The lead up to the 2015 US Open will continue this week on both the men’s and women’s tours for professional tennis. In Montreal, the top men in the world will contest the 2015 Coupe Roger, while the women fight it out for the 2015 Rogers Cup in Toronto. Not surprisingly, the favorites for the respective tournaments are Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, the two top-ranked players in men’s and women’s tennis.
Djokovic, who has won the Canadian Masters three times, has been idle on tour since winning the Wimbledon title in July (d. Federer). That might get some people wondering if he will be rusty in Montreal, a concern that seems validated by the fact that the current World No. 1 has not played in a hard court match since back in Miami. However Djokovic enters the Rogers Cup with an amazing 48-3 record on the season and, even if he has some hard-court rust to shake off, his draw looks like a pretty comfortable one in the early rounds.
Djokovic, as one of the top eight seeds in the Masters Series event, has a bye through round one. However even when he plays his second round match it won’t be against a proven hard courter. Pablo Cuevas and Thomaz Bellucci are in Djokovic’s micro-section of the draw, two players that have enjoyed some clay court success on tour but no noteworthy hard court success. Since Djokovic has not played a competitive hard court match in months, either Bellucci or Cuevas should make for a good hitting opponent for the Serbinator to get himself into form against.
Surviving the second round, things could get a little bit tricky for Djokovic as early as the third round. At that point, Djokovic could face an improving Jack Sock, a 22-year old American who has generally been winning his early round matches of late. Other third round candidates include Alexandr Dolgopolov and Grigor Dimitrov, two talented players but ones that have struggled in recent events. The draw as it is, it seems unlikely that Djokovic will have much trouble getting to the quarterfinals with Tomas Berdych the other high seed in the Serb’s quarter.
The other key contenders in Montreal are Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka. Nadal and Murray are both past champions at the event while Wawrinka and Nishikori will both be looking for their first title at the Canadian Masters. Unfortunately Roger Federer will not be in Montreal this season as he withdrew from the event earlier this week, not citing any reason in particular:
“I am disappointed that I won’t be playing in Montreal because it’s a tournament and a city that I really enjoy and has incredible fans,” Federer said. “My family and I have always received first-class treatment from tournament director Eugene Lapierre and his team and I hope to be back in the future.”
In the women’s event, Serena Williams has to like her chances of winning another title. The World No. 1, like Djokovic, has not been very active on tour since winning Wimbledon. However Williams did contest a minor event in Bastad, one that saw her withdraw after the first round. The reason for the withdrawal was due to an elbow injury however, with her expected appearance in Toronto, the injury does not appear to be a serious one.
In Toronto, the only serious challenger in Williams’ draw to the semifinal is Lucie Safarova. The French Open runner-up gave Williams a run for her money at Roland Garros a couple of months ago. The two players could meet in the quarters and, while Williams would surely be favored, the match may very well be a tight one.
The other key favorites in the women’s draw include Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova. The latter is the only player who has a match-win over Williams this season as Kvitova defeated the American on clay in Madrid. Entering the tournament with a 40-1 record, Williams is the clear favorite to win the title in Canada’s largest city, with one sportsbook (Coral) pricing her shorter than even to do just that (-125).
Unfortunately, tennis fans hoping to catch Maria Sharapova in action will be disappointed to hear that she withdrew from the draw a couple of days ago citing a problem with her right leg.
Noteworthy Canadians in the men’s and women’s draws include Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, and Eugenie Bouchard. The latter, perhaps surprising to some, enters WTA Toronto unseeded following a lengthy run of bad form. Pospisil is also unseeded however he has been dangerous at this time of year before. The Canadian made the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in recent years and he has also made the Washington final. Following a strong run at Wimbledon, perhaps Canada’s No. 2 is ready to challenge for a spot in the Top 25.
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments are the highest level non-Grand Slam events. The main draws both begin on Monday with each tournament’s final scheduled for Sunday, August 16th.
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