The withdrawal of Roger Federer from this year’s Rogers Cup is a crushing blow for the event.
But, sadly, it’s not unusual in the context of his 2016 season so far. By this time last year he had played 11 tournaments. This year it has only been seven and he has yet to win a title.
So far he has had to miss tournaments that he has always been strongly committed to such as Dubai (post knee surgery), Indian Wells (post knee surgery), Miami (gastro issue), Madrid (back) and Roland Garros (back).
After his five-set loss to Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon semifinals on July 8th, he revealed that he had been managing a thigh issue from the beginning of the tournament. He also took an awkward-looking tumble in the fourth game of the final set against Raonic and wasn’t sure afterward how serious that might be. It was the right knee that he hurt, not the left one he had surgery on after the Australian Open, but it was still a question mark.
Now he is unable to play what would have been his 12th appearance at Rogers Cup. He has won it twice – 2004 over Andy Roddick and 2006 over Richard Gasquet.
He has a long history with the tournament and usually celebrated his birthday – August 8th – while in Montreal or Toronto.
Only he and Rafael Nadal, Ivo Karlovic and Feliciano Lopez (of those on the original 2016 entry list) played in the first Rogers Cup at the newly-opened Rexall Centre (now Sobeys Stadium) in 2004. Frank Dancevic, 31 and ranked No. 232, would be added to those players if he gets into the 2016 Rogers Cup via a wild card.
In 2004 the tournament site had relocated across Toronto’s York University campus to the west side from the east side where it had been played at a facility opened in 1976.
Of the players on this year’s original entry list, only Federer played singles at the old site in its quaint but rickety main stadium. In both 2002 and 2000 he lost there in the first round – in 2002 by a 7-6(10), 7-5 score to eventual winner Guillermo Canas and in 2000 to Lleyton Hewitt 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The year 2002 was memorable because it was a very hot, humid afternoon and Federer wilted against Canas in the debilitating conditions. That match was one of the motivators for him training to specifically never again be unprepared for the sweltering weather that can occur in North America during the summer and in Australia during the antipodean summer.
Sadly, it was also unforgettable for the-then still 20-year-old Federer because soon after his loss to Canas he learned of the death of his first real coach, Swiss Davis Cup captain Peter Carter. The 37-year-old Australian had been vacationing in South Africa with his wife and was involved in an accident that killed both him and the driver of their all-terrain vehicle. Still in the doubles event in Toronto and wearing a black armband in tribute to Carter, a devastated Federer and partner Wayne Ferreira were beaten in the third round.
The news that Nadal is also having to withdraw from Rogers Cup is not as surprising as Federer. He has not played a tournament since pulling out of the French Open in May before his third-round match because of a left wrist problem. It’s pretty obvious that a wrist issue and the way a player like Nadal hits the ball is something that anyone would take extra care with. Still it’s tough that he will join Federer on the sidelines. He too has a history at the tournament. This year would have been his 11th appearance and he has won it three times – in 2005 beating Andre Agassi, in 2008 defeating Nicolas Kiefer, and in 2013 beating Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and Milos Raonic in the final.
Nadal tends to appeal to a younger, more hip demographic so his absence may touch a different group of the sport’s followers.
It’s obvious that tennis fans in Toronto, in Canada, and around the world will miss seeing Federer and Nadal, two of the best and most charismatic athletes in all of sport, in Toronto next week. But now they can only wish them the best as they work to get as fit as possible for the Rio Olympics coming up in a little over two weeks.
With Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray out of the 2016 Rogers Cup, it certainly opens the way for recent Wimbledon runner-up Raonic to try to become the first Canadian since Bob Bedard in 1958 to win the country’s premier tennis event.
To help his chances, the No. 7-ranked Raonic will now move into the fourth seeding position behind No. 1 Djokovic, No. 5 Stan Wawrinka and No. 6 Kei Nishikori.
And while many will lament the absence of Federer and Nadal, already in 2016 tennis followers have had the opportunity to discover a next generation of young players that includes Nick Kyrgios, 20, Dominic Thiem, 22, and Alexander Zverev, 19. They will be at Rogers Cup as will Raonic contemporaries Nishikori, David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov to give enthusiasts a glimpse of what the tennis world will likely be all about when Federer and Nadal have moved on from the scene.
