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Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend Continue Their Winning Streak

DSC_87400001tennis-2

DSC_87400001tennis-3WASHINGTON, D.C. – Partnering for just the first time since winning the Junior Girls’ Doubles title at Wimbledon last year, Canadian Genie Bouchard and American Taylor Townsend took out their first round opponents in just 41 minutes at the Citi Open in Washington, DC on Monday.

As former top juniors with several singles and doubles Slams to their names, the two rising teenagers were on a doubles partnership streak that extended back to Roehampton of last year, and they weren’t ready to give that up quite yet.

“I told (Taylor), we have a streak to defend! … It’s been twelve matches or something – we can’t end that now,” commented Bouchard exclusively to Tennis Grandstand.

The pairing was a spontaneous decision that came about one recent evening after a World TeamTennis match, when the two decided to pick up where they left off last spring.

Today, during their post-match interview, the two friends were all smiles, frequently commenting on each other’s answers and playfully teasing each other when asked if they would continue the pairing.

“Are we?” questioned Townsend, looking at Bouchard. “Are we?” answered Bouchard, smiling back. “I hope so!” stated Townsend. “We better!” concluded Bouchard.

“I really enjoy playing with her,” said the 17-year-old Townsend. “We have really good chemistry on court. It’s really nice to have someone that you get along with and have so much fun on the court with as well as do really well with. So, I hope we can continue to play.”

The 19-year-old Bouchard has already been playing full-time on the WTA Tour for the past year, with her most notable results being a straight set win over Wimbledon No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic in the second round this year. She has shot up the rankings to world No. 58, but feels there is much more to be accomplished.

“I played my first pro Slam at the French (Open), and then Wimbledon,” stated Bouchard. “It’s what I have worked my whole life for to play at this stage. I got to play on Center Court on both, which was really exciting for me. It’s what I have always dreamed of doing. To me, it’s just normal – just a step. It’s still a really long journey, still not where I want to be. But it’s heading in the right direction.”

And did she believe the good Slam results and high ranking came sooner than she anticipated?

“No. I always believed in myself and I always expect myself to do really well. So, it usually happens. Now, it’s like, what’s next?”

Townsend, on the other hand, is ranked 338 in the world and just starting her pro career while still strategically placing some junior tournaments into her schedule.

DSC_87270001tennis“Basically, I’m not sure if I’m playing US Open juniors,” Townsend commented. “But I’m playing the (USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships) because if you win it, you get a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. So, why not play? It’s a great opportunity to get a lot of matches … and just work on a lot of things. I think that’s one of the main things I’ve been using the juniors for … Hopefully, next year, especially when I turn 18 and I don’t have a limit on the number of tournaments I can play, I think we can make more of a full schedule and incorporate more of the bigger tournaments as well as the pro circuit events.

Despite their young age and relative inexperience amid a veteran-packed tour, the two rising stars possess styles and weapons that make them dangerous floaters in any draw

“Most of the time when we play on the tour, we’re the underdogs so we have nothing to lose,” said Bouchard. “We can go out and play freely.”

Townsend echoed her partner’s thoughts: “No one knows who you are, no one is expecting you do to anything. You don’t really have any pressure. That’s the great thing about it. You can just go out and play freely, and enjoy everything – the crowd, the city wherever you are, and take it all in.”

The two are scheduled to play in their respective singles matches on Tuesday, where Bouchard will take on No. 3 seed Ekaterina Makarova and Townsend will open up against Monica Niculescu.

Eugenie Bouchard: Young Woman in a Big Girl’s Game

The court may be the same size, but Canadian junior champion Eugenie Bouchard struggled has struggled against big hitters like Bojana Jovanovski as she transitions onto the WTA Tour.

Nearly a year removed from her championship run to the Wimbledon girl’s title, Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard has joined the WTA tour looking every bit the part of junior prodigy turned senior contender. Impeccably packaged, Bouchard is tall, blonde, and obviously styled to have a Sharapova-like serenity on the court.

But her “womanly bearing” can be deceiving, for despite all visual cues pointing to Bouchard’s readiness to play on the woman’s tour, the fact remains: she still plays a girl’s game.

Gone are the days when young talents like Tracy Austin and Martina Hingis can sweep onto the Tour and beguile older opponents with a mature cunning that belied their age. The grinding (but ultimately underpowered) game that works wonders on the contemporary junior circuit is too often in for a rude awakening when it tries to transition to the seniors.

Serving as a stark contrast, the WTA Tour has expanded from one-dimensional “Big Babe Tennis” into early ball striking with laser-like precision. Better technique paired with more forgiving technology has raised the collective margin of error, which allows big hitters to take more risk, and narrows openings for players like Bouchard, who prefer to rely on opponents’ errors.

As much as the women’s game has evolved in the last decade, expert defenders can still make their way through a field of lower-ranked players who beat themselves. At a Wimbledon warm-up in Birmingham, Bouchard drew one such “baseline basher” in Bojana Jovanovski. The Canadian must have liked her chances of causing a minor upset against the Serbian No. 3, who lacks a lengthy grass court resumé.

But Jovanovski had just come off of consecutive victories over former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Despite the Dane’s fall from the top of the rankings (punctuated by a slump that saw her win only one match on red clay), she still plays the kind of game that could be kryptonite for the hyperagressive Serb. Wozniacki’s style of play, even at its worst, is Bouchard’s, only taken to the tenth power. Though similar at its core, Bouchard not only eschews most aggressive inclinations, but also lacks the kind of scrambling defense required to outlast players like Jovanovski.

That kind of perfect storm can have some unintentionally hilarious consequences.

After falling behind a set, Jovanovski began taking more and more advantage of the Canadian’s weak serve. By the end of the match, she was standing mere inches from the service line to crush returns and gain immediate ascendency. Bouchard was able to capitalize on enough Jovanovski errors to make games tight, but the match was always in the Serb’s hands. Though the Canadian had opportunities to level the third set, Jovanovski was able to suddenly end games at will, with winners that seemed to scream “Enough!” to both her young opponent and the crowd, who began to squirm out of sympathy for the overmatched Bouchard.

Jovanovski would end the titanic struggle anticlimactically with a 6-2 final set that was surprising in its efficiency. Far from a notorious closer, Jovanovski may have been allowed to flounder against a more game opponent, but Bouchard was in no position to make her opponent over-think things.

It may only be Bouchard’s first full year on the senior tour, but at 19, she is already older than other aforementioned “well-packaged prodigies.” As the Canadian inches into her twenties, it will only become more difficult for her to revamp her game, to “woman up” in order to compete with the game’s best. Not unlike Wozniacki, Bouchard looks built for aggression, but conversely looks less adept at retrieving compared to her Danish counterpart.

A loss like this may have come early enough to be a lesson, or perhaps an ultimatum: play a big girl’s game, or risk becoming a little girl lost.

Getting to know Milos Raonic – the ATPs new top 20 player

Raonic

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

This week, Canadian Milos Raonic has been a continuous feature in tennis discussions this week after breaking into the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time in his career. The 21-year-old young gun moved up five spots to secure his No. 19 place, thanks to his quarter-final appearance at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week.
Many have predicted great things for the rising star, speculating on whether he will be a future Grand Slam champion, on his ability to break into the top 10 or even break up the mold that has bound the top 5 players so tightly in recently years, but this achievement is something which no Canadian singles players has managed to do before. He is enjoying being on the court; he is living the dream and he still has a lot more to give. Here is a little bit of information and fun facts about the Canadian hero that many may not know about:

Who is Milos Raonic?

