ATP Rogers Cup Preview

by TennisPig on August 10, 2015

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga broke a decade-long stranglehold on this event’s title by the “Big Four” by scoring the unexpected win in 2014. He’s back as the 10th seed to defend the title. He seeks to become the first back-to-back Champions since Novak Djokovic did it last in 2011 & 2012. Djokovic is a three time winner of this event with a 26-5 mark all-time. He is your top seed, but has not made the Final since 2012. The 2nd seed is two-time winner Andy Murray. The Scot is 21-6 at this tournament. Rounding out the top four seeds are Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. Nishikori has not played here much at all with just a 2-2 mark. He comes in hot though after winning the Citi Open title on Sunday.

rogers cup montrealA key returnee to the Tour this week is 8th seed Milos Raonic. Raonic enters the tournament after nursing a foot problem that he had surgery on earlier this season. Raonic sounded upbeat heading into the week, telling reporters earlier this week that he feels confident heading into action. Of the other top sixteen seeds, Richard Gasquet has the best run of success at this tournament at 19-8 overall. He has made the Final twice with the last coming in 2012. Combined, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray have won the title here seven of the past eight years.

Being a Masters level tournament, there is a 56 player field. The top eight seeds receive first round byes. At the back end of the Rogers Cup, seeds generally are the ones involved in the outcome. Over the last five years, at least two non-seeds have made the quarters four of five years with a non-seed in the semifinals three out of five years.

As far as early outs, let’s take a look back at how seeds fare early in the tournament. In 2014, just two seeds lost their first matches at the Rogers Cup. In 2013, that number was five. From 2010-2012, a total of eleven seeded players lost their first matches at this event. Three in 2010, four each in 2011 and 2012. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seeds who could be prone to joining those players from the past as early exits in 2015.

#3 Stan Wawrinka
This is more based on the draw than anything. Wawrinka is going to be paired with either Fernando Verdasco or Nick Kyrgios in his first match after the opening round bye. This is Stan’s first tournament since Wimbledon and this has not always been his favorite time of year. Wawrinka should win against either, but I do think there is a chance he could get caught cold. Stan has shown us quite a bit that non-Slams don’t mean much to him.

#7 Rafael Nadal
Nadal has admitted he had a shoulder issue in Hamburg a couple weeks ago. It did not prevent him from winning the title there, but it’s not what you want coming over to the North American hard courts. Nadal draws either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Canadian wildcard Filip Peliwo. Nadal has fared well at this event with a 25-6 record over the years. In the past, this would be an afterthought that he could lose. In his current state, nothing is impossible.

#8 Milos Raonic
Raonic has to be weary of his first match in more than a month. Raonic could face either Janowicz or Karlovic to start. If Ivo progresses, Raonic will have to get used to that big serve coming from the other side of the net quickly. Milos would love to see Jerzy in this spot instead.

#12 Kevin Anderson
Anderson made the quarterfinals last year when this tournament was in Toronto. The previous two years though, he was a first-up loser. He faces Lukas Rosol to open. Anderson was stunned last week in Washington by teen phenom Alexander Zverev. That means Rosol isn’t that big of a shock winner if it happens.

#13 David Goffin
Goffin opens against a confident Steve Johnson who narrowly missed making his first ATP Final last week at the Citi Open. Goffin is in good form having made a clay court final in Gstaad. Transitioning to a faster court though will be tough, especially against a player in Johnson who has two hard court tourneys under his belt. This would be the least surprising seeded upset for me.

#14 Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov was both good and bad in D.C. last week, losing to Steve Johnson in his second match. He’s got a real tough opener against qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dimitrov owns a 2-1 head-to-head advantage. The last time they met though Dolgopolov pushed him to five sets at Wimbledon last year. With Dimitrov still searching for clues, this is a prime upset shot for Dolgopolov.

#15 Gael Monfils
Monfils opens against Fognini. That should be worth the price of admission this week in a circus-like atmosphere. Monfils has generally only lost to top tier players at this event, but we know he’s not always trustworthy on a surface switch. They have split six career meetings with only two featuring a straight sets winner. No result in this one should surprise.

1st Quarter: Novak Djokovic (1)

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Projection: Djokovic’s recent failures here will give you a little pause, but he’s still the quality of the draw. I expect him to get to the quarters, but it may be a struggle at times. Look for a surprise in the other spot. Kudla or dare I say, Gulbis anyone?

gulbisAs usual, Djokovic is the most consistent player in his quarter. 5th seeded Tomas Berdych inhabits the bottom of the draw in this quarter. In Djokovic’s half, only Grigor Dimitrov is seeded and still can’t be trusted at this point. Djokovic could see Dimitrov, Dolgopolov or Sock in this spot. None of those will especially frighten him, but all are still a shade dangerous.

The bottom half will be much more interesting with Berdych leading the way. The 12th seed Kevin Anderson is seeded to face him in the third round, but could find it hard to get there. He faces Rosol to open and then it’s either Dominic Thiem or Ernests Gulbis. Thiem owns the head-to-head advantage in that series, but could be burnt out from a lot of matches recently on clay.

