The Rogers Cup ended on Sunday, with Rafael Nadal claiming the men's title in Montreal and Serena Williams beating the field in Toronto. It was a very interesting tournament, with lots of upsets and unlikely names playing into the weekend. Many of the top players use this event, along with next week's stop in Cincinnati (another mandatory event for both men and women) to tune up for this month's US Open, the last major tournament of the year.
Now that the tournament is over, let's take a look back and see just what we learned from the Rogers Cup:
- I shouldn't pick tennis tournaments again. Yikes that was a poor effort on my part. I got 2 out of 8 men's quarterfinalists right and 3 out of 8 correct on the women's side. But hey I got the women's winner correct that should count for something right? So what if Serena will win every tournament she enters unless she gets hurt? I still got it right. At least it sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Except for that whole "picking Jamie Hampton to go to the semis because I like watching her play" section. But if she makes it far next week in Cincy or at the US Open I'll look like a genius. So there take that.
- Anyone who thought Rafael Nadal would look rusty because he hadn't played many matches this summer was crazy (my friends would tell you I am a bit on the crazy side). Nadal looked tremendous in this tournament, especially on the weekend. His match with Djokovic was outstanding, as his aggressiveness off of both wings allowed him to take control of the majority of the rallies throughout the match. Nadal might be ranked #4 in the world currently, but after this week he has to be considered a favorite at Flushing Meadows for the last Grand Slam event of the year.
- Serena Williams has no serious competition right now. Yes I know Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the tournament, but does anyone really think they would be able to beat Williams right now? Especially after how badly Serena destroyed Sorana Cirstea in the finals? The difference between Cirstea and the top players in the game isn't talent, which was pretty evident by watching how hard and clean she struck the ball this week. She beat four of the top 16 players in the world to get to the finals. If Cirstea can figure out the mental side of the game (she was almost reduced to tears in both the semis and the finals, and displayed a ton of emotion during the trophy presentation), she can compete with any of the top names in the game. Except Serena. Watching her play this week makes it even more astonishing that she lost in the quarters to Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open and the fourth round to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. Picking Serena at the US Open is a safer bet than picking anyone but Tiger Woods at a major golf tournament.
- Fans who attended Saturday's matches got their money's worth and then some, while fans who attended Sunday's matches got the shaft. All four semifinals were great matches, but both finals were absolute blowouts. Djokovic-Nadal was another instant classic, producing unbelievable shots and a tense moment when Nadal hit Djokovic in the neck, followed by a brief staredown and Novak ignoring Rafael's attempt at an apology (they shook and made up after the match). The other semifinal had two Canadians facing each other in Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil. The crowd in Montreal didn't know who to root for so they cheered both players throughout the match. Although the quality of tennis was definitely not as high as in the Djokovic-Nadal semi, it was still a pretty fun match to watch, especially considering Raonic can reach 150 mph on his first serve (more on that to come). On the women's side, the first semifinal between Cirstea and Li Na was a hitting clinic for Cirstea in the first set. She was clearly "in the zone", blasting winners from all over the court and barely committing any errors in the first set. Then reality sunk in and Li Na started to dictate points and games. Cirstea was very emotional during an on-court visit with her coach for the week, ESPN commentator Darren Cahill. Cirstea fought back and held on for a straight set win. In the other semifinal, Serena had a tough battle with both her opponent Agnieszka Radwanska and an upset stomach. She looked like she was fighting back tears during the latter parts of the match, obviously trying her hardest to get the match over with as quickly as possible. Radwanska made Serena work for every point, often tracking down shots that most other players wouldn't even attempt to get back into play. Unfortunately, the finals on Sunday were not very competitive, as Cirstea was only able to take two games from Serena and Raonic only four from Nadal. Sunday was an anticlimactic end to a very exciting tournament.
- Having a big serve will only get you so far. Milos Raonic will enter the top 10 for the first time in his career after making the final at Montreal, but in reality he won't be able to get much higher than that unless he figures out how to improve the rest of his game. Which is why John Isner can't get out of the top 15 or 20 in the rankings either. Both players rely almost exclusively on their huge serves, which works against the majority of the players ranked below them. This allows Raonic and Isner to make the round of 16 or the quarterfinals in most of the tournaments that they enter, giving them both a top 20 ranking year in and year out. Once they face a player that is capable of returning their serve, they are destined to lose on almost every occasion. This isn't ten years ago, when Andy Roddick made it to #1 in the world by riding a serve that no one had ever seen before. The top players in the world have an all-court game and excel at every aspect of the sport. A player can't just ride one terrific shot to the top of the game anymore. Raonic was able to get to this week's final because his draw opened up for him, only facing one seeded player before getting leveled by Nadal. Isner ran into a player in Pospisil who was able to figure out how to return just enough of his serves to win their first round match (and did a heck of a job returning Raonic's serve in the semis as well). If Isner and Raonic are happy being ranked between 10 and 20 for their career than they can keep doing what they are doing, otherwise they need to take a step back and try to improve the rest of their game.
- Let's hope the American men play as well as their national tournament as the Canadian men did at theirs. There are two Canadian players ranked in the top 100 (according to the rankings prior to the Rogers Cup), and both of them made it to the semifinals. There are seven American men in the top 100, yet only John Isner was entered in the tournament and he lost to Pospisil, a Canadian, in the first round. Next week will be the first week in the history of the ATP Tour rankings that no American man will be ranked in the top 20 in the world with Isner falling into the twenties. There will be many more Americans in the US Open field than there were in Montreal due to a Grand Slam having more entrants and the tournament handing out some wildcards to national players. Having a couple of them reach the second week of the last major would be a big surprise, but as evidenced by what happened in Montreal this week, is absolutely possible.
- Let's hope Cincinnati is just as fun as Canada was. Taking an early look at the draw (I promise I'm not making predictions!), there is a much better chance we see some American men winning matches, as there are seven in the main draw and at least one more making it through qualifying (18 year-old Mackenzie McDonald, who is ranked outside the top 1,000 - I didn't even know the rankings went that high!). There are at least seven women in the main draw too, as qualifying for both the men's and women's draws continue through Sunday. The three top seeds (Federer, Sharapova, and Azarenka) who withdrew last week are all entered in Cincinnati, with Federer and Nadal in the same section of the draw. Who would have thought we'd ever see Federer vs. Nadal in a quarterfinal of any event?
With two mandatory events with smaller, exclusive fields played in back-to-back weeks, the summer tennis season is in full swing. We should have a good idea of which players are primed to make a deep run at Flushing Meadows for the last major of the year at the end of those two weeks. I'll have some more analysis next week after the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, and hopefully my predictions for the US Open will be a bit more successful than last week's Rogers Cup picks. I figure I can't do much worse than 5 out of 16 right? Even the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros have a better win percentage than I do right now. Yikes that's bad.
Adam Belue wrote this piece while watching the final round of the PGA Championship - so yes he can multitask. He secretly wishes someone on the tennis tour would chew tobacco like Jason Dufner does while he's playing. Or at least chew some Double Bubble like Terry Francona does. If you like what you've read you can check out my other posts on tjrsports.com and my other blog, which deals with sports other than tennis. You can also tweet me on Twitter @albinomamba44 (I was a big Brian Scalabrine fan...) and tell me how to use Twitter because I'm new at it. And lastly, go Jamie Hampton make me look like a genius!