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The summer hard-court swing is upon us, and not all the top players are entering Toronto with momentum.
Here's how they're trending as we enter perhaps the most daunting part of the season.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic: He's a Wimbledon champ, a married man and a father-to-be. Some might say he hit the trifecta. Djokovic is also a three-time Rogers Cup winner, and with last year's champ, Rafa, out of the tournament, who's realistically going to stop the guy who swept the spring hard-court season in Indian Wells and Miami?
No. 2 Rafael Nadal: Chalk his latest injury travail to "a small disinsertion of the posterior ulnar pod of his right wrist," so the docs say. Translation: Nadal won't repeat his remarkable, unblemished summer run of last season, when he won Canada, Cincinnati and the US Open. Nadal announced he won't play the first two, and the Open is in question. A tough break for a guy who has a long history of long rehabilitations.
No. 3 Roger Federer: Perhaps this guy. Almost a month will have passed since Federer's run to the Wimbledon final. And though the hard courts even out the playing field, Federer will still take some of that confidence to a tournament he hasn't won in eight years. More important, the mystery of Federer's (not-so-new) racket will be unveiled this week. Federer has been playing with an all-black version of what was presumed to be a Wilson Blade since the beginning of the season. But Wilson announced last week the Pro Staff RF97 will feature a black throat and red hoop. Fancy.
No. 4 Stan Wawrinka: Stan found out it's hard to be the man, at least on an everyday basis. His Aussie Open and Monte Carlo trophy-winning runs told us a lot about his resolve and talent, but maintaining that level is not for everyone (e.g., everyone in the world outside the Big Three). Wawrinka might want to consider sticking around in Toronto, considering his sweet living quarters he'll have there.
No. 5 Tomas Berdych: The top seed at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., Berdych was bounced by Vasek Pospisil in straight sets. It's a continuing trend for the capricious Czech, who hasn't won more than two consecutive matches since Roland Garros. Berdych, though, quiet and cool as he is, might have the loudest shirt in the game today, which isn't necessarily a good thing.
No. 6 Milos Raonic: Move over, Pospisil, there's a new Canadian stalwart in town. Kidding, of course. Raonic has been the country's greatest hope, but it wasn't until Wimbledon a few months ago that he finally leveraged his enormous talent with a trip to the semifinals. And to boot, Raonic won his sixth career title (and first this season) at the Citi Open on Sunday. But now Raonic returns home with a few new accolades and presumably more pressure. But it should be pointed out he was a Rogers Cup finalist a year ago until he ran into the Nadal guy, who, in case you missed it, won't be in Canada.
No. 7 David Ferrer: It's hard to say outside the comfort of his beloved clay how Ferrer will fare these days. Though it should be noted his existence on dirt has been shoddy lately. In Bastad, Ferrer fell in his second match; a week later, Leonardo Mayer beat him in the final of Hamburg. The Spaniard usually finds a way to fight and pull out matches against inferior foes, but those days seems to be slowly winding down.
No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov: Just like Raonic, Dimitrov is an uber-talented student of the game. And also like Raonic, Dimitrov was a Wimbledon semifinalist. Dimitrov has a game suited for all surfaces, and his recent resolve suggests he might just win on all surfaces. Oh, and he has a pretty girlfriend.
No. 9 Andy Murray: If not for Dimitrov's near-infallible play in London, we might be talking about Murray in a very different context, but that's how it goes. But it should be pointed out Murray hasn't won a solitary title this season, which kind of renders the Big Four moniker in men's tennis somewhat obsolete.