Canadian Pack Thins After Second Round
2018 Rogers CupGreg Bowman
Four Canadians were featured on Centre Court at the Aviva Centre in Toronto for the 2018 Rogers Cup. With schedule-makers having to battle the on-and-off rain showers, it still made for some excellent tennis at the third-longest running tournament on tour. Nadal, Djokovic, and Raonic were all in action, giving Toronto tennis fans the best slate of matches yet seen at the 2018 tournament.
Novak Djokovic Defeats Peter Polanksy (6-3, 6-4)
One of four Canadians scheduled to play in the second round of the Rogers Cup on Wednesday was Peter Polanksy. The Toronto native defeated Matthew Ebden in straight sets in his first round matchup, but had a tough second round draw as he was tasked with facing former world no. 1 Novak Djokovic. “The Joker” was coming off a straight-sets win over Mirzic Basic (6-3, 7-6) on Tuesday, and was looking to carry his momentum over the very next day while his opponent had a day of rest in between the first and second rounds. The first set started off a little slow for both opponents. Polanksy appeared to have difficulties returning Djokovic’s serves, while the Serbian was having difficulties simply getting the ball over the net, racking up a few unforced errors. Polanksy then made a push while it was tied 3-3 to force a deuce, pushing Djokovic towards a break point. The veteran tennis star kept his ground, and promptly blew an ace down the centre line to hold serve. That seemed to turn the tide of the set, as Polansky fell victim to three unforced errors while serving, which resulted in the first break of the match against him. That was all Novak needed to take the set 6-3. The second set saw Polanksy get some help from a challenge, as he was able to successfully overturn a missed serve from ‘out’ to ‘in’ which would help him hold serve going up 2-1. The two players would engage in lengthy rallies which showcased Djokovic’s stellar defensive play on the baseline. Whenever he was in trouble, Novak would send a moon-shot high into the air, and deep into the court, which would give him time to reset his feet. The high shots seemed to cause issue for Polansky, as he couldn’t capitalize on the seemingly easy smash attempt. While it would appear as if it were an error on Polansky’s part, it was clear that Djokovic knew exactly what he was doing there, showing why he is one of the world’s best. Novak would show his elite prowess yet again while tied 4-4 in the second set, as he battled back from 40-0 to force a deuce. The Serb would win the deuce, breaking Polanksy, which effectively ended the set. Djokovic would serve for match point, and advance to the third round. Despite the loss, Polansky was happy with the way he played against the former world no. 1:
“When we got into those baseline rallies I felt really good, I felt like whoever had the first cut was gonna take the point and I felt like we were trading baseline points which gave me some confidence against a top 10 player.”
Novak Djokovic was able to steal a couple of points in the second set with his high-arching returns, but it wasn’t necessarily a strategy:
“There are situations on the court where you are very defensive... today it actually worked when I broke his serve in the second set…there was no wind today so I could loop the ball pretty high.”
Peter Polanksy will be playing in a tournament in Vancouver next week in preparation for the US Open at the end of the month. Djokovic will advance to the third round as he looks for his fifth Rogers Cup title, last winning in 2016
Frances Tiafoe Defeats Milos Raonic (7-6, 4-6, 6-1)
After a lengthy rain delay, Canadian Milos Raonic was finally able to take Centre Court for his match against American Frances Tiafoe. Raonic dominated David Goffin in his opening-round match beating him in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. Tiafoe struggled in the opening of his first-round match against Marco Cecchinato needing a tiebreaker in the first set, but ultimately winning the match 7-6, 6-1. Tiafoe is only 20 years old and picked up his first career ATP title in the winter by winning the Delray Beach Open as a wild card entry. He broke into the top 50 just before the Rogers Cup as the no. 41 seed. Both players play similar styles of game, relying primarily on their serves and powerful forehand shots. The two athletes’ strengths came to the forefront early in the match, as both players’ serves were un-returnable in their first two games. The entire first set did not see a rally more than 10 hits long, as Raonic and Tiafoe both blistered serves at one another which, if returned, would put the other player in a vulnerable position, often conceding the point when the ball came back over. The two were neck and neck the entire first set, with neither of them giving up a break point. Raonic came close when it was 5-5, but he fought back from triple break point to hold serve. A tiebreaker was needed in set #1, and Frances Tiafoe was able to come out on top winning it 7-4. The second set saw much of the same, with the two adversaries exchanging service games. That is, until the Toronto skies opened up, sending the match into a rain delay. The rain would hold the match off for a couple of hours, with play finally resuming with the two tied 3-3, 30-30, with Tiafoe serving. Raonic came out of the delay slightly stronger, picking up his only break point of the match to go up 4-3. He would eventually win the second set 6-4, forcing a third and deciding one. Despite Raonic appearing to be the fresher of the two in the latter half of the second set, Tiafoe would eventually return to form. He would break Raonic in the opening game of the set, which noticeably upset the Canadian. He couldn’t quite seem to regain his composure, as he would drop the final set 6-1, giving him a second-round exit from his home tournament.
