The first Tennis Masters event of the summer kicks off on Monday on the hardcourts at the Canadian Open in Toronto. The draw is out so let me jump right to the highlights.
Rafael Nadal is the top seed in this 56-man field. In his quarter he’ll potentially have a tricky opening round date with Stan Wawrinka before having to deal with Sam Querrey. Then, Andy Roddick or Marin Cilic could be waiting in the final eight. So no easy matches for Rafa. At least not in my forecast. Roddick has a great first match Wednesday against either a qualifier or a Canadian WC but then will have a rematch with Cilic who beat the American at the Australian Open.
Andy Murray could open title defense against the hot-handed Xavier Malisse and then in the quarters bump into either David Nalbandian or Robin Soderling. Nalbandian will play David Ferrer in the first round to play possibly Tommy Robredo in round two. Soderling will meet the Ernests Gulbis/Tomaz Bellucci winner as part of a brutal 16th quadrant.
Thing get precipitously calmer in the bottom half. Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych could get a rematch with Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. In fact, the draw looks good for both guys. Berdcyh might have to contend with Richard Gasquet, then Phil Petzschner before a meeting with the Swiss. Federer, who’ll have new trial coach Paul Annacone at his service, has the winner of Chela and Alejandro Falla and then possibly Nicolas Almagro.
In the final section, Novak Djokovic is No. 2 seed and the heavy favorite of another relatively weak section. Djokovic has Julien Benneteau, then in a rematch of the French Open, he has Jurgen Melzer with Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko or Marcos Baghdatis looming in the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal matchups by seed look like: 1 Nadal v. 8 Roddick; 4 Murray v. 5 Soderling; 7 Berdych v. 3 Federer; 6 Davydenko v. 2 Djokovic.
The projected semifinals: Nadal v. Murray; Federer v. Djokovic.
Clearly for me the top is by far the tougher half of the draw. Both Nadal’s and Murray’s sections are absolutely loaded.
That said, I like the winner of the event coming from the bottom half between Federer and Djokovic. I think Nadal will do well but there’s going to be some tough matches for him and for whomever emerges from the Murray section. Maybe Nalbandian. Regarless the top half finalist will have gone through a difficult and perhaps exhausting path. So I give a slight initial edge to the bottom half favorites.
Among the absentees are 2009 finalist Juan Martin Del Potro, 2009 semifinalist JW Tsonga, Lleyton Hewitt and John Isner.
For those interested going to the event, the tournament has already announced (I’ve started to figure out this twitter thing) Federer will play Tuesday night, Nadal Wednesday night. Djokovic/Soderling also on for Tuesday. Murray/Roddick on Wednesday. Monfils/Gonzalez will be the Monday night match.
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