The quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup are Friday night and No. 4 Rafael Nadal is facing No. 74 Marinko Matosevic. Nadal's doubters have been vocal of late, and to silence them—at least temporarily—he needs to take it all in Montreal.
Wimbledon was a traumatic time for many tennis fans, regardless of who your guy was, and Rafa's early exit started it all:
Following the loss, it seemed like everyone was writing about what was next for the Spaniard. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com mentioned Nadal's "treacherous knee" and "physical decline" that "sparked a spectacular fall." Granted, this talk was all concerning Nadal's struggles on grass, and he's currently playing on hard court in the Rogers Cup, but still, increased scrutiny awaits.
Wimbledon is far from emblematic of Nadal's 2013 performance. He's 43-3 on the ATP tour this year, notching seven titles. When his knee isn't giving him trouble, he's been unstoppable. Winning the Rogers Cup will make Wimbledon both literally and figuratively a thing of the past, as well as reaffirm that he can reach vintage form on surfaces other than clay.
It wasn't a sure thing that he'd win the French Open this year, though, and to take the Rodgers Cup he'll likely need to get through Novak Djokovic like he did in June:
Djokovic, unlike Roger Federer, can match Rafa's endurance. And he's won the Rogers Cup the past two years. Nadal hasn't won there since '08.
But so far, Rafa has cruised through 2013's tournament. He took just an hour an 12 minutes to beat Canadian Jesse Levine in the first round (6-2, 6-0) and did this little ditty en route to beating No. 15 Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets, 7-6(6), 6-4:
Rafa can't afford any early faltering if he wants to take another title. Winning his first Rogers Cup in five years would make a statement to the rest of the field, and the tournament will have served its purpose of preparing Nadal for the U.S. Open.
Djokovic and Andy Murray have both won the U.S. Open since Nadal's 2010 victory there, in 2011 and 2012, respectively. While Nadal reached the finals in '11, he ended up withdrawing from the tournament in 2012 due to, what else—knee issues. Seeing as Nadal is averse to blaming his knee, redemption will be even sweeter for him if he remains undefeated on hard courts this year.