Nadal, Djokovic return to tour in Toronto at a Roger-less Rogers Cup

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WATCH—Championship point from Sascha Zverev's win over Alex de Minaur in D.C.:

The race to the final Grand Slam of 2018 is upon us: Who will grab the pole position first? We’ll find out this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where the big guns of the men’s game—minus Roger Federer and Andy Murray—gather for the first time since Wimbledon.

First Quarter

How much does Canada matter to Rafael Nadal’s US Open chances? In 2013, he won the title in Montreal and went on to win the Open. Last year, he was upset by Denis Shapovalov in the third round before winning at Flushing Meadows for a third time. So, while a victory in Toronto for the world No. 1 would be nice, it’s not necessary.

Nadal, who is playing better tennis than he was when he came to this event a year ago, will start against either Jared Donaldson or Benoit Paire. The first seed—and likely the most dangerous opponent—he could face is Nick Kyrgios, who beat him last year in Cincinnati. If things go as planned, Rafa’s quarterfinal opponent will be Marin Cilic. But things might not go as planned: Cilic hasn’t reached the quarters at the Rogers Cup since 2008.

Player to watch: Borna Coric, who could play his countryman Cilic in the second round.

First-round matches to watch: Kyrgios vs. Stan Wawrinka: You remember what happened the last time these two played in Canada, right?

Another interesting first-round match: Diego Schwartzman vs. Kyle Edmund

Semifinalist: Nadal

Second Quarter

This weekend, Juan Martin del Potro reached the final in Los Cabos. The last time he went that far at a tournament in Mexico, in Acapulco in March, he turned around and won a Masters event, in Indian Wells. After that performance, which included a win over Federer, and deep runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, it feels like Delpo is building to a big result at the US Open, where he won his only major nine years ago. His road this week won’t be especially easy, though; he could start against Kei Nishikori, and he’s scheduled to play an in-form John Isner in the quarterfinals.

First-round match to watch: Shapovalov vs. Jeremy Chardy: Is the Canadian kid due for a letdown after his semifinal run in Montreal 12 months ago?

Semifinalist: Del Potro

WATCH—Match point from Djokovic's win over Nadal in the semifinals at Wimbledon:

Third Quarter

The top two seeds here are Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov. It’s safe to say that one of them is surging, while the other is...not. You might even say that Anderson, who has reached two major finals over the last year, is doing what Dimitrov was supposed to do this season, after the Bulgarian's strong finish to 2017.

Anderson is also doing things in reverse. While the 32-year-old has been to two Grand Slam finals, he has yet to make it that far at a Masters event. Toronto would seem to be the place for him to rectify that. He has reached the quarters at this tournament three of the last four years, and now, as the No. 4 seed, he won’t face a big name if he reaches that round again. For now, the question is: Are we suddenly comfortable predicting that Anderson will make a Masters 1000 semifinals, or are we not quite there yet?

First-round matches to watch: Milos Raonic vs. David Goffin, Frances Tiafoe vs. Marco Cecchinato

Potential second-round match to watch: Anderson vs. Andrey Rublev

Semifinalist: Anderson

Fourth Quarter

Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, the cream of the ATP’s next crop, are the top two seeds in the bottom quarter. The last time that happened, at Roland Garros, Thiem routed Zverev in the quarterfinals, but at the moment Zverev appears to be ascendant again. While Thiem was losing early last week in Austria, Zverev was finding his way through difficult conditions to defend his title at the Citi Open. Does this mean that Zverev, after a topsy-turvy couple of months, is on track to defend his Rogers Cup title as well?

Not so fast. This time there’s another, scarier name for Zverev and Thiem to contend within their quarter: Novak Djokovic. While he’s just the ninth seed, as a four-time champion in Canada, and the champion at Wimbledon last month, Djokovic has to be the favorite to reach the semis, if not to win the tournament. But he’ll have his work cut out for him: Before he gets to Thiem and/or Zverev, Djokovic will face the man who beat him at the Australian Open earlier this year, Hyeon Chung.

First-round matches to watch: Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Lucas Pouille, Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Damir Dzumhur, Djokovic vs. Chung

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Semifinals: Del Potro d. Nadal; Djokovic d. Anderson

Final: Del Potro d. Djokovic

ATP Toronto
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.

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