August is here and the calm of English grass has been replaced with the frenzy of North American hard courts.
Players have travelled across the Atlantic for warm up events ahead of the last major of the year, the US Open.
The Canadian Open is one of the most prestigious stop on tour and was first held in 1881. The ATP and WTA editions alternate between cities each year.
In 2018, the men head to Toronto, while the women take to the courts of Montréal.
Men’s Draw (Toronto)
We may as well begin with absences and they don’t come bigger than Roger Federer. The 20-time major winner is playing less and less these days and decided to take the week off to hone those selfie skills.
Comeback kid Andy Murray has also skipped Toronto after an exhausting week at the Citi Open in Washington. They will both head to Cincinnati instead.
A field without Federer is a more open one, and world no.1 Rafael Nadal (11/4) can take advantage. While the Spaniard has won this event three times in the past, it hasn’t gone his way in recent years with three tournaments missed due to injury.
Nadal shouldn’t be troubled in his first match, but will be wary of meeting either Nick Kyrgios or Stan Wawrinka in the round of 16. Marin Cilic (16/1) is a likely opponent in the last eight and the 2014 US Open champion could stop the Mallorcan if on form.
2009 Rogers Cup finalist Juan Martin del Potro (17/2) leads an interesting second quarter. The world no.4 has had a superb 2018 campaign with two titles and 32 match wins overall. Delpo absolutely loves the American hard courts but his section is tricky.
The Argentine will probably face the in-form Kei Nishikori first, while John Isner, Denis Shapovalov and Karen Khachanov are also in the mix. There could be a surprise here.
Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson (25/1) is star man in the third quarter and I expect him to get to the last eight. On current form, the hard hitting South African will not fear fellow seeds Grigor Dimitrov, Roberto Bautista Agut or David Goffin. Watch out for Milos Raonic (18/1) here as the Canadian has notched some wins of late.
Sascha Zverev (5/1), the defending champion, headlines the bottom quarter as second seed in Federer’s absence. The 21-year-old had a ropey grass court season but has looked better in Washington. The German should make it through the opening rounds but faces the brutal prospect of Novak Djokovic (10/3) in the last eight.
Ah yes, ‘The Djoker’ is most definitely back after that extraordinary Wimbledon triumph. The level of tennis in the semi-final between Djokovic and Nadal at SW19 was the stuff that dreams are made of. If the Serb is anywhere close to his London level, then a fifth Rogers Cup will be his.
Women’s Draw (Montréal)
While there are notable withdrawals from the men’s event, the Coupe Rogers will have all of the WTA’s top 10 on show. It will not have Serena Williams however, as the three-time winner pulled out on the eve of the tournament for ‘personal reasons’.
Simona Halep (6/1) will certainly not mind the American’s withdrawal.
The world no.1 is a formidable threat in Canada with a title in 2016 and a final and semi-final either side of that triumph. The 25-year-old should make it out of the top quarter but there are potential stumbling blocks.
Venus Williams will be a challenge in the round of 16 while the quarter-finals could throw up an unpredictable adversary. Caroline Garcia may be projected to make the last eight, but Daria Kasatkina, Maria Sharapova or Maria Sakkari could well beat the Frenchwoman to it.
The obscene second quarter is loaded with top names and extremely hard to call.
Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber was set for a rematch with Serena Williams in the round of 16 before the 36-year-old withdrew. The German’s path has only slightly eased though, as there are a number of dangerous women still in her way.
Petra Kvitova (9/1), who has lifted five titles this season, is in this quarter along with former world no.1 Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens and Ashleigh Barty.
Don’t be surprised if there’s a shock or two in this section.
Sloane Stephens (14/1), the defending US Open champion, headlines the third quarter and will hope to put her disappointingly brief grass campaign behind her. After a first round loss at Wimbledon, the world no.3 also exited early in Washington so confidence may be a little shaky at the moment.
If Stephens stumbles, we may see Garbine Muguruza, Julia Goerges or Naomi Osaka take advantage. Wimbledon semi-finalist Goerges (35/1) is in the best form of that group and a good shout to progress.
Wozniacki lost in the second round of Wimbledon, but it’s always been her worst Grand Slam. I expect the Dane, who made the Rogers Cup final twelve months ago, to rebound this week.
As for Svitolina, I’m not so sure. The Ukrainian’s level has dropped off since Rome and the 23-year-old looks vulnerable at the moment.
Jo Konta (33/1), who dismantled Serena Williams in San José, is confident again and has a good chance to make it out of the bottom quarter at Svitolina’s expense.
Jelena Ostapenko, Elise Mertens, Mihaela Buzarnescu and Victoria Azarenka are also in this section and will be dangerous.