Only eight men and women will be in contention at the Rogers Cup when Friday's action begins.
By the end of the day, that number will dwindle to four on both sides.
Former champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic highlight the men still around at the tournament formerly known as the Canadian Open, while Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova—the last two women to win the Rogers Cup—are also still in the mix.
One former champion that will not be participating on Friday is Andy Murray. As noted by AP Sports on Twitter, Murray flamed out to Ernests Gulbis during Thurdsay's third-round action:
Tennis: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray loses to Gulbis at Rogers Cup http://t.co/qUTokrjJCO— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) August 8, 2013
In addition to not having Murray, the men's draw will also have a local flavor. According to Damien Cox of the Toronto Star, the men's side will feature multiple Canadians for the first time since the 1980s:
For the first since 1989, two Canadians have made the Rogers Cup quarterfinals after Milos Raonic upsets Juan Martin del Potro in two sets.— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) August 9, 2013
While everyone will be awaiting a Williams-Kvitova final on the women's side, it would be unwise to sleep on the rest of the field. Li Na, Sara Errani, Agnieszka Radwanska and surprise Citi Open winner Magdalena Rybarikova are all eager to put their mark on this event, and the top seeds are anything but safe.
Before some of the sport's biggest stars reconvene in Canada, here's a complete preview for Friday's Rogers Cup action.
|Vasek Pospisil vs. Nikolay Davydenko||Noon ET|
|Milos Raonic vs. Ernests Gulbis||2 p.m. ET|
|Novak Djokovic vs. Richard Gasquet||6 p.m. ET|
|Rafael Nadal vs. Marinko Matosevic||8 p.m. ET|
|Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sara Errani||11 a.m. ET|
|Li Na vs. Dominika Cibulkova||1 p.m. ET|
|Sorana Cirstea vs. Petra Kvitova||3 p.m. ET|
|Serena Williams vs. Magdalena Rybarikova||7 p.m. ET|
On the men's side of the draw, Nadal and Djokovic will command most of the attention on Friday.
The two major championship winners both have Rogers Cup wins on their resume and managed to get past their third-round opponents on Thursday despite fierce resistance. Djokovic was taken to three sets by Denis Istomin, while Nadal managed to take down Jerzy Janowicz after two tough sets of his own.
Although the two biggest men's stars made it to the top eight, the rest of the draw is actually quite interesting. Beyond the Baseline noted as much on Twitter:
Montreal QFs: Djokovic-Gasquet, Nadal-Matosevic, Pospisil-Davydenko, Raonic-Gulbis. Yup, totally picked that in my bracket. #atp— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) August 9, 2013
Since David Ferrer and Murray were both seeded ahead of Nadal in the draw, there is no chance of a Djokovic-Nadal final. If both men win on Friday, they will face each other in the quarterfinals.
Between Gulbis, Nikolay Davydenko, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic, we will have a first-time finalist at the Rogers Cup this year.
There's a fifty percent chance (Raonic and Pospisil) that said finalist will be from Canada.
On the other side of the draw, Williams and Rybarikova will be the big match of the day. Fresh off her big win in New York, the Slovakian moved on to the quarterfinals after Marion Bartoli retired in the second set of their clash on Thursday. WTA News had the scoop:
Marion Bartoli retired because of an abdominal injury early in the second set. Rybarikova led 7-6(5) 1-0 when Bartoli stopped playing #WTA— WTA News (@WTA_BackSpin) August 8, 2013
That being said, Williams is hungry. After losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon, she responded with a first-place finish at the Swedish Open. Back for more in Canada, Williams has not dropped a set in two Rogers Cup matches.
Which star are you most excited to see in action on Friday?
Elsewhere, Li will look to make the semifinals when she opposes Dominika Cibulkova, while Errani and Radwanska should provide us with one of the best matches of the tournament. The last time the two squared off, Errani beat Radwanska in the quarterfinals at the 2013 French Open. Before that, Radwanska had won the last five matches in the series.
Defending champion Kvitova will take on Sorana Cirstea in the other quarterfinal match. Last year in Canada, Kvitova took down Li in the tournament final.
It should be an exciting day of action on Friday. With the U.S. Open right around the corner, the eight men and women still in contention for the singles titles will push to gain the kind of momentum necessary to win the last major of the 2013 season.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.