The first big hard court event of this jam-packed summer, the Rogers Cup, will get underway on Monday in Toronto. With three of the big four taking a pass this year, Novak Djokovic enters the tournament as not only the top seed, but the only former champion in the draw and the overwhelming favourite.
However, the absence of some of the games’ greatest champions leaves the draw wide open for the rest of the tour step in and potentially make a charge at a big title. Let’s take a look at the draw for the 2016 Rogers Cup.
First Quarter: Djokovic’s clear path
As if his three biggest challengers withdrawing wasn’t enough to give top seed Djokovic a boost, he has been given a fairly easy draw. The world number one will take on either Gilles Muller or Dimitry Tursunov in the second round following a first-round bye. The first seed he could face is Lucas Pouille, the 14th seed, who is in a part of the draw with two qualifiers and Canadian wildcard Peter Polansky.
The quarterfinal could be a little trickier, as he will almost inevitably face someone with major firepower. Fifth seed Tomas Berdych as ninth seed John Isner are the likely potential quarterfinal opponents for the world number one, assuming the battle through a tricky section that includes Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig, Dudi Sela, and Andrey Kuznetsov. Still, none of these players should really be able to challenge Djokovic.
Quarterfinal: Djokovic d. Berdych
Second Quarter: Oh Canada
The three most successful Canadians in recent memory at the Rogers Cup have all been drawn into the same quarter, including the top two Canadians in the rankings. Milos Raonic, seeded 4th, leads this quarter. After a first round bye, he will take on either young gun Alexander Zverev or veteran Yen-Hsun Lu. His first seeded opponent could be Steve Johnson, although the erratic Fabio Fognini is also in that section.
Canadian number two Vasek Pospisil and 2007 quarterfinalist Frank Dancevic also feature in this section of the draw. Pospisil faces a tough opening match in the form of Jeremy Chardy, with a likely date with tenth seed Gael Monfils looming in the second round. Dancevic has a tougher task with Sam Querrey, who is coming off a career-best performance at Wimbledon where he upset Novak Djokovic before reaching the quarterfinals. The winner will take on David Goffin. A potential Raonic-Goffin showdown in the quarters is looming, where the Belgian will look for revenge after the Canadian roared back from two sets to love down to beat him at Wimbledon. But Goffin will have to get past Monfils first.
Quarterfinal: Raonic d. Goffin
Third Quarter: The Kids are Alright
A potential 2014 US Open final rematch is slightly overshadowed by the number of young guns in this quarter of the draw. Third seed Kei Nishikori is the highest seed in this section and is joined by Eighth seed Marin Cilic. The Croatian could face American teen Taylor Fritz in the second round, assuming Fritz gets past serve machine Ivo Karlovic. Perhaps the most intriguing first round match in the draw is in the section, pitting the volatile Aussie youngster Nick Kyrgios against Canadian junior sensation and recent junior Wimbledon champion Denis Shapovalov, who will be making is Masters 1000 debut. Former Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov is also in this section.
Nishikori’s section of the draw shouldn’t be too bad. He has a first-round bye and will face either Frederico Delbonis or a qualifier in his opening match. 13th seed Lucas Pouille is a potential third round opponent, assuming he gets past a qualifier and either Rajeev Ram or the inconsistent Ernests Gulbis in the second round. The big question mark in this section is Nishikori’s health. The Japanese hasn’t played since retiring in his fourth round match at Wimbledon against Cilic.
Quarterfinal: Cilic d. Nishikori
Fourth Quarter: Test for the Seeds
In an interesting twist, there is only one qualifier in the bottom section of the draw, meaning this section contains the most high-ranked players in the draw. Second seed Stan Wawrinka leads the charge and shouldn’t have too much trouble getting past either Mikhail Youzhny or Stephane Robert. However, he is all but guaranteed a tough third round match against one of Alexandr Dolgopolov, Denis Kudla, Donald Young, or 16th seed Jack Sock.
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem won’t have it much easier, as he will open against a big hitter, whether it be Viktor Troicki or Kevin Anderson. 12th seed Bernard Tomic faces the lone qualifier and will play either Canadian wildcard Steven Diez or Brit Kyle Edmund in the second round before a possible date with Thiem in the third round. No matter who reaches the last eight in this quarter they will likely have to give a lot to get there.
Quarterfinal: Thiem d. Wawrinka
Semifinals and Finals Predictions
Semifinals: Djokovic d. Raonic, Cilic d. Thiem
Final: Djokovic d. Cilic