Milos Raonic in big-servers section, other Canadians face challenges as Montreal Rogers Cup draw is announced

Stephanie Myles
The top Canadian has a hit-and-giggle with the mayor of Montreal Friday at Uniprix Stadium. His first tournament opponent will be significantly more challenging. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

MONTREAL – Unlike in Toronto, where Maria Sharapova was an 11th-hour dropout, there were no last-minute surprises in terms of the player field at the men's event in Montreal.

And so after the Rogers Cup draw was done at a downtown hotel, top Canadian Milos Raonic began preparing for an abject lack of rallies as he awaits his second-round opponent.

Raonic, ranked No. 10 on the ATP Tour but seeded No. 8 after Roger Federer and David Ferrer withdrew, has a first-round bye. His first match will be against the winner of a first-round match between two giants: 6-foot-11 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia and 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.

The 36-year-old Croat, all 6-foot-11 of him, could meet Canadian Milos Raonic in the second round. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
The 36-year-old Croat, all 6-foot-11 of him, could meet Canadian Milos Raonic in the second round. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

Somewhat surprisingly, Raonic and Janowicz have never met; Raonic is 1-0 against Karlovic, but that was nearly three years ago in Bangkok, Thailand.

As for the rest of the Canadians in the singles draw, all of them recipients of wild cards, the news wasn't too bad.

Vasek Pospisil, whose short-term dip in the rankings back when the Rogers Cup deadline hit six weeks ago meant he needed a free pass, will face a qualifier in the first round. If he wins, he would meet either Benjamin Becker or No. 16 seed John Isner, against whom he lost a close one in Washington D.C. that ended at approximately 1:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Frank Dancevic, in his 13th Rogers Cup, will play Pablo Andujar of Spain and if he can win that, No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan.

The 21-year-old Canadian will play the crafty Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round of the Rogers Cup. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
The 21-year-old Canadian will play the crafty Sergiy Stakhovsky in the first round of the Rogers Cup. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

Filip Peliwo, the 21-year-old former junior No. 1, will play serve-and-volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine while Philip Bester, currently playing some of the best tennis of his career as he successfully returns from hip surgery, will meet big-serving lefthander Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.

As the draw shook out, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 7 seed Rafael Nadal ended up in separate halfs. Nadal and No. 2 seed Andy Murray are in the same half, while Djokovic and No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka are in the other half.

Here's what the matchups will look like, if the seeded players do what they're supposed to do and advance to the third round:

[1] Novak Djokovic vs [14] Grigor Dimitrov
[5] Tomas Berdych vs [9] Kevin Anderson
[3] Stan Wawrinka vs [16] John Isner
[8] Milos Raonic vs [11] RIchard Gasquet

[7] Rafael Nadal vs [9] Gilles Simon
[4] Kei Nishikori vs [13] David Goffin
[6] Marin Cilic vs [10] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
[2] Andy Murray vs [15] Gael Monfils

That sets up potential quarter-finals between Djokovic and Berdych, Wawrinka and Raonic, Nishikori and Nadal, and Murray and Cilic.

First-round matches to watch:

 

Fabio Fognini v Gael Monfils:

Get your popcorn out for this one, a first-round clash between two tremendously entertaining players who can be brilliant one day – or one hour – and smashingly awful the next. 

They notably met at the French Open in 2010 and kept going until it was nearly pitch-black outside before the match was postponed to the next day. The drama level was ... high.

As it was here - you rarely see Monfils get this aggravated with an opponent, although with Fognini it's a weekly occurrence.

[10] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Borna Coric:

Tsonga is a showman, and the 18-year-old Coric, ranked a career-best No. 33 at the moment and often compared to a young Novak Djokovic (even Djokovic himself can see the similarities) is not lacking in confidence. Actually, it's a tough first-round matchup for both.

The talented young Croat got a tough draw at the Rogers Cup; he will play No. 10 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
The talented young Croat got a tough draw at the Rogers Cup; he will play No. 10 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

Fernando Verdasco v Nick Kyrgios:

Again, some potential drama as the feisty Kyrgios returns to the Tour for the first time since making so many waves at Wimbledon (he did play, and lose, one Davis Cup rubber against Kazakhstan in July). Verdasco is capable of beating anyone on a given day, and that may ignite the colourful Aussie.

Jerzy Janowicz v Ivo Karlovic:

You won't find two many more impressive tall-man matchups than this. But their personalities couldn't be more contrasting. Karlovic, a gentle giant and generally even tempered and Janowicz, who is ... not. It's a first-time meeting, and there probably won't be too many rallies but if there are, the edge would likely to Janowicz.

 

The singles qualifying gets under way Saturday at Uniprix Stadium.