This post previews three of the first round matches from the Rogers Cup main draw in Montreal, which begins on Monday. Apologies for the muted coverage over the past few days. Two of my best friends got married this weekend and I was on photography duties… it was a wonderful day :-). I’m feeling a bit more recharged now after Wimbledon and am planning regular coverage for Montreal here on Moo’s Tennis Blog.
Lucie Safarova v Eugenie Bouchard (Montreal, R1)
As the tour heads to Canada for the week, all eyes will once again be on Eugenie Bouchard. This tournament hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Bouchard who has lost her first match at the Rogers Cup in the past two years. In 2014 in Montreal, Bouchard suffered a 0-6 6-2 0-6 loss to Shelby Rogers. Last year she opened against Belinda Bencic, dropping another bagel in a three set loss, 0-6 7-5 2-6. It’s another tough draw for Bouchard who will play Lucie Safarova in the first round of Montreal.
Bouchard began 2016 with two finals in Hobart and Kuala Lumpur. Since then, there have been a few bright sparks, but nothing sustained. Bouchard hasn’t won more than two matches in a row at a tournament since Kuala Lumpur in February. Her first outing since Wimbledon was a disappointing 5-7 4-6 loss to Camila Giorgi in Washington where she showed some fighting spirit to overcome deficits in both sets before eventually succumbing on serve.
Safarova seems to be back on track after an illness-affected first couple of months of the season. The ranking took a nose dive after the French Open where she was defending final points but recent results have been solid; Safarova reached the third round of both the French Open and Wimbledon.
Head-to-head record: Safarova won their only previous encounter which also took place in Canada in Quebec City, 3-6 6-3 6-2 back in 2013.
Interesting stat: Safarova hasn’t won a match on hard courts in 2016; after returning in Doha following a spell on the sidelines due to rheumatic fever, the Czech player opened the year with five consecutive losses. She sprung into action on the clay courts of Prague, winning her first match of the year against Mariana Duque-Mariño and four more to claim the title.
Final thoughts: Safarova is with her coach, Rob Steckley in Montreal for the first time in four months which must be a big boost! Bouchard didn’t play a secure match against Giorgi in Washington and spoke in press about the madness in Montreal where she last faced a mountain of media pressure having reached the Wimbledon final. It will be another challenging week.
This feels like a 50-50 match…
Madison Keys (10) v Elena Vesnina (Montreal, R1)
Two players who enjoyed superb grass court seasons will meet in a lights-out first rounder in Montreal. The cut-off for the main draw in Canada was so high that Vesnina was one of the last players to get into the main draw, benefiting from a withdrawal. Since committing to Montreal, Vesnina’s ranking has jumped up significantly from 53 to 24 by virtue of reaching her first Slam semi-final at Wimbledon.
Keys will have no doubt been disappointed with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon, losing out to Simona Halep in three sets. The American player seemed to be bothered by an injury, later admitting to suffering from a mixture of exhaustion and nerves which may have caused her to cramp. It was still a solid month in England as she claimed her 3rd WTA title and second on grass at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Keys defeated Vesnina on the grass courts of Eastbourne in 2014, 7-5 7-6(9).
Interesting stat: Keys has reached the last 16 at five of her last six Slams. For Vesnina, she is just three places off her career best ranking set all the way back in July of 2013.
Final thoughts: With the nature of her flat and aggressive game, there’s always going to be a sense of unpredictability for Key; in spite of the injuries, she has kept things solid in 2016, having lost the first match at just two of her nine tournaments in 2016. Vesnina is playing arguably the best tennis of her career and has a potent game, particularly if she can come forward effectively and utilise her superior net game. Vesnina is more than capable of mopping up if Keys has one of those off days but otherwise, I’d go for the American player to serve her way out of any trouble.
Monica Niculescu v Jelena Ostapenko (Montreal, R1)
This match-up feels me with joy… and it’s a first time match-up which always add an element of intrigue! Ostapenko broke into the world’s top 40 this year following a run to the final at the Premier tournament in Doha. She’s stabilised since then with a couple of solid results such as semi-finals in Katowice, 3rd round in Rome and quarter-finals in Birmingham. Ostapenko is yet to master the consistency though and her mental focus has tended to waver. Ostapenko lost to CiCi Bellis in Stanford last week, 4-6 4-6. Watching Jelena live on the grass was certainly eventful… she likes to argue line calls!
Niculescu is always there or thereabouts, ready to bamboozle anyone on the tour with her unique game. The Romanian player has struggled though since Stuttgart in April where she lost out to Petra Kvitova having had match points. A back injury also forced Niculescu out of the pre-Wimbledon tune-ups. In her most recent outing on the tour, Niculescu lost in straight sets to Christina McHale in Washington, 3-6 4-6.
Interesting stat: Neither player is in great form right now; for Niculescu, she has won just two of her last nine matches, while Ostapenko has lost her last three matches on tour.
Final thoughts: Please let this match be streamed… pretty please with a cherry on top? Being able to handle Niculescu’s game has a knack to it and requires patience, an attribute that Ostapenko hasn’t demonstrated in abundance! Power may not be enough on this occasion, particularly if Niculescu can unleash her bag of tricks…
Andddd a poll for who you think will win Montreal!