Hard Landing

by: Steve Tignor August 07, 2012

TENNIS.com

JMDPIt's back to the grind time. After a six-week retreat together on All England Club grass, the pros go their separate ways on the hard courts of North America. The men are already underway in Toronto, minus a few prominent names, and with a few that seem uncertain how much they want to be there. Jamming the Olympics, the equivalent of a dual-gender Masters event in which everyone plays singles and doubles, into the middle of the summer was always going to spell trouble for the North American events. Toronto, which will be missing the two biggest ATP draws, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, as well as world No. 5 David Ferrer and injured former champ Andy Roddick, has taken a hit. To start, all 16 seeds have been given byes into the second round. We'll see what that does to the upset count, which could otherwise be high.

Still, if the other three Olympic semifinalists, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, and Novak Djokovic, can get themselves across the Atlantic in one piece and get off to a good start, the Rogers Cup should be fine. Contrary to what the results of every big tournament of the last five years may tell you, the ATP is still about more than just the Big 4. Here’s a belated look at the draw. How the London semifinalists will bounce back here is anybody’s guess. Murray, despite making the flight, hasn’t even committed to playing yet.

*****

First Quarter
What’s wrong with Novak? This appears to be the question of the day. He was shut out of a medal in London, and appeared tired by the end of the week. Even his old coach, Jelena Gencic, is speculating that he’s having personal issues. But Djokovic, the defending champion in Toronto, is set to play his friend Bernard Tomic in his opener. Just what you need when you get off a plane—a new surface, and a lot of irritating dinks and slices and changes of pace. This match is no gimme for Novak, but hopefully getting back on his favorite type of court after a month on his least favorite will give him a boost.

Also in this quarter: Del Potro, 2012 bronze medalist and former champ here. He had an emotional week in London, to say the least, but it ended on a high—after winning bronze, he pronounced himself "the happiest man in the world." We’ll see how he transitions against the winner of Dolgopolov and Stepanek. Dolgo is coming off his second career title, in D.C., and could make Del Potro distinctly less happy with his tricky game.

First-round match to watch: Nalbandian vs. Haas

Potential second-round match to watch: Nishikori vs. Querrey

Semifinalist: Del Potro

*****

Second Quarter
Last week was also a busy one for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the top seed in this section. He made the quarters of the singles and the doubles final. He’ll open with his countryman Jeremy Chardy and probably get Florian Mayer, whose awkward game could give him fits, after that. But this isn’t a stacked section by any means—Tipsarevic, Baghdatis, Cilic, Youzhny and Anderson are competing for a quarterfinal spot. I don’t know what kind of shape Tsonga will be in, but at the moment he still has to be the favorite for the semifinals.

Semifinalist: Tsonga

*****

Third Quarter
An interesting section. The top seed is Tomas Berdych, who has spent the last month or so losing in two opening rounds at the All England Club. He was having a good 2012 until then; he should be nice and rested, who knows where his head will be now. The second seed is Juan Monaco, who has played well in 2012 but has reached few Masters semis in the past. 

This would seem to leave an opening for last year’s Rogers Cup finalist, Mardy Fish. The American, who reached the semifinals in D.C. last week and always saves his best for the summer hard-court season, opens against Matthew Ebden this afternoon, and might get Monaco after that. One problem: Fish has lost his last three matches to Monaco.

Also here: Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau, who are coming off the high of their Olympics bronze in doubles. Gasquet was a finalist in Toronto way back in 2006, and would seem to be a threat for the semifinals—he’ll open against the winner of Dancevic and Kukushkin.

Qualifier: Wayne Odesnik, who starts against Benneteau

Second-round match to watch: Monaco vs. Canada’s Vasik Pospisil. This one should have atmosphere.

Semifinalist: Fish

*****

Fourth Quarter
If Murray does decide he’s fit to play tomorrow, he’ll do it against Flavio Cipolla. If he’s fit enough to win, which seems likely, he’ll play the winner of Milos Raonic and Viktor Troicki. Raonic is the home-country favorite, which means, well, we’ll see. At this time last year, he was sidelined after having hip surgery. He played well at the Olympics after a poor effort at Wimbledon, and would seem to be primed to go deep into a tournament with an absent Federer and Nadal, and a possibly gassed Djokovic and Murray.

In the other half of this section is Raonic’s fellow tower of serving power, John Isner, who has also bounced back from a poor Wimbledon effort this summer. Isner has a manageable draw—Andujar to open; Kohlschreiber, Lu, or Fognini after that.

Potential third-round match to watch: Murray vs. Raonic. The Canadian won their last meeting, in Barcelona, which actually may not bode well for him this time. If Murray needs a motivational jolt, not wanting to lose to Raonic two times in a row could supply it.

Semifinalist: Isner

*****

Semifinals: Del Potro d. Tsonga; Fish d. Isner

Final: Del Potro d. Fish

More Stories

The most arresting player in tennis, Nadal is on a rediscovery quest

The Spaniard is working exceedingly hard to recover his old winning ways. 

Three to See, Miami Open: Kerber plays Venus, Sock takes on Nadal

Three of the six meetings between the German and the American have gone the distance. 

A look at Alexander Zverev’s finger-wagging run to the Miami quarters

The 19-year-old German knocked off top seed Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday.