Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, a weekly review of all the action on the pro circuit leading up to Rogers Cup presented by National Bank this August 4th to 12th at the Aviva Centre in Toronto.
This week on Road to Rogers Cup, we have a look back on the Mutua Madrid Open, where Rafael Nadal was dethroned by another clay-court expert, who himself was knocked off in the final by… another clay court expert. With a lineage of strong clay-courters all vying for the trophy in Rome this week, we have a look at the draw and what to expect from the last major tournament before Roland Garros begins at the end of the month.
It was a week of high-quality tennis in Madrid last week, as Nadal entered the tournament looking untouchable on clay, following victories in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona in weeks prior. After breezing through his first two rounds against potentially difficult opponents, he looked primed to inflict the same beatdown on Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals. However, the 24-year-old Austrian flipped the script, producing some of his best tennis to comprehensively outhit the Spaniard in a 7-5, 6-3 victory.
On the other side of the draw, Kyle Edmund outplayed two-time champion Novak Djokovic in the third-round, while Denis Shapovalov earned his first-ever wins on clay, including one over fellow-Canadian Milos Raonic in the third round. In what is quickly becoming a standout rivalry between two young talents, Shapovalov won a thriller with Edmund in the quarterfinals to set up a Rogers Cup rematch with Zverev in the semifinals, who was dominant in his quarter of the draw, breezing past each of his opponents in straight sets.
Rally of the tournament.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 11, 2018
The semifinals were both straightforward affairs, with Thiem finally earning a win over Kevin Anderson after six failed attempts, while Zverev outclassed fellow #NextGenATP Shapovalov in a match that started out close until 4-4 in the first set, when the German upped his level and ran away with the match. In the final, it was all Zverev, who broke early in each set and was untouchable on his own serve to eventually claim the trophy, 6-4 6-4 over Thiem, who falls to 0-2 in Madrid finals.
In the picturesque Italian capital of Rome, conditions are significantly slower than the quicker, high-altitude play in Madrid. Nadal enters the tournament having not won it since 2013. Having just lost his No. 1 ranking as a consequence of failing to defend his Madrid title, he’ll have a shot at reclaiming it if he’s to win the title this week. He’s been offered a tricky draw, with Thiem in his quarter for the third time in three clay-court Masters 1000 events and Djokovic potentially looming in the semifinals.
Defending Rome champion Zverev’s draw took shape nicely, drawn in a potential quaterfrinal with Miami Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentinian, however, hasn’t made a clay-court semifinal since 2012 and faces a tricky opener against either Borna Coric or Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Denis Shapovalov will look to take his form from Madrid into Rome, opening against No. 15 seed Tomas Berdych. In their only previous meeting, Shapovalov pushed the Czech all the way at the Queen’s Club in London – although that took place on grass, which is arguably the Canadian former junior Wimbledon champion’s best surface. Shapovalov is also up to a career-high ranking of No. 29 this week following his efforts in Madrid, securing a seeding at Roland Garros in two weeks’ time.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) May 14, 2018
Although Milos Raonic was forced to withdraw from Rome due to injury, several other Canadians are in action across the globe. Félix Auger-Aliassime is participating in an ATP Challenger event in Lisbon, Portual this week following a quarterfinal showing in Braga last week, while Brayden Schnur, Filip Peliwo and 2013 Rogers Cup semifinalist Vasek Pospisil are playing at the $150,000 Challenger in Busan, South Korea.
As always, don’t forget to get your tickets to Rogers Cup, which runs this August from 4th to the 12th at the Aviva Centre in Toronto and features the top men’s tennis players in the world! Find more info on tickets here.