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Rogers Cup Looks Like Rafa’s Cup as Seeds Continue To Tumble in Montreal Tennis

By Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal probably shouldn’t be dominating hard-court tournaments, especially not ones that take place in the second half of a long, grueling tennis season. But with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the sidelines, “dominate” is exactly what Nadal might do at this week’s Rogers Cup.

The top-seeded Serb did not enjoy a cakewalk in his opener, as he fended off Dan Evans 7-6(6), 6-4 on Wednesday afternoon. But things could open up nicely for Nadal at this point, as his nearest seed (David Goffin) is out and the second-highest seed in the top half of the draw (No. 4 Strefanos Tsitsipas) has also exited. Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori, another potential semifinal foe for Nadal, joined the exodus by falling to Richard Gasquet during second-round action

“Always is tough, first match on hard court after such a long time,” the world No. 2 explained. “After Wimbledon, the mind always goes down a little bit because I have been playing a long clay-court season, then grass, so you didn’t relax. Then when you finish Wimbledon, it’s like your body loses a little bit of that tension, so it needs little bit of time to recover.

“Today, as I said before, the main thing is win. I know with victories that other things should be coming slowly. I have been playing and practicing more or less well. Now is the moment to compete. Today I competed enough well to be through. Tomorrow is another challenge.”

Next up for Nadal is Guido Pella, who ousted Goffin in round one and is coming off a third-set tiebreaker victory over Radu Albot.

Possible semifinal opponents for the reigning French Open champion now include Gasquet, Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils, and Hubert Hurkacz. It’s hard to see any of that contingent pulling off an upset. Nadal could probably beat Gasquet and Bautista Agut blindfolded. Monfils can’t stay focused long enough–not even in a best-of-three situation. Hurkacz, who upset Tsitsipas on Wednesday, may be too inexperienced. 

“It’s a huge win,” Hurkacz assured. “Stefanos is an amazing player… I’m so happy that I won. I think I served really well today; that helped me a lot.”

On the other side of the bracket, two of the most dangerous big servers that Nadal could have faced in a possible title match are gone. Nick Kyrgios was still hung over from Washington, D.C. (maybe literally, maybe not) and lost easily to Kyle Edmund in round one, while John Isner got bounced out by Christian Garin in the last 32. 

Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev are still alive, but Thiem on hard courts isn’t Thiem on clay and Zverev is…well…Zverev.

Right now it looks like the Rogers Cup will be Rafa’s Cup. But it’s still early.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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