Rafael Nadal kicked off his summer hard-court campaign with a bang, dismissing talented Croatian Borna Coric 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round in Montreal.
Playing for the first time since his Wimbledon fourth round exit to Gilles Muller, Nadal was in no-nonsense form as he swiftly set up a last-16 meeting with Canadian teenage wildcard Denis Shapovalov, who upset Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets on Wednesday.
Here’s what we learned from Nadal’s Rogers Cup opener…
If there was any concern that Nadal’s fourth round exit at Wimbledon may have halted his momentum, such worries must have quickly dissipated following his 71-minute demolition of Coric – a player who owned a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Mallorcan prior to their Wednesday clash.
Coric was not an easy opener for Nadal on hard courts but the 31-year-old passed the test with flying colours.
Fitness and freshness are often tough to come by at this stage of the season but it seems Nadal is full of energy eight months into the year, and is looking to keep up his good form that has earned him four titles so far in 2017, including a 10th Roland Garros crown
Nadal hit 20 winners in his straight-sets win over Coric, including seven aces. He saved the one break point he faced during the match, and dropped just six points on his first serve and seven on his second.
Remember his dream 2010 US Open, where he slightly altered his grip and was firing serves he never thought he had en route to the title? Nadal’s serve is proving to be more and more of a weapon this season, his career-high 23 aces during his five-setter against Muller at Wimbledon a real testament to that. If he keeps it up in this upcoming stretch, Nadal has a legitimate chance of claiming a third US Open and 16th Grand Slam title.
The people standing between Nadal and a return to the top of the rankings for the first time since July 2014 are Shapovalov and either Chung Hyeon or Adrian Mannarino. Nadal must reach the semis in order to leapfrog current No. 1 Andy Murray, and is two wins away from achieving that.
Shapovalov is ranked 143 in the world and at 18, is the youngest player to reach the last-16 at a Masters 1000 tournament since Nadal did so himself in Miami in 2004. The Canadian teen saved four match points in his opener against Rogerio Dutra Silva then outplayed Del Potro in straight sets.
It will be an all-lefty battle between him and Nadal, and with the crowd behind Shapovalov, who knows what’s going to happen.
Still, with Shapovalov taking out Del Potro, and Mannarino upsetting Milos Raonic, Nadal’s draw got softer all of a sudden and the top spot is well within his reach.
Nadal faces the Canadian around 4:00am Friday UAE time.
Players have been living dangerously in Montreal with the likes of Gael Monfils and Diego Schwartzman, among many others, needing to save match points en route to some heroic victories.
Monfils pulled off a near-impossible back-from-the-brink job against Kei Nishikori, saving four match points – including two with unthinkable hot shots – en route to a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (6) triumph to reach the last 16.
The Frenchman was 0-3 against Nishikori heading into the contest, with all their previous encounters going the distance.
Against the fifth-seeded Japanese on Wednesday, Monfils broke back when Nishikori was serving for the match, then rallied from 3-6 down in the final-set tiebreak to secure a memorable victory.
Watch these two hot shots he needed to save match points…
“It’s a good victory for many reasons,” Monfils was quoted as saying by www.atpworldtour.com. “It’s a big revenge, because last year around this time I had the same thing actually against Kei. I was up 6/2 in the tiebreak in the Olympics in the quarter-finals and I lost the tie-break. So I know exactly what he feels.
“Actually last year, as well, a bit before, I played him in Miami. I also had five match points and I lost it 7-6 in the third. I’m more than happy because I fought through the toughness, because it was tough for me. It was a bit like a rollercoaster. I was a break down in each set.”
Monfils wasn’t the only one to come back from the dead on Wednesday in Canada. No4 seed Alexander “Sascha” Zverev powered through a 49-shot rally to save match point against France’s Richard Gasquet before wrapping up a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3) victory. He saved three match points in total to set up a mouth-watering third round with Nick Kyrgios.
Feast your eyes on this match point save from Zverev.
A day earlier, 18-year-old wildcard Denis Shapovalov saved four match points during his 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 win over Rogerio Dutra Silva to reach the second round (he then beat Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets on Wednesday). The powerful Canadian lefty is a skillful shot-maker. Check out how he saved those match points…
Also on Tuesday, but in the second round, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman upset No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem by saving four match points. The world No36 completed a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 win over Thiem, who was up 5-2 in the final set but blew his lead. Schwartzman plays Jared Donaldson in the third round on Thursday. Check out the highlights from his heroic win over Thiem.
Andy Murray has pulled out of this month’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati citing an ongoing hip injury.
The British world No1 has been suffering from a hip problem since before Wimbledon and was forced to skip the ongoing Montreal Masters.
“Unfortunately I won’t be playing in Cincinnati as I continue my recovery,” said Murray, a two-time champion at the event. “I always enjoy playing there and I look forward to returning next year. I’m continuing to work hard on the court with the aim of being in New York (for the US Open).”
With the US Open starting in less than four weeks, Murray will be looking to get back to full fitness in time for the final Grand Slam of the season.
Murray might lose his No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal should the Spaniard reach the semi-finals in Montreal this week.
Nadal will be the top seed in Cincinnati and will have another chance to reclaim the No. 1 ranking if he fails to take it in Canada.
Federer will be the No. 2 seed, marking the 10th time that he has been one of the top two seeds at the tournament. A seven-time Cincinnati champion, Federer carries a 10-match winning streak into this event, having won the title in each of his last two appearances (2014-15).
This will be the first time Nadal and Federer are the top two seeds at the Western & Southern Open since 2009.
Play begins at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, Aug 12 with qualifying matches.