Milos Raonic was born Podgorica, Montenegro, in the former Yugoslavia just before Serbia became an independent country and he moved to Canada at the age of 3-years old. He did not begin playing tennis until he was 8-years old and whilst growing up his hero was Pete Sampras. It seems as though he suddenly exploded on the tennis scene from nowhere after enjoying a very successful 2011. He rocketed up the rankings from No.156 at the end of 2010 to a year-end ranking of No.31 in 2011. The 6’5” player is infamous for his booming serves and possesses an all-court style of play. He has won three career titles – his first in San Jose in 2011, which he successfully defended again this year and he has also won on the hard courts of Chennai.

How much does Raonic remember of his Serbian roots?

Milos moved to Canada with his family because of the war that continued in between the surrounding nations. Milos has said before that he doesn’t remember anything about his homeland except for one bad memory that has always stayed with him – the time when he was stung by a bee on his finger when he was 4-years old.

His super serve

When you hear the name ‘Milos Raonic’ you automatically think: big serve. As a child his father made him train with a ball machine at 6:30am and 9:00pm and those early morning starts and workouts seemed to have put him in good stead as a player. He rarely shows aggression on court (apart from when he is serving or during a rally) and emulates the speed and finesse of his hero’s service motion, Pete Sampras.

Making his mark

Milos Raonic made his mark in the tennis world after he won his first ATP Tour title at the SAP Open in San Jose beating the then-ranked world No.9 player, Fernando Verdasco. It was a very special moment for the Canadian and indeed for Canada, as it was the first time a Canadian tennis player won an ATP title since 1995. After this victory, Milos earned a lot of attention from the media – and particularly the Canadian media – which is something he has had to learn to deal with. Very much like Andy Murray and his British expectations, Raonic has expressed how he hopes that it will benefit and influence the juniors who are up and coming in Canada.

Fast Facts
• Raonic plays with a double-handed backhand
• He can speak Serbian and English
• He moved to Canada when he was 3-years old.
• Both of his parents (Dusan and Vesna) are engineers.
• He has a sister called Jelena, and a brother, Momir
• Raonic first picked up a racquet aged 8-years old.
• His favourite surface to play on is on the quick-paced hard courts.
• He confessed that when he was younger, his dad used to make him train with a ball machine early in the morning and at night as they were cheaper to hire during those times.
• Raonic enjoys watching movies and talking to family on Skype when he’s away.
• Raonic is a big fan of football (soccer) and his favourite team is Real Madrid.
• The Canadian has the correct height to be a basketball player and he supports Toronto Raptors.
• His tennis hero as a child was fourteen-time Grand Slam champion ‘Pistol’ Pete Sampras and he admitted that he recorded his matches that were shown on tv.
• He is coached by former ATP pro Galo Blanco (since October 2010)
• His ultimate goal? To remain consistently in the top 50 and break into the top 10.

Milos Raonic’s rise in the rankings has been documented by the ATP World Tour Uncovered, which you can watch using the video below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZuxYZJDoBc&feature=em-uploademail

Rejuvenated Wozniak is Dreaming Olympic Big

Aleksandra Wozniak is back in the mix

Following a tumultuous two seasons that were mired by injuries and coaching uncertainty, former world no.21 Aleksandra Wozniak has shown Top 25 form this season and is making her way back up the rankings with a renewed passion for her sport.

Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA singles title when she was crowned champion at Stanford in 2008 and appeared to destined to contend for titles for many years to come. Now 24 years old and with her hardships a thing of the past, the Wozniak hitting the court is definitely the 2.0 version. After finishing the 2011 season ranked outside the Top 100, she came into the off-season  100 percent healthy for the first time in a while. Wozniak took up boxing to improve her strength and agility. Her hard work is paying dividends so far in 2012.

Wozniak has also brought her father, Antoni back in the fold as her full-time coach. He introduced her to tennis when she was three years old and is the master technician behind her smooth strokes. Wozniak appreciates having her recently retired Dad around every day to work on the little things.

“ I am able to take my Dad on the road with me which is tremendous and makes a big difference because he can always keep improving my game,” Wozniak said. “He sees things right away and those little details make a big difference in my game. I think I’m pretty close to where I was, but I think I am coming back differently and stronger than before.”

Wozniak has improved her ranking by more than 50 places since the start of the season and finds herself ranked firmly inside the Top 60 again. Perhaps most impressive though is the kind of matches she is winning, the long, exhausting type. Matches she would have never been able to win earlier in her career. Wozniak has also played the top players very tough, losing 7-5 in the third to Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai and dropping a third set tiebreak to Venus Williams in Miami after holding a match point.

She is battling and fighting harder than ever with one lifelong dream motivating her every move, representing Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. At no. 56 on the world rankings and with few points to defend until Roland-Garros, Wozniak has put herself in a good position to earn an Olympic berth.

“As an athlete, to know you made it to the Olympics, I can’t even describe it,” Wozniak added. “For me it’s very important to represent my country the best that I can. It’s a big privilege to represent Canada at the  greatest sporting event in the world. For any athlete it is very special and it would be really exciting.”

Not only is Wozniak a transformed player, but she’s also a different person. Physically, she looks better than  ever and her renewed confidence is evident in the way she carries herself. Her likeable, radiant personality makes it easy to root for the talent Canadian and  It will be fun to watch her rise back to the upper echelon of the women’s game. Wozniak is certainly not a name any player will want to see opposite their own in the draw, especially on Wozniak’s favourite surface during the clay court season.

Milos Raonic Talks About Biggest Fear, Pete Sampras, and Good-Looking Girls

REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity


Milos Raonic stands fervent among a slew of young ATP players hoping to break into the top 10 of the world rankings this year. At 21-years-old, this Canadian has stood as a gauge of what the next generation of tennis players has to offer. Today at the Sony Ericsson Open, I had the opportunity to catch up with Milos and ask him some fan-friendly questions, including what he would be if he weren’t a tennis player and what three tennis players would he want to party with. Always honest and friendly, his answers are sure to leave you laughing!

What is the greatest moment in your career?

Winning San Jose and then defending it.  First title, and then being able to back it up is amazing.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

I would be trying to play basketball. I love the sport. But I think really I would be finishing University.

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

Pete Sampras, he was my idol. I got to play him actually last year. But any other player I would like to play? (Pause) McEnroe or Borg because it’s a big change since they played and I think it would be amazing to step up against them.

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?

Feliciano Lopez. (Smiles) He’ll bring a lot of good-looking girls.

Daniel Nestor, he’s funny and we like to tease him a bit. He’s not the biggest partier, but he’s fun to have around.

And the third player that I would pick to party with? (Long pause, converses and jokes with ATP rep). Oh, Marat Safin. He’ll bring a lot more good-looking girls too. (Laughs)

What is one thing that scares you?

(Long pause) Ok, let’s say, the biggest thing that scares me is probably being stranded in open water.

Canadian Tennis Roots Run Deeper than Raonic

Milos Raonic is the face of Canadian tennis

It would seem that the emergence of Milos Raonic as a bona fide rising star on the ATP World Tour has inspired success from his fellow Canadian tennis compatriots at all levels of the game and this was put on full display last week.

While Raonic was trying to win his second consecutive title in Memphis, Canadians were collecting hardware all over the world. After losing  the 2011 final to Andy Roddick, Raonic once again the runner-up in Memphis, falling to Jurgen Melzer in the championship match on Sunday, one week after repeating in San Jose. This run has propelled him to a career-high ranking of no. 24.

Prior to Raonic stepping on court for the singles final, Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi successfully defended their Memphis doubles title thanks to a 4-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. The victory is the pair’s second title of 2012 and the fourth trophy triumph for Nestor in Memphis. The Canadian tennis legend also captures doubles title no. 77 in his illustrious career.

Meanwhile, on the ITF Pro Circuit, Steven Diez and Peter Polansky both won their first Futures titles of the year. Diez won the $10,000 Murcia Futures event in Spain, defeating Pedro Sousa of Portugal 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. For his part, Polansky was crowned champion of the $15,000 Brownsville Futures in Texas thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Great Britain’s Daniel Cox on the title match. Polansky lost 18 games in five matches.

