Tennis Elbow: 2016 Rogers Cup men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis

July 25, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2016 Rogers Cup.

Welcome to the Rogers Cup, the mini-major tournament in that it combines both men and women, only it does so in two different cities so the end result is kinda moot.

This year exceptionally, the Rogers Cup is held much earlier than is typical, having moved from early-to-mid August to this last week of July in an attempt to accommodate the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Quite a few players don’t really mind about the Olympics, but the Olympics are still the Olympics so the Rogers Cup gets moved around. Already, this has had quite an impact.

So no Roger Federer. And look, no Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray either. Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic are both still set to compete but in Toronto, no Federer, Nadal or Murray probably means that there won’t be nearly as many tickets sold as there could have been. I’m sorry and I love you as a city, Toronto, but you don’t love tennis; you love icons and stars. In Montreal we may goad our own into hating us and then act all offended once they do, but at least we LOVE tennis.

Men’s draw

As we’ve seen above, it’s a quite decimated main draw that will compete for the 2016 Rogers Cup title…but at least Novak Djokovic is there? The Serb is slated to compete in Toronto and will be the main favourite, despite a terrible Wimbledon. With the Olympic tournament a few days after this Masters 1000 event however, Djokovic’s focus will likely be on Rio. And this Rogers Cup won’t nearly have the same preparatory role for the US Open it typically have.

The second section of this main draw may be our favourite, a nice mix of eclectic players, Canadians and others in form. Emerging from this section will be, we believe, Milos Raonic in a repeat of his 2013 Rogers Cup magic, and David Goffin because we dig him quite a bit. The third section theoretically belongs to Kei Nishikori, but the Japanese hasn’t performed all that well on the biggest stages of the 2016 season. In his place will be Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who’s enjoying quite a nice summer, as well as Marin Cilic, who seems to have emerged from hibernation in time for the stretch run. We believe that the final and fourth section of the main draw will unfold according to logic, with Dominic Thiem and Stanislas Wawrinka emerging from the lot.

Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Tomas Berdych; David Goffin over Milos Raonic; Lucas Pouille over Marin Cilic; Stanislas Wawrinka over Dominic Thiem

Semifinals: David Goffin over Novak Djokovic; Stanislas Wawrinka over Lucas Pouille

Final: Stanislas Wawrinka over David Goffin


Women’s draw

In Montreal this summer, all eyes will be on Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. The 22-year-old, who started off her career on such high highs, has suffered through a rather terrible 2015 season and followed up with a pretty average season this year. More importantly, she’s no stranger to controversies and just about turned every Montrealer against her with a few choice quotes last week in Washington. (Basically: “To avoid the mayhem in Montreal, maybe I’ll stay here.”)

And when it’s not that, she’s asked to take sides in the Kimye vs Taylor Swift saga. What a life.

Otherwise, this main draw should still be pretty good. The Williams sisters are both slated to compete in Montreal for the second time in a row after missing the Montreal Rogers Cup so many times in the years prior—except that no, they’re not. We believe Madison Keys will emerge unscathed from the second section and, though she will then lose against Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals, she’ll be able to build on this success for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the third section of the draw is relatively wide open, so let’s pencil in Simona Halep and Kristina Mladenovic in the quarterfinals. Angelique Kerber has been playing excellent tennis and doesn’t need an easy draw to go far in Montreal, but that’s exactly what she was gifted; she could do worse than a quarterfinal berth against veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Quarterfinals: Garbine Muguruza over Carla Suarez Navarro; Madison Keys over Agnieszka Radwanska; Simona Halep over Kristina Mladenovic; Angelique Kerber over Elina Svitolina

Semifinals: Garbine Muguruza over Madison Keys; Simona Halep over Angelique Kerber

Final: Garbine Muguruza over Simona Halep

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

PODCAST: Previewing the 2016 Rogers Cup

July 24, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

In this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back to preview the Rogers Cup in both Toronto and Montreal. With a slew of top withdrawals in Toronto, we discuss the draw at hand and how the Olympics continues to hurt the Toronto event. We also discuss the women’s tournament in Montreal, which has a much more competitive field.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Monfils takes Washington title over Karlovic; Lopez wins first career clay-court title in Gstaad; Fognini takes Umag crown

July 24, 2016

Citi Open—Washington, DC, U.S.A.

No. 2 seed Gael Monfils won the biggest title of his career on Sunday in Washington, D.C., dismissing No. 13 seed Ivo Karlovic 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4. Saving two match points in the second set tiebreaker, Monfils broke his hard-serving opponent on two occasions, while fending off 28 aces to claim the title. Winning 78 percent of first serve points, Monfils improved to 3-2 against Karlovic in lifetime meetings and took home 500 ATP World Tour points. The Frenchman also pocketed $348,200 for his efforts.

Karlovic, who was attempting to win his second straight title on Tour, fell to 16-14 in 2016.

J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad—Gstaad, Switzerland

Top seed Feliciano Lopez won his first-ever clay-court title on the ATP World Tour on Sunday, defeating Robin Haase 6-4, 7-5 to claim the Swiss Open in Gstaad, Switzerland. Using his potent serve and volleying expertise, Lopez struck eight aces, won 86 percent of his first serve points and 63 percent of his second serve points. Needing one hour and 17 minutes to claim his fifth career title, Lopez improved his year-to-date record to 21-16 and 2-3 against Haase in lifetime meetings.

Haase, currently ranked No. 95 in the world, was aiming for his third career title.


Konzum Croatia Open Umag—Umag, Croatia

No. 4 seed Fabio Fognini stormed to his fourth career title on the ATP World Tour on Sunday, defeating unheralded Slovak Andrej Martin 6-4, 6-1 in the finals of the Croatia Open in Umag.

Capturing his three previous Tour titles on clay, Fognini had also reached the finals in Umag back in 2013. Needing one hour and eight minutes to seal his victory, the Italian broke serve on three occasions and controlled the tempo of the match with his topspin forehand. Never facing his 124th ranked opponent prior to today’s final, Fognini won €82,450 for his victory as well as 250 ATP World Tour points.

For his efforts, Martin captured 150 Tour points and will see his ranking hit approximately No. 92 in the world on Monday.

Reviewing the 2016 Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit

July 18, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

Looking for that extra edge this Summer as you hone your on court game for the fiercest three setters? Then look no further than the all-new Nike Air Zoom All Out FlyKnit running shoe.

Providing unparalleled comfort and flexibility, the Nike Air Zoom All Out FlyKnit is the perfect running shoe for the serious tennis player. Packed with a low-profile, Air Zoom cushioning system, the extra-breathable Flyknit upper highlights the shoe’s sock-like feel, which was also introduced earlier this year with the NikeCourt Air Zoom Ultrafly.

The long-list of benefits of this shoe are highlighted by it’s 3/4 length visible Zoom Air Unit for a plush, ultimate response. The ever-popular Flywire cables allow for a dynamic lacing system for the mid foot, while the translucent waffle rubber outsole provides a durable and traction-filled experience.

Weighing in at approximately 306 grams (size 9), the Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit is the ideal shoe for long-distance work on the track, or even a warm up jog around the corner.

More than anything, we found this tech-savvy shoe to be as comfortable as they come. Inspired by the runner that wanted a sock-like fit, Nike has continued to evolve and improve on its Flyknit series. Easy on the eyes and packing enough swag to be worn after training, the Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit will quickly become your favourite all-purpose sneaker.

The Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit is featured in both men’s and women’s versions in a multitude of colours to suit any wardrobe. Priced at $265 CAN, the Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit can be purchased today at

From the track, court or to the patio this Summer, you’ll be happy you gave the Nike Air Zoom All Out Flyknit a spin.

For more information on Nike products, check them out on Twitter @NikeCanada.

Tennis Elbow: Who wants to win a gold medal in Rio?

July 18, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon examines who will compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Every day, it seems, the field for the 2016 Rio Olympics becomes that much more diluted.

Last week, the Czech Tomas Berdych became the latest to withdraw from the event, following the lead of Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and plenty of others. They’ve had a variety of reasons to do so but mostly, it’s been for ongoing concerns over the Zika virus.

That’s right: the late-2015 scare over the virus has now potentially threatened the great sporting rendezvous. The concerns are real too: Reuters says that as many as 1.5 million people have been infected by the virus in Brazil, where the Rio Olympics are obviously held.

Milos Raonic statement: “It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my withdrawal from participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus. This was a difficult, personal choice and I do not wish for it to impact the decision of any other athlete heading to the Games. I would like to thank Tennis Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee for their ongoing support. I am very proud to have competed for Canada at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and on the world stage at several Davis Cup events. I look forward to cheering on Team Canada this summer.”

So when someone says that, “I have founded a family recently, to limit health risks toward my nearest is the utmost priority,” as Berdych did, or, like Raonic in the above post, that “This was a difficult, personal choice,” we ought to believe them. It’s true that concerns over the spread of the virus because of the Olympics might be overblown but, you know, what if? What if the virus doesn’t really spread more, but that the only family this hurts is yours? Then the dream of a career would have turned out to cost you a lifetime dream.

