Freshly Strung

Canada here we come: Previewing the Rogers Cup

By Michael J. Lewis

Grab a bite from Tim Horton’s and settle in: The tennis world is coming to Canada.

This week the Rogers Cup takes place in Montreal (for the ATP) and Toronto (for the WTA). A quick look at three main contenders for each title, and two darkhorses who may surprise:

WTA-Toronto

Three who may lift the trophy:

-- 1. Naomi Osaka: Refreshingly honest about her struggles since Australia, the former No.1 is back on hardcourts and poised to get on a roll. She could face Serena in the quarterfinals; think that might draw a few eyeballs?

-- 2. Simona Halep: The Wimbledon champ ought to still be walking around telling people “did you see I only made three unforced errors in a Grand Slam final? Pretty cool, huh?” Her confidence at an all-time high, she’s the favorite here.

3. Karolina Pliskova: One of these years, she’s going to put together seven brilliant matches and win a Slam. Until then, she’s most dangerous in WTA Premier events, and this is one in which her serve makes her a big threat. 

Two who might make a surprising run:

  • Bianca Andreescu: It used to be that Canadian players were a nice little sidelight to the Rogers Cup. No longer: Andreescu had an incredible Indian Wells victory last spring, then has missed most of the year with injury. She’s back, playing practically in her childhood backyard, and has a pretty great draw. Wouldn’t be crazy to see her make a run.

  • Belinda Bencic: No one talks about her until she makes a run and then people say “Oh yeah, she’s really good!” Bencic, the No. 11 seed, has made remarkable strides this year after so many injuries, and she’s great on hardcourts.

One who will be on the first flight to Cincinnati:

  • Maria Sharapova: She’s not quite at the “Willie Mays falling down in center field for the Mets,” but it’s not far off. Sharapova is a shell of her former self and has tough Annett Kontaveit in Round 1

ATP-Montreal

Three who may lift the trophy:

  • 1. Rafael Nadal: Enjoys hardcourts as much as Bernie Sanders loves Fox News. But still, he’s Rafa, so anywhere he plays, he’s a favorite.

  • 2. Stefanos Tsitsipas: The Greek sensation is coming off a brutal semis loss to Nick Kyrgios in D.C., but if he can keep his shoelaces intact (not a normal tennis problem), he’s a big threat here.

  • 3. Kei Nishikori: Reached the quarters at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and loves the fast surfaces.

Two who might surprisingly make a run:

  • 1. Taylor Fritz: The California kid had a disappointing Wimbledon but he reached the final in Atlanta and in Los Cabos. The world No. 25 has huge opportunity, could play Tsitsipas in Round 2.

  • 2. Felix Auger-Aliassime: I’m fighting very hard to avoid making any FA-A and Air Canada puns here. But he’s had a fabulous breakthrough year and could soar (sorry!) into a semifinal matchup with Dominic Thiem.

One who will be on the first flight to Cincinnati:

  • Nick Kyrgios: This one’s easy. The saucy Aussie just had a tremendous week in D.C., and never plays well two tourneys in a row. Sorry, Canadian fans, Nick’s stay will be shorter than his attention span.