The Big Three aren’t in Canada this year– all for different reasons– but plenty of A-listers are making the trek North to compete in the National Bank Open tournaments in Montreal and Toronto.
Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Montreal event the day of the draw, as he continues to recover from an abdominal strain that forced him out of Wimbledon last month. Rafa could lose his number 3 ranking to Carlos Alcaraz, who is seeded number two in this tournament.
Novak Djokovic is prohibited from entering Canada as well as the U.S. because he has not been vaccinated for Covid-19 and had to withdraw earlier this week.
Medvedev vs. Kyrgios
Still, it’s an impressive field in Montreal for this Masters 1000 event, and the intrigue starts right at the tippy top of the draw. World number one Daniil Medvedev gets a first-round bye then faces the prospect of playing Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios in the second round if the Australian can beat Sebastian Baez.
Kyrgios owns the head-to-head 2-1 over the Russian, but it was Medvedev who outlasted Nick earlier this year at the Australian Open in the Round of 64. In 2019, Kyrgios beat Meddy by a razor-thin 7-6, 7-6 on hard court at the Citi Open in Washington, DC. This is two evenly matched superstars in a matchup on some of their best surfaces– potentially in the second round. Set your alarms.
It’s a heavy quarter that also includes, Canadian Denis Shapovalov, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Hubert Hurkacz. Since Medvedev made a deep run in the tournament immediately prior in Los Cabos, expect him to be a little road weary and not wanting to peak too soon.
Chalk lines in the second quarter would have Casper Ruud meeting Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, but Ruud is still making the transition from clay. Cameron Norrie, freshly confident from strong runs at Wimbledon and Los Cabos should be a bigger threat to FAA.
The third quarter features Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini. Interestingly the Italian Berrettini is no longer in a position to get a bye, having missed most of this year after hand surgery. It’s a fun and talented quarter that also features Holger Rune, Pablo Carreno Busta and serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy. Circle the first-round match of Karatsev-Cressey as a fun watch.
The final quarter is less daunting. Alcaraz tops the section with a bye. Taylor Fritz, Marin Cilic and Andrey Rublev all look to emerge. Fritz, who has been playing sensational tennis over the past 12 months is looking to crack the ATP Top 10. Currently ranked 13 in the world and seeded 10 in this tournament, Fritz will meet Wild Card Andy Murray in the first round. The last time an American man was in the top 10 was John Isner in 2018.
If Alcaraz advances deep in this tournament, he could leap over Nadal and advance from 4 to 3 in the world. He will, however, also be making the transition from clay to hard court.
My players to watch:
QF: Hurkacz, FAA, Tsitsipas, Fritz
SF: FAA, Fritz
WTA Toronto Draw Analysis
Serena Williams is continuing to defy any predictions about her future. She surprised tournament organizers by training and accepting a wild card to compete in this WTA 1000 event. The way this women’s draw shook out has got to be one of the craziest talent-heavy sections in any top tier tournament. In the first quarter: World number one Iga Swiatek, hometown girl and 2021 US Open finalist Laylah Fernandez, Williams, Grand Slam champs Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza and four-time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka. Williams will meet a qualifier in the first round, a good warm-up for her.
Maria Sakkari, Amanda Anisimova and Ons Jabeur lend their star power to the second quarter of this draw, considerably easier than the first. Also in this section: Defending champion Bianca Andreescu who looks to iron out some kinks in her game before ramping up to the US Open later this month.
The third quarter features hard-working American Jessica Pegula, now in the WTA Top Ten as well as US Open Champion Emma Raducanu, who faces hard-hitting Camilla Giorgi in the fist round.
Finally, the bottom section is seemingly the place to be, only because it’s topped by Anett Kontaveit, whose ranking has yet to catch up to a dropoff from her stellar play of 2021. Simona Halep and Coco Gauff are floaters in this section whose best surface is not hard court but are always talented threats nonetheless.
My players to watch:
QF: Swiatek, Anisimova, Pegula, Sabalenka
SF: Swiatek, Pegula