Of course, there are many other reasons why one should not compete in or travel to Brazil to attend the Olympics. Look, here’s a tweet about one.

And here’s a short list of reasons: the faulty bike path. A financial disaster. Oil in the water. SUPER BACTERIA in the water. More crime than ever. Unpaid cops. A shortage of hospital beds, for which I have another tweet to show you:

All of the above have created some uncertainty among the athletes, many of which have decided to simply wait another four years. Raonic, Berdych and Simona Halep have. So has Lleyton Hewitt, who would have travelled as coach with Australians Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, who have withdrawn.

It’s too bad, some may think. It’s too bad to see athletes who aren’t dedicated enough to sport their country’s colors, or something of that ilk—to which I say, well, the Olympics are way past that and have been for quite some time.

But in tennis, in large part because the sport wasn’t on the program between 1924 and 1988, the Olympic medals aren’t necessarily as big a deal as other events on the calendar. Rarity, in this case, does not begat prestige necessarily. Legacies aren’t made or broken with an Olympic gold medal; they’re built on the strength of Grand Slam titles.

Sure, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have a gold medal. But so do Miloslav Mecir, Marc Rosset, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Nicolas Massu. (The list of modern gold medalist is a little more prestigious on the women’s side, but Elena Dementieva sticks out.) Maybe that’s it: it’s great if you win, but it won’t kill you if you don’t.

And so it’s great if you compete at the Olympics, but it doesn’t really matter—especially considering that, with all due respect to the players who have withdrawn, this isn’t a doomsday scenario. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Murray, and Serena Williams are all still set to compete in Brazil. We’ll soon know, too, if Maria Sharapova is allowed to.

We almost forgot Victoria Azarenka, who will miss something that doesn’t matter that much for the only thing that does.


Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Klizan wins Hamburg title; Karlovic outlasts Muller for Newport crown; Ramos-Vinolas captures maiden title in Bastad

July 17, 2016


No. 7 seed Martin Klizan won his second ATP World Tour 500 level event of the season on Sunday, defeating No. 3 seed Pablo Cuevas 6-1, 6-4. Using his forehand to great effect, Klizan won 84 percent of his first serve points and broke serve on four occasions. Needing less than one hour to seal his title, Klizan notched the fifth title of his career and second this season. Winning in Rotterdam earlier this year, Klizan improved to 13-8 in 2016.

Cuevas, who was aiming to win his third title of 2016, fell to 28-13 on the season.



No. 2 seed Ivo Karlovic outlasted Gilles Muller at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Sunday, winning his seventh career title 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) over Gilles Muller. Needing two hours and 56 minutes to win the match, Karlovic slammed 27 aces, won 89 percent of his first serve points, and improved to 1-1 in career meetings against Muller.

The 37-year-old Croatian also won his 13th match of the season and took home $91,630 for his efforts.

Muller, who was in search of his first career singles title, fell to 0-5 in final matches.



Third seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas won his maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday in Bastad, Sweden, defeating Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4. In a match that lasted one hour and 26 minutes, Ramos-Vinolas hit two ace, won 67 percent of his second serve points and broke the serve of his countryman on five occasions. Improving his head-to-head with Verdasco to 2-3 lifetime, Ramos-Vinolas improved his season record to 24-19.

Verdasco, who was aiming to eighth title of his career, fell to 7-14 in championship matches.

Murray’s Masterpiece: The Dominant Defender Wins No. 2 at Wimbledon

July 12, 2016

by: Phillip G. Pate

This past Sunday Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon championship by defeating Milos Raonic (6–4, 7–6, 7–6) in the tournament final. Murray won Wimbledon by playing unrelenting defensive tennis. Honestly it may have been one of the sneakiest dominant displays in recent sports history. During the tournament Murray won 21 of the 23 sets he played cleaning up against the best players in the world. Yes, Novak Djokovic’s early exit didn’t set up the much anticipated final but Murray’s dominance was unquestionable as he seized the moment winning a 2nd Wimbledon trophy. In my view, Murray’s victory cements his place in history as one of the greats during tennis’s Golden Age.

