The Rogers Cup in Canada is always an exciting tournament as it’s the first big event since Wimbledon where many of the top players are in action for the first time since the grass court season. Serena Williams headlines the draw which is missing Maria Sharapova who pulled out just before the draw ceremony with a leg strain. Madison Keys, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Camila Giorgi are also notable absences but everyone else is present.
As the calendar Grand Slam looms on the horizon, Serena’s focus will firmly be on the US Open. Therefore, it’s even more difficult than usual to gauge how she’s going to play the next two weeks. Serena was forced to pull out of Bastad and Stanford with an elbow injury and while it seems that she will play Toronto, if it flares up again then she won’t hesitate to withdraw. She will most likely want to go deep at one of Montreal or Cincy. If she does well in Canada then don’t expect much in Cincy and vice versa. Serena’s first match of the week will be against either Flavia Pennetta or Gabriela Dabrowski, and the first seed she could meet is Andrea Petkovic.
Serena is seeded to meet Lucie Safarova in the quarter-finals. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Lucie! She posted a video with her coach, Rob Steckley and has been practising in Canada for the last week. Her draw ain’t easy; in the second round she will play the winner of an engaging first rounder between Sam Stosur and Daria Gavrilova. Karolina Pliskova is also in this section and could meet Lucie in the third round. Pliskova has reached the final in Stanford and is one of the best at playing back-to-back tournaments. I don’t know what to expect of Lucie after so long off and if i’m honest, I think Pliskova will take this mini-section.
The second quarter of the draw features Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic. Caro begins the daunting run of backing up what was a tremendous summer hard court season in 2014. Caro reached the QFs of Montreal, SFs of Cincy and the final of the US Open. Fast forward to 2015 and Wozniacki opened this US Open Series with a second round loss in Stanford to Varvara Lepchenko, going down, 6-4 6-2. The storyline of the match though was that Wozniacki didn’t look great on court movement wise due to a heavily taped up leg. In her press conference after the loss, Wozniacki said that the healing of the leg injury was “going in the right direction” and she should be ready in a few days time for Toronto. Her first match will be against either Belinda Bencic or Eugenie Bouchard, which will be played on Tuesday night.
Last year’s Rogers Cup finalist, Venus Williams is a potential third round opponent for Wozniacki. Venus plays Sabine Lisicki in the first round. Both players endured miserable losses in their last matches on tour (Venus against Kateryna Bondarenko in Istanbul and Lisicki to Kimiko Date-Krumm in Stanford). There *could* be a second rounder between Venus and Babs which would be sweeeeeet. The number 5 seed, Ivanovic has a favourable draw in Toronto, opening against Irina-Camelia Begu or a qualifier. Since Wimbledon, Ivanovic has started working with Nigel Sears again. In a qualifier-heavy section, Ekaterina Makarova is a potential third round opponent. While Ivanovic summoned some of her best tennis to reach the semi-finals of Roland Garros, her best result at a Slam since 2008, that result stand out as an outlier when you compare it to the rest of 2015. I quite liked Makarova in this section of the draw until she retired in her Washington semi-finalist.
It’s time to get used to seeing Garbiñe Muguruza as a top seed at these big tournaments. Before Wimbledon, Muguruza would have been unseeded in Canada but after reaching her first Grand Slam final with a series of superb performances at Wimbledon, Muguruza is the number 8 seed in Toronto. On the WTA tour in recent times, when a player makes a big breakthrough on tour, they haven’t often followed it up with much success. It will be super intriguing to see how Muguruza fares in Toronto.
Muguruza is seeded to meet Petra Kvitova in the quarters. Of course the one aspect to this draw which has me a TEENSY BIT EXCITED is that we could finally get that Petra-Vika match we’ve been waiting for… IT COULD FINALLY HAPPEN EVERYONE! I just wrote about it last week so may-be I need to do this more often ;-). Petra lost in the third round of Wimbledon to Jelena Jankovic in what was a gutting loss. Kvitova starts with a clean slate in Canada and she’s won the Rogers Cup before in Montreal in 2012. Azarenka is still outside of the top 16 and therefore, is still a looming mine in these kinds of draws. Azarenka first has to get past Elina Svitolina which is not easy! The pair played in Doha where Azarenka won, 6-3 6-7(7) 6-1. It was a good match and Azarenka played an almost flawless third set. I’m not going to mention any more about Vika-Petra because I don’t want to jinx it anymore than I have done already…
The final quarter is held up by Simona Halep… it’s been a long time since i’ve written Halep’s name. The world number three struggled at the last two Slams, losing in the second round of Roland Garros to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and the first round of Wimbledon to Jana Cepelova. The loss at Wimby was a concerning one as Halep didn’t look happy out on court. She’s had a long break to rest up but i’m glad she made the late-ish decision to play Canada. Her first match of the week will be against Jelena Jankovic or Caroline Garcia. Neither opponent will be easy. I could see Halep losing that first match, particularly after her recent form which has to be defined as a slump. I hope Simona can get a win under her belt to start this stretch of the season afresh but I will be genuinely surprised if she makes it to the quarters.
Halep’s quarter also features Agnieszka Radwanska and Carla Suárez Navarro, who are seeded to meet in the third round. Radwanska’s first match of the week will be against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Zarina Diyas while CSN plays Alizé Cornet in the first round. CSN lost against Alison Riske in a break-happy match in Stanford. The Spaniard is on a four match losing streak stretching back to Birmingham. Confidence has been high for much of the year but this is her first significant test of the year. I wonder if the sheer volume of tennis she has played this year was a factor at early losses at the last two Slams. Washington finalist, Sloane Stephens is also one to watch out for in this section. She plays Dominika Cibulkova in the first round and could play CSN in the second round.
Final Prediction: S.Williams d. Azarenka