Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic faces tough draw at Rogers Cup
The Rogers Cup begins on Monday with the ATP Masters 1000 in Toronto and the WTA Premier 5 event in Montreal. Injuries have hit both fields, as No. 2 Rafael Nadal withdrew from both Toronto and Cincinnati with a wrist injury and No. 2 Li Na withdrew from the entire North American hard court swing with a knee injury. The withdrawals mean Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the top two seeds in Toronto, and Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova lead the field in Montreal. Here's our preview of what should be a week of top-quality tennis.
Novak Djokovic's tough draw: The top seed was present at the draw ceremony on Friday and he couldn't have been pleased to see how his draw panned out. Heading the top half of the draw, Djokovic has Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov in his half of the draw and could face Andy Murray, now ranked No. 10, in the quarterfinals. His road to the quarterfinals isn't easy either. He plays either Radek Stepanek or Gael Monfils in the second round and if the seeds hold, he'll play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.
The unfortunate draw particularly impacts Murray, who is trying to boost his ranking in the next two weeks to secure a top eight seeding at the U.S. Open. He could play the big-serving Nick Kyrgios in his first match in Toronto and then one of Richard Gasquet, Citi Open finalist Vasek Pospisil, Bernard Tomic, or Ivo Karlovic in the third round before the potential match-up against Djokovic. Murray hasn't won two matches in Canada since he won the title in Toronto in 2010.
Roger Federer looks prime for the final: With Rafael Nadal's withdrawal due to a wrist injury, Federer is the No. 2 seed. With Djokovic, Murray, and Wawrinka all the top half, he has a very workable draw to make his second ATP Masters 1000 of the season. David Ferrer is the top seed in his quarter, with Tomas Berdych and last year's finalist Milos Roanic the top seeds in the other quarter. The last time Federer won the Rogers Cup was in 2006 when it was hosted in Toronto, though he has not played the tournament the last two years. He will play his first match against either Jerzy Janowicz or Canadian wildcard Peter Polansky.
Canadian tennis isn't rising...it's here: Raonic and Pospisil injected the Rogers Cup with an unprecedented level of patriotism last year when Raonic marched to his first ATP Masters 1000 final and Pospisil had a dream run, with two memorable three-set wins over John Isner and Tomas Berdych to make the semifinals. Almost a year after, the two played the first all-Canadian ATP semifinal in the Open Era, they faced off in the first all-Canadian final on Sunday at the Citi Open, with Raonic winning 6-1, 6-4. Until last week, Pospisil did little to back up that result, while Raonic continued his steady climb to become a solid presence in the top ten, highlighted by his first Slam semifinal appearance last month at Wimbledon. With Eugenie Bouchard's success on the women's side, expect a whole lot of Canadian excitement this week.
Five to watch: Ernests Gulbis, Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and Donald Young. This is the first tournament since Wimbledon for Gulbis and Kyrgios. Gulbis, ranked No. 13, won just one match after making the semifinals of the French Open and broke into the top ten before losing in the second round of Wimbledon. Meanwhile, Tomic, Thiem and Young have been on good form the last few weeks, with Tomic winning his first title of the season in Bogota, Thiem making his first ATP final in Kitzbuehel and Young making his first ATP semifinal in three years in Washington D.C.
Potential early-round matches to watch: Gael Monfils vs. Radek Stepanek (first round), Vasek Pospisil vs. Richard Gasquet (first round), Ivo Karlovic vs. Bernard Tomic (first round), Gilles Simon vs. Dominic Thiem (first round), Novak Djokovic vs. Gael Monfils/Radek Stepanek (second round), Andy Murray vs. Nick Kyrgios (second round), Donald Young vs. Grigor Dimitrov (second round), Milos Raonic vs. Jack Sock (second round), Lleyton Hewitt vs. Ernests Gulbis (second round), Milos Raonic vs. Ernests Gulbis (third round), Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (third round).
Serena Williams makes her Montreal return: In an odd glitch, Serena last played the Rogers Cup when it's been hosted in Montreal 14 years ago. The No. 1 is coming off her first title since May, winning the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California for her tour-leading fourth title of the season. Her title run, beating three top-20 players in Ana Ivanovic, Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber was a confidence booster after her disastrous Wimbledon campaign. Serena said her week in Stanford showed her she's on the right track with her game, but she'll need to step it up against tougher competition in Montreal. She's been dealt a tricky draw, with her road to the final possibly having to go through Sam Stosur, Lucie Safarova, Eugenie Bouchard in the quarterfinals, and Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. She won Stanford without coach Patrick Mouratoglou by her side, but the two will be reunited in Montreal.
On the whole the draw has not been kind of any of the Americans. Venus Williams, drawn into the top half with her sister, opens against Anastasia Pavluchenkova. Madison Keys drew Citi Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. Sloane Stephens could face Jelena Jankovic in the second round.
Eugenie Bouchard, Homecoming Queen: All of Bouchard's success this season has take place away from North America -- she had a forgettable spring hard court season through Indian Wells, Miami, and Acapulco -- but she returns to her hometown of Montreal as the WTA's next big thing. Ranked No. 7 and seeded No. 5, Bouchard is in line for a series of blockbuster matches if the top half of the draw holds up. She could face a seemingly resurgent Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, then face Serena for the first time this season, a possible rematch of the French Open semifinal against Sharapova and a rematch of the Wimbledon final against No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova. That's a tough draw, but if anyone is game to strut her stuff in front of her home crowd, it's Bouchard.
Maria Sharapova begins her assault on the No. 1 ranking: Currently ranked No. 6, Sharapova has just one point to defend for the rest of the season, setting her up well for a rise up the rankings. She is currently No. 1 in the Road to Singapore rankings -- a calculation of points earned in just the 2014 season -- with a lead of approximately 1,200 points on Serena. Her opening match could be against Garbine Muguruza, in a rematch of their three-set French Open quarterfinal. Serena looms in the quarterfinals.
Will the Petra Kvitova of Wimbledon show up?: With Simona Halep and Li Na skipping the tournament, No. 4 Petra Kvitova is the No. 2 seed in Montreal. She won the tournament in 2012, and we all know she has the capacity to win it again. The only question is whether we'll see "Good Petra" or "Bad Petra." The other top seeds in the lighter bottom half of the draw are Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic, with Ana Ivanovic and Andrea Petkovic also floating.
Potential early-round matches to watch: Sam Stosur vs. Monica Puig (first round), Venus Williams vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (first round), Sara Errani vs. Sabine Lisicki (first round), Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Madison Keys (first round), Andrea Petkovic vs. Camila Giorgi (first round), Serena Williams vs. Sam Stosur (second round), Maria Sharapova vs. Garbine Muguruza (second round), Venus Williams vs. Flavia Pennetta (second round), Victoria Azarenka vs. Alize Cornet (second round), Jelena Jankovic vs. Sloane Stephens (second round), Petra Kvitova vs. Andrea Petkovic (third round), Ana Ivanovic vs. Jelena Jankovic (third round), Eugenie Bouchard vs. Caroline Wozniacki (third round).