The 2016 Rogers Cup got squeezed by the Rio Olympics, as a few big names (Serena Williams, defending champion Andy Murray, David Ferrer) skipped the event and a couple (Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) are nursing short-term injuries with less time to recover for Canada than usual, not to mention major stars out for other reasons (Roger Federer, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova) and Garbine Muguruza bizarrely withdrawing minutes before her first match.
Despite the decimated fields, some compelling headlines still emerged in Montreal (WTA) and Toronto (ATP):
The 17-year-old Canadian provided an early spark for his home event, upsetting a listless Nick Kyrgios and backing it up with a decent showing in a straight loss to Grigor Dimitrov. Even just a few ranking points matter when climbing the ladder up, as Shapovalov will enter the top 300 on Monday, jumping nearly 80 spots. That said, this will likely be the lefty’s only showing on the ATP Tour stage for a while, as he’ll have to cut his teeth in Futures and Challengers. With a strong serve, sweeping forehand and uncharacteristic (for a lefty) one-handed backhand, it seems like just a matter of time for Shapovalov.
Is Genie Bouchard Back?
“Back” is an ambiguous term, but it sure seemed like Bouchard has some semblance of her old form back and returned to the top 40. In a big week for Canadians other than Milos Raonic (Shapovalov won a match, Adil Shamasdin and Philip Bester beat Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic in doubles, Dan Nestor and Vasek Pospisil made the semifinals), Bouchard won a nailbiter against Lucie Safarova and a blowout over Dominika Cibulkova before letting a lead slip against…
At 26 years old, the 2007 junior U.S. Open champion made a stunning debut into the top 100 (inside the top 80, even) by making the semifinals. To get there, she took out Christina McHale in qualifying, then beat D.C. champion Yanina Wickmayer, top 10-er Carla Suarez Navarro, Bouchard and Stanford champ Johanna Konta, before getting crushed by Madison Keys in one of the biggest Cinderella runs of the season.
The Gael Monfils Resurgence Continues
He ran out gas against Djokovic in a 6-3, 6-2 semifinal loss, but that’s to be expected when playing 10 matches in 11 days. Coming off a career-best title in D.C., Monfils didn’t let the Citi Open heat wear him out north of the border, fighting through fatigue to beat David Goffin and scoring an unexpected and straightforward win over Raonic. He’s up to 11th in the world and 8th in the Race to London.
Angie Kerber and the Pursuit of No. 1
Like a pitcher surviving seven innings without his fastball, Kerber fought and scraped all week just to have a shot at the final, finally beaten by Simona Halep (Kerber led 2-0 in the third before Halep won the final six games of a strange 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 encounter). Playing far below her best, Kerber is understandably tweaked over her lack of form but should be pleased with a semifinal result. She’ll need a title in Cincinnati to take the top spot in the rankings from Williams.
The ATP Supporting Cast
Dominic Thiem’s insane schedule self-admitedly caught up with him with a hip injury. Kevin Anderson should be encouraged with a quarterfinal run considering his lost year to injury. Grigor Dimitrov looked back in full force…before flopping in the final set against Kei Nishikori. Jack Sock wasted a golden chance against Stan Wawrinka, and Wawrinka paid it forward by semi-tanking against Kei Nishikori in a winnable semifinal. Tomas Berdych? There’s nothing left to say at this point.
The WTA Final
You weren’t alone if you thought Halep was folding up the tent and going home against Kerber. To go from angrily swinging her racket and rushing to play points to reeling off the final six games was a nice plot twist. Meanwhile, Keys has now made career finals on every surface, as this is somehow her first hardcourt final. Who wins the trophy is a true tossup, considering the streakiness of both players. Halep also plays for the doubles title later in the day.
The ATP Final
Neither Djokovic nor Nishikori looked full strength this week, but they were the steadiest players in a volatile field. Nishikori can (briefly) return to the top five with a win, which would mark his first Masters 1000 shield. Should he pull off the upset, he’d steal a top four seed for Rio, which may be moot anyway if Nadal punts singles in his return from his wrist injury. Djokovic’s shaky serving could help level the unusually unbalanced playing field between him and Nishikori (possible, but unlikely).
More History for Djokovic
As for Djokovic, he breaks a three-way tie with Nadal and Federer by reaching his record 43th Masters 1000 final. A fourth Rogers Cup title would make him the first man to 30 Masters titles overall.
As Juan Jose Vallejo notes, this is Djokovic’s fifth season with 5+ Masters 1000 finals. Nadal also has five, Federer three, Murray none.
End of an Era
Speaking of the Big Four, pour one out for their collective reign in the rankings. With Wawrinka edging out Nadal for fourth, July 31st, 2016 is likely the last day Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray will ever share the top four spots. Nadal figures to reclaim his spot soon, but Federer is now guaranteed to drop out of the top five after Cincinnati. Even if Federer were to regain top form (a big ask at 35 years old), a lot can happen in the year it would take Fed to return.
First hogging 1-4 back in 2008, the combination of Nadal’s resurgence from a 2015 slump and Wawrinka losing his Roland Garros points put the Big Four back together for the last couple months.