Thanks to the Olympics, the summer schedule this year is as claustrophobic as you will ever see. And it especially hurts the first Masters event of this hardcourt swing, the Canadian Open Masters in Toronto. With the start of Rio exactly two weeks away, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal said no thanks to Canada. So too did former champion JW Tsonga.
Novak Djokovic, however, is in. And with a tough Toronto-Rio-Cincinnati trifecta ahead, I wonder how much convincing it took from the ATP and tournament officials to make sure he showed up. Is he really going to play all three, then take a week off and then his US Open title defense? Seems like a longshot.
Anyway, the three-time champion Djokovic is in Toronto and he is in the draw. That’s good. And no surprise, with little opposition, he’s the massive favorite to win it for the fourth time.
Novak Djokovic Quarter
I don’t see much issue for Djokovic here. Benoit Paire in the third round? Tomas Berdych could meet John Isner in his third round. So some quirky big hitters, and let’s include Gilles Muller. If Isner gets through maybe he can bother Novak some like he did in the summer three years ago in Cincinnati. But there shouldn’t be much drama otherwise.
The pick: Novak Djokovic
Milos Raonic Quarter
In one of the best second matches, Canadian hope Milos Raonic could face 19-year-old Alex Zverev. Right now, I think Raonic is just too strong for the German but it’s an interesting match. Raonic then might face Steve Johnson then maybe David Goffin, or Gael Monfils or Sam Querrey. Note that Zverev, Johnson and Monfils are all playing in the Washington semifinals today, so they might be a little fatigued next week, especially the two finalists. So I’ll lean to Goffin to get through but Raonic takes him down to reach the semifinals. After that Wimbledon final, Milos has to be feeling pretty good about where things are at. And we know the serve will be there.
The pick: Milos Raonic
Kei Nishikori Quarter
The bottom half is really wide open and just about any of the top names could get through. In the third quarter, that includes Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios and Marin Cilic. After giving away two 2-0 set leads in the last month and dropping his coach Goran Ivanisevic, Cilic may not be seeing things clearly. Kyrgios remains unpredictable while Nishikori is always an injury away. I think one of those three will get to the semifinals, and right now my gut tells my that guy is Kyrgios. Looking at Nick’s recent losses, they’ve all been to quality opponents and if the courts are playing quick that goes in his favor.
The pick: Nick Kyrgios
Stan Wawrinka Quarter
Not many at the top have struggled more this year than Stan Wawrinka. And he’s lucky to still be ranked No. 4. He made the semifinals at the French – albeit without beating a single Top 20 player – and then won just one match on the grass under temp coach Richard Krajicek. But here again, another great draw that gets him to the quarters and that’s where it ends when he goes up against Dominic Thiem. That is if Thiem can transition from the Kitzbuhel clay to the quick courts in Canada, he could make a semifinal run. Wait…On second thought, I think Thiem, who needs to show me more on a fast hardcourt, gets upset maybe by Kevin Anderson and Stan takes advantage of another superb draw.
The pick: Stan Wawrinka
Djokovic v Raonic: I like Djokovic here.
Kyrgios v Warwinka: Rematch from last year and the result is the same – it’s Kyrgios!
Djokovic v Kyrgios: After missing out on Wimbledon, Novak will get back on the winning track.
Like I said, too bad the Olympics has jammed up this summer schedule leading to thos top withdrawals plus the absence of guys like David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Juan Martin del Potro. And I wonder how many guys will give it their all in Toronto with that trip to Rio looming. So for guys like Kyrgios, Thiem and Raonic, etc., next week presents a fantastic opportunity to pick up some points and maybe get to a Masters final.
And I’m interested to see how Novak responds after that weird finish at Wimbledon. Let’s see if whatever that was bothering him in London – and something was – is no longer an issue. The fact that he’s playing tells me he’s on solid ground again. And it’s his favorite surface.
Novak or the field, who do you pick?
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