“I’ll forget about it in an hour,” Raonic replied when asked about his level of disappointment in having to exit in the second round.
“I became a little bit too predictable, and he stepped up and played well,” as Raonic praised his young opponent on his performance.
Denis Shapovalov defeats Fabio Fognini (6-3, 7-5)
At the same time his countrymen was playing on Centre Court, Denis Shapovalov was taking on Fabio Fognini out of Italy at the National Bank Grandstand. Fognini was ranked #14 coming into the second-round matchup as he defeated Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round. Shapovalov was coming off a dominant opening-round performance beating Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 6-4. Showing noticeable disappointment at the fact that his match was moved to the National Bank Grandstand instead of Centre Court, Denis Shapovalov took to Twitter to show his displeasure, but soon after deleted the tweet. He commented on the tweet after his match:
“The main purpose of the tweet was because I was disappointed… not for myself but because there were so many family and friends who wanted to watch me on Centre Court and weren’t able to.”
Shapovalov made a point of impressing whoever he could in the smaller venue, as he came out strong, but the rain would delay the match at 3-3 in the first set. Shapo would come out of the rain delay and win the first set 6-3. The second set was a polar opposite from the first, as Fognini took it to the Canadian and jumped to a 4-0 set lead. Unphased, Shapovalov would battle his way back to draw even at 5-5.
“I told myself to go back to being more disciplined and building your points more, and then I got the break at 4-0.”
During a changeover once Shapovalov drew even, it appeared as if the two opponents were exchanging words. This clearly lit a fire under the belly of the Canadian, as he proceeded to break Fognini directly after, which put him in a position to serve for the match. Shapovalov would hold serve and win the second set 7-5 advancing him to the third round for the second straight year at the Rogers Cup. Denis says he feels a lot of similarities from this year’s tournament as he did in Montreal last year:
“I think my game is at a very high level right now… last week I was telling everyone that I’m playing well in practice and feeling really good and I think that having my mom on the sidelines has really helped me the last couple weeks.”
Shapovalov will be back in action tomorrow against Dutch player Robin Haase.
Daniil Medvedev defeats Felix Auger-Aliassime (3-6, 6-4, 7-6)
On his 18th birthday, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime was playing on Centre Court in his home tournament. He was coming off an impressive win over Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-4 the night prior on the same court. His opponent was Daniil Medvedev, who took down Jack Sock in a three-set thriller 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 on Monday. Felix came out with a strong serve and impressive agility, making shots that seemed next to impossible. He had the first break point opportunity in the first set and capitalized on it to go up 4-3. He would ride that momentum to win the first set 6-3. The two opponents were as evenly matched as any two in the tournament so far. They engaged in lengthy rallies returning astounding shots back and forth. Medvedev got his first break point early in the second set to go up 2-1. Felix would get the break back to tie it 3-3, only to relinquish another break point the following game. That proved to be pivotal, as Medvedev took the set 6-4. Before the two locked horns in the third set, Daniil Medvedev took a medical timeout for an undisclosed reason. He seemed a little slower to start the set, as he gave up a break point early to go down 3-1. The Russian would fight back though, as he would win three straight games to even it up at 4-4. The two exchanged service points until the pivotal tiebreaker. Auger-Aliassime jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, only to give it up a few points later. They would trade the right to serve back and forth until it was tied 7-7. Passing the two-and-a-half-hour mark of the match, Medvedev finally prevailed as the young Canadian simply did not have anything left in the tank. Certainly not the birthday present he would have wanted, but Auger-Aliassime was appreciative of the Toronto faithful:
“They were there and they supported me.. and it’s frustrating I couldn’t deliver.”
He also touched on the war that was his match with Medvedev;
“Mentally I could have played another set, but physically I was feeling it in my legs, I couldn’t push as much on my serve.”
Only one Canadian remains after the second round of the Rogers Cup. Shapovalov will put his country on his back as he will have a date with Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals should he make it that far.