A breakdown of this week’s men’s draw at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
1st Quarter: Novak Djokovic (1)
As usual, Djokovic is the most consistent player in his quarter. 5th seeded Tomas Berdych inhabits the bottom of the draw in this quarter. In Djokovic’s half, only Grigor Dimitrov is seeded and I touched on his issues earlier. It’s likely to be Dimitrov or Sock against Djokovic in the third round and that should be a room service fastball for Djokovic to crush into a quarterfinal appearance.
The bottom half will be more interesting with Berdych leading the way. The 12th seed Kevin Anderson is seeded to face him in the third round, but could find it hard to get there. He faces Rosol to open and then it’s either Dominic Thiem or Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis made it through qualifying and Thiem might be burned out from a lot of clay court tennis the last few weeks. He has owned Gulbis though the last three times they’ve played in the past year, so anything is possible.
Berdych may have a tough starter as he’s set to face Denis Kudla or Donald Young. Kudla has been receiving a lot of press this summer, but he flamed out quickly in D.C. last week. Still, Berdych has not made it past the third round at the Rogers Cup in the last three years, so this part of the draw could open up for a nonseeded player.
Projection: Djokovic should be in the quarterfinals with ease in this quarter. The bottom half could spring one of those surprise nonseeded quarterfinalists. Anderson is the cop out pick as a QF participant. Gulbis is the “what the hell are you smoking” pick. There is no reason to think Djokovic won’t be in the semifinals.
2nd Quarter: Stan Wawrinka (3)
Wawrinka doesn’t have the easiest of draws in the top half of this quarter. I touched on his opener which could come against Verdasco or Kyrgios. If he survives there, his third round might be to his advantage. Pospisil is a wild card in this portion of the draw and he has Yen-Hsun Lu to open. John Isner is the 16th seed in this part of the draw as well. After two long back-to-back weeks, this could be an early week for Isner as he’s just 5-5 at this event. If Wawrinka gets past that opener, he should have a shot to get to the quarters.
In the bottom half of the quarter, all eyes will be on 8th seed Milos Raonic to see if he’s finally healthy after months suffering from that foot injury. Richard Gasquet is seeded 11th in this part of the draw, which would see him play Raonic in the 3rd round if everything holds to form. Gasquet has to get by fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy to open and then faces either up and comer Hyeon Chung or Leonardo Mayer. Gasquet should be too good and looks likely to be in the third round. If healthy, Raonic is the definite favorite in this part of the quarter. He is 3-1 against Gasquet, so that match-up would favor him getting to the quarterfinals.
Projection: This quarter has some fluidity to it prediction-wise. A fast start for Wawrinka and I do like the Stanimal to at least be in the quarterfinal mix. Raonic or Gasquet looks a likely foe, but Ivo Karlovic could be an outside to monitor if he wins against Janowicz to open. Simply because Wawrinka has shown some less than convincing concentration outside of Slams, I’ll go with Raonic if he’s healthy here to get to the semis. A darkhorse for the QFs is a properly motivated Pospisil.
3rd Quarter: Kei Nishikori (4)
The Citi Open Champion comes in as the obvious form of this quarter after a solid week’s showing in D.C. Nishikori did have the leg issue in the semis, but appeared no worse for the wear in the Final on Sunday. Having a bye and a weak draw should help alleviate any further concern. He will get Dancevic or Andujar to open and has David Goffin as the seed in this half of the quarter. It could be Steve Johnson taking the second round spot instead of Goffin with Sam Querrey or Martin Klizan to contend with for that match. This looks like easy pickings for Nishikori to be in the quarterfinal mix barring a lingering injury issue.
Up top in this quarter, 7th seed Rafael Nadal comes in with a title from Hamburg in his collection. Rafa said the biggest thing he got out of the tournament was that he feels his mental strength is the best it has been in a while. The bad? A shoulder issue could be something to monnitor. He admitted it affected his serving in the Hamburg final. He should be okay against Stakhovsky or Peliwo to open. The third round gets interesting where he could see Troicki, Youzhny, 9th seed Gilles Simon or Andreas Seppi. He’s fortunate that there is not a true power player in this section, so he definitely has a chance to work his way through. If Troicki can improve after an early exit in Washington in his first hard court match of this swing last week, he is the one to watch here.
Projection: Nishikori for one quarterfinal spot. The other looks wide open. Nadal if he can get past the shoulder worry would be the favorite. Somehow I think that won’t happen. Look for Troicki or maybe a big shock from Youzhny who might have played his best tennis in months in qualis this week. Overall, you have to like Nishikori to make a deep run.
4th Quarter: Andy Murray (2)
Murray fell in his first match of the hard court swing at the Citi Open last week. He ran into a shot making machine in Temuraz Gabashvili who just had one of those matches, although Murray did find a way to have the match still on his racquet late. This isn’t a simple draw for him as he faces either Feliciano Lopez or Tommy Robredo in his first match. Robredo owns Lopez 4-0 all-time, but Lopez did make the semis as a surprise here last year. Prior to that though, he lost three of four in the first round.
Robredo has played Murray tougher and who doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 2014 Valencia Open that ended with Robredo famously giving Murray a two fingered salute after a taxing final saw Muray win in a third set tie break. 15th seed Gael Monfils would be seeded to face Murray in the third round with this draw. His match with Fabio Fognini in the opening round could be more entertainment and flakiness than anyone deserves. The winner likely gets big serving GIlles Muller. That side of the draw seems pretty open.
The other half of the quarter houses defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 6th seed Marin Cilic. Tsonga faces talented youngster Borna Coric to open. Coric has shown some promise on this surface, so Tsonga will need to be geared up to begin. The winner there gets Roberto Bautista-Agut or Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic is 3-5 in main draws since his return from injury in April. He has not looked ready to beat most at this level. RBA has been mediocre for most of the season and has only played the Rogers Cup once, losing last year to Feliciano Lopez. If there is a time for Tipsarevic to get it going, this is an opportunity.
Cilic has a bye and then gets Joao Sousa or Bernard Tomic. Sousa is tougher than you think on hard courts. With Tomic’s weird behavior last week in losing to Steve Johnson, it’s not that odd to think Sousa can beat him or that Tomic could turn up with the intent to win this week. Your guess is as good as anyone’s. If it comes down to Tsonga vs. Cilic for a slot in the quarters, think Cilic who was won three straight against Tsonga.
Projection: Murray should be keen on making up for last week and has always enjoyed the Rogers Cup. The other side of the quarter would seem more likely to fall to Tsonga or Cilic. Given Tomic’s one week on, one week off, don’t totally discount him to find the good Bernie this week. Yes, I ate a lot of tainted bacon.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO…
As with every tournament, Djokovic is the favorite certainly heading into the week. The interesting thing though is that Djokovic has failed to make the Final since 2012 here. Interestingly, that was the last year that Djokovic failed to make the Wimbledon Final also. If you believe in jinxes, this title should go elsewhere. With an easier draw and confidence from Washington, Nishikori could parlay that into a very nice back-to-back situation for grabbing trophies. Milos Raonic could also slip in here if his foot is truly back to full health.