The first day of the 2015 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal got off to a fine start with all the afternoon matches completed on schedule.
Then a shower forced a delay of the evening session but Gael Monfils didn’t let that faze him as he eventually went on the centre court and dominated Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-1.
It turned out that was the last match of the evening when persistent rain interruptions forced postponement of the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Borna Coric match at just before 10 p.m. with the Frenchman leading 2-1 on serve.
Everyone knows that the 28-year-old Fognini can be a little in and out in terms of his commitment on court, and on Monday night that commitment faded with the end of the first set.
“He sometimes is capable of losing focus during the match, which happened at the end of the first set,” Monfils said about the 28-year-old Italian. “He got annoyed with the break points he didn’t make, and after that I think he hurt himself. But I was able to stay solid.”
It was only the fourth outdoor hard match of the year for the No. 15-ranked Monfils, and his first match of any kind since losing on clay in the quarter-finals of Umag (Croatia) to eventual winner Dominic Thiem three weeks ago.
As a result of the victory, Monfils, who turns 29 on September 1, and Giles Muller, 32, will meet in the second round.
“We were just together in the locker room, and we realized we never played each other,” Monfils said about himself and Muller at his post-match media conference. “It’s crazy. Even in juniors or in the futures or the challengers, we never played each other.
“I’m looking forward to that match because I’ve known him for a long time. I know he’s a good player. He’s very aggressive, has a good serve. What do I have to do against him? I have to serve better than I did today.”
Muller set up the match-up with Monfils by defeating Philip Bester (above) 6-2, 6-3.
The 6-foot-4 lefthander from Luxembourg is an experienced competitor whose career highlight was probably an out-of-the-blue, first-round upset of Andy Roddick at the 2005 US Open by the serving bonanza score of 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 7-6(1), just two years after Roddick had been the champion at Flushing Meadows.
He has had a good year, moving his ranking up to No. 32 from a 2015 starting point of No. 47.
Rangy and possessed of a good lefty swing, Muller pounded 13 aces to four for Bester in the 68-minute encounter.
Bester did hit a few cracker service returns, and passing shots, and belted a 214 km/hr (133 mph) serve, but there just weren’t enough of any of them.
“I had good moments,” Bester conceded. “I know that I’m capable of those moments. It’s one of the matches where I’ve kind of walked off confused…not confused…but trying to make sure I keep things in perspective in terms of that I didn’t think that I played bad.”
Bester, who turns 27 next month, has done well in 2014 – starting out the year at No. 491, he has pushed his ranking up to No. 225.
His plans are now to play at home in the $100,000 (US) Vancouver Challenger – the Odlum Brown Van Open – and then the qualifying for the US Open. It’s hard to believe but it will be first time Bester has played at the US Open since his junior days.
Earlier on Monday, Filip Peliwo opened on National Bank Court and things did not look good when he trailed No. 60-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-1, 5-2.
But he tightened up his game while the 29-year-old Ukrainian got tight and suddenly, after saving three match points trailing 5-2 with aggressive shotmaking – two service return winners and a forehand winner – Peliwo lost just one point in the final two games to take the set 7-5.
Both players then took a bathroom break (Peliwo with umpire Mohamed Lahyani above) and when play resumed in the third set it went on serve to 2-all.
But then Peliwo had a disastrous game – making four unforced errors and Stakhovsky had all the separation he needed to go on and win in two hours and seven minutes.
“He did well to stay in there in the third set and take his opportunities when he had them,” Peliwo said about Stakhovsky, “so credit to him for that. But I feel like the match was really decided on some of my unforced errors. At 2‑all, I gave him four mistakes. All he had to do there was to hit it in. That’s where I’m disappointed.”
Peliwo, who suffered through a psoas muscle (hip/thigh) injury for much of the spring, has seen his ranking drop to No. 526 after being as high as No. 223 in April of last year.
“I just have to be able to be more stable and not have those games where I just give away a few errors in a row,” said Peliwo, 21. “As soon as I get that, I’m pretty sure that my ranking will go up and I’ll be a lot closer to where I want to be.”
