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 2021 National Bank Open.
Quick, think fast. Without looking it up, can you name the two singles gold medalists from the just-concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
Please don’t cheat and go on Google. Okay sure, maybe you read our last column so you know that Belinda Bencic won the singles gold medal for women’s tennis. But what about the men’s singles gold medal? Do you have a clue? Pfft, come on we all know it’s Novak Djokovic who won it. (Editor’s note: actually, Alexander Zverev won it all in Tokyo.)
Welp, we say all this to say this: winning an Olympic gold medal has to be undeniably one of the greatest and most important accomplishments of a player’s career. (Just look at how it affected Djokovic not to win it.) That said, the rest of us will likely not remember who did or didn’t win a gold medal in their playing career.
For better or worse, winning an Olympic gold medal doesn’t enhance or diminish a player’s legacy. It’s not that it’s right or wrong, it’s just that this is how things are. Put it this way: Andy Murray will make the International Tennis Hall of Fame not because he won two singles gold medals but because he won three Grand Slam titles.
2021 National Bank Open preview
That said, the purpose of this column is to write a short and quick breakdown of both main draws of this week’s 2021 National Bank Open. This tournament is very much a big deal, even coming on the heels of this year’s Summer Olympics. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Most importantly, please don’t wager based on these picks: we’re typically pretty bad and wrong.
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka has hinted at great potential and great things to come, but she hasn’t quite put it all together yet. For the most part, this is entirely fine: as a 23-year-old, Sabalenka still has time on her side. But the road to her second career Grand Slam semifinal starts this week in Montreal.
Elsewhere on the main draw, we have a good mix of favourites and in-form players. But what we’d really love to happen is to see Bianca Andreescu get back to her winning ways in front of her Canadian fans. Fingers crossed.
Quarterfinals: Victoria Azarenka over Aryna Sabalenka; Garbine Muguruza over Karolina Muchova; Coco Gauff over Petra Kvitova; Bianca Andreescu over Simona Halep
Semifinals: Garbine Muguruza over Victoria Azarenka; Bianca Andreescu over Coco Gauff
Final: Bianca Andreescu over Garbine Muguruza
As for the men’s draw, it’s a little diminished since neither Djokovic nor birthday boy and 40-year-old Roger Federer are here. But let’s focus on what we do have. In the top section, Russian Daniil Medvedev seems motivated to reprise his role as the best villain of men’s tennis, which would bring us so much joy. For that to happen, he needs to start winning big and often—starting this week in Toronto.
Of course, there’s also Rafael Nadal. Having him compete at the event at all should be well worth the price of admission…you know, if you overlook his performance at the Washington Open. In the lower section of the draw, we’re also eager to see if Stefanos Tsitsipas has put the crushing Roland-Garros loss behind him. Keep a close eye, too, on Casper Ruud: no one on the ATP has won as much as he has in the past month.
Quarterfinals: Daniil Medvedev over Alex de Minaur; Denis Shapovalov over Fabio Fognini; Stefanos Tsitsipas over Casper Ruud; Rafael Nadal over Diego Schwartzman
Semifinals: Daniil Medvedev over Denis Shapovalov; Stefanos Tsitsipas over Rafael Nadal
Final: Daniil Medvedev over Stefanos Tsitsipas
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG