The Top 8 seeds have a bye at the Coupe Rogers, Canada’s ATP Masters 1000 tournament. But Friday’s draw ceremony revealed plenty of tantalising first-round matches in Montreal, where four-time champion Rafael Nadal will look to retain his title.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Kyle Edmund
These 24-year-olds have only played one another once before, but that match provides plenty of reason to believe that this could be one of, if not the best match of the opening round in Canada. At last year’s Fever-Tree Championships, Kyrgios defeated Edmund 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-3.
Kyrgios struck 32 aces in that match, saving the only break point he faced. Once the competitors get into rallies, it should prove to be a battle of who can get a solid strike on a forehand first, as both players have the ability to control points off that wing, and even crush winners with one blow.
The winner will not have it any easier in the second round, with eighth seed Daniil Medvedev waiting in the wings.
Stan Wawrinka vs. Grigor Dimitrov
These former World No. 3s have played nine times in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with eight of those matches coming at either a Grand Slam or a Masters 1000 tournament. And although Wawrinka has won three in a row, with each of those victories coming since Wimbledon last year, this still promises to be an entertaining affair.
Wawrinka, who leads the series 5-4, will look to hit through the Bulgarian with his powerful groundstrokes, using heavy shots from deep in the court to bide his time until he can unleash even bigger strokes. On the other hand, Dimitrov will attempt to use his variety to keep the rallies on his terms, keeping the Swiss from gaining rhythm and allowing him to take control.
Denis Shapovalov vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Nobody will soon forget Shapovalov’s magical run to the Montreal semi-finals two years ago, when he defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal en route to the last four. That wasn’t an easy task for the #NextGenATP Canadian, nor will his opener this year.
Both Shapovalov and Herbert like to control play, and they are at their best when they use their serve to immediately put an opponent on defence before aggressively finishing the point. Earlier this year in Montpellier, Herbert defeated Shapovalov 7-5, 7-6(4), while the Canadian defeated the Frenchman at an ATP Challenger Tour event two years ago in Canberra.
The key will be for both players to return deep in the court to try to get to neutral in rallies as often as possible. Expect the Montreal crowd to be a factor as well, as the Canadians emphatically cheer on their home favourite.
Milos Raonic vs. Taylor Fritz
This will be a battle of experience against youth, a former World No. 3 against a player in great form, and a clash between two big hitters who will look to punish any ball that sits up for them. Raonic advanced to the 2013 final in Montreal, and he will look to get off to a good start against one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour.
Fritz has advanced to at least the semi-finals at three of his past four events, and he can reach his third final during that span in Los Cabos on Friday evening. He is trying to win a main draw match at a hard-court Masters 1000 tournament for the first time year.
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Vasek Pospisil
There will be no shortness of electricity in the Montreal crowd for this one, the only all-Canadian match in the first round. And not only are Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil familiar foes, but they are also doubles partners next week.
Auger-Aliassime leads Pospisil 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with wins at last year’s BNP Paribas Open and Wimbledon this season. But the pressure will be on Felix, a #NextGenATP star, who is ranked nearly 200 spots higher than his elder countryman. The 29-year-old Pospisil is a dangerous opponent, though, armed with a big serve and overall aggressive game. The former World No. 25 has also enjoyed success in Montreal, making the last four here in 2013.