On Monday the action starts at the Montreal Open, the first big tournament since Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the No.1 and No.2 seeds, respectively. The two stand head and shoulders over the rest of the field. The top ten has gone through a threshing. Djokovic, Wawrinka, Murray and Cilic are out with injuries, Djokovic and Wawrinka for the rest of the year. The remaining top ten seeds are in hit-or-miss form.
But the big question remains, will Federer win and continue his utter domination on the big stages? Or will Nadal win a hard court tournament for the first time since 2014?
I’ll go quarter by quarter, discuss the (few) contenders, and then decide which great man will win it. If you disagree, comment below using our new Disqus system!
Rafael Nadal headlines what at first glance looks like a very tough section. David Goffin can play a smooth, efficient game on hard courts, but is returning from a freak injury at Roland Garros. Milos Raonic enjoys playing on his home soil, but lost in lackluster fashion to Jack Sock recently. Juan Martin Del Potro is struggling with his movement (and if he gets to Nadal, that slice backhand will be a huge liability). John Isner is in decent form but has never beaten Nadal.
Also here, up and coming Canadian Denis Shapovalov. Big game, beautiful lefty one-hand. Danil Medvedev, dangerous , and seems to be nearing Lukas Rosol levels of unpopularity.
Winner: Rafael Nadal
This should be a section full of high quality matches. Here we have the 20-year old Alexander Zverev, seeded 4th, his personal record. Zverev just took on Juan Carlos Ferrero as coach, and is one of the few players in the top ten playing near their best tennis (outside Nadal and Federer of course). Nick Kyrgios has caused fireworks at the Montreal Open before, but is playing terribly and struggling with injuries (and personal issues? ) https://goo.gl/B9q1yA.
But plenty of other players could threaten Zverev. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the tournament in stunning fashion in 2014, beating Djokovic, Murray and Federer. Big-serving Kevin Anderson is in the ascendancy. He plays Alexander Zverev in the finals of the Citi Open Sunday. Also look for young guns Karen Khachanov, Frances Tiafoe, and Pablo Carreno Busta returning from injury.
1st round match to watch: Sam Querrey and Gilles Muller made waves in Wimbledon, beating Murray and Nadal respectively. Now they’re playing in the first round in Montreal.
Winner: Alexander Zverev
If the second quarter is hard to predict because of the quantity of in-form players, the third quarter is hard to predict because of the exact opposite problem. No one here is playing particularly well. Dominic Thiem headlines this quarter. Thiem lost to Anderson in a dramatic third set tiebreak just last week, but didn’t play far off his best. On a hard court his court positioning is more of a liability, and his heavy topspin serve is less effective. But Thiem’s well rested, and always a threat. Tomas Berdych made a surprise run to the semis at Wimbledon, and then lost to Kokkinakis in an ATP 250 tournament (his first serve wandered off for a coffee). Berdych deals well with Dominic Thiem’s heavy topsin game though, and beat him in a five set battle this Wimbledon.
Also here, Lucas Pouille, who has the game to make a good run but hasn’t shown it in a long time. Grigor Dimitrov is seeded 7th, but doesn’t deserve such high billing. A likely upset coming when he runs into Mischa Zverev’s unorthodox game.
Winner: Dominic Thiem
If you’ve made it this far, well done. Your reward is the Wimbledon Champ, Roger Federer. In past years, Federer has suffered some surprising defeats in Montreal, but this year will be different. His section shouldn’t threaten him unduly. Kei Nishikori hits a beautiful, clean ball and has beaten Federer on hard courts, but he’s fragile. His serve is a critical vulnerability against the top ten, and he played some marathon matches at the Washington Citi Open.
Also here: Gael Monfils, Stevie Johnson, Jack Sock. Could you see any of them beating Rog? Unlikely.
Winner: Roger Federer.
Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev
Dominic Thiem vs Roger Federer
Alexander Zverev vs Roger Federer.
I predict Zverev (or perhaps another big server like Anderson) will throw a wrench in a seemingly simple path to the final for Nadal. But regardless, you have to go with Roger here. He won Wimbledon without dropping a set. He’ll turn 36 this week, and somehow plays with the aggressive game of a 25 year old. Federer’s even evicted the mental gremlins that took up host in his head after years and years of tough losses against Nadal.
Combine recent form, surface mastery, and mental advantage, and you have a favorite. Federer will continue his transcendant 2017 with a win in Montreal.