It’s just a few days until the 2018 Rogers Cup and Coupe Rogers begin in Toronto and Montreal.
The anticipation builds for Canada’s two premier events – the one time in the year when the tennis world focuses on this country and its ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 tournaments.
Rogers Cup officials released the list of seeded players on Monday and the line-ups in Toronto and Montreal are almost perfect. The lone absentee being Roger Federer – more about him further down.
This almost too good to be true, particularly when it’s considered that multiple Grand Slam champions like Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka (the Swiss is in the qualifying) in Toronto, and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka in Montreal, are not even among the seeded players.
Realistically, there will be a withdrawal or two. It’s too much too hope that every single one of the seeds will be fit and ready to play – especially because seven of the men’s seeds, and six of the women’s are entered in events this week. It’s unlikely that all will survive unscathed – e.g. injury-prone Nick Kyrgios had a hip issue in the quarter-finals of Atlanta last week but is still playing in Washington this week. But starting with perfect attendance of all the top players in the world under age 36 is certainly a great sign.
At the Rogers Cup in Toronto, the focus will be on the No. 1-ranked Nadal. He has indisputably played the best tennis of anyone in recent months – four titles on clay, including his 11th French Open victory, as well as his superb level in a spectacular five-set semi-final against Djokovic at Wimbledon.
And Djokovic has totally put himself back in the picture with his renaissance at Wimbledon – an unexpected success considering his form in 2018 leading into the tournament.
Add to the mix hometown boys Denis Shapovalov – playing on Tuesday night – and Milos Raonic – possibly on Monday night – and the event has no shortage of marquee attractions.
In Montreal there’s essentially a full slate on the game’s best – led by Serena Williams who entered last week. With all of the top-10 present, including Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, as well as Sharapova and Azarenka, there should be a surplus of star power available for feature matches on centre court at Stade IGA.
Top-ranked Canadian Genie Bouchard has been given a wild card, as has Azarenka, with the third available likely to go to Bianca Andreescu, unless her back problem prevents her from playing.
Bouchard, on an upward trend at the moment, will be of particular fascination. At just 24, she’s playing a remarkable 11th Coupe Rogers/Rogers Cup, but that includes the first three years – starting at age 14 – when she lost in the first round of the qualifying each time.
All and all, it’s her sixth Coupe Rogers in Montreal with her best finish being two years ago when she beat Lucie Safarova in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3) thriller and Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-0 to reach the round-of-16 before losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.
The draw for the Rogers Cup in Toronto will be made at 4:30 p.m. on Friday while Montreal will follow with its Coupe Rogers draw being done at 6:30 p.m.
Also in Montreal, there will be a ball hockey game featuring NHL players at 2 p.m. on Saturday the 4th and a soccer game with MLS players and some women tennis players at 2 p.m. on Sunday the 5th. That’s all part of IGA Family Weekend, which includes a commented practice session on Friday the 3rd featuring world No. 1 Simona Halep and her coach Darren Cahill.
In Toronto, the annual ball hockey game with NHL players and tennis players will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Aviva centre.
Rogers Cup television coverage in English in Canada is on Sportsnet while TVA Sports has the Coupe Rogers in French. Internationally the tournaments will be on ESPN2 and Tennis Channel in the U.S. and as well as on Eurosport in other parts of the world.
Start times for the women’s and men’s finals on Sunday August 12th will be 1:30 p.m. in Montreal and not before 4 p.m. in Toronto.
Roger Federer has played 11 Rogers Cups over his long career – winning the title in 2004 and 2006 – but he will be missing for the fourth time in the last five years when the first ball is struck next Monday.
Following his five-set loss to Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the elder statesman of the sport has elected to get in a little more practice time before beginning his US Open campaign in Cincinnati the week after Rogers Cup.
In a weekend interview in the Tags Anzeiger newspaper in Switzerland, Federer co-coach Severin Luthi said, “I really don’t think it would be an advantage to play both Toronto and Cincinnati. It might even be a disadvantage.”
The fact that last year it was a last-minute decision to play in Montreal, and that he wound up injuring his back during the final against Sascha Zverev – compromising his US Open preparation – may have been a consideration in his decision. Luthi denied that Federer had any injury as a result of the Anderson quarter-final but there remains speculation that he may not have been at 100 per cent during that match.
Despite not playing Cincinnati the past two years, Federer has won that event seven times.
The 36-year-old Swiss, who turns 37 in eight days, currently has the option of playing as many – or as few – Masters 1000 series events as he wants to without penalty because he meets the following three career requirements:
1. 600 matches as of Jan.1 of the commitment year – he had 1,349 as of Jan. 1, 2018.
2. 12 years of service – he has been on tour for 20 years.
3. 30 years old as of Jan. 1 of the commitment year – he’s 36.
An interesting fact related to this, Rafael Nadal, 32, Novak Djokovic, 31, and Andy Murray, 31, all meet those thresholds and are also free to play as many Masters 1000 events as they like.
There’s a tribute to Daniel Nestor on Sunday night at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto as the 45-year-old is feted in his hometown.
Nestor, who will be playing in an amazing 30th and final Canadian Open (a.k.a. the Rogers Cup) next week, will be inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame.
The man who’s top-five all-time in the ATP doubles rankings with 108 weeks at No. 1, has done it all – won all four Grand Slams and all nine Masters 1000 events.
He has two titles at the Rogers Cup – with fellow-Canadian Sébastien Lareau in 2000 and in 2008 with Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia
At Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto’s theatre district, he will be roasted by friends and fellow players during an evening hosted by comedian Shaun Majumber.
With it known that Nestor was retiring this year, he has not had a steady partner and has played with 12 different players, not including Vasek Pospisil whom he partnered when he participated in a Canadian record 52nd Davis Cup tie in Osijek, Croatia, in February. Pospisil will be alongside Nestor next week for his sayonara Rogers Cup.
Individual tickets for the Nestor tribute range from $50 to $200. Tickets may be purchased or information obtained at 416-872-4255 or online. Proceeds from this event will be used to create an award in Nestor’s name to support the next generation of High Performance Canadian players.
This picture of a relaxed Kevin Anderson, as he strolled along a main pathway at Wimbledon, was taken in 2011. It took seven more years before the affable South African was able to reach the biggest match of the tennis year – the Wimbledon final.
NOTE: Back on Friday with a blog after the Rogers Cup draws.