Preview of the Montreal Masters: Can Novak Djokovic continue his domination in Canada?
Tennis returns to Canada this week at the Montreal Masters for the sixth Masters 1000 event of the year. With the exception of Roger Federer and David Ferrer, other top players have confirmed their presence for the tournament.
Let us look at the chances of some of these players as they look to begin their hard court season on a high.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the top seed in Montreal and is coming to the Canadian city after winning his third Wimbledon title less than a month ago. He hasn’t played any competitive tennis since as he opted for practice on the hard courts in Monte Carlo.
The Serb has got a bye in the first round and will face either Thomaz Bellucci or Pablo Cuevas in the second round. 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov could be Djokovic’s third round opponent.
After parting ways with Roger Rasheed post Wimbledon, Dimitrov pulled out of Citi Open with a shoulder injury. The Bulgarian has a tough draw to contend with in Montreal and an early exit looks likely at the moment.
Tomas Berdych or Kevin Anderson could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Berdych and Djokovic played an incredible final on the clay courts of Monte Carlo earlier this year. The Czech hasn’t played much tennis since Wimbledon and will be tested early on in the tournament.
Anderson took Djokovic to five sets in the fourth round of Wimbledon as he failed to capitalize on a two sets to love lead. The South African enjoys playing on the hard courts and his serves could make the difference on more occasions than one.
The likes of Stan Wawrinka, John Isner, Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic lie in Djokovic’s half. The French Open champion prefers hard courts, but hasn’t won a single Masters 1000 title on the surface to date. He is vulnerable in early rounds of a tournament and how he adapts to the surface after grass court season will be keenly watched.
Isner has played in two tournaments over the last two weeks. He won in Atlanta, but lost to Kei Nishikori in the Citi Open finals. Fatigue could play a part as Isner tries to go deep in Montreal. Both Kyrgios and Raonic are playing in their first tournaments after Wimbledon.
The young Australian opens against Fernando Verdasco, while the Canadian faces either Ivo Karlovic or Jerzy Janowicz in the second round after getting a bye in his opener. Raonic finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2013 here and is still looking for his first Masters 1000 title.
14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal won his first European clay court title at Hamburg and is confident heading into the hard court season. He has a bye in the first round and faces either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Filip Peliwo in the second round. His third round opponent could be Gilles Simon or Viktor Troicki.
David Goffin, Sam Querrey or Kei Nishikori could be Nadal’s opponent in the quarterfinals. Nishikori will pose serious threat to Nadal if they face off in the last eight. The Japanese won his third title of the year in Washington last week and is eager to get his form back in Montreal and Cincinnati as he tries to defend his finalist points in New York.
The likes of Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Andy Murray make up the bottom quarter.
2014 US Open champion went down to Nishikori in the semifinals of the Citi Open. He faces Joao Sousa or Bernard Tomic in the second round. Defending champion Tsonga could be Cilic’s third round opponent. It would be difficult for the Frenchman to repeat his 2014 feat that saw him beat Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer for his second Masters 1000 title.
Gael Monfils opens against Italian Fabio Fognini and Gilles Muller might be his second round opponent. No. 2 seed Andy Murray lost his opening match against Teymuraz Gabashvili in Washington and a good showing in Montreal and Cincinnati is crucial if he harbours hope of a third Grand Slam title.
Can he get the better of his arch nemesis Novak Djokovic? The Scot has lost their last eight meetings. If Djokovic gets going, it would be hard for anyone to stop him.