Sixteen-year-old Erin Routliffe, whose style of play is drawing comparisons to her compatriot Rebecca Marino, left Canada at the beginning of the month for a four-week South American clay court swing ranked no. 450 on the ITF junior rankings. She returns Monday ranked inside the Top 100 following a successful four tournament run. Routliffe played four Grade 2 events, reaching the semifinals in Peru, the quarter-finals in Bolivia, the final in Chile and concluding the run with another championship match appearance on Saturday at the Argentina Cup. This means there are now four Canadian girls ranked inside the Top 100 on the ITF world junior rankings.

Not to be outdone, Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime became the first Canadian boy  to capture the Open Super 12 in Auray, France, one of the most prestigious U12 events on the tennis calendar.

While Raonic is getting all of the attention, the impact of his new status within the sport is being felt everywhere in the tennis world and especially in Canada. Just ask any player who represents the Maple Leaf when they walk on the court.

Raonic, Haase Could Get Company From Compatriots in Top 100 in ‘12

Rogers Cup

It can be lonely in the top 100, especially if you’re Andy Murray, Ernests Gulbis or Jurgen Melzer.

They’re just three of the 21 players that are their nation’s sole representative among that ranking benchmark. But while some of them, such as Robin Soderling and Marcos Baghdatis, might not be getting any company from their compatriots any time soon, there are some national number-twos who could be backing up or surpassing their higher-ranked countrymen in 2012. Here’s a look at five of them.

Izak van der Merwe

Second-ranked player from South Africa behind Kevin Anderson

Over the course of the past four years, van der Merwe’s year-end ranking has improved—from 302 to at the end of 2008 to his current, and career-high, 113. In 2011, the 27-year-old South African won two Challenger titles on hard courts, and made the finals of another. He also advanced to the quarterfinals at the ATP World Tour 250 event in Johannesburg, where his countryman Anderson won their “home” tournament. Solid results at the start of 2012 could land van der Merwe alongside Anderson in the top 100.

Vasek Pospisil

Second-ranked player from Canada behind Milos Raonic

If it seems like Raonic appeared out of nowhere in 2011, the opposite should be expected of Pospisil in the year ahead. Big things are expected from the 21-year-old, who improved his ranking by nearly 200 points over the year. His most impressive feat in the past year was lifting his country into World Group play for the 2012 Davis Cup. Improving his place in the standings could be his next big accomplishment.

Go Soeda

Second-ranked player from Japan behind Kei Nishikori

The veteran reached his career-high ranking in 2011—90—with his best ATP Tour-level result coming in Thailand, where he reached the quarterfinals out of qualifying. He played in the main draw of three of the four Grand Slams during the year, and also won two Challenger events. Soeda had a solid finish to the year with quarterfinal finishes in two of his last three tournaments, giving him something to build upon in 2012.

Thomas Schoorel

Second-ranked player from the Netherlands behind Robin Haase

It’s been quite some time since the days of Richard Krajicek, Jan Siemerink and Paul Haarhuis. But a Dutch renaissance appears to be in effect based on the play of Haase and Schoorel behind him. The 22-year-old Schoorel cracked the top 100 in 2011, before finishing at 133, based on strong Challenger results, winning two tournaments in a row on clay. He also picked up wins over perennial top-100 players Jarkko Nieminen and Jeremy Chardy during the year, and made the second round of the French Open.

Andrey Golubev

Second-ranked player from Kazakhstan behind Mikhail Kukushkin

Things didn’t exactly go as planned for Kazakhstan’s former number one in 2011. After winning his first career title at the ATP World Tour 500 stop in Hamburg and making the finals in Kuala Lumpur in 2010, Golubev—whose career-high ranking is 33—notched a 6-26 record in the just-concluded season. Most of those wins came during the summer on outdoor hard courts, a sign that he began to rediscover some of his form after a rough start. A good run in the beginning of ’12 could help him fully put the memories of ’11, and that lower ranking, behind him.