Daniel Nestor, less than two months from his 44th birthday on September 4th, is back in the Top 10 of the ATP doubles rankings. At 43, he is the oldest player to hold a Top 10 ranking in singles or doubles dating back to the debut of the ATP computer rankings in August 1973.
Alongside partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, Nestor reached the final of the ATP 500 event in Hamburg on Sunday – losing 7-5, 6-3 to Henri Kontinen of Finland and Australian John Peers – and the 300 ranking points he earned moved him from No. 11 to No. 9 in the world.
This week Nestor is in Washington, D.C., where he and Edouard Roger-Vasselin are the No. 2 seeds.
Nestor’s plans for the rest of the summer include playing with Vasek Pospisil at Rogers Cup in Toronto next week and at the Olympics in Rio, and then likely reuniting with Dominic Inglot of Great Britain, with whom he won the Nottingham title before Wimbledon, for events through the US Open.
Nestor faces a tough challenge remaining in the Top 10 because next month he will be defending runner-up points from the 2015 Rogers Cup (600) in Montreal and then winners’ points the following week in Cincinnati (1000). He played both those events with Roger-Vasselin.
While Nestor is non-committal about how much longer he will be on tour, this year’s Roger Cup could be the last one he is going to play in his hometown of Toronto. By 2018 he will be close to 46 years old!
Canada faces Chilean challenge
Canada has drawn Chile as its opponent for the Davis Cup World Group Play-offs to be played in Halifax from September 16-18.
Chile has a strong tennis tradition with players like former world No. 1 Marcelo Rios, Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Massu, Heinz Gildemeister and Jaime Fillol. But there are no familiar names among Chile’s best these days.
A look at the four most prominent Chileans shows that only 20-year-old Nicolas Jarry – 6-foot-6 – has played more than one tournament off clay so far in 2016. And Jarry, ranked No. 324, has only competed in two (both hard courts) including the Challenger event in Drummondville, Que., in March where he lost to Frank Dancevic 7-6(4), 6-3 in the round-of-16. Jarry is the grandson of Fillol, who was runner-up at the Canadian Open in 1977.
Chile defeated Colombia 3-1 at home on clay on the weekend to qualify for the World Group Play-offs. It appears that top Colombian Santiago Giraldo may have been injured because he had to retire from the fourth and deciding match against No. 1 Chilean Gonzalo Lama. The 23-year-old Lama ranks No. 161.
The No. 2 Chilean in terms of ranking, No. 251 Christian Garin, has a win over a Canadian this year. Garin, 20, defeated Steven Diez 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4 in the quarter-finals of a Futures event on clay in Cartagena, Spain, which he won in February.
The tie will be played at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax, which was the site of the 2014 World Group Play-off between Canada and Colombia that was won 3-2 by the hosts. The surface will be an indoor hard court and that will likely be on the edge of what is permitted in terms of a fast-paced court.
A victory and Canada will retain its spot in the elite 16-nation World Group for the sixth consecutive year. Overall, Canada and Chile are 4-4 in their head-to-head.
The Chileans have one player who specializes in doubles, Hans Podlipnik-Castillo ranked No. 63. The 28-year-old won a round at Wimbledon this year playing with Andrej Martin of Slovakia.
More pictures from Wimbledon
This is a shot of Félix Auger-Aliassime watching his friend Denis Shapovalov playing his opening-round match in the boys singles event at Wimbledon. Seated immediately below Auger-Aliassime is Shapovalov’s coach Adriano Fuorivia.
Top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic may have been eliminated in the third round at Wimbledon by Sam Querrey but practicing before the tournament began he seemed in a jaunty mood (and in a jaunty T-shirt) as he walked on court beside coach Boris Becker.
Juan Monaco appears to be pushing things by practicing for extra time on Court 14. But actually in the background that’s just one of the announcements on the scoreboards being tested before Wimbledon began last month.
During a break in one of her practice sessions before Wimbledon, Genie Bouchard was caught taking a look at her 2015 US Open mixed doubles partner, Nick Kyrgios, as he walked onto the adjacent court.
Genie visits White House
— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) July 16, 2016
Before playing the CITI Open in Washington, D.C., this week, Genie Bouchard paid a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and sent out this tweet.