For the second year in a row, the Rogers Cup draw ceremony was held atop Canada’s highest man-made peak. The CN Tower played host on Friday to the number one player in the world as Rafael Nadal filled a decisive role in slotting players into their respective starting positions.
I must admit it was certainly the most impressive location I’ve ever been to for this type of gathering and I tried to ignore my fear of heights as I shot straight up 1700 meters in an elevator above the city of Toronto.
Rafa arrived right on time at 4pm sharp to a healthy round of applause from tournament officials, local VIP’s and members of the media. He seemed to be in quite a good mood, but then again wouldn’t you if you had just won the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back and also watched your country win the World Cup?
After a quick hello from tournament director Karl Hale and a brief generic intro from Rafa himself, the big moment of determining who will play who had arrived.
Nadal and number two seed Novak Djokovic were immediately placed on opposite sides of the draw. Then came the time where third seed Roger Federer and fourth seed Andy Murray were placed as tournament organizers anxiously crossed their fingers for the potential of a Nadal/Federer final. Djokovic might be second in the world now, but let’s be honest – we all want a Nadal vs Federer hard court final, right?
ATP official Tony Cho told Rafa he could pass the pressure of selecting a name to Karl Hale, but the Spaniard seemed to relish the opportunity to select his own eventual fate. Things worked out exactly as many had hoped with Murray ending up in the top half with Nadal and Federer ending up in the bottom half with Djokovic. Thank you tennis Gods!
Some of the more interesting first round matches include Gael Monfils the 15th seed against Fernando Gonzalez. David Ferrer the 10th seed has the misfortune of facing a suddenly resurgent David Nalbandian. Meanwhile, Gilles Simon will face 12th seeded Mikhail Youzhny which should also be a good one.
The top eight seeds in the tournament receive a first round bye, meaning they will not play their first matches until Tuesday and Wednesday.
The four Canadian wildcards in the draw received a mixed offering for the opening round. Canada’s best hope, Frank Dancevic always seems to draw tough opponents in his home tournament and this year is no different as he will face Stanislas Wawrinka. Should he get past him he will have the honor of playing against Nadal in the second round.
Pierre-Ludovic Duclos was fortunate to receive a qualifier as his first opponent. The plus side is that whoever he faces will have a lower ranking but on the negative side of things they will have two qualifying matches already under their belt.
Roger Federer’s practice partner in Canada, Peter Polansky, gets 13th seeded Jurgen Melzer for his first match, while 19 year old Milos Raonic will meet Victor Hanescu.
Looking at both halves of the draw is seems to me that the top portion is the stronger battlefield. Nadal will have to get through the likes of Wawrinka, Querrey, Roddick and Murray just to make it to the finals. Others like Robin Soderling, David Nalbandian and Marin Cilic also lurk in the top half.
In the bottom half, Federer has a nice quarter where he could face Wimbledon nemesis in the final eight. Before that however he has a relatively stress-free opening couple of matches. Novak Djokovic should be untroubled advancing to the semi-finals with a struggling Nikolay Davydenko and Jurgen Melzer has his only major threats.
After a month long layoff from any serious tennis it should be a great week of tennis here in Toronto. Stay tuned to Tennis Grandstand as we will be keeping you up to date daily from the Rogers Cup.
Photos by Mike McIntyre.