The annual Rogers Cup Masters 1000 tournament that usually takes place at the end of the summer in Toronto, Canada this year comes into town a little early due to the Summer Olympics happening in Rio this year and major competitors will be representing their countries. Aside from that change, the men’s event has been hit by the notable withdrawals of star names Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
So that means starting on Monday in Toronto, a city which has a large Serbian population, many eyes will be on Serb Novak Djokovic, from both the fan and expert’s perspective. Despite the withdrawls, the Rogers Cup which is the season’s sixth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, will be an interesting tournament since it now opens up to many other talented names.
So despite the lack of star power, world no.1 Novak Djokovic will get to headline the event alone, since many of his ‘classic’ rivals will be absent. That should give him a good chance to bounce back from a surprise Wimbledon third-round defeat to Sam Querrey only a few weeks ago. That also means though the onus will fall on him to win it, so no mistakes this time around. Many will also expect players like Stanislas Wawrinka, and local favourite and Wimbledon finalist, hometown boy, Milos Raonic, alngside upcoming and coming Dominic Thiem, to make a challenge. Also the unpredictable Kei Nishikori will try to challenge the world no. 1.
But Novak rarely stays down afterhe goes down, and he will look for massive redemption as he tries to build momentum towards for a gold medal at the Olympics, and also defend his US Open title in the coming few weeks. It’s going to be a challenging summer for the Serb.
But he is used to the attention this season. The Serb won three of the five Masters 1000 tournaments and suffered only three losses in the last seven months. But the exciting part of his appearance in Toronto will be the questions his play raises: Namely, how will Djokovic respond to his third-round loss at Wimbledon, his first setback at a Grand Slam championship since the 2015 Roland Garros?
If we look closer at the draw, the world no.1 has a pretty clear path all the way till the quarterfinals where he is scheduled to face fifth seed Tomas Berdych and a potential semifinal showdown against local favourite Raonic.
If he gets a second round match against Gilles Muller that could get tricky, but the world no.1 is definitely still head and shoulders above most competition and will be fully focused going into this tournament.
Home boy Milos Raonic has possibly a trickier path towards a semifinal showdown against Djokovic. He might have a matchup against rising star Alexander Zverev in the second round, or even face Steve Johnson, Gael Monfils and David Goffin who are also in his quarter of the draw. These are all all tricky opponents.
Second seed Stanislas Wawrinka, is the highest ranked player in the bottom half. And on paper he is the favourite to stand in a showdown against Djokovic in the final. But he is predictably unpredictable and his inconsistency this year is something that can be counted on. He has a relatively easy draw all the way till the quarters too, where he is due for a tricky meeting against another rising star in sixth seed Dominic Thiem. Thiem has won titles on all surfaces this season so he’ll be ready to go.
So one cannot bet on the Swiss to be in the final, with so many upsets possible before that in the form of either dangerous American Jack Sock or even the unpredictable Alexandr Dolgopolov. Wawrinka is also scheduled to meet third seed Kei Nishikori in the semifinals. Nishikori hasn’t won anothing of note yet since his breakthrough Grand Slam runner-up performance at the US Open two years ago, but for some reason he remains one of the most consistent and difficult opponents to beat.
The Japanese has a reasonable draw up to the quarterfinals, but there he could have his potential downfall against US Open nemesis Marin Cilic, or versus super-talented Nick Kyrgios or out-of-shape but talented Grigor Dimitrov who will await him. If the Japanese is able to advance, then it will be in a possible semifinal against Wawrinka.
We believe that Djokovic will still remain the heavy favourite, especially with the absence of his main rivals, notably defending champion Murray. That will likely lesson any potential surprises for him, but a surprise run from Kyrgios or Raonic could finally happen since both players want to justify their talents with a tourney win.