Roger Federer excitement is at a fever pitch in Montreal as can be seen from this picture taken Sunday after his STADE IGA practice session.
At one stage the over-eager fans hoping for autographs began chanting “Roger, Roger” and things got a little out of hand. So Federer had to become a bit fatherly and do some cautioning, as can be seen in the photo below.
The current world No. 3, and overall Grand Slam leader with 19, makes his Rogers Cup debut on Wednesday afternoon against Peter Polansky, a 7-5, 6-2 winner on Monday night over compatriot Vasek Pospisil.
After Pospisil took a 5-2 lead in the opening set, Polansky steadied down and was the much more consistent player the rest of the way.
“I think we were both a little tight in the first set,” said Polansky. “After that I found my range. I felt if I could pick up my level one or two notches I could beat him.”
It is Polansky’s 10th appearance at the Rogers Cup and he has now reached the second round five times.
He entered the event as a form player having reached three consecutive Challenger finals in Winnipeg (Blaz Kavcic), Gatineau (Denis Shapovalov) and Granby (Kavcic).
Currently ranked No. 116, the victory and the 45 points he earned will help him in his ongoing quest to break into the top-100.
In a wide-ranging media conference on Sunday, Federer said he decided to play in Montreal after returning from a vacation in Italy and feeling fit. He claimed that it made more sense to be playing actual matches than to be just practising.
He also spoke about Montreal, where he hasn’t played since 2011, with a certain fondness, especially 2009, the year he came to the city with his twin daughters. “The most important one was 2009 when the girls (Myla and Charlene) were two weeks old,” he recalled. “It would be our first trip and we just got the passports and travelled here.
“I remember we had an unbelievable time – I’m trying to be a dad for the first time. It was all out of control but in the nicest possible way. That was here in Montreal so forever Montreal will be special for me because it was the first time back (on tour) after being a dad.”
It’s probably no surprise, with the distraction, that he had one of his most shocking losses after leading in a match. He dropped the first set 7-6(5) to Jo-Wilfried Tsongo but then regained control to take the second set 6-1 and went ahead 5-1 in the third only to eventually lose 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(3).
Federer claimed on Sunday to have not yet found his rhythm in practice but one wag joked that he didn’t find his rhythm until he was down 3-1 the fifth set of the Australian Open final in January against Rafael Nadal. The final score in that one was 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 for the guy who won five games in a row in the final set.
Federer, who has won seven titles in Cincinnati the week after the Rogers Cup, and just two (2004 and 2006) in Canada, suggested that record was attributable to the adjustment to hard courts at his first tournament after Wimbledon.
Polansky and Federer have only played once before – with the Swiss maestro defeating the 29-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., 6-2, 6-0 at the 2014 Rogers Cup.
RAONIC DEBUTS ON WEDNESDAY
There is some concern about Milos Raonic (above practising on Monday) after a what a Tennis Canada press release claimed that a “minor injury’ has prompted him to delay his Rogers Cup opening match from its scheduled Tuesday evening until Wednesday in the evening session.
A tournament official in the know refused to tell a reporter whether the injury was upper body or lower body.
Seeded No. 8. Raonic will take on No. 42-ranked Adrian Mannarino of France. He leads the head-to-head with the 29-year-old, left-handed Frenchman 1-0 – a 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-1 victory at the 2016 French Open.
SCHNUR BATTLES GASQUET
It lasted three hours precisely and almost all of that time featured a very even contest but French veteran (31) Richard Gasquet pulled off 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-1 victory in his opening round against Brayden Schnur.
The 22-year-old from Toronto has paid his dues this year – starting with a ranking of No. 433 he has broken into the top-200 at No. 197 with hard slogging. He has won ITF Future events in Little Rock, Arkansas and in Abuja, Nigeria, as well as reaching two semi-finals at other Futures tournaments in Abuja.
The 6-foot-4 former University of North Carolina player certainly had his chances against Gasquet – having love-40 and then an advantage to break to 5-3 in the opening set. He also led 5-3 in the tiebreak that decided it.
He showed a lot of fight in winning the second set but the Frenchman broke serve to 3-1 in the final set and that pretty well decided the match.
Schnur deserves kudos for playing aggressively, for the most part, and that showed in the stats where he 43 winners and 51 unforced errors to 34 of both for Gasquet.
SHAPOVALOV STARTS OUT TUESDAY
Denis Shapovalov, above shaking hands with hockey great Wayne Gretzky before practice on Monday, faces Rogerio Dutra Silva in his opening match on Centre Court on Tuesday afternoon.
It will be a first meeting for the 18-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., and the No. 64-ranked Brazilian.
Some Canadians may remember the 33-year-old Dutra Silva from his memorable match at the US Open against Pospisil in 2013 when he saved seven match points (including one dubious baseline line call) and defeated Vasek Pospisil 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(9), 6-2, 7-6(10).
Shapovalov, who upset Nick Kyrgios at last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto before losing to Grigor Dimitrov, is playing the sixth ATP main draw of his career – with his 2017 highlight being at Queen’s Club in London before Wimbledon when he took advantage of a wild card to defeat No. 47-ranked Kyle Edmund 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 before losing 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-5 to No. 14 Tomas Berdych.
Between now and the end of 2017, the No. 143-ranked Shapovalov has only has 33 points to defend (coming off next week) and could cover that and more if he defeats Dutra Silva in the first round in Montreal and earns 45 points.
A top-100 hundred finish this year is eminently possible for the talented lefthander.
The annual ball hockey game at the Rogers Cup was staged on Saturday. Taking part were present and former NHL players and Vasek Pospisil, Robin Haase and the retired Frédéric Niemeyer representing tennis players.
In the picture here, Pospisil is dueling with the newly-obtained Montreal Canadien Jonathan Drouin, with his teammate Michael McCarron in the background behind Pospisil.
MONTREAL POST CARD
There’s a dogs enclosure in Jarry Park and located right beside STADE IGA.
Late last week this dog lover was attracting an attentive following when he was about to launch a dirty, old tennis ball.