Berdych may have a tough start as he’s set to face Denis Kudla or Donald Young. Kudla has been getting some time in the spotlight following his Wimbledon run and a berth in the Atlanta Open semis. Berdych has not made it past the third round at the Rogers Cup in the last three years, so this part of the draw could open up for an unseeded player.

2nd Quarter: Stan Wawrinka (3)

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Projection: With questionable focus in non-Slams, Wawrinka doesn’t look like a safe bet for the quarterfinals. If healthy, I do like Raonic to really focus on a deep run this week. The other Canadian in this draw is the X-factor for me. Pospisil has been a little middling of late, but has played well here in the past.

raonicWawrinka doesn’t have the easiest of draws in the top half of this quarter He has to get past Verdasco or Kyrgios to open. If he survives there, his third round might be to his advantage. Pospisil is a wild card in this portion of the draw and he has Yen-Hsun Lu to open. John Isner is the 16th seed in this part of the draw as well. Isner could have some trouble after a couple of long weeks with back-to-back title match appearances in Atlanta and D.C. Pospisil is the one to watch here if Wawrinka flops.

In the bottom half of the quarter, all eyes will be on 8th seed Milos Raonic to see if he’s finally healthy. Richard Gasquet is seeded 11th in this part of the draw, which would see him play Raonic in the 3rd round if everything holds to form. Gasquet has to get by fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy to open and then faces either Hyeon Chung or Leonardo Mayer. Gasquet should be too good and looks likely to be in the third round. If healthy, Raonic is the definite favorite in this part of the quarter. He is 3-1 against Gasquet lifetime.

3rd Quarter: Kei Nishikori (4)

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Projection: Nishikori for one quarterfinal spot. Nadal likely should be the other, but nothing seems likely with this current version of Rafa. Look for a different name to be in that spot. The Troicki-Youzhny winner might fit that bill. Yes, Youzhny. He’s played his best tennis in months during qualifying and hard courts have been good to him in the past. Last hurrah?

nishiThe Citi Open Champion comes in as the obvious form of this quarter. Having a bye and a weak draw should help alleviate any further concern over a leg injury. He will get Dancevic or Andujar to open and has David Goffin as the seed in this half of the quarter. It could be Steve Johnson taking the second round spot instead of Goffin. Sam Querrey or Martin Klizan will take on that winner. This looks like easy pickings for Nishikori to be in the quarterfinal mix barring a lingering injury issue.

Up top in this quarter, 7th seed Rafael Nadal comes in with better mental focus according to what he had to say in the build-up for this tournament. He should be okay against Stakhovsky or Peliwo to open if his shoulder holds up. The third round gets interesting where he could see Troicki, Youzhny, 9th seed Gilles Simon or Andreas Seppi. He’s fortunate that there is not a true power player in this section. Nadal could get through here, but you also have to watch Troicki to see if he improves after looking poor last week in D.C.

4th Quarter: Andy Murray (2)

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Projection: Murray should be ready to make amends for losing last week in D.C. and looks like a potential quarterfinalist. On bottom, Tsonga or Cilic is likely, but that almost seems too standard. Perhaps expect a surprise down there with Coric or Tomic with an “on” week.

andy-murrayMurray fell in his first match of the hard court swing at the Citi Open last week to shot making machine Temuraz Gabashvili. This isn’t a simple draw for him as he faces either Feliciano Lopez or Tommy Robredo in his first match. Robredo has never lost to Lopez in four meetings. Lopez as semifinal points to defend this week after a suprise run last year. 15th seed Gael Monfils is seeded to face Murray in the third round with this draw. His match with Fabio Fognini in the opening round could yield a darkhorse. The winner likely gets big serving GIlles Muller. That side of the draw seems pretty open.

The other half of the quarter houses defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 6th seed Marin Cilic. Tsonga faces talented youngster Borna Coric to open. Coric has shown some promise on this surface, so Tsonga will need to be geared up to begin. The winner there gets Roberto Bautista-Agut or Janko Tipsarevic. RBA has been mediocre for most of the season and has only played the Rogers Cup once, Tipsarevic simply has not found his game since returning from injury in April. The Tsonga-Coric winner looks good to go here.

Cilic has a bye and then gets Joao Sousa or Bernard Tomic. Sousa is tougher than you think on hard courts. With Tomic’s weird behavior last week in losing to Steve Johnson, it’s not that odd to think Sousa can beat him or that Tomic could turn up with the intent to win this week. Your guess is as good as anyone’s. If it comes down to Tsonga vs. Cilic for a slot in the quarters, Cilic who was won three straight against Tsonga.

Futures Watch
Nishikori +1000
Raonic +2500

Djokovic at -110 is too short after failing to make the Final here the last two years. He should well win this, but that’s not a worthy investment. Nishikori does look a solid short if you think he won’t have any lingering health issues. Raonic could be a steal at a big price, but you might want to watch a round before investing.

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