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Toronto Masters Men’s Draw
With most tournaments it’s usually a matter of who is playing, but at the Toronto Masters all the talk is about who isn’t playing. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal head a lengthy field of withdrawals from the tournament, with more expected after the exploits inLondon of many this past week. Due to the nature of 64 player draws, the first round byes may appease those with such thoughts.
The draw does look stacked on one side and it is defending champion Novak Djokovic that is the unfortunate one, with Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic in his half. Djokovic kicks off his defence with a tie against either an out of form Bernard Tomic or a yet to be named qualifier.
Kei Nishikori, who famously bagelled the No.1 seed last year in Basel, awaits in the third round if all goes to plan. A rejuvenated Sam Querrey, fresh off victory in Los Angeles and a semi final in Washington, could be the spoiler in this section having looked like he has regained the form that saw him a Top 20 player early last year.
Two cracking ties between unseeded players wrap up this quarter, as Citi Open finalists Tommy Haas and Alexandr Dolgopolov take on David Nalbandian and Radek Stepanek respectively. Haas is in a rich vein of form, having made made three finals since the French Open, while Nalbandian has not won in two attempts since his antics at Queen’s. Gilles Simon takes on the winner of Haas/Nalbandian, both of which have defeated the Frenchman in their last meeting – albeit on clay. Del Potro will be looking to extend his 3-0 head to head over the Ukranian Dolgopolov if he comes through as expected.
If seedings go as planned, the Djokovic-Del Potro rematch will be required viewing. Having already earned a bronze medal in 2008, Djokovic’s motivation was questioned by some as he slumped in straight sets today without breaking the Argentinian’s serve once. With points to defend and Del Potro seemingly closer to the form pre-injury, this will be an excellent encounter and the winner could well go on to take the title.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be happy enough with his draw, he faces either Donald Young (2-18 on the year) or fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy who only has one win on hard courts all year. Much like Chardy, potential third round opponent Marcel Granollers prefers the clay. Apart from a Wimbledon quarter final appearance, the German No. 15 seed Florian Mayer has had a fairly poor season going 8-15 on the year excluding his grass form.
No.5 seed Janko Tipsarevic has a fairly tough start to the tournament, facing either big serving South African Kevin Anderson or Mikhail Youzhny. Youzhny has defeated Tipsarevic in their last three encounters including a surprising four-set victory over the Serb at Wimbledon this year. If he makes it through, he is likely to face another opponent who has dominated him over the years in Marin Cilic. Cilic, who holds a 6-1 record over Tipsarevic, should cope with either the inconsistent Marcos Baghdatis or Carlos Berlocq in the second round.
After his Olympic success, many expected Andy Murray to announce his withdrawal from this tournament. However, looking at the draw, Murray will be feeling fairly confident he can improve on his second round exit from last year. His quarter is full of big servers including Milos Raonic and John Isner but being one of the best returners, if not the best, in men’s tennis he has shown he can cope with them and has a 3-0 record vs Isner to show for it. He will be expected to dispatch of a qualifier in the second round before a likely encounter with the sixteenth seed Raonic. The Canadian No.1 has extraordinary serving stats in 2012, having served the most aces this year and won the biggest percentage of service games ahead of even the likes of Roger Federer and John Isner. Raonic takes on either the struggling Alex Bogomolov Jr. or Viktor Troicki, but will be confident of beating either. Murray and Raonic have had just one encounter, with Raonic winning 7-6 6-4 on the clay courts of Barcelona.
John Isner has showed signs of better form since a poor first round exit at Wimbledon, picking up the Newport title and losing in a tight encounter to Roger Federer at the Olympics. He will be confident of improving on his second round exit of last year, where clay courter Pablo Andujar or Lukas Lacko await. Lacko has been short on matches, having not played in the four weeks between the Olympics and Wimbledon.
Having withdrawn from the Olympics, Philipp Kohlschreiber will be a question mark for this tournament. The Kitzbuhel runner-up has been in good form recently, having also made the Wimbledon quarter-finals. He takes on either a qualifier or Yen-Hsun Lu, who has impressed on the challenger circuit but often struggles to take his performance to the next level on hard courts.
Tomas Berdych will be glad to get away from the grass courts after a disaster season, exiting in Round 1 at the Olympics and Wimbledon. He faces a qualifier or Julien Benneteau, who had a slightly more successful Olympics who took the Bronze medal in doubles. Benneteau has a chance to take on his doubles partner Richard Gasquet in the third round who should have more than enough to defeat either Mikhail Kukushkin or Canadian wildcard Frank Dancevic.
Also joining Dancevic in the quarter are two more Canadian wildcards in Vasek Pospisil and Peter Polansky. Canada’s No.2 Pospisil will be full of confidence having taken both titles at Granby challenger two weeks ago, but unfortunately faces a tough match against the Italian Andreas Seppi. The pair have met just once, with Seppi edging a tight two set encounter in St Petersburg last year. Polansky, the weaker of the two, will feel more confident as he takes on a qualifier in the first round for the chance to take on last year’s finalist Mardy Fish. Juan Monaco, the most recent addition to the ATP top 10, rounds off the seeds and takes on the winner of the Pospisil-Seppi match in round two.
Andy Murray defeats Novak Djokovic in 3 sets