The Montreal Masters event kicks off on Monday and even though there are several absentees the draw is still a deep one with 17 of the Top 20 entered and accounted for. Rafael Nadal as a No. 4 seed was the wildcard and he fell on the Novak Djokovic side. Andy Murray wasn’t spared, on his half he’s got big men Tomas Berdych, John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro who he could face in the quarters.
Djokovic beat Richard Gasquet in the final last year, and this time he might have to face the Frenchman in the quarterfinals. Djokovic, who’ll get a bye like the other Top 8 seeds, has to be pleased with his section. He’ll open against either Florian Mayer or Bernard Tomic, then likely Denis Istomin who I think takes out the slumping Janko Tipsarevic before the Gasquet rematch. Richard will be tested in the third I think by Kei Nishikori but he plays well in Canada and we’ll see that again from him.
Nadal returns to the hardcourts and the site of his 2005 win over Andre Agassi and I like his draw. There is Jerzy Janowicz in the third round but the Wimbledon semifinalist hasn’t proven himself a big threat on the outdoor hardcourts yet and someone like Juliean Benneteau could blitz him in his opener. In the quarterfinals Rafa could face Stan Wawrinka who like Roger Federer is also dealing with some back issues but the greater likelihood is German veteran Tommy Haas will be the guy standing there.
I’ll make Berdych the slight favorite in a very difficult quarter that includes Isner, Kevin Anderson, Nicolas Almagro, Gilles Simon and David Ferrer. The quick courts should help the big servers and this section is full of them, including Almagro! The Czech, though, could have the toughest road of anyone with Anderson, Isner and Ferrer looming. But I’m take Tomas here. After Rafa won in 2005, who beat him in 2006? It was Tomas!
In the last quarter, it’s a two man show with Murray and Del Potro and I don’t see anyone getting in the way of that blockbuster quarterfinal. Grigor Dimitrov might push Murray a bit in the Scot’s opener and Del Potro could be tested by the struggling Canadian Milos Raonic in the third round, but otherwise it should be smooth sailing for the two former US Open champions and two guys. And right now if there is a rematch of their 2009 Montreal final I’ll take Murray to beat Delpo again in Canada.
So my early semifinals look like Djokovic v. Nadal, Berdych v. Murray. In my final I’ll pick Djokovic over Murray, but a lot will depend on how they play leading up to that point.
This will be Murray’s first event since winning Wimbledon, and it will be interesting to see his level as he looks ahead to that US Open defense. Does Lendl want Murray winning everything right out of the gate, or a would a slow build toward New York be more beneficial?
For Djokovic, he really needs to get his game on track. After failing to win either Indian Wells or Miami, if any player needs to win Montreal it is him. And he’s a 3-time Canadian Open champion whereas he’s never won in Cincinnati. So the time now for Novak.
As for Nadal, if he can put together a few good wins, push Novak in the semifinals and leave Montreal with no knee issues, that’s probably a good week. Especially after the Wimbledon disappointment.
Another player under the spotlight this week in Raonic. It’s his home event and as the face of Canadian tennis it’s really the biggest tournament of his 2013 season.
Also look for players doing well in Washington – like Isner, Anderson or Haas – then having to quickly play in Montreal on Tuesday or even Monday. It’s summer, it’s hot and the grind can take its toll.
Matches begin on Monday on the Tennis Channel.
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