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ATP Rogers Cup 2018 draw preview and predictions: Four-time winner Djokovic headed for early clash with defending Canada Masters champion Zverev

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 4 Aug 2018
  • World no. 1 Rafael Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic lead the Rogers Cup field
  • Canada Masters 2018 tennis is live from Toronto from 6-12 August
Alexander Zverev is the defending champion at the 2018 Canada Masters, also known as the Rogers Cup, live from Toronto from 6-12 August (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Breaking down the draw and predicting the winners as Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic lead the field at the Canada Masters, live from Toronto from 6-12 August 2018.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev is joined by Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, world no. 1 Rafael Nadal and Indian Wells Masters champion Juan Martin del Potro as the 2018 Rogers Cup takes place in Toronto from Monday 6 August.

Back in action for the first time since winning Wimbledon, four-time Djokovic will be a popular pick for the title but could face early clashes with Dominic Thiem and defending champion Zverev, while in the top half of the draw, del Potro and Stan Wawrinka are set for early blockbuster clashes in an unpredictable section.

Top quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal (1) vs Marin Cilic (6) (5-2)
Rafael Nadal (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Three times a champion at the Canada Masters (2005, 2008 and 2013), world no. 1 Nadal starts his warm-up to the defense of his US Open title at a tournament where he hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals since he last won the trophy.

Nadal suffered an early defeat to Denis Shapovalov in 2017 and it’s not out of the question that he could suffer another, since after a second-round match against Jared Donaldson or Benoit Paire he is likely to face the winner of a blockbuster first-round clash between Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios – three years since their infamous ‘Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend’ clash. 

Neither Wawrinka nor Kyrgios is on any form, however. Kyrgios retired in Atlanta and pulled out of Washington, D.C. with a hip injury, so he quite possibly may not even play in Toronto. Wawrinka lost his last two matches to players outside the top 100. Under the circumstances, it may be neither man who even makes it to the third round, making this section much less interesting and much more of a cruise for Nadal.

With the Cincinnati Masters title in 2016 the sole one he has won, Marin Cilic is a fairly consistent under-performer at this level but should be relatively well-rested after crashing out of Wimbledon in embarrassing fashion at the hands of Guido Pella. Likely to face Borna Coric in the second round, however, Cilic could quickly find himself in trouble and it’s not hard to imagine Coric or potential second-round opponents Kyle Edmund or Sam Querrey taking him out, clearing Nadal’s path even further. 

Semifinalist: Nadal

Second quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Juan Martin del Potro (3) vs John Isner (8) (7-4)
Juan Martin del Potro (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
The champions of the two Masters 1000 Series events held on North American hard courts so far in 2018 bracket this quarter, but it’s Juan Martin del Potro who has by far the toughest road to the projected quarterfinal showdown.

Not only does del Potro have to make a very quick turnaround from Los Cabos, where he faces Fabio Fognini in Saturday’s final, the Argentine is very likely to have to open his Canada Masters campaign against Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, who faces Robin Haase in the first round, was on good form in Washington, D.C. before losing to Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals and could well oust del Potro early; if the Argentine gets through that, he could be up against Fognini in a third-round rematch of the Los Cabos final – or more tantalizingly, Denis Shapovalov. 

The young Canadian knocked del Potro out of Montreal last year on his sensational run to the semifinals, and while his play since then has been uneven, it’s also been intermittently very good. How will Shapovalov respond to the pressure of playing at home and being a star attraction – as well as being expected to back up his brilliant performances 12 months ago? He starts against Jeremy Chardy with the winner to face Steve Johnson or Fognini – two winnable matches for the Canadian. Could we see a rematch of the Washington round-of-16 clash between Shapovalov and Nishikori?

