As we get ready to head off at long last to Toronto and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rogers Cup, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief as the true hard court season begins in earnest. We are creeping into August and finally New York City looms just ahead—the city that never sleeps—where dreams become reality.
Last year the event was held in Montreal, and as the tournament participants gathered hoping for another chance at glory, Roger Federer returned fresh from back-to-back victories at the 2009 French Open and Wimbledon. Not only that, he’d become the proud father of twin girls. It was his first tennis outing since leaving Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal entered Montreal in 2009 also after a long layoff. The Majorcan was struggling back into form after skipping 10 weeks, including Wimbledon, because of tendinitis in his knees.
Federer was seeded No. 1 and Nadal seeded No. 2. Neither of them would win the tournament or even appear in the final. They both advanced to the quarterfinals and lost.
Federer went down for the first and only time to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a very strange match where the Swiss led 5-1 in the third and final set and then could not seem to win another game. Finally, Federer succumbed completely in the tiebreak to lose the match 7-6, 6-1, 7-6.
For Nadal, meeting Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals was his undoing. The first set went to a tiebreak which Nadal lost. Then, the Argentine rolled over the No. 2 seed 6-1 in the second set.
In his first ATP tournament back since the 2009 French Open, Nadal seemed pleased by his own efforts but did admit that concentrating was difficult without sufficient match play leading up to his quarterfinal encounter with del Potro.
For Federer, the problem lay in the inconsistency of his opponent, who was either very good or not good at all. The Swiss could find no rhythm in the match. His own play, specifically his serve, deserted Federer when he needed it most. In fact, Federer double-faulted on match point.
The end result was that del Potro faced Andy Roddick in the semis and Tsonga faced Andy Murray. Murray and del Potro played in the final with Murray winning. he Scot had already succeeded to the world No. 2 spot by making the finals.
For the first time in four years in August of 2009, someone other than Nadal or Federer held one of the top two spots. It has not happened often. While Murray held the No. 2 spot, Nadal was ranked No. 3 starting August 17, 2009, becoming No. 2 again on September 14.
Nadal fell to the No. 4 ranking on February 1, 2010 after failing to defend his Australian Open title. He resumed the No. 2 ranking on May 17, 2010 just prior to the French Open—becoming No. 1 on June 7. During that time, Nadal was out of the top two 19 weeks in total.
Federer fell to the No. 2 ranking on August 18, 2008 remaining there until July 6, 2009 when he assumed the No. 1 ranking again. The Swiss lost the No. 1 ranking once more on June 7, 2010, falling to No. 2 and then to No. 3 where he sits now. In total, Federer has spent five weeks and counting not ranked in the top 2 since he first assumed the top spot in 2004.
With Nadal and Federer fulfilling their promise to give their bodies adequate rest, both men enter the Roger’s Cup again without any match play since Wimbledon. The draws for Toronto take place on Friday afternoon. There was speculation that del Potro would return to action there, but he has officially withdrawn as well as Tsonga, citing injury.
Injuries may force the withdrawal of other top-ranked players before action gets underway as both Lleyton Hewitt and Ernests Gulbis retired at Legg Mason in Washington D.C.
As we enter the Rogers Cup in 2010 we find Nadal back in the No. 1 spot with Novak Djokovic ranked No. 2, ahead of Federer by 110 points. It appears that seeding will hold for the Canadian Rogers Cup event. That means that Federer and Nadal could meet before the finals.
At this point, that occurrence seems to hold little relevance as all the top seeds come in with question marks. Federer and Nadal as well as Djokovic and Murray have been pretty invisible since the last major. There will be no clear cut favorite among the top four to advance to the finals.
Therefore, seeding one through four should not much matter since all four appear equally vulnerable to upset and equally able to win. The important point is that none of them will meet before the semifinals, assuming they get that far. There will be some serious challengers waiting with all four top players susceptible, especially since they are playing only three sets.
As the defending champion, Murray has the most points to lose. Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer all lost in the quarterfinals last year. Nadal has nothing to worry about because his No. 1 ranking is secure. Federer and Djokovic are very close in points and could exchange their No. 2 and No. 3 rankings.
Murray, however, is in danger of slipping back further, expanding the distance between himself and the top three. Soderling, Davydenko and del Potro, especially if the Argentine gets back in form, could pass the Scot by before the year is up.
The Rogers Cup and Cincinnati following quickly upon its heels seem to usher in change as the summer begins to wane and Fall approaches in the Northern hemisphere. Before the dust settles on the Big Apple and the leaves begin to fall as summer fades into the background, the rankings race will remain hot and heavy until the World Tour Finals in London.
The Rogers Cup action begins tomorrow. Don’t miss a moment.