Yes, I hate myself for that joke. Just not enough to change it.
We’re through to the quarterfinal stage in Rogers Cup, and so far the biggest storylines in tennis have involved those who aren’t even at the tournament.
On the men’s side, three of the big four didn’t even lace up in Toronto, with Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal, and Roger Federer pulling out of the tournament the week prior.
The news worsened on the Fed front, when he announced on Tuesday that the knee injury that has been nagging him since the Australian Open will keep him out of the Rio Olympics, as well as the rest of the 2016 season.
For a guy who has been known to defy much of the wear and tear of the game, especially for someone playing in to his mid-thirties, this six month departure from the tennis world will no doubt feel like an eternity to him, as well as his legions of fans across the globe.
On the women’s side Serena Williams pulled out with a shoulder injury. No doubt she has her eyes set on the Olympics and then the US Open. I imagine we’ll see less and less of Serena in non slam tournaments as the years go on.
French Open winner Garbine Muguruza also withdrew from Rogers Cup shortly before her first round match due to a stomach virus. With Vika Azarenka and Maria Sharapova both out for the remainder of the season as well (for very different reasons), the women’s draw is pretty wide open.
Which brings us to the two main stories actually occurring within the tournament: Canadian players and Novak Djokovic’s first tournament since Wimbledon.
Since Canada has the home court advantage, I’ll be talking about them today, and assess Novak’s performance after the quarterfinals.
Since the Rogers Cup is held in Canada, obviously much of the excitement (at least for the home crowd) lies in how well their fellow countrymen and women perform at the tournament, and so far, it’s been mostly good.
Milos Raonic is looking fresh coming off of his first grand slam final appearance a few weeks ago in Wimbledon, and is easily through to the quarterfinals. Junior star Denis Shapovalov upset Nick Kyrgios in the first round before succumbing to a fairly in form Grigor Dimitrov in the second, and Vasek Pospisil continued his singles struggles losing in the second round, but is still alive in doubles with fellow Canadian Daniel Nestor.
But perhaps the most attention thus far has been placed on Eugenie Bouchard. A native of Montreal, Genie has never played her best on home soil. And after a tumultuous 2015 that saw the one time Wimbledon finalist struggle to even string a few wins together, 2016 seems to be one in which the 22-year-old is starting to get back on track.
All eyes were on Bouchard as she took the court in Montreal to a packed stadium for her first round match against quality opponent Lucie Safarova. Bouchard played some stellar tennis to win that match in a third set tiebreak, and the vibe in centre court on match point, felt a lot more like championship point than a first round victory.
Bouchard followed that up with an absolute thumping of a very solid player, beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-0 and in doing so making it to the third round of the Rogers Cup, the farthest she’d ever gone in the tournament.
She looked well on her way to making it to her first quarterfinal as well, jumping out on Thursday to a quick 4-0 lead against qualifier Kristina Kucova. She managed to win the first set 6-3, but things started to unravel after that. In the second set, Bouchard went up a break two separate times against Kucova, only to be broken back right away in both instances.
Bouchard ended up losing the second set 6-4, ultimately losing the match 6-3, 4-6, 3-6. She confessed to nerves and understandably felt intense disappointment losing a chance to advance against a player she absolutely should have beaten. Overall though, she played a solid two matches and is starting to put the pieces together in terms of finding her game again. I think her hometown fans would be proud.