Sunday, August 4, 2013

Montreal Day 1 preview

The main draw of the tournament hasn't even begun yet and the biggest news of the tournament has already happened. Roger Federer announced without explanation that he will be skipping the Roger's Cup, where he doesn't have any points to defend. The most plausible explanation is that Federer is giving his back some time to recover, but even without the 17-time grand slam champion, the tournament will have plenty of excitement.

Every year, this tournament is the beginning of the run to the US Open for most players. While a handful of players play in the smaller events of the US Open Series or play in some European clay tournaments, most players treat the time between Wimbledon and the Roger's Cup as a short offseason. This tournament represents the start of the second half of the season, which is all on hard courts. For Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, this will be the launching ground for their race for the year-end No. 1, while others will be simply looking to get their hard court season off to a good start.

11 matches are on the schedule for tomorrow's play with a day session that features some of the best shot-makers outside of the top ten such as Bernard Tomic, Florian Mayer, Ernests Gulbis, Thomaz Bellucci, and Benoit Paire. Play starts at noon local time with play on three courts.

Tomic and Mayer open up play on court central at noon. This is their fifth meeting in the last three years. Mayer won the first three meetings in straight sets before Tomic got his first win in Sydney this year against the German, 7-6(4), 6-2. Mayer leads 2-1 on hard courts and won 6-4, 6-0 in their only other masters series 1000 meeting back in 2012 in Shanghai. Mayer lost in the first round last year, while Tomic advanced to the third round where he lost to Novak Djokovic, who by the way is the winner's second round opponent.

The second match on court central is between two player who can lose to anybody and beat anybody on any given day, Gulbis and Lopez. It is impossible to predict a result when these two step on court. At one point this year, Gulbis lost in the first round of a challenger, then came through qualifying to win a tour level event less than a month later. Gulbis  has two top ten wins, but is riding a two-match losing streak into the US Open Series. Feliciano Lopez isn't any better in the consistency department. He had a five-match losing streak earlier in the year, then immediately won 11 of his next 13 matches and even had a top ten win in his last tournament. Gulbis leads the all-time head-to-head between these two 3-1, including a 6-3, 6-2 win in Indian Wells earlier this year.

Third on will be Janko Tipsarevic taking on Denis Istomin. Tipsarevic is having the worst season of his career since 2007, leaving the door open for Istomin to be the first player to knock out a seeded player in the tournament. However, he Istomin hasn't had any success against Tipsarevic earlier in their careers, losing to the Serb on all three occasions. For Tipsarevic, Canada has been a good place in the last two years. The No. 16 seed reached the semifinals in each of the last two years in Canada, defeating five players in the top 30. Istomin on the other hand has nothing to defend giving him a great chance to boost his ranking and confidence before the US Open.

Kei Nishikori will finish play for the day at the main stadium against a qualifier to be named later tonight. Pablo Andujar will also take on a qualifier on court 9 before two qualifiers square off against each other for the third match on court 9. Leading things off on that court will be Grega Zemlja and Ivan Dodig, who won their only previous meeting in the second round of the 2010 Wimbledon qualifying. Dodig has become a regular part of the top 100 in the last 12 months and is currently having the best year of his career as he pushes for a crack at the top 30 for the first time. The last time the tournament was held in Montreal, Dodig made a name for himself among tennis fans when he defeated No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) with aggressive serve-and-volley play. Meanwhile Zemlja has a lot of pressure on his back as he tries to stay ranked in the top 100 in the second half of the season.

BN Court features four matches that could all go the distance. Andreas Seppi and Lukas Rosol lead things off. Seppi may be the higher ranked player, but Rosol leads the head-to-head 2-1. This will be their third meeting this year after splitting the first two. They will be followed by south paws Thomaz Bellucci and Martin Klizan. The pair split their previous two meetings and are looking to rebound from a brutal first half of the season. Bellucci recently saw his ranking drop outside of the top 100, so it will be tough for Bellucci to get into the main draw of another masters series 1000 tournament, putting a lot of pressure on the Brazilian to make the most of this opportunity. Meanwhile, Klizan, who his big break through in the second half of 2012, has almost all of his points left to defend before the end of the season, putting just as much pressure on the Slovakian.

With a lot of entertaining matches set for day one at the Roger's Cup, the second half of the season for many players will kick off tomorrow. For some players this second half will be a chance to push for a career-high ranking, while others will be battling just to defend their points from last year and keep their ranking high enough to qualify for these tournaments.

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