Sure, Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic are playing at this year’s Rogers Cup and they’re a pretty big deal.
Djokovic just completed the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open (his fourth Slam in a row!) and Raonic made his first Slam final not even a month ago at Wimbledon. They’re joined by two-time major champion Stan Wawrinka and Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori, both of whom will be looking for glory at the tournament this coming week.
And yet there are many unsung heroes of the men’s draw, some you may or may not have heard of. Allow us to break down some of the silent talent you should definitely keep a look out for this week.
Ernests Gulbis has had a mysterious career. The Latvian’s ranking has seen incredible highs (he broke into the Top 10 in 2014) and shocking lows (he finished last season at No. 82). Currently at a stable ranking-medium, he comes into Rogers Cup defending quarterfinal points from last year, where he had match points against Djokovic.
Gulbis’ groundstrokes are equally as mysterious as his results. Although he has frequently tinkered with his forehand technique – and is in the midst of another technique change – the backhand wing is reliable and deadly. If he catches fire this week, he could muster an upset or two.
Ok, so Dominic Thiem is the No.6 seed and the world’s ninth-ranked player, but you might not have known about his steady rise to the top of the men’s game. He’s from Austria (where he trains in the mountains during the off-season), he’s only 22-years-old, and he reached this years French Open semifinal – a best-ever result.
Watch out for the incredible RPMs that Thiem gets on the ball: not only are his shots loaded with pace, they’re deceptively spinny, making it harder for his opponents to control. When he flattens out his one-handed backhand for lazer-like shot making, there are very few who can compete with him.
Roger Federer might not be in this year’s draw, but Grigor Dimitrov is the next best thing… stylistically speaking. The two have nearly identical technique and both play with an unmistakable crowd-pleasing flare.
Although Dimitrov’s results have been largely up-and-down this year, he’s a talented 24-year-old who will be looking to finally translate his Federer-like game into Federer-like results. He’s slated to play Nick Kyrgios in the second round, which could be an electrifying matchup on Centre Court.
But first, Kyrgios would have to get past…
This year’s Wimbledon boys’ singles champion is a wildcard entry into the Rogers Cup draw – and not purely on the merit of his All England Club triumph. Shapovalov (“sha-po-VA-lov”) has a well developed power-game off both wings and his pro results show: he started the season ranked outside the top 1000 and is already at No. 341.
Look for Shapovalov to open up the court with his big lefty serve and drive forehands for crisp winners. He plays with one hand on the backhand side and when he unloads on the shot it’s truly an explosive experience.
Nicknamed “Sascha,” this 19-year-old is one of the youngest players in the draw (behind Shapovalov and Borna Coric), but possesses one of the biggest games. In addition to a massive serve and a full-bodied backhand, he’s a surprisingly quick mover and covers the court as well as anyone.
Zverev is coming off a semifinal showing in Washington and would face hometown hero Raonic in the second round should he get past Yen-hsun Lu.
This Ukranian talent is rarely a player anyone wants to face. His tricky brand of tennis is full of slices and dices that cause all sorts of headaches for even the game’s best players.
Dolgopolov has been known to make the odd run at a major event, including a QF run in 2011 at the Australian Open and making the semifinals in Miami (2014) and Cincinnati (2015). The sounds when he uncorks a forehand is something to behold, and might very well bamboozle his way through the Rogers Cup draw.