WATCH: Novak Djokovic at the Rogers Cup
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The difference between the No. 8 seed and the No. 9 seed in a tournament is just one position in the rankings but grandiose in other respects. Just ask Novak Djokovic, the No. 9 seed at the Rogers Cup who, without the benefit of a first-round bye, is playing for the third day in a row. If the Wimbledon champion is to add another Canadian Masters trophy to his collection, he'll need to win six matches in six days.
The same can be said for Tsitsipas, unseeded in Toronto but playing like someone in the Top 8. The 27th-ranked 19-year-old is enjoying a prosperous summer on hard courts, having already reached the semifinals of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. It was there that the Greek talent ran into a superior obstacle, Alexander Zverev, and his afternoon meeting with Djokovic on Thursday could lead to a similar result. But even if Tsitsipas bows out, I'd look for him to post a strong, rebound result in Cincinnati, with many of his competitors likely to be fatigued from the Toronto gauntlet (even Rafael Nadal would have to win five matches in five days for the title).
But let's stay up north for the time being. Djokovic couldn't have asked for a better introduction to hard courts so far; he's won two straight-set matches against Mirza Basic and Peter Polansky, opponents who made him make shots, but ultimately weren't threatening enough to pose a serious threat.
Tsitsipas is a different level of player, and the two have never played each other on tour. If nothing else, Tsitsipas will give us an indication of where Djokovic's form is currently at. There's been nothing to suggest that Djokovic isn't "back," and he's clearly the favorite. But an upset would raise some questions about the Serb—while also signalling Tsitsipas' true arrival.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Watch live coverage from four courts on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, August 6th at 11:00 A.M.