The last two big events on the ATP tour before the US Open begins, are held back-to-back in North America with Masters 1000 events being played in Canada and America. This year, the ATP Canadian event was held in Toronto, with the WTA tour heading to Montreal after the annual switch, whilst the American event was held in Cincinnati, at the same time as the WTA tournament. First I’m going to look back at the Toronto event where we witnessed some great tennis being played, some major upsets and a surprise winner.
Last year’s winner Rafael Nadal, pulled out of the North America Masters swing with a reported wrist injury being enough to rule him out of the pre-US Open events.
His non-appearance increased the likelihood of Novak Djokovic winning another Masters event, but the Serb’s draw looked tough on paper, with several tests along the way. After receiving a bye into the second round, Djokovic faced Gael Monfils, a former top-10 player who could beat anyone on his day. Despite going down a break in the deciding set, Djokovic won the match in a tie-break and through to face another dangerous Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. All of the top 8 seeds made it safely through to the third round where several exciting ties laid in wait. 5 of the top 8 won, including 2nd seed Roger Federer who saw off Croat Marin Cilic in a thrilling 3-set match which featured two tie-breaks. However, 3 of the top 8 didn’t make it through, and this included out-of-touch Djokovic, who was destroyed by Tsonga 6-2 6-2. Tomas Berdych exited after a 3 set loss to Feliciano Lopez and Stan Wawrinka was beaten by Kevin Anderson in two close sets.
The Quarter-final line-up was intriguing with Federer left as the highest seed remaining, and due to face 5th seeded David Ferrer. Each match went the distance and it was Tsonga who continued his impressive run in the draw, by beating Andy Murray in what was perhaps the match of the tournament. His semi-final opponent was to be Grigor Dimitrov, who saw off Anderson in a long, 3 set match. Sympathy has to go with the big South African though as he seemed to bottle the situation when the match was on his racket. In the other half of the draw, Federer defeated Ferrer in another thriller to set up an encounter with Lopez, who dumped home favourite Milos Raonic out in the battle of the serves.
Compared to all four Quarter-final matches, the semi-finals didn’t live up to expectations. Tsonga continued his strong form in Toronto by defeating Dimitrov in straight sets to reach his 3rd Masters final, and his first outside of Paris. His final opponent was to be Federer after he beat Lopez in a comfortable victory, without having to save a break point. Would Tsonga continue his incredible run and record yet another top 10 victory, or would Federer win his 22nd Masters event?
The final was scheduled in the day session which seemed an immediate advantage for Tsonga withFederer having played every one of his matches during night sessions.
This factor seemed to play a role in the final with the Frenchman clinching perhaps the biggest title in his career by triumphing 7-5 7-6 (3). The final capped an amazing week for Tsonga, who had beaten four top 10 players back-to-back, which is very impressive. Federer seemedtired during the final but the schedule definitely didn’t aid his cause in the final, but he didn’t create a single break point opportunity throughout, a key stat in hindsight. So the first pre-US Open event was over with Tsonga claiming the title. Would we get another surprise winner in Cincinnati?
Again the world’s best arrived in Cincinnati for the final Masters event before the US Open, with the draw throwing up some exciting potential ties. The Toronto champion, Tsonga, appeared to be suffering from a gruelling week in the Canadian city, with Mikhail Youzhny taking full advantage to earn a surprisingly straightforward win in the first round. The next round featured two more shocks withYen-Hsun Lu defeating Tomas Berdych and Jerzy Janowicz seeing off Dimitrov on the same day.
Djokovic arrived in Cincinnati hoping to win his first title at the venue, but his quest to complete the masters set was over for another year in the 3rd round, after veteran Tommy Robredo stunned the World number 1. Back-to-back failures for the Serb, is he still suffering from the honeymoon period? Brit Andy Murray was still searching for his first title since his triumph at Wimbledon in 2013, and claimed a morale-boosting win over John Isner, where he saved 2 match points, to reach the Quarter-Finals.
He had the chance to end his long run without beating a fellow member of the World’s top 10 as the Toronto runner-up Federer laid in wait, after the Swiss man defeated Gael Monfils in an exciting match the round before. After losing the first set 6-3, Murray responded by going 4-1 up in the second, along with two breaks of serve. With the momentum seemingly in his hands, Murray only won 1 game in the next 7 with Federer reaching yet another Masters semi-final, leaving Murray wondering how he let the set slip, just like he did against Tsonga in Toronto. Federer’s semi-final opponent was Raonic, with David Ferrer and Julian Benneteau the surprising other tie, with Ferrer seeing off Djokovic’s conqueror Robredo, and Benneteau stunning Stan Wawrinka in an oddly topsy-turvy tussle.
In the first semi-final, Ferrer showed his extra class in the latter stages of tournaments, by ending the Frenchman’s valiant run, winning it 6-3 6-2. This set up a final showdown against his Toronto conqueror Federer, who expertly saw off Raonic 6-2 6-3 to extend their head-to-head record to 6-0 in the Swiss’ favour.
Federer went into the final with a 15-0 wining record against Ferrer so the odds were heavily stacked against the diminutive Spaniard. These odds were further increased asFederer broke late in the first set, before saving break points to serve the first set out and within touching distance of his sixth Cincinnati crown. In the first game of the second set, Ferrer saved several break points to establish an early lead; what followed was simply unbelievable. After missing out on an early break in the second,Federer found himself saving some before Ferrer eventually took his chance to lead *2-0.
The failure to earn the early break clearly affected the Swiss man, and Ferrer created a 5-0 lead, before eventually serving out the second set for a breadstick. Ferrer appeared to had the momentum going into the decider with Federer out-of-sorts after a controlled first set, and after what had just happened in the second set, anything was possible.
The final set was somewhat anti-climatic, with Federer winning it 6-2, breaking the Ferrer serve twice to win his 6th Cincinnati title.
It was harsh on the Spaniard who had worked so hard to take it to a third, but Federer found his first serve when it mattered and took his chances clinically.
With both these Masters events over, the top players have had their chance to gain some match time for the upcoming US Open, and earn any potential momentum which they could carry over to the last slam of the year. There is however, another chance for some players to gain some sort of advantage, with the Winston-Salem tournament being played during the upcoming week.
With the US Open fast approaching, I will be posting a preview of it when the draw is released. Keep a look out for that!
Thanks for taking the time to read my review of the North American Masters events, I hoped you enjoyed it. For any questions or queries on this blog, or other blogs, either contact me on my twitter handle – @Tennis17MAD or via email at – firstname.lastname@example.org