Murray’s Defensive Dominance versus Milos Raonic

The signature of Andy Murray’s game has become his ability to extend points pushing players to go for more and, if Murray is at his best, eventually forcing the opponent to question the potency of their best weapon. Murray accomplished this throughout the tournament and principally in the finals versus Raonic’s herculean serve. It was unreal watching Milos Raonic consistently serve 130+ mph only to see Murray return the ball back repeatedly. Mike Agassi used to coach his most famous pupil and youngest son, Andre, to hit a player’s best shot back to them forcing the opponent to hit their best shot again and again without winning points to break down the player mentally causing a “blister on their brain.” Mr. Agassi must have enjoyed watching the Scotsman win Sunday. Murray’s return of serve was exceptional versus Raonic, whose serve already at the top of the tennis world reached what seemed like another level this weekend (we’ll cover his 147 mph serve vs. Murray later). After Raonic served only 1 ace in the 1st set and 3 aces in the 2nd set (and no service winners in either set) it was clear that as the match continued Raonic was going for more on his serve than he would have liked resulting in a declining first serve in % each set from 69% to 66% to 57%. Although Murray only broke Raonic once it was clear extending the Canadian’s service games benefited the Scotsman and most importantly led to Murray’s high number of mini-breaks during the 2 tie breakers. Just like Andre Agassi did in 1992 versus Goran Ivanisevic, Andy Murray proved that a world class return of serve can defeat a world class serve, even on grass.

Andy Murray’s Legacy

Like the politician you want to have a beer with, Andy Murray is the tennis player you want to drink a beer to. His game isn’t as gracefully charismatic as Federer’s nor as athletically dominant as Djokovic’s but Murray’s charm is his everyman style. His modern power baseline game that features a rugged two-handed backhand may not be elegant but it is the most versatile and perhaps effective backhand on tour. Murray’s athleticism mixed with power is exciting but his best features aren’t what you would associate with a world class tennis player. His hustle, so transparent that he lets out his patented grunt while chasing down would-be winners, is motivating, his two-handed backhand passing shot is almost as certain and fun as a Steph Curry 3-pointer and his animated responses as he looks up to his supporters gives him his everyman charm.

Murray has been a Hall of Fame-worthy player for a few years now. He has won 2 Wimbledon titles, 1 US Open, an Olympic Gold Medal and a Davis Cup during an era that tennis historians will view as the Golden Age. His consistent success earned him entry into the vaunted “Big Four,” a historically talented Mount Rushmore (and ironic given the lack of an American presence). In fact, enjoying Murray’s fundamentally sound game may just be the litmus test for the hard core tennis fan.

This story could have been about Murray’s renewed partnership with coach and tennis great Ivan Lendl, and it is definitely worth noting as Lendl has certainly helped him mentally and tactically, but honestly this is about Andy Murray. His Wimbledon run these past 2 weeks has been incredible. For casual tennis fans he certainly took the drama out of the tournament dominating all of his matches (even after the two sets he dropped to Tsonga he won the fifth set 6–1) but this tournament may have been Murray’s masterpiece. Pure dominance all the way through. Murray’s summer will continue with his title defense of the Olympic Gold and a run at another US Open title. Murray will have a good chance at winning both however his Wimbledon win will be his crowning achievement in 2016.

Further Murray broke down Raonic’s new found net game. Under the recent tutelage of serve and volley great, John McEnroe, the Canadian had shown an improved net presence weaved into his powerful serve and baseline game. In the SF versus Roger Federer and QF versus Sam Querrey, Raonic had converted 68% and 72% of his net points, respectively. Further, Raonic, even before linking up with McEnroe, had converted 68% of his net points in the Australian Open SF versus Andy Murray. However Murray’s passing shots were too much on Sunday as Raonic only converted 62% of his net points. The key to defeating Raonic at the net was Murray’s backhand passing shot . The Scotsman hit 12 passing shot winners by backhand versus 1 forehand passing shot winner.

The one point that best summarized this year’s Wimbledon final was Murray’s return of Raonic’s 147 mph serve in the 2nd set which Murray ultimately won with a cross court backhand passing shot. Honestly, Djokovic may still be the deserving World No. 1 but this return and subsequent winner proved why Murray was this year’s deserving Wimbledon winner.

Tennis Elbow: Andy Murray the legend, and other Wimbledon lessons

July 11, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses what he’s learned at Wimbledon 2016.

Andy Murray and Serena Williams have emerged unscathed and as newly crowned champions of this 2016 Wimbledon, that much is clear.

That said, there are quite a few lessons to remember from this edition of this major’s major. (Of course, that isn’t Wimbledon’s official title, but only because showing off isn’t a gentlemanly thing to do—because make no mistake: Wimbledon certainly believes in the Wimbledon myth.)

