The Buzz: Djokovic touches down, qualifying underway

Saturday, Jul 23

HERE’S YOUR TASK: Find a world-class tennis star at the airport and get him to do a hilarious GIF.

That’s how things played out Saturday morning in Toronto when three-time Rogers Cup presented by National Bank champion Novak Djokovic gave us a happy dance upon his arrival in Ontario. We’re happy too: Novak! Toronto! The world No. 1 and top seed won here last in 2012. He’ll open his 2016 campaign on Wednesday afternoon, and could meet Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, the Canadian, in the semifinals.

It wasn’t all fun and games on Saturday, however, as 14 matches took place with qualifying underway, which included eight Canadians in action. Qualifying will conclude on Sunday, and the main draw is set to get underway on Monday.

Bester’s big win

World No. 285 Philip Bester, a Vancouverite, is a match away from the main draw having beaten alternate Kelsey Stevenson, a fellow Canadian, 6-2, 6-2. Bester benefited when Yuichi Sugita, the top seed in qualifying, was slotted into the main draw after a withdrawal, moving Stevenson into qualies.

The 27-year-old is looking for his fifth main draw berth at Rogers Cup, with Alejandro Gonzalez, a Colombian ranked No. 170, standing in his way.

Felix, Ben make waves

Teenage Canadians Benjamin Sigouin and Felix Auger Aliassime put up hearty fights themselves in qualifying, but couldn’t get past more experienced opponents. Sigouin fell at the hands of Gonzalez 7-6(2), 6-4, while Auger Aliassime lost 7-5, 7-6(3) to Australia’s James Duckworth.

Another Canadian teen, Wimbledon junior winner Denis Shapovalov, received a main draw wild card, as did Canadians Frank Dancevic, Peter Polansky and Steven Diez. Jack Mingjie Lin, Pavel Krainik and Christian Lakoseljac were Canadians on the losing side of things Saturday, as well. Brayden Schnur, another Canadian, fell in two tight sets to Radek Stepanek.

Doubles draw out

The doubles draw was released on Saturday, as well, with Americans Bob and Mike Bryan as the top seeds. The twins are five-time Rogers Cup champions, including a 2015 win in Montreal.

They’re joined by a slew of big names that present a handful of mouth-watering potential match-ups in doubles, including Djokovic pairing with countryman and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic. They’ll meet Canadians Bester and Adil Shamasdin in the first round in what will be a must-see match for Canadian fans.

Canada’s Vasek Pospisil is teaming with veteran compatriot Daniel Nestor in another all-Canuck team, while pairings like Nick Kyrgios/Jack Sock, Stan Wawrinka/Grigor Dimitrov and John Isner/Alexander Zverev are dangerous floaters – and entertaining combos.

Practice Makes… Perfect

Shapovalov had his moment on Centre Court on Saturday, hitting in front of a bevy of fans in the stands for Pizzaville Free Community Weekend with top 10 resident Tomas Berdych. Shapovalov opens his Rogers Cup campaign on Monday night against rising ATP star Nick Kyrgios. Have you got your tickets yet? We’ll have plenty of popcorn…