TEBBUTT: THE SUMMER CYCLE BEGINS
A year ago this week, Roger Federer was about to return to action after losing in the second round of Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
He decided to add tournaments to his schedule – playing clay-court events in Hamburg (semi-final loss to Federico Delbonis) and Gstaad (first round loss to Daniel Brands).
He was trying out a larger-sized Wilson racquet – 97 sq. in. as opposed to his usual 90 sq. in. – and it all didn’t really mean too much because his back was bothering him again.
The back forced him to miss the Rogers Cup for a second year (Olympics in 2012) in a row, and he returned in Cincinnati a week later where he lost in three sets to eventual winner Rafael Nadal.
Ranked No. 5 at the time, he was on his way to falling as low as No. 8 for six consecutive weeks right after this year’s Australian Open.
But 12 months after last summer’s woes, he has been in the Wimbledon final and is back up to No. 3 in the rankings. He will next play at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in the first week of August with nothing to lose because he had no points to defend.
It’s quite the contrary for Nadal. He has 4,000 of his current 12,670 points to defend from last year’s summer successes – Montreal (1,000), Cincinnati (1,000) and US Open (2,000).
The Rogers Cup will also be the first tournament back for Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic, and the first since he married longtime girlfriend Jelena Ristic, as well as for Roland Garros winner, and defending Rogers Cup champion, Nadal and for Andy Murray, who has an uncustomary two-digit ranking beside his name – No. 10. He has not reached a final since winning Wimbledon last July.
If things have changed for Federer, they have also changed for Canada’s three top players – No. 6-ranked Milos Raonic, No. 7-ranked Eugenie Bouchard and No. 34-ranked Vasek Pospisil.
Here are the intended tournament schedules for each of them heading into the US Open, which begins on August 25th.
RAONIC: Washington, Toronto (Rogers Cup) and Cincinnati.
BOUCHARD: Washington, Montreal (Coupe Rogers), Cincinnati and New Haven.
POSPISIL: Bogota, Atlanta, Washington, Toronto (Rogers Cup), Cincinnati and Winston Salem.
Pospisil has a lot of ground to make up after an unproductive first half of the year because of his troublesome back ailment. He appears to be fine now and might not play all of those events if he has success and goes far in the singles draws.
In Bogota this week, he’s the No. 3 seed and, after a bye, plays No. 155-ranked Alex Kuznetsov of the U.S. in the second round. He has 90 points to defend from reaching the 2013 semis and losing to the host country’s Alejandro Fall. If he beats Kuznetsov, he could play Falla or Bernard Tomic in the quarter-finals. Falla might be a preview of the Davis Cup World Group Playoff that Canada will play against Colombia from September 12-14 in Halifax.
Peter Polansky is also in the Bogota main draw and plays qualifier Nicolas Barrientos of Colombia in his opening round.
Raonic and Bouchard, following a three-week break after their Wimbledon successes, will both play Washington before heading for their respective hometowns for what should be very warm Rogers Cup receptions – to put it mildly.
With the single of Simona Halep, all the top women and men players are currently entered in the Montreal and Toronto events.
ON THE HOME FRONT
For the Canadian players not able to pick and choose their tournaments because their rankings don’t permit it, there’s a lot of action going on at home this week.
The annual July fixture in Granby, Que., the National Bank Challenger, features both men and women.
It’s worth noting that the singles champions in Granby two years ago were Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil.
Last year’s men’s winner, Frank Dancevic, is not back because he’s currently playing World Team Tennis for the Philadelphia Freedoms. That means he’s unable to defend his 90 ranking points and could fall from his present ranking of No. 95 to about 125.
The good news for him is that Monday was the entry deadline for the US Open and his No. 95 ranking will get him into the main draw for this year’s final Grand Slam.
In the $50,000 Granby men’s singles field there are seven Canadians including Filip Peliwo (at top), Steven Diez and Brayden Schnur. Probably the biggest international names are top-seeded Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, runner-up last year, and Luke Saville, the 2011 Wimbledon junior champion (and 2012 runner-up to Peliwo) who qualified for this year’s Wimbledon and won his first ever tour level match before losing to eventual semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov.
In the women’s $25,000 National Bank Challenger are No. 7 seed Francoise Abanda, fresh from a runner-up finish at the National Bank Challenger in Gatineau, Que., on Sunday, as well as Stéphanie Dubois returning to action after a long injury layoff. Two friends and American collegians – Erin Routliffe of the University of Alabama and Carol Zhao from Stanford University – meet in a first rounder. They are also doubles partners.
There was a familiar name in one of the draws. The former world No. 47 (1999) Maureen Drake, now aged 43, was beaten in the first round of the Granby qualifying, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 by Amy Bowtell of Ireland.
In Stanley Park in Vancouver this week, there’s a $10,000 women’s Futures event going on featuring 18 Canadians, including Isabelle Boulais, the 14-year-old daughter of former Canadian No. 1 Patricia Hy-Boulais and Yves Boulais, as well as another 14-year-old, Jessie Jiaxin Gong from B.C.
Along with the women, there’s a $15,000 men’s Futures tournament in Stanley Park with 10 Canadians in the 32-man draw.
ROGERS CUP SCRAPBOOK
You don’t have to think too much about who (near court) is playing Milos Raonic in this picture from the 2013 Rogers Cup quarter-finals in Montreal.
The picture above is after Vasek Pospisil won his first round match at last year’s event against John Isner.
There was celebration again in the Banque Nationale Court after he defeated Radek Stepanek in the second round.
Finally, the Rogers Cup event in Montreal is situated in Jarry Park, but you still wouldn’t expect to see furry creatures out in the light of day.
Above a Rogers Cup volunteer feeds a ground hog not far from the tournament’s main entrance during last year’s event.
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
Here are some players and ex-players and what they’ve been doing during the July break after Wimbledon.
Tommy Haas and wife Sara Foster get together in Los Angeles with another couple, Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimitrov.
And Rafael Nadal, doing what he does every year near his home in Majorca, no?
Best day ever pic.twitter.com/gfo0dMmgKp
— Marie-Eve (@mepelletier82) July 14, 2014
Retired WTA player Marie-Eve Pelletier and retired NHL goalie Pascal Leclaire have gotten married. The two have known each other for many years and were once part of the ‘Sports Etudes’ education program for promising young athletes in Quebec.
A FUZZY YELLOW INTRUDER
This shot was taken on the practice courts at Wimbledon. A ball from a court situated between the camera and where Milos Raonic was playing somehow landed right in the middle of this picture.