It’s that time of the year when the North American hard courts lure the top players for attractive titles and even more attractive prize money in the form of Emirates Airlines US Open series. With 17 of top 20 and 8 out of top 10 players starting their campaign at Rogers Cup in Toronto, stakes and expectations are mounting high.
The faster hard courts which favor the big servers and aggressive players haven’t really been the same over the years with the intriguing baseline rallies taking stage towards the business end of the event. The triumph of Murray, Djokovic and Nadal in the past five years is the best example of the physical demands the Canadian hard courts require to prevail over seven days.
With the 2014 season being a mix of Djokovic-Nadal domination along with the emergence of future stars like Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishikori, this hard court swing following indoor tournaments is definitely going to make the competition at the top more interesting.
Due to the withdrawal of defending champion Nadal, Wimbledon runner up Federer is seeded second and his compatriot Wawrinka third. World No.1 and top seed Djokovic is the firm favorite to win the Rogers Cup for a record fourth time. But his path to the final is probably one of the toughest he has ever faced in Canada with a potential quarter final encounter against chief rival Murray followed by semifinal against the third seed Wawrinka, not to forget a third round duel against Tsonga. Had the grueling schedule filled with professional and personal commitments taken a toll on soon to be father, an early exit isn’t a surprise. Djokovic hopes to find his threatening opponents lose early on and some luck to lead him to the title clash. There are other strong contenders like Dimitrov who had an exceptional year so far and Gulbis who is always a dangerous opponent with wonderful serve. Andy Murray hopes to find his old form under the guard of Amelie Maurismo and clinch his first title since the famous Wimbledon victory last year.
On the other half, Swiss Maestro Federer finds himself in the company of his old rivals Berdych and Ferrer. Since both these top guys aren’t at their usual best, Federer must be feeling comfortable as the tournament progresses if he can survive the early rounds. And Berdych needs to overcome the local boy and in-form Raonic who was a finalist here last year. Given the kind of results both players produced recently, surrender of the Czech in quarters against Raonic looks inevitable. Ferrer’s level has dipped dramatically over the past few months and is least expected to face Federer in last eight. Isner who generally plays well in this part of the season is expected to take down the Spaniard in third round setting up a mouth watering quarter final against two time champion Federer. If the things go as expected for Federer, it’s gonna be a repeat of his Wimbledon semifinals in Toronto semis against the Canadian youngster Raonic.
There is a crop of young guns like Dimitrov, Raonic, Nishikori, Kyrgios, Thiem, Janowicz and the no.2 Canadian Pospisil hoping to show the tennis world what they are capable of. It’s going to be a pretty interesting week to kick start the heavy competition for the final major of the year in New York.
Some great 1st RD matches to look forward:
Gael Monfils vs. Radek Stepanek
Jo Wilfred Tsonga vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
Gilles Simon vs. Dominic Thiem
Blockbuster Contests, if the seeds hold the order:
Novak Djokovic vs. Jo Wilfred Tsonga – 3rd RD
Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray – QF
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Kei Nishikori – 3rd RD
Tomas Berdych vs. Milos Raonic – QF
Milos Raonic vs. Ernests Gulbis – 3rd RD
David Ferrer vs. John Isner – 3rd RD
Sportz Cosmos Predictions
Semifinals: Djokovic vs Dimitrov and Federer vs Berdych
Finals: Djokovic vs Berdych