It’s been a humbling time on the pro tour for Peliwo, who next will play the Odum Brown Van Open in his hometown, especially after being the No. 1 junior in the world in 2012 with wins at both Wimbledon and the US Open as well as runner-up finishes at the Australian and French Opens.
“I’ve got no regrets really,” said Peliwo, one of the most likable of Canadian players. “I’m just going out, trying to be focused on the present, really pushing as hard as I can to keep progressing because I know my game is there. I know my potential is there. I can definitely make it to where I want to be. I have to stay on the right track.”
In terms of crowds, the Court 9 afternoon doubles match (above) featuring Rafael Nadal – Fernando Verdasco vs. Tomas Berdych and Jack Sock packed them in. The stands extend into adjacent Jarry Park so all the people seated behind the court can watch free of charge.
They got an entertaining match won 6-3, 5-7, [10-6] by the Spaniards.
The picture above leaves something to be desired, but it was the ultimate match point with Sock and Berdych desperately chasing after a lob that they were unable to return.
Raonic, Pospisil debut Tuesday
Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil play their opening Rogers Cup matches on Tuesday.
Raonic tips off the evening session at 6:30 p.m. in Stade Uniprix playing Ivo Karlovic. So far in 2015 – the service aces leaders are 1. Karlovic 987, 2. John Isner 856, 3. Kevin Anderson 640 and Raonic, who has played the fewest matches, 576.
Raonic won his only previous meeting with the No. 23-ranked Karlovic 7-6(3), 6-4 but it was back in 2012 in Thailand. On Monday, Karlovic ousted Jerzy Janowicz 6-4, 7-6(6).
Pospisil, ranked No. 45, plays the third match in the afternoon on National Bank Court against qualifier Yen-Hsun Lu. Just two weeks ago in Atlanta, Pospisil defeated Lu 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 in the second round in Atlanta.
(All the match times could be affected by inclement weather which is supposed to camp out on top of Montreal on Tuesday.)
Raonic will be going for a milestone win. Here are the Canadians with the most match wins on tour in the ‘Open Era’ since 1968.
- Milos Raonic 199
- Sébastien Lareau 99
- Daniel Nestor 85
- Grant Connell 75
- Glenn Michibata 72
Hockey & Tennis
The annual Rogers Cup ball hockey game in Montreal was held on National Bank Court at Uniprix Stadium on Saturday.
It came down to a shoot-out and the ATP players (mostly ex-players) prevailed. The picture above shows the decisive moment as Antoine Roussel of the Dallas Stars lifted the ball in the air and attempted to swipe it past goalie Martin Damm, the retired Czech player. Roussel missed the ball and ATP guys won the game for the first time.
One of the ATP players in the shoot-out was Andy Murray’s coach Jonas Bjorkman – shown here closing in on Jiri Hudler of the Calgary Flames, a forward who is not usually a goalie.
Off to the side are Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks and Marie-Philip Poulin, the heroine (tying and winning goals vs. USA) of Canada’s gold-medal winning women’s team at the Sochi Olympics.
Here’s the winning team (left to right) Martin Damm, Thomas Johansson, Jesse Levine, Isade Juneau (only active player), Magnus Norman and Jonas Bjorkman.
For the record, Levine, who is likely out of professional tennis with a chronic elbow issue, plays hockey (full pads etc.) twice a week in Florida. And to think there were those who questioned the right of the huge Ottawa Senators fan to represent Canada internationally in tennis. All of Levine’s mother’s family still reside in Ottawa.
Carte Postale – Montreal
This cool mural, located near St. Denis and de Maisonneuve streets, is of a 1950s vintage Montreal scene.
It was done in 2012 and remains in remarkable shape, not de-faced or worn in any way.
In this enlargement of the far right of the picture, it’s possible to see that Sam’s Tavern/Sam Taverne boasts of having “sterilized glasses” and that a take-out case of 24 bottles of Coke costs $1.44.