While all this is going on in the top of the quarter, the bottom is pretty dull. Isner won Atlanta as usual a couple of weeks ago but suffered an early defeat in Washington, D.C.; with Pablo Carreno Busta or Karen Khachanov the biggest threats between him and the quarterfinals, you would expect him to make it at least that far, and perhaps take advantage of a smoother path to beat whichever of del Potro, Nishikori and Shapovalov battles their way to the last eight.

Semifinalist: Isner

Third quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Grigor Dimitrov (5) vs Kevin Anderson (4) (6-2)
Grigor Dimitrov (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Probably the softest quarter of the draw, this one is led by Grigor Dimitrov who is having a lackluster year and has done little of note since February. Last seen crashing out of Wimbledon in the first round at the hands of one Stan Wawrinka – which looks a lot less understandable when you consider Wawrinka’s other recent results – Dimitrov could have to open against Fernando Verdasco, who knocked him out of the French Open and Indian Wells already this year.

The winner of that one would have to contend with an absolutely packed mini-section consisting of tenth seed David Goffin, his first-round opponent Milos Raonic (Canada Masters runner-up in 2013), talented American Frances Tiafoe and French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. Of those four, with Goffin not on great form (ousted from Washington, D.C. by Stefanos Tsitsipas), Raonic is the man one looks to – although the Canadian’s injury issues are, as always, a major question mark. Should he be fit, Raonic could well serve his way through this section to the quarterfinals.

Returning to action for the first time since finishing runner-up at Wimbledon, fourth seed Kevin Anderson has a nice path to ease himself through. Assuming he’s fit and his withdrawal from Washington was precautionary, he could face Andrey Rublev – newly returned from an injury layoff himself – in the second round but otherwise has a quarter packed with qualifiers and Roberto Bautista Agut as a third-round opponent. Much like Isner, he could save injury by easing efficiently through a soft route and then perhaps take advantage of a fatigued opponent in the quarterfinals.

Semifinalist: Anderson

Fourth quarter

Projected quarterfinal: Dominic Thiem (7) vs Alexander Zverev (2) (5-2)
Novak Djokovic (KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Not since Novak Djokovic in 2011-12 has a player won back-to-back Canada Masters titles – and it looks like Djokovic himself could stand in the way of Alexander Zverev attempting to do just that this week.

Into the semifinals of the Citi Open at the time of writing, Zverev has had to contest with an extremely rain-disrupted schedule this week and while he has dealt with it well, it’s a tough turnaround – especially when his title defense in Toronto could start against the in-decline, but still tremendously dogged David Ferrer. The horribly out-of-form Jack Sock, on a six-match losing streak, should not be too much of a problem, but Lucas Pouille in the third round could be much trickier.

The top half of this quarter is much more intriguing. Thiem, who lost in singles in Kitzbuhel and pulled out of doubles with an inflamed right shoulder this week, could have a tricky time of it immediately against either Damir Dzumhur or Stefanos Tsitsipas – semifinalists this week in Los Cabos and Washington, D.C. respectively. But it’s Novak Djokovic who is the power in this quarter. 

Djokovic looked like his old self at Wimbledon – and his old self won the Rogers Cup four times. The Serb, seeded ninth with no first-round bye, has a chance for immediate revenge on Hyeon Chung, who put him out of the Australian Open, before likely facing the in-form Matthew Ebden and then Thiem or Tsitsipas. It’s hard to envisage any of them stopping him – but what of Zverev? The German won the only meeting between the two, in Rome on clay in 2017, in straight sets. On a slow hard court, I back a revived Djokovic to turn the tables.

Semifinalist: Djokovic

Semifinals: Nadal d. Isner
Djokovic d. Anderson

Final: Djokovic d. Nadal

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ATP Rogers Cup 2018 draw preview and predictions: Four-time winner Djokovic headed for early clash with defending Canada Masters champion Zverev

Canada Masters 2018 tennis is live from Toronto from 6-12 August with four-time champion Djokovic threatening Zverev’s title defense, while Nadal, del Potro, Wawrinka and Shapovalov crowd the top half at the Rogers Cup

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