Andy Murray the biggest winner

In defeating Canadian Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3) and 7-6(2), Murray has cemented his status as a true legend of the game. “I’m proud to have my hands on the trophy,” Murray said after his win. “I played really good stuff today.”

He now has a third Grand Slam title, which is about the point where history tends to differentiate between the “fluke” major winners and those that had and have lasting power and career. Put it this way: we always knew Murray was not, say, Marat Safin, and now history will make sure to remember the two as distinct.

We probably won’t care much for the fact that Murray’s tally may have been higher if he hadn’t played in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic—but whatever. “[It's the] most important tournament for me every year,” the Brit said. “The wins feel extra special because of the losses.”

Have a blast, Andy. You’ve certainly earned it!

The Williams renaissance

While it was great to see Serena Williams finally win a major in 2016 and catch up to Steffi Graf with the 22nd Grand Slam title of her career, our greatest joy on the women’s draw was seeing the 36-year-old Venus Williams make her first Grand Slam semifinal since 2010.

The older Williams sister has had a rough few years but it’s been great to watch her play. And don’t look now, but she somehow has made a return to the Top 10, coming in  ranked No. 7 on the WTA Tour.

What’s the excuse for Roger Federer now?

The 2016 Wimbledon should have been Roger Federer’s to lose. He was to play on his best and favourite surface while his biggest rival, Nadal, had pulled out. Then, a few days in, his “bête noire” of the moment, Djokovic, inexplicably lost against Sam Querrey.

The coast was clear for ol’ Rog’ to finally grab another major title. Smooth sailing, as they say…but for the past few years, even a clear sky has given the Swiss problems. Federer first needed five sets against Marin Cilic only to lose his next match, another five-set marathon against the eventual finalist.

Next month at the US Open, the then-35-year-old will have his final chance in 2016 to add yet another Grand Slam title, which he hasn’t managed to do since 2012. We’ve harped on it quite a few times already this year: in 2016, Federer is just old. And the days of him winning Grand Slam events seem gone.

Does Raonic have next?

Tennis has become an old man’s game for quite some time now, which is really just another way of saying that the sport needs new faces.

Consider that 29-year-old Djokovic, 29-year-old Murray and almost-35-year-old Federer are the three foremost players on the ATP World Tour. (Nadal, 30, is a fellow superstar—though his days of domination appear to be over.) Consider, too, that Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem are the lone trio in the world’s top 10 that are younger than 27.

Tennis is an old man’s game that’s looking for a few new faces, and Raonic certainly could be one of those. He’s been on the verge of a major breakthrough for what seems like forever and, though he’s already 25 years old, he’s still improving and so have his results.

The Canadian has shown promise and should continue to for a few years. I’ve been writing on Tennis Connected since the end of 2011 and, already then, he was supposed to be next.

Maybe I’ll tell you about how he’s the reason why I started writing for this site in the first place; I’ll do it when he wins his first Grand Slam tournament, how about that?

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

PODCAST: Reviewing Wimbledon 2016

July 10, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

In this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back to review the Wimbledon Championships. After the dismissal of Novak Djokovic, we discuss the unlikely men’s final between Milos Raonic and Andy Murray and how it played out. We also tap into the ladies championship encounter between Serena Williams and Angie Kerber. Finally, we take a look at Roger Federer’s career and how many more chances he’ll have to capture his 18th Major.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

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Andy Murray wins second Wimbledon title over Raonic

July 10, 2016

Wimbledon 2016—London, England

No. 2 seed Andy Murray completed a dominating fortnight on Sunday at Wimbledon, defeating No. 6 seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(2) to win his second career title. Needing two hours and 47 minutes to complete his victory, Murray struck seven aces, won 87 percent of his first serve points and 56 percent of his second serve points. With only one break of serve by either player throughout the encounter, it was Murray who used his return of serve and backhand cross-court to keep his Canadian opponent on the defensive. Raonic, who had been averaging much harder second serves throughout the fortnight, averaged only 107 MPH throughout the final match.

Looking to win his first-ever Major title, Raonic never found his footing under the pressure-filled moment. Murray, who was 2-10 in Major finals coming into the match, hit 39 winners to 12 unforced errors in a spectacular performance. Losing in both the finals of the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year to Novak Djokovic, Murray won £2,000,000 for his victory, and 2000 ATP World Tour points for his triumph on Sunday.

Murray will next see action at the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Serbia, before heading to the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Raonic will next compete at his hometown event at the Rogers Cup.

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