Emergence of Canadian Tennis: Raonic, Marino, Pospisil

Rebecca Marino and Milos Raonic © Tennis Canada

For years, Canada’s tennis accomplishments could be found in one man’s trophy case, that of doubles legend Daniel Nestor. The country’s tennis community has been starving for its first bona fide singles player since the days of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi and Canadian turned Brit Greg Rusedski.

Over the past few seasons, Canadian tennis has turned over a new leaf. The proverbial ball started rolling in 2008 when Aleksandra Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title and reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in June of 2009. Fast forward two years and the emergence of a trio of 20-year-olds with big serves, Milos Raonic, Rebecca Marino and Vasek Pospisil will arguably make 2011 the greatest single season in Canadian tennis history.

An unexpected run to the fourth round of the Australian Open put Raonic on the tennis map, and in a big way. He proved his performance was no fluke, backing it up with his maiden ATP title in San Jose and a finals appearance in Memphis where he lost a dramatic championship match to Andy Roddick. His breakthrough season has allowed Raonic to become the highest ranked Canadian man in history and also earned him nomination for the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year award. In the process, Raonic has become Canada’s tennis ambassador, and a very good one at that. After recovering from hip surgery this summer, the sky is the limit for Raonic in 2012.

With Raonic watching on the sidelines, Vasek Pospisil single-handedly propelled Canada into the Davis Cup World Group for the first time since 2005, winning all three of his matches against Israel including the decisive fifth rubber. Pospisil also posted the first two Top 50 wins of his career in 2011 over Juan Igancio Chela at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and over John Isner at the Valencia Open.

A second round showing at the Australian Open, an appearance in the final at Memphis and a run to the third round of the French Open allowed Rebecca Marino to crack the Top 40 on the WTA rankings, overtaking Wozniak as the top Canadian in the women’s game.

At the junior level, Eugenie Bouchard won the Wimbledon doubles title this season and is the no. 5 ranked junior player in the world. At no. 20, Françoise Abanda is the top ranked 14-year-old on the planet.

The establishment of three National Training Centres in Montreal, Toronto and just last week in Vancouver, as well as talent id programs, is further proof that Canada is serious about developing tennis champions and intend on starting at an early age.

For the first time in a long time, the tennis world is sitting up and taking notice of Canada as one of the fastest growing tennis nations in the world. Perhaps what is most encouraging is the fact that success is coming by committee and not just the result of one player’s exploits.

Around the Corner: Home Stretch – Valencia and Basel

Andy Murray

While the WTA has almost wrapped up its season, the ATP World Tour still has a few more events to go before we have reached the elusive “off season.”

As November is now upon us, the men’s tour will turn this week to two 500 level events in Valencia, Spain and Basel, Switzerland. Let’s have a closer look at what is around the corner at both locations.

Valencia Open 500

Andy Murray returns as defending champion and is also the number on seed this year. Murray has claimed two tournament victories this season, both over Roger Federer, but would no-doubt call 2010 an off year. Still waiting for his first Grand Slam victory, there is really no way for Murray to salvage his year at this point. Anything less than a Slam at this point of his career is a let-down.

Murray opens against lefty Feliciano Lopez and could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals and then Fernando Verdasco in the semis. Nikolay Davydenko is also in the top-half of the draw as the 6th seed but has been miserable during the second half of the season.

In the bottom half, Mikhail Youzhny is the player to beat the way he has played of late. The Russian played great at the U.S. Open and has followed that up with a victory in Malaysia and a loss in the finals of St. Petersburg just this past week.

Gael Monfils and Robin Soderling will try to emerge from the bottom quarter of the draw.

For any Canadian tennis fans out there, youngster Milos Raonic fell in the first round of qualifying to Pablo Cuevas by a score of 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. Hopes of cracking the top one hundred in the world rankings will have to wait for next year for Raonic.

Swiss Indoor Basel

Former tournament ball boy Roger Federer will be trying for his fourth career title in his hometown. Seeded first, Federer will try to avenge his loss from a year ago to Novak Djokovic. Prior to that result, Federer had won the event three years in a row.

The Swiss great will open against a tricky opponent in Alexandr Dolgopolov. This is the first career meeting between the two and I feel it has upset potential written all over it. Dolgopolov is a talented youngster who has yet to have his break-out moment or victory. He plays a game with a ton of variety, has a deadly serve that is hard to read and displays great touch with his frequent drop-shots. If Roger is not on his game he could find himself in a real battle here.

Beyond Dolgopolov, Federer could face Janko Tipsarevic and Jurgen Melzer in successive matches.

In the second quarter American Andy Roddick will face compatriot Sam Querrey in an entertaining first round. I put this one at 50/50 given Roddick’s questionable health of late. David Nalbandian and Marin Cilic are also lurking in this difficult section of the draw.

In the bottom half, look for number two seed Djokovic to emerge to the finals. It would be great to see him and Fed go at it again. The Djoker will have to navigate around big serving John Isner in his quarter, and then potentially Ivan Ljubicic or Tomas Berdych in order to make it back to the finals.

After this week the Paris Masters is on the horizon, followed by a brief hiatus prior to the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Enjoy the tennis while it is still here and talk to you again next week.

Nadal & Djokovic To Play Doubles: Are You Kidding Me?

Novak Djokovic & Rafael Nadal

The song ‘Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ was unfortunately the most over-played tune from Sunday in Toronto as the Rogers Cup was forced to deal with plenty of precipitation as the qualifying tournament approached its end.

The first match of the day on Centre Court between Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan and Marius Copil of Romania began shortly after 10am local time and finally ended just after 3pm with Lu prevailing 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3. Rain halted progress for a lengthy period of time at the start of the second set and forced competitors and fans alike to play the waiting game at the Rexall Centre.

I took the time to test my serve at one of the popular interactive fan attractions on the grounds and walked away humbled by my 136 kilometre per hour attempt. Gonna do a few bicep curls and come back stronger for tomorrow.

The second match on the main stadium was between Canadian hopeful Philip Bester and veteran American Michael Russell. Bester – who looks strikingly similar to Max Mirnyi – was unable to perform like the beast he had hoped to and was beaten by the 32 year-old Russell 6-2, 6-2 in front of his home fans. Bester made good on his promise to, “go out guns blazing,” as he was the more aggressive of the two players. Unfortunately his shots were often off the mark which sent his unforced errors tally spiralling out of control. As the sun finally broke through the persistent cloud coverage it became clear that Bester was not going to get the reprieve he so-badly needed.

Of the six Canadians admitted into the qualifying draw, none have advanced to the main tournament that begins Monday. Don’t worry Canadian tennis fans, we still have four of our own represented this week so you’ll have plenty to cheer for.

Youngster Milos Raonic gets first dibs on Monday’s schedule and will face 53rd ranked Victor Hanescu on the Grandstand court at 11am. Despite giving up about ten years in age, the 19 year-old Raonic has a decent shot against a player mostly known for his clay-court prowess. One stat that may buoy Raonic’s hopes is the three straight first-round losses that Hanescu has accumulated this summer.

In the evening session top-ranked Canuck Peter Polansky gets the unenviable task of taking on Jurgen Melzer who has had the best results of his career in 2010. The Austrian made the semi-finals at Roland Garros and followed that up with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon. Not bad for an eleven year vet who had never previously advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

The doubles draw also offers some Canadian content as Frank Dancevic and partner Adil Shamasdin will face the duo of Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley on the more intimate court 1.

There are tons of great singles matches set for day one at the Rogers Cup but the real show-piece no doubt will feature Raonic and partner Vasek Pospisil against the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ tandem of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That match will close-out the evening session on Centre Court with some fireworks that will truly impress.

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