of their previous head to head meetings, a vast majority of which he has won.
Fed and RBA have never met but Federer is the better player and should win.
Djokovic d. Federer
With Nadal out, the spotlight shifts to Djokovic and Fed this week in Toronto, they contested a very competitive Wimbledon final, along with three other tournament matches this season, all of which came in the semis or final of a tournament. The h2h this season is split 2-2, and on outdoor hard court Djokovic won in 3 sets in Indian Wells, and before that Federer won in 3 sets in Dubai. Things are very close between these two titans of the sport almost every time they meet to do battle, however a slight edge seems to be favoring Djokovic right now and I’m picking him as the champ this week. ]
Also I’d like to introduce a friendly battle of the brackets between myself and our new ATP Challenger Tour journalist at Tennis East Coast, Chris De Waard, I’ll be including Chris’ weekly picks for the ATP tournaments on my preview posts and we will keep track of our selections compared to the actual results of the tournaments, at the end of the season the winner gets a prize yet to be named.
Chris De Waard’s Picks:
Djokovic d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Dimitrov
Raonic d. Bautista Agut
Federer d. Ferrer
Djokovic d. Wawrinka
Federer d. Raonic
